Trans-Atlantic Collaboration Woes

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Yesterday afternoon, Matt ‘Total Ales’ Curtis posted about the Wetherspoon pub chain’s collaborations with American brewers.

With­out minc­ing his words, he set out his irri­ta­tion at find­ing a beer from an Amer­i­can brew­er he admires in his local Spoons, where the pun­ters are more inter­est­ed, as he sees it, in val­ue than qual­i­ty:

Hop per­verts in the UK would more than like­ly hap­pi­ly part with £10 for a can of [Heady Top­per]… So with this in mind why has [John] Kim­mich come to the UK and brewed a beer with Adnams to an almost min­i­mal fuss?

His com­ments have raised hack­les, and prompt­ed accu­sa­tions of snob­bery, as dar­ing to crit­i­cise Spoons tends to do, though a cou­ple of lines did make us wince, espe­cial­ly “I imag­ine 99.9% of Wether­spoons cus­tomers have nev­er heard the name John Kim­mich before”. (We’ve nev­er heard of him either.)

But the more inter­est­ing ques­tion is about how cult US brew­ers go about crack­ing the UK mar­ket.

In his respons­es to some­times bad-tem­pered com­ments, Matt has elab­o­rat­ed on what makes him feel uneasy, and it seems to boil down to an idea import­ed from the world of music: that the most devot­ed fans ought to get first dibs on tick­ets, exclu­sive mate­r­i­al, and their idols’ atten­tion. (With apolo­gies to Matt if we’ve read that incor­rect­ly.)

We won­der if Kim­mich even knows he has fans in the UK who were des­per­ate to be ser­viced? Next time he’s in the UK, per­haps he’ll find time for them as well as for Spoons.

Or per­haps he thought brew­ing a beer espe­cial­ly for the UK mar­ket, to be made avail­able on every high street at less than £3 a pint, would be enough? Amer­i­can beer geeks are prob­a­bly green with envy.

And everyone hates DNA

On a relat­ed note, we’ve been observ­ing the ongo­ing car-crash that is Dog­fish Head’s ‘col­lab­o­ra­tion’ with Charles Wells. Though it’s been around for a while, its dis­tri­b­u­tion seems to have expand­ed in the last month or so (has it appeared in Tesco?) lead­ing to lots of this:

Mat­ters of taste aside (it sounds dread­ful but we haven’t tried it) why have Dog­fish Head, who have a cer­tain amount of ‘craft cred­i­bil­i­ty’, cho­sen to pair up with a UK brew­ery more-or-less reviled by UK beer geeks, to pro­duce some­thing that’s more about logis­tics than flavour?(IPA con­cen­trate shipped to the UK and watered down in Bed­ford­shire.)

The prob­lem isn’t mass dis­tri­b­u­tion and afford­abil­i­ty – it’s when com­pro­mis­es made to achieve those aims lum­ber con­sumers with sub-stan­dard prod­ucts, and pos­si­bly do long-term dam­age to brew­eries’ brands.

104 thoughts on “Trans-Atlantic Collaboration Woes”

  1. I had to Google John Kim­mich just now to find out who he was (in con­text the answer seems obvi­ous real­ly). Sus­pect % for ‘spoons cus­tomers needs anoth­er 9 or two on it 🙂

    DNA in keg has been reject­ed by all pubs I’ve seen take it on. It’ll have to change, or it won’t sur­vive very long. In many cas­es it was a pub’s first for­ay into “craft”. That shit isn’t just bad beer, it actu­al­ly dam­ag­ing to the good/craft beer scene in the UK.

  2. There’s more to the UK beer scene than the craft bub­ble that exisits in Greater Lon­don and hand­ful of cities out­side of that. For the rest of us, our best chance of try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent on tap exists sole­ly in JDW’s beer ware­hous­es. We’re not all after a cheap pint, just a dif­fer­ent pint. Price is a sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion.

  3. Must say I’d nev­er heard of this guy or his beer either. Admit­ted­ly my inter­na­tion­al beer geek­ery looks to Europe rather than the USA but if he’s that famous and if his beer’s that good I would have expect­ed them to have crossed my hori­zon at some stage. I’m a fan of Matt’s blog but I don’t think this was his finest hour.

        1. Now you men­tion it, won­der if it’s named in his hon­our? (EDIT: Top­per Headon’s, that is.)

      1. As a blog post, it was rather a suc­cess, I’d say: you got what you want­ed to say off your chest, start­ed a con­ver­sa­tion, got chal­lenged, got sup­port­ed, got every­one think­ing… Great stuff!

  4. When DNA launched, Sam Cala­gione did a whirl­wind stopover of a cou­ple of Youngs pubs in Lon­don to pro­mote it – the lure of com­pli­men­ta­ry tast­ing bot­tles of 120 Minute IPA took us along. He intro­duced the beer by say­ing that he was a huge fan of the W&Y cask beers he’d drunk on vis­its to Lon­don, and when start­ing DFH had incor­po­rat­ed some of the DNA of their beers into his by util­is­ing an Eng­lish strain of yeast in his core beers. When W&Y invit­ed him to col­lab­o­rate with them, he want­ed to brew a clas­sic W&Y cask bit­ter, but incor­po­rat­ing the DNA of his beer – hence the reduced ‘syrup’ of 60 Minute IPA going into the brew.

