Craft beer is not the only part of the industry undergoing a major change and evolution right now. The change to small batch brewing done by independently owned businesses is having a ripple effect that goes up to the large multinational companies. Brands can no longer be stagnant, relying on marketing and a strong base of drinkers for one particular beer. The best local example is Keith’s, who have released an Ambrosia Blonde and Harvest Ale as part of their brewmaster’s series. A foreign example is Newcastle, releasing a number of seasonals in the States including their Founder’s Ale. Most craft beer people are always a little wary of these beers and see it more as an attempt to grab market share than actually make decent beer. It was a little surprising to be contacted about receiving free samples of the Founder’s Ale as the beer is not available in Canada and that’s most of my readership, but I’m never one to complain about free beer. (That’s not true – I have distinct memories about complaining about free Coors Light/Sleeman/Canadian/Blue at parties.)
The bottle has a really nice label with a vintage feel, which helps make it seem like an established beer (hence Founder’s Ale) and gives the impression of craft beer (no hal-naked women or mountains!). The Founder’s Ale poured with very little head, but a clear light copper/dark orange body. Nose was faint at first, but warmed up to reveal notes of toasted malts, earth and a slightly floral edge. The malts are the star of this ale – toasted malts upfront, giving way to an underlying caramel flavour. Hops contribute an earthy note and a bit of a spicy zip to the finish. A distinct metallic note is obvious as the beer warms up. The body was a bit light, but the main problem is that the beer just dies at the end (or, in the words of the PR people, it has a “clean finish”). Not even a slight trace of bitterness, just an empty feeling, which is a shame because it is a nice beer in all other regards.
Nothing fantastic, but a solid beer would be a nice interim step for people transitioning to full flavoured ales. Not a beer to seek out, but a decent option if you’re in the States.
Recommended If You Like: Gardening. Earl Grey tea. Toast. Traditional British ales. Nick Hornby.