The Garrulous Jay – L’Inautentica

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The labels on a bottle of Birra Moretti are redolent with its Italian heritage. They hark back to the foundation of Luigi Moretti’s “Beer and ice factory” in Udine in 1859, before modern Italy even existed. Something resembling Luigi Moretti’s signature adorns the neck label along with the words, “The Italian passion for brewing”.

According to legend, the famous moustachioed beer drinker was added in 1942 after he was spotted by Commander Moretti sitting at a table in the Trattoria Boschetti di Tricesimo in Udine Province, sipping a glass of beer. As the company’s website explains Moretti felt, “He somehow was embodying the real values of his beer: authenticity, tradition, genuineness.”

Perhaps this also explains why the words L’Autentica – the authentic one – appear under ‘Mr Moustache’ on the beer’s labels today.

But turn the bottle I bought in the Coop round and the reverse label delivers a bit of a ‘Sinatra moment’… Then they go and spoil it all by saying something like: “brewed in the UK by Heineken UK Limited, 3-4 Broadway Park, Edinburgh”.

Today most British Moretti drinkers are consuming a Dutch-owned beverage brewed in Scotland… Authentic, genuine, traditional Scottish lager!

Of course, Birra Moretti is not alone, as my not-so-mysterious shopping trip to the Coop reminded me. It has Heineken’s stablemates, Red Stripe (Jamaican) and Tiger (Singaporean) for company, as well as Carlsberg-owned Kronenbourg 1664 (French).

They are joined by among others, AB InBev-owned Budweiser (American), Corona (Mexican), and Stella Artois (Belgian), as well as MCBC’s Staropramen (Czech) and Carlsberg’s San Miguel (Spanish).

All of these are brewed in the UK.

No doubt the companies would say they adhere faithfully to the original recipes for each and every beer in their collection, and perhaps I am just a naïve romantic, but to me something about this feels, well, inauthentic.

Perhaps I should celebrate this as a triumph of globalisation, and be pleased in this age of carbon-emissions reduction targets that my bottle of Italian lager only comes from Scotland…not actual Italy.

British lager drinkers are seemingly highly ambivalent to the ‘origin story’ of the products they consume, and the big brewers are happy to indulge this ambivalence.

It is striking to me, though, that this would not be the case for many other consumer goods, where the product’s origin is either part of what sells it, or in some cases even protected by law. I think we’re a long way from, “Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, vinified and bottled in Glasgow”, for example.

I also think authenticity and being true to one’s company’s brand values continue to be of central importance to service businesses, if not consumer goods. In these organisations the people are the product, and nowhere is this truer than in financial services. The way leaders and employees behave and interact with clients and other stakeholders is an important driver of success, or failure.

George Shippam Financial Planning doesn’t brew beer… But if it did it would probably be the most authentic beer in the world.