When you live
in Thailand long enough and you want a beer at a reasonable
cost, you get used to a
limited selection. To be sure, well known and highly
regarded imported beers are available here, but with high
excise taxes, duties, and the recent hike in alcohol taxes
on non-ASEAN products, a small bottle from a multinational
with a Belgian label will run almost $5 from a
But that's no
reason to fret. The local Thai-made beers have their upside.
They're all award-winning!
known beer, Singha, is no stranger to awards. It was given
the Medal Award of Quality from Belgium in 1971. Thirty
years later, it earned another gold medal at the Australian
International Beer Awards. In 2002, a bronze in the European
low alcohol lager/German light beer category at the
International Beer Summit in Osaka, Japan, and a gold in
this same category the following year. And finally, in 2004,
a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards.
Way to go!
Boon Rawd, the
brains behind Singha, also puts out a low-end brand called
Leo. Guess what? Leo is an award winner, too. In 2001, it
won both a gold medal and a World Brew Association Beer
Quality Award in Doemens, Germany. In 2002, another gold
medal and the American Tasting Award of Excellence at the
National Board of the American Tasting Institute in the U.S.
In 2003, an international trophy for quality in Spain. And
in 2004, a bronze medal at the Australian International Beer
Awards. That means in 2004, Boon Rawd took both the silver
and the bronze at the Australian International Beer Awards.
What a year. Boon Rawd should have been calling itself the
Brewery of Champions.
player in the Thai beer market is Thai Asia Pacific
Breweries (TAPB). Their biggest slugger in Thailand is Tiger
Beer, a Singaporean concoction by birth, but brewed to
perfection in Thailand since 2004. According to TAPB, Tiger
is Asia's most award-winning beer with over 30 international
awards. And why shouldn't it be? Only the finest ingredients
go into Tiger we are informed: German hops, Dutch cultured
yeasts, Australian barley. In 1998, this beer for "people
who aren't interested in showing off" was voted the world's
best lager at the Brewing Industry International Awards in
the UK. TAPB tells us that these awards are like the Oscars
for the beer industry. In 2004, Tiger won a gold medal in
the European Style Pilsner category of the World Beer Cup,
the Olympics of the beer industry. This beer knows no
boundaries. It's been recognized as both a magnetic
performer of the screen and a star athlete!
Like Boon Rawd,
TAPB hawks a lower market segment brand, Cheers. Cheaper
than Tiger it may be, but there's no sacrifice in quality.
In 2009 in Brussels, Cheers was given a Gold Quality Award
at the Monde Selection.
I would be
remiss if I failed to mention ThaiBev, Thailand's largest
beverage company. Its flagship brand, Chang, has won a Gold
Quality Award three times at the Monde Selection. It must
not have been competing in 2009. How could it have dared to
topple award-winning Cheers? ThaiBev's slumming-it brand,
Archa, won a gold medal at the Australian International Beer
Awards in 2007.
mention San Miguel Brewery, manufacturers of the eponymous
San Miguel Pale Pilsen, voted the best tasting beer by a
popular American magazine, and Red Horse Extra Strong. Of
course, these beers are not without awards. Both obtained
the gold quality award from Monde Selection. The entire San
Miguel range has.
anyone in Thailand opt for an expensive import when they're
never more than 100 meters away from, by the sounds of it,
the best beers on the planet via the nearest 7/11 or Family
Mart. A 630 ml bottle of Thai product in those outlets
rarely exceeds $2.
