Devil Dodger and drinking the label

Taste can be a funny thing.

When Sail & Anchor’s Devil Dodger IPA first came out I raced to Uncle Dan’s to buy some. Partially because it was a new beer and I’m gradually becoming more obsessed with the phrase ‘‘new beer’’, but also because the brewery had earned a lot of respect with me through their first special release.Devil Dodger IPA

That was Jack Tar, an imperial stout. Really, the fact that a mainstream supermarket-owned brewery chose to release an imperial stout was so unexpected. The beer geeks had been railing against Sail & Anchor with cries of ‘‘faux craft! faux craft!’’ and what does the brewery do in response? Make a beer that is squarely targeted at the beer geeks.

And it was a fine imperial stout too.

So when that second special release came about – the Devil Dodger – I was expecting to be blown away all over again. But it didn’t happen, I was disappointed by the beer.

Then, not too long ago this guy named Joey emails me and asks if I’d like to have some Devil Dodger. Seeing as my policy when asked if I want some free beer is to say ‘‘yes’’, I said yes. Even though I knew I wouldn’t like it a lot.

But, hey, turns out I was wrong. This time, when I cracked the bottle my nose was assaulted with some lovely fruity hop aromas. In fact they reminded me of the aroma from the hop pellets I use in homebrewing and I’d never experienced that in a beer before. The flavour is nice and piney with some underlying mango and fruit flavours along with some slight sweetness. By the end of the glass I’d gone from disliking the beer to being a total convert.

I have no idea why I had a negative reaction the first time around. It certainly wasn’t a response to it being a ‘‘supermarket beer’’ – I’m not one of those types who ‘‘drink the label’’. That’s the phrase I use to describe people who effectively decide whether they like a beer based more on the label than the beer itself.

I’ve read tweets from beer geeks who have drunk Jack Tar and basically said ‘‘yeah, it’s all right. Not as good as a real craft beer though’’. But I reckon, if you poured the Jack Tar into a glass and told them it was the new Rare Breed from Mountain Goat or the latest collab between Bridge Road and Nogne, they’d have a very different reaction. Then they’d suddenly be talking about how great it was.

I’ve also seen some beer geeks feel guilty for liking Devil Dodger. But really, there’s nothing to feel guilty about, you’re simply taking the beer on its merits. To me that’s far better than operating by some rule that says that all craft beer is great and all mainstream beer is crap.

Because that’s simply not true. Making a decent tasty beer isn’t that hard. I’m a homebrewer of a pretty ordinary standard and, from time to time, I can create beers that make people go ‘‘wow, this is really good’’. So if I can do it sometimes, I’m pretty sure a professional brewer can do it with far more regularity.

For me, all that matters is the beer. If it tastes good, I don’t care where it comes from. The fact that it tastes good AND is free is an added bonus.

11 replies »

  1. Good post and some excellent points about “drinking the label” – I’m newly exposed to the underworld of beer geeks but am building similar perceptions. If the beer’s good it should be highlighted as such regardless of it’s origin.

    I also enjoyed Devil Dodger, it wasn’t a world beater but I’m looking forward to S&A’s next special release because of this.

  2. interesting!!!!
    I had one – and it was wonderful…. just as you note.. so of course I bought a second, and it was a pale shadow of the first.

    Dunno whether standing on the floor (sadly not in fridge) in Danno’s made the difference but it was only around two weeks later, suspect some bottle variation going on..

  3. Great article, I always try to keep an open mind and I had a very similar experience in that really liked Jack Tar but found the bottle of Devils Dodger I bought from Dan’s was underwhelming, the LC pale I’d been drinking before had muddy punchier flavours. I wondered whether if the DD had been labeled as a pale not an IPA whether my experience would’ve been different. Reading your article, maybe I need to revisit!

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