Archive for August, 2014

Craft Qualitative: My Weekend with Passionate Consumers at the Great Taste of the Midwest Brewing Festival

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by doyle

Great TasteFrom the desk of Natanya Rubin

Every year, on the second weekend in August, six thousand beer enthusiasts gather in Madison, WI, to partake in the Great Taste of the Midwest Brewing Festival (fondly referred to as GTMW).  With over 100 breweries represented, and over 600 beers available to taste, GTMW is one of the premier craft brewing festivals in the country, and for the last eight years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend.

What brings me back year after year?  It’s the opportunity to be among others who share my deep passion for this product—both creating and consuming.  Every year, I get a peek at the emerging trends in craft brewing, trends that are often eventually mirrored in the greater marketplace.

What was notable on tap this year?

  • Some things don’t change.  The perennial darlings of the craft beer consumer—rich barrel aged stouts and ales, bold IPAs, and taste-bud challenging sour and wild beers— were all very much in evidence.  A few of my favorites this year included the Barrel Aged Wolpertinger from Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. and New Holland Brewing’s new wild ale, Incorrigible.
  •  Sweet fruit beers are rapidly gaining popularity.  While some, like the Pure Michigan Cherry Lager from Kuhnhenn Brewing, were light and easy-drinking, others, like the Imperial Peaches and Crème from Short’s Brewing, were so decadent and sweet that they immediately had me thinking of an after dinner drink, as a replacement for port or other dessert wines.
  • Ciders are the new belle of the craft brewing ball.   Cider has been a growing trend in craft brewing for a while now.  For example, The Northman, Chicago’s first bar devoted entirely to ciders, with a menu created especially to pair with what’s on tap, will open this fall.  But it was striking to see the explosion of cider options featured at a fest that has traditionally been strongly beer focused.
  • There was also a discernable uptick in spicy beers, utilizing every flavor profile from mild jalapenos to incendiary ghost peppers.

I was happy to spend some time with one of the fest organizers (GTMW is run by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild), who was conducting in-the-moment qualitative research about the future of the fest.  GTMW’s tremendous success and popularity has naturally led to questions about expansion.  Some of his questions focused on the idea of adding even more breweries to the already massive number represented each year.  Would it make the fest feel too crowded and unmanageable?  Did it feel like they were outgrowing their location?  How could they maintain the intimate vibe that is so important to the organizers and attendees while opening the doors to more participants?

Success is a good problem to have, but I’m glad the organizers are asking questions aimed at preserving what makes GTMW so special, while building for the future.  It makes me confident that I can look forward to many more years of learning, exploring, and of course, tasting!  Cheers!

Research Reimagined

Posted on: August 6th, 2014 by doyle

teleFrom the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan

In their book, Life Reimagined, Richard Leider and Alan Webber write about how to deal with change – change that may be foisted upon us or change that we choose. The book’s particular focus is on one’s second half of life.  However, we all are faced with challenges at various ages that may cause us to rethink our approach to living, adapt to a new normal, and enter a different phase of our life. They suggest that we accomplish this through choice, curiosity and courage.

As I reflect back on my 20+ years in the market research industry, I see how this holds true for qualitative research – the need to be open to changes and trying new approaches. For many years, it seemed that there was little that was new in qualitative research. We conducted traditional focus groups and IDIs, and then the introduction of the Internet became a major game changer.

Choice – As researchers, we always have choices even though changes that occur in our industry may not be of our choosing, and are driven by shifts in technology and lifestyles. We can choose to explore new techniques, platforms and methods, and determine their value and application; and in some cases, after consideration and trial, we may decide that a method or approach is not one that is effective or has value. Of course, we can also choose to ignore changes with the potential risk of being left behind and out of touch with our clients and our respondents, i.e., how could we not conduct online and mobile research – the world in which our audiences communicate?

Curiosity – By nature, market researchers are curious. We’ve got that going for us! We are accustomed to looking at products, services and processes from different perspectives. So too it behooves us to be open and curious about new technologies, approaches and methods and explore how we could apply them. Think wearables (e.g., Google glasses), facial coding, etc.

Courage – It takes some courage to stretch, and step away from the tried and true, and try something that potentially may not be successful or may have some bumps and glitches before it works. I have to admit these changes have not come without some angst for me. I am not by nature an early adopter though my company, Doyle Research, is. I have to admit that once I’ve been nudged into trying something new, I have been excited about the possibilities it offers and the results it brings. I love that we can reach new audiences with online and mobile research, and come closer to seeing and understanding consumers’ authentic behaviors and experiences within the context of natural settings (e.g., in-home, at stores, etc.).

As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” I’m grateful that I work with a team of smart, progressive researchers who encourage and support me in embracing change. It has made me a better researcher and keeps me stimulated even after all these years in qualitative research.