Who would have ever thought, five years ago, that the ascendant, driving commercial force in the craft beer world in 2019 would be … health consciousness?
Yeah, it still sounds weird to say, even a year or two into this drive toward both moderation and healthier alcohol consumption. One company that has certainly embraced the ethos with arms wide open, though, is Dogfish Head. A company previously known for genre-bending beers and massive brews like 120 Minute IPA and World Wide Stout, they have remade their image thanks to the success of SeaQuench Ale, a gose that was very successfully targeted toward a health-conscious demographic—the same type of demographic that has made Michelob Ultra the most successful macro brand of the last five years. As Good Beer Hunting put it a while back, it’s clear that the “Mich Ultrafication of Beer” is in full swing, for good or bad. That’s how you end up with a company like Dogfish Head advertising its gose as being “arguably the most refreshing and health conscious beer in the market that won’t take its toll on your beach body.”
Of course, the further a company pushes in one direction, the more likely they are to take things too far, into the realm of obsolescence. And looking at the description of Dogfish Head’s brand new SuperEIGHT gose, it’s hard not to immediately feel like that point has probably been reached.
SuperEIGHT is described as “a new SUPER beer designed for active lifestyle enthusiasts interesting in incorporating high-quality ingredients in their beer choices.” Which is to say, it’s packed with eight buzzy, “heroic ingredients” that may or may not confer some sort of health advantages when consumed in beer form. These ingredients include “prickly pear, mango, boysenberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, kiwi juice and a touch of quinoa,” finally giving a beer to those people who had been saying “this boysenberry kiwi gose is fine, but I wish it had some quinoa in it.” Dogfish Head says the nationally available beer (6pk/12oz cans) will hit store shelves in early April, and will feature a slightly tart taste with “delicious flavors of berries and watermelon.” Kind of interesting that they cite watermelon, given that none of the super-ingredients is watermelon.
As you’d expect, there’s a big hype quote from Dogfish Head icon Sam Calagione with the press release:
“We’re comin’ at ya with so much juicy flavor with the latest release of our new Gose, SuperEIGHT,” Calagione said. “With the meteoric success of SeaQuench Ale growing to be the best selling sour beer in America,* we learned from consumers that approachable, refreshing, super-flavorful beers are what they’re seeking when making choices about beverages. We’re listening, we heard you, and we think you’re going to love our wildly delicious SuperEIGHT.”
It’s not that I doubt that health-conscious beer consumers exist. They clearly do. What I doubt is that there’s a huge market of people looking at beer labels thinking “oooh, it’s got quinoa! I need to get more plant protein in my beer.” It’s also natural, I think, to be somewhat suspect of whether a the flavor profile of a beer will work, when the goal of the beer was simply to bring a lot of exotic ingredients together for the sake of “health” headlines.
But who knows? Perhaps SuperEIGHT will be an immaculately refreshing wonder beer, and I’ll be forced to drink my words. I look forward to tasting it when it makes its debut.
For more on Dogfish Head SuperEIGHT—including the fact that this beer is being used to develop Kodak film, by the way—check out Dogfish’s website.