We’re not big on beer commentary here at The Brew Club, but I happened upon a piece at The Wall Street Journal about InBev’s New 0%-Alcohol Beer, and just had to write something.
Now, Hoegaarden is one of the more popular Belgian Witbiers and we even gave it a very respectable review way back in August 2008.
Things being as they are, I’ve come to find other Witbiers that I prefer more, but in my mind, Hoegaarden is a classic brand with a classic product with a very interesting history that has withstood the test of time.
So it seems their parent company, In-Bev, wants to expand the Hoegaarden beer portfolio. Great! Maybe a Saison? How about something crazy like a Lambic? (I’m thinking Belgian here.)
Nope. They announced in their 2011 shareholder meeting an alcohol-free beer. With a cool name like H0 (H-Zero), it seems to be that any kind of european beer tradition or class that was once associated with this brand has been erased.
H-Zero? You’ve got to be kidding.
Here’s what some people who have tried this new classic think.
…akin to a watered-down lemon Fanta. OK — refreshing even — if you know what you’re getting.
“It’s lovely, like a Hoegaarden shandy,” said a female colleague, referring to a beer and soft drink cocktail.
Male colleagues’s reviews were more bitter. “Like sweet dish soap,” said one.
The reason to create this beer is confirmed as a calculated business move on the part of In Bev. …“you want a portfolio [of drinks] that allows consumers to stay within your franchise.” So are they after the elusive European female shandy market? To me, it sounds like rubbish.
I guess it makes sense though. It seems that in Europe, where good beer originated, sales of beer have (pun intended) gone flat. Being outsold by awesome beverages like water and soda, it seems the In-Bev marketing folks wanted to try capturing the non-alcoholic beverage market.
But it seems to me that the fix for sluggish beer sales would not be a pseudo-beer that tastes like water, or better still, ‘sweet dish soap’. If you make beer, why not make a better beer?
Perhaps what Europe needs now (again?) is American intervention. American beer intervention. Perhaps brewing interesting and original beers is what will jump start beer sales, and not stuff like H-Zero.
I think that this is why Stone Brewing will be a huge success in Europe when they finally set up shop. A vast untapped (another pun!) market for American craft brewers! Will there be more to follow?
What do you think?