Importing beer is expensive and inconvenient, and, from the perspective of British breweries, every bottle of Belgian, German or American beer represents a lost opportunity.
Recently, we’ve seen Shepherd Neame launch a licensed, UK-brewed version of Sam Adams Boston Lager; Fuller’s launch a US-style IPA, Wild River, complete with Americana branding; and smaller (for now) breweries are launching saisons, dubbels, tripels, pilsners, weizens, wits and imperial double black bacon IPAs left, right and centre.
Generally speaking, we’d really rather drink a fresher, British-brewed imitation of a foreign beer than a stale, authentic, imported one.
However… the first report we’ve read, from Rabid Bar Fly, suggests that, the Shepherd Neame brewed Sam Adams Lager is fine, but an entirely different beer than the original. We haven’t seen the ‘point-of-sale’ material but our concern remains that most punters will think they’re drinking an imported beer and pay more for the privilege. If it doesn’t have BREWED IN THE UK in big letters, it’s a swizz.
Fuller’s approach is interesting. We’re taking Wild River’s branding as an attempt to convey a sense of the inspiration behind the beer and to give the consumer an idea of what to expect in their glass, rather than an attempt to con anyone: the branding merely evokes America and bears a prominent Fuller’s logo.
The smaller breweries are generally proud of where they’re based and there is little room for confusion in the packaging, as far as we can see. The problem here is that, sometimes, regrettably, the beer is half as good and yet twice as expensive as the real thing.
These wrinkles will iron out. A couple of years back, Meantime’s own lagers were put to shame by the imported beers from Schoenram on sale alongside them at the Greenwich Union; but, on our last visit, Meantime’s beers had improved immeasurably and, yes, were better and cheaper than their imported cousins.