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Trans-Atlantic Collaboration Woes


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 replies on “Trans-Atlantic Collaboration Woes”

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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!)

[…] their own “craft” ranges – and we see things like Greene King Nobel Lager and Charles Wells / Dogfish Head DNA in keg pushed as their “craft offering”…. Then there is a very noisily vocal […]

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

“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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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).

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

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?

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’.

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.

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.

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

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?

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.

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!

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.

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).

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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 😉

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. )

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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!

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?.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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