Who decided that summer beers had to be fruity? Since when did apricot, blueberry or orange become an essential ingredient in a beer designed to quench the thirst on a hot summer’s day? Why should our beer tastes change with the seasons, like the latest fashion trends. I can see a definite benefit (in more ways than one) of hem lines rising with the thermometer, but do they really have to mess with my beer? Do they think we are tired of the old flavours, and we are more likely to buy an extra case if the packaging gets vamped up and the beer gets a fruit infusion? The surest indication of seasonal shifts these days is in the liquor store, it seems. With the weather is refusing to shift into summer gear, the only place to get a ‘taste’ of summer is in the refrigerated section of the liquor store.
If I take a trip to the liquor store today I will find beers flavoured with orange, lime, blueberry, lemon, raspberry and apricot. If I wanted fruit I would eat an apple – I want beer! Back in the day, the only concession for summer would be a shandy – half beer/half Sprite for my Canadian friends. Now, there is a veritable fruit banquet to be sampled. The bar will actually serve you some of these beers with a fruit garnish. Order a Rickard’s White and it will come with a slice of orange sitting on the side. What’s next? Will the waitress perch a little cocktail umbrella in your drink, skewering her cherry?
Now it is fair to say that the primary market for all these fruity concoctions is not, of course, your regular bloke. Us gents are not typically adventurous in the beer aisle. Generally we have a brew of choice and stick with it as religiously as we stick to our favourite sports teams, tee shirt or underwear. Getting a bloke to hand over the TV remote is easier than getting him to change his beer. Regardless of what’s happening outside, his beer will be the same. He can shovel snow in winter, he can watch snow melt in spring, he can swat mosquitoes in summer or rake leaves in Fall. Makes no difference to his beer choice.
Now these marketeers are a bunch of cunning linguists, and they will try every tactic possible to get a man to change his brew. The battle hardened souls see through this of course, and they will continue to imbibe of Keith’s IPA, Canadian, Rickard’s or whatever – the choice is as rigidly demarcated as political affiliations. There’s always one, though, who will fall foul to the sugar sweet words of the ad men.
I had an English friend who moved to Canada for a secondment. Not knowing the local brews he actually bought a case of Bud Light. We were at their place for a barbeque when he offered me a drink. “What have you got?” was my innocent question.
“Picked up a case of Bud Light. It’s all over the NFL games.”
“Yeah, I’ll just have a Coke – there’s more flavour there,” said I.
Now it is fair to say that the North American brewers are challenged in the hops and malt department, and if Bud Light (or Coors Light, Miller Lite – in fact, anything Light / Lite) is actually a drink of choice amongst a section of American and Canadian men, I can’t blame the brewers for dumping a barrel full of mangos in the mix. Hey, why not, they think. They drink the other crap we sell them! Of course, these guys know they are not appealing to the roughnecks and lumberjacks of the Canadian wilds. No. They are appealing to the real decision makers. The ladies of the house who buy a bottle of wine for the fancy label or quirky name (Fat Bastard, Goats do Roam, Bored Doe or Cats pee on a Gooseberry Bush).
These ladies have found their way into the liquor store,and they are storming the refrigerated section. They are the ones who are plucking fruit beers from the shelves as if it were the original forbidden fruit. They will stack the shelves of your beer fridge, gentlemen, with these fruit imposters. Your ales will sit outside and become warm and flat. Then, and only then, will you truly appreciate the irony, for this is how all English men have enjoyed their beer for generations.