Major brewers going pale

THE rise in popularity of craft beers in Australia is well documented and expresses itself in several ways.

The presence of pale ales or golden ales on tap in rural and regional areas and the lengthening beer lists (now often more comprehensive than the wine) at restaurants the country over attest to people starting to enjoy beer that is a bit more complex.

Surely, though, the absolute indicator is when the major brewers start to get in on the act.

Two recent releases are cases in point. XXXX has made a pale ale version of the venerable Gold, and Tooheys has released their Darling Pale Ale, so Hugh the Neighbour and I thought we would give them the once over.

Now, Gold has been one of the top three selling beers in Australia for more years than most people can remember and the thought of fiddling with the recipe must have kept the XXXX marketing people awake in cold sweats for months.

Coca-Cola tried a new formula for Coke some years ago and it was an unqualified failure so the possibility of reputational damage to the Gold brand would have been considerable in the event of a misfire.

I think they can rest easy. This is not a beer that neither HTN nor I think will trouble the scorers on the challenging scale - it is a very very pale, pale ale - with none of the hoppy fruitiness expected of the style.

HTN in fact wished he had a bottle of actual Gold to compare it to as it didn't really stand out as a pale ale but may have seemed different if drunk next to the original. Still, at 3.5% alcohol volume, it is an alternative to mid-strength lagers.

A bit stronger at 4.4%, the Tooheys Darling Pale Ale is a step up the crafty-ness ladder and would be a good beer to introduce somebody to craft-style beers.

Named for the Tooheys original brewery at Darling Harbour, it has a bit of colour in the glass and does hold a nice foam. You can get some hops on the nose and palate without having to pucker up from bitterness.

Its subtlety of flavour makes it quite drinkable, although probably not one that will impress the craft beer connoisseur. When it is all said and done there are worse beers for more cash around.

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