Crafty sales tactic by the big guys' irks

23:37, Nov 01 2012

We just got a news update from DB proclaiming the arrival of their new imported alcoholic ginger beer. "Tapping in to the desire for ‘craft'," they said.

With that proclamation, and nestled into a series of beer announcements, it took us a second reading to realise it was actually an RTD. For a minute, we thought we would get some to compare to the rather wide range of ginger spiced beers made in New Zealand. Once we straightened ourselves out on the matter, we still couldn't shake this idea of the big guys so brazenly exploiting the desire for craft. It irked us that they weren't actually proclaiming to provide craft, just tapping into the desire. And that is probably exactly why we have never quite gotten around to trying some of the newer "craft" beers from the likes of DB and Independent Breweries.

We don't slag off the big guys just because they make cheap commercial beers. It's not all their fault the market demands those. But when they hog shelf space from brewers who are putting heart and soul into making the best possible product, we want some semblance of craft-batch brewing from pure malt and hops with a focus on flavour.

So, we decided it was high time we gave their craft beer offerings a fair shake and headed out to the supermarket.

We noticed that Mac's is now putting 568ml singles on the shelf next to Moa and Harrington's, but we found nothing new to try from Lion. Further down the shelf, we found Independent's Boundary Road Brewery Brewer's Cut and DB Monteith's Brewer's Series, both in 500ml singles.

We selected the Boundary Road 18th Amendment American Pale Ale, and the Monteith's Barrel Aged Porter. These are both full-flavoured styles that we enjoy and with both at or above 6 per cent alcohol by volume (abv), they aren't skimping on ingredients. So how did it go?


Starting with the APA, at 6 per cent abv, we would expect a pale to medium ale with a big hop aroma and flavour, and clean malt profile.

On the plus side, it smelled and tasted like real beer, made from hops and malt and yeast. Unfortunately, following from an excessively appley fruit in the nose, it was bittersweet rather than citrus-hoppy, and not really to our taste. However, the long bitter finish was refreshing.

Moving on to the Barrel Aged Porter, we were really hopeful. The smooth roast character of Monteith's Black has been a consistent favourite among our friends. At 6.5 per cent abv the Porter is a bigger beer.

We anticipated a rich brew, with some hints of the pinot noir-soaked oak taming roasty grain and hop bitterness.

(In anticipation of the more geeky customers this beer will attract, the bitterness units were right there on the front of the label. Yay!)

With the higher hopes came a larger disappointment.

The beer was out of balance, with yeasty banana notes, charred wood, and an unexpected hollowness in the flavour profile. We could detect a bit of vanilla, but none of the pinot noir that the barrels could have contributed.

In the following discussion, we wondered if we weren't being a little harsh on these beers. Would we have given them some slack if they were produced in a garden shed?

While we celebrate the big flavours packed into these products, they are a bit "raw", which is surprising coming from the larger producers.

The good news is that enough consumers must be interested in these bigger flavours for DB and Independent to make a foray into the market.

Educated consumers are demanding craft, not the appearance of same.

At the end of the day it is not the size of the producer but the quality of the product.

We look forward to future releases.