Crown Ambassador 2009 — top beer, pity about the price

After last week’s column on vintage beer, Foster’s obliged with a sample of Crown Ambassador Lager 2009. We share it with a dozen or so keen tasters:

Spreadsheet Tom turned from his computer and admiring the sleek, black, gold-embossed bottle, said thoughtfully, “It’s actually $35, not $70”.  Seeing our puzzled faces, he explained, “Look, it’s 10 per cent alcohol, and normal beer’s only five – so you’re really getting two bottles”.

But the air of reverence persisted. We carefully cut the plastic faux-wax and levered the cap from our Crown Ambassador 2009 Reserve Lager – one of only 6,000 in the whole world. Our expectations ran high – the stately, black, magnet-sealed box; the elegant bottle; the promise of heady aromas, unctuous flavours; and the price. Could any beer be worth that much?
And the beer was marvellous – as aromatic, opulent and complex as you could imagine. It’s not on the same planet as normal Crown Lager. The high alcohol (10.2%), generous crystal malt flavour, ale-like fruitiness, heady aroma of galaxy hops (from Myrtleford, Victoria) and bottle fermentation put it in the top ranks of Australian beers built for ageing.
I still wouldn’t buy a bottle at $70, despite Spreadsheet Tom’s optimism. But you can see where Crown’s headed with this. The packaging and price create great expectations; and the beer delivers on the promise. But beer lovers can enjoy any number of equally good brews, in plain packaging, for a fraction of the price.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009