To be fair to
Thai beers, most of it actually is pretty good for what it
costs, far better than any industrial Korean beer I've ever
sipped. But what do you know? Korean beer is just as
award-winning. At the 2013 Australian International Beer
Awards, Oriental Brewery's Cass Fresh scored a silver medal
in the American Lager Style category, along with Tiger Beer,
allegedly the world's best lager in 1998. Oriental Brewery's
Golden Lager shared the silver in the Best European Style
Lager category. Two other Korean beers took home bronze
medals among Australian Style Lagers.
you're not told. Of the 1,480 beers entered in the
Australian International Beer Awards in 2013, 658 medals
were given. 57 of those medals were gold, 190 silver, and
411 bronze. Statistically, 44% of all beers entered won some
medal. Compare that to the 2012 London Olympics, where among
around 10,700 competing athletes, less than 9% left with a
medal. Remember the Monde Selection in Brussels so many of
the Thai breweries love to cite on their labels? Any
manufacturer can submit any product for a
€1,150 entry fee and secure a bronze if the product manages
a minimum score of 60%. It only takes an 80% to obtain a
gold. There are no
limits as to how many medals� are given out.
As if it hasn't been made
abundantly clear by now, any beer, made anywhere, by any
manufacturer, can attain the status of award-winning.
Somewhere, there is a competition or a non-competitive
assessment like the Monde Selection which isn't too
stringent about handing out awards. Enter your beer enough
times, it's bound to win some kind of medal or quality
award, and it only takes one 'win' to call yourself
award-winning. Lose out in Australia, then consider
submission in the New York International Beer Competition.
Or the Denver International Beer Competition. Or the Great
American Beer Festival. Or the SIBA National Beer
Competition. Or the Sydney Royal Beer and Cider Show. Or the
Brussels Beer Challenge. On and on the list goes, quite
possibly to infinity. I haven't wasted my time counting.
By no means is this phenomenon
limited to the world of brews. Back in the days when I lived
in Los Angeles, every filmmaker I ever met was an
award-winning filmmaker. It's gotten so common, I don't
think the word filmmaker can exist without award-winning
in front of it. All of us know about the Oscars, and trust
me. If a filmmaker had won an Academy Award, he wouldn't be
calling himself an award-winning filmmaker. He'd make sure
everyone knew he was an Academy Award-winning filmmaker.
Here's how it works. You enter
your movie or short into a few film festivals, doesn't
matter which ones. Ideally, your film would be accepted at a
prestigious festival, one people have actually heard of:
Sundance, Slamdance, Cannes, South by Southwest, the
Montreal World Film Festival. No need to cry if it's not.
There's always the Dhaka International Film Festival in
Bangladesh, the Cyprus International Film Festival and Short
Film Festival, and the Kastav Film Festival in Croatia. If
you do your research thoroughly, you'll find at least one
festival handing out some participation award for every film
submitted. One screening later, you're an award-winning
A few weeks ago out of the
blue, I started thinking about a woman I met almost twenty
years earlier in Burma. "I wonder what ever happened to
Jenny," I briefly mused. With a smart phone in my pocket, I
was able to do a lot more than muse. She had an unusual last
name, so in less than two minutes, I had no trouble locating
her own web page. What do think I discovered? She is now an
"award-winning travel and culture photographer"!
If becoming an award-winning
beer producer or filmmaker is straightforwardly simple,
becoming an award-winning photographer is something you
should be able to do between an appetizer and a main course.
A beer competition/assessment necessarily involves some kind
of gathering. The beers must be submitted and the judges,
however feeble their credentials, must actually try the beer
and probably be given some kind of compensation. A film
festival may have bottom-of-the-barrel standards for which
films it selects, but space to show those abysmal films must
still be secured and advertising conducted to get viewers
into seats. Photographs don't entail these complications.
They can be scanned and uploaded quickly to online
galleries. Average Joes can be made the voters and the
critics. One web site I came across boasts they have 50 art
and photo contests every month. Eventually, any photographer
fixated with defining himself by that appellation should be
capable of winning some
People have always longed
to set themselves apart from the masses, to be able to say
"I am special while you are not." Our consumer culture
thrives on that breed of thought. A luxury handbag
affordable to me but not to you makes me different than you,
makes me better
than you. An award is just
an official designation certifying that some product is
better than the average.
