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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Redhook Slim Chance

The history of light beer is brief relative to other styles, and certainly less august. After a few fits and starts in the 1960s, Lite Beer from Miller struck the right chord in the 1970s and we have been burdened with this phenomenon since. Light beers are effectively a PR trick, not a beer; Miller, the first to actually sell the beer, did it through clever advertising ("Tastes great!" "Less filling!") Our sports events have been clogged with blights like Spuds MacKenzie and silver bullets ever since.

Of course, we've always had light-bodied, low-alcohol, low-calorie beer. In fact, the regular macros are pretty damned low-cal. A standard Bud or Coors clocks in at 150 calories, while their light version runs about 100. But draft Guinness has just 125 calories. Deschutes Cascade is 140. Widmer Hef is 159. (Buy low alcohol, light-colored beer, and you can be assured it's relatively low-cal.) The average man eats 2,500 calories a day--if he's putting away so many beers that he has to watch the difference between 125 and 150 calories, he's got a bigger problem than a beer gut.

And now we have Slim Chance, Redhook's entry into the low-cal sweepstakes. It's not the first craft-brewed light beer, nor even the first light ale. Hell, it's not even the first low-cal Redhook ale (Sunrye tips the scale at just six more calories than Slim Chance). It is, transparently, a market-driven lunge toward sales.

(We've recently been discussing what a "craft" beer is. I would argue this is a perfect example of what it's not. This beer's raison d'etre is commercial; nothing about it was "crafted," unless you mean by the marketers. That it comes from a craft brewery gives it no sufficient fig leafage, so far as I'm concerned.)

So how's the beer? Fine. It's professionally-made, reasonably drinkable, and actually pleasant. It's got just 3.9% alcohol but a noticeable 18 IBUs. There's a smattering of wheat, providing interest. It's lively on the tongue and easy to swallow. I'd certainly choose it over anything the macros are peddling. But it's not a high point of the brewers art, nor was it intended to be. It's a commercial product, period.

[Post slightly edited for clarity.]


  1. Wow, you really lost it on this one.

    Almost all beer is commercial product; intended to sell, and to make the brewery money. If it tastes decent, who cares if it was brewed to fit a market niche? Don't brewers do that all the time with IPA vs Ale vs Stout vs ...? After reading the first 3/4 of the post I thought you were going to call it undrinkable swill!

  2. "Hell, it's not even the first low-cal Redhook ale (Sunrye tips the scale at just six more calories than Slim Chance)."

    That is what makes it purely commercial.

  3. I agree with Jeff, commercialism sucks, the brewery should just give me free beer to prove they are crafty and not just in it to make money.

    Rolls eyes.

    Man, I thought Dr. Wort would be all over this one. He must still be on vacation and I have to pick up the slack.

    ;-} (keeping the doctor alive)

  4. Joe identified the subtlety in my argument, but actually Eric and Ralph, stay tuned, I am going somewhere with this commercialism idea.

  5. Redhook for me has kind of fallen off my beer purchasing map for quite awhile now. They were the big thing over 10 years ago with being a really great craft and all.. but they didn't change enough over the times... or re-introduce different lines of brew to catch up with the trends.. I for one really liked the rye brews.. but all I ever see on the shelves my way is the ESB (extra special boring), and the so-so Longhammer IPA.. which just doesn't touch the competition anymore. Don't get me wrong... I love Redhook.. but they need to avoid the marketing/distribution stuff for awhile and go back to their roots.. reinventing craft beer. Make a few big bottles.. explore rye a bit more... and indulge in some different styles more such as Dunkle Weisse, Belgians, and Wits.. w/ Drifter on the shelves.. I will always pass this light brew up.

  6. Just had slim chance @ yardhouse...I'd put it in the same suck level as miller (piss water) lite!!