An Open Letter to Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor 臺灣菸酒公司

The following is designed to be an open letter to the producers of Taiwan beer and its affiliated products. If you'd like your name on this letter too, send an email and let us know!

To Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Company, makers of Taiwan beer, distilled spirits, and far less importantly, controllers of the booze and (to me not importantly) cigarettes;

This letter is from one of your millions of customers in Taiwan who enjoys your alcohol  containing products and has had a generally positive experience. I am specifically impressed with your response to the increase in (arguably) higher quality imported beers which use far greater range of (expensive) ingredients.

To this end I am sorry that the Taiwan dark beer failed to make it as a product. I miss this beer which I consumed (in high volume) circa 2010 and strongly believe with a bit more tweaking it could be brought back. I'm willing to concede that the palate of the local beer drinker is not accustomed to a heavily malted beverage like the one you previously made, and that Asahi has also pulled its dark product from the market. Their loss could be your gain.

Luckily - from a consumers perspective - the volume of dark malty beers has increased several magnitudes over the last five years, and prices on some of them are lower than those you once offered.

My next positive experience was with your Taiwan draft beer, the first real adjustment in the lineup of beers you put into every store on this island. I often tell the tale with a sentimental tone about introducing the recently released draft beer (fresh for 18 days) and they were on sale for only 45 NT each. I feel conflicted between my pleasure in seeing a higher quality product enjoyed by consumers (including me!) and my own knowledge that the actual price of producing the product is not reflected in the asking price. The flavor, while a significant step closer to an actual draft beer, falls fall short of the fifteen to twenty dollar premium it commands over your gold medal selection.

This then leads to a dilemma as a loyal (albeit not stupidly so) customer. I can purchase widget-based and actually fresh draft beers with a more robust flavor profile at cost - or for a trivial mark up - of your not actually fresh-from-the-tap product. For a few NT more per beer Heineken sells a mini keg which is packed full of deliciously bubbly CO2 which produces actual draft beers right in my own refrigerator. And the best part is, I can get fresh beer day after day until I drink that little guy dry. No arbitrary freshness limits or exploded widgets to worry about.

After long discussions with those I know I feel compelled to suggest that you consider investing in your own mini keg technology so that you too can sell your loving customers actual draft beers for home consumption. Perhaps it's best to launch this product at a time of revelry and get togethers, like Chinese new year or the mid-autumn festival. If it was marked "limited time" and actually was limited (unlike that wheat beer which only became easier to find) I feel confident that consumers will make the R&D well worth your while. My evidence is only personal, but given access to real data I could easily use my deep understanding of market research to produce a factual analysis, which I hypothesize will be the same as my experience-based conclusions.

I'd also suggest you use the word "drinkable" as a marketing gimmick. I've found other beers from overseas with similarly jejune flavor profiles tout their beers eminent drinkability. If it works for the world's biggest beer vendors, surely it will drum up even greater sales among Taiwan's increasingly selection-spoiled population.

You could raise your prestige at home and further diversify the Taiwan beer product line (and command premiums!) by expanding distribution channels overseas with a "Taiwan Beer Export". The number of times I've heard poorly informed summer party goers in the west raving about Chang, Tiger, Kingfisher or a similarly (low cost high mark up) import beer makes me believe you could do very well. Rumors say you were once the cheapest beer sold by the LCBO in Ontario, Canada but in my experience (2003 - present) it's nothing but legend.

Hopefully these critiques and suggestions are met with an understanding that I actually personally enjoy your products and hope to convey my ideas about increasing your brand values (gratis). To ameliorate the pressure of my conflicted feelings about my personal relationship with your company - which again is nearly entirely positive - I'd like to offer the remainder of this letter as a complimentary review.

Your company does a superb job of balancing a once vice-like control over the beer market with providing affordable and dependable products. Unlike the west where government monopolies significantly inflate prices to reap higher returns while providing substantially inferior service, your company has done a commendable job and has done well in the era of expanded imports. In the case of wines you have a lot to learn. Somehow though I hope you benefit from the killing your government stake-holders make on import taxes which are driving the market towards terrible low-priced wines sold at unreasonably high prices - and use that to develop an even more superior locally-sourced product.

Your recently released honey beer is too sweet to drink regularly or in great quantity, but I'll be honest, I like it a lot. It's reportedly locally sourced and it has a foaminess in the mouth feel that I'm a huge sucker for. It's a surefire buy over something banal like a Corona come the summer months. There is huge potential in the coming season of sweat and suffer, and you'll probably find me at FuLong beach (by train to avoid drinking and driving) enjoying as many as I can stand before the flagrant honey flavor turns me to something "drinkable".

Your wheat beer felt like a god send when it first hit shelves and I panicked when I couldn't find it after your first run. When it came back in force I was sure to tell everyone I knew to drink it, hoping to drum up some minuscule amount of market support to vote in favor of new beers. The marketing campaign was pretty short and invisible, and I worry this beer will disappear in the future just like my beloved Taiwan dark beer. The lower exposure and lack of any promotional marketing deals - especially vis-a-vis the honey beer- and stiff competition from Japanese brands in the convenience stores only muddle my trust that this product is here to stay. Please, keep this one around as it's a very "drinkable" wheat beer and it's priced right.

The gold medal is a stunning reproduction of QingDao's beer, and in a blind three-product taste test conducted between a sizable group of friends we could all tell the difference between "Classic" Taiwan beer and the gold medal, but struggled in finding the difference between QingDao and yours. Bravo, and keep up the good work. Also, the limited edition Dracula bottles were awesome.

The re-branded Classic beers are great (high "drinkability"!) and I've heard a few people say they actually thought it was a new beer and were confused when it was just the same old gal in a new skirt (their words not mine). I've always been a big fan, and will continue to be until I move off this island and can't buy your beers anymore.

All of the flavored beers are good, and great for anyone looking to enjoy fruit flavored drinkability without the hefty 4.5% ABV your mainline products carry. Unfortunately they're not as good as mixers as the LongQuan brand ones are. That said, this seems to have had a strong impact in boosting sales among those consumers who weren't already dedicated to your products.

Finally, having exhausted myself in praise over your beer selection - for there are no more massively available products to discuss - I turn to your spirits. All of them are great for mixing, low priced and are chemically able to provide me with an equally disagreeable hangover as I'd get from a higher priced brand. The English on the bottles is a funny talking point and these low frill options are a personal favorite when it comes to mixing things up. If you'd include tequila in your products list I'd go so far as to say it's a perfect line up for a pregame party where cost is a factor.

Thank you for your time and consideration in the implementation of my suggestions and for the fine products I'm sure your company will unveil in the coming years.