Liberty Brewing Co ‘Yakima Scarlet’

Is craft beer too expensive? Maybe it is. I guess the turning point comes on what you consider to be “too”. Undoubtedly, craft beer is expensive, especially compared to cheap wine and beer booze options, but is it “too expensive”?

I’m inclined to say it isn’t, because you get what you pay for, and with the price comes quality (for the most part). But I also need to acknowledge I’m gainfully employed in a decent paying job without any dependants to support (apart from a cat), so I’ve got more money to spare on nice beer than many others.

But, this blog isn’t about the price of beer, not really. But if you are interested, there’s some good reading on the subject elsewhere. Stu McKinley from Yeastie Boys wrote this neat little explanation of what makes up the price of a pint of Gunnamatta a few months ago, and it is certainly worth a read. And the infographic is priceless.

And Epic’s Luke Nicholas has written a good little thing picking apart New Zealand Herald’s beer expert Don Kavanagh, who had a bit of a whinge about the price of a pint. Somehow Kavanagh managed to apply thinking that might (might) apply to the big boys to reach the conclusion that craft beer brewers and craft beer retailers are creaming it. Now, that’s a Tui ad.

yakima scarletBut mentioning the price of beer is a useful segue into writing about the first beer from Liberty Brewing I tried (if my memory serves me right), their ‘Yakima Scarlet’.

Liberty don’t brew cheap beers. You’d be lucky to get one of their 500ml bottles at a supermarket for less than $10, often a few dollars more. At a bar, you’d expect to be set back at least $20 for a bottle, and their pints normally sell at around the $12 price point.

And they’re worth every bloody penny. It has been said that if you feel taken aback by the price of a craft beer, think in terms of how much you might spend on a good quality bottle or glass of wine, and compare that to the price of the beer.

That comparison may not hold true for each and every beer, but it certainly does for Liberty’s brews. Jo Wood makes interesting, high-alcohol beers, from the best ingredients and crafted to perfection.  (Though, that said, recently they’ve also started to bring out more moderate beers, available in six packs of 330ml bottles, that tend to retail around the $22 mark or so).

Liberty’s big beers are beers you’d buy in a bottle to share with someone else over food, or to last you an entire evening by yourself. Its beer you’d probably be wise to buy at the pub in a smaller bulb than a shaker pint, both to bring out the best of the flavour but also to ensure you don’t get smashed off your face from your first pint of the evening. It is beer you’d be wise to treat and think of as a good wine, and enjoy it with the same sense of responsibility and thrill of sensuality.

As I mentioned, Yakima Scarlet was the first of Liberty’s beers I tried, a few years back. It’s an unusual beer, best described as a “hoppy red ale” but, as Jo writes on the label, even the brewer isn’t entirely sure what style it is. It is absolutely a hop-bomb, full and sticky, with a big smell of fresh cut grass from the American hops and a huge bergamot aftertaste.

Yet it’s also very malty, the rich, sweet very red body giving a scent of toffee and a big slightly-burnt caramel sensation in the mouth. It lingers, on and on and on. The hops with their hint of orange and the desert-like sweetness of the malt sit there on your palate for what feels like an age, delicious, relaxing.

A very fine sipping beer. Perfect with roasted meat, or as a long afternoon drink, slowly whiling away the hours with a friend. Just one of many beers made by this company that I’d make that recommendation for.

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