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This Blog Is Microcarbonated

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I’ve been watching a bit of hockey on TV recently, mostly due to having sold my regular tickets to bandwagoners at three times face value (hope you enjoyed the Kings, dumbass, I’ll be enjoying the two playoff games it just bought me).

If you watch hockey on TV (or any other sport, I would suspect), you will see an awful lot of commercials for macro beers, showing people having grand old times in the outback, or sometimes just the outback itself, and very rarely will they have anything to say about the beer itself. That’s fine; as we’ve discussed before, macros are selling their product on brand value alone, and that’s a marketing strategy as old as time.

However, every few years they get a bit cocky and try to talk about the product itself. This invariably goes horribly wrong, as the last thing you want to do when you’re hawking shiite is talk about the quality of the shiite. EG: “I get it. It’s very fine grained and a possesses a ‘striking’ nose, but honestly, am I the only one here who realizes we’re talking about a pile of steaming shiite? NO I DON’T WANT TO TASTE ANY!”

This is why, after a brief experimentation with such a campaign, or perhaps even making a new product built on being “not quite as Gord-awful as our regular schlock,” the macros write the whole experiment off as a loss and go back to convincing the mouth-breathing inbred yokels that comprise 80% of the general populace that their products will make you sportier, more attractive to whichever sex gets you going, or maybe even give you superhero powers or something. Then, in about 6-10 years or so, an executive changes positions and they try again.

It would appear that Molson has entered one of these phases, only with a twist. Rather than make a marginally different product and claim it’s better (which is the same as claiming your regular product is worse), they’ve decided to make the exact same product, stick a different label on it, and claim it’s better. This style of imaginary marketing is not new, for instance Head and Shoulders tried it before, even if they didn’t go all the way with the concept.

The fact this ad doesn’t end with “Contains Zero Death Crystals” has to be a crime against comedy.

And thus we now have to deal with endless ads about “Molson M” which is, as the ads inform us, “The world’s only microcarbonated lager.” As well, Molson proudly proclaims on the same screen that “microcarbonated is a trademark of Molson, Inc.” This, my friends, shows what a fantastically low opinion of their target audience Molson has. Anyone with even a layman’s knowledge of trademarks will confirm that trademarking a term (and patenting a process, which is in the works) guarantees you’re the only one able to use that term. The fact that they then present this information on the same screen–a screen with absolutely no other information on it whatsoever–shows that they’re solidly banking on the yahoos reading it having no idea what the hell a trademark is, aside from it being “good” in some vague yet undefinable way.

Ok. Phew. Deep breath. We haven’t even started on the meat of the matter here, which is what, exactly, is microcarbonation? I mean, aside from a term trademarked by one of the most evil companies in Canada and then strewn willy nilly all over my blog almost as a dare? Well, going by what scant information Molson has deemed appropriate to release about their new innovation, microcarbination is, um… hmm… actually they don’t say, at least on their website which seems to want to avoid the topic if at all possible. On the TV ads, they seem to suggest that microcarbonation is essentially carbonating the beer as per usual, except with very very tiny bubbles. No really, I didn’t make that up. That is seriously what they’re saying.

Again, it all sounds vaguely interesting. I mean, Guiness has based an entire business on tiny bubbles, and that’s working for them right? Well, not really. Guiness of course uses nitrogen to make those bubbles, which is different (more detail on why). Molson is just using regular old CO2 to force carbonate their regular “lager” after brewing, only instead of hooking up a valve and calling it day, they are apparently bubbling the CO2 through the beer itself which makes… not a lick of difference, actually. All the beer will absorb the CO2 just the same in the end.

I’d like to say I’m surprised that this campaign is best explained by a cartoon, but we both know that’d be a lie.

But ya know what? I’ll give them a chance. So, to any Molson PR rep who is reading this, before you forward the URL to legal, send me some M and some regular Canadian. I’ll drink ’em both (and share with friends) and put up all of our honest, unfiltered opinions right here. I won’t even use the opportunity to grandstand about how craft beer is much better than macro (well, any more than usual), but rather I will focus on one simple question: Does microcarbination make any discernible difference what-so-ever?

/Yeah, I know offering to drink Moslon is a bit risky, but c’mon, as if I’ll be getting anything in the mail aside from a cease-and-desist.

Update: The epic continues in part 2.

Written by chuck

April 5th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Breweries

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April Beer of the Month — Yaletown Brewing Rocket to Russia

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Last month, I decided to highlight a noteworthy beer periodically. These beers are not meant to be the best, or even particularly good, but instead a beer that is interesting for one reason or another. A great example of this is Storm’s 11 12 13 year old sour lambic that is increasinly looking like it will gain the right to vote before we drink the last of it. I might highlight this one in a future article, but safe to say there’s no rush. (When Nigel feels compelled to comment on someone having their third pint of the same beer in one sitting, you know that beer is not in any sort of demand crisis).

