Rum Season

Yes, there’s been a bit of a lull in posts of late, and with good reason.

We at Rum and Reviews Magazine call this magical time of the year “Rum Season”, because all of the industry’s rum-oriented events seem to gravitate toward September and October. Whether it’s the lazy, late summer evenings, the autumnal chill prompting a warming spirit, or the fact that RumFest normally takes place around this time every year, rum makes itself the star of these months, and pushes my beer writing to the back burner.

Rum, as you can see from this recent article from Rum and Reviews, gets me waxing lyrical about warmth, friendship and good times. In this respect it reminds me of the excellently equalising properties of beer, which is probably why it’s my favourite type of spirit.

Normal service will resume once I’ve had all the rum I can stomach (and afford).

"It’s all just a bit of harmless fun."

Melissa Cole wrote a great blog (an open letter, really) a week ago about the use of this sort of thing:
(Images courtesy of the excellent watchdog for dodgy beer marketing Pumpclip Parade)

As this is a real pet hate of mine, I have to add my own feelings on this matter, not a ‘male perspective’ exactly, but hopefully one that is shared by other men.

When I see a one of these beers on the bar, I get angry and embarrassed in equal amounts. I get angry because this is exactly why some people think cask beer is for sad old men. I get embarrassed because, even if I order a completely different ale from the bar, people will think ‘Ah, this chap obviously shares the same sense of humour as the sad, dirty old man that designed the label for that other beer. That’s what cask ale drinkers are like.’
However, when people use the phrase “it’s all just a bit harmless fun”, I don’t get embarrassed. I just get angry. For the sake of argument (and my spleen), let’s put that sentence under the microscope, shall we?
“It’s all just a bit of harmless fun.”
First, it isn’t all just a bit of harmless fun, because not all breweries see fit to market their beer in this way. And amongst those that do, not all of them use the kind of bawdy, seaside-postcard-from-a-time-land-forgot type of humour that we are apparently supposed to celebrate and cherish as part of our innate, cultural backwardness. Some of them, see above, are terrifying glimpses into the psyches of deranged and possibly quite dangerous individuals. The man who drew that Randy Otter one should be sectioned.
Secondly, it isn’t all just a bit of harmless fun, because it extends beyond the pump clips to the grubby, pathetic, middle-aged-boys that think this is ‘funny’, or worse still, sexually arousing. It simply exacerbates a tired old stereotype of a man going to the pub to ‘get away’ from his wife, drink beer, and stare at crudely-drawn pictures of women, otters, figures from folklore, whatever floats their boat.
Thirdly, it is not harmless, because it harms my eyes, my intelligence, and the idea of being ‘a good lad’ or ‘nice bloke’ or ‘gentleman’ that is instilled in most men by their fathers from a young age. If people want to look at pornographic images, that is absolutely fine. If people want to make silly names for things, be my guest. If people want to degrade themselves, the pub, and the beer they are drinking by needing to buy an ale called ‘Top Totty’ and leering at a child’s drawing of a woman in her underwear, they can FFFFUUU-ind themselves somewhere else to do so.
Finally, it is not fun, or at least any kind of measure of fun that I am aware of. This boils down to – and I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself, but it really does seem to be the core issue here – people enjoying looking at crappy, cartoon images of ‘rude things’. If pubs aren’t permitted to sell alcohol to those under the age of 18, they may wish to consider extending this to those whose mental age is below 18 as well.
Let’s all just move on, and embrace the British beer renaissance. Every day people are trying out cask ale and craft beer, and the last thing we want is for someone to think that the guy who designed ‘Rodger the Goblin’ represents the bulk of people who enjoy good beer. 
What really gets to me is how stupid it is, and how it must drive away so many people from trying what may possibly be a good beer. Cynical as I am, I simply assume they are trying to sell off a bad batch of bitter by putting ‘a bit of blue’ on the pump clip. However, I’ve heard that some of these beers are all right. This is even more depressing, because it means they have been effectively reserved for those with the sense of humour of some kind of fist-testicle hybrid.
I am not saying BAN THIS FILTH because, frankly, we shouldn’t need to ban it, should we? We should simply be capable of rising above it. We’re British for heaven’s sake. We should be capable of a bit of class.

Carlsberg and the C Word

Kraft!

