Thursday, July 15, 2010

Launching a Longshot

If you’ve ever wondered how a brewery gets its beers “known” to the end consumer – look away now. I have no answers to that one.

I’m not going to shed any light on how the marketing types attached to the brewer dream up ways of pushing product or image-branding or market penetration or whatever other terms are used to describe what I think we used to call ‘advertising’.

But that’s not to say I’m not fascinated by the journey of a beer from an idea to an item – that can be a pretty cool process. Earlier this year I found myself in the middle of one beer’s journey from concept to consumer and was more than happy to float along in the moment rather than worry about how it all worked.

Longshot is a coffee infused dark beer released earlier this month by Matilda Bay Brewing Company in collaboration with gourmet coffee roaster Toby Smith from Toby’s Estate. Over a quiet ale or three in Darlinghurst’s Local Taphouse the conversation turned from “isn’t it interesting how coffee beans and barley malt are roasted in a similar way?” to “let’s make some beer and work out a way to get coffee into it!”

What they’ve achieved is a well crafted and rewarding dark ale that tastes a treat on its own (I was fortunate to receive an invitation to visit the garage and sample the beer with Toby and Head Brewer Scott Vincent before the coffee was added) and when combined with a cold-extracted coffee made from Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans creates a nicely balanced, easy drinking but very rewarding ale.

There’s bitterness in there and your palate will have trouble discerning whether this is derived from the coffee or the hops, so seamless is the meshing of beer and bean. It looks good in the glass, it has nice aromas on the nose and, if you close your eyes and let your mind wander as you sip, you could feel yourself sitting in a big comfy chair by a gently crackling log fire. It’s nice that a beer can do that.

A seasonal release, Longshot will be limited to a run of 5,000 slabs and is available only at Dan Murphy’s. This element of the marketing strategy is the one which is sure to divide opinion. On the one hand it can be argued that ‘them who truly support the craft beer industry’ have been ‘locked-out’ or, on the other hand, we can be hopeful that a few more ‘average Joes’ will be exposed to beers of a more challenging nature for the fact that they are on sale in the land of bland beer.

While I can see the validity of both points of view, I’m happy in the knowledge that good craft beer is more readily available to those ready to take a chance on a new beer – afterall, if I look at where I was twelve years ago, I found my way to more interesting beers through places like Dan’s. I probably wouldn’t have felt as much ‘at home’ in a specialty beer shop as I do today. And, from a commercial viewpoint, I’m sure that the bean-counters were more than comfortable with Dan Murphy’s offer to effectively fund the experiment by guaranteeing to buy the end product.

Back to the launch on Thursday last, it was a treat to be part of an intimate setting for a dozen like-minded souls, hosted by Liquid Ideas and Toby Smith and Scott Vincent. A casual sit-down with Matilda Bay beers matched to respected Melbourne Chef Andrew Blake’s inspired canapés, served in an informal ‘interactive’ dinner party format – very nice! Good beer-blogger company, good food and good beer – did I miss anything? Think not!

There has been plenty written about the beer in the blogosphere and wether it ‘ticks the boxes’ or not – is it ‘coffee enough’, is it too exclusive, is it beery enough, does it compare to coffee flavoured stouts; my advice? Buy a four pack, pour them one-by-one into a nice glass and decide for yourself.

Prof Pilsner


Damien said...

The staff at Dan Murphys must have wondered why I was doing laps of their beer shelves the other day as I spent some time looking for the word "coffee" on countless beer labels. With so many beers to choose from, you might say that the chances of me finding it were a Long Shot but eventually I came up with the goods. Remembering the name of the beer would have been so much easier. And yeah, thumbs up to the beer itself! Dark ale and coffee works well! I chose to go all "gourmet" and match it with a chinese takeaway and it went down a treat.

Beer Blokes said...

Nice match! Not what I would've thought of first, but then as Mrs Gump says; "Flavour is as flavour does". The 'length' of the flavour in Longshot means it copes well with food that also has a bit of depth and I have to concede that Chinese fits that.

I'd love to try it with the deep-fried ice cream they do down at the Golden Jade Dragon Emperor Place Gardens.