Saturday 13 October 2012

Premium positioning

If you’re reading this blog, the odds are that you haven’t drunk any McEwan’s Export recently. Although apparently it is the UK’s Number 3 premium ale brand in the off-trade, until recently it has only been available in cans, thus keeping it off the radar of the “discerning beer drinker”. It also used to be a popular keg beer, and still is north of the Border, but I can’t say I’ve seen it on the bar of an English pub for years.

The McEwan’s and Younger’s ale brands, originally owned by Scottish & Newcastle, were sold by Heineken UK to Wells & Youngs this time last year, and they have now decided to launch McEwan’s Export in 500ml bottles to compete in the premium bottled ale sector, which is a growth market and commands considerably higher margins than cans. They claim that the recipe is identical to the canned version, and the bottle still has the distinctive McEwan’s cavalier logo. It was £1.89 a bottle or 4 for £6 in Morrison’s.

With a strength of 4.5% ABV, it’s dark mahogany in colour, with a fair amount of carbonation and a lasting head. The taste, to be honest, is much like I remember from my last sampling of a can – that distinctive Scottish full-bodied maltiness, with little hop character but a definite dry underpinning that prevents it from being cloyingly sweet. Not perhaps my favourite style of beer, but one I appreciate from time to time. I prefer Caledonian 80/-, though. I believe McEwan’s is actually brewed at the Caledonian brewery in Edinburgh.

Is it any good? Well, it has a distinctive flavour which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I don’t see that it’s intrinsically any worse than the other big hitters in the PBA sector. And it’s an interesting example of how the perception of a product can be altered just by changing the packaging.


  1. I am prepared to put my hand up and say that in the early 1970s (ie before I knew much better, and before that better alternative was more widely available) this was one of my favourite beers, mostly because it wasn't as bad as the other shite on the average early-1970s freehouse bartop. Haven't drunk it for more than 35 years though, probably: it will be interesting to see if my memory and the current taste match up.

  2. That muck was in the SU bar when I was at Uni. No wonder I became a lager lout.


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