Thursday, 12 March 2009

IPA v GTA, Punk v Portman, Hype v Indifference

Roger Protz smells faintly of dill, all Fuller’s beers contain string and the Portman Group don’t wash their hands properly after flushing. These words are lies, utterly transparent lies that I won’t standby in court and apologise for right now. Sorry.

But these blatant falsehoods also prove how easy it is to kick against the Aunt Sally that is ‘Establishment’, especially when the ‘Establishment’ is as orthodox and conservative as the world of real ale can seem. After all, this is a world in which apparently you can seem to stand out in simply by being under 30 or having a vagina. Or both.

Which is a roundabout way of bringing us to Scottish brewers Brewdog and their self-styled rebellion against all that is traditional, all that is dull, all that is predictable about British beer. Yeah, they’re rebels, they’re renegades and they’re punks – just like Johnny Lydon and Iggy Pop are.

They also remind me of professional controversialists, fellow residents of Scotland and part-time video game developer Rockstar. So much of their infamy has been built on poking and twizzling a Grand Theft Auto-shaped stick up the censor’s nose and then surfing the resulting streams of condemnation straight into the hearts and wallets of the spotty-serial killer market.

It’s a model that Brewdog seem keen to follow in their recent well publicised scuffling with the Portman Group. Lots of sound and fury and lots of publicity. With a sneer Brewdog are manning the barricades in a war against the conventional and the bland. Well that’s only true if you replace the word ‘barricades’ with the words ‘shelves of Tesco’ and the word ‘sneer’ with ‘carefully considered marketing strategy’.

Because it was through that retail giant and Brewdog’s carefully considered marketing strategy that a bottle of Punk IPA appeared in my cupboard. That and the messy spurtings of praise lavished by so many bloggers, tenting their trousers in delight at this beer.

“On my first tasting my tongue exploded, followed by most of my skull and three of my four young children. As my liver was immolated in pure delight, I tasted hops and the kind of joy only experienced when all your Easters, Christmases and Bar Mitvahs come together at once” wrote

“The experience of drinking Brewdog IPA was akin to draining 330ml of The Lord’s own tears, distilled in the mouth of an angel and carbonated by mafipulation through all seven stomachs of the holy cow. My second bottle also gave me eternal life”. Tastingnotesfromasmallisland@wordpress,com

Again these are lies but the truth isn’t so distance this time. Ahead of even last year’s favourite, Thornbridge Hall, Brewdog seem to be the chosen ones. Beer writers and forumites seem to love their chutzpah, their beer and some even seem to like the design of their bottles. Which is strange because moderation must be the new anarchy if these unsatisfyingly small 330ml bottles with their dated ‘stamp’ design are impressive.

After all the bluster and all the blogging, hopes were high for the beer, but this yellowy brew isn’t exciting enough to justify this much alcohol. The citrus and grapefruit bitterness bludgeon while the aroma and oiliness of pine needles and alcohol gives it a bleachy, clean toilet aroma. Sure it’s smooth, hoppy and grassy but it is also rather average compared to the American bitterbomb which have inspired it.

Obviously we could put this indifference down to personal taste - that I like beers with balance, with perhaps just a tiny smidge of malty flavour, with depth - but as their own bottle sneers “We don’t care if you don’t like it.” Except they do care, deeply.


Tandleman said...

This is outrageous. How dare you attack the Blessed 'Dog. You'll be starting on the saintly Thornbridge next if your snide remark is anything to go by. Just don't that's all, just don't.

And, I'll have you know, my trousers tent, because I'm a man. A man do you hear. It has nothing to do with misplaced hype.

Woolpack Dave said...

I've had some American "Bitter Bombs" which I thought tasted similar to the beer that has been overfilling my stomach for around 2 hours and finally makes a bid for freedom. The one in question has a note on the back that said something similar to the BrewDog words and I think is called "Arrogant Beer" or something. Good marketing, crap beer.

I've also had many very nice beers from the West Coast USA that I liked. They taste remarkably like Punk IPA. I think BrewDog have got their marketing right and the product ain't bad either.

Is it over hyped? Probably, but good luck to them.

Unfortunately, I find little blue tablets do the trouser tent thing better for me, although presence of the right person helps. Beer bottles don't seem to somehow, maybe something is wrong with me?

Oh, and word verification is "relump"

Alex Cooke said...

Sorry Tandleman and Dave I didn't mean to doubt any aspect of anyone's ability, through natural processes, to pitch an groinal awning that would make even Pele proud...

I concede my experience of WIPAs has been a bit limited having spent most of my more recent US trips on the Eastern shore and my earlier West Coast forays in the company of games hacks who are stuck to their flasks of weak lemon drink rather than explore.

As for Thornbridge, I quite like Jaipur (it's on the blog somewhere) but I'm just not wholly enamoured with this particular beer, it just wasn't as good as the comments had lead me to believe - which isn't even Brewdog's responbility - the problem lies with my tastebuds.

It's not my fault that I take everything I read at face value!

Relump could be a useful word actually. Next time I'm in some marketing meeting I shall use it.

Tandleman said...

Actually, I think you are on the money about Brewdog. Too much hyperbole can eventually detract.

"Eddie Rowles" said...

I've always thought Brewdog were more Green Day than anything...

Alex Cooke said...

If that's true I'll look forward to Brewdog's equivalent of 'American Idiot' then Eddie.