The new Little Creatures seasonal release is a 4.4% “Summer Beer”. Or in other words; their new “tweener”.
tweenerˈtwiːnə/ noun US informalnoun: tweener; plural noun: tweeners1. a person or thing considered to be in between two other recognized categories or types.
Increasingly ubiquitous the Australian- tweener style comes in the form of a sub 5% ale, labeled usually with the words Australian, pale, golden, summer, or Pacific. With some new world hop aroma, they are generally light in colour, mild on the palate, displaying soft carbonation, a clean finish and lie somewhere between 15-30IBU. Some ale yeast aromas may be present.
Not crisp like classic lager styles, not bitter enough to be an American style pale, and without the yeast to excite like a classic Wit or Hefe. They are usually neither amazing nor are they offensively bad and 90% of them come with a press release that looks something like this. They are a style that generally elicits a massive “ehhhhh” from me (with some notable exceptions).
That isn’t because of quality, or they are poorly made, it’s just that Australian beer is not short on this exact beer from an increasing number of breweries and brands. Obviously the reason is that people are buying them but it feels like we are reaching market saturation.
Let me illustrate my point with two lists. The top being Australian examples of the style (and one NZ example made for the Australian market in the form of a new Monteith’s beer, designed to grab a slice of this lucrative pie), the bottom NZ.
Before continuing I need to make some caveats.
- I have only chosen beers with reasonable to prominent national distribution. Delving deeper into smaller brands would’ve taken an age.
- All the beers fit the bill of being pale, some hop aroma, IBU sub 30, around 4-5% and made with ale yeast (or at least claiming to… but that’s a different blog). Some might fall slightly higher or lower in some criteria but more or less they are in the ranges.
- Where possible I’ve used the style listed on the brewery website.
- This isn’t a commentary on quality of the beers.
- While some are stylistically quite different when poured in the glass (S&W Pacific Ale vs Cascade Pale for example) I’ve gone by intent of the beer and whether it falls into the first and second bullet points above.
- I’m fully aware the Australian market is far bigger than the NZ market but when starting this I expected the bigger supermarket/foreign-owned brands from NZ (Mac’s, Monteith’s, Boundary, Founders) to have at least one each and possibly more than one. You’ll see that’s not the case. On the flipside many Australian equivalents have multiple examples.
- The lists are in no particular order.
Crown Golden Ale: 4.5% Golden Ale
Cascade Pale Ale: 4.5% Pale Ale
James Squire 150 Lashes: 4.2% Aus Pale Ale
James Squire Hop thief: 5.0% American Pale
James Squire The Chancer: 4.5% Golden Ale
John Boston The Point: 4.2% Pale Ale
John Boston The Guardhouse: 4.2% Golden Ale
John Boston The Surprise: 4.2% Summer Ale
Gage Roads Single Fin: 4.5% Summer Ale
Gage Roads Narrow Neck: 3.9% American Pale Ale
Gage Roads Breakwater: 4.5% Australian Pale Ale
Gage Roads Atomic: 4.7% American Pale Ale
Monteith’s Pointers Pale Ale: 4.2% Pale Ale
Thunder Road IPA: 4.9% IPA
Thunder Road Hop Star: 5.2% Pale Ale
Thunder Road Classic Australian Pale Ale: 4.7% Pale Ale
Thunder Road Cartwheel Golden Ale: 4.8% Golden Ale
Thunder Road Pacific Ale: 4.6% Pacific Ale
Thunder Road Golden: 5.1% Golden Ale
Little Creatures Bright Ale: 4.5% Australian Ale
Little Creatures Furphy: 4.4% Kolsch/Golden Ale
Little Creatures Dog Days 4.4% Summer Beer
Mountain Goat Summer Ale: 4.7% Summer Ale
Mountain Goat Steam Ale: 4.5% Steam Ale
Stone and Wood Pacific Ale: 4.4% Pacific Ale
Two Birds Golden Ale: 4.4% Golden Ale
Feral Sly Fox: 4.7% Summer Ale
Matilda Bay Fat Yak: 4.7% American Pale Ale
Matilda Bay IGP: 4.7% Australian Ale
Matilda Bay The Ducks: 4.2% Australian Pale Ale
Matilda Bay Lazy Yak: 4.2% Australian Pale Ale
Coopers Original Pale Ale: 4.5% Australian Pale Ale
Coopers Dr Tim’s: 4.5% Traditional Ale
Yenda Pale Ale: 4.7% American Pale Ale
Yenda golden Ale: 4.2% Golden Ale
Toohey’s Darling Pale Ale: 4.4% Pale Ale
Monteith’s Southern Pale Ale: 4.6% Pale Ale
Panhead WPA: 4.3% Wheat Ale
Boundary Road: 4.6% Pale Ale
Stoke Gold Ale: 4.5% Golden Ale
Townshend’s Catchcarts NTA Golden Ale: 4.2% Golden Ale
Garage Project Hapi Daze: 4.6% Pale Ale
Tuatara Outrigger: 4.5% Pacific Pale Ale
Looking at these two lists you’ll see why I’m somewhat jaded about this new limited release beer from Little Creatures. It’s not a horrible beer. The aroma is decent but other than that it is a highway to nothing. Just another example of an Australian tweener that I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to even give tasting notes for. If you’re an Australian beer drinker, you’ll know this beer. It’s good – but who cares. So is most of the list above.
Their previous limited release “Return of the Dread” was a brilliantly made stout and had all the hallmarks of a classic beer from start to finish. A real treat and one of my favourite beers this year. I would’ve loved for them to follow it up with something a bit more exciting. Trust that beer drinkers are ready to take a step up into something bigger than their famous Pale Ale but instead with this and their recent Furphy release they are continuing to ask drinkers to step back into “gateway” styles. I have no issue with the gateway segment but if you are going to do one, then make it interesting. A twist on their pilsner or a classic unfiltered lager. Or instead use the dual-coast capabilities and supply chain they have to push out an incredibly fresh session IPA, or a double version of their Pale Ale.
You have to assume that drinkers are ready for a challenge more-so now than when Little Creatures first broke out with their Pale Ale so why not use their marketing and supply clout to challenge drinkers again (before people point to their IPA, my personal experience with that is a mixed bag of sublime to fine to diacetyl, and I don’t feel it was a bold enough statement but rather a bit of a pulled punch).
With the craft segment growing at an incredible rate, tweeners continue to be made and marketed at the gateway but the gates are getting flooded. And when drinkers make it through they will go looking for something new and exciting. You have to wonder if the bigger national brands really want to fill that need or if they are content just filling up shelf space.
With this seasonal release what they’ve given us is more Groundhog Day, than Dog Days.
Samples of the beer were provided by Little Creatures.