    The net result is some­thing that doesn’t real­ly sat­is­fy any­one – W&Y were prob­a­bly hop­ing that it would make a ‘crafty’ splash, but it’s too sim­i­lar to their core beers; peo­ple who see the DFH logo and expect some­thing out of the ordi­nary will be dis­ap­point­ed; while core W&Y drinkers might have tried it and had their cyn­i­cism about ‘craft’ beers (name­ly that they’re all mar­ket­ing, a more expen­sive price tag and no sub­stance) recon­firmed.

    (For the record, I thought it was just fine on cask when I had it at that launch – a minor tweak to a W&Y cask bit­ter, which was how it was described by the brew­ers!)

  5. beer snob­bery is the essence of beer blog­gery. with­out it there is no. more pow­er to the snobs!

  6. As a blog post, it was rather a suc­cess, I’d say: you got what you want­ed to say off your chest, start­ed a con­ver­sa­tion, got chal­lenged, got sup­port­ed, got every­one think­ing… Great stuff!”

    Couldn’t agree more and I said so already on Matt’s blog.

  7. I had that Kim­mich beer in Spoons in Brum two week­ends back. And no, I had no idea who he was either. I thought the beer was pret­ty nice. And handy they had it in Spoons, where it wasn’t a stu­pid price.

    I’ve nev­er under­stood what some peo­ple have against Spoons.

    1. I don’t know, if I want­ed to recre­ate the wether­spoons expe­ri­ence I’d just buy some cheap bot­tles of beer and sit in the local bus shel­ter or per­haps a doctor’s wait­ing room.

      If I was lucky I might be able to sit and watch sky sports news on mute and won­der what the man was say­ing.

        1. If your def­i­n­i­tion of snob is “prefers some things over oth­er things”, then yes.

          Is it real­ly snob­bery to say I think wether­spoons are awful shit­holes? Or is it just a mat­ter of many years of accu­mu­lat­ed expe­ri­ence of suf­fer­ing drink­ing in them as a stu­dent?

          1. You can say that some Spoons have dread­ful­ly nar­row beer ranges (although not all; I’ve had the same beer at a Spoons and in a none-more-hip dive bar, which was charg­ing more than twice the price for it). You can say that Spoons serve the same food, most­ly look the same and that they’re pret­ty soul­less. You can say that sit­ting at a num­bered table in a barn-like space with a TV on mute brings back bad mem­o­ries of the years when you couldn’t afford to go any­where else.

            But Ron’s right – call­ing them shit­holes, or liken­ing them to drink­ing cheap bot­tled beer in a bus shel­ter, is snob­bery, and reflects on you more than it does on them.

        2. But the atmos­phere in spoons is absolute­ly indis­tin­guish­able from a bus shel­ter. Every­one stares ahead of them­selves in com­plete silence, apart from the occa­sion­al scream­ing kid and the old bloke on his 15th john smiths of the day f’ing and blind­ing to no-one in par­tic­u­lar.

          Its an accu­rate com­par­i­son. Your typ­i­cal spoons has more in com­mon with an air­port wait­ing lounge than it does with a nor­mal pub. A grey­hound bus depot is also a decent com­par­i­son.

  8. But isn’t the point that this “col­lab­o­ra­tion” junk is just the mon­ey grab no one want to admit it is? Of course the beers are poor and over priced. They all are over here in N.Am. They start­ed as van­i­ty meet­ing the desire to fund trav­el for the brew­ery own­ers but now are just gen­er­al rev­enue grabs for the shame­less. Real­ly, these peo­ple who buy into these things as cus­tomers need to buy ger­bils if they real­ly lack that spe­cial some­thing in their lives.

    1. Erm, Matt described Kim­mich / Adnams beer as “com­plete­ly deli­cious and incred­i­bly accom­plished” and paid £2.35 for it, which is hard­ly poor and over­priced!

      I’ve had the non-Spoons-spe­cif­ic Adnams / Cam­den col­lab­o­ra­tion, South Town, which was also rather good and was on cask in our local Adnams pub for about the same price as all their oth­er beers. This sort of col­lab­o­ra­tion makes par­tic­u­lar sense in that you can see what each side is bring­ing to the table: knowl­edge and tra­di­tion meets bold­ness and new ideas, and on a more prac­ti­cal lev­el, large capac­i­ty and wide dis­tri­b­u­tion meets hip­ster-cred­i­bil­i­ty.

      In gen­er­al, though, I’ve sel­dom had a dis­ap­point­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion beer over here, although I gen­er­al­ly apply due dili­gence and won’t spend sil­ly mon­ey on a beer unless I’ve got a rea­son to believe it’ll be par­tic­u­lar­ly good.

      1. I know but I mean the ten­sion of the entire con­struct, the idea that the senior par­ty, often the trav­el­ing brand­ing staff, brings any­thing to the brew­ing. It’s not like brew­ing unbal­anced over hopped beer is dif­fi­cult. There are lit­er­al­ly a thou­sand US craft brew­ers putting out iden­ti-beers to the jet­set­ting brands of big craft. I sus­pect there are many exam­ples over there that are just as good but lack the mar­ket­ing punch that a fee to the col­lab­o­ra­tor brings.

