Let’s have a vertical (beer) tasting!

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Beers with a difference. Beer suppliers thinking outside the box. Perhaps the announcement that Carlsberg is to launch a ‘vintage’ version of its Kronenbourg 1664 premium beer brand in France will stimulate the grey matter of other major breweries to prick-up the curiosity of premium customers through the introduction of ‘vintage’ beer brands.

While some might baulk at the idea of major breweries daring to introduce an element of variance in what they might consider an essentially humdrum and mainstream product, such behemoth brewers are really the only ones well-enough resourced and with consumers in sufficient numbers to justify the launch of a brand variant.

Kronenbourg ‘1664 Millésime’ – for that will be its Franco-title – contains malt and hops, yes, yes – all the usual ingredients – but what distinguishes it in my eyes (and taste buds) is that these hops were harvested in one specific year and – as with wines – are likely to offer the consumer subtle taste differences from one vintage to another.

While not at the outer edge of craft brewing, I still think it’s an excellent idea on grounds of commercial pragmatism alone. And as I’m not the one considering just how big the budget for such a project should be, the question for the breweries is whether or not there really are sufficient numbers of like-minded consumers to make the experiment worthwhile.

But ‘craft’ brewing is in growth worldwide and it’s growing in double-digits in the US so why shouldn’t the biggies try their hand?
While Ireland is undoubtedly a smaller country than France, its proclivity towards beer drinking is considerably more pronounced and so interest in vintage beers – and vertical tastings – should be correspondingly higher.

For a major brewer like Diageo, looking to expand its beer market, consulting the sales records for the Guinness extensions of the Brewhouse series should provide interesting reading for the bean counters there.

I think it’s a winner, Carlsberg, one that could help stimulate the entire beer market – and bearing in mind Drinks Industry Ireland’s interview last month with Kristy McCready who pointed out the importance of offering appropriate glassware if brewers want to appeal to women who might be considering launching themselves into the world of beer, Carlsberg  has even created a special tasting glass to accompany the launch.

Admittedly its’ a tasting glass where one is encouraged to half-fill the glass only, to leave room for swirling to release the beer’s aromas, but it’s going in the right direction, if you ask me.

The breweries could easily tie up with the pubs here to host special ‘vertical tasting nights’ for branded ‘seasonal’ beers and hold special beer tasting nights early in the week for Winter beers, Autumn Ales and for Summer beers as appropriate.
There’s a world of beer out there. Much of it could be explored through the right pubs making themselves available as an exploration vehicle.

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