In conversation with Gen!us Brewing Creative Director Jason Clarke…
For those who don’t know you, how would you sum up Gen!us Brewing?
Gen!us Brewing was launched in 2018 with a mission to make responsible drinking a pleasure, not a compromise. Our Gen!us Craft Lager is the UK’s first light craft lager, combining craft quality with less alcohol and fewer calories. It’s all about ‘smart drinking’
What inspired you to launch a low-calorie, lower-alcohol craft beer?
Our lightbulb moment came in 2016, when we foresaw that the huge cultural trend towards healthier lifestyles would come to influence people’s drinking habits. Looking at the beer market at that time, the craft revolution was recalibrating expectations of flavour and quality, which was great, but there was also a kind of arms race to see who could brew the highest ABV with max out the hops. High ABV is unhealthy in itself but also brings with it high calories; a pretty toxic combination that seemed out of step with the wider consumer trends in food and drink.
We then looked specifically at what beers were available for drinkers who wanted quality but with less alcohol and lower calories. The lager options were pretty non-existent. Pubs would either have strong premium and craft lagers or a token zero alcohol bottle gathering dust in the fridge. There was nothing in the middle, around 3% ABV. It was the same in the off-trade.
So, having spotted a gap in the market for a craft-quality, light lager, we began building the foundations to launch Gen!us Brewing.
Tell us how the Gen!us Craft Lager recipe came to life; how did you land the right balance between low calories whilst retaining the flavour people have come to expect from a craft product?
This was the hard part. Having anticipated the healthier drinking trend and identified the market gap, we now had to deliver a great light craft lager. We specifically target 3% ABV for two reasons: firstly, we wanted enough ‘booze’ to make the beer a genuine pleasure and a genuine alternative to a ‘full fat’ lager but one that was still 40% less alcohol than say Peroni or Brooklyn Lager. Secondly, we knew that in a 330ml can, at 3%, Gen!us would be exactly 1 unit of alcohol. This would give great transparency and simplicity to health-conscious drinkers looking to stay ‘drinkaware’ and drivers who want to stay legal.
Then it was down to flavour. We didn’t want to simply recreate a textbook pilsner. Gen!us had to be different and distinct – and, of course, great quality. Brewing with the best quality pilsner malts and Styrian Golding hops maximised flavour, giving Gen!us a solid pilsner punch. The twist came during dry-hopping and the decision to use Australian Galaxy and Ella hops to add a zesty, citrus aroma and a finish more familiar with pale ales.
Carbonation was also given great thought. US light lagers tend to be very fizzy, to give the impression of more mouthfeel. We knew Gen!us was packed with flavour and so we reduced the carbonation to create a smoother, easier-drinking experience. This smoothness has proved popular with lager and ale.
Gen!us is an official fundraising partner of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation; how did this partnership come about and what does it mean to the brand?
From day one, we didn’t just want Gen!us to taste good, we wanted it to do good. Doddie Weir is a rugby legend having played 61 times for Scotland, and also the British and Irish Lions. His diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease in 2017 touched hearts around the world – beyond rugby and Scotland. Gen!us Brewing co-founder Jason Clarke played rugby with Doddie and his wife’s father died of MND so when Doddie launched his foundation, Jason got straight on the phone.
Our #5p4Doddie pledge donates 5p from every can of Gen!us to the My Name5 Doddie Foundation, helping his quest to change the future for MND sufferers. We also support other people and organisations who are fundraising for Doddie such as SAS veteran John Davidson who aims to raise £100,000 by rowing the Atlantic, single-handedly. Gen!us Brewing organised a big fundraising dinner for John, attracting former Scotland captain Rob Wainwright and Olympic rower Dame Katherine Grainger as guest speakers.
Now in our second year as Official Fundraising Partners, we will continue to support Doddie’s foundation wherever possible and we’re particularly proud to have the My Name5 Doddie Foundation logo on our new cans.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for Gen!us Brewing? What can we expect from you in 2020?
It’s been a whirlwind since launching less than two years ago. If we draw breath and look back, we can identify three clear conclusions: the move to healthier drinking is huge; Gen!us is a distinctive, engaging brand; and most important of all, we have a great tasting beer: Winning Best UK Craft Lager at the LUX Life Food & Drink Awards; and making the final in Best Low & No at the World Beverage Innovation Awards.
In 2020, we’re looking forward to building on our great partnership with Flavourly to introduce Gen!us to more health-conscious drinkers right across the UK. January, in particular, will be a busy month promoting our ‘New Year New Beer’ campaign for those going ‘dry-er’ or looking to make their healthy New Year resolutions a reality.
In the on-trade, we plan to launch Gen!us in draft in time for the summer – it’s a great BBQ beer. This will transform our brand awareness across pubs, restaurants, clubs and hotels and help build our loyal legion of ‘smart drinkers’.