After trying Foster’s Gold I was actually quite keen to try the other mainstream lager brand extension, Carling Chrome, however as all cooking lager enthusiasts I have a reluctance to paying full whack and knew it would have to wait until I spotted it on discount. I didn’t have to wait long. A 4 pack for £3 in Sainsbury’s and bob’s your aunty so to speak, cheap enough to try though not neck regularly.
The cheapness is the issue with brand extensions qualifying as cooking lager. The purpose of them is clearly to command a premium price and lout enthusiasts like me don’t do premium prices. The early discount being more a strategy to get punters to try the product rather than an indication the product is heading for regular discount. When the beer geeks got all excited about Punk IPA appearing in cans and on the shelves of supermarkets it was initially discounted in an attempt to kick start a market among regular mainstream shoppers. Beer is no different to cheese or Pot Noodles.
I doubt either Carling Chrome or Foster’s Gold will regularly discount as it isn’t the point of the exercise. The regular brands are suffering declining sales forcing regular deep discounting and in some respects a decline in brand value as punters get used to a 40 or 50p can of lager and rather than see it as a fantastic bargain and question the value of the product when it isn’t discounted and when it is sold as a premium in the on trade. Cooking lager enthusiast like the decline because it means discounting and cheap grog, a perspective quite different from beer geeks that are desperate to pay more for their pint of pongy vinegar.
I’m not sure how many times Carling have tried to extent the brand. I remember Carling Premier as a stronger lager sold in a can with a widget to give it the “smooth” effect of some canned ales. I have a mate who given the chance will drone on at length about how great Carling Premier was and that they should bring it back. It never did much for me, but I’m not fond of “smooth” beers whether it is done to an ale or a lager. I guess if it was that great it would still be in the shops and we will see if Chrome is that great if it is still in the shops this time next year.
At the risk of repeating the last blog posting I am uncertain why regular mainstream brands attempt to premiumize themselves. A premium brand releasing a standard product affords the opportunity for the authenticity to rub off slightly. I’m not sure it quite works the other way. Coors, who make Carling, already have a strongish light lager that commands a premium price and is rarely discounted in Coors Light. My observation is that beer more strongly appeals to a female customer, whilst Carling is very much a product of the lads but I suspect bringing regular Coors Lager to market would afford a strong premium brand to rival Budweiser. After all Coors is the beer of Smokey and the Bandit. Budweiser is only the beer at the start of Smokey and the Bandit 2. You would transport a truck of Coors across America; you would only get pissed up on Bud prior to transporting an Elephant.
But anyways, here we are with posher more sophisticated Carling. Similar to Foster’s Gold it is a lighter tasting lager with more alcohol. Is more closely resembles a “Lite” beer, whilst Foster’s Gold tasted much more like the “ice” beers that hit the market a few years back. The beer is smooth with a sweetish aftertaste and arguably has more going for it than Foster’s Gold. I found it a nicer drink than the previous one. Neither really would appeal to the drinker looking for beery flavour but both are nice easy going bottles of cold beer to get pissed up on. I’d neck it any day of the week. I’m often perplexed when I read more scathing reviews of light lager among beer geeks. Sure beer geeks are looking for more by way of beery taste, but there is nothing wrong or unpleasant about necking lighter beer.
Whilst arguably not unpleasant and quite nice I would question whether there is a strong market for lighter beer in the UK. It took off big style in America but numerous attempts to hawk it in the UK failed.
The thing about beer is that it gets written about by beer geeks so if you were to read the story of American beer you would get reams on craft beer and buggar all on the far bigger story of the success of light beer. My suspicion as to why it never took off in Europe was confusion as to the term “lite”. Is it diet beer? Light in Alcohol? Light tasting? Either way the European drinker decided that was for girls and didn’t drink it. Will light beer take off with sexier names like Gold and Chrome? God knows. If it does, a couple of mainstream brewers have found a product they can sell at a higher price and save established brands from decline. If it doesn’t we await with anticipation for the name of next light lager sold at a premium. Would I win a prize for suggesting “Carling Posh”?
If I was being facetious I’d make the following mild suggestion? Carling and Foster’s are great. Worth every penny of the 50p a can. I love the stuff and would only drink something else if it was 40p a can or even 30p. If you want to sell grog for more why not look at the grog that does sell for more quite regularly. The shelves are full of premium priced Ales & Lager’s that even when discounted go for 2 bottles for £3. These tend to a bit more flavourful and authentic. It’s only an observation, like. There appears to be a market among people that want to pay more and think of themselves as more discerning piss heads than the common rabble, and it’s clear what they are after.