*an earlier, stupid version of this post was written as though SAAZ Republic Pilz was Big Rock’s first foray into Ontario. As Toronto Star Beer Columnist Josh Rubin helpfully pointed out, Big Rock beers have actually been here for about 20 years. This post has been revised to reflect the fact that this Big Rock Brewery is indeed the same Big Rock Brewery that currently has Big Rock Grasshoppper Wheat Ale, Big Rock India Pale, Big Rock Light Lime, Big Rock Traditional Ale, and Big Rock Warthog Ale all listed at The Beer Store. Yes, the entire conceit of this post–which was intended to be a transcript of my initial thoughts on the news–has essentially been destroyed, but I’m going to try to salvage the thing anyway because I don’t have time to rewrite it and oh great the baby’s crying I have to go.
A couple weeks ago, the interwebs were all a-twitter with news that one of Canada’s oldest craft breweries–Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery–was bringing some new beer to Ontario.
The obligatory press release explained that the first of a series of new beer releases here would be SAAZ Republic Pilz, a pilsner with “a distinct but mild bitterness on the front end followed by a slight hop middle and a clean, refreshing finish.” It also explained that this release represented the first of of a total of three new beers slated for release in Ontario.
I don’t really know how I feel about this release, so, in order to convey my thoughts on the news, I’ve attempted to transcribe the conversation that occurred between the conflicting optimistic and typically dominant cynical voices in my own brain whilst drinking one last week.
OPTIMIST BEN: So Big Rock is attempting a rebrand and bringing some new Canadian craft beers to Ontario. That can’t be bad.
CYNIC BEN: I guess. But it sort of seems like a relatively stale brand is attempting to reinvigorate their product my nosing in on the growing Ontario craft market. Ontario’s brewers have enough trouble competing with the big brewers and each other, now they have to worry about “new” brands from other provinces taking a market share?
OPT: “Market share?” What do you care? It’s more craft beer for you.
CYN: Fair enough. But a pilsner?
OPT: What’s wrong with pilsner? Refreshing!
CYN: Well, it seems to me that if you’re going to rebrand your beer as something more “crafty,” you might want to offer something more interesting than a pilsner. And frankly, when I first heard that industry vets Chris Goddard and Mike Laba were starting a company called The Craft Brand Co. to help brewers bring their beer into Ontario, I was really hoping they’d bring some unique beer to the market. It seems weird they’re helping an old company “rebrand” with a pilsner of all things. Ontario has a lot of “refreshing easy-to-drink” beer on the shelf already.
OPT: Well, if you’d taken the time to check out the list of partners on their website, you’d see that in addition to Big Rock, The Craft Brand Co. seems to be helping bring in brands from California, Sweden, and Michigan, too. I’ve got to imagine they won’t all be pilsners and lagers. Plus, if you think about it, how many good craft options are there in Ontario for people who like pilsners?
CYN: You’re right. There aren’t too many craft pilsners currently available here. But by the same token, do we really need craft pilsners? People who like boring beer are well-covered by the big brewers.
OPT: Uh yeah, dum-dum. There are obviously people who want easy to drink beer who also want to support craft brewers. Here’s another option for those people. Plus beers like this help introduce newbies to craft beer.
CYN: Why don’t you just shut up and pour the beer already?
OPT: Pass me a fucking glass.
CYN: Hmm. This is a decent pilsner.
OPT: This is a decent pilsner.
CYN: But still, does a pilsner add anything interesting to an already-crowded Ontario craft market? Do we need this?
OPT: Well, according to this press release, this is just the first of three new beers that Big Rock will be bringing to Ontario, and it shows good awareness of the changing state of the beer industry that this established brewer sees the need to adapt. I think this is a good move for Big Rock. It looks like they’re renewing their focus on quality beer. According to Big Rock Brewery CEO Bob Sartor, Big Rock is “returning to their roots by being bolder and brewing beers with different methods that haven’t been seen for hundreds of yea–“
CYN: *makes loud fart noise with mouth*
OPT: Why do you have to be so fucking negative?
CYN: This is just clever marketing in an attempt to appear relevant again.
OPT: Everything doesn’t have to be political. Maybe they just want to make tasty beer again.
CYN: You’re so naive, man!
TIRED BEN: Both of you shut the fuck up, I’m trying to watch Homeland.
So there you have it. Big Rock SAAZ Pilz is coming to Ontario. The voices in my head are too tired to determine how we all feel about the development. What do you think? Is this meaningful? Meaningless? Should we all just shut up and watch Claire Danes’ worst-CIA-analyst ever ugly cry constantly? Feel free to add your thoughts as a comment below.