Last December the popular London craft beer maker Camden Town Brewery was sold to global drinks behemoth AB InBev, owners of superbrands including Bud and Stella – just two of the many ubiquitous boozes which which help it achieve the title of ‘World’s Biggest Drinks Company.”
Following this sale lots of beer writers trundled out pieces about ‘what does it all mean for the craft beer industry?’ with the vast majority deciding the answer was ‘bad things’ while huffing into their frothy topped tulip beer glasses. What very few of those pieces described was the actual beer being sold. Is it a decent drop of well crafted booze, or an insipid, uninspiring drink like many of those InBev already own? To find out I strolled to the shops to grab a bottle, choosing the bright green-clad pale ale.
Even before joining the ranks of mass-market drinks, Camden’s beers were becoming an increasingly common site in bars and supermarkets, yet it has been quite a while since I last ordered one. Trips to their London heartland are so rare for us country kids that we tend to seek out the less well known beers from emerging breweries, of which there are plenty (meaning one craft brewer joining the big boys is not going to make a dent in the choice available from smaller outfits), and I’ve never picked one up from the supermarket shelves before (maybe that bright green livery is psychologically off-putting to me). So I’m treating this tasting as if it were something new, trying not to let any ‘big brand sell out’ preconceptions cloud my judgement…
The beer looks and smells like a good number of contemporary pale ales – a light golden brew, topped with a thin white head, and the unmistakable waft of tropical American hops. Not as strong as some American hopped pale ales, but more than enough to gleefully tickle the nostrils.
The taste follows suit: hoppy citrus, tropical and pine flavours to the fore, but less so than others. It’s a very crisp and light beer; it has a fresh, clean zing and is very drinkable. Critics might argue it’s a bit too gentle, lacking a bit of oomph in comparison to other hop forward pale ales. But sometimes gentler versions are just what’s required: craft pales with heavy hop and malt flavours can become a struggle over a longer session whereas I suspect this one continues to satisfy over the course of multiple pints.
All of which means it feels like a beer with good mainstream appeal, but there’s also plenty of well-rounded beeriness for the discerning drinker to enjoy. Providing AB InBev don’t ruin it (and why should they?) it could well become one of the company’s better brands, and one of the few I’ll be happy to order in future.
Brewery: Camden Town Brewery, London
Beer name: Pale Ale
Hops used: Columbus, Cascade, Amarillo, Citra