16 Feb 2010 @ 12:33 PM 

Oh my god! Stop the presses! BrewDog has done it again! Having been denied any long-standing shock value fame from the release of Tactical Nuclear Penguin by Schorschbräu and their 40% alcohol Eisbock, Brewdog has struck back with a 41-percenter: Sink the Bismarck!

I am as eager as anybody to try TNP, and through the magic of friends and corporate globalization, I will be able to do so next week. I can’t wait! But even in the spirit of friendly competition between breweries this is getting silly and it won’t be much longer before it’s just plain old.

I can only assume that StB is ice distilled a la TNP. I can’t say that I’m an expert in freezing beer or eisbock production, but as far as I know there’s no reason to stop at 41%. You can just keep on distilling it further. All you really need is a colder ice cream factory, right? So, in the grand scheme of things there’s no good stopping point for this marketing competition, right? It’s just going to go up and up every few months, 1% at a time until they’re selling super-sweet whiskey and calling it beer. Unless you can tell me that either the 40%-er or the 41%-er tastes like it was made by magic gnomes, then in the grand scheme of things I’ll still prefer a nice smoky scotch to this beer-flavored schnapps.

I can rant all I want, but these guys are really funny.

You want to REALLY impress me? Make a 4% alcohol beer that is flavorful and wonderful that I will want to order every single time I go to the pub. You know how hard that is to find?

I don’t really want to direct this rant solely at BrewDog. They’re the current perpetrators, but they’re only the current exemplification of an overall problem in the beer marketplace. I ask this:

Is “up” really the only direction to go? In the grand quest for beer to be treated as seriously as wine and spirits, are we really going to resort to gimmicks and marketing ploys? Are we so out of ideas already that the only thing we can do to make a better beer is “put more shit in” or “make it bigger than the last”?

I wonder how many people are out clamoring for the world’s strongest wine. I wonder how may people drink Bacardi 151 over the Bacardi 80-proof for reasons other than “fire” and “drunk.”

I guess at the end of the day, I’d love to see people creating these stories and indulging in this quirky creativity that could so easily define the craft market segment – BrewDog does that SO well – but I want to see it about a beer that is, oh, you know, available and accessible. Instead of creating something that will draw people in that’s delicious and easy to drink, the craft brewing industry seems to be hell bent on making products fit into smaller and smaller elitist niche markets. I’m not sure that’s the direction to go in to rise above that 5% market share.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe StB does tastes like it was crafted by elves and unicorns and it will be the beer that wins the world over and stops the A-B InBev machine, but somehow I don’t think it will be anything more than another badge for beer geeks. “You had Utopias? Well I tried Sink the Bismarck!”

Would I try it? In a heartbeat. Send some over. Prove me wrong. I want to be wrong. I want it to be accessible and awesome. But I bet it’s a try-it-once “can I just have an IPA please?” kind of beer.

What do you think?


Responses to this post » (15 Total)

  1. Steve says:

    You want to REALLY impress me? Make a 4% alcohol beer that is flavorful and wonderful that I will want to order every single time I go to the pub. You know how hard that is to find?

    I’m am standing on my chair and cheering.

  2. Nate just posted about this and I hit on it a few weeks back when I was talking about Collaboration beers being the new IPA. Some of us in the beer world are like adrenaline junkies. It just keeps getting more and more extreme. Problems is that normal life (read beer) becomes boring to people. You have to look no further than beer advocates top 100 list to find that extremism is ruling the beer geek market. Fortunately, the pendulum always swings back not matter how far it goes the other way.
    Here are the posts I mentioned. I don’t mention it enough but I really love your site Erik. http://thankheavenforbeer.com/2010/02/16/sink-the-bismark-craftbeer-wars/

    • Saiko says:

      Every time I’ve been in BD Camden there is always just such a cnogintent who certainly do also patronise the Wenlock Arms though they might have moved to BD Shoreditch now as it’s nearer. And they always look perfectly content. It’s easy to overestimate the purchase that the sort of cask purism espoused by a minority of loud CAMRA activists has even on middle aged real ale drinkers. A very old friend of mine who prides himself on having visited every branch of JD Wetherspoon and who is now also his local CAMRA branch social sec has recently modified his ticking criteria to include unpasteurised craft keg and regularly pops in to the BD bars I think his view is that if Thornbridge can do keg it must be OK. In the end what most of us are interested in is enjoying a pint of decent beer!

