An interesting test of a media release is to read it and see what impressions are formed when it’s something you know absolutely nothing about. This media release about Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer was just such a release.
Reading about the ‘four secret ingredients’ used in a ginger beer that remains ‘true to the same exotic recipe that was first crafted by John Crabbie & Co in Edinburgh in 1801’, I assumed that this was brewed by a ye olde Scottish company. But then, how could it be the ‘most successful launch in the last five years’? I was sniffing the sort marketing I love to hate, faux heritage, and I started investigating.
A trip to the website just rehashes the same marketing guff, but a quick look through the privacy statement reveals that www.crabbiesgingerbeer.co.uk is owned by Halewood International Limited. A bit of time sifting through the interwebs reveals that “In just over thirty years Halewood International has gone from being a Yorkshire based start up company to the UK’s largest independent drinks manufacturer and distributor with a turnover in excess of £250 million and more than 1,500 employees worldwide.”
Halewood seems to have done everything from import wine from Ceausescu-era Romania, through to getting into a bit of bother with the UK’s House Select Committee on Alcohol for its marketing practices. The products that got it in trouble included Sidekick, a 14.5% ABV “pouring drink that can be consumed in a number of ways: As a shot, Over Ice, With a Mixer or Shared with friends as a cocktail ingredient in a pitcher.” It also imports and markets Tsingtao beer in UK, as well as a liqueur intriguingly known as Yates White Australian Liqueur or ” more popularly known as Yates Aussie”.
There does once seem to have been a distillery company with a presence in Leith called John Crabbie & Co. A 1994 article by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society reveals:
This large modem brewery had only been erected in 1825, but the company went into liquidation in 1848. John Crabbie was a close friend of Andrew Usher and it was from Margaret Balmer, the latter’s wife, that John Crabbie learned the secret of producing green ginger wine. It was for the production of this and other wines and cordials that he used the Yardheads premises. A gin still remains there to this day. Crabbie’s was recently bought by Macdonald & Muir, also of Leith and the production of the famous green wine will continue in Leith.
After a couple of hours of internet searching that offered no clearer history of the brewery or the brand or how it came to be in the hands of Halewood, it seems that whatever the origins of the Crabbie’s brand, the current incarnation has about as much in common with that of 1801 as the modern James Squire brand has in common with the historical James Squire.
Even more surprising then is that with this pedigree, I really, really enjoyed the drink itself. The ginger beer delivered a biting ginger sharpness that had a peppery burning quality that was almost akin to a robust hop bitterness. While still reminiscent of the soft drink version of ginger beer, it has much more interesting flavour and complexity than I expected and I will certainly be seeking it out again. Forget the claims of centuries-old heritage and the serving instruction of pouring it over ice with a slice of lemon; just enjoy it – slightly chilled as a lowish-alcohol summer refresher that offers much greater flavour return than most of the ciders going around at the moment. [MK]
Refreshing ginger beer, only for grown-ups.
Just in time for summer, Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, one of Scotland’s best-loved brands, has made it to our shores.
Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is a spicy, refreshing drink made using a traditional process and remains true to the same exotic recipe that was first crafted by John Crabbie & Co in Edinburgh in 1801.
Still proudly produced by the Crabbie clan, it is now one of Europe’s best-known brands and has ridden a wave of excitement that has seen ginger beer become the runaway hit of the European summer.
In the UK, the Brits are now selling 2.5 million cases per annum (since the March 2009 launch) and over 80,000 bottles are drunk per day. AC Neilson described it as ‘the most successful launch in the last five years’ and its stocked in over 35,000 on- and off-premise outlets. Already dubbed the ‘new cider’ and tapping into consumer desire for ‘craft’, it’s the perfect refresher for both nostalgic drinkers who remember the traditional ginger beer of yesteryear and the curious younger set looking for the next big thing.
Alcoholic ginger beer has a long heritage; in the mid-19th century, British soldiers popularised the drink throughout the world, taking it with them to their colonial outposts. Today, it enjoys a huge resurgence and, given the craze in the northern hemisphere during summer, ginger beer looks set to be one of our most popular tipples over the warmer months.
Now it’s Australia’s turn to discover the same deep, deliciously spicy flavour that has been enjoyed around the world for more than 200 years.
Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is a zesty tipple made from a base of four secret ingredients which work together to produce that unique Crabbie’s taste. This secret combination is then steeped for six weeks with real ginger sourced from the ‘Far East’ (the inspiration behind the distinctive elephant logo), then carefully blended and bottled.
Through centuries of experience and the use of only the finest products, the uniquely refreshing sparkle of Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer is crammed full of real ginger, fruits and spices.
Perfect for sipping by the pool or at a barbeque with friends, Crabbie’s is sensational served in a pint glass over ice with a slice of lemon or lime; delicious on its own or with food.
Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4% Alc/vol) 500ml bottles RRP $7.99 per bottle, cases of 12 RRP $69.99
Available in unique embossed bottles, exclusively through Woolworths Liquor, BWS and Dan Murphy’s.