    2. One of the best beers I drank last year was Wild Beer Co Shnoodlepip, a col­lab­o­ra­tion between them, Burn­ing Sky and Good George brew­eries. It was not only deli­cious but pushed the enve­lope, it was a gen­uine­ly new idea. When col­lab­o­ra­tions work they real­ly help push the indus­try for­ward.

  9. This entire post is snob­bery gone mad. I’ve had the DNA (in bot­tle) and it was fine -dis­ap­point­ing­ly un-bril­liant, admit­ted­ly, but fine. I nev­er would have expect­ed you to slag off a beer with­out tast­ing it. As for the Alchemist col­lab, what exact­ly is the prob­lem? Great beer, at a low price, avail­able to non-geeks – which part of that is bad? Matt is dead wrong about Spoons’ – cater­ing to fam­i­lies and cheap­skates is part of their offer but only part of it; they do some superb beers, this one evi­dent­ly includ­ed.

    1. To be fair, we do make clear we haven’t tried it in the post.

      We’re report­ing on oth­er people’s reac­tions to it, and our per­cep­tion that it has not been great for Dog­fish Head’s image in the UK.

      And I think we’ve got crossed wires in re: the first part of the post. Isn’t this:

      Or per­haps he thought brew­ing a beer espe­cial­ly for the UK mar­ket, to be made avail­able on every high street at less than £3 a pint, would be enough? Amer­i­can beer geeks are prob­a­bly green with envy.”

      mak­ing more or less the same point you are?

  10. Why should I take seri­ous­ly the rant­i­ngs of some­one who admits he was “drink­ing luke­warm bot­tles of Harviestoun Schiehal­lion out of dirty glass tum­blers” but does noth­ing about it? Why do so many peo­ple com­plain on blogs (rather than in the pub) about an unsat­is­fac­to­ry beer they’ve had? Just take it back; I hate com­plain­ing and always do it polite­ly, but I always do it.

    He asserts that John Kim­mich is “one of the most revered brew­ers in the world”. I’m no expert on Amer­i­can beers but this sounds like hyper­bole to me, set up to con­trast with how low the esteemed Mr Kim­mich has sunk by slum­ming it with Wether­spoons. In oth­er words, the whole thing is just snob­bery.

    As for col­lab­o­ra­tion being a mon­ey grab: that’s just a deroga­to­ry term for income, which – let’s face it – we all need.

    I must pop into my local Spoons and see whether they’ve got this beer is on.

    1. Didn’t say the Schiehal­lion was bad, in fact i’m a big fan. The Har­ringay Arms is the sort of pub where if you com­plain about your glass being dirty they give you a wry smile and start serv­ing the next cus­tomer. It’s a fun­ny charm but one that I quite like.

      And I’m not ask­ing you to take me seri­ous­ly, I write about beer in my spare time because it’s some­thing I enjoy doing. Got you talk­ing though didn’t I.

    2. Mon­ey grab is not a deroga­to­ry term for income. How can you type that and expect to be tak­en seri­ous­ly?

      1. Because it is deroga­to­ry. Oxford Dic­tio­nary: mon­ey grab is “An undig­ni­fied or unprin­ci­pled acqui­si­tion of a large sum of mon­ey with lit­tle effort.”

        How can you type what you did and expect to be tak­en seri­ous­ly?

  11. I do know who John Kim­mich is and am a fan of his beers so I can see matt’s point of view. How­ev­er, I think Wether­spoons, from anoth­er point of view, is the per­fect place for his beers. It’s bring­ing craft to the cut­ting edge of the mass­es and even if one per­son tries it-and I know a few who have-then it’s a suc­cess.

    1. If they try it, and like it, that’s great. What hap­pens next? The log­i­cal point would be to go to the staff mem­ber and say “wow, that beer was real­ly great” and artic­u­late, pos­si­bly non-tech­ni­cal­ly, the qual­i­ties that made it to their taste.

      It is then in the staff member’s hands to do some­thing about it – rec­om­mend anoth­er beer, say “yeah, that’s the dry hop­ping that gives it that amaz­ing flo­ral aro­ma. Oh, what’s that you ask? Well, here’s a few oth­er exam­ples of dry-hopped beers”. Boom, upsell done, sat­is­fied cus­tomer served, repeat cus­tom (hope­ful­ly) in the future.

      Does Wether­spoons pro­vide this? Rarely, in my expe­ri­ence. And I will be the first one to put my hand up that most of my expe­ri­ences in Spoons have been in Lon­don. The few out­side Lon­don I’ve been to have been pleas­ant, as I com­ment­ed on Matt’s orig­i­nal blog post. But they still weren’t the havens of beer knowl­edge that _in my opinion_ good beer deserves to be sold in. I’m not say­ing all mem­bers of staff have to have CIcerone train­ing (though it would be cool, we’d have bet­ter ser­vice as a result) but more-than-rudi­men­ta­ry beer knowl­edge (and wine knowl­edge, and spir­its knowl­edge) would go a long way.

