30 Nov 2009 @ 4:59 PM 
 

BrewDog: The biggest topic I don’t really want to post about.

 

And thus I have failed.

BrewDog, if you’re not familiar with them, are a Scottish brewery that, according to lore, are busy modeling their public image after Stone in their reverse psychology, “You’re not cool enough to be drinking this beer.” type of message. It’s all very cute and apparently incredibly effective.

The reason that I’ve been trying not to comment on them is because they’re punks. By punks, I think that it’s important that you realize that I don’t mean the sort of punk that rocks the Kasbah or the sort that promotes anarchy in the kingdom. They are the sort of punks with really consistent and compelling graphic design that have just recently had a public offering of their stock (EU residents only). They are punks in a sort of MTV “Punk’d” kind of way, which I don’t really mean as a compliment, but a sad statement of fact.

They also make, honestly, some really great beer. In a way, it’s too bad, because their beer is really overshadowed by their actions. Pretty much anytime I read about BrewDog I read about the company and the fact that the beer exists, not about what the beer actually tastes like. That I’ve had to find out on my own.

Without casting too much judgment (I’ll leave that to others) here are a few pieces that have caught my eye:

Earlier this year, BrewDog’s Tokyo* Imperial Stout was banned by The Portman Group, which is an organization in the UK which essentially acts as a watchdog group to promote responsible drinking in the UK. In and of itself, this isn’t really awful except that it was apparently banned due to a complaint by Brew Dog’s co-founder James Watt, which is just weird.

In response to the fairly ridiculous response that Tokyo* got by the media in the UK, the brewery released an “Imperial Mild” called Nanny State. They say it best in their own words:

Nanny State is our quiet and dignified response to the ongoing controversy surrounding Britain’s strongest ever beer, Tokyo*. Nanny State is a 1.1% ale. We have gone from making Britain’s strongest beer to a brew so low in alcohol it is below the legal classification of beer and not strong enough to be subject to beer duty.

Nanny State is an extraordinary little beer. It contains more hops than any other beer we have ever brewed. There is over 60 kilos used in our tiny 20HL batch. It contains more hops than any other beer ever brewed in the UK. It has a theoretical IBU of 225.

It hasn’t been very well received, but I haven’t tried it, myself. It would seem, to me, to be a bit out of balance.

This past week, they released what they say is the strongest beer in the world: Tactical Nuclear Penguin (which I think is an awesome name), an imperial stout weighing in at 32% alcohol on the same day that Scottish Parliament was debating a bill setting a minimum price for alcohol sales and raising age at which people may buy alcohol. It’s been posited, rather angrily, that the timing was intentional. Normally, I’d think that was a stretch, but after watching BrewDog operate its releases as social statements previous to this hard to think it’s anything but planned.

(Note: Apparently, it’s only going to be the world’s strongest for a little while. A small German brewery is releasing a 40% alcohol Eisbock. Yikes!)

As for me, I can’t decide if these guys are marketing geniuses or just making shit up as they go along. They seem to be operating under the aphorism by Oscar Wilde, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I’m not sure I really agree with that. Statements from neo-Prohibitionists with words like “childlike attention-seeking” are the kind of things that get picked up by people who don’t know what you’re all about. That’s the backwards way to publicity. You want the Prohibitionists to be the ones defending their stance against the incredulous media, not you defending yours. You want to convince people in general that the crazies are railing against nothing, not give the crazies ammunition.

I’ve also read suggestions that this is just the wacky Scottish sense of humor coming through. I have to say: I do find some of the things that they’ve been doing funny. There’s amusement to be had. On the other hand, if I had laid down £230 per share on this company for any significant amount of shares I don’t think I’d be laughing. I think I’d be wanting them to stop fucking around with my £230 and get back to what they do best: Making good beer. The UK beer market isn’t that wild and out there. I’m sure there are plenty of boundaries that can be pushed in the UK without stirring up quite as much shit as they have. But I guess then they wouldn’t be punks.

Maybe they’re just being the wrong kind of punks. Myself, I’d shoot for Joe Strummer over Ashton Kutcher. I’m old school, like that.

Tags Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: brewery, industry, marketing, news
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Nov 2009 @ 04 59 PM

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Responses to this post » (10 Total)

 
  1. Jeff Bearer says:

    So my question, to myself as well, not just you. What is wrong with a beer marketing company that actually puts their beer where their mouth is?

    Three Stooges Beer, Holy Grail Ale, Moonshot, and on and on. I don’t give them a second thought, I write off most of the beer as fodder for the brand. But brew dog, they brew beers that more or less back up the brand that they are working so hard on building. Is it really wrong? I’m not sure…

  2. erik says:

    Yeah, that’s a really good point.

    But by that same token, are they marketing that way because their beer dictates it (this is Stone, in my mind), or are they making their beer because it fits with their marketing plan (which is really what Nanny State looks like)?

    What’s driving what, here? And does it really make a difference if you make a quality product?

    I’d really like to try some of this Tactical Nuclear Penguin to see if quality extends to this type of release, but I get the feeling that I probably never will, given what SA Utopias goes for. I’m sure they’ll be upping the ante quite a bit.

  3. Madeline says:

    I agree with Jeff. Do they stir things up too much? Maybe, maybe not, but does it matter? Their beer is fantastic. They are doing what they love and doing it very well. Props to them – why not have fun with it? Like you said, it would be a different story if they were not making a quality product. But the beer speaks for itself.

    About Stone…I like that they give Stone a nod with the whole “you’re not cool enough” thing. Their collaboration with Stone, Bashah, is incredible. If you’ve had it, I’m sure you will agree!

    Also, tried the TNP last night. It was phenomenal.

  4. erik says:

    Yeah, next time the Saucer closes down for something like that, hook a brother up, eh?

    So, the more I think about this, the more I wonder what the long term existence of this company looks like. Over 15 years, is this the consistent push?

  5. Jeff Bearer says:

    Utopias is a lot harder to make than TNP so I wouldn’t expect the price to be in the $150 range. I emailed the brewdog wholesaler in Pittsburgh to see if they got any. My wild ass guess would be $30-40 a bottle.

  6. erik says:

    Heh. They can’t sell it in NC. Not unless it’s sold as liquor.

    If your distributor gets it, save one for me.

    I’ll pay plus interest to try it out if it actually is that reasonable for a bottle of stout port.

  7. Madeline says:

    For the long term, they will have to keep pushing the envelope and twisting things around, obviously, to keep the following they have begun to earn. But it all boils back down to the beer. Make a superior product, and people will want to buy it. I have a feeling they won’t have a problem continuing to do this. Their track record thus far, although they are young, is a good indication of their future. That’s what I feel, anyway.

    Won’t keep any more secrets about special brew parties!

  8. Jeff Bearer says:

    The wholesaler said that it’s only for sale at the brewery. Where did Madeline’s TNP come from?

  9. erik says:

    Madeline, if I’m guessing correctly, was at the Flying Saucer in Raleigh on Sunday night where there was a private party releasing TNP.

  10. Madeline says:

    You are correct, sir. I work there, and we had a special event for them. James brought two bottles of it and we all got to have a bit.

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