It’s probably news to you, unless you’re part of it, but a small kerfuffle (with possible big implications) ran through the beer industry through the latter half of 2017. A complaint to the Portman Group (the alcohol industry body that regulates/oversees marketing) led to the censure of Wales’ Tiny Rebel brewery and rebranding of their flagship beer (at an estimated cost of thirty grand)
The anonymous complainant was unhappy that the beer.
- Was available in a brightly coloured can.
- Which had a teddy bear on it.
This obviously meant that the 4.6% abv, hoppy red ale was being marketed to children
The simplicity of this argument is hard to satirise and there was something a wee bit iffy about it, but the complaint was upheld. This led to a lot of panic amongst similar sized brewers and across social media that the industry giants had found another stick to beat them with (this is almost certainly bollocks – these sort of things happen to the big guys all the time, they just keep quiet about it)
Truth is, if our moral guardians wanted to warn against the infantilization of beer, they could make a much better case if they worried less about the packaging and more about the contents.
A quick peruse of the shelves of your nearest offie, will provide ample evidence that the current crop of brewers are a fairly sweet toothed bunch and that they operate with all the restraint of a bunch of five year olds at a birthday party. There’s nothing particularly new about chucking a bunch of adjuncts in your brew, but many contemporary IPA’s would make Carmen Miranda blush. As well as smelling/tasting like a tropical fruit smoothie, thanks to the modern fad for brewing in the “New England” style- now many look just like a fruit smoothie.
Not only do we have to contend with a small grocers basket worth of citrus fruit in our pale ales-but our stouts have gone all “Willy Wonka” and now come with a tuck shop worth of chocolate and sweeties.
Typical ingredients found in a top-shelf imperial stout may include- cacao nibs, vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, fruit, chilli, liquorice, peanut butter, salted caramel, almonds and marshmallow.
Now, these are clearly beers that demand restraint, being both very rich and exceptionally boozy, but it’s hard to deny that some of them are VERY sweet and deliver a pretty intense sugar rush.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course and some of these beers are amongst the very best in the world.
But (to get all reactionary about it) why can’t we have beer that tastes like beer?
At the very least “traditional” styles of beer shouldn’t be seen as in any way inferior to these new interpretations. Even if they can sometimes be a little bit harder to swallow.