It’s interesting to take a look at brands that have been around for centuries and whose success basically speaks for itself. Take Leffe for example. This beer has been brewed since the 13th century and is still going strong. Despite no longer being independent, there's little point asking whether the beers is any good… the numbers speak for themselves.
The right question is rather, “what makes it so successful?”
Well, I guess centuries of establishing one's brand is a good starting point for success and has given Leffe a head-start over many nascent beer producers. Look at Leffe’s beer bottles, to be fair they’re pretty unexciting. With an established brand like Leffe and a reputation that precedes the name - flash, eye catching labelling is simply unnecessary and this affords the brand the luxury of the middle road. Craft breweries appearing now find themselves in a saturated market and must employ every tactic possible, the first of which is the shock and awe of the label. As we know - this can work a treat. But, ultimately, extravagant can artwork is polarising and, for every person to whom it speaks, there is another for whom it will fall on deaf ears. What’s not to like about a yellow label with a slightly gothic font? The Leffe labelling simply advertises the name, and does not try any other form of seduction.
It’s the age old principle keeping things simple. Concentrate on what’s in the can and the rest will follow. Build the right beer and they will come. Leffe’s beers are ultimately straight forward… but they’re bold and big, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Let’s crack this blonde and see what it’s about…
It's a beautiful golden amber in the glass with a striking white head. The nose has a lager brightness to it, complexed by notes of cloves, spice, banana skins and florals and leads to a rich palate of candied peels further spice and a refreshing bitter finish. It's refreshing but has plenty of body thanks to the highish ABV and some sweetness too. It's a very decent tasting beer with plenty of character and Belgian typicity, a real crowd pleaser, if you like, that would certainly gratify more than it would offend.
So, it’s success is seemingly built on the middle ground and by appealing to a large audience. This isn't a beer that is trying to reinvent the wheel and perhaps this is something for the modern craft brewer to consider.