The thing about writing a blog is that you have to keep churning out content, and this essentially means that you’re always on the lookout for something to write about. All beer bloggers are doing this all the time in order to stay relevant. By the same hugely generalized token, we’re all hoping to enjoy whatever it is we’re doing. There are beer dinners and beer launches and nights where a brewery will take over tap lineups. Great Lakes had a fantastic one of those the other day, and I imagine I’ll get around to writing about that one in the near future.
The problem is that with the constant need for content, a PR company can essentially flood an entire cycle of blog posts. Michael Warner over at A Year of Beer has already received Okanagan Springs Pale Ale. Chris Schryer over at Toronto Beer Blog will be writing about it soon if he hasn’t already. I couldn’t tell you how many other people have received samples.
Near as I can figure it, this is what happens: PR firm confirms my contact details, sends a small amount of beer with a courier or hand delivers it (sometimes a single bottle, in this case a six pack), and then I get to write about it a little bit. Depending on the blog that you’re writing, next time someone googles the product name, they end up reading your review. The quality and judgment of the review may not matter very much as long as it contains factual information and establishes the fact that the beer in question is a known quantity within whichever market you happen to be blogging about. It creates a number of google results for the product which will be around nearly indefinitely, since putting something on the internet is like peeing in a swimming pool. Once it’s in there, it’s not going to come out.
It is therefore possible to dominate an extraordinarily niche media cycle and create a lasting series of easily available reviews argued from a position of authority for the price of a six pack of beer and a courier delivery. I’m assuming for the purposes of this equation that the PR guy was going to be in the office that day anyway, possibly playing minesweeper or Farmville (which autocapitalizes in Word 2007. DAMN!)
Got that, internet denizen? Moving on:
Here’s what it says on the tin:
“First brewed by Okanagan Spring Brewery in 1989, the Pale Ale is a clear and copper-coloured beer that is fruity on the palate and hearty in hops with a nice, round finish … The recipe hasn’t changed from the original using premium, two-row Canadian barley, Bavarian hops, a signature yeast strain and 100% pure Okanagan spring water.”
LCBO item number: 232645
It pours a nice coppery colour (a six on the Okanagan Spring proprietary colour wheel), with some off white head that quickly recedes. There’s more malt sweetness than I would have expected from the style and whatever hops are in it don’t really come through in the aroma, although there is a bitter twinge on the tail of a sip. It’s kind of fruity. Honestly, I think it might be closer to an ESB than a pale ale.
It’s disappointing and I know why. This is a recipe designed in 1989 and at the time this probably could have been construed as hoppy. Might even have been a provincial champion in 1989. The goalposts have shifted and this can only be considered hoppy for a macro craft beer. It’s drinkable, but it’s not very exciting. I think that might be the hop varietals at play. I don’t quite know why you’d use Bavarian hops in the pacific northwest.
Oh, I know what you’re saying. “Mr. Crankypants beer blogger doesn’t like the free beer that showed up at his door. He wants the moon on a stick.” Truly, though, what I think happened is this: Sleeman’s (Sapporo) now owns a bunch of brands and is trying to spread them throughout Canada in a bid for market share. This may be the best pale ale on their roster and they’re running with it. It’s not objectively bad, but it is objectively mediocre. I mean no offense to Stefan Tobler who designed it originally, since it was probably comparatively pretty good at the time he developed it.
My advice to you, if you’re looking for a pale ale in the LCBO is Black Oak. Not only is it eighty cents cheaper for a six pack, it’s more interesting. You could easily drink Okanagan Spring Pale Ale in a pub without being laughed at, if that’s any consolation.
Now to see whether the building super would like some of the leftover sample bottles.