Beer and Pavement

On Hype

Posted in Uncategorized by SM on October 14, 2011

Hype is short for hyperbole. That hyperbole is often used as a marketing tool to sell more of whatever is being hyped – either purposefully or by accident. Sometimes the hype is created by the same ones who created the thing being hyped, the media who love fall all over themselves in a frenzy over such things, or the consumers who are just looking for escape from their pitiful lives through the hope that hype may bring.

The trouble is that the hype usually just leads to disappointment. The letdown either angers people or they are so apathetic that they don’t care. In this case, the hypesters win. Hype can build expectations beyond reason, to the point that reality can never measure up to what we think will happen.

Some of us are impervious to hype. We see through the hype and see things for what they are. Sometimes we completely ignore the hype and wait to make up our minds. Other times, we look at the hype with a critical eye, searching for the hidden meanings in the rhetoric and considering the source. Our buy-in is conditional and we can evaluate the effect of hype in comparison to the reality. Rarely are we let down – though, we might not be impressed –  as our expectations were never raised by the hype.

Hype plays a huge role in music. See: Grunge.

Grunge was not the first case of hype over a musical movement outweighing the actual quality of the music. Yes, there were some great grunge bands, but its ability to transcend and change music forever may be a bit over-exagerated. Nirvana’s breakthrough changed a lot, especially for me. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and a few others went to success beyond the Grunge era, but it was a largely isolated movement. The hype caused hysteria as major labels signed every feedback-infested band in flannel, regardless of whether or not they were any good. They sold the bands to the masses under a silly label instead of selling each band’s unique take on music. When kids went to shows expecting another Nirvana or Pearl Jam and got Mudhoney instead, the hype hit the fan. Disappointment was rampant as listeners moved on to Post-Grunge shite and Britpop. I discovered indie rock, a place I thought was hype-free.

Indie rock, of course, is not without hype. However, indie hype in the 80’s and 90’s consisted of more of the word-of-mouth and zine variety. Even with the mad rush to sign the next Nirvana in the 1990’s, the hype in indie was tolerable. Then, with the adventitious rise of the blogosphere and social media, hype took on a new scope under the guise of authenticity. This online hype tried to develop much the same way zines would build interest in a band, but the growing sophistication and reach of such technologies has created  hypesters not that unlike corporate hype machines. Media-wise, blogs and sites like Pitchfork appeared to create a hype more grounded than the hype drummed up by the likes of Rolling Stone, yet what they both do is really the same thing. Indie labels now have the capabilities and media outlets to exploit in selling their product to as many ears as major labels have done for decades. All of this leads to hype building bands and albums to a level reality will never let them attain.

Hype builds around bands, usually after a good show with key people in the audience or upon releasing a bit of music that sticks out from the rest. This hype or buzz is perpetuated by labels in the form of advertising campaigns, gimmicks related to releases, and music videos. Playing nice with buzz bands and labels are the media, social and otherwise. Hyperbole is thrown around with reckless abandon. Some consumers fall for the hype and will also play along. In this day and age, there’s no reason to fall for this sort of hype as there are plenty of places to listen to music before purchasing. There is even ample opportunity to see a band’s live show before forking over cash for tickets.

The hype in the beer world relies more heavily on a component music can’t seem to contain these days: scarcity. Beer hype is not only built around a conversation about how great a particular beer is, but what is said only turns into hype if no one can get their hands on said beer. The rarer, more scarce a high-quality beer is, the higher it reaches on the hype meter. Some of the best-rated beers in the world also have the fewest number of reviewers. This might be a statistical factor, but it’s true nonetheless.

Take the CBS release. I know that I’ve written a lot about a beer I have yet to open, but much of the hype around this beer is mostly about the fact that no one can get any. This is mainly why I’ve chosen to write about the beer. Still, from what I understand, the beer is really good. The hyperbole comes in when one hears how good CBS is and realizes he can’t obtain any for less than double the suggested retail. (Although, I did pay retail for my bottle.) People want what they can’t have. It’s true, but they only want it more if they hear that it’s also really good.

