Naked beer

It may seem unconnected to beer, but Australia’s gigantic wine surplus, currently running at around 100 million cases and growing by 20-40 million cases a year, led, indirectly, to what I believe may be the first cleanskin beer in the market.

1st Choice, the big-box liquor-retailing arm of Wesfarmer-owned Coles Liquor Group, recently introduced a beer clean skin, billed on the slip label as ‘imported’ and ‘no preservative’.

Having tasted it, I’m tempted to say they might also add ‘flavour free’ and ‘not as fresh as it could be’. But $29.99 for a slab of 330ml bottle is very cheap – the equivalent of $33.75 a slab for 375ml bottles (VB 375ml was $39.99 the day I shopped.)

A spokesman for Coles Liquor Group said the runaway success of wine cleanskins prompted them to test the concept on beer. Which must’ve made the rep selling this South Korean import smile like he couldn’t believe his own luck.

Only time will tell whether beer drinkers embrace naked bottles. The concept confronts the safe, tribal boundaries represented by major beer brands. But only recently Woolworths’ boss, Michael Luscombe, declared “Frugalism is a defining feature of the Australian consumer right now.”

Premium Clean Skin Beer 330ml $2.99
To borrow Michael Luscombe’s term, frugal is the operative word here – so it’s a brew for the desperate, destitute or mean and penny pinching. My sample, purchased at 1st Choice, tasted  flat, dull and tired, albeit recognisably beer. It earns a grudging star for being cheap, wet and alcoholic.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009