A great deal of noise has been made recently about the importance of supporting your smaller craft brewers – more specifically, deliberately avoiding products derived from the large national corporate brewers. Please let me be clear: I wholly and unreservedly support the first half of this sentiment, but not entirely the latter.
Case in point is the Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Style Lager from Coors – or more accurately, Coors Archive Brewing (unlike Blue Moon or Shock Top, Coors is making no attempt to hide their involvement with this brand). Although “pre-Prohibition style lager” is not a formally recognized craft beer style, this is as good attempt as any at touching an historical moment. Coors does this very well in this 5.5% ABV beer, whether the “history” behind it is true or just colorful marketing.
Without formal (or informal) style definitions, critically judging such a brew like Batch 19 can be tricky. Stylistically, it emerges closest to a lighter and slightly hoppy Vienna lager: a darker copperish-gold than your typical lagers, a very mild caramel malt flavor, a small hoppy bite that is noticeable (26 IBUs) but not bitter. Unable to compare the beer to authentic versions, it is something that I could believe newly immigrated German or Austrian brewers might brew at the turn of the twentieth century.
I like this beer, and it raises three issues for the craft beer community at large.
As an ultimate consumer, I believe in buying beers based on the inherent quality of the product and how much it satisfies my taste, with its corporate provenance only of secondary consideration. Many may disagree with this philosophy and that is fair, but I do not necessarily see the national brewers as the “enemy.” If they can make a product that competes with independent craft brewers in the quality of their beers, I will drink it.
Encourage These Products
Should not beers such as Batch 19 be encouraged from the large corporate brewers? Is “craft beer” reserved only for the small brewer? Are craft beer consumers of such a mindset they simply want to see the larger brewers burn, or do they want them to change their nature and practices? These brewers occasionally do reveal they have the talent and the means to make good products. As lovers of beer, we should be influencing all brewers to make better beer, and supporting these efforts when they do so.
All things being equal, I will buy the same style beer made by an independent craft brewer over that of a corporate giant, and one made locally over one originating in a faraway state. But what happens when there is no competition? I have not seen Texas brewers making many lagers at all, and know of no craft brewed beer available in Texas of the pre-Prohibition style. If Coors makes a sellable beer style that no one else will, that is a point in their favor.
Availability: Batch 19 is bottled and sold in sixers just about everywhere, but taps are not as easy to find. It will not be sold at the typical craft beer establishments (of course) but Coors does have an app on their website to find selected draught locations.