24 Aug Consumer i – Summer Beers
Consumer i: Summer Beers
Tasted and Rated by people like you
Beer is the perfect summer drink; cool and refreshing, it’s an ideal thirst quencher to enjoy in the garden, or with a barbecue. The UK market has been revitalised by the phenomenal success of small brewers (craft beer sales grew 17% in 2015 according to IRI) with all the major retailers now selling ranges of artisan style brews. But how do they fare with consumers? Are they still happy to stick to what they know and enjoy, or up for trying something new? We decided to find out by testing a selection of 12 beers with 50 regular drinkers. They were all tested fully branded and priced, and were sourced from a range of suppliers: some craft beers; others more mainstream.
What makes a good summer beer?
- Most wanted a premium positioned product that was not too serious, promising good times and enjoyment.
- Lighter, more refreshing, lager and pale ales were the first choice for summer drinking. Good on their own, they also go down well with food.
- Definitely bottled; cans often look cheap and “not as classy”, but this could be down to good design, with Adnam’s Dry Hopped Lager sold in can but still managing to look modern and fun.
- Traditional and old fashioned is no bad thing as long as the beer is good quality.
- Price is important. In a heavily promoted category, £1.79 for 330ml was too expensive for regular purchasing. Whist acceptable for a larger bottle size, it struggles to justify a premium price when perfectly acceptable beers are priced at £1.25 for 500ml.
5 things we learned about the optimum summer beer:
- The colour should be golden amber. Too pale = no flavour.
- Many of the beers tested lacked flavour – perhaps due to the type of malts used. Malts add depth of flavour and those that performed well had a slightly more malty character. That said, too much maltiness can leave a bitter aftertaste – as found in the Sambrook’s Brewery beer, Battersea Rye, from M&S.
- The main characteristic of good summer ale is a light and crisp taste. Consumers most enjoyed hoppy, refreshing, beers with a slight, but not too prominent, citrus note. American style hops were favoured as these typically give a refreshing flavour with a slight citrus kick. West Midland’s brewery Sadler’s Land of Liberty Beer was a good example as it had a tangy, ‘crisp’ flavour and was particularly refreshing. But, using too much citrus is linked to acidity and can lead to rejection.
- Drinkers don’t enjoy beers that are overly sweet. But, a slight spiciness is no bad thing as it helps with palate cleansing and provides flavour – so long as it’s not artificial.
- Aftertaste is an important characteristic and where a lot of the flavour is found. Beer is often relatively tasteless until you get the residual flavour on the palate. A good example should leave a clean refreshing taste with a slight citrus twang.
Who does them best?
There was a wide spread of ratings between highest and lowest scorers, with half of the 12 beers tested falling in the mid range between 35 and 38 out of 50. Three beers shared the top spot: Adnam’s Dry Hopped Lager, Hatherwood Brewery’s Gnarly Fox and Sadler’s Land of Liberty all scored 38/50. The Adnam’s dry hopped lager sustained a higher price point (£1.79) despite its canned format, with the use of Australian Galaxy Hops giving this brew a tropical twist and a fruity, slightly sweet flavour. All three benefited from a modern, fresh image and were suited to a variety of drinking occasions. The other two products are sold exclusively through the Discounters at very competitive prices. Sadler’s Land of Liberty, one of the cheapest at £1.09 for a 330ml bottle, is an American style IPA with a typically strong citrus flavour that proved particularly refreshing. Gnarly Fox is branded under the Hatherwood Craft Beer Company and demonstrated a good depth of flavour.
Hovering just under the top 3 was Brakspear’s Oxford Gold at £1.25 for 500ml the cheapest on test, prompting high Value for Money ratings. A more traditional, ‘masculine’ beer most knew exactly what to expect and were not disappointed. ‘Hoppy’ with a full bodied flavour, this had all the characteristics expected from a ‘proper beer’.
Mid rank performers included two Scottish craft beers: Schiehallion from Harviestoun and an oak smoked beer from Edinburgh based Innis & Gunn. Both were bang on trend, but tended to divide opinion. One of the craft beer innovations has been to add new flavours to traditional beers in an attempt to make them interesting and unique. Ideal for those tired of more traditionally brewed beers, but inevitably something of an acquired taste. Both were priced between £1.75 and £1.79, a price worth paying for those who enjoyed the taste.
English winemaker Chapel Down offered something different with a range of ‘Curious’ beers. The problem was that the brand and image for these Curious Brews were both rather understated and not everyone appreciated the style of the bottle, which ‘looked like a small wine bottle’. But, the taste was often better than expected, as this premium lager (re-fermented using Champagne yeast) tasted ‘hoppy’ and ‘full bodied’ and was enjoyed by a minority of more adventurous drinkers.
Niche tastes tended to be more polarising, often with stronger or unexpected flavours. Sambrooks Brewery’s Battersea Rye uses malted rye and the resulting spiciness was ‘warming’ but ‘too spicy’ and overpowering for many, while Pride & Joy from micro-brewery Vocation was too acidic for many, leading to complaints it tasted ‘artificial’. Ironically This.is.Lager from Brewdog was the lowest scorer (25/50) despite its on-pack claim that it was exactly as a lager should taste. In fact, most disagreed often finding it ‘bland’ with an unpleasant ‘tangy aftertaste’.
Find out how each retailer performed – Click Here
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