Carbohydrate modified lager
355ml 4.5% abv
However, for the largest slice of beer drinkers – the ones who are rapidly moving the low-carb beer category towards becoming the biggest in the national beer market – Fosters wants you.
The soon-to-be-demerged beer maker has just released the latest of its mainstream beer offerings under its Carlton brand. Carlton Natural ticks all of the current must-have boxes. According to the brewery’s press release it is “targeted towards 25 to 30 year old men looking for easy-drinking, crisp dry flavour in a beer that is low-carb and brewed with natural ingredients”. Fosters says their research showed “the flavour of the beer hit every sweet spot and the packaging every quality cue.” This is a beer for which style matters and Fosters is very serious about this beer. With the declining fortunes of VB (driven chiefly by the changing nature of the mainstream beer market as the core 18 – 30 market shifts towards this type of beer) and the recent stunting of Pure Blonde’s growth as a result of increased competition in the low-carb space, there is considerable pressure on the brewer for Carlton Natural to succeed. It will certainly be hard to miss in coming months. The launch of Carlton Natural will be supported with a multi-million dollar trade and consumer marketing campaign featuring TV and press ads, outdoor billboards and on and off-premise promotions.
The beer itself is a heavily adjunct-brewed beer bittered with Pride of Ringwood hops and finished with Saaz. The brewery’s media release says the “brewing process is extended in order to break down the complex sugars, keeping the carbs down and the clean crisp flavour up” though, of course, this notion of keeping the “flavour up” must be viewed within the context of the category and the fact that for this style of beer “easy drinking” and “flavour” are more or less mutually exclusive terms.
The brewery’s release describes the beer as “a bright lager low in carbs, with a dry malty palate, herbal hop notes, refreshing bitterness and a clean, crisp finish,” which is a fair assessment, though all are muted. While the flavour is undoubtedly light, the beer does benefit from the dual hop additions, but overall it still suffers from the slightly gluey mid-palate common to carbohydrate modified adjunct beers. The bitterness is just too gentle to pick up the slack here.
Still, comparing Carlton Natural to its competition – which is what the market will do – this beer should do very well. This market is looking for beers with flavour that melts into the background, while still making them feel good about themselves for their choice. In this realm low-carb and all-natural credentials count and the “packaging quality cues” seal the deal. In those terms, there is a lot to like about this beer.
Carlton Natural is now available nationally. RRP $42.99 per case of 24 355mL ABV: 4.5%.
You’ll probably like this beer if: Your ideal wedding car is a stretch hummer.
How does Carlton Natural stack up to other low-carb beers?
[table id=2 /]