Last week’s article looking at the Crown Lager Time campaign highlighted the contrasts between the the standard Crown brew and the 2011 Crown Ambassador Reserve.
By contrast to the regular Crown lager, Crown Ambassador lives up to its marketing with brewer John Cozens and his team pulling out all stops in the preparation of their flagship brew.
Last year’s vintage was overshadowed by the accidental introduction of Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that gives beer a wet horse blanket aroma. First identified by beer writer Willie Simpson, the presence of the infection was subsequently confirmed by brewery testing and most likely introduced through the oak barrels used in the aging process. Despite the obvious embarrassment that comes with such an incident, the infection demonstrates the brewing team had departed from the industrial methods employed in brewing their mainstream beers and were trying something new and interesting. Such infections seem somewhat common in the US craft scene and, at least in my view, didn’t warrant the opprobrium – or perhaps that should be schadenfreude – visited upon Crown Ambassador.
Fortunately, the brewers have stuck with the oak aging, this year ordering two new Dargaud et Jaeglé French oak barrels to use in the process. I was fortunate to be invited to a special tasting of the beer earlier this year that included a blending demonstration. We were provided with oaked and un-oaked samples of this year’s vintage and invited to prepare our own blending ratios to sample the difference. The oaked version was decidedly mellower than the unoaked and the blends were very distinct from the unoaked original. The bottled version incorporates a 10 per cent oaked component.
The only substantial and persisting criticism of Crown Ambassador Reserve in some areas of the market seems to be its price and flamboyance. That really is a matter for the individual. As with everything, price and value are very different creatures. Like the big names from the world of wine, if it represents value to you, it’s worth the price. If you’d rather buy two or three bottles of a less expensive but similar quality beer, it’s probably not value for money – to you. My only observation is that I have given a number of bottles of previous vintages as gifts because, apart from any considerations of the quality of the beer, the label does carry with it a certain something that enhances the gift giving. There is a personal value in that.
Perhaps the only unfortunate aspect of Crown Ambassador is that while it was designed to cast a halo over the struggling Crown brand, it achieves the opposite. Contrast CUB’s openness about the brewing process for Crown Ambassador with their refusal to disclose the lagering times for Crown lager, despite making that time the main feature of their current campaign.
It seems that when CUB say “we can’t share specifics of our recipes or brew times for any of our beers as they’re commercially sensitive”, this only applies when disclosure has the potential to embarrass and undermine the marketing. As the releases below show, when disclosure actually does enhance the brand they will shout it from the rooftops.
Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager will be launched on Monday 14 November 2011. RRP: $89.99 per 750 ml bottle.
2011 CROWN AMBASSADOR RESERVE LAGER
They say good things come to those who wait – and great beers require great patience in the brew and the maturation.
This year, beer lovers will have to wait just a little bit longer for their fix of Australia’s finest luxury beer – Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager – which will be launched on Monday 14 November 2011, coinciding with the President’s Cup in Melbourne.
Crown Ambassador Reserve normally has an August release date but this year’s brew requires a little longer bottle maturation, as well as having had a little longer maturation in oak barrels.
The 2011 vintage will be exceptional, of that there is no doubt, and it will also be a very limited release with just over 5,000 bottles finally being made available for sale to beer lovers, fine retailers and leading restaurants.
We believe the 2011 vintage, our fourth, will be the most sought after, complex and highest quality brew to date.
As you no doubt know, Crown Ambassador Reserve is very different from any beer we brew – we use the freshest hand-picked hops, mature a portion in the finest brand-new Dargaud et Jaeglé French oak barrels and partner it with a magnificent Riedel glass.
Each year since the inaugural release, demand has outstripped supply by a considerable margin and this year we are sure the situation will be no different. So please be patient and be sure to put your name on an appropriate waiting list at your favourite retailer.
As a brewing team, we are delighted with the almost finished product and sincerely believe the 2011 vintage will be the finest we have ever made… we are sure it will be worth the wait.
MEDIA RELEASE – Monday, 21 March 2011
Australia’s most luxurious beer begins its brewing journey in Victoria
2011 Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager set for release on 1 August
On Monday, 21 March, Myrtleford will host brewing royalty as Crown Master Brewer John Cozens and his brewers arrive to select and hand-pick the fresh Galaxy hops to be used in the 2011 Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager, Australia’s most luxurious beer – set for release on 1 August.
The five-month brewing journey to create the highly anticipated limited edition fourth vintage begins at Rostrevor Hop Gardens in the Ovens Valley district of Myrtleford, Victoria, an area renowned for its ideal hop-growing conditions.
The small group of highly experienced brewers led by Master Brewer John Cozens will spend the morning hand-selecting and picking fresh Galaxy hops straight off the bine (hop equivalent of vine) before driving them back to Melbourne that evening. The green hops will be added to the brewing kettle within 24 hours of picking to ensure full freshness is captured in the signature brew. Victoria’s wet conditions over recent months have allowed the Galaxy hops to flourish and the brewing team decided to give them a fortnight longer than previous year’s before picking.
Crown Ambassador Reserve Master Brewer, John Cozens, says the hop harvest is an important milestone in the creation of this extraordinary beer.
“The fresh Galaxy hops are the signature ingredient for Crown Ambassador Reserve and hand-selecting and picking the hops is a key milestone for myself and my brewers.. There’s so much anticipation in the lead up to this day so we’re thrilled to get started on the 2011 vintage,” explains Cozens.
“This year, the conditions have obviously been wet, which is terrific for the hops when they’re growing and we’re expecting the Galaxy aroma and flavour will be well-evident. When it is released in August the beer will have a rich, caramelised malty flavour balanced by bitter-sweet hop characters and finishing with a smooth, full-bodied mouth feel.”
Unique to this year’s vintage, a portion of the brew will be matured for up to three months in brand new French oak barrels which the brewers sourced from the renowned Dargaud et Jaegle (D&J) cooperage in France. This will be the first time D&J has crafted its exquisite barrels to be used for the maturation of beer in Australia and this oak-aged portion will add an additional layer of toasty complexity to this year’s lager and an extra degree of mouthfeel and length on the palate.
This luxurious beer is best enjoyed in the Crown Ambassador Reserve glass to enhance the flavours and aromas of this extraordinary beer. This particular glass was especially chosen by an elite-tasting panel in 2010, led by John Cozens and Georg Reidel, head of the renowned Riedel glass company.
The highly sought-after 2011 Crown Ambassador Reserve will be available from 1 August 2011 at selected quality retailers, restaurants and bars. Only 7000 individually-numbered, champagne-style bottles will be released. RRP: $89.99 per 750 ml bottle. Each 750 ml bottle contains six standard drinks, 10.2% ABV.