She was unreachable for comment.
Likely because her taste buds exploded and she is now dead.

So today I take down the little badge honouring Driftwood’s fine Cuvée D’Hiver, and replace it with… drumroll please…

Yaletown Brewing’s Rocket to RussiaBourbon-Oaked Russian Imperial Stout

I picked this beer for a number of factors. First, it’s an oak aged beer, and that’s a trend that’s only starting to catch on in Vancouver, despite its near-always delicious results. Second, it’s a Russian Imperial Stout, another type of beer that’s semi-rare locally, likely because of how expensive making this style is both in ingredients and in time. Ultimately, though, the main reason I picked this one was the back story.

RtR was conceived by a pair of gold-medal winning home brewers (Matt Anderson and Danny Seeton). They worked with YBC’s Iain Hill (also a medal winning brewer, although this time of the professional variety) and produced this sticky black bastard. Only 14 kilolitres were produced (usually beer is produced in hectolitre lots), so availability is not fantastic. Rumour has it that the Alibi Room and YBC still have some on tap… and that’s about it (please correct me if wrong).

This is what most rockets to russia look like.
Although technically I guess this is a rocket from Russia.

Is it a particularly good beer? Well… not so much. Of course, it’s a Russian Imperial Stout, and saying a beer is not a great RIS is like saying “that sex was subpar” or “this meth didn’t get me that high.” It’s still a freaking good beer. Even so, I found the flavours a bit cartoonish and unbalanced, coming at you one after another until you want to give up and look down the menu for the lagers. Time to age would likely help correct this, although aging costs money and raises the uncomfortable question of what to age it in, as the beer was already positively soaked through with bourbon and oak flavours.

Still, go drink this beer while you can, as the model of breweries sub-leasing out their spare capacity to homebrewers can only increase the variety and awesomeness of local beer. That the first time this was tried in BC resulted in a RIS is absolutely proof of this.

Where to get it: Alibi and YBC on tap. Soon to be gone forever, so go quickly. Also in limited quantities in Matt’s basement, probably.
Where not to get it: Anywhere else.

Written by chuck

April 1st, 2011 at 10:30 am

Top Ten Lists

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Okay, I’ll admit it. Beer geeks are an obsessive lot. Nothing proves this more than the recent wave of consternation and discontentment that rippled through the barley fandom after a random website published a “Top Ten List of BC Breweries” that wasn’t in line with what many expected. Or reality.

Was the list bad? Hells yeah. How bad? Well, when your Top Ten list includes a brewery that no longer exists you know you’re doing something wrong. I’d like to think there are a few breweries out there that both outcompete Dockside in terms of quality and still produce, you know, beer. Basically the whole thing reeked of a desperate attempt to throw together something–anything–to cash in on this whole hot “good beer” trend and get some page views. And we happily obliged this hackneyed effort by linking to it over and over and over again.

Which website? Who the fuck cares? It sucks. If you’re curious about it, a 10s trip to Google or twitter will turn it up. Not directly, mind you, but rather through blogs about it, again pointing out the stupidity of the matter, that the blogs discussing it are more highly ranked than the source page. I’d advise against going there in any event, as there’s nothing to learn. I’m not going to link it here, but rather I will talk about my favourite BC breweries instead. Mostly because I’m awesome… or a complete narcissist, I can’t remember which.

I have a list of BC breweries on this site. And implicit in that is a ranking (you can sort by any column, including “Ranking”). However, I don’t like the notion of anything as arbitrary as a top ten list. What’s the difference between 10 and 11? By the time you get down there, you’re really splitting hairs.

So what’s my top ten list? I don’t have one, as the notion is too subjective and changes too often. I do, however, group breweries based upon a simple notion: if said brewery were to create a brand new beer, what would my preconceived expectation be? For those too lazy to click the link above and sort, here’s the summary:

I expect great/awesome beer:

  • Driftwood
  • Crannóg
  • Howe Sound
  • Central City

I expect solidly good beer:

  • Craig Street
  • Granville Island Tap House (NOT the big brewery)
  • Longwood
  • Spinnaker’s
  • Steamworks
  • Storm
  • Swan’s

I’ll omit the balance for brevity. Am I right? I doubt it. Will this list change? Absolutely. Several breweries are doing their damnedest to improve their beers or produce interesting casks (R&B and Russell among them) and new contenders are popping up all the time. For every new entrant I’ll just have to try their beers and see what I think. Man, this job sucks.

Written by chuck

March 10th, 2011 at 12:56 pm