18 June 2012

The personal touch

Caledonia Smooth's target profile is the 28 to 44 year-old who enjoys a pint, has a mature set of taste buds and will take something different in beers.
Hey, that's me! Stephen Kent, Director of Marketing and On-Trade Sales at C&C's Bulmers Ltd is talking about me! And his firm has produced this beer especially for me. I have to say, I wasn't expecting that, and am slightly overwhelmed. Thanks guys!

I dropped into The Palace and ordered a pint -- because I enjoy those, as Stephen is well aware -- and before setting my mature set of taste buds to work noted the beautiful clear amber-gold colour of the foam-topped beer. It's 4% ABV too: a sessionable niche that's underserved in Ireland.

A sip. Pause. A mouthful. Pause. A big gulp. Pause. I'm reminded of Homer Simpson eating a rice cake: "Hello? Hello taste? Where are you?" This beer tastes of very little. Mr Kent is diddling my tastebuds and they don't like it.

On the plus side, I reflected, there's none of the horrible brown apple or sickly toffee that's so often the bane of nitrogenated red ales. Caledonia Smooth appears to be a localisation of Caledonia Best, a 3.2% ABV smooth bitter C&C produce in Glasgow for the Scottish market in an attempt to take on (and rip off) brand leader Belhaven Best. Read Barm's take on its launch last year for the full picture. So it seems they've diluted it a little less for the Irish market where beer normally begins at 4.2% ABV, renamed it, and spun some classically meaningless marketing puff about it being "triple hopped". Funnily enough, the same nonsense was peddled by Diageo for equally bland Toucan Brew back in 2006, but sure who in beer marketing can remember six years ago? You'd need to be, oh, at least 28 years old. Maybe even as ancient as 44.

But wait! Is that a flavour emerging from the depths at last? Is it the on-coming rush of triple hops? No, it's copper. There's a teeth-coating metallic twang that lingers behind after drinking this which evokes the taste of old green coinage. Well, "something different" was promised.

I'm not going to engage in amateur beer market analysis, except to offer my opinion that the people who might be willing to make this their beer of choice -- the pint drinkers in my age bracket with an interest beyond mainstream big-brand beers -- expect something more interesting in their glass than this.


  1. If it's that bad at 45, God knows how tasteless it is at 3.2!

  2. Bloody PC. Read above as 4%.

  3. Porter11:11 am

    I appreciate your selflessness on our behalf. I am now spared the agony of drinks this being as I am outside of the target age progile. There are advantages to age.

    1. Haha! Maybe all beers should have a published age range.

    2. "This is to certify that

      .........CALEDONIA [i]SMOOTH[\i].........

      has been classified for dispensation in public houses.

      Only suitable for persons aged 23 years and under."

  4. Professor Pie-Tin1:50 pm

    The landlord of one of my locals which stocks this awful beer returned from a spell in a drying-out clinic a few weeks ago.
    He was back on the piss within three days but confined himself to Caledonia Smooth because, in his words, " you couldn't become an alcoholic on this shit if you tried. "
    So far it seems to be working.

  5. Professor Pie-tin6:52 am

    Compare and contrast.
    Tried the White Gypsy Red in the Bierhaus last night and it was superb.
    A big fat gobful of flavour which made the Caledonia Smooth about as tasty as the beer map my Red was sat on.

  6. Anonymous11:04 pm

    Maybe there're 2 items. The beer drinking temperature and the drinker's age! Young and cold, Old and hot!

  7. Professor Pie-Tin11:53 pm

    FYI - Cork's craft ale scene suddenly took a big turn for the better.
    The back bar of the Crane Lane has turned itself into craft beer nirvana - tonight I counted 12 craft ales on draught as part of a new policy by Cork pub supremo Benny McCabe.
    All the Franciscan Well products, two Metalman, two White Gypsy,Howling Gale,Purgatory and three or four more I forgot to write down.
    Plus a decent selection of bottles including Galway Hooker.
    It has instantly become the bar with the best selection of beer in Ireland's second city ( mind you there is only The Bierhaus and the FW as competition.)
    I'm giddy with excitement.
    WTF ( as my kids like to say )

    1. Huzzah! Hope they can keep it flowing. The problem I always find with drinking in Cork is that the good pubs are never open when I need them to be. Though The Bierhalle has made a big difference to that.

  8. So they have succeeded in brewing a Kilkenny clone?

    1. Kilkenny is very brown-appley, I find. This doesn't have that.