Had the pleasure of meeting the new Scottish team at Molson Coors last night at The Blythswood in Glasgow as they unveiled some research into the Scottish beer market (almost exclusively looking at the on-trade) and rounded it off with a beer and food matching event.
The company's beer portfolio is extensive, in terms of brands it owns and brands it distributes and markets in the UK through various partnerships but of most interest to me is not the raft of big name lagers (Singha, Grolsch, Cobra, Corona etc) but the more flavoursome drops like Blue Moon and Doom Bar.
Distribution for Blue Moon is getting better and better north of the border, certainly in the on trade, and it's quite easy to find a pint in Glasgow's west end for example. Doom Bar is another story, with its heartland being in its native south west of England, though it won't take you too long to find a pub selling it in London these days either.
A tiny bit disappointingly, Molson Coors Scotland MD Phil Whitehead told me that Doom Bar won't be making its way to Scotland any time soon - but only because the brewery is already toiling to keep pace with demand. A fairly chunky recent investment should improve that situation and, having previously expressed concern in this blog about the future of Doom Bar post-acquisition [Doom Bar beached?], it's great news to see that all of that investment was actually made at the original brewery in Rock in Cornwall, and Whitehead told me they've no plans to move brewing of the beer anywhere else.
The amount of interest in non-lagers and more interesting light beers is quite encouraging though - a focus shared to a certain extent by SAB Miller - so maybe the market is shifting a little.
I remain convinced that 'craft beer' is something that marketers can sell to younger drinkers in a way they never could with 'real ale' with its chronic image problem and the obdurate reluctance of those looking after its wellbeing to adapt in any way to the world they find themselves in. You really have to worry for CAMRA sometimes.
Other than that I got to try the three Animee beers aimed at women drinkers - I'm not convinced that women are interested in things marketed 'for women', but we'll see - and found them not at all to my taste. Overpowering and sweet and oddly labelled, but then I'm not a woman so what would I know?
The beer and food matching was hit and miss, as these things often are - but that's as true of wine as it is of beer. Doom Bar and some ice creamy pastry dessert thing worked well enough, Grolsch and mature cheddar and blue cheese categorically didn't. I get the 'crispness cutting through the fatty, oiliness of the cheese' principle, but no. Just no. Oddly enough, to my taste the Doom Bar went far better with the cheddar - but I suspect the Doom Bar would have gone better with most of the food served.
For whatever it's worth, the new team at Molson Coors seem like a good bunch and it'll be good to see them get a bit more of a sweat going in the Scottish market. They've still got their work cut out up here with Carling though. Good luck with that, guys.