Tuesday 22 August 2023

Cold comfort down at the Forge

There are some marketing campaigns where you see them and simply think, “What on earth were they smoking?” Usually followed by, “Why the heck didn’t they just run it by a focus group?”

So when an unexpected package arrived, containing a black cardboard box with FRGD on it in large yellow letters, my first thought was to wonder why on earth someone was sending me something to do with fridges.

Inside the box was a cap, also black and yellow with FRGD on it, plus assorted similarly-labelled bits and bobs – and then, ah-ha! Two tall cans of nitro stout and a glass, this time bearing the ‘full’ version of the logo: Forged, complete with a strong-armed swordsmith beating out a blade. All very martial and manly. 

By now I had worked out what it was about, thanks to a press release I’d received a few days earlier. As soon as I saw the hat, though, my mind was boggled. Who on earth would walk around with FRGD written on their head? 

In the spirit of scientific enquiry I decided to conduct a focus group of my own. I posted this photo of the hat and a similarly logo’d key strap thingy on both eX-Twitter and Facebook, asking friends what they’d read into it if they saw it on the street.

The results were almost exactly as I suspected they would be. A few outliers, then in second place assorted mentions of fragged/frigged/frogged(!), but the clear winner was, yes, Frigid. Like I said, possibly not the thing you want written on your hat. Unless maybe you're the Snow Queen.

So what’s the story meant to be? Well, there’s an Irish MMA fighter and multi-millionaire called Conor McGregor – he’s something of a Marmite figure across the water, from what I hear – who owns a pub called the Black Forge Inn. The house beer there is Forged Irish Stout, which is, or was, brewed at Porterhouse Brewing.

However, Porterhouse had been in the doldrums following a COVID slump, so earlier this year McGregor bought the brewery, renaming it Forged Dublin and investing in a new nitro canning line, among other things. A figure in excess of €4 million has been mentioned. He is now taking his vanity brand – I think we can safely call it that, as his face is all over the Forged Irish Stout promo material, its eX-Twitter and Instagram feeds, and so on – international, with UK distribution agreed in Asda and Spar. McGregor has said it will go to North America as well.

Onto the important question, then: is Frigid, sorry, Forged Irish Stout any good? It certainly looks the part, pouring near-black with a tan nitro fizz that rather quickly settles into a thick creamy foam. It’s lightly smoky on the nose, then creamy and sweetish – more like a sweet stout than a dry one – but with a roasty note and a slight ashy dryness on the finish. Easy drinking and pretty sessionable, I’d say. 

One last thing on the focus panel, though. If you were launching will inevitably be seen as a rival to or copy of Guinness, why on earth would you make any reference to forging?