      Call me a snob if you want. Please just do it to my face. I’ll take anoth­er sip of my Kro­nen­bourg and try and explain why I think what I think.

      1. I know what you’re say­ing, but it doesn’t both­er me. I’ve been drink­ing beer for some­where between three and 38 years, and not once in that time have I asked the barstaff any­thing – unless you count “What style is that one with the unin­for­ma­tive pump clip?” (usu­al­ly answered by pour­ing a taster, which is fine by me).

        1. Thing is, you are into your beer – you just said so. I’m talk­ing about the peo­ple just embark­ing on drink­ing beer.

          1. OK, so that’s me 38 years ago (or 35 to allow for my pres­ence at the bar to be legal!). If I drank a beer and I liked it, I ordered it again or tried to guess what would be sim­i­lar and ordered that. If I drank a beer and didn’t like it, I made a men­tal note not to get that beer again. So who needs tast­ing notes? That’s not a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion – if you’re in a pub and the choic­es fac­ing you are in sin­gle fig­ures, why would you feel the need for tast­ing notes?

      2. The vast major­i­ty of pubs don’t do any­thing like you say, so I can’t see why spoons should be sin­gled out for crit­i­cism. The bet­ter ones will ask if you want a taster but that’s about it. The only places I’ve come across that sort of ser­vice is in the likes of brew­dog.

        I’m not sure I’d even want it. Feels a bit over­bear­ing to me, and not very ‘pub­by’.

    2. It’s also a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty for a US brew­er to get their beer made in a prop­er tra­di­tion­al cask-con­di­tioned form, and then get it nation­al­ly dis­trib­uted. That kind of thing is still pret­ty much impos­si­ble in the US, as I under­stand it.

  12. The prob­lem I have with Matt’s post is not so much that he appears to believe that the tal­ents of a brew­er few peo­ple have heard about have been wast­ed because he was paid to make a beer for the sort of peo­ple who don’t care who he is, even if said beer was appears to be quite good, but that his opin­ion is backed by not much more than prej­u­dice. He doesn’t know about how suc­cess­ful or not that beer was, and yet he’s almost telling us that it was wast­ed on those peo­ple. That’s not what blog­ging should be about, IMO.

    1. Well, with respect, it is hard to sug­gest there is or isn’t some­thing blog­ging should be about. Pret­ty low entry stuff, no?

    2. What you see as prej­u­dice I see as opin­ion, opin­ion gath­ered from an actu­al expe­ri­ence in a pub from two weeks ago that I could not put out of my mind there­fore I put it to paper. If that’s not what blog­ging is about then what is?

      1. I think you’re right Matt. Total­ly dis­agree with the sen­ti­ments expressed (I mean you did come across as a com­plete beer snob and craft wanker and I’m sure you’re nei­ther) but hav­ing a beery expe­ri­ence, mulling it over and then pub­lish­ing it must be what blog­ging is there for (at least in part). And you stim­u­lat­ed plen­ty of debate both on your own blog and here.

        By the way tak­en with the com­ment on your blog that men­tioned how good Lon­don is as opposed to “the regions”. Oh please. I mean – why not just go back to call­ing the rest of the UK “the provinces” and have done with it. Some peo­ple real­ly do need to spend more time out­side the M25.

        1. Well said John. It’s impos­si­ble to avoid the fact that I’m a beer snob/craft wanker, in fact I most def­i­nite­ly am!

          I’m also look­ing for­ward to stretch­ing my legs and get­ting out of this city sev­er­al times over the com­ing weeks. Cardiff this week­end and it looks like the scene there is explod­ing. Home to Lin­colnshire lat­er in the month and then final­ly get­ting to Man­ches­ter for Indy­man but have plen­ty of time put aside to explore the city. Can’t wait to drink Dob­ber in the Mar­ble Arch!

          1. Well when you get off the train into Cardiff I would sug­gest you walk past the ‘prince of Wales ’ , it would tick most people’s images of the worst type of ‘spoons unfor­tu­nate­ly. Yet they have a great one not three miles away in the Bay.

        2. John, sor­ry you took issue with my com­ment about the “regions” but it’s a com­mon sen­ti­ment expressed by those out­side of Lon­don that Lon­don gets more attention/beer/entertainment/X than the “regions”. I was just prempt­ing the usu­al reac­tion.

          As for spend­ing more time out­side the M25, I think Glouces­t­shire for Christ­mas, Bris­tol Beer Fes­ti­val in March, Birm­ing­ham Beer Bash last month, Edin­burgh in Sep­tem­ber, Buxton/Bakewell/Manchester in Octo­ber and the odd trip to Essex and Suf­folk do for you?

          Chris (from the Province of Ulster).

          1. Your defen­sive response does give the impres­sion that I may have hit a nerve. Agree you seem you be get­ting out and about a bit though which is no bad thing.

          2. I should add that I have nev­er heard any­one say that Lon­don is bet­ter off for beer than “the regions”. It’s final­ly got the beer scene it should always have had and which some of us (uo herev in Greater Man­ches­ter for exam­ple) have bene enjoy­ing for some time. Indeed if I do ever hear any comem­nt about the Lon­don beer scene it’s that it’s final­ly catch­ing up with every­one else. Then again per­haps I should spend more time inside the M25!

