Barley Mowat 

Just Here For The… Buzz?

with 3 comments

A while back, I was having a lovely stroll through Lighthouse’s facilities and just generally geeking out with their Captain of Brew, Dean, when he said something that bordered on rubbing me the wrong way. While picking up a bottle of Belgian Black (a fantastic beer, btw, that is still available most everywhere), he proudly discussed everything about the beer before us, including the malt, yeast, brewing process and packaging… and then we got to talking about alcohol content.

I was curious about Lighthouse’s position on the booze content of their beers, but mostly from the point of view of Deckhand being about 8% yet not being labeled an Imperial. I mean, saisons after all are meant to be low-ABV post-manual labour thirst quenchers. Kinda like the role that pale lagers fulfill in today’s market only, you know, good.

After a couple of opinions and facts exchanged that I honestly can’t remember, Dean said something about the Belgian Black that I do remember (ish). He said that the 9%ABV had the benefit of a higher perceived value on the store shelves–that it would set it aside from the clutter of other high-end beers with 8% ABV.

I just chocked that one up to Dean hanging out with the guys from marketing a bit too much, and moved along. I mean obviously we’re not all just in this to get drunk as our primary motivation, or even secondary. Heck, tertiary has a hard time making the mix, at least not to the extent that I’d pick one beer over the other solely because it’s 1%ABV higher. If I were really into that, I’d be over in the Cheap Liquor Aisle.

And what an aisle it is

And I forgot all about it. Until recently, when someone I know (who will remain nameless), whose opinion on matters of beer I trust and respect, made me think about it again. I was discussing my recent acquisition of He’Brew Jewbelation 15 for only $6, and he commented that it was a “great value” what with it being 15% and all.

So now I have to ask, does getting the brew’s ability to get you loaded factor into your purchasing decision? For me, it doesn’t. In fact, I often purchase beer based on the brewery’s reputation and the story on the side, only to get it home, crack it, and discover 1/2 way through that I’m drinking essentially a bottle of wine by myself. This was the case two years ago with Jewbelation 13 when, 300ml in, I thought “Man, I’m way drunker than I should be…” only to discover the “13” wasn’t just a clever marketing ploy.

If anything, I actually prefer lower ABV beers simply for their ability to let me drink more of them, or perhaps even drink a whole 650ml bottle on a school night without repercussion. Wine keeps night to night. Beer doesn’t, and sometimes I find that what was a great idea at bottle opening has become less than brilliant the next day at work.

Sure, it was an awesome idea when we thought of it, but somehow I suspect we haven’t thought this thing through

I’m an optimist, and I’d like to believe that ABV isn’t as big a selling feature as marketing folk might believe. If it was a huge differentiator, then why not make the number huge and up front? But what do I know? I’m a myopic, insular beer geek. Perhaps to sway the general public over to Good Beer, we also have to get them drunk first.

(Funny picture reference the general public having fun while drunk left to the reader as an exercise)

Written by chuck

March 7th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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3 Responses to 'Just Here For The… Buzz?'

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  1. For me, it’s all about the flavour.


    8 Mar 12 at 10:12

  2. Flavour is definitely the most important factor, but sometimes the ABV affects the flavour. I would expect a Belgian (or Belgian style) beer to have a high ABV.


    8 Mar 12 at 12:47

  3. I think Jan Zeschky touched on this recently. I think he was talking about that being one of the benefits of Wooly Bugger (as opposed to other Barley Wines) but it could have been some other beer. Ironically, the worst offender is like Megadestroyer at 11% and 1l. At least you can close those flip caps.

    Personally, I find the high alcohol a turn off unless I have people coming over (and I am splitting the bottle). When a beer comes in a bomber and is 8%+ it becomes a little tough to drink the whole thing let alone having another and I like to try a bunch of different things. Like you, I tend to go by brewery, reputation and intrigue. I usually buy despite the alcohol.

    It’s also why I tend to buy a lot of British imports – they have some cracking beers at 4-5% with no flavour lacking.


    8 Mar 12 at 13:58

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