So much for the “happy accident.”
Great Lakes Brewing Co. has pulled 22-ounce bottles of Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale from its gift shop and won't release the beer in the retail market because it took on an unexpected sour flavor.
The Cleveland brewery, which has a reputation for taking quality seriously, at first called the sourness a “happy accident" and said it expected sour-loving fans to enjoy the brew, a barrel-aged version of its popular Christmas Ale. But craft beer drinkers on social media were sour to that idea, accusing Great Lakes of trying to pass off infected beer on its customers.
The brewery posted a message Monday morning on its website and Facebook page saying the beers would be yanked from its gift shop. Retailers also were notified over the weekend that they wouldn't receive the beer.
"This was a difficult choice for us to make, especially since it concerns a beer that so many of our customers were excited to try (and one that we were excited to release)," brewery spokeswoman Marissa DeSantis said in an email.
"Many of us found the sour flavors to add a pleasant (yet unintended) complexity to the beer, which we thought some of our fans might also appreciate," she added. "For that reason we initially planned to make the beer available to the public in our gift shop. Ultimately though, after several internal conversations, we decided we did not feel right releasing a packaged product with a flavor that was unintended by our brewers. We will reserve several bottles for additional lab testing and [quality control], but they will not be available for purchase."
Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale still will be available to sample on draft at the brewpub. But the brewery won't sell pints or growlers.
Brewer Mark Hunger attributed the sour flavor to "the presence of active compounds in the barrels" used.
“Our products are totally natural and sometimes nature can be unpredictable," he said in a statement. "This is especially true with these barrel-aged beers. It can be like unwrapping a gift and not knowing what is under the wrapping paper. The main reason this happened is that these are second-use barrels that were used for Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout.”
Here’s the full statement posted by Great Lakes:
“This morning we chose to pull Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale from our gift shop shelves. We’d first like to apologize to those who traveled or planned to travel to our shop to purchase the beer. Last week when we discovered that our Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale had taken on sour notes, we found those complex flavors exciting, and we hoped we would be able to share the beer with you. Ultimately however, we decided that we do not feel comfortable selling a beer with an unintended flavor profile — that’s not fair to you, and it’s not in keeping with our standards of quality and consistency. Once again, we apologize to those who hoped to purchase Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale. We will have it on tap in our pub today if you’re interested in sampling it. Once again, if you have any comments or questions, please contact us at email@example.com.”
Acme Fresh Market beer buyer Jon Albrecht and other retailers said they were notified over the weekend that the beer wouldn't be released as expected this week because of an off flavor.
"I think they are doing the right thing," Albrecht said.
But Facebook comments were harsh before Monday's announcement.
“Selling infected beer as a ‘happy accident’ sour?” Eric Evans wrote. “I would have assumed GLBC would have more respect for the consumers.”
Meanwhile, Zack Carruth wrote: “Selling this beer to the public as a ‘happy’ accident is a slap in the face to consumers and is going to cause a lot of backlash locally. The fact that this was only brought to light 12 hours before the release just verifys [sic] how shady releasing this beer truly is. Just goes to show that glbc [sic] is more concerned about $$ rather than producing quality beers, and making customers happy.”