| Booze |

When Beer PR Goes Flat: A Review of Crazy Mountain's Beer Lineup and Its Less Successful PR Strategy

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Does anyone actually enjoy watching athletes get interviewed? The answers range anywhere from the all-too-common scripted response or -- more typically -- wander into completely nonsensical banality. If you're truly lucky, the interviews will go beyond the latter into the sound bite-ridden ramblings of a lunatic. You can find just about anything in a sports interview, as long as what you are looking for is not insight or intelligent conversation.

ESPN: "How do you feel about being traded to the Knicks?"

Random Basketball Player: "Well, you know, God has blessed me with this talent and I love the shoes I wear, you know? I have a daughter and she's in first grade now, so, you know, I'm grateful, you know. We just gotta be about the hustle. Go Tarheels!"

If any star except maybe Charles Barkley has ever answered a reporter's question properly, it's news to me.

Sometimes I feel like PR people have figured out they can get away with the sports-star response regardless of industry. At this point, I wouldn't be shocked if there is an ongoing industry joke to see who can answer in the least productive manner.

"Guys, you won't believe it, this radio outlet asked about my client's upcoming menu and I just sent him the first half of the lyrics to "Blackbird" by The Beatles followed by a copy of NBC's Thursday-night lineup. And get this...he thanked me for my time!"

Take, for example, the "interview" I had with the folks at Crazy Mountain this week.

EOW: I noticed that each bottle has a dedicated charity mentioned. Can you tell me more about that program?

PR person: We pair each of our beers with nonprofit organizations and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales of that beer to its respective organization.

I'm pretty sure that you just rephrased what I asked you and then sent it back to me. Your answer is literally less informative than the two-sentence blurb on your bottles. Thanks, guys.

I'd show you the whole Q&A, but there isn't a single thing you can't glean from staring at one of Crazy Mountain's bottles and then browsing their Web site for a couple of minutes.

PR and marketing folks, if we seek you out and get your input about your product, do everyone involved a huge favor and don't just copy and paste from your press release and the "About Us" section from the Web site. I asked because I'm interested and I feel like my readers are, too.

Let's hope the beer is better than their marketing e-mails. I picked up three brand-new-to-Texas bottles of Crazy Mountain this week and gave them all a try. Let's take a look:

Cara De Luna -- Black Ale:

One of the current trends in brewing right now is what I like to call "unconventional conventional beers." These aren't your monster barleywine styles or barrel-aged beers, but amalgams and reimaginings of more traditional brews. Everyone is busy looking for the next Black IPA.

Cara De Luna, for example, uses German hops and Belgian malts in what Crazy Mountain is calling a Black German Pale Ale. If Black German beer sounds familiar, it should: Saint Arnold Brewery makes what it refers to as a Black Kolsch with its Santo. The similarities don't end there, either; the two beers are extremely similar in flavor as well. Cara De Luna is a bit fuller bodied, but I think the average drinker would be hard-pressed to spot the differences. If you like Santo, you will certainly enjoy this one, and at less than $5 for a large-format bottle, the price is right as well.

Old Soul -- Belgian Strong Ale:

As much as it pains me to complain about beer being inexpensive, I was wary of a cheap Belgian Strong Ale. The style is fairly pricey to produce and the result is typically a large, smooth-bodied beer with candied fruit notes, brewer's spices and a high carbonation finish. Old Soul has some of that, I think.

Perhaps this was my fault; I actually tried Old Soul just after enjoying a glass of one of the very best American Belgian Ales I've ever had in the form of Matilda from Goose Island. By comparison, Old Soul is small and rather unremarkable other than in having a very nice, soapy, Belgian finish. Taken on its own, Old Soul might be more remarkable, but in the context of even Texas's limited selection, Old Soul has trouble holding its own.

Horseshoes & Handgrenades -- American ESB

The label whore in me spotted this one at the liquor store from a mile away. The fact it turned out to be an ESB, one of my favorite -- and I feel, very underutilized -- styles of beer, sealed the deal.

Horseshoes brands itself as an American ESB and it brings big American hop flavor to the table. Sticky citrus and resin notes are pinned down by a very strong malt bill that ends in caramel and toffee flavors. In casual drinkers' terms, you have a extremely hoppy yet very drinkable and balanced beer. The "close doesn't count" name fits this beer. This is an ESB that comes across as an American interpretation, but is still a dead ringer for an ESB.

With four other beers already on shelves here, Crazy Mountain says we should see the last two year-round offerings -- Boohai Red Ale and Lawyers and Guns & Money Barleywine -- here in Texas soon, bringing the total count to nine. Check them out and tell us what you think.

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