A Household Name

A lot of what The Scottish Brewery does only makes sense when it occurs to you that they have one aim: to become a household name.

They simply don’t care if they’re loved or loathed, as long as they can break out of the beer geek ghetto and become the kind of brand that ‘normals’ have heard of. Their eyes are fixed firmly on the goal.

It explains their partnership with Tesco, which otherwise compromises their ‘punk’ brand, but gets their products and logo seen alongside Carlsberg et al; it explains their attention-at-any-cost approach to PR stunts;  and it explains this needy tweet which emerged at the height of the Diageogate PR triumph yesterday, when their story was trending worldwide:

We have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, what they’re doing to get where they want to be is pretty much constantly irritating; on the other, we’ve yet to see a British ‘craft brewery’ crossover into mainstream consciousness. If they make it, it might be a good thing in lots of ways, as long as they don’t pull the ladder up behind them.

Updates, Notes and Responses

Oh, by the way — this post absolutely counts towards our 1000 by Wednesday, so there.

A standard upon which to improve

This starts off as a post about books and bread but bear with us, there’s beer at the end.

If you really want to know about snobbery, Jeffrey Steingarten is your man.

Nothing in the food world is chicer than salt, and despite an excess of God-given modesty, I must admit that I got there very, very early… [I] acquired a little walnut box and filled it with fleur de sel. I bring it out only in Europe… My salt sophistication has only soared since then.

Somehow, though, he gets away with it, perhaps because of the self-mocking with which he laces his articles.

In his second collection of articles, It Must’ve Been Something I Ate (2002), Steingarten talks about Parisian baguettes. He observes that, in the past, beautifully made, fine-tasting baguettes were what everybody ate. At some point, a new type of baguette made using strong bread flour — fluffier, whiter, easier to produce in large quantities — came along and took over. In recent years, however, the real thing has started to make a comeback.

Although he then goes on to recommend various small bakeries across Paris, he also says something surprising for a food snob: that the versions of the traditional baguette being made by chains of bakers such as Paul (currently appearing across the UK) are pretty good too and certainly a good thing.

There are French food lovers who fear that… branded baguettes may bring standardization to the world of handmade bread. Having wandered in the baguette wilderness for 20 years, I will feel that I’ve reached the promised land if… [they] set a minimum standard that innovators can strive to exceed.

Is this what beers like Blue Moon are about? Or is this the niche Brewdog are beginning to fill? They are, let’s face it, a pub chain and supermarket supplier these days, but if their Punk IPA is what counts as pile-’em-high Tesco discount fodder, then that’s got to be a sign that things are looking up in terms of the basic standards people expect from their beer.

There have been quality control issues with Punk this year — we had a bad bottle in the summer — but, at its best, it is bursting with flavour and yet also very accessible. Needless to say, it continues to be a shame that they can’t let the beer speak for itself without the tiresome marketing nonsense.

We can't be trusted

Here’s why you should never take our tasting notes seriously (we certainly don’t).

We were sitting in the garden having a drink in the sun. We started with our own Centennial-hopped pale ale and followed it with Brewdog’s 77 lager, described as a pilsener. We thought 77 tasted like a good Franconian pils — noticeable malt flavour with bitter bite at the end, but with quite restrained, herbal hops.

Reading Barry and Velky Al, however, we realise that this cannot be. Surely we should have spotted the Amarillo hops a mile off? But they were drinking this alongside German and Czech versions, and we were drinking it after having had our tastebuds bludgeoned with c-hops.

Tasting is absolutely relative.

We really enjoyed it at any rate, and will be getting a bit more in for the summer.

Question: have Brewdog stopped making Hoprocker?

More BrewDog reviews

morebrewdogs

We’ve had a few Brewdogs in the cellar for a while now, and only just got round to drinking them, having pitted the IPAs against each other a while ago.

The Physics“, a “laid back amber beer” didn’t really work for us – it’s got a gorgeous smell, and it’s pleasant enough, but it doesn’t have a lot of complexity of flavour — crystal malt and that’s it.  Tasted like one of our homebrews.

Riptide, a “twisted merciless stout” is pretty good though — one of those beers that’s so well balanced it’s hard to pick out particular flavours.  There’s cocoa (rather than chocolate) and a slightly sour cherry note.  If you gulp it, there’s a hint of smoke.  It’s 8% and has a lot of body. Drinking this feels like a real treat.

Paradox Smokehead (batch 015 in Islay casks) is an impressive drink. You’d give it to people to make them go “wow, doesn’t that taste like whisky”. But, if you don’t like peaty whisky smells and flavours then forget it.  There may be other exciting ingredients in there, but if there are, they’re hard to spot.  We like it but it’s almost an ordeal to get through half a bottle.

Isn’t BrewDog’s marketing strategy just ace?  Cool-looking bottles that you’d happily give to non-beer-geek mates.  Limited edition batches, like 90s indie singles. Lots of publicity in “taking on” the Portman group. Getting on Oz and James helps, too. Of course the beer should speak for itself, but with their strategy BrewDog are aiming for the mainstream market, and you have to be impressed with that ambition.