I’m a sucker for a decent concept! Boneface’s planet Hoptron in a galaxy not so far away and the Chouffe gnomes from the valley of the fairies spring to mind, and it’s fair to say that concepts pop up in the beer world on a fairly regular basis.
Often they incorporate an element of sci-fi, fantasy or escapism, with a nod to the inner child that still remains in us all. This in itself is an extension of the drink after work on a Friday night theme - when you want to forget about the world and, well - loosen up a bit.
Ideally, for a concept to work it needs to be self explanatory and easy enough to spot via the artwork on the can. People don’t always read the blurb on the back and so you can’t rely on this as a means of conveyance. Again, Boneface and Chouffe do this well - at opposite ends of the spectrum too which is interesting.
Uiltje is another brand to go down the conceptual route - offering (in their own words) “a moment of escape in a crazy and stressful world” - with a goal of “making you laugh or at least putting a smile on your face.” In this respect, It’s fair to say, they are right on the money - as their stuff is cray-zeeeeee!
The name Uiltje means owl in Dutch and so the brewery has created a bunch of cartoon owls to define their brand (which arguably look more like chickens) and who do some pretty strange things; flying Spitfires, playing American football and in today’s beer (which is part of their go Back in Time series) - going back in time to to debunk the myths of the ancient Egyptians. What the actual ….!! A concept beer within a high concept brand - a concept too far perhaps?
Bah, let’s not take life too seriously, after all, I think we’d be missing the point if we did!
Let’s just taste the beer… I’m keen on some liquid escapism after all. It’s a Black IPA, which rather fittingly is one of the beer world's most confused styles… an oxymoronic black pale! Let’s give it a whirl…
Pours a dark liquorice black with a dense tight tan head. Woah… the nose is superb - bursting with tropical hops which are then tamed by an element of black chocolate and biscuity malt. The palate really could be an IPA if you were tasting this blind, but there are iron-like porter notes and a slightly sweeter finish than you might expect from an out and out IPA…
A very tidy beer indeed with a lot going on. I poured it straight from the fridge - allow it to warm a bit and the malt will no doubt come to the fore a touch more...
There’s is a fine line that must be trod with successfully concept branding. Perhaps the guys at Uiltje overstep this line, and maybe they will lose some customers in the process. On the other hand, in being so outlandish and extreme they may well speak clearly and strongly to a specific demographic. It’s a gamble, but if you pull this off then there’s real brand loyalty to be gained… and I guess that is worth the risk.