Sunday, 15 November 2009

BrewDog -- enough is enough

See the correspondence on the Forum and the link to Pete Brown's Blog.
Yes, it's high time James Watt and Martin Dickie grew up and stopped behaving like a couple of precocious teenagers standing on a street corner with back-to-front baseball caps screaming for attention.
The latest example of their idiotic behaviour, which serves to get beer a bad name, came in Saturday's Independent. Oz Clarke chose BrewDog Hardcore IPA as the "Best Artisan Beer". (Why the Indie chose a wine writer to do this is another matter but they did give Oz a nice plug for his Pocket WINE Book).
He wrote: "I first arranged to meet them last year in Edinburgh. I found them there on a park bench, well away, like a couple of old topers, swigging their beers from brown paper bags and raising the finger to anyone who dared come on all self-righteous. I joined them and we had a riotous time."
Well done, Oz, and well done the lads. How wise to choose Scotland for this escapade where the government is planning an even bigger crackdown on alcohol than Westminster.
Watt and Dickie are lunatic self-publicists. They are handing ammunition to the likss of BBC Panorama and the Daily Mail and those members of the medical and scientific communities that are hell-bent on taxing drink out of existence and handing more power to supermarkets.
Nothing we say will deter the BrewDog people. They thrive on negative publicity. I note that BrewDog is not a member of SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers. Most craft breweries are SIBA members but BrewDog is outside the loop and can't be taken to task by SIBA for activities that do great harm to the entire brewing community.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Oz is living on the past glory of his meeting them for Oz and James Drink to Britain? And? It was a good antidote to all the pretentious nonsense in the same program meeting with Williams' Bros on the moors.

Brew Dog are publicists but also brewers who are making very different beer. Some a bit one dimensional, but frankly far better than lots of stuff some tired retread from some (not all) SIBA members. Realistically all it's likely to do is get more young people who buy beer in the Supermarket interested in other beers with some different hopping.

The Daily Mail will always have something to moan about. It's dead when it hasn't. The present uk government have clearly lost track when it comes to health. What a couple of flamboyant brewers do, or a wine-celeb says about it isn't going to change that really.

15 November 2009 11:57  
Anonymous fatman said...

You are, of course, simply fanning the flames. If you feel so strongly you must simply ignore them.

Your reaction is the funny part, not what they say.

And SIBA are not mandated, or entitled, in anyway to prevent their members behaving riotously. And nor would they want to.

15 November 2009 17:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done to the young Brewdog guys. They are engaging with a younger group to try and educate them that drinking beer isn't about throwing 10 pints of Stella down your throat on a Fri/Sat night but enjoying a great tasting beer without feeling you are getting old before your time!!

15 November 2009 21:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Protzy, you are out of touch.
BrewDog is exactly what the British brewing industry needs.

15 November 2009 22:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any brewery that's become so successful as fast as Brewdog?

They've dared to be different and it seems to be working well for them. Exactly what we need now that the Scottish brewing giants of yesterday are gone.

15 November 2009 23:06  
Blogger Smarte said...

"Brew Dog are publicists but also brewers who are making very different beer."

Really? Variations on the theme of IPA and stout counts as making "very different beers"?

All these anonymous posters makes me think it is probably James or Martin incognito.

16 November 2009 01:43  
Anonymous david.nikonvscanon said...

Sure I disapprove of their marketing and attitudes on many different levels; but I have to say they brew radical STUNNINGLY good beers!
I'm a scooper / ticker; I catalogue all the beers I taste and score the beers out of 10.
I'v tasted and rated over 2700 beers.
The ONLY 10 out of 10 I give to Brewdog Hardcore IPA Explicit Imperial Ale.
The ONLY 9.9 out of 10 I give to Brewdog Chaos Theory predictably random IPA.

Their beer is just too good to be ignored.
They break the rules AND take beer to new level.
Cheers david.nikonvscanon

16 November 2009 07:28  
Blogger Sid Boggle said...

BrewDog brew some good beers, but they don't do themselves, beer sellers or drinkers any favours with their stunts, or gimmick beer like Nanny State.
Ironically, many drinkers in the US 'beer culture' they say they're inspired by, only consider their beers as average (look at the RB scores from US reviewers for Punk, for instance), and they've admitted to quality and price problems in a market key to them.
What is success? High brand awareness or creating consistent high-quality beer? One needs the other, but you'd need to ask BrewDog which matters most. I sometimes wonder if beer is just a means to some other end.

16 November 2009 09:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lot of hysterical rubbish.

BrewDog are one of the relatively few breweries in Britain making genuinely new and interesting beers. They are exactly what the UK craft beer movement needs to bring quality beer to a wider audience.

Your absurd description of 'precocious teenagers' and your apparent belief that BrewDog would be frightened by a repremand from SIBA (haha) just shows how out of touch you CAMRA fuddy-duddies are. Go back to your Deuchars and your Green King IPA.

