Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When is a new beer not a new beer ?

In the comments on my recent blog about the Wetherspoons festival, Jibber makes an interesting point. He says can a one off beer at a festival be classed as a new beer, if it is not available elsewhere.

I, personally, have strong feelings about this, and I know others, including some local brewers do too. Let me try and explain.

The simple place to start is a brewer brewing a new beer. They make a full brew length, appropriate to the brewerys size, give it name and distribute it to pubs. The beer comes on the bar and the drinker drinks it. A new beer obviously. The confusion starts when the brewer has a couple of barrels of beer left and someone approaches the brewer for a festival special. What happens then?

Does the brewer give them the original beer with the original name, the original beer with a new name (cheating the tickers surely), or add something to the cask to make the original beer different and give it a new name ? This , in my humble opinion, would make this a new beer. Often, and usually the easiest thing to do is add some hops to the barrel, and therefore 'dry hop' the beer, which alters the flavour of the original beer, (and therefore makes a new beer).

A couple of years ago, as an experiment, and with the help of a local brewer, Pete Byrne and myself brewed a beer. A full brew length that was released into pubs. We kept two barrels back for a local festival and dry hopped each one with different hops. These appeared on the festival bar, along with the original, with nothing to suggest their provenance. We listened to feedback from the festival goers. Only a hand full sussed out what we had done. Most assumed they were different beers, they certainly tasted different to each other. Therefore, I am quite happy to call a dry hopped barrel of beer 'a new beer'. This covers most of the festival specials around.

What annoys me is a brewer just rebadging,(using an old beer and just giving it a new name for the occasion) a beer to satisfy the needs of the festival, there is often nothing to suggest this is the same beer that I have been drinking under another name, and seems to me to be a way of misleading the 'ticker'.

If you are familiar with the beer drinkers bible, the GOBBS guide (c), a quick scan will show some breweries that use several names for the same beer, and unless you are prepared to do the necessary research, then it is easy to assume all are different. I cannot understand why some brewer should want to try to mislead the drinker by renaming a regular beer as something different. I know of enthusiasts that will not drink certain breweries beers because they are unsure of the beer's provenance.

I know this may sound a very pedantic post, and it affects only those of us sad enough, sorry, enthusiastic enough, to want to list every beer we have, and want every beer that has a different name to be different. I have no issue with 95% of the beer I come across, or 95% of the brewers. But with Xmas coming, and the Royal Wedding on the horizon can I be sure that every beer I drink is actually a new beer, or is it an old favourite renamed. I certainly hope its not the latter.


Timbo said...

Thanks to Mallinsons for their help in the practical part of this entry. I know every one of their beers is different, Tara wouldn't allow anything other than this. Be careful with Springhead beers though, what you are drinking, may not be what you think

Leigh said...

Nice point. Personally, I think if a brewer is going to brew 'a new beer', then it doesnt matter if it's a one-off. In fact, I like the 'one-off-ness' of it. Re-badging, however, like you say, is disgraceful and when I find out about brewers that do it, as far as I'm concerned, they're 'off the list'. Intruiging comment re: Springhead though...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tim - we try our best. Even the dry hopped beers are planned in advance, and these are very significant variations (we tend to not dry hop with a hop variety that has already been used in the brew). I think some beer drinkers look down upon tickers and the brewers that produce many different types of beers. In reality we brew so many different beers because we are ultimately searching for the perfect beer (and Tara gets very bored when brewing the same thing), and indeed the perfect hop with which to dry hop (and we like to think we have come close!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments Elaine. As a Hudds drinker I've tried (and continue to keep on trying) as many of your beers as possible and even if not perfect they taste bloody heavenly anyways!

Baz. tipsy.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to comment from a publicans piont of view. As you know or perhaps not but we try to have on as many new and different beers as we can for the pub and our festivals alike. It certainly is a hard and time consuming task as each and every beer is researched and individually sourced, some brewers who I will not name do make the suggestion that they could supply me with a beer but put another name on it which I certainly disagree with & will most definately not be going down that road. I am pleased you have brought this to light Tim as it is only a handful of brewers who offer this but to the untrained eye it can cast a bad light over the other brewers who are not misleading folk. The Star has a reputation to keep and so too do the brewers therefore only genuine beers will be served at The Star Inn. Hope to see you at the festival.
Sam @ The Star

Anonymous said...

and what about the addition of "brewers caramel" - a common, addition to beers to change the colour without affecting taste (apparently) - amongst some breweries, this is more common than most would like to believe. though this doesn't, as a direct product, affect the taste of beer, when put together, the change in colour of the beer, the taste is perceived as being different, even though the product is the same. [try it, if you can, get a beer, split it in two and add a dark food colourant to one and ask people to tell the difference, people will find one]