  13. I’ve had the mis­for­tune of drink­ing DNA – both keg and bot­tle – and it’s pret­ty awful but it has a colour­ful label and is now sell­ing in some major super­mar­kets so it must be doing some­thing right.

    The prob­lem with McSpoons is that it’s cater­ing for a mass mar­ket so it can’t go too extreme or dif­fer­ent. It gives the per­cep­tion of offer­ing a lot of choice but most of the beer sold is from a mid­dle of the road taste spec­trum and that’s okay as far as I’m con­cerned. I don’t go to ‘spoons for a craft hit and I also don’t expect the staff to have any knowl­edge of the beer they sell; most of the staff will be at col­lege or Uni and are there because they need the cash not because they have a love or knowl­edge of beer that would sat­is­fy a beer geek. The last bar­man I spoke to at ‘spoons said he “didn’t even like beer”. Any­way I digress.

    The thing that I do have an issue with are the taste­less, point­less col­lab­o­ra­tion beers. I just don’t under­stand why good US brew­eries would attach their name to some­thing below their nor­mal qual­i­ty. To me that just cheap­ens their name to the peo­ple who are pas­sion­ate about their beer and who would pay good mon­ey for the gen­uine arti­cle.

    At the end of the day, if you want excep­tion­al beer and you’re going to ‘spoons then buy a can of Ben­gali Tiger and don’t get sucked into drink­ing some­thing with a small Amer­i­can flag on the clip as your tears – that you will undoubtably cry – will taste bet­ter.

    1. The prob­lem with McSpoons is that it’s cater­ing for a mass mar­ket so it can’t go too extreme or dif­fer­ent

      That’s not been my expe­ri­ence (although it does depend a bit on which Spoons’ pub you go to – some Spoons are absolute­ly dire for beer choice). I don’t think I’ve ever had a sai­son in a Spoons, and I can only remem­ber one cask DIPA (sell­ing at £3.95 a pint). But I’ve had some excel­lent BIPAs in Spoons and some mas­sive stouts, to say noth­ing of porter, old ale, mild (dark and light) & var­i­ous hybrids and one-offs (cask wit­bier, any­one?). Plus as many sub-styles of bit­ter as you care to name.

      1. It sounds like you have a good ‘spoons. The one I fre­quent the most – Grey Fri­ars in Pre­ston – has a pret­ty dire beer choice. I only vis­it around once a month so it might be the case that I’m miss­ing the good stuff.

        1. They vary a lot, but I think you’d be on fair­ly safe ground (for beer choice, at least!) in the Spoons in Dids­bury & Chorl­ton, and in most of the cen­tral Man­ches­ter Spoons. I wouldn’t go into the Chea­dle Hulme Spoons unless it was to get out of the rain.

          1. Yet the Chea­dle Hulme Spoons used to be very good. That I think is the nub of the Spoons issue. They are a nation­al chain supos­ed­ly oper­at­ing to nation­al stan­dards but we all know they can be incred­i­bly var­ied. The good ones real­ly can be good (I rec­comend the Gate­way by the way) but when they’re not good they real­ly can be pret­ty grim. It all comes down to the com­mit­ment of the var­i­ous man­agers which is both under­stand­able but at the same time very frus­trat­ing – and can make drop­ping into a Spoons some­thing of a lot­tery.

            Oh – and I’ve had a sai­son in a Spoons. Quite good it was too (despite my belief that saisons are one of the very few styles that are bet­ter on keg than in cask).

          2. To be fair to the King’s Hall, I may have caught it on a bad day. Half the bar was the nation­al usu­al sus­pects & the oth­er half was giv­en over to, um… a rel­a­tive­ly local brew­ery whose beer I real­ly seri­ous­ly dis­like… Oh, what the hell, I’ve named them already on my blog – Coach House. Per­haps they’d had a Meet The Brew­er (And Ask Him Why He’s Brew­ing This Stuff) event.

      2. In my expe­ri­ence Spoons often do try to “push the enve­lope” in terms of cask beer choice, some­times at the expense of a bal­anced range. They cer­tain­ly don’t just play it safe.

        The Spoons for­mu­la is to try to cov­er as many bases as pos­si­ble – they are cer­tain­ly not just tar­get­ed at low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor val­ue drinkers. Unless there is a spe­cial­ist beer pub near­by, in many places Spoons will offer the widest and most adven­tur­ous choice of cask beer, and beer enthu­si­asts will vis­it just to see what’s on.

