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:
What fresh hell is this? Are Dogfish in on the joke? Threatened to ruin my weekend. pic.twitter.com/h5uMNLF0FS
— Christian Townsley (@NorthbarChris) August 1, 2014
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.