Sunday, August 21, 2011

Market research: sampling competitor brews. Hard work.

Last night I tried a few new beers. There is this almost childlike excitement when you found some new beers you haven't tried before, bought them, and have them chilling in your fridge, waiting for that right moment to be opened and sampled.
Part of the fun is the 'Russian Roulette' feel it has: you never know what you're gonna get. Even a very sleek stylish bottle from a trusted brewery can contain a beer that really does not work for you, or that bottle you really did not want to buy but ended up with anyway proves to be the revelation of the year! I'm sure we've all had similar experiences, and that makes sampling and trying new beers ever so exciting and rewarding.
Well then, I first had in my glass a Ommegang Aphrodite.
On the Ommegang website they introduce this beer as follows:

In Greek mythology, Aphrodite rises from the foam of the  waves of the sea, enchanting all who see her, and inciting thoughts of love and lust where ever she goes.
We could hardly say it more eloquently. Our Limited Edition Aphrodite Ale is ethereal, intriguing and mysterious – as the Goddess Aphrodite must have been. Aphrodite has champagne-like carbonation, much as the foam of the waves of the sea. Plus enchanting flavors with whispers of raspberry and pear, and hints of funk and tartness created by the Brett yeast. The refreshing dryness comes from the unusual combination of Ommegang and Brett yeasts, and incites feelings of love and thirst, though we don’t know about lust. Grains of paradise are infused into the nectar, and when poured Aphrodite is crowned with a luxuriously  shimmering rose-pink head. 
It has a very outspoken raspberry flavor, is very easy to drink with only a hint of tartness, not overly sweet either, and a very nice balance of flavors, with not only raspberry but also pear and plum, and grains of paradise that add a nice spice layer that goes well with the funk of the wild yeast (Brett yeast, from Brettanomyces) which is not at all overpowering. It is almost 9% ABV, but this rather high alcohol content is well hidden. A dangerous fruity drink when you're thirsty! It made me think of the 'Framboise' lambics I drank in Belgium, but it is clearly different, with a quite light body and a different tartness/funk. My wife really liked it, so guys, if you need a fun dessert drink and want to treat the lady, get her some of this brew!

The other bottle I tried was a Blue Moon Vintage Blond Ale. I saw the bottle in the liquor store, which is quite appealing. A different format of label, the wine-like bottleneck 'hood', and the maple leaf booklet give a very stylish first impression. I do enjoy the regular Blue Moon as a simple go-to beer when it is hot, and I have nothing else to try, so though I would give it a shot. The bottle said it was a blending of a wheat beer with Chardonnay grape juice, a perfect follow up beer after the raspberry earlier. It pours very thin, almost champagne like, with a full foamy head of fine bubbles, that dissipates quickly. A very clear pale color makes it even look like champagne. Tasting it, I was confused, as I did not feel I was drinking a beer. To me, that evening, it was so much more some sparkling wine or cider. Somehow sweet, fruity, definitely the grapes, even hints of apples, with a slight dry tartness. Only in my last glass, with the last bit of beer that had time to warm up, did I notice the wheat maltiness I could not really detect before. So it left me confused. I love cider, I love a nice white sparkling wine, and I love a good refreshing wheat beer. But drinking this, I wasn't certain which of the three I had in my glass.

I am fairly certain I will have it again, but now knowing not to expect a clear beer taste, but rather a light fruity refreshing drink with a nice little sparkle. Definitely a surprise, one that left me wondering what exactly I was drinking. But hey, that is the fun of the exploration!
From what I read about it, Blue Moon is only offering this beer in 5 markets, Northern New Jersey being one of them, to test the response of consumers. That means I am one of the lucky ones to get my hands on it already! It also has won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival, under the name "C Blonde", in the category Fruit Beer. Owned by Coors, it is Coors' attempt to breach into the Craft market. This beer definitely has been crafted, and well crafted, I should say. But that brings me onto another topic that I will leave for our next article. Coming out this week, so stay tuned, and don't forget to stay thirsty, my friends!

1 comment:

  1. AH, I tried that Blue Moon when I was in N.Y., I believe.
    Left me with the same experience of wondering what I just drank.