  14. There are those who can only afford to drink at cheap­er estab­lish­ments and I think the Spoons is a great exam­ple of a hotel where the aver­age punter can be intro­duced to dif­fer­ent styles of beer. Not every­one can peruse the hand picked beer menu at moth­er Kel­ly or have a ses­sion of fine­ly honed lagers at Cam­den Town Brew­ery. I think its a pos­i­tive thing that these beers are acces­si­ble to all.
    It makes peo­ple (not all of course) curi­ous and they will per­haps seek out more craft beers. We all have to start some­where, fel­la. In the end every­one wins.
    #craft­wanker­a­hoy

  15. I’m baf­fled by the deifi­ca­tion of brewers—which is what this whole Kim­mich thing is. It just fell flat.

    1. But if you can make a com­mod­i­ty out of per­son­al­i­ty and then sell it in a “col­lab­o­ra­tion” so that you add a few words to the PR copy, isn’t that a great thing? I mean it has noth­ing to do with beer but it is all income, right? I mean it’s not like beer drinkers are here to active­ly think about their pur­chas­ing deci­sions. More peo­ple real­ly need to learn their place.

    2. And yet if you switch on the tele­vi­sion you see that the worlds best chefs such as Michel Roux or Tom Ker­ridge who have become nation­al celebri­ties.

      A brew­er is in my eyes much the same as a chef.

      1. Not real­ly the same Matt. After all you can watch Tom Ker­ridge cook­ing some­thing and then rus­tle up a fair approx­i­ma­tion of it at home if you fol­low his recipe. You can’t read­i­ly do that for beer.

        1. You say that but have you sam­pled home­brew from Andy Park­er, Chris Tay­lor and Emma Vic­to­ry, Andrew Drinkwa­ter or Con­nor Mur­phy just to name a few?

          I’ve seen what ‘home brew­ers’ are capa­ble of… I mean the evi­dence is clear. Gregg from Weird Beard was a home brew­er that has tak­en it all the way, as was Logan from Beaver­town.

          There are plen­ty of peo­ple cook­ing up these recipes at home. Plus I quite fan­cy my skills in the kitchen but there’s no way I could repli­cate the kind of thing Ker­ridge and the like do!

        2. That iden­ti­fies two prob­lems. Such celebri­ty is mean­ing­less and trans­fer­ral is both unfound­ed and alien­at­ing. You may want to revis­it home brew­ing (and cook­ing for that mat­ter) to con­firm these things are not rock­et sci­ence even if skilled trades.

      2. We know that peo­ple like Michel Roux are celebri­ties, but that doesn’t real­ly answer the ques­tion – Kim Kardashian’s a celebri­ty, after all. I tend to agree with Alan – bring­ing star­dom into beer is just bring­ing anoth­er lay­er of cost and dis­trac­tion, which does nobody any good except the peo­ple who make mon­ey out of it. And on the food anal­o­gy I agree with Cur­mud­geon – the good TV chefs (in my view) are the ones whose recipes you can actu­al­ly fol­low; oth­er­wise it’s just food porn. I’d watch “Home Brew­ing with Alis­tair Hook” (pos­si­bly from behind the sofa), but if they’re not going to tell me any­thing I can actu­al­ly use I’d rather brew­ers stayed, well, brew­ing.

        1. So what would be your opin­ion on celebri­ty ‘Brew­ers’ over in the USA such as Sam Cali­gione (who host­ed his own TV show) and Gar­ret Oliv­er who, as well as author­ing the Brew­ers Table and edit­ing the Oxford guide to beer also writes for the NY Post?

          Is what they do need­ed by the beer indus­try? (basi­cal­ly pro­mot­ing their brew­erys and being ‘ambas­sadors’ for beer in gen­er­al) I think it is.

          1. To be hon­est, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t watch “Evin O’Riordain’s The B Word” – I don’t know if I’d even both­er with a Meet the Brew­er event, come to that – but I don’t think that it’s unhealthy to show some respect to good, small-scale brew­ers. The good ones are tal­ent­ed and hard­work­ing and are stick­ing to their prin­ci­ples to do stuff that makes a small num­ber of beer geeks hap­py even though they could prob­a­bly make a lot more cash by cut­ting down their range and crank­ing up their pro­duc­tion vol­umes and focus­ing on get­ting large scale dis­tri­b­u­tion for their two most acces­si­ble beers… some sort of appre­ci­a­tion from the peo­ple who like what they’re doing seems like the least they deserve!

  16. Can I just stand up for dna. I live in bed­ford­shire where wells brew this beer. They also run 50% of the pubs in the area. The rest are a mix of green king, spoons and free hous­es.
    When dna first came about they test­ed it in a num­ber of there locals. The week­end it went on every­one in the pub was keen to try it. And boy did they, peo­ple could not get enough of it and were going back for more . I believe this was for a num­ber of rea­sons, dna is very sim­i­lar to the stan­dard wells beers peo­ple are used to but with a slight­ly hop­pi­er hit. Most uk drinkers haven’t had craft beer so for it to taste like a stones ipa would be too shock­ing for them, peo­ple used to bom­badier and not ready for hop bombs. Sec­ond­ly for beer geeks who live out­side the big cities craft beer is hard to come by. To just be able to have a dog­fish beer on tap ( all be it a pale imi­ta­tion is great) I can order a pint of it for me and a friend and start a dis­cus­sion about craft beer. If they like it they may get them curi­ous about prop­er beer and ease them into the world of brew­dog etc etc .

