And so we come to the Brewdog blog post. Like a coming of age rite of passage for the UK beer blogger, it seems that no one writing on the beer scene today can avoid pinning their colours to the mast. Whether it be the Jolly Roger or otherwise.
My nascent interest in good beer is closely associated with Brewdog, specifically Punk IPA, mainly due its hop profile. In summer 2008 I came across Adnams Innovation, and with it a totally new flavour in beer: US hops. At the time I had little idea of how the ingredients could affect flavour so I didn’t think to research where these flavours were coming from. For that matter I’m not sure I had the words to express what I was tasting. I would seek out this mysterious fruit-bowl hit, this citrus punch throughout the coming year, only finding it in a Durham Brewery beer, and then finally in Punk IPA.
That was in summer 2009 and since then my interest in all beers has grown from a hobby to an obsession and back again. Their beers have never formed the focus of my drinking but I’d always held them up as the epitome of good beer. I was a hophead, their beers my communion wine.
The peak of my interest came with the introduction of Equity for Punks II, which eventually saw me investing my hard-earned overdraft into the brewery. It was also around this time that I realised a lot of beer bloggers hated their guts.
After reading rant after beer-sodden rant, the only criticism that didn’t seem pedantic or overtly partisan was the way in which Brewdog chooses to promote itself. To quote the boys, “The UK Beer Scene is sick. And we are the fucking doctor”
In April this year I went along to the AGM in Aberdeen, hoping to find out whether this accurately reflects their views or if it’s simply marketing bluster. In the main presentation there was some great news about the eco-cred of the new brewery but they seemed to talk as though there is no real ale scene, good beer or good pubs in the UK. In the Q&A one guy asked if the 5am cask he’d seen a few months previously was the last we’d be enjoying (5am being one of the beers everyone raved about on cask). It emphatically was.
Martin did explain though that the fizz from keg works better at ‘lifting the hop’. I totally understand that cask isn’t how they want to present their beers, but to dismiss it as a dinosaur within the industry as a whole is pure folly.
I’ve come see Brewdog’s position as part of their special transatlantic relationship. They borrow from, and are inspired by the US craft scene to a great degree. Stone especially.
Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale
Brewdog Punk IPA
But there’s something wrong with this kind of mimicry. Stone, established back in 1996, was railing against the US macros, and more importantly tasteless light beers etc. Though we have a love affair with shit lager over here too, we also have something they don’t: a long history in cask beer; truly back from the dead by the time Brewdog started up. Martin and James have imported their flavour profiles along with their ‘iconoclast brewer’ branding from the US but failed to tailor the latter. Their persistent yapping about industrial lager wears thin but is fair enough. What angers me is their lack of acknowledgement of, and in some cases active animosity towards the rest of the UK beer scene. It was there at the AGM and I don’t understand it. I must however point readers to this blog post which they wrote recently about their UK brethren. No mention of the masters of the universe though? That’s The Kernel, obviously.
According to James, it was Michael Jackson’s kind words about their pilot brews which inspired them to brew commercially and I suppose if MJ were still with us he’d advise drinkers to ignore the PR clamour and simply ask ourselves whether the beer is any good. It often is. So I think for now I’ll content myself with enjoying their beers and admiring their eco brewery. That is until their planned AIM listing in five or six years time, then I’m cashing in and getting rich…