Saturday, 5 November 2016

Not so Pedigree condition

One aspect of Marston’s rebranding brainfart last week that seemed to get lost in the noise was the news that Pedigree was going to become an entirely bottle-conditioned beer. This was welcomed by many in CAMRA, but to my mind it represents another error of judgment.

For a start, the actual demand for bottle-conditioned beers is pretty limited. Look at the premium bottled ale shelves in Tesco, and how many are bottle-conditioned? Two or three out of a hundred, if you’re lucky. It’s not that the supermarkets are deliberately holding the category back, but that they’ve tried it in the past and found that buyers actively shun it. There have been experiments with selling Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Courage Directors in bottle-conditioned form, both of which rapidly died the death, and more recently HopBack Brewery have switched their popular Summer Lightning to be brewery-conditioned.

And will the change make the minority who seek out bottle-conditioned beers any more likely to buy Pedigree? It’s currently a fairly unadventurous, mainstream product, and those basic characteristics aren’t going to change. I can’t say I’ve drunk much bottled Pedigree recently except when it’s been on offer at £1 a bottle in Morrisons. It’s OK, but there are many better and more distinctive bottled beers out there.

On the other hand, unless a very “sticky” yeast is used, the average drinker is likely to reject it on the grounds that it has bits in it, while if the yeast is sticky they won’t notice much difference. And, either way, you’re likely to get a less consistent product. I’d say it will win few new customers while potentially alienating many existing ones. I’ll certainly try it when I see it, though, and report back on my findings.

Surely a better approach would have been to leave the existing product as it was, but introduce a new and possibly slightly stronger variant called “Pedigree Extra” or suchlike, which made a virtue of being bottle-conditioned, and could be promoted on the basis of a greater appeal to the connoisseur.

I can’t see the container-conditioning being extended to the canned version, though, so, if you want a consistent drop of Pedigree to enjoy at home, I’d advise going for the cans instead.

3 comments:

  1. I like Pedigree, and it will be interesting to try it bottle-conditioned. I don't agree that it's mainstream though -unadventurous perhaps, but the Burton snatch puts many drinkers off and landlords too. My favourite real ale pub won't have it in the cellar because of that. The bottled version has it too - as I said, I like it, but many beer- drinker pals don't.

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  2. I'd guess that the yeast strain in question is Lallemand CBC-1. Its a very highly flocculent strain that leaves a thin sediment that adheres to the container. Unlike other highly flocculent strains it contributes little or nothing in terms of flavour.

    If you wanted to you could filter the buggery out of your beer, pasteurise it then add simple sugar and re-ferment with this yeast. That gets you around CAMRA's rule book but if the original beer is mediocre then this won't make it any better.



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  3. Just tried the bottle-conditioned version and it was superb. I'd had the previous bottled version before and thought it mediocre -- just bog-standard pasteurised beer with little to distinguish it from other bog-standard pasteurised beers. Now the character really comes through and the quality was as good as very well-kept cask Pedigree. The overall character is not dissimilar to Worthington White Shield.

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