Blonde Ambition

At the Oktoberfest one year, a whiskery old Bavarian chap leaned over to me, winked and said conspiratorially, “You would make a fine member of the Hitler Youth”. I reckon he’ll be there this year too, intimidating the foreigners.  The point is that until my early 20’s I was blond. My wife is blond. My daughters are blond. And let’s be honest, blond is where it’s at. At least, it is in food and drink.

I was mulling on this as I drank a pint of Hawkhead’s Windermere Pale, described on its label as a ‘blonde beer’.  And it is; it’s a moreishly moreish 3.6% ABV pale ale, as bright and glowing as a sherbet lemon with a beautiful hop note on the nose, which reminds me of Amarillo but I’m sure can’t be. It’s not alone.    Most major ale brewers have a blonde in their range now, be it Wychwood or Fullers … and the smaller players are in on the act too – Slater’s of Stafford with their Top Totty Blonde (the one that caused a Parliamentary kerfuffle recently – but not as seismic as Jimmy Carr fortunately) and then of course, is Castle Rock, which with Harvest Pale, ‘The Finest Blonde Beer’, won Champion Beer of Britain in 2010.

Far from being the realm of the Ginge, Scotland seems a hot bed for blondes, so to speak. Innes & Gunn, Oban & Aran all contributing fine examples, spurred on I’m sure by the great success of Deuchars north & south of the border. So many blondes in fact that it’s almost become a beer style in its own right.  Given that there don’t seem to be any rules about what makes a beer ‘blonde’, this alone is interesting.

And if that’s happening here, you can imagine what’s going on over the water: a blonde bombshell (*groan*).  There are genuine ‘blonde’ beers – blonde wheats, Belgian-style blonde ales, double hopped blonde IPAs, American Blonde Ales; and then of course there are just the gratuitously named blonde beers, like ‘Pure Naked blonde’ or ‘Big Ass Blond’. Right on.

I chose this image after Googling ‘Big Ass Blonde’ took me to pages the kids shouldn’t see.

It’s not just beer though. Wherever brand owners are looking for a short cut to a ‘lighter’ product, the word ‘blonde’ is cropping up. Take Starbuck’s, they have just launched a ‘Blonde’ roast in their stores – in fact it’s a range, including ‘Veranda’, ‘Willow’ and ‘Decaf Willow’. Mind you, given that many people call it Charbucks, they probably needed to. Apparently they are ‘subtle’ ‘refreshing’ ‘lighter bodied’ yet ‘full of flavour’. Sound familiar?

And it makes the job of innovating a lot easier.  When I’m developing my next new beer, I shall be raiding the shelves of the hair colourant market.  My ‘Plum Power’ Pale Ale and ‘Cayenne Red Mahogany Brown’ Ale are just bound to be winners.

© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles 2012

Author: David Preston

Brand expert; beer enthusiast; outdoorsman; fell walker; writer; eclectic observer; pun lover

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