Will annual beer releases be the next big thing?

Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Editorial | 5 Comments


The other day, whilst drinking the beer pictured above, a thought occurred to me. Actually, several did, one of which being that it tasted like a container of tropical fruit dropped into a burning pine forest. Another, that thanks to the rise of blogs I feel less self-conscious taking photos of beers these days (although, it’s never entirely without insecurity). The main thought, though, revolved around the desirability of this particular beverage – Magic Rock’s brand new triple IPA, Un-Human Cannonball. The thought was this – following reports of queues prior to the official launch at London’s Craft Beer Co, has one of the last bastions of Britishness fallen to American-style hype?

Un-Human Cannonball is the continually, ultra-hopped, 12% thunderbolt from Huddersfield’s finest – a natural progression from Human Cannonball, and the ‘basic’ Cannonball before it. Released this week, it is apparently intended as a one-off, annual brew – presumably because Richard and Stuart at Magic Rock use enough new season hops in it to fill the Galpharm Stadium. It must have cost them a fair bit; but at the same time has created an equivalent amount of bluster on Twitter and across the beer blogs (bottles disappearing within moments from the online shop).

All of that serves as an introduction to this:- keeping up with what’s going on in the American beer scene, I always have a wry chuckle at tales of baseball-capped, cargo-shorted US craft fans climbing over each other to get the annual release of Three Floyds Darklord, or waiting in huge lines at Russian River for the one-off Pliny the Younger. The hype that surrounds these beers is astonishing. Take Kate the Great, Portsmouth Brewing Company’s imperial stout. Released once a year, demand is so huge that people queue overnight to get hold of it (or they did; head brewer Tod Mott has recently moved on and taken Kate with him).

Last time around, Portsmouth Brewing Co issued a $2 scratch-card lottery to drinkers, so they could gamble for the right to buy a single bottle. All 10,000 tickets were sold in just over 24hrs (only 900 of which were ‘winners’), with proceeds going to local wildlife charities. Is that the way things are going here? Following the competitive interest in Un-Human Cannonball, will British drinkers camp overnight outside Craft Beer Co next year? Pitch tents in Bermondsey for Kernel’s IPA Double Citra? Descend en-masse to Chiswick and line up (politely, I’m sure) for the latest Fullers’ Vintage Series?

Would you, if that was the only way to guarantee getting these beers? I am not a beer geek, by any means, but did check Twitter regularly to look out for the appearance of Un-Human at the Hanging Bat here in Edinburgh. I couldn’t imagine lining up for hours, or having to buy a lottery scratch-card just to win the chance to buy a bottle. Mind you, if that is the way things are going, and the modern boom in British brewing (and fanboyism) continues, maybe it makes sense for brewers to feed the hype by creating ultra-rare, one-chance-only beers, and then sitting back as bleary-eyed punters frantically hover the mousefinger over ‘Add to Cart’, stabbing the F5 button every few seconds.

Maybe we’ll look back – or those who were there will, certainly – at the queue for the launch of Un-Human Cannonball and think that’s where it all started. Add a hugely-hopped or massively strong beer to the lineup, and help build the brand with an annual stramash to get hold of it. I’m surprised BrewDog haven’t already engineered this kind of situation, to be honest – they could fairly easily get a few dozen of their fans to camp out to secure rights to ‘Simcoe Asteroid Smashdown’, or something, and gain some column inches in the media. That may or may not have been the intention of Magic Rock, but they’ve done very well over the last week, certainly. Watch out for next year’s Un-Human Cannonball release…


  1. Clayton
    May 24, 2013

    Brewdog has engineered something similar this week – albiet on a smaller level and not a specific beer. The online shop released mixed cases of unknown contents (clearing the shelves in the warehouse) and these went within minutes due to the Twitter hype they built up during the day, no doubt some people got some nice beers. They then released the ‘last ever’ bottles of Tokyo Rising Sun with similar hype although the price of £24/bottle +P&P did put a lot of punters off.

  2. Richard
    May 24, 2013

    Ah yes, the beer they ‘lost’ for four years…

  3. steve
    May 24, 2013

    i guess maybe brewdog hoped the abstrakt range would have similar effects but there is usually sufficient available that it lasts online for at least a few days after the equity shareholders have gotten their fill

  4. Richard
    May 24, 2013

    Abstrakt might have had a similar effect had it been released only in draught form – I know UnHuman Cannonball isn’t the first beer to sell out quickly online. I was more thinking along the lines of one-off, day release in-person kind of launches (although of course, the US examples I gave are only available direct from the brewery on day of release, unlike UnHuman Cannonball)…

  5. An Anonymous Boozer
    May 24, 2013

    Does Greene King’s special release of 5X at the Great British Beer Festival last year count? That went very quickly (and they could easily make it an annual GBBF-only event – although according to ratebeer it’s since been available elsewhere).

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