You may have seen the above-pictured monstrosity on the shelves along with the cider in your local LCBO lately.
It’s “Wild Apple Ale” from Crazy Beard and even though the product is called Crazy Beard “Wild Apple Ale” it lives in the cider section since it isn’t actually a beer. I’m not even sure it would meet strict definitions of cider, but presumably the company is so “Wild to the Core!” they just don’t care about conventional things like “accurately labeling a beverage.”
I have seen the atrocious can on shelves before and while it offended me in a way that only a snotty beer and beverage purist can be offended, I put it off as simply something that doesn’t interest me. Life is too short to rage at all the overly-sweet alcoholic beverages that don’t meet with my approval. However, as it turns out, in addition to the label being questionable from a design standpoint, it seems the can wrap isn’t really the highest quality material either. I was alerted to this fact by an intrepid reader who sent me the picture below this afternoon.
Yes, it appears that Crazy Beard Wild Apple Ale’s label is hiding something of a surprise under all that wacky design. As my anonymous tipster speculated, this “Apple Ale” might actually just be William Premium Canadian Cider–or at the very least, is sold in William Cider cans.
This photo isn’t doctored and my tipster confirmed that he simply peeled back the label on his still-sealed can of Crazy Beard to reveal the William Cider can underneath. I asked if the two liquids tasted the same and my tipster couldn’t answer because he claims that verifying this would mean “having to drink both beverages” and he wasn’t up to the task.
So is Crazy Beard simply a can-wrap on an existing product, making it the world’s laziest adventure in contract beverage production?
The folks at Crazy Beard say no.
I reached out to the company and received responses from co-founders Daniel Bartek, Cam McDonald, and Bobby Besant, the latter two who both emailed me [lengthy] statements (75% of the company answered me in less than an hour. Customer service apparently isn’t an issue). I’ve opted to share most of McDonald’s response, below:
One thing we want to mention about Crazy Beard is always tell managers to merchandise Crazy Beard in the RTD [Ready to Drink] or Cider section as we don’t want to mislead buyers into thinking it’s craft. We pay RTD markup to the government which means we get about half as much in revenue as the craft brewers. We now understand that “Ale” could [be] misleading but our alcohol content is derived from malted barley which does contain hop extract. Furthermore in the US market, Apple Ale is how products with similar ingredients are classified (Redds Apple Ale for example) and we know other Apple ales were going to come to market this summer with similar classification in Ontario.To give you a summary of what happened with the cans:1. We were originally going to procure and sleeve blank or “bright” cans manufactured by Rexam2. Before our first production run in December we realized that the cans could have leaking issues as the line we used is a 473 mL Ball canning line. We also were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to launch with the LCBO early which being a small startup gave us a fighting chance as we knew other Apple Ales were going to come to market this summer (Redd’s and Mad Jack)3. We couldn’t procure blank cans from Ball (can manufacturer) that had the proper can lining. Because we use natural apple flavour there is a propensity for the cans to get corrosive if it’s not the proper lining. Thus we needed to find empty cider cans to fill with our cans.4. We did tests on the can to make sure that that Williams didn’t see through and used a holographic on our sleeves. We definitely underestimated the fact that consumers could but the sleeve off. Obviously we have learned this lesson the hard way.5. For all future production we will use blank cans as we demanded that from Ball or we said we would switch to a Rexam co packer.I guess one more thing to point out about us is that this company was founded by Dan, Bobby and I right out of University. Not to make any excuses, but thought I should make that clear. We had no intention of misleading consumers in any way, shape or form.I understand that you may not love our marketing and think it’s too loud and flamboyant. But also realize we needed a crazy package in order to have a fighting chance as we can’t afford a marketing spend.Here is a link to our website where we explained the Williams issue and posted picture from our production run once we realized it was a problem.
So there you have it. Crazy Beard is a product designed by a few guys fresh out of university to compete with beer/cider hybrids like the one recently released by Molson, and in the rush to bring their product to LCBO shelves, they opted for a less-than-ideal packaging solution. Whatever you felt about Crazy Beard Wild Apple before you knew this information, there’s probably no need to adjust your purchasing habits.