The development of a beer brand takes quite a long time. You toil away out of the public eye coming up with a recipe, a style, a bottle design and a name. With so many new beers coming out it was only a matter of time before we ended up with two beers with almost exactly the same idea.
Welcome to the Wife Wars.
The first kid on the block was My Wife’s Bitter, made by Queensland’s Burleigh Brewing. Then (almost two years later) along comes Ex-Wife’s Bitter from the ‘Brothers in Ale’ Brewery. There are also a number of Bitter Wives in the USA brewing scene so I’m not going to point fingers as I don’t think anyone is being particularly original here.
The name is understandable. If you are making a bitter, the wife pun (although slightly puerile) is obvious enough, but then they have ended up with similar designs for the labels. Both contain an attractive young lady, of course here the Burleigh Brewing offering makes more sense. The wife certainly appears to be a catch, although I’m not sure I’d associate bikinis with the English flag.
The Ex-Wife doesn’t really make any sense, she is simply on the label all friendly like, a la Betty Boop. Surely if she was an ex-wife and she was bitter she should be wielding a frying pan, standing next to a pile of burnt suits, or surrounded by a posse of lawyers ready to take half your fortune.
So we have two similar names, similar bottles, but how similar are the offerings really?
Ex Wife’s Bitter is a beer that seems to only be available at The Clarendon Hotel in South Melbourne, this appears to be because it is brewed by one of the owners of The Clarendon.
The Clarendon is the closest pub to my workplace so it really was only a matter of time before I tasted this rather rare beer. It was launched about 3 weeks ago and announced to be me via posters on the outside of the pub.
I was confused (thinking this was the Burleigh Brewing offering) so I investigated using the intererwebs and the makers describe the beer thus: “Underneath the clever name and marketing is a crisp clean full-strength beer with balanced malt characters that has a slight finishing bitterness.”
So does it live up to the promise? Yes, sort of. If you accept that clean and crisp is marketing speak for thin and a bit boring. It looks like a lager out of the tap, but with no head and fewer bubbles than the mainstream boys (which is not a bad thing by the way, as mainstream beers tend to be over carbonated). I personally found the body to be thin, with no real finishing bitterness. It was all just a little bit blah. One of our drinking buddies for the evening Charles described it best when he said “It’s just a beer like any other beer.”
And that’s the point I think. As much as the marketing tells you this is unique, it’s not; it’s about the same as a hundred other beers out there. I’m not being harsh here, there is nothing wrong with this beer, it’s just not that interesting.
That of course means it doesn’t appeal to me, but let’s face it I’m not the normal beer drinker. If you were targeting the type of drinker they get at the Clarendon (white collar 25-40 year old men with too much money and a love of imported euro lagers) then this is absolutely the beer you would release; different enough to give them a reason to buy it, but not different enough to actually challenge them, and importantly for a publican – very sessionable. I can only give it a Pot though.
The My Wife’s Bitter is available all over the place. In fact you can even find it at Uncle Dan’s. It is a less mainstream, more challenging beer. It is an amber red colour, it poured with a nice head but this disappeared quickly. It had a faint smell of toasted malts and had a medium body. There wasn’t a huge hoppy aftertaste, but that is right for the style (English Bitter). It was generally speaking quite nice, not mind-blowingly good, but much better than the Ex-Wife. I’ll just squeeze it in for a Pint.