I was quite interested to see that Great Lakes Brewery is finally doing an overhaul on their core range. First on the chopping block appears to be Crazy Canuck which will now be known simply as “Canuck Ale” (see the Q&A here). I believe there was a glimpse of the new character on the label for Apocalypse Later.
I view this as a real positive for the brewery who, since the launch of the Tank Ten series has had a somewhat schizophrenic brand identity. While each Tank Ten came with a unique illustration and a slick, unified theme, their core range was left somewhat to languish with outdated looks and a mish-mash of labels. Indeed, one might have been forgiven for thinking that the products in the beer store were from a different brewery than the LCBO and brewery exclusive one-offs. This was especially confusing because there actually is another Great Lakes Brewing Company out of Cleveland, Ohio.
In my opinion, this will better help tie the brewery’s more outlandish one-offs to its core range which is slightly more conservative. There is no word on what is happening with the rest of the brewery’s core products, but I would not be surprised to find out the somewhat tamer offerings such as the quartet of flavoured seasonals are being axed in favour of more ‘modern’ craft products. What I mean by that, is GLB may be gearing up for a more familiar core line-up from a craft brewery which generally contains IPAs, DIPAs, stouts/porters and high-gravity seasonals like an RIS, a barleywine or even a Belgian Abbey Ale. Given that GLB has successfully done nearly every style imaginable in their Tank Ten Series, they wouldn’t exactly be taking a huge risk as they’ve essentially market tested all of these. I think its somewhat telling that the first beer to get the new treatment is a firm craft favourite: the west-coast APA.
In this respect, I feel the only thing GLB will have to be cautious of is standing apart enough from other breweries. Recently, American-style craft products have taken off in the Ontario drinking scene. Whereas a few years ago a hoppy IPA was something of a rarity, the market is now seemingly full of them. Indeed, we now see companies like Sawdust City launch with an IPA and an RIS into the LCBO before even having a physical brewery. In this respect, I think it may be wiser for GLB to keep its core line-up small and continue with a rotating schedule of one-offs. This way, they can cash in on the interest a new beer produces, without permanently wading into the somewhat saturated market for certain styles.
I wish GLB all the best in this transition and will continue to buy and review their innovative products. Look for a review of the refreshed Canuck Ale soon!