    I am aware dna is a poor poor beer for dog­fish to enter the uk mass mar­ket with. I have had there us coun­ter­parts so under­stand people’s frus­tra­tions with this. But if you take your­self out of the bub­ble and look at the aver­age uk pub goer, most think try­ing a cask beer is scary and adven­tur­ous enough, hav­ing this won’t and find­ing it’s not that dif­fer­ent from what there used to might not be a bad thing . It’s a great step from john smith/bombadier to micro crafty beer were all try­ing to pro­mote .
    I Think of them as kings of Leon, long left there indie cool cre­den­tials behind but a great way to ease some­one into great music if all they have ever heard is one direc­tion

    1. This is the sort of thing I was shoot­ing for too. If you’re seri­ous about “craft”, get the ser­vice side on par with the qual­i­ty of beer.

  17. Sor­ry to rant but in short there are so few gate­ways for real beer in the uk , don’t close a slight­ly a jar door in the face of the avatar pub goer oth­er­wise il nev­er get them into a craft bar with the line the beers a bit like dna 😉

    1. Sam, In venues I know who’ve tried to pick up DNA as a “craft keg” (eeek) offer­ing it has failed to be accept­ed and been removed pret­ty quick­ly.

      Per­haps in cask it works for trad cask drinkers. Whilst in keg it brings back too much of the “keg bit­ter” vibe. It just doesn’t go down well. This is dam­ag­ing I believe – to both Dog­fish Head (doesn’t both­er me too much) and to the devel­op­ing “craft beer scene” (both­ers me a lot). Because the bas­tards at Char­lie Wells are call­ing this insipid odd flavoured stuff “craft beer” and thus peo­ple believe “craft beer” is the sec­ond com­ing of “keg bit­ter”.

      I do thank DNA in a small way – it’s rejec­tion won me some sales in a place pon­der­ing the “craft” scene. (Long may they con­tin­ue… or per­haps the region just isn’t ready for *any­thing* non-main­stream in a keg yet, but the cask side of the craft sec­tor is doing pret­ty well in these parts.)

      (My expe­ri­ence of this is sources in Herts and Cambs by the way. )

  18. Yvan I agree I don’t think keg is the best way to serve this beer to the mass­es, peo­ple asso­ciate keg with lager and mc ale like bod­ding­tons. Peo­ple who like­ly to get into craft beer and already dab­bling with cask ale and pad­dling in the Lon­don pride / bom­bardier pond so dna is a nice step up . I can see beer geeks frus­tra­tions as dog­fish have culled there dis­tri­b­u­tion to uk mak­ing there beer noto­ri­ous­ly dif­fi­cult to get, this could have been a glim­mer of light

  19. To add.. I’m not sure the dam­age will be that high , dog­fish have lit­tle to no dis­tri­b­u­tion in the uk. If your into your beer and aware of the brand you will still drink the beers when you can get hold of them in the future. Yes it’s not pulling in any new cus­tomers but I dont think it’s dog­fish inten­tions.

  20. On DNA:
    I’ve heard a few peo­ple say recent­ly that in the US, a lot of ‘craft’ brew­ing (home and com­mer­cial) is now look­ing at British styles – after all they’ve had hop mon­sters (and hop angels) for­ev­er, and the rare hops and styles in Col­orado are East Kent Gold­ings & the like.

    In that light, the col­labs they’re doing here with fair­ly respectable suc­cess­ful region­als could just be per­fect­ing a style?
    Why would you do a col­lab with one of the new­er out­fits who are just mim­ic­k­ing what you already do? That’s just free con­sul­tan­cy. (Yes, Doug Odell does that when he’s over, but Doug is rather unique & from a gen­er­a­tion before this recent set of trav­el­ing US brew­ers)

    Has any­one else heard the same about the US trend? I think I’ve picked it up from a cou­ple of meet the brew­er, curat­ed events etc. Sources not well ref­er­enced, sor­ry, but would put a con­text that makes sense of it.

  21. I’d be inter­est­ed to know why reg­u­lar ‘Spoons pun­ters choose to drink there – is it just low prices or is there, as I sus­pect, more to it than that? Some ‘Spoons pubs may be pret­ty hor­ri­ble, but you can’t deny that the chain is suc­cess­ful – so what lessons could/should seri­ous beer pubs learn from them?

    1. Its the fact that you know exact­ly what you’re get­ting before you even go through the door. Peo­ple are instinc­tive­ly unad­ven­tur­ous, its the rea­son that chain shops, cafes and restau­rants are so pop­u­lar despite offer­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er qual­i­ty and worse val­ue than inde­pen­dent places.

      Its one of the ironies of places like wether­spoons, mcdon­alds, star­bucks that you’re far more like­ly to use one in a strange city than you ever are to vis­it to your local branch.

      1. Good obser­va­tion, the strange city bit. I think that’s one of the keys to suc­cess of glob­al brands.

        But if I had a local Spoons I’d be down there all the time. I can only dream of such joy.

        1. One of my goals on the upcom­ing trip to Scot­land is to hit a Wether­spoons for lunch to form a grade A N.Am dri­ve by blog­ger lev­el opin­ion that I can repeat for years.

    2. The food is a major attrac­tion – in most loca­tions, nowhere else near­by offers such a wide range at such rea­son­able prices.

