THE PUMPKIN ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL: December 4. 4-5% by volume
CARLING BLACK LABEL
No-one ever said that every door on this advent calendar had to be nice. Instead a few musings on Britain’s most popular lager. Cheap, nasty, stuck in a no-mans-land of medium strength, gassy and generally unloved. But it is Britain’s most popular lager. How and why did this become the lowest common denominator? Is it really, as someone suggested to me the other day, because it is the only English Lager easily availible?
Well let us deal with the first item first. The Carling Brewing company dates back to the 1830′s, set up – yes by an Englishman – but actually in Canada. Thomas Carling pissed off from Yorkshire in 1818, and in the way these things go made an exceptional home brew. This was his amber ale, no DANGER BLACK LABEL signs yet. The idea of Britishness is also feigned by the fact that London was the home of the main Brewery. London, Ontario I should add. The company expands into the US slowly and then gets sold. And sold again. And sold again. Until all that is left is a couple of beers from the line up of porters, stouts and ales. One of which was the Rice lager : Carling Black Label.
The ethos behind CBL was to produce a mass market lager at locally brewed prices. Or, to be more accurate, cut corners so the cheapest brew would be availible nation and worldwide. Indeed at this point, the mid-thirties, Carling stops being anything like a brewing company and instead a selection of beer recipes to be sold around the world. And this is where the UK comes in. As lager became more popular in the seventies it was all about advertising to prize together the weakest from the equally weak. Which brings in the “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label campaign”, one of the most memorable of the eighties. Even these days Carling ads are some of the best on television. Are ads ebough? No, but being owned by brewing giants such as Bass and Interbrew who could count for well over fifty percent of pub coverage certainly helps.
Carling is cheap. It comes in nice big clearly labeled cans and has never, ever refered to itself as being foreign in its advertising. In allying itself with both football and live music it pumps out a huge advertising spend to attract a young drinking audience. It is the only non-premium lager sold in Students’ Unions due to a (some say attrocious) deal made by current owners the US brewing giants Coors. And it tastes bland. If any does say to you “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label”, there are two things worth noting. First, doe snayone really drink it as a conscious choice, as opposed to an alternative to the premium? And secondly, that is also the kind of bloke who bets on a favourite.
For more infor, try this quite frightening Carling fan site (including possibly the dullest blind tasting ever to take place).