Thursday, 27 February 2014

Blue Moon at Craft Beer Rising



Last Friday I managed to get down to the Craft Beer Rising trade session at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in London. I’m sure you read my shining review of last year’s event and as many other people have dictated, this year was even better so I’m not going to repeat what they’ve all said.

I want to talk about Blue Moon, the Molson Coors owned ‘craft’ lookalike brand. OK so as many will argue, they’re not craft but fuck those guys.

Blue Moon is a Belgian style Wit, and in my opinion is quite nice. It’s highly drinkable and mighty refreshing, giving you a nice whack of orange peel, lemon and a sprinkling of coriander. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a fan, as long as it’s not served with slice of orange floating in it.

Anyway, I’m sure you all know of it and have your own opinion which to be honest, you can keep to yourself as I’m sick of hearing everyone get all judgemental. The beer community is not meant to be like that so just stop it.

Well, the Blue Moon division of Molson Coors brought along some bottles of their other beers for everyone to sample and I want to talk about those.

First up, I tried the Gingerbread Spiced Ale (5.8%), which I thought did exactly what it says on the bottle. It pours very orange, with a nice aroma of ginger and other spices you’d associate with Christmas as well as lots of brown sugar, and it all comes through in the taste but is very well balanced. The great thing is that it didn’t taste as sweet as the aroma dictated, so I could probably drink a fair few of these!

Rounder Belgian Ale (5.6%) was up next and proved to be my least favourite of the bunch. Both the aroma and flavour was caramel and toffee with absolutely no variation or anything interesting going on. I can understand why many people would enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me.

I went for Mountain Abbey Ale (5.6%) next and to be honest, it wasn’t bad! Yeah, there was caramel on the nose, but it was a little more interesting with some pronounced banana and a handful of wheat. The banana and caramel really came through in the taste, but what would stop me from drinking more than a bottle is the very sweet finish.

My final beer in the Blue Moon series was Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale (5.8%) which proved to be my favourite of the bunch. You’ve got nice red fruits and a little caramel on the nose then right at the end you can smell the funky Belgian yeast. When you take a sip, some strawberries and hibiscus are there with a dash of white pepper before you notice the slightly tart & funky yeast.

Overall Verdict:

Overall, I was actually quite impressed. OK so there does seem to be a running theme with the caramel and maybe a sweetness issue but you’d expect that from a big brewing company. Really though, the beers aren’t bad. They’re not exactly the best examples of the styles they’re attempting to create but they’re perfectly drinkable.

I do have one major annoyance, however, and that is the fact that these beers are not available in the UK and they don’t have any plans to make them available to us. Yep, you read that correctly. They go to a British beer event with some beers that you can try there on the spot but you can’t buy them again if you like them, which I think is really fucking unfair on the consumer.

But still, despite bringing some interesting beers to Craft Beer Rising, I can’t imagine Blue Moon’s stall was very popular, which is sad because they have as much right to be there as Thornbridge and the like. It pains me when people won’t give a beer a chance purely because it doesn’t fit into their ideals of ‘craft’ or because the brewery is actually a big multi-national brewery.

When I first got into the beer scene, I thought it was great. I thought all of the people in it were so cool, like a tight community but in reality they’re not. While the vast majority of people I meet are lovely, they can turn into a horrible, judgemental bastard in a split second if you drink the wrong thing or do something that’s un-beer geek like and it’s increasingly frustrating.

So basically, that’s why I decided to write about my experience of Blue Moon's beers. Because I enjoyed them and because fuck you and your ‘craft’ beer.

Nate

22 comments:

  1. Not sure I necessarily agree with you here.

    I do you think make a good point regarding abstract concepts influencing what people drink. There's too much of it and it begins to obscure what's really important - taste.

    If you like something, you should drink it regardless of who it's made by and you shouldn't be made to feel guilty for doing so. Equally, people shouldn't be so quick to leap to judgements based on preconceptions.

    However, at an event called Craft Beer Rising, people's definitions of 'craft' are ultimately going to play a role in people's judgements, particularly regarding what they drink.

    By calling it Craft Beer Rising, the organisers are implying that it's a showcase of craft beer and if some people believe this term excludes the multi-nationals (and it does in America) then it might seem a bit jarring to find Blue Moon in attendance.

    Ultimately, I like Blue Moon and I'll drink it on occasion. But given the choice between that and a microbrew, I'd go for the microbrew every time because I've seen first-hand how much of their heart, soul and savings small-scale brewers pour into their work. Their livelihoods depend on it.

    So I don't think it's sad that few people went to the Blue Moon stall, as much as it's sad that small producers may put everything into creating good beers only to find themselves squeezed out of the market. At the same time, I'll never judge anyone for drinking whatever they want - just drink and enjoy.

