Sunday, 16 June 2019

Last honk for Honker's

This short post is not one for those who believe that beer drinking should only be done in the pub, rather than in the home. If you’re a cask/real ale aficionado, I can kind of see your point, but there are times when, for a number of reasons, you just fancy a beer in the comfort of your own home.

For me such situations arise whilst I’m sat in front of my computer, bashing away on my keyboard, but they also occur when I fancy  the odd glass of beer with my dinner, or after a hard day in the garden. (Yesterday, was such an occasion).

Being someone who likes a bargain, a trait I acquired from my late mother, I was more than pleased when, whilst out shopping, some high-quality, cut-price beer turned up in the most unexpected and  most unlikely of places.

Earlier today Mrs PBT’s and I popped into our local branch of the discount store Home Bargains, to pick up a few things for the garden. Whilst walking up and down the aisles, I got all excited when I noticed a member of the replenishment team pushing a trolley full of cases of beer.

The beer in question was Honker’s Ale, from US-based Goose Island Beer Company, so hurrying round to the beer aisle I noticed six-bottle packs of this beer, in their own integral carrier, on sale for the bargain price of £3.99. That’s just 67p a bottle! I grabbed a couple of packs off the shelf, and deposited them in our trolley, alongside the seeds and ornamental plant pots Mrs PBT’s had bought.

Yesterday evening, I stumbled upon a potential reason why this well-regarded beer was on sale at such a ridiculously low price. From what I can gather, Honker’s is one of the brands being dropped from Goose Island’s portfolio. The company is no longer an independent, family-owned concern, having been snapped up by US brewing giant, Anheuser-Busch (AB), back in 2011.

Today much of Goose Island’s production takes place at AB plants either in New York, or Colorado, rather than at the company’s original home in Chicago. Honker’s was one of Goose Island’s original flagship beers, but as the demand (particularly in the US), for over-hopped, high-octane double and triple IPA’s has continued to grow, its popularity has declined.

Described as “a fine pale ale that any Englishman would be proud of: traditional yeast, malt and hops make this ale a classic on both sides of the Atlantic,” Honker’s Ale is an excellent, easy-drinking beer, with plenty of malt body, off-set by a rich, fruity hoppiness. For a 4.3%  beer, it certainly packs in plenty of taste, and whilst it might not appeal to citrus-loving, hop-heads, I’m definitely impressed with it, and looking forward to drinking the other 11 bottles. I may well even buy some more!

Honker’s being discontinued, certainly as a regular brand, might well explain why stocks of it have ended up on the shelves of Home Bargains. The beer is packaged in 355ml bottles, rather than the more usual 330ml ones. The larger size is standard for North America, although they have been labelled to meet UK regulations.

So the United States’ loss appears to be the UK’s gain, for the time being at least, and full marks to the buying team at Home Bargains for snapping up this “unwanted  classic” North American ale.

You can read more about what Goose Island (or rather AB), have been up to here, at the Guys Drinking Beer website.                                                                                                               


quill said...

Hi Paul, I live in the USA & used to buy Honkers. I think the biggest problem was that AB-Inbev insisted on selling a 4.3% beer at a premium price. Maybe if they had re-priced it to a Bud/Bud-Light price it would have had more success, but they were unwilling to do that. I understand the idea of protecting so-called premium brands, but the end result was to kill-off a good mild ale (something we get precious little of over here). Dogfish Head did the same thing with their Shelter Pale Ale, which isn't made any more. Enjoy the Honkers while it's there, I wish I could join you.

electricpics said...

I used to buy Oakham Citra from B&M on the same premise of a good bargain. Until I bought a couple of fresh bottles from Marks and Sparks. I realise hop-forward beers are particularly susceptible to age but even stouts and brown bitters seem to be very tired when they're nearly six months old.

Paul Bailey said...

Hi quill, thanks for putting me in the picture about Honker’s and AB-Inbev. It sounds like a case of corporate greed, which has backfired. It’s a shame they didn’t reconsider, especially as it has led to the demise of this excellent ale.

I was in the US for a couple of weeks last summer, staying with my sister and her husband in northern Ohio. There was craft beer aplenty, but not much below 6% ABV. My brother-in-law was bemoaning the situation as he too, prefers lower strength beers, having lived in England for 13 years.

I don’t mind the occasional “hop-bomb”, but I don’t want to be drinking those types of beers all the time. I ended up drinking a lot of locally produced pilsner, as most of that was around 5% ABV.

I will certainly enjoy the Honker’s, while it lasts, and will call in and see if there’s any left at the discount store tomorrow.

electricpics, the Honker’s has a BBE date of November 2019, so I guess it’s just over six months old. It still tastes pretty good, although I will take note of what you say, as I have a couple of bottles of stout, which I picked up at B&M, kicking around at home.

Sounds like it might be advisable to drink them sooner, rather than later.