Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Blue Moon - It's All About The Serve

It's easy to be cynical about a beer that is supposed to be served with a chunk of fruit in it. When I asked about the fruit at the Leeds launch of Blue Moon (or rather, the "pre-launch" - so much more hip than the actual launch), I was told that it wasn't a marketing gimmick, but it was something that had come straight from the brewery. Being a fairly bright button, I realise that these things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and on paper, a Belgian wheat beer brewed by the Blue Moon Brewery (essentially Molson Coors) and marketed as American Craft Beer is such a confused, irritating and almost straight-up deceitful concept that one might justifiably ask "why bother?"

But bother I did, getting off the sofa as Brown exited Downing Street and Cameron visited the palace - what other response would be more fitting than going to the pub, I wonder? Blue Moon in keg form is an unfiltered, unpasteurised Belgian wheat beer. Well, it's more of a weissebier to my palate, having a fairly big body and a touch of digestive biscuit maltiness, and none of a classic witbier's tart spritziness. There's the biscuity malt, a pronounced orange and coriander note, fairly big and chewy on the palate, with some hop character showing up late in the day to keep everything in shape and lend a little more complexity. If you elect to have it without orange, it's a little flabby - the slice of orange peel in the glass adds a little zing of acidity and quite a lot in the way of aromatics. It has a certain freshness and vitality that isn't down to the peel alone. The beers are alarmingly perishable, with just 90 days to expiry put on them at the brewery, and a keg needing to be used up within 5 days of being tapped.

So what are we to make of a beer that actually needs to be served with a slice of orange to show at its best? Is it really all about The Serve? Certainly, the fruit isn't solely there to add flavour (like lime in the neck of a bottle of Mexican lager), although to my palate it improves the beer a bit, giving a faintly gin-like botanical edge to it. Is the slice of orange in Blue Moon Coors' equivalent to the sparkler - how do you like yours served? To be totally honest, unironic and straightforward, I quite liked it. It was a decent enough beer, and with a slice of orange had quite a nice bite to it.

Am I their target consumer? No. Is it worth trying if you come across it? Certainly, in my opinion, and in unfiltered, unpasteurised keg form it's a much more interesting proposition than the thin, watery flash-pasteurised bottles. Is Blue Moon here to stay, and will it become more than the flavour of the month? That is for the drinkers to decide. For my money, Grolsch Weizen (another beer in Coors' Different World Drinks portfolio) is a more interesting beer, but then that has no USP beyond just being a really great beer.


  1. I quite liked Blue Moon the first and last time I had it, last year in San Diego (I'm sure that's probably some sort of crime to some people). Of course, it came served in an chilled glass with the obligatory slice of orange, but that seemed to be the case for pretty much every Hefeweizen I got in that part of the world.

  2. I think we're getting some Blue Moon on Saturday on the Burton Twissup so it'll be interesting to see what everyone thinks. I wasn't a fan of the bottle but I'm looking forward to trying the kegged version now.

    As for fruit... I don't like the idea of a beer which needs something adding to it to make it better (apart from the magnificient Desperados, of course). Plus who wants a chunk of orange in their pint? If the orange adds botanicals, extra fruit, etc, then why not brew it with more of that flavour in the first place?

    It does add something different in the presentation though...

  3. Desperados and magnificent = oxymoron.

    Blue Moon = nice. Just because it's made by Molson Coors doesn't automatically make it bad.

    IMHO, simples!

  4. Definitely agree about Grolsch Weizen, a fantastic beer.

    Mr. Dredge... may be to do with the fact that the freshness of the orange is tough to capture in a beer. Usually orange peel alone is added at or near the end of the wort boil and even then a lot of those fantastic essential oils, mainly limonene are reduced due to their volatility. I guess the addition of the hint of sweetness, fresh orange aroma and even the tiny zip of acidity that Zak mentions all help a little. If the Blue Moon was served through a "Randall" that are sometimes used at dispense with hops, yet orange wedges were used instead, would it be classed as being more innovative and "craft"?

    I suppose pasteurised orange juice could also be added, clarity ain't an issue!

    Actually both would probably be better than bobbing for oranges :)


  5. Barry - it seems that there is still some produced at the Sand Lot brewery, and some is mega-brewed. Obviously, everyone I spoke to at the launch stressed how the beer were drinking came from the original brewery, although like the claim of thousands of people who saw the Sex Pistols at Manchester Free Trade Hall, the figures probably don't add up.

    Mark D - Kelly made the points that I was going to make about the essential and volatile aroma and flavour. In the interests of research, I tried it with and without, and it is better with. I never used to like the lemon-in-witbier fad, and the cider-over-ice trend is even more loathsome (it even nearly turned into beer-over-ice - see here. If it was a hop cone, we'd all be foaming at the mouth about how great it is, as Kelly implies.

    Mark RAR - clear thinking, as ever.

    Kelly - quite right, of course. The volatile compounds are where it's at. Not sure about a citrus Randalizer though.

  6. Good to know my assumptions a year ago weren't completely arse-faced!

    I've only come across one beer that I believe uses full oranges in the brewing process, and that's the Orange Wheat from Hangar 24 in Redlands, CA. It's definitely an orange producing area, so they claim to be using local oranges in the brew. Quite a fresh orange blast from it, as I recall.

    That was a great gig, btw...

  7. I actually quite like Blue moon, yeah its not very complex or massively flavoured but its tasty and refreshing, went perfectly with my hot and spicy pizza the other night, ive not tried it with orange yet but will in the interests of research, also gonna pair it with an orange pud.

  8. Barry - Whole oranges? That sounds interesting - I bet the pith adds a rather snappy dynamic to the beer.

    Andy - I'd like to hear how it pairs with food, do let me know.

  9. Oh, and Barry - what was the gig?!

  10. Sex Pistols at Manchester Free Trade Hall of course! :D

  11. Haha, of course - you were the other 6 year old there, along with me - how can I forget!


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