Jun. 20, 2012 - Issue #870: Food Trucks
Nice try, Rickard’s
Blonde falls short of the hype
I hope by now that most beer consumers know that the Rickard's and Alexander Keith's brands are not actual breweries but extensions of the two big corporate brewers, Molson-Coors and AB-Inbev (Labatt's) respectively. They are, simply, their attempts to hone in on the exploding craft beer market, and thus stem some of the market share losses being experienced by their mainline brands.
At one time Keith's was a real, independent brewery, but that was decades and many faded kilts ago. Rickards' was born as the beer equivalent of Milli Vanilli (Wiki that if you need to). For the most part, both sell slightly more flavourful versions of standard North American lager – false advertising notwithstanding.
In recent years, as the craft wave grows larger, they have been releasing new additions to their faux-craft line-up with increasing frequency. Some, like Rickard's Dark, have been not half-bad. Others, such as Keith's White, have been embarrassingly incompetent.
Why am I telling you all this? Well the latest release, at least in this part of the world, is Rickard's Blonde, something they purport to be a German-style Pilsner. At least they admit this one is a lager, so that is progress.
I might have quickly passed over this beer except for one thing. When it got limited regional release last year in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, a number of beer writers wrote fairly positively of it. I remember it raising my eyebrow when I read it at the time. And so the other day when I saw a six pack of it in my local liquor store, on a whim I picked one up.
It is a gorgeous-looking beer. Bright medium gold with a thick mountain of white head that billows as you pour. A fresh effervescence adds life. The aroma is also surprisingly pleasant. It has a soft, cereal malt sweetness with a touch of honey accent. Not a lot of hop aroma, but what is present is grassy and lightly floral.
At this point I find my hopes lifting.
Only to be dashed the moment the beer hits my lips. The flavour starts with a sugary sweetness quickly replaced by a harsh metallic and tannin-like dryness. I find the hop to be harsh and vegetal. It is not a particularly bitter beer, certainly not enough for a pilsner, but it is more hoppy than most of the big boy beer. Too bad the hop is so unpleasant.
If I am being kind, I would say this beer is not a German Pilsner, being too sweet and rounded—more like a Czech Pilsner. But that would mean overlooking the nastiness in the hops' flavour and tannin-dominated mouthfeel. Tannins are supposed to be found in red wine, not light lagers.
I think it has been so long since their brewers have used noticeable levels of hops that they have forgotten how. Rest assured, I won't be picking up a second six-pack. V
Jason Foster is the creator of onbeer.org, a website devoted to news and views on beer from the prairies and beyond.
Molson-Coors, Montreal, Quebec/ Golden, Colorado
$12.50 for Six Pack
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