My 1st proper part-time job while I was at Uni, many many moons ago, was in an Off-License in East Kilbride. A very fitting start for me as I think I managed to drink my way around pretty much everything on offer. It was late 90's and student binge drinking was at a tremendous high, the Union forever packed with people knocking back Jack D & Coke and Vodkas like nobody's business. There were student nights available literally every night of the week. If you were in and around Glasgow, that would mean Tuesdays at Trash (basement of The Shack), Wednesday in the Union under the thinly veiled Pool tournament guise, Friday/Sat at the Rat Trap (only open a few years but still the best Rock Club Glasgow has seen), Sundays at the Cathouse or the Garage, even Yang in some attempt to be hip and cool (neither of which I was in uni, or indeed now). In all honesty, if someone upturned a crate in the middle of the street and put some drinks on it, it would have been called a bar and people would have went to it.
The drinks associations, obviously wanting to capitalise on this swell of younger drinkers, wanted to make sure they had products that connected with those folk making their 1st foray into drinking alcohol. Not everyone was a fan of pints of lager or drinking 'halfs' so they looked to fill the void with something equivalent to a gateway drug. The result of such brainstorming gave birth to the Alcopop. Lemon Hooch and Reef being the 1st offerings I remember making it into the Off-License and by hell, did they fly off the shelves. It wasn't long before the rest of the companies jumped on board and rode the same wave with the likes of Bacardi Breezers, Smirnoff Ice, Two Dogs, Moscow Mule, Metz and so on and so forth.
Look, these things more than played their part and I consumed gallons of the stuff back in the day. Especially a cranberry concoction with a black and red label, that I used to buy loads of in the Cat House days, the name of which totally escapes me - most likely from all the brain cells destroyed by overindulgence (answers in the comments if you know the name!). Everyone drank them and they were what they were - easy drinking, accessible, trendy and most importantly cheap. For me, I think that ship has sailed and although you still see remnants of that period still being produced, I reckon the market share is miniscule in comparison to the 90's boom. But, if you want a super fruity, juice-like alcoholic drink - there are still options out there.
"How does this relate to beer though?", I hear you ask. Well, let me elaborate. Craft beers are often, by definition, a bit of an experiment and brewers often strive to set their product apart from the many others available by adding various varieties of hops, or fruit, or flavourings and a whole host of brewing and aging techniques. I'm more than fond of Stouts and Porters loaded up with great coffee, chocolate, vanilla, caramel tones - Millionaire by Wild Beer Co. for example. A chocolate and salted caramel Milk Stout - Dear Lord! Literally foaming at the mouth thinking about it. The one thing all of these have in common though is that ultimately the additions don't detract from what you are drinking - the flavours may be there as an enhancement, but you still very much have the style of the beer as the base drink - be it an IPA, Stout, Porter, Wheat Beer, Pale Ale etc.
The same cannot be said for the subject of this review, Fruli Premium Strawberry Beer. It starts so well from the outset though when you realise it is a Belgian Beer, actually Brewed in Belgium, near Ghent. That should be the seller right there - I love Belgian Beers. They almost invariably nail it on the head every time. Even last night I had a great light Belgian Pale Ale from Buxton Brewery (although actually brewed in England). Unfortunately, this is where any positivity in this review ends.
The moment you crack this beer open and pour it into your glass you realise that what they have managed to do is get Strawberry Jam to the perfect drinking consistency, then added alcohol. It is, for me, nothing more than a fruit smoothie alcopop - and would not at all feel out of place if you had it served up to you at any one of these Fuel, Boost Juice, Juice Zone type Franchises you see popping up everywhere. I mean hat's off to them in that respect - you can clearly tell that this drink (I just refuse to call it a beer) is just packed with fresh strawberries. It is a super-rich and luxurious strawberry flavour that just blows your taste buds up as you drink it, so they have clearly went out of their way to make sure the quality of the product is second to none. However it really isn't a beer. It is supposed to be a 'unique blend of white beer and strawberry juice' - now I don't know if they just get the ratios wildly wrong here but there is barely a hint of underlying alcohol in this. Yes, it is on the lower end of the scale at 4.1%, but even still, this is little more than an alcopop. The idea has crushed the institution. It only makes me sob, wildly into a pillow - at the thought of that potentially stunning Belgian beer being wasted in the process of making this abomination. I honestly despair at what they have done here.
This is just my opinion though and I'm sure there are countless opposing ones out there - no doubt the masses love it. But, for me, a beer, in whatever style you may like, still has to be true to what it is meant to be. It is one thing to think out of the box and step over those lines, but in the words of Joey from Friends "You're so far past the line, you can't even see the line. The line is a dot to you".