Thursday, June 9, 2011
Alexander Keith's Virtual Beer Tasting
In order to celebrate the launch, the brewery invited several members of the beer community to participate in a virtual tasting. Participants were sent a package that included the three beers mentioned above, a glass, and beer specification sheets.
Virtual Tastings seem to be a new way for brewers to communicate with their customers. Dundee and 21st Amendment are two American craft brewers who have recently held such tastings. I think it is a great marketing idea. Ideally, the brewer gets to explain the beer, what he was looking to brew, and answer any questions. Beer writers, bloggers, and consumers then share their experiences with others and spread the word and hopefully you have more educated beer drinkers and higher sales numbers for the brewery.
On June 7th, I logged onto Facebook (Alexander Keith’s choice for the tasting) to listed to Brewmaster Graham Kendall as he spoke live from the brewery. Kendall explained a little about the brewery and its history before leading the group through a tasting of all three beers.
Editor’s Note: The following are my tasting notes of the three beers.
The lager poured a clear, golden yellow color with a pen width white head. The aroma is very mild, faint malt with even fainter hops. The body is smooth, with low levels of carbonation and a milt malt flavor. A very faint bitter finish, and overall a little bland.
The pale ale poured a crystal clear golden yellow color with a pen width white head. The aroma is corn like, a flavor that continues onto the front palate. Again an ever so faint bitter finish, followed by an off-putting taste.
The brown ale poured a light brown color with reddish hues. The aroma is candy with notes of brown sugar. The body has a light malt base underneath plenty of sugar. There is almost no finish, and overall the beer tastes like liquid candy.
After the tasting there were plenty of interesting questions.
TheFoamingHead: Why choose these three beers for the U.S. launch?
Alexander Keith’s: The brewing teams in Canada (Labatt) and the U.S. (Anheuser-Busch) got together to decide on the styles. They wanted to pick styles that would fit with the Keith's heritage, and that U.S. beer drinkers would like!
Seth Mellin, of the blog From My Mellin, asked why the brewery would have identical ABV’s for three very different styles of beer. Kendall mentioned the large brewing process and cited the need to eliminate any variation between different batches (a process that involves blending), but as far as I could tell he did not speak towards the philosophical ideology of having three identical ABVs.
Kendal was also asked if he was afraid that craft beer drinkers would not even give Keith’s beers a chance die to the brewery’s relationship to big brewers (AB-InBev is an owner). He stated he wanted the beers to be able to speak for themselves.
Kendall had made several references to them being a craft brewer and having craft beer drinkers as the target market which lead me to ask why they consider themselves to be a craft brewer. (Side Note: There are so many ideas of what makes a beer “craft”. The more popular ones revolve around the size of brewery, owner of brewery, and quality of beer.) Kendall said that Alexander Keith’s considers themselves “craft” because of the quality of their product and their passion for brewing.
The brewer’s answer to my last question was a great answer and had me getting excited to drink his beer. Unfortunately I think Alexander Keith’s has missed the boat a little bit. The beer seemed to scream either macro, or gateway micro. Their self-image and marketing campaign seem to be built on the craft beer world. In my opinion, something has to give. Either they need to change their campaign or they need to start brewing some more interesting beers.