I know what you’re thinking, “your first review with the new laptop and it’s not even a beer? Who are you and what have you done with Ed?” But it will be OK. Trust. Just a little pin prick….
The review comes as a slight favor to Jennie Hatton. Jennie was the PR person for last year’s Philly Beer Week and when the guys from It’s Just the Booze Dancing transferred some press passes to us for a breakfast event that would subsequently get cancelled; instead of saying “Tough luck, guys”, Jennie said, “Would you like to go to the opening tap ceremony and tasting instead?”
The event was amazing from top to bottom. The breweries and brewers were amazing, the vibe was electric, and we got to hang out with G-Lo and LimpD from IJtBD, along with Patrick Huff from Crafty and the Beast. From the ceremonial tapping of the first keg by mayor Michael Nutter, to the final elevator ride to the garage with head brewers Tom Kehoe from Yards, and Bill Moore from Lancaster, the event was a blast.
So when Jennie emailed me a press release and informed me that she was the new US brand manager for Crabbie’s Original Ginger Beer, and thought that my readers might find it of interest, stating, “I realize you mostly cover craft beer, Crabbie’s is not a craft beer, but it’s really great as a pacer in between some good hop bombs 😉” Well let’s just say I felt a slight obligation to check it out.
However, let me state up front that this isn’t strictly a case of quid pro quo. If she’d become the US brand manager for some Hard Lemonade, or Hard Ice Tea, or whatever, I’d have been far less likely to do this. Not that I have a big dislike with those products. I don’t drink them, if you do, fine. But I just get this … annoyance, whenever I see them in the liquor store, taking up space on the shelves that could easily go to more craft beer. As though if they were gone the emptiness that they’d leave behind would be automatically filled by great things like Founders, and Bells, and rows upon rows of Pliny the Elder. Right. As if….
But no, this is different, because in a point of full disclosure, I love ginger.
I said, I LOVE GINGER!
No? Really? Ok, I’d have thought my new editor would have jumped all over that one. But I guess … not.
So to continue, ginger (related to turmeric and cardamom) is a rhizome of the plant zingiber officinale and besides having uses in both medical research and herbal medicines; is a signature flavor in Asian, African, and Carribean cuisean – as well as my “island” dry rub. I’m not going to lie to you, I try to sneak a little ginger into just about anything I think it will work with….and a few things I’m pretty sure it won’t work with. But let’s look at Crabbie’s.
THEM: I’m not going to be able to say this any better then Jennia, so:
A little bit about Crabbie’s…it is the first alcoholic ginger beer available in the U.S. (Crabbie’s is currently available in 31 countries and is very popular in Australia, Canada and the UK, where is it the number 1 selling bottled beer.)
Crabbie’s was established in 1801 by John Crabbie, a Scottish merchant-adventurer who imported ginger from the Far East into Edinburgh. Today, Crabbie’s still uses ginger from the Far East to develop the one-of-a-kind flavor of its ginger beer. That ginger cold steeps for up to six weeks and is combined with four secret ingredients to create a spicy ginger beer with a crisp finish and comes in at 4.8%. Crabbie’s is always served over ice with a slice.
That last part was an important reminder for me. I’d had Crabbie’s before at the Valley Forge Beer Fest. I remember we were walking around when our friend Dana came up and said we had to try what the guy over at a certain booth was pouring. When we got there we found a gentleman filling small cups up with crushed ice, then pouring in the contents of a bottle and then adding a lemon slice. Crabbies Ginger Beer. And I remember at the time, it was good. Unfortunately, at that time it wasn’t available here in Delaware, and as the old saying goes, off my shelf, off my mind. Or something like that.
ME: Yeah, I know. You can’t let that “malt beverage” thing go can you? Jennie admits that this isn’t “craft beer”, and rightly so.
For one, although the company claims that the beverage is indeed a product of fermentation it doesn’t state what is fermented. In fact, the company doesn’t state much of anything at all. I wasn’t able to find any company backed list of ingredients, although there are multitudes of references to “four secret ingredients” which kinda puts Crabbie’s within that “secret formula in a vault” cola crowd that should NOT be what good beer is about.
I was able to find on blog site that claimed it had a list of the ingredients, which contained some chemicals and preservatives as you’d expect in a malt beverage. However, since I couldn’t confirm the list anywhere else I’m not going to link to it.
Having said all that, I do really have to ding Crabbie’s for one thing that I just can not forgive. Their product comes in…
That’s right. Four packs. And as you faithful DoB readers know, four packs are plain devil witchery. Speaking of ding, I wonder what D_I_N_G’s feelings are that Crabbie’s is the number one selling bottled beer in the UK? But I digress. Let’s taste.
Crabbie’s suggests you serve their ginger beer over ice with a squeeze of either lemon or lime. I prefer limes, but it was even license plate day at the ACME and I have an odd plate number, so no limes for me during the shortage. In order to cover this as completely as possible, I’m also tasting it straight poured into the dreaded pint sleeve.
Crabbie’s pours clear into the pint sleeve, which I don’t know why but it disappoints me a little. A little ginger pulp wouldn’t have hurt this in the least. The head does rise up, beer-like for a while but then dissipates into a ring around the glass. It’s not overly fizzy like a soda, (cola, pop, depending one your region) but you can hear a little singing in the glass when you put your ear up to it. The nose is all ginger, with slight hints of citrus (that comes across as orange peel to me) and possibly a touch of vanilla. The taste, as you might expect, is more ginger and citrus with notes of honey. The ginger isn’t over powering as with some other “ginger beers” I’ve had, the finish has a slight spiciness and warmth from it as you get about halfway through the glass, but it’s not off putting.
The iced drink has some slight differences over the sleeve. First, obviously forget the head. You get a little fizz, along with some bubbles hanging around between the ice, but the ice just kills any chance of head formation and retention. The drink clouds up a bit as the ice melts and the cold water starts to mix with the drink. The ice does do what you’d expect it too, it drops the middle out of the drink pretty effectively, leaving a more subdued flavor of ginger, however the spice bite at the end is still there. Of course, the flavor would be affected by the amount of lemon or lime you squeeze into it.
Verdict: On a hot summer day, the iced drink would win as far as being crisp and refreshing, as well as giving you that “sophisticated feeling” of having a prepared cocktail in your hand, but I like the more pronounced flavor of ginger that’s in the sleeve.
On top of the libation applications (don’t forget that ginger beer is also an ingredient in such cocktails as the Moscow Mule, Dark and Stormy and the Fog Horn), I’m thinking of a few culinary ones as well. With the strong ginger and the alcohol, Crabbie’s could have uses in injections, marinades, sauces and even cooking mediums. Ow! Ginger glazed carrots! Yeah, that’s happening!
I know this review is probably going to roll right off the backs of some of my craft beer readers. Let’s face it, if you’re a “beer” purist, you’ll probably walk past this. But if you’re a ginger lover, I would not, especially if you’re a fan one of the many other ginger beers out there, that don’t contain any alcohol. Phew! Where’s the fun in that!
Nope! You’re late. You should have done that like, 800 words ago. You’re going to have to work on your timing. As for Ginger Lynn, well I’m not sure we’re ready to go all “porn star” up in here, but I did enjoy The Devils Rejects.