I've remarked before that there are breweries out there who appear to see an organic tag as a useful means of hocking more product to a demographic that cares about such things. I'm sure the market research has been done and that there are people pre-disposed to buying products because they're organic, and that they buy beer, and that therefore a readymade niche exists for organic beer. However, it appears that beer marketeers working along these lines rarely pay much attention to what the actual beer is like, what it's made from, where it's made, and by whom: the things that matter to me, a beer drinker who puts the drinking experience ahead of the farming methods.
I don't think I've seen a stronger example of this approach than with Daas. The company in charge of marketing these beers have a blog which collects stories about all sorts of ethically sourced luxury goods. There's a busy Twitter feed giving nuggets like "we believe beers brewed free from chemical's & fertilizer's taste just FAB!" and "All beers made using hops & barley without pesticides/chemical fertilizers r more healthy, delicious & appetizing.Despite what the FSA say!!". But about the beer: bugger all. Go looking for a brewery address on the website and you get a mail forwarding service above a west London boutique. "Brasseries Daas", I was told on asking, is in Tournai*, and it may well be, but the dearth of information about it, and the heavily anglo-centric marketing, have more than a whiff of contract brewing about them. The whos and the wheres are not something the drinker ought to be concerned with -- here, have some burlesque models instead, aren't they pretty?
*Update, August 2012: this transpires to be either a lie, or no longer true. Daas is brewed under licence at Brasserie Brunehaut, south of Tournai.
Nevertheless, the Daas people were kind enough to send me a bottle each of two of the beers so I could look the product over in person (it's not sold here, and I've never seen it on sale in Belgium). Still no mention of a brewery, and no address more precise than "Belgium", plus the enigmatic legend "Abbaye Export, Odsardus[?] d'Tournai". Can anyone shed any light on what this means?
Daas Witte pours pale and cloudy with the appropriate fluffy white head. Less appropriate were the big gobbets of brown yeasty goo that came out as well, but I don't let such things faze me, and just fished them out. I was pleasantly surprised to find they didn't leave this beer sharp or unpleasantly yeasty. Instead it's quite light and dry with just a faint trace of orange on the end. The ingredients listing claims it contains organic spices, but declines to name them -- there's very little sign of them on the palate. All in all, not terribly exciting, even as witbiers go, but as a don't-think-just-drink refresher it's perfect.
Perhaps less appropriately, the dryness theme continues with Daas Blond. It has a slight haze to it and a rather unpleasant carbonic nose which I wasn't expecting. There's a light sparkle which makes it almost as easy drinking as the wit, despite the hefty 6.5% ABV. If anything, it's rather watery. Flavourwise you don't get much beyond the dryness, just a hint of peaches as a saving grace on the end. Again it's refreshing in its own way, but that's not something I'd be looking for in a strong Belgian blonde. I think I'd take the added sugar of chemical-laden unethical Leffe Blonde over this.
In fact, anyone who wanted more environmentally-friendly beer would. Beer is not a green product, and never will be. The amount of water that gets wasted in the beer-making process alone should outweigh any efforts at greenwashing it. And while there may not be any scary chemicals used in the farming end of the operation, there certainly will be in the brewery's sanitising regime. That's just how beer is made. If the ecological impact of your beer makes a big difference to you, you're much better getting it from an industrial brewery whose economies of scale and relentlessly squeezed margins will mean far fewer resources will be wasted in the making of the product.
But for this drinker at least, it's the taste of beer that counts -- not the market segment it's trying to occupy.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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