Carlsberg Sweden have announced they will be launching a, and I quote, ‘craft-style’ lager this year. It’s hard not to be cynical when a large company enters a player into a growing trend somewhat late in the game (see Stella and cider). After all, there’s nothing connoisseurs like more than when a large mainstream company launch something that shamefully imitates or seeks to imitate a niche product, right? Right?

‘Lawn Mower’ will be a 4.8% lager developed by Carlsberg in the backyard (ooh, so rustic) of its Falcon Brewery in Falkenberg. The ‘Backyard Brewery’ is the latest in long line of craft brewery pilot plants opened by larger brewers in the last few years. In the UK, Molson Coors have had a pilot plant (based out of the old White Shield Brewery) for a few years, and regional ale producers Brains and Thwaites have both built a ‘craft brewery’ recently. The aim for any brewer who does this is the same: to produce and test out small batches of left-of-field beers, to build long-term brands out of successful brews, and to improve their reputation among beer geeks.

This is all well and good. Big brewers want to have a slice of the growing ‘craft beer’ trend, and win over people that think they’re only interested in making common denominator beers. Fine. And Sweden’s craft beer scene is ripe for the picking. In fact, most of Scandinavia is undergoing a beer renaissance. BrewDog sales figures indicate that most of their exported beer goes to Sweden, and brewers like Mikkeller and Nøgne ø are darlings of the UK and US craft beer scenes.

So with that in mind, why in the name of all that’s holy and good have they described it as:

“dry hopped with Amarillo and Cascade to give it a grassy aroma.”

Bad news for beer-loving hayfever sufferers

I mean, I get it: ‘grassy’, ‘lawn mower’, but there’s several things wrong with that sentence. First, what is a grassy aroma, why is it appealing, and why would you build an entirely new brand around it? I understood a grassy aroma to typically come from lightly hopped lagers and ales, and an actual ‘fresh-cut grass’ aroma is relatively rare, usually buried or distorted by stronger, sweeter scents from the malt. If that’s what you’re going for, fine, but it’s not an aroma that speaks to experimental palates used to hop bombs and barley wines.

It’s also worth clarifying, in case you didn’t already know, that Amarillo and Cascade hops are the kind of big, brash, tropical fruit-scented behemoths that are found in so many American IPAs. They don’t have a grassy aroma. They’re bursting with orange and grapefruit, and taste like it too.

Not grass.

So in conclusion, they are either a) making the beer completely wrong, b) describing it completely wrong, or c) both.

It would seem that Carlsberg have hired one of those beer marketing people that say really weird, nonsensical things. You know, like ‘Brewed traditionally for flavour and taste’ or ‘the beer’s carbonation gives it great, refreshing aftertaste’ or they think Maris Otter is a kind of hops. These people should have been hounded out of beer marketing about seven years ago and forced to write reclining chair ads in the Daily Express.

When I saw ‘Carlsberg to make craft-style lager’ and ‘amarillo and cascade’ I simply assumed they were going for some kind of a Brooklyn Lager rip-off. It’s a safe bet that people will like it and it wouldn’t be too hard to achieve. To be honest, I still suspect this to be the case, and they’ve simply got some utter berk to explain the beer to the media. The same spokesman, clearly some kind of android, goes on to say:


“When we tried some of those high quality brews, we saw an opportunity to bring the concept to market,”

and:

“It (the Backyard Brewery) is not a new brewery, it’s a virtual concept where we leverage our newly-renovated development brewery to make room for creativity and passion.”

We are to assume there was previously no room for passion or creativity at Falkenberg Brewery, and that new ideas were hunted down and shot like the dogs they are. The evidence is in Carlsberg’s “varied portfolio” today. Impressive stuff. Three, count ’em, THREE lagers.

If Carlsberg really want to impress craft beer lovers, they need look no further than the beers they were making a few decades ago. The likes of Carlsberg 47 (Vienna lager), Carlsberg Gamle (Munich lager) and Gammel Porter, among others, were still being made in the brewer’s main headquarters in Denmark as recently as the 1990’s, and a large brewer resurrecting old brands (like Molson Coors did with Worthington White Shield) is generally more impressive than turning out a cynical knock-off.

They could maybe leave the old trademark off though…

I can see why they are desperate to diversify but they should look a little closer to home if they want to gain any credibility, which appears to be another C word they have no concept of the meaning of.

Do these kind of moves by large brewers rub you the wrong way? Does anybody know if those old Carlsberg brews are still available? What’s the story with swastika trademark? Do you like the smell of cut grass? Leave a comment.