05 July 2010

Strange provenance

I don't get sent much free beer (yeah yeah, boo-hoo etc) but was rather intrigued to be offered some lager by a US PR company a few weeks back. "Sure," I said, "send it on over". And then waited for the "Oh wait, you live very far away, sorry about that" mail. It didn't arrive. Instead I got a box containing a bottle and a can of Minott's Black Star plus some accompanying press materials. I supposed I'd better read the stuff now that I've committed to writing about the beer.

A slightly odd tale unfolds between the lines of the press release. The beer boasts of origins in Whitefish, Montana though is brewed in Milwaukee and is being marketed specifically at Northern California. It looks like desperate attempt at preserving a beer's credentials of origin while having it contract brewed elsewhere and being upfront about it. Convoluted, but at least it's honest: lots of other beer companies are nowhere near as forthcoming about where their product is made.

Sweeping the geography puzzles aside, the beer is an attractive dark gold lager, a colour that immediately had me thinking Budvar thoughts. Saaz and Mittelfrüh are the hops, says the marketing, so that's definitely the right direction. And the body is similarly big and rich with that golden syrup sweetness. But that's where it ends: those hops are nowhere to be found and it all tails off rather sadly.

It's not a bad beer, but with just a bit more hopping it could have been a very good Czech-style lager. I suppose it's wrong of me to criticise it for not being the beer I'd like it to be. With that heavy texture I think it'll stand up well to a curry, so that's where the can will be going.

And if you're reading in Northern California: hey look, here's a beer you can buy.


  1. They've been pushing this beer really hard here in Oregon. I'd love to try it but at 10 to 12 dollars per 6 pack... I'd much rather grab some cans of pilsner urquell.

  2. Jeebus! I know that's dirt cheap for here, but definitely not worth it where you are. Unless you're trying to conserve hops or something.

  3. Historical note. This beer came out a decade and a half ago, with similar aggressive launch. I unwisely got caught up in the furor and found a very modest beer in no way capable of supporting the media bonfire the PR folks were trying to kindle. It eventually died. Rinse, repeat, fast-forward. When I got a breathless email this time around, I kindly said no thanks.

    I was not surprised to see a massive display at my local grocery store this afternoon, an accomplishment made possible only through the application of many shekels. I predict another quick exit. Even quicker; a decade and a half ago, this beer had a great deal less competition. They can't keep buying endcap space forever--eventually they have to sell beer.

  4. It's interesting to hear that the geographic issue is not limited one country. Contracting brewing is growing rapidly in OZ and consumers are non the wiser which is unfortunate.

  5. BN - did you try the "beer in a can vs. beer in a bottle" thing also? That is a strangely lively discussion point for some bloggers.

    Jeff - that is really fascinating stuff. I didn't realize they had tried this same thing a while back... pretty sad (although dogged) of this company to try it again. Not a big fan of companies faking craft brewing credentials as a form of marketing hype.

  6. Damn! This would have been a great opportunity for that but it never occurred to me.