|Mad and Noisy, the new experimental keg-only banner for Creemore Springs Brewing. (Supplied)
There are two new beers from Molson-owned properties this week that aim at the burgeoning craft beer market.
It’s always difficult to know exactly what tactics will work when a large brewer tries for this market share. Consider that while craft beer may have some very specific restrictions in the United States that help to constitute what is “craft beer” and what is not “craft beer,” no such series of designations really exist within Canada.
What this tends to mean is that, aside from some obvious distinctions including who is brewing the beer, we mostly have to go on feel.
The week’s big news is the advent of a brand called Mad and Noisy, which is a sort of experimental keg-only banner for Creemore Springs Brewing. Creemore is helped here by their pedigree as one of the oldest craft breweries in Ontario, despite the fact they were purchased by Molson a few years ago.
If you look at the branding, it’s immediately clear there’s a sense of geographic place. Mad and Noisy is named for the intersecting rivers in the town of Creemore, Ont. The tap handle and the logo borrow heavily from the steampunk aesthetic, which lends some nerd credibility visually.
The beer itself is an interesting hybrid, but refrains from being a complete departure from the brewery’s core lineup. Creemore has a lager, a pilsner, a bock, a kellerbier and an altbier. These are all beer styles that include a lagering process. It’s clear the brewers wanted to get in on the current hop craze while remaining in familiar territory. In order to do this, they’ve created something of a frankenstyle beer called an India Pale Lager.
Like the India Pale Ale, it’s a big hoppy beer. This one contains five hop varieties and is inspired by small, independent startups in Prague. Oddly enough, the lagering process gives it a dry finish which balances some of the malt sweetness and the citrus notes from the hops.
Not only is it a really excellent beer to launch a new brand with, it’s thoroughly refreshing despite its relative bitterness. It continues from where Creemore exists conceptually without sacrificing their strengths for novelty. You sense it’s the result of a brewer standing around one day and going “Hey! What if I did this…”
On the other hand, there’s a new product from Rickard’s (also owned by Molson) called Oakhouse. It’s the second in a series of seasonal beers from Rickard’s, a follow up to their autumn seasonal called Cardigan.
I suppose points have to be awarded for experimentation. The beer is a lager that has been aged with toasted oak and it takes on the vanilla and butterscotch notes you might get out of oak aging. Personally, I find the caramel from the malt interacts with the oaky notes and makes it cloying. Truth be told, it is the kind of thing that could be brewed by a craft brewer, but that would not make me like it more.
It’s an interesting attempt to create new branding and to emerge from the colour scheme that Rickard’s had depended on until recently (White/Blonde/Red/Dark). I suspect that since oak aging is not to everyone’s taste, it will not quite manage to set the world on fire. The branding, with its ski chalet, manages to evoke seasonality, but it leaves you wondering what ties it to the remaining Rickard’s products. What, specifically, makes it part of that family? Could it not exist independently?
That said, it’s clear that Molson-owned products are making some headway in the craft market. This is a development that bears watching.
Jordan St.John writes about beer at Saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s talking about Boston.