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    1. Cheers mate, I totally appreciate where you're coming from but I think if they're brewing 'craft' styles (well, you know I hate that term anyway), I think it's fair that they're there. I mean, even for comparison purposes if you're into that, it's interesting.

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    2. I think that's a fair point, particularly in using Blue Moon as a comparison point. I honestly reckon there's a lot of people out there who adopt snobbish attitudes but wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Blue Moon and what they define as 'proper craft' in a blind tasting.

      It's more than a bit daft that Blue Moon has come to mean 'shitty, evil profiteers' in many beer geeks' heads because it starts to obscure more important issues (BrewDog had a big part to play in that I suppose).

      I would also put money on the fact that a lot of people who hate Blue Moon still shop in Tesco rather than their local butcher, baker and candlestick maker. I'd love it if people could just drink what they like and discuss each beer on its merits rather than passing snap judgements.

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    3. I completely agree with you. It is possibly too important to beer geeks, which is why I’d love to just hand out glasses of some of this stuff to a room full of beer geeks and tell them it’s from this new microbrewery and see the reactions.

      And yes, of course they’re shopping in Tesco, buying other mass produced products so why is this an issue?!

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  2. Good stuff as usual Nate.

    Ultimately, Beer is the same as everything else which people have choice (and therefore an opinion) in, it can be divided into Good and Bad. More specifically, a good beer is one you like.*

    Don't mind blue moon myself, not my preferred poison to be honest, but don't turn my nose up at it when given it by friends either.


    Pedro.


    *unless it's skol.

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    1. Cheers Pedro!

      Absolutely, and that's the key. You have an opinion and shouldn't be told you're wrong!

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  3. craft beer, fuck yeh. it's gonna save the motherfuckin' world yeh.

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    1. That's basically how seriously people take it, which is sad.

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    2. It’s in the nature of the beast, matey. When Viz first parodied the real ale twats it struck a chord because most beery enthusiasts had encountered similar twattishness, recognised it and also recognised how off putting it was. It comes as no surprise similar twattishness exists in crafty beer circles. It exists in any enthusiasm where those involved see themselves as more discerning (better) than those not involved. It can be fashion, food, anything. It attracts such people. In some ways I’m surprised it hasn’t been a bigger feature of crafty beer as these days it is more acceptable than it ever was to be a snob. When I was at university the middle class kids pretended to be working class. These days I gather being middle class is no problem and the working classes are looked at as chavs, legitimising snobbery to a greater extent in society in general.

      I guess it is to the credit of crafty beer enthusiasts that snobbery isn’t more prevalent. The thing is though; the twats really are the vocal minority. The bar bore. The majority that enjoy any given enthusiasm do so as part of an otherwise full life and do not wear their enthusiasm on their sleeve. You wouldn’t notice it by their appearance. It is the odd balls that use their enthusiasm as a form of self-determination that rules their social groups, style of dress and given attitudes. The person for whom belonging is important and an opinion is someone else’s to be repeated rather than thought and considered. These are the people you notice follow the enthusiasm and when you notice them you think “what a twat”

      The avoidance of self twattishness is having people in your life willing to question you. The girl that says “are you really going out dressed like that?” in the morning. The friends that like a few pints but don’t care what of. Without these we could all end up sat on a bar stool, overweight, faded beer festival t-shirt, beard and waiting to tell some unsuspecting drinker that the pride is drinking well today.

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    3. Nice one, Cookie. Very well said!

      The thing is, the snobbery exists in most people, yet they don't let it show unless they catch you doing something they don't like. I.e. They won't write a blog saying that Blue Moon is hideous but the moment you check in on untappd, or post a photo on twitter, it's just a full blown assault about the way THEY don't like it and therefore you shouldn't be drinking it. It's happened for a number of beverages for me, and from a number of different people.

      I agree though, you get it in every industry or inner circle. I've seen it in my younger days of hanging out with a crowd that only listens to heavy metal. You hear a track that you like on the radio and they're immediately like "Why the fuck do you like that? It's not metal". So yes, exactly the same as the proper craft wankers.

      Thankfully, I'm not at that stage. If a bunch of mates invite me out to places that I know don't sell decent cask or keg beer, or if I'm at a gig, I'll happily neck 6 pints of Carlsberg or Red Stripe. I think a lot of people are secretly like that too, but they won't admit it. They'll say "Oh yeah, I went to this awesome gig. The beer was shit so I didn't drink" but they did, of course they fucking did. They're the kind of people who, themselves are worried they'll get mocked so they'll come out and mock us at first instance.

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    4. yeh, fear of mockery is one reason the insecure mock others.

      I’ve been wondering at what age twatishness becomes unforgivable. I see a twenty something hipster and I think “you’ll grow out of that pal, the minute you get a mortgage, missus or kid or all of the above.” One day he will wear the clobber his missus bought him for Xmas and a haircut that is quick to dry in the morning. He will have concerns and things to deal with that make all he thinks currently important, largely irrelevant. He will be pleased to outsource decisions regarding trivialities like appearance to a regular sexual partner, so as to have the time for more important things. Even, god forbid, what alcohol products to buy and drink.