      Also Spoons avoid the slight cliqui­ness typ­i­cal of both many tra­di­tion­al pubs and new-style bars. It’s not that every­one is wel­come, but that nobody is made to feel unwel­come.

    3. What they do, they do well and con­sis­tent­ly. Cus­tomer ser­vice, for instance, may not be the best – I do miss the old-school bar­maid who wouldn’t need to ask who was next, let alone whether any­one was wait­ing – but for what it is, it’s con­sis­tent­ly com­pe­tent & polite. You will some­times get a duff pint in a Spoons, but you’ll nev­er have any trou­ble tak­ing it back – in my expe­ri­ence (in two dif­fer­ent Spoons) the response has been imme­di­ate: apol­o­gy, pump clip turned round, replace­ment offered, job done. They may not know any­thing about the beer they’re serv­ing, but they know what you should do if the punter tells you it’s gone off – I’d much rather have that than some wannabe som­me­li­er hold­ing my sour pint up to the light and telling me nobody else has com­plained (which I’ve had more than once, in pubs with much bet­ter rep­u­ta­tions).

      1. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the Spoons in Haver­hill, Suf­folk isn’t so good. Have had more than the odd duff pint and 1 par­tic­u­lar man­ag­er refused to take a beer off, even though it was obvi­ous­ly off – Sar­sons would have tast­ed bet­ter!

  22. I real­ly feel uneasy with the super­star brew­er thing. Brew­ers are tech­ni­cians, not per­form­ers.

    How much influ­ence do super­star brew­ers have on the beer you drink? Did they brew it? Did they even design the beer? Brew­ing is – the tini­est out­fits except­ed – a co-oper­a­tive enter­prise. Unlike art (unless you’re Damien Hurst).

    The brew­ers I know aren’t dis­tract­ed by the star­dom crap. Quite a few would like to be real rock stars, but wouldn’t we all?.

    1. On that point, I’d see Damien Hirst’s brew­ing ana­logue aa maybe Mikkeller. The prod­uct is all exe­cut­ed by oth­er peo­ple, but it car­ries the name, hype/reputation, and the price lev­els asso­ci­at­ed with the chap who put the instruc­tions togeth­er…

  23. I had a few pints of the Kim­mich beer again yes­ter­day. Real­ly nice stuff, and only £2.29 a pint. Some­one else must have been drink­ing it, because it was in pret­ty good con­di­tion. That was in Newark, which is not exact­ly, er, posh. And my steak came with a can of Six­point thrown in.

    I can’t under­stand why Wether­spoons aren’t praised for this sort of thing. Sno­bism is the only expla­na­tion I can think of.

    1. Even though you might be right, I think ‘snob’ is such a blunt accu­sa­tion that it rather shuts down the con­ver­sa­tion, which makes it hard­er to get to the bot­tom of the issue.

      Per­son­al­ly, hav­ing tried some­thing like 15, and enjoyed per­haps 3, we strug­gle now to get ter­ri­bly excit­ed about these JDW-US col­lab­o­ra­tion beers.

      And I think (hope) we’d feel the same if they were going at £5 a pint in the Craft Beer Co – we’re just not sure col­lab­o­ra­tion is a par­tic­u­lar­ly good way to pro­duce great beers, regard­less of price/presentation.

      I won­der if there’s also a feel­ing that JDW is in some sense sab­o­tag­ing the (sor­ry) ‘craft beer move­ment’? Or at least exploit­ing it? Moti­va­tion/back-sto­ry mat­ters to peo­ple, like it or not.

      1. call­ing some­one a snob is sim­ply an admis­sion that you don’t have a coher­ent argu­ment. Its no bet­ter or worse than call­ing some­one a pleb, in fact its the exact mir­ror argu­ment.

      2. Call it hip­ster­ism then. Think­ing some­thing that some­thing with mass appeal can’t be good. Be it beer or music.

        One of the good things about push­ing towards pen­sion, is that I don’t give a f*ck about being trendy. I say what I think.

        I’d explain bet­ter, but Dolores is call­ing me to get my hair cut.

      3. I’ve prob­a­bly tried as many of the JDW US col­labs as you, and while prob­a­bly only 3 or 4 were “Oh yeah!!” moments, I reck­on I liked most of them, maybe two-thirds.

        Maybe ‘snob­bism’ is too loaded a term, but Ron’s right – many peo­ple unfair­ly look down on JDW. They couch as dis­lik­ing the clien­tele, or the lack of a “com­fy local” atmos­phere, or the cor­po­rate­ness of it all, or they think it’s evil for squeez­ing low prices out of brew­ers (for­get­ting that, unlike the rapa­cious thieves at Pinch and Enter­shite, at least JDW pass­es on some of the sav­ings to the drinker), and they choose to over­look all the plus points – com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment, real ale in good (and some­times quite excel­lent) con­di­tion, sup­port for local brew­ers, and of course keen pric­ing.

        Sab­o­tag­ing the craft beer move­ment? If you mean under­min­ing the attempts by oth­ers to charge £5 or £6 a pint for aver­age beer by pack­ag­ing it as pon­cy “Craft Keg”, then I’m all for it!

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