Also, in response to the chap who said that ratebeer think BrewDog are mediocre: Ratebeer put BrewDog 32nd in their top 100 breweries which puts them in the top less-than-half percent of the breweries in the contest. That's the highest ranking of any brewery in Britain. I think that is pretty good, don't you?
I happen to be a member of ratebeer and can assure you that most of the raters whose views I take seriously (remember, ratebeer is a community of enthusiasts, not experts) think that BrewDogs beers are underrated even at that.

- Gareth Young

16 November 2009 10:29  
Blogger Roger Protz said...

Dear Anonymous,
I'm glad you took my request for contributors to be less abrasive to heart!
I don't speak for CAMRA on this site.
The best Scottish interpretation of IPA I have tasted is William Bros. BrewDog's is unbalanced -- it's like an American craft beer with far too many hops thrown in, with a total disregard for drinkability.

16 November 2009 12:35  
Blogger Laurent Mousson said...

My tuppence rom a non-Brit and non-US, albeit somewhat informed point of view :

Indeed, BrewDog have been the first or among the first in the UK to tread a few paths, or at last to cobien them in a high-profile way, be it in the format (330ml longnecks instead of pints or half-litres), the design, provocatiev advertising, and indeed, firmly heading in the "extreme" direction.

So well, yes, in the UK they probably are innovative, but I understand they may not appear that inventive from an US (or Italian, or Scandinavian) point of view.

Then there's the beer. I quite like some of their big beers - where balance subtlety and drinkability are never going to be the issue - which they IMHO brew rather well. I especially like the whisky-cask Storm IPA, which I find to be quite original - in absolute terms.

On the other hand I've sometimes encountered a rather disappointing metallic tinge in their bottled stuff at the lower-strength end of the range, so can understand there may be quality issues raised in the US.

I guess the main issue these days revolves around their repeated provocative publicity stunts, their using of the Portman Group and such as a soundboard, and ultimately, 'how far is pushing it too far' ?

IMHO the "let's lodge a complaint against ourselves with the Portman Group" stunt, although it certainly did work in making the PG look bad, is very much a double-edged sword, and it will cause quite a few people who've supported them as a matter of principle in the past to pass more critical scrutiny with ads, claims or calls for support from the brewery in the future.

Yes, the danger of alienating one's own supporter base and losing one's credibility is one of the dangers of such on-the edge promotional tactics, and that's IMHO the issue here : have they reached that point now, long ago, or not yet ?

I think that's mostly a matter of perception, and such things will always cause heated debate...

16 November 2009 13:11  
Blogger Sid Boggle said...

Gareth - I didn't say Ratebeer thinks BrewDog is mediocre. My point was that BrewDog need to beat US brewers at their own game to break that market - Griffin took 12.5% of the business, putting in £600K to help with this, and looking at the reviews from US drinkers for Punk, they clearly aren't yet. Anecdotally, many US craft beer drinkers are leery of BrewDog's beers, having been burnt on both quality and price compared to local stuff.

Seems to me that BrewDog could really care less about the UK craft beer market, since they deem its products as boring. How much cask do they brew? Less than 10% of their total output I would think, so I don't think there's even a nodding relationship with CAMRA at any level. The only brewer I can recall in recent memory with a similar attitude is Meantime. But the difference seems to be that brickbats and any kind of publicity mean as much as any praise for their beers. Engendering a bunker mentality, surrounded by loyal 'punks' (have you sent your cheque off yet, Gareth?), they can do no wrong. How long for, I wonder?

16 November 2009 15:44  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

If Brew Dog are getting young people to drink proper beer than it must be a good thing. They will grow up in time even though it takes longer these days.

16 November 2009 17:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I belive that the guys are playing a very good game with beer drinkers in a marketing sense. The beers though speak for themselves, they do push the envelope in Britian where everyone thinks an IPA is 3.5% and midly hopped, theyre IPA is very good, zeitgeist is an amazing dark lager which they have brought to the forefront. I think Roger you are feeling a little sore because they slated the portman group, you are a fantastic beer writer and have inspired me to create my own, please dont bring youself down with silly posts as this.

Keep up the good work though!

16 November 2009 18:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry meant CAMRA :P

16 November 2009 18:58  
Blogger Sid Boggle said...

Anon 5: Take the blinkers off - there are plenty of UK brewed US-style IPAs that pack great flavour and character into around 4%, and they were being brewed a good time before BrewDog opened for business. Their own Martin Dickie was at Thornbridge (heard of Jaipur?) while Dark Star, Castle Rock, Harviestoun have all re-thought hopping of beers with inspiration from the US.

BrewDog are 'innovative' in their marketing and presentation. They use a very aggressive US model in the way they interact with their drinkers, get out on the road, generate huge hype for their beers (even when they're stunts like Nanny State) and sell direct. Not too many UK brewers of any size put that much effort into presenting their stuff, but keep it in perspective. They aren't converting 'The Kids', and they aren't The Second Coming for British Brewing.

