• The Shit Beer Review Part II: VB

    Other than XXXX, VB is perhaps Australia's most maligned mass market beer.  It's also one of it's oldest and possibly most iconic, so what better occasion than the Australia Day long weekend to take another one for the team, by tasting whether VB is really that shit.

    First things first.  Victoria Bitter is not a bitter, it's a bloody lager.  Very annoying.  You wouldn't call a sprite a coke, you wouldn't call a riesling a shiraz, so why is it ok to call a lager an ale?  Come on people.

    Ok, so rant over, CUB does have some extenuating circumstances for the shameless mislabelling of their flagship product.  Firstly, it's been brewed since 1854 and would undoubtedly have started life as an ale, because refrigeration didn't make it to Australia until the 1880s, making lager brewing possible.

    Secondly, interestingly VB is fermented at a very warm 18 degrees, almost ale yeast temperature.  Presumably this is mostly about speeding up fermentation to make more faster and cheaper.  It's for the flavour, says the VB website.  Yeah right.  This is the brand that famously pissed off their customers royally a few years back, by watering down the recipe to save a few dollars of excise tax.  Sales tanked and CUB soon made an about face.  VB now weighs in at a respectable 4.9% ABV.

    Thirdly, less convincingly, CUB claims they "only use bittering hops, not flavour or aroma hops".  Seriously?  You deliberately set out to brew a beer sans flavour or aroma?  That's just weird.  I have no idea why CUB's marketeers think that no flavour or aroma hops is something to boast about.  It's like a chef bragging he doesn't season his food.  Maybe they're trying to say that VB's a tough guy beer and flavour's for pussies.  Who knows?

    Anyway, time to taste this bitter / lager Frankenbeer.  A few weeks ago XXXX Gold exceeded my admittedly minimal expectations.  Can VB do the same?

    My VB pours well enough, a fine creamy white head builds quickly on the orange-gold beer.  However, from the can there is apparently only mild carbonation and so the head soon dissipates disappointly.   A deep inhale yields a slightly fruity aroma, suggesting perhaps at least some late hop additions, or maybe esters from the relatively warm fermentation.

    The slight fruitiness carries through to the flavour profile.  It's quite sweet, despite the 4.9% alcohol there's clearly plenty of unfermented sugars present.  The finish is not especially dry, particularly considering the big talk about bitterness.  The overall impression is more cloying than cleansing.

    VB is not light and crisp like a good lager should be, but as the name suggests, perhaps that's not what they're aiming for.  It's more like a bad ale.  I now get why CUB's marketing is so insistent that VB is best consumed ice cold; it's so you don't have to taste it.

    So is VB really that shit?  Yep.

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