For those of us lucky enough to live in Cleveland, the release of Great Lakes Brewing’s Christmas Ale is a highlight of the year. It is the only way to survive a long, grueling Northeast Ohio winter. This year, Great Lakes also barrel-aged a special batch to sell in its gift shop and on tap at the brewery. However, as barrel-aging can do, some unintended flavors developed and the decision was made to pull it off the shelf.
The pulling of a beer from a shelf isn’t that headline-worthy on its own really, but the way the company explained the decision is interesting and also kind of points to a weird thing about beer today.
This morning we chose to pull Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale from our gift shop shelves. We’d first like to apologize to those who traveled or planned to travel to our shop to purchase the beer. Last week when we discovered that our Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale had taken on sour notes, we found those complex flavors exciting, and we hoped we would be able to share the beer with you. Ultimately however, we decided that we do not feel comfortable selling a beer with an unintended flavor profile—that’s not fair to you, and it’s not in keeping with our standards of quality and consistency. Once again, we apologize to those who hoped to purchase Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale. We will have it on tap in our pub today if you’re interested in sampling it.
The weird thing I alluded to is, after reading that … I kind of wanted to try it more. And that is weird. With quality being the industry’s big key, an admitted “unintended batch” should be disappointing. With the rise of sours, barrel-aging and general wild experimentation, at least for a craft beer enthusiast always looking to just try that next thing, I was intrigued. I want quality and I want to try weird, unplanned sour notes!
So, I applaud Great Lakes doing both — stepping up and saying, “Hey, this wasn’t quite right, don’t accidentally waste your money…. but you still might want to try it.”