16 November 2009 20:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger: I don't think my post came off in as jocular a way as I intended; it wasn't meant to be vicious. I just laughed at the backwards baseball cap thing (I don't think that has been the uniform for juvenile delinquents since the '80s).
I am not a huge fan of the Williams Brothers IPA, though I do like some of their other beers.
I have no objections at all to an IPA being unbalanced in favour of the hop character; infact I like it that way and I find Punk IPA to be extremely drinkable. I also note that your own review has it that Punk IPA is "Well balanced and very pleasing on the palate."

Sid: I agree that BrewDog have some consistency issues that they need to work on (I've had the very occassional bottle with traces of diacetyl and a couple with an odd metalic taste). I think this was exacerbated by the trip the beer made to America; BrewDog themselves have admitted that, due to their inexperience with exporting booze, the beer wasn't making it to America in the best condition (they now transport everything in a temperature controlled environment).
As far as price is concerned, in Britain, their beer is cheap. In America, it's expensive because of their fucked up 3-tier distribution thing which, again due to inexperience, BrewDog didn't know how best to negotiate. Apparently they are working something out and the prices should come down.

I am by no means a BrewDog fanboy and I haven't liked every beer they've made or liked everything they've done. But I have supported them and bought (and enjoyed) most of their beers since the brewery opened and I feel obliged to defend them when I think they are criticised unfairly.

I have no problem with their lack of a relationship with CAMRA.
A debate about the merits of CAMRA is outwith the scope of this particular discussion but, briefly, I think they focus too much on cask ale (bars which can't sell cask ale quickly enough should get good kegged beer or bottles rather than sell vinager) and they support big regional breweries like Fullers and Greene King whose conduct is, to say the least, highly questionable at times. I also doubt their ability to persuade more people to drink good beer.

I take it your 'cheque' remark was a reference to Equity for Punks? I would very much like to send a cheque off, but sadly I'm a poor philosophy student so brewery investment is not likely to be a possible for a while.

- Gareth Young

17 November 2009 11:01  
Blogger Sid Boggle said...

Hi Gareth. You bet they focus on cask ales, that's why CAMRA was founded. You ought to familiarise yourself with CAMRA's aims and campaigns, just so you're better informed when you comment about them. I don't think they are relevant to what BrewDog are doing - how much cask do BD brew?

You say you'd invest in EFP if you had the money. As a lifestyle statement? To support their ethos? Maybe as a philosophy student you can appreciate their apparent love of Situationist pranks as a means to further their aims, whatever they are.

17 November 2009 13:25  
Blogger Barm said...

I have no idea what caused the spat between BrewDog and Scottish CAMRA, but it hurts CAMRA more than it does BrewDog. It's an embarrassment not to have the hippest brewery in the country at your beer festivals.

17 November 2009 13:42  
Blogger John Clarke said...

"Hippest brewery in the country"? Oh, give over. There is no problem at all in getting cask Brew Dog beers at a Beer Festival. We had three this year at Stockport.

The problem with Brew Dog, I fear, is they they really are starting to believe their own publicity. They are certainly not the trailblazers they like to make out they are. Arguably the first UK brewer to seriously use US hops was Brendan Dobbin at his West Coast Brewery in Manchester and Pictish Brewery's Blue Moon was perhaps the first UK brewed US-style IPA before anyone had heard of the style.

Brew Dog make some great beers. They make some OK beers and they mke some not so OK beers. In this they are little different from many good micros (and arguably the likes of Manchester's Marble Brewery have far more consistency across their product range than Brew Dog manage).

Bloggerdom needs something of a reality check when it comes to Brew Dog, I think.

17 November 2009 15:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm perfectly well aware of CAMRA's aims. I was a member for a few years before it lapsed and I couldn't be bothered renewing it.
Again, I'm not getting into a lengthy discussion about this but I think they obsess over cask ale to the exclusion of anything else. Beer doesn't need to be cask to be good. A bar that doesn't sell enough ale to keep it fresh should sell good keg beer rather than vinager. Neither is it sufficient for a beer to be cask to be good/ethicallly produced. Fullers, Greene King and other large regionals are evidence of this. Yet CAMRA are mad on them anyway. That's not to say that CAMRA are a a bad thing; they mean well and their festivals are good. But one doesn't need to be their best pal to run a good brewery.

I'd sent the cheque to support their new brewery and to get the 20% lifetime discount as well as free beer at the shareholder meetings.
I'm not sure what you think philosophy has to do with Situationist pranks. Perhaps you ought to read some.

Over and out.

Gareth

18 November 2009 00:14  
Blogger kim said...

brewdog are fantastic publicists but their beers clearly speak for themselves....whilst their marketing slant may not be loved by all it screams different and if anything a welcome change from the omnipresent branding of the mass-produced lager.....

30 November 2009 16:58  

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