      Last weekend I saw a middle aged death metal fan. He had all the gear on, tattoos, piercings, a t-shirt with a picture of a baby and the caption “baptised in shit”. It was in a Sam’s pub. I wasn’t offended by him, just perplexed. He had the male pattern baldness and beer gut and was in his late 40’s. My first impression was of a bit of a loser. A man child, jobless, lives with mum, never grew up, probably skint. Now I might have been wrong, but at his age it just looked sad.

      There must be a cut-off point. An age where twattishness is no longer the folly of youth and ignorance but a sign of a life half lived. I think its somewhere in the mid 30’s.

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  4. I agree with what you're saying about beer snobs being obnoxious, and it's good to know the beers are tasty.

    However, as I understand it, the only real factor in determining whether or not a beer is a "craft beer" is the total volume of sales by the brewery. By this definition Blue Moon's volume of sales make it a craft beer. I think the only real controversy is that they don't advertise the fact that they are owned by a significantly larger company, and everything that might entail.

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    1. Cheers,

      The thing is, I'm in the UK. There is no legal definition as to what's 'craft' and hopefully there never will be as I think within the UK it could potentially be damaging to our industry.

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    3. Not strictly true. The Brewers Association definition, which is what the American market uses, says the producer must be less than 25% owned by a non-craft brewer. Since Blue Moon is made by MillerCoors, it's not craft beer.

      Not that it really matters, like I said above. If you like it, drink it.

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  5. I've always liked Blue Moon. It's crazy easy to drink and tastes nice. (Sssh, I like the orange) The stigma has always bugged me loads... I don't care if something is Craft or Real or made by god damn robots, so long as it's Good.

    I see the other Blue Moons on the beer-y bits of Reddit all the time and I'm thoroughly jealous.

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    1. There seem to be a massive collection of Blue Moon beers and I really wish I could get hold of them. ESPECIALLY the pumpkin one.

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  6. Id be interested to try them. That said my deap suspicion of multi nationals make me a craftwanker! Call me a wanker im fine with that but not a craft wanker. don't think I've ever met anyone who consistently boycotts Coors, bm is though the big guys pretending to be something they aren't so I can see why it winds people up. Now the big question to me is why would a multi national spend good money showing off beers in a region they had no intention of selling in?

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  7. You used an 'e' in 'judgmental' in your second-to-last paragraph which unfortunately invalidated your argument. #craftspelling

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  8. Realistically you have to look at the cycle of the industry. I have been in brewing for quite a while on various sides of the industry, and the shift in both perception and product has been amazing since the American influence has taken over. (As an aside, let's also not forget that the Americans started brewing decent beer as a result of many of them coming over here and tasting ales, so it's the influence of a British-influenced America on Britain that has brought to where we are now). The marketers now understand that the best way to sell their own beer is to promote ill feeling towards other beers/brands and target the feeble minded with tales of the life enhancing properties of hops and the sheer superiority of spontaneous fermentation. A great example of this was when I was talking to one of the ignorati bloggers at a bar and he told me that he was drinking a beer with 200 IBUs. I knew that this wasn't true because a brewer friend tested an example of this beer and it was 75 IBUs, but he would have none of it and continued to verbally fellate both himself and the brewery about which he was talking. I believe he had no formal training in beer and had spent all of 3 years drinking it and wasn't really aware of anything about beer other than what he'd been told by the marketers. I hate this kind of self aggrandising twit because what they say isn't something that should be broadcast, it should be suppressed The horrible inconsistency is also something which is just depressing, as is the level of infection and number of off flavours within many of the brewers touted as geniuses. I have actually really like a lot of the beers produced by the main culprits, but I wouldn't buy one without trying it or tell a friend they have to try it because the consistency is so monumentally poor.

    Currently most people are ignorant, still believing what they're told and acting in a vaguely cult like manner with every reaction being horribly predictable. Within 10 years, when the hipsters and the muppets have moved on and the people who like beer have been left alone, the beer industry will once more become about the product. For now, I'm afraid, what is in the glass isn't really all that important to most of the people buying it.

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  9. Nate a Craft is an "Occupation or Trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill" therefore it is something that is undertaken by a craftsperson by hand. (I would also suggest a craft is something that can only be done on a small scale as a craft needs to be hands on) therefore by this definition blue moon cannot be craft in any way. As it is high gravity brewed in Colorado shipped over here in large tankers then watered down to its FG & packaged at burton brewery as far as I am aware. All on a large industrial scale, by people who sit in control rooms and never see smell or taste the beer during the process. Craft has fuck all to do with style it is a production method, & it pisses me off when people go all romantic when it is applied to beer!

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