Tag Archives: Brandwank

Racecourse ‘Phoenix’ Golden Ale

Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale
Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale

Re-creating old recipes is a neat idea, I think. There are some wickedly wonderful bookish types and homebrewers who archive old brewery notes and get themselves the chance to resurrect and sample long-dead brews. There are also outfits like Dogfish Head who tee up with archeology boffins and go distinctly older-school than that.

Then there are relatively half-assed approaches which are mostly exercises in marketing; in getting your ‘brand story’ off the shelf, as it were. This, sadly, is one of the latter — and I say that even though l liked it.

The rep. said it was made using “wild yeast” collected from behind the original racecourse itself. Scotty was fairly sure — and both of us hoped to hell — that he meant wild hops. But that’s just the thing. They’ve traded brandwank for substance; there is a damn good reason that hops are farmed. They, like all crops, would rather not work so hard. Left to themselves, they don’t crank out the mad levels of flavour or bigness or both that people would like. (The World isn’t here for us, after all.) So when you use wild hops, you don’t get much out of them. And it shows, here; the beer is well-made enough, but it’s very mild. That said, it’s preferable to basically every bog-standard lager-thing out there. It just doesn’t have the fun, lush loveliness that you can get from a nice golden ale.

Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale
Diary II entry #7, Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale

Verbatim: Racecourse ‘Phoenix’ Golden Ale 16/9/10 Sample from a truly-clueless rep. a few weeks ago (who couldn’t tell his yeast from his hops). 330ml ÷ 2 w/ Scotty 5%. Brewed at Wigram, but apparently a recreation of an old classic, a la last year’s Waitemata Sparkling Ale. Or WAITEMATA SPARKLING, I should say, in new-Book terms. And it’s similarly perfectly bland. Not an insult. Faultless, but unremarkable. I’d take it over any macro lager, I mean. Apparently made using wild hops (or yeast, the rep. worryingly erred), which would account for some absences of zing; these things are farmed for good reasons.

Moa ‘St. Joseph’

Moa 'St. Joseph'
Moa 'St. Joseph'

Moa brewery in Blenheim is the work of Josh Scott, son of winemaker Allan Scott. And it really does have a significant “wanky side-project of spoilt rich kid” air about the whole thing. The beers are particularly expensive, nobbishly marketed — and unforgivably naff all too often. I suppose when you’re charging an arse and a head for your beer, you have to make sure it’s mild enough that people won’t hate it. Really, it’s a clever corner of the market to go for, too; wealthier people with pretensions of boutique beer-ery, but who are still Heineken drinkers at heart.

All that said, ‘Saint Jo.’ is pretty much the exception to the rule. It’s a nice little Tripel, and is very-definitely the pick of the bunch.

Afterthoughts, February 2011: Heh, there’s your ‘balance’. “Ranty-ranty-rant — but this is okay.” But it’s sincerely meant, still, even after Moa have expanded their range with a few more properly-worthy offerings like some genuinely-interesting barrel-aged beers. Aspects of the marketing are massively annoying; I’ve been considering using their stuff for a whole post of Please Don’t Do This points about beer branding. And the ‘First Three’ (the ‘Original’ lager, the ‘Blanc’ wheat, and the ‘Noir’) are terribly bland for their price — and what isn’t ‘bland’ about them is a worryingly-distinct Moa Funk that it takes their heavier beers to cover up / avoid / compensate-for.

Though there are some exceptions, the Moa Beers are — in general, and so far — a depressing triumph of brandwank over substance.