SCOTT ANDERSON delivers his weekly banter ON craft beer.
After last week’s piece about Behemoth’s Hopped Up On Pils and its Rip Lid cans, I received some feedback on Facebook from a Wellington brewer. Their comment was that some of the positive qualities I’d ascribed to canned beer were either incorrect or negligible; and that the canning of beer was more about marketing rather than keeping the quality of the product within.
The brewer might well be right. I’ll freely acknowledge that some of the benefits of canned beer I mentioned last week have been told to me from brewers who are trying to sell beer in cans, against a sometimes hostile market reaction. They’ll hardly be likely to say that the beer they’re selling you in a can is no better (or even worse) than that from a bottle!
Still, for me the weight, storage and transportability of cans is a big positive. I most often get around Wellington on foot or on public transport, so transporting a few cans home from the supermarket is easier than doing the same with bottles. But is the beer I’m getting inside them better than if the beer was bottled? Without being able to taste-test the same beer, brewed from the same batch, served in the different containers I doubt I’ll ever be able to say for certain.
So, are cans really just a marketing gimmick? And, if they are, is that a problem? Because one thing I’m sure every brewer engaged in the business of brewing (as opposed to the hobby) would like to sell their beer! In what’s becoming quite a crowded New Zealand market place for “craft” or “independent” breweries, being able to capture the attention of consumers is important. Be it eye-catching tap badges, clever or punning beer names, advertising and merchandising, or packaging that stands out, every brewer tries do something to get punters to spend their money on their beer.
Certainly, the Rip Lids on Behemoth’s Hopped Up are an attention-grabbing gimmick; a gimmick that is (at the moment) unique in the New Zealand marketplace. These tins will likely to attract buyers to give the product a go. And, fortunately, Behemoth’s pilsner is a good beer, a good example of the style, one I enjoy drinking and would continue to drink no matter the packaging (and I’ll continue to pour it out into a glass, despite the Rip Lid!)
Because no matter how arresting the gimmick, a brewery whose beer isn’t up to scratch will surely struggle to build their customer base when they’re trying to compete in at the price-point occupied by the craft beer market. Well, at least that’s what I’d hope. I’m a purist, I guess!
So, that brings me to this week’s beer, Good George Brewing’s American Pale Ale. Good George also use unusual packaging for their beer. For this Hamilton-based brewery, this packaging is a big solid brown glass bottle with a re-sealable cap. These “squealers” contain 946ml of beer, and stand out on the shelf of a bottle store or supermarket due to their size – which is I’m sure one reason why Good George chose to put their beer into them.
They’re also my least-favourite type of beer packaging. I find Good George’s wide-bottle squealers cumbersome and unwieldy, difficult to carry or even to hold while pouring out the contents. And, made of heavy, solid glass their weight-to-content ratio makes them difficult to lug around on foot.
I’d prefer my beer in 500ml glass bottles or a 1.25l plastic bottle (or in a can, of course), rather than one of these big, heavy brown bottle things that still manage to contain less than a litre of beer.
But I’ll still happily buy a squealer from Good George, because the beer inside is so good. In particular, I’ve long been a fan of their Amber Ale, but recently I had the opportunity to take home a beer I hadn’t tried before from this brewery; an American Pale Ale.
American Pale Ale (APA) is a relatively modern American adaptation of the English pale ale style, but brewed to bring to the fore the big flavours of American hops. A wide range of hops flavours can emerge from a beer brewed in this style, including notes such as citrus or tropical fruits, or hints of resinous pine and freshly cut grass. All these aromas should be balanced above malt base that is robust enough to support the flavours of the hops without an overabundance of bitterness. But it shouldn’t be too sweet; it should still be about the tops not about the rolling flavour of caramel coating the tongue.
The Good George APA hits the mark nicely. The aroma is full of sticky and strong hop aromas. Citrus notes, such as grapefruit and orange peel predominate, but there’s a touch of fresh pine needles at the edge.
In the mouth it feels quite light, despite the relatively solid brown colour of the beer itself, speaking to a good balance between the malt and the generous hops. The aftertaste is long and lingering; with just the lightest touch of wet cut grass sneaking in.
As it warmed in the glass I found a bit more bitterness being drawn out from this richly coloured light brown ale. Citrus flavours – altering slightly towards a lemony aroma – still made up the dominant flavour notes, but the aftertaste began to become bitterer. That’s a characteristic hop heads will love but I began to find it a bit rough around the edges. Still, that drawn out bitterness kept me going back for another sip – very moreish!
The Good George APA is a good beer, true to the style of the robust and resinous APA style brewed by quite a few New Zealand brewers. One that rises above a packaging I frankly could do without filling up my recycling bin. If those big bottles are a gimmick to catch the consumer eye, then the product inside backs it all up. More please!
- Scott Anderson, @buzzandhum.
American Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
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