When BrewDog announced that it would be brewing a version of American brewery Stone’s famous Arrogant Bastard Ale, it set us pondering.
And despite what seemed to us a prickly reaction from BrewDog employees and loyalists when we said so on Twitter, we do just mean pondering — our reaction was not instinctively negative. That’s because we think, in certain circumstances, played the right way, brewing beers under licence on other continents might be a pretty good idea, especially if it means we get them (a) fresher and (b) cheaper.
We don’t, for example, have a fundamental problem with Shepherd Neame brewing Sam Adams Boston Lager in Kent — it’s just that we don’t trust that particular brewery to do it well, or to be clear with customers at the point of sale (POS) — we suspect lots of people buy the UK-brewed variant thinking they’re getting a ‘premium’ imported product.
We’re confident that BrewDog, however, will make a good stab at replicating the original Arrogant Bastard, or at least capturing its spirit; and both they and Stone are making a point of being highly transparent, which we expect to (hope will) carry through to POS materials in BrewDog bars.
What happens in future, when this one-off is over, is when it will really get interesting: it’s hard not to see this, and BrewDog’s recent homage to Stone’s Enjoy By, as test projects on the path towards a more permanent, longer-term licence-brewing agreement which will see BrewDog producing Stone beers for the wider UK market.
In other words, we’re not convinced, despite the talk of ‘experiments’ and ‘journeys’, that this is anything other than (very sensible, perfectly legitimate) business, which might or might not be good news for consumers depending on how it is handled.