As asked at the other end of an earlier hyperlink (also, here), does hype ruin the experience? Is it impossible if a band’s live performance doesn’t measure up to the promise in their Pitchfork review? Is a beer less enjoyable if it isn’t as hoppy as all the beer blogs claimed it to be? Is it hype’s fault that you didn’t get your money’s worth?

The answer is decidedly “NO.”

I mentioned how those of us who don’t fall for the hype are never disappointed. We imagine that we’ll go crazy longing for the beer of our dreams, but just by recognizing this potential for psychological failure means that we won’t actually go insane for a beer. Nope, we are a sane, level-headed lot. We, like Chuck D and Flavor Flav before us, don’t believe the hype. We’re like Missourians (which I technically am) in that we have to be shown to believe.

Hype, as I said before, is just hyperbole, and exaggeration. Reality never matches because it’s…well…reality. Reality doesn’t exaggerate. It just is. So, the hype isn’t worth the excessive energy we spend on it. No band is that amazing (except for Archers of Loaf circa 1995). No beer matches the hype.  It’s better to move on and find something that satisfies minimal-to-realistic expectations. I mean, it’s just music and/or beer.

7 Responses

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  1. Holly said, on October 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I wouldn’t call CBS the beer of my dreams (though it always comes into my head as “Canadian Bacon Stout,” which, I have to admit, sounds pretty awesome! ;). I just like the opportunity to taste different things. I don’t really cry if I miss one because there are some really great beers I can always have on hand. I’m just still trying to learn what makes for a beer I like vs. one I don’t, and I’ve got a lot to learn yet.

    That said, I do hope to get to try the CBS, but I know it won’t live up to the hype I gave it in my own head. I mean, no way it’s gonna taste like bacon, right? 😀

    • builderofcoalitions said, on October 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Have you ever had Mikkeller’s Rauchbier? It used to be called “Bacon.” It’s their base Beer Geek Breakfast Stout with smokiness added. It tastes like bacon. Trust me.

  2. Holly said, on October 14, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Oh, wordpress, why do you have to convert the smilies? It messed up my creative efficiency of closing a paren with one. 😦

  3. Bill Farr said, on October 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    It’s interesting to try beers without knowing anything about them. I was at a festival last year and tried a beer made by one of my favorite brewers. Had never heard about it, assumed it was something done just for the fest, read the description, liked the description, tried it. Bleah — one flavor predominating everything, to the point of my being unable to tell whether the actual brew was a stout or barleywine or IPA or… months later, learned that it was the latest Eagerly Awaited Big Thing. Some others — fantastic, and some of them also had Eagerly Awaited Big Thing status. I didn’t know.

    Holly’s right — there’ll always be something worth drinking. I think part of the issue with beer is that it’s affordable — wine fans aren’t bemoaning being unable to get their hands on a good vintage of La Tache (unless they have the $$$ to actually do that and can’t). Witness the vitriol against re-selling at “what the market will bear prices” on eBay — there are wine auctions all the time, and wine stores will raise prices as something becomes scarce if the demand is there. The sense of “I should be entitled to try X at Fair Price Y” is pretty unique to the beer fan world.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on October 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm

      Excellent points, Bill. I usually don’t usually get worked up if I can’t get the next-big-thing, but I’ve been lucky enough to try most of them. That said, I’ll drink something else. There’s plenty of good beer out there for sure.

      Your take on the beer world and the prices and entitlement that seem to be part of that community is an interesting one. I always tell people that we can all afford the best beers in the world but not the best wines. I never considered that this fact would affect our attitudes toward beer in such a way. It’s similar to a lot of the entitlement people feel in this country after decades of being able to buy cheap crap at Wal-Mart.

      Good stuff.

  4. […] what about when the hype dies? What about when the next great style of beer reaches our taste buds? What about when the next […]

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