Popular premium beers bland

Is it perception or fact that our popular ‘premium’ beers are blander now, especially in the hops department than they once were? There’s some evidence that it’s fact. Chuck Hahn once told me that modern Hahn Premium is considerably less bitter and hoppy than the original he brewed some twenty years ago.

Armed only with memories, a fresh palate and two much-loved, complex lagers as benchmarks (Warsteiner Premium Verum and De Bortoli’s Red Angus), I recently put four popular tipples, purchased from a local liquor store, to the taste test – Carlton Crown Lager, Hahn Premium Lager, James Boag’s Premium Lager and Cascade Premium Lager.

On the positive side they were all fresh, lively and clean variations on the lager theme. But what they lacked, as a group, was the positive, satisfying, complex flavours seen ever so subtly, and moreishly, in Warsteiner and more robustly in Red Angus.

‘Bland’ was my main descriptor, though the Hahn and Cascade showed a vestige of hoppy bitterness and Crown some tart delicacy. But the apparently fatter, heavier Boag’s simply failed to impress.

I get the impression they’ve been focus grouped and ‘de-brewed’ to meet popular taste – basically offending as few palates as possible. Thankfully there’s a vibrant counter culture ensuring that we can still enjoy beers that tastes like beer.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010

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