Just like you, but different
I was kindly sent a 12 box of beers from Harrington’s Brewery. Out of the blue, unsolicited but very welcome. I’ve listed them below and in brackets the arbitrary score out of 10 that I chose to reflect how I felt about them. The links click to the specific reviews.
The 12 beers then:
I invested some time and learnt a few of things drinking beer from Harrington’s.
They talk to the winning the Brewer’s Guild Grand Champion NZ Brewery Award in 2012, A sterling effort in itself, so congratulations on that success.
Harrington’s started up in 1991 as a response to “Overpriced brown ales” and straight from some romantic novel began to brew “real beer at a price that was agreeable to the hard working folk of New Zealand”. The founder also prefers to be knows as “the Godfather of NZ Craft Beer”.
I notice that I don’t see ‘craft beer’ but I do see “real beer” and an alternative to what was available, so pretty much something not ‘Brown Ale‘ by which of course they mean “California Common, or Ambers”, but I digress.
“The beer was different because it was brewed according to the German purity law“, Which is either some laudable crusade or brewing sensibly with the kit available at he time. Or, and I’m going to get really offside, a bit like Homebrew.
Currently they boast a range of over 30 beer, yes over 30 beers. Range suggesting common regular output, not specials or collaborations. a roster of 30 beers through their brewing facility.
I want to pick on a phrase “Not bad for a stubborn little idea” which I think is the crux of the matter. I think, and this is just me, that John Harrington might have at one time been the leading edge, but not so much now.
An Earthquake in 2011 might be the catalyst for a lot of the changes they’ve been through, the brewery might have realised this and are hurrying to re-brand, re-package and re-invent their beers, but not re-invent their recipes. This would explain the confusion of names, and style descriptions with some of the beers I drank so far.
So where others have gone to batch brewed beers, for instance to ‘hop overload’ styles Harrington’s have stuck to the way they did it in 1992. Things have changed. They haven’t. Or don’t appear to have. Perhaps they’re on that journey now. Perhaps they’re at the end and are satisfied. 30 beers on a roster is a big roster.
Sure of course they’ve won awards, some of the beer isn’t bad, but if it ever was it’s just not the edge anymore.
I don’t know if they know how to, or want to, get there, the edge, stubborn is good, but stubborn and blinkered isn’t. Commercial quantity brewing, as distinct from craft quantity brewing might be where I went wrong. These are commercial quantity mainstream everyman beers, that’s what they do, that is what they are.
I don’t think these beers are craft, and the cynical in me says they’re making a play for the craft beer drinker based on the huge rise in the number of craft mic brewers that have appeared.
For me the beers sit well in the pack of similar beers, nothing outstanding, nothing too dreadful, nothing different, just safe, mainstream, middle-of-the-road.
You are expected to pay a premium price for that though, which is the bit I really don’t get.