  3. Demian Ginther says:

    Good commentary, and I loved the line about the 4% beer. I agree with Michael that IPA keeps getting more and more extreme, but I have to admit also that I love Stone Brewing IPA, and it was one of the progenitors of that extreme hops bitterness trend… I tried the Avery Brewing ‘Beast’ a while back which was somewhere in the 20’s as far as ABV, and while I was able to drink it, I didn’t enjoy it much…

  4. erik says:

    You know, in a way the beer geek crowd is really getting played by some of these.

    Rather than seeing a consistent product that the extreme-o-philes can go to again and again, they keep getting more and different and more and different! and MOAR! MOAR! MROWR!

    It doesn’t really seem like a sustainable curve. I wonder a little what the backlash will be when “put more shit in” isn’t a viable strategy for creating something new. Will the extreme-o-philes grow a sense of balance or will they just move onto something different?

    And if it’s the latter, were they really beer geeks to begin with?

    • notaro says:

      Yes totally. Where does this drive to the extremes come from? Why does it seem that microbrewers forsake the middle? Is it credibility in the craft brew community? Is it the driven by the market? Do microbrew not sell if they’re not over the top?

      I had an Otter Creek Spring beer last week which was really good. Not extreme in anyway. I wish it wasn’t such an uncommon thing to find.

      • erik says:

        Well, extreme gets attention, right? I guess on some level it’s a matter of being able to get eyes onto your product when you’re just making an ordinary bitter or something. How do you compete when everything else on the shelf is, “DOUBLE IMPERIAL STOUT AGED ON MANTICORE CLAWS!”

        Sooner or later I kind of hope that just putting an ordinary bitter on the shelf will compete.

  5. Brew Dog’s response to the backlash surrounding Sink the Bismarck:

    It is an interesting read and a well thought out and coherent argument. While I completely agree with Erik that making a fantastic session beer is an under appreciated (and under-attempted) art form, I do see the fun in pushing the limits of what is out there.

  6. erik says:

    I think my favorite comment was:

    You are aware that it’s possible to generate publicity simply by producing delicious tasting beers?

    Yeah, I agree – pushing the limits is fun. I try making weird crap at home all the time – but when it becomes the central focus it’s a problem. When everything is “extreme” it’s just the new norm. Soon, I’ll be making extreme beers by making ESB’s, merely because they won’t be around anymore.

    Like I say – I’m not trying to direct this at BrewDog. It’s not like they’re the only people pushing. They’re just the latest blip on a full-on industry push.

    I actually really like those guys. I think they have an incredible amount of talent for making delicious beer and they’ve F’d themselves in the A by outposting in the far northern reaches of Scotland where shipping things is always going to be a problem for them unless they open their own naval shipyard.

    • Kavita says:

      This is without doubt the worst reievw I have ever gone and read. From start to finnish, the photographs to the wording were delivered like a bad cocktail served at room temperature. This feels VERY amateur indeed. If you’re bitter, or angry, or full of hate, there are people one should consider seeing. Organisations even. Writing and ‘reievwing’ that’s made open and accessible to the public should be left to those qualified. I wasn’t even that impressed with Flat Iron, but it trumped the quality of this blog with its head high.

    • I will be putting this dazzling insight to good use in no time.

  7. Steve says:

    And apparently the war continues… Schorschbräu has announced it will be releasing a 45% beer very soon.


  8. erik says:

    This is getting so ridiculous.

  9. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills
    and also wityh the layou on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did yoou modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it
    is rare to see a gredat blog like this one today.

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