Pondering BrewDog Brewing Stone

Arrogant Bastard on Tour.

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.

18 thoughts on “Pondering BrewDog Brewing Stone”

  1. With Stone Berlin set to open next year (I think), would there be a need for BUL, or would that not cater for Europe’s demand for Stone beers

    1. We *think* there would still be a finan­cial ben­e­fit to brew­ing in the UK rather than Ger­many – we can’t get Ger­man or Bel­gian beer cheap here in the UK cos the alco­hol tax is topped up on import. (Have we got that right?)

      But it might just be some arrange­ment for a par­tic­u­lar beer or two, specif­i­cal­ly for Brew­Dog bars, or even Wether­spoon.

      Or maybe we’re way off the mark.

  2. Inter­est­ing twit­ter exchange. I did­n’t realise brew dog kool aid drinkers still exist­ed.

  3. (very sen­si­ble, per­fect­ly legit­i­mate) busi­ness, which might or might not be good news for con­sumers

    Blimey! Are you sure you want to stir up this much con­tro­ver­sy so soon after start­ing up again?

      1. Mere sar­casm, I’m afraid – it seemed like the mildest, most bal­anced, least provoca­tive con­clu­sion any­one could pos­si­bly come to. Which does­n’t mean it’s wrong – or, for that mat­ter, that it won’t get some­body riled.

  4. weird. Why buy stone brand­ed beer brewed by brew­dog when you can buy brew­dog brand­ed beer brewed by brew­dog. Its not like it tastes a whole lot dif­fer­ent if we’re hon­est. Is it Stone beer brewed at Brew­dog, or Brew­dog beer brand­ed as Stone? What’s the dif­fer­ence?

    We should have more brew­ery brand­ing swaps like this. Adnams to start brew­ing Fullers beers and Fullers to brew Adnams. Lets see if any­one notices.

  5. It’s an odd choice giv­en Stone is a slight­ly tired brand now. But its not real­ly about bleed­ing edge of any­thing, just a safe mar­riage of loud brands. I’d love to know more about what this means: “a good stab at repli­cat­ing the orig­i­nal Arro­gant Bas­tard, or at least cap­tur­ing its spir­it.” It’s not real­ly that hard to repli­cate so why do you expect them to miss the mark?

    1. It does­n’t seem to be that easy to repli­cate exact­ly even quite straight­for­ward beers – what was that sto­ry about Sier­ra Neva­da strug­gling to nail Pale Ale when they changed the shape/size of the fer­ment­ing ves­sels?

      Cer­tain­ly Shep­herd Neame’s take on Sam Adams is by most accounts quite dif­fer­ent, though we haven’t side-by-sided our­selves.

      If it was, say, Greene King rather than Brew­Dog brew­ing AB, we might expect it to be toned down con­sid­er­ably.

      1. I sus­pect your sec­ond exam­ple was a tweet to local tastes giv­en how Sam Adams is a bit of a dull beer in its native envi­ron­ment. And I would guess the SN sto­ry is real­ly PR puff. Noth­ing like over­com­ing dif­fi­cul­ty even when man­u­fac­tured to keep your large indus­tri­al enter­prise appear to be the small oper­a­tion you pre­tend it to be. I pre­sume brew­ers at this scale with their skill, equip­ment and labs resources can hit with­in a tenth of an IBU. Devi­a­tions are to taste. Habit if not inten­tion.

        1. The com­ment about Sier­ra Neva­da strug­gling for PR pur­pos­es seems plain sil­ly. Any new brew­ery has to be con­di­tioned and dialed-in to account for many fac­tors, water con­sti­tu­tion, shape and qual­i­ty of the ves­sels, even geo­graph­i­cal ele­va­tion. This does­n’t seem like a PR angle to me in the sense that I’ve nev­er heard of a dif­fer­ent sce­nario play­ing out for any new brew­ery.

          They did every­thing they could man­age to elim­i­nate exter­nal fac­tors, such as ship­ping hops and grain from the exact same lots (not just the same grow­ers, but actu­al lots) in order to focus on tech­ni­cal aspects that might oth­er­wise go unno­ticed when repli­cat­ing the recipe.

          1. Oh dear. We do live in hope. No one said strug­gling. Feed­ing puff to the mar­ket­place for the sus­cep­ti­ble. They are excel­lent brew­ers. And as has been observed many times, a good brew­er is one who makes the same excel­lent beer even with crap­py ingre­di­ents. I am sure they cracked this nut with lit­tle sweat. But, yes, some oppor­tu­ni­ty on the PR front.

  6. I’m slight­ly puz­zled. Like Bar­ry M, I was under the impres­sion that Stone’s new plant in Berlin was the way for­ward for them in Europe. Isn’t there talk of oth­er US brew­ers doing like­wise?

  7. Some prop­er con­text for this seems in order

    Stone is tak­ing Arro­gant Bas­tard on a “road trip” of sorts, invit­ing brew­eries across the U.S. (and Brew Dog) to brew a batch of the famous beer. It’s a bit of col­lab­o­ra­tive mar­ket­ing.

    While I would­n’t rule out a future con­tract brew rela­tion­ship, that’s does­n’t seem to be the goal here.

    Arro­gant Bas­tard is a bit of a declin­ing brand for Stone, espe­cial­ly com­pared to recent suc­cess­es like Go To IPA, Enjoy by, and even the Sai­son. This idea for Are­ogant Bas­tard seems aimed at remind­ing peo­ple about the brand and mak­ing some friends along the way, although I know plen­ty of brew­eries who have declined the offer.

    It’s a bit too much like throw­ing your­self a par­ty and invit­ing your friends to do all the work. Which I supoose is arro­gant in its own right.

    But the pon­der­ing over the nature and impli­ca­tions of a con­tract brewed Stone beer ongo­ing seem mis­placed here. I don’t think either com­pa­ny is sug­gest­ing that (or at least has­n’t done so yet).

  8. Hey Boak and Bai­ley,

    I just want­ed to add some clar­i­ty to a poten­tial­ly con­fus­ing sit­u­a­tion.

    We have no inten­tion of brew­ing any Stone beer under license.

    This is just a one off beer as Stone’s Bas­tard Hits the Road pro­gram http://blog.stonebrewing.com/index.php/arrogant-bastard-hits-the-road/

    We are just brew­ing one batch. Just for keg and just for our own bars.

    I would imag­ine all Stone beers for Europe will be brewed in Berlin which is an awe­some thing.

    Keep up the good work – your beer blog rocks 🙂

    j

    1. Thanks for your input, James. Hope­ful­ly it was clear to peo­ple that we were just guess­ing about stuff – no insid­er knowl­edge claimed!

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