Beer Rant – up on my soapbox


Beer is remarkable. It can raise emotions and opinions in the same way as politics and religion. People who drink beer generally have a view on the it. Sometimes it’s the ad’s, more-often it’s the over-all brand or price, often quite oft handed responses like “oh they make shite beers”

Last year I reviewed Summer Bright Lager, that column was criticised, labelling my reaction to the beer as arrogant and snobby. I read the criticism in a few of magazines and their corresponding review of Summer Bright Lager, which described how much research went into the beer, how the flavour profile was developed and how it would fit into the Aussie lifestyle. I actually kind of took it as a complement at the time that a Regional Manager for Lion would be so taken by what I said, and concerned about my take on the beer, the he would take time out to write and pay for a review to run in magazines and papers.

But I digress….there wasn’t meant to be any arrogant beer snobbery about it – if people like it, they like it, which means the company has done its job. I wasn’t criticising people who drink it – just simply making the point that breweries make and sell beer like this because it sells, and sells extremely well, not because the brewery wants to put their own stamp on high quality brewing.

I believe, and maybe this is where the arrogance is, that a product that contains malt, water, hops and yeast should have a decent lingering flavour from those ingredients in it, otherwise it’s just flavoured water with alcohol. I went back and retried Summer Bright lager recently and would still only give it a one out of five. The ingredients that make up Summer Bright Lager barely leave a trace in its taste. Brewers have become great at making beers with light flavours, by adding large amounts of cane sugar, sometimes up to 30%, and then enzymes to break down the sugars to create “low carb” beers. They also add highly processed hop extracts so they can put it in clear glass bottles without the beer going off or becoming “light struck”.

The beer is so processed and so far removed from the products that went in originally, that it starts to become the processed cheese stick of the beer world. There is nothing wrong with processed cheese sticks, they have their place and their purpose, but it is a pale reflection of what cheese can be.

If that’s snobbery or arrogance, then I’ll cop it on the chin.

When a beer is so tinkered with that it doesn’t taste like the any of its ingredients, because it is created for a market that has started to prefer sugar-sweetened, fruit-flavoured drinks, one that uses cane sugar to create a beer without beer flavour so that it can be marketed to a certain market sector, and is full of chemically processed hop extracts so that the marketers can sell it in a clear bottle…can it still be called a good beer? It may be an enjoyable, alcoholic drink. One you can drink happily and you are neither an idiot nor a bad person if you drink and enjoy it, but is it good beer?

When beers like these dictate the market it has harmful effect not only on what people believe beer should taste, look and smell like, but also how they consume it and the volumes it is designed to be consumed in. 

While the brewery, brewers and marketing department will no doubt argue that they are responding to market demand, setting the bar so low only helps to drop the entire market further and drives other larger scale breweries to create more of these styles of beers so that they can corner the market.

Mark my words, there will be another beer that hits the markets from one of the other competing big brewers with the same low flavour profile,made to compete against Summer Bright that will just further ruin all that that is good in the beer world.

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