Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Zealand: Mac's does a good job disguising itself as a 'craft' brewery

Going into a New Zealand supermarket, one isn't quite hopeful to find any 'craft' beers. However, I found some beers on the shelf that had very clever packaging and extremely cute bottles. (Not that I am a sucker for packaging or anything). The bottles had rings on the top of the neck, which made for easy gripping and the bottle cap, you pull off and it pops off. Somebody needs to steal this design.

Anyways, Mac's beers are everywhere. I first noticed something was up when I saw one of their beers on the supermarket shelves: Mac's Light low alcohol beer and 1%! 1% people, now what's the point of drinking beer that's 1%? If you are on a diet, have 1 glass of really fantastic beer, not 10 of total crap 1% beers. I was so shocked, I had to take a photo.

Then there was their beer bar in Auckland. Totally done right- all vintage items pieces together and really comfortable and cool. It was a shame when I learned the true story about Mac's from the bartender there- Lion Brewery (the equivalent of a New Zealand Budweiser company and actually part of the Mitsubishi Group) had bought Mac's Brewery from a man named Terry McCashin who actually still owns the brewery but since August 2000, Lion has leased it and has in fact, already moved a big part of their production. I guess they saw how the 'craft' beer industry was booming so they decided to make some 'craft' beers and disguise them by being a cool, young, vintage-y feeling brewery only to trick us young folks that actually like good beer. It's a shame too because their whole package from the beer bars, brewery and beer packaging actually IS quite fantastic. I am actually surprised Budwesier or any of the big '3' have not developed this system yet.

Also, on a side note, Dave and I finally watched Beer Wars, which if you haven't seen it, you should AND you can stream it from your computer if you belong to Netflix. SO ridiculous how the big guys are just out to crush everything and every brewery in its sight. Yeah America. What the hell is wrong with our country? How do these people sleep at night? Oh yeah, under their billions and billions of dollars that keep themselves and their lobbists happy. BUT they also show at one point, an Organic Wild Hop Lager from Green Valley Brewing which is actually made and owned my Anheuser-Busch! It's completely disguised to look like a local craft beer with independant brewers. Disgusting!!!! Nowhere on the package does it say this. I demand more people! Hoegaarden as well! I'll be damned- I didn't even know that one! You can read a great article about this beer documentary here.

Anyways, back to Mac's Brewery and their beer.

1- Hop Rocker Pilsner- German style pilsner.-5% abv. Says: a superb golden pilsner heavily hopped with sauvin and cascade varieties giving it citrus aromas and a proper bitter finish. It poured a clear yellow with a slight Orangina hue. On the nose, you can actually smell a hint of hops and wheat. It tasted like a light wheat with a touch of citrus. I can see how people can easily drink this and think it's a 'craft' beer because of the touch of flavor, which is lacking in any mainstream corporate beer. However, I guess it's a gateway beer and hopefully it might open up people to the idea of flavor for their beer and they can keep trying others until they realize this stuff isn't that great. 

2- Great White- Belgian style whitbier  and 5% abv. The bottle says: a complex, cloudy Belgian witbier with banana, bubblegum and Turkish delight flavors leading to open discussion of rhubarb and custard, raspberry, aniseed, orange peel and coriander. Can you see why I picked it up? It poured a cloudy orangish hay color with a white head and good lacing. It smelled of definite pink bubblegum, typical banana and clove. It tasted very wheaty with coriander spice, strong orange peel and banana flavors. It was light and good to drink on the beach. However, I think the person who wrote the description on the bottle was smoking something else while it was written. Rhubarb? Raspberry? Custard? Did they mix 2 beers together? Absolute marketing scheme and I was a total sucker.

3- Sassy Red- English Bitter and 4.5% abv. The label says: a real favourite and Mac’s most awarded beer. A very hoppy bitter with loads of Saaz B and five different malts. All the flavour you can handle. (Don't you love how the English spell things like flavor?). It poured a copper red with a touch of a head and minimal lacing. It smelled of some light toffee notes, some berry,  and a touch of piney hops. It tasted crisp, with some berry fruitiness, with a good malty backbone that leaves a nice dry hop bitterness on your tongue. I actually liked it. Kudos for the name, plus I was with a sassy redhead, so it actually worked out quite well. (it actually got a B+ on BA)

4-Black Mac- English Brown Ale and 4.5% abv. Label says: newly reformulated, this chocolaty dark beer is rich in toasted malts and Hallertau hops. It poured a brownish black with an off white foamy heady. It smelled of light malts and some slight roasted flavors. It tasted of light coffee, slight caramel  and a faint bitterness on the finish. Good drinkability considering how light the actual flavor is.

Overall, don't be fooled by the large corporate breweries. Even though there is some slight flavors in the Sassy Red, and apparently they even make a beer called  Brewjolais -made with the season’s first green hops, and Mac’s Mojo, a unique espresso porter brewed with coffee beans from local roasters- Mojo. They are just trying to tap into the craft market for craft beers. I was even fooled. Let this be a lesson to all of you craft beer drinkers- be careful what you buy and never fool your taste buds. Oh yeah and go watch Beer Wars. It will change what you pick up top drink.

*** Also worth mentioning is that in the ladies bathroom,  a completely stereotypical statement in on the door talking to us 'women' like we are idiots and incapable of liking good beer.
On the door it states the following:
Some people think guys like girls who are frilly and girly. This isn't true. Guys like girls who know jujitsu. Want to impress a guy? Order a Black Mac. Cocktails won't do it. They're just the anaesthetics disguised as fruit juice. Besides, he may like the idea of buying you a drink but he won't want to shell out $15 for it. Tell him you want a Black Mac and he'll be awestruck and grateful and intimidated all at once. And sit there cracking your knuckles while you wait for him to come back with it.

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