I saw an ad on the internet today about a new “Premium White” beer from Alexander Keith’s. They’re the same folks that bring you one of the most widely available India Pale Ales on the market and their relatively new Red Amber Ale. If you look at other Canadian breweries, there is only one other that pushes Red and White ales and that is the Molson-owned Rickard’s.
When you compare Rickard’s and Keith’s offerings, you do find a lot of similarities. Both have India Pale Ales and both are poorly thought because of their lack of resemblance to a traditional IPA (a statement I would agree with). Both have Red Ales and unfiltered wheat ales (White) that they put marketing muscle behind. They do have some beers unique to each brewery. Keith’s has a Light Ale, a Traditional Lager and an English Stout none of which you would have heard about outside of a proper pub. Meanwhile, Rickard’s has only a Brown Ale to add to their collection which is only available in sampler packs and at a few restaurants (not bars or pubs).
Maybe copy is a strong word. After all, marketing is a very fickle thing. You can want to accomplish one thing but produce an entirely unexpected effect. I don’t want this to turn into a marketing post but I think Keith’s would have expected a stronger “pull effect” (where the customers go to buy it because of marketing from the company as opposed to a “push” which is the retailer doing heavy marketing of their own to sell the product). Keith’s went for the top with its Red Ale but being late to the game made it appear to be copying Rickard’s. I would imagine something similar would happen with Rickard’s if it was to try to unseat Keith’s IPA.
When you think about it though, these two companies are essentially heavyweight microbrews. The sort of craft-ish beer (compared to the major players) that these breweries do is fairly limited. There are only so many different beers other than the traditional lager which you can find everywhere. Granted, once you do get out of there, there are dozens upon dozens of different varieties of beer to choose from but you can only make so many that are likely to be profitable. Still, it would be nice if companies deviated from “anything you can do, I can do better.”