Long ago, the brilliant
curator of his craft was known for his expertise in his
local community. His performance said it all. An award was
unnecessary. Everyone in the village knew who was the finest
blacksmith, the most adept baker, the handiest carpenter,
the heartiest brewer. We don't live in that age anymore.
Products are shipped beyond local boundaries, many times to
other countries. The marketplace is crowded. How to
distinguish your offering from all the other similar ones?
If you've got the sales
data to back up how successful you are, you cite this, not
some bogus awards. Corona beer is more than happy to
proclaim it is the number one selling imported beer in the
United States. I am sure before it got to this stage, it won
a long list of meaningless beer awards its then
manufacturer, Grupo Modelo,
made known far and wide.
David Ogilvy, the advertising genius, was famous for
disparaging awards in his industry, claiming they had
nothing to do with sales. He was right. With rare
exceptions, there is no correlation between sales and
awards. The world's top three best selling beers in 2011
were, in order, Snow Beer, Bud Lite, and Budweiser, none
ever mentioned by cerevisaphiles as the most sterling beers
on the globe or brandishing the most august awards. The most
successful movies of all time measured by gross revenues are
and Marvel's The
Avengers. Avatar did
snag three Academy Awards, but they were for visual effects,
cinematography, and best art direction. Marvel's
The Avengers was
nominated for best visual effects but lost.
Titanic remains the
rare exception scoring big on the dough and big on the
awards, 11 Oscars in total, including the coveted best
The award distinction
probably mattered more when there was less competition and
fewer awards. An award would have meant something when they
were rare. Nowadays, with people lusting to set themselves
apart any way they can, there are no shortage of award
bestowers willing to crawl out from under their rock to give
the public what they demand -- for a cost, of course. A
friendly restaurateur I was speaking with last month told me
how he was approached by an unknown organization who had
claimed to single out his restaurant and hotel for special
status. This would be duly noted in some journal no one ever
reads in exchange for a fee. Ages ago, I was contacted by
some Who's Who
compilation. For $100 or
so, I could get a write up in their guide as a notable
person. This is what it has come to most of the time. So
many dollars or euros handed over to a nobody to suddenly
turn you into a somebody.
Who among us wouldn't love
to be honored for doing something amazing? The problems here
are two. Most of us haven't done anything amazing, for one.
And second, most of us work in professions where the
honoring authorities are unknown outside a single field.
There are very few awards whose name and prestige transcends
all borders and vocations, like the Oscars, the Emmys, the
Nobel, the Pulitzer, the Congressional Medal of Honor. What
are the accounting awards which matter? The construction
awards? The interior design awards? Hell if anyone outside
those particular occupations knows.
Which is why the
award-winning industry --� and it is an industry, make no
mistake --� continues to thrive. We so desperately want to
impress others with magical feats we cannot really conjure
that we're willing to literally buy into an illusion. Of
course, any one in the know isn't fooled. Brewmasters and
craft brewery entrepreneurs know which beer awards really
matter, just as true blue auteurs know which film festivals
and film awards hold real clout. The real deal don't crave
phony awards. They're the sort to go on to win genuine ones
that other players in their industry respect. The game for
everyone else is to show how special he is to the people
outside his professional circle, to potential customers, to
acquaintances he may meet at a social gathering who'll ask
what he does.
And I imagine it worked for
awhile. The first Thai beers to sport awards on their
bottles probably got some ill-deserved respect and an
initial boost in sales. It's when everyone started doing the
same that such distinctions lost their zing. A
fancy-sounding award could get your foot in the door, but
when your prospective client samples what you have to offer
(a tasteless beer, a hackneyed film, stock quality
photographs) you'll quickly be revealed as the poseur you
really are. Award-winning in front of your name can't save
Tall only means something
as a description if there are others who are short. If
everyone is tall, tall is average. Award-winning as a term
has been so used and abused that it packs as much excitement
today as last year's sports scores.
Disclaimer: Doug's Republic
is not the proud recipient of any awards.