For me, finding decent beer photography is one of the most frustrating parts of beer writing. Most of the beer photos available on stock exchange sites seem to come from a mid-’80s encyclopedia entry on Bavaria: pretzels, leiderhosen, frosted mugs, blonde women with puffy torsos. I will finally find a well-lit and well-composed image, only to see that the the beer glass is dirty. Or the bartender pours the beer incorrectly. Or I can’t find dark beer poured into anything other than a pint glass. What if I want women or racial minorities in the shot? It is an additional obstacle.
I am not the only one who noticed the dearth of high-quality beer photos. Today, Anheuser-Busch tells The takeaway which he launched (as part of his Raising initiative) two downloadable photography collections featuring well-served beer, diverse consumers and brewers, a myriad of beer styles, and contemporary settings, free of charge. Anheuser-Busch says images will be available royalty-free on stock photography sites Pexels and Unsplash, and feature four of the craft breweries now owned by Anheuser-Busch: Four Peaks in Tempe, Arizona; 10 barrels in Bend, Oregon; Karbach in Houston; and Veza Sur in Miami.
“You might think, ‘Oh, these are just stock photos, they’re generic,’ but people see them so often on Twitter, Instagram, blogs and even magazines,” Marketing Manager Ashley Knotek tells me. digital at 10 Barrel Brewing. “It’s important that we take the time to represent beer in the best possible way.”
Say what you want about if Anheuser-Busch and the “big beer” are good for American beer as a whole, but it’s hard to argue against them as a positive resource for an industry struggling to shake off its image as a club for bearded white dudes. In 2017, 39% of beer drinkers identified as female, according to Mintel’s Beer and Craft Beer report, while 32% identified as African American, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise non-white according to market research by ‘Anheuser-Busch. That’s a large number of beer drinkers who typically haven’t found themselves represented in mainstream beer photography, marketing materials, and design. And it’s not because users of photo services were indifferent: Pexels claims that searches related to diversity increased by 180% between 2016 and 2017.
“From the freelance graphic designer to our partner WordPress, we received a huge wave of support and requests to increase our photo library and offer more diversity,” says Monica Silvestre, Pexels’ community leader. “Especially when it comes to images that would traditionally show a white man – at work, running a meeting, coaching little league, and yes, even drinking a beer in a bar.”
A scroll through Anheuser-Busch’s image galleries on Pexel and Unsplash shows groups of multiracial friends, women brewing and serving beer, and various styles and colors of beer being poured into (hallelujah!) glasses well. trained and clean. Decors also look more contemporary, with less oompah-band-beer-garden vibes and more friends-chilling-at-a-taproom.
“I think the coolest part of this project is shedding light on all types of brewers and beer drinkers,” Knotek says. “I also think it’s an opportunity to just improve the industry standard for beer photo quality; there is room for that to happen.
So what’s in it for beer giant AB? When consumers see people like them reflected in these beer images, many of those images also feature Four Peaks faucet handles, Veza Sur glassware, Karbach umbrellas and 10 Barrel t-shirts. Quietly, it aligns Anheuser-Busch’s craft brands with young and diverse drinkers who will make up increasingly large shares of the beer drinking market in decades to come.
It’s subtle, it’s clever and it’s a breath of fresh air as far as I’m concerned. I look forward to spending more time learning, talking, and writing about beer, and less time looking for decent photos of it.