Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed Cricketers Arms popping up again and again on my friends Facebook posts, not sure whether it’s been on special or whether they have finally just decided to get on board a beer that only a few years ago I reviewed here and said “it would be worth keeping an eye on”.
Cricketers Arms has been around since 2007. Originally only a handful of bars in Melbourne were willing to take the beer on, with The Stokehouse being so overwhelmed by the response to their lager that they asked Paul Scott, the brands creator, if he would like to take over both of their beer taps, which started him down the path of creating a second brew. He sat down with the brewer Dermot O’Donnell, the former head brewer at CUB, and tried nearly 50 or 60 beers trying to create a beer that was sessionable, that you could have seven or eight over the course of a few hours and not feel bloated. A beer that has the drinkability of lager, but with a point of difference that people would notice. The sheer quaffability of the beers they created meant that Cricketers flourished in its Melbourne hometown before getting a major market traction and gaining spots in many of the major bottleshop beer fridges up this way. This was in no small way due to its corporate drive to building solid relationships with their customers and consumers, most of it was achieved through the hands on approach of Scott, and in fact it wasn’t unusual to see him personally delivering cartons and kegs as part of that hands on and relationship building.
Mid-2013 saw Cricketers Arms bought out by Asahi Premium Beverages, a move that has seen the brand go from strength to strength. This is, in part, thanks to Asahi’s market leverage, the draught network distribution that Cricketers Arms now has access to, and an increase in production capacity at Asahi’s re-developed Victorian plant instead of brewing at the smaller Mildura plant. Cricketer’s now has the ability to finally knock out enough of the beer to satisfy demand, and that demand is climbing, due to the hard work put in at building solid relationships. They have retained Scott as their Craft Beer Ambassador, and O’Donnell as their Master Brewer.
What I personally find impressive however, is that the large multinational juggernaut that is Asahi, haven’t decided to tinker with the recipes to become a more cost effective tasteless shadow of themselves, instead they have expanded and added to the original line up of beers. In doing so they have cemented a firm position as one of Australia’s favourite craft beers. I should also note that they have taken the same path with their acquisition of Mountain Goat, expanding the range, not cutting it back. Not often I give the big brewing boys a wrap but I will here.
Asahi and O’Donnell have kept the Keeper’s Lager and Spearhead Pale Ale, but expanded the line up to include the Scorcher Summer Ale and the recently released Session Ale.
With that 3.5% Session Ale turning up in a lot of friend’s fridges and eskies, the one standard drink 375ml sized tin seems to be popping up at every turn I make. It’s an interesting, hop driven beer, that has enough going on to keep the hop-heads out there happy, but is still so quaffable that the regular mid-strength crowd that are looking for a bit more in a beer will be easily able to swap over to this. Tropical aromas on the nose, strong hop driven palate with just enough late bitterness, its name says it all. It’s more in tune with a mid-strength IPA, however they have cleverly kept that word off the label as it seems to scare a lot of mainstream, non-craft beer type, drinkers.
Cricketers Arms will continue to do well in the Aussie market, steered by a passionate craft brewer at the helm, one who is obviously not willing to see beers go out that when it can still be refined or polished, and access to a modern brewing plant, and a marketing department with its fingers on the pulse, it will be interesting to see what beers comes out of the Cricketers Arms over the next few years.
The rest of the range:
Keeper’s Lager – not a beer that you will like if you are a yeast-geek, you will be a bit underwhelmed. But it doesn’t strike me as the type of beer that’s meant for that, this is meant for sitting around, having a few over the space of a few hours and not getting bloated. It won’t offend anyone, and is a little better than the run of the mill Aussie lagers out there. Slight citrus aromas, light sweetness on the tongue, with light bitterness and soft bubbles. Nice dry and slightly sweet aftertaste.
Spearhead Pale Ale – The addition of dry, New Zealand, Nelson Suavin hops late in the brewing process gives it a tropical profile and floral notes. Faint notes of caramel and toffee on the tongue with touches of citrus and malt. Again it’s not a beer that you can sit back and solve the problems of the world on, but it’s definitely quaffable, and can still be enjoyed as it warms. A good take on the new style of Aussie Pale Ale.
Scorcher Summer Ale – A combination of three malts and two hops delivers a cloudy ale with notes of tropical and citrus. Mildly sweet upfront and an equally mild bitterness in the end, a golden ale beer that would probably sell a lot more if it was marketed with under a different name.