bottled beer Generalisations about beer culture

Stella, Doom, Punk

A dog.

We had one of those moments this week that shines a light on the health of a brand: we saw BrewDog on the beer list at a new local cafe and thought, “Oh, it’s not really a beer place, then.”

It’s not as if we think BrewDog’s beer is bad. We spent a happy hour at its Bristol bar on Sunday and probably have a more positive view of Punk IPA than many of our peers. (It ain’t wot it used to be, and so on.)

It’s a sign that BrewDog beers have become one of the go-to cash-and-carry products along with Stella Artois and Doom Bar, which changes their status in the marketplace. (Here’s Pete Brown on Stella.) It is no longer a treat, no longer worthy of an appreciative “Ooh!”.

You might say this started years ago when they first turned up in supermarkets, or in Greene King and Wetherspoon pubs, and that’s probably true.

And we’re not complaining, really. After all this was the dream a decade ago — a supply of strong, bitter, furiously hoppy IPA on every street corner.

It’s just interesting to us that whereas once the presence of BrewDog on the menu indicated a beer geek working somewhere behind the scenes, it now means no such thing.

12 replies on “Stella, Doom, Punk”

True dat. But I was in a Brewdog bar (the newest one in Edinburgh) last week and had a half of punk IPA – ‘kegged on the 16th of June’ it proclaimed at the bar – and it was a very different beast to that you get swilling around the supermarket shelves these days – in a very good way. In fact if I hadn’t known it was punk, I might have mistaken it for another craft brew…

I tend to view Punk IPA as I view Sam Adams in New England – as Beer Of Last Resort. Far preferable to whatever the global breweries are chucking out, but considerably less interesting than anything else. Yet it is still a perfectly nice beer (and a lot better than Sam Adams), but their marketing antics and the ubiquitous availability of the product have made it a lot less interesting a prospect than it is as a beer.

Sam Adams in the US is an interesting brand comparison. Maybe Sierra Nevada is even more appropriate. Larger variety of beers and more experimental products but still available everywhere. But Brewdog is becoming a bar company as well as a brewer. It’s interesting to think how this will develop as they roll out so many bars and go international. The bars are almost a high-street tap room and are probably introducing a lot of non-beer geeks to the concept. It is part of the de-geekification of beer I think. Very interesting.

Maybe Sierra Nevada is more generally a better brand comparison, but specifically in New England, where I have done most of my US drinking, places that otherwise only have something dreadful will have Sam Adams. Sierra Nevada is closer on quality to Punk IPA, and outside New England is probably the ubiquitous option. But I still remember the first time I tried it – 1997, a TexMex restaurant in Conway, NH. It was memorable – not much like it back then. I can’t recall the first time I drank Punk IPA…

The heat’s just shot up here – from daytime temps of (say) 14-15 last week to 24-25 this – and I suspect some pubs have been caught out. At least, I was in a Spoons yesterday where both[sic] the cask guests had gone right off – I returned one pint of flattish, turbid, luke-warm beer only to be supplied with a pint of a different flattish, turbid, luke-warm beer, which was also sour. (I considered asking for the first one back – at least it would have been drinkable, with an effort – but it really wasn’t right.) What did I go for instead? The Shindigger Pils on keg. And what did I go for when it turned out that Shindigger Pils was also off (it hadn’t gone off, the tap was just dispensing water)? Punk, of course. Which was fine.

Beer of Last Resort, indeed!

Is there a difference in the fact it’s being identified as Brewdog and not Punk? When you’re presented with dire options on cask, it’s the Doom Bar you settle for, not the Sharp’s.

Or, as your commenter above, Sam Adams not Boston beer Co. Or, in Colorado, Fat tire not New Belgium

I dunno. But, it’s an interesting difference.

I recently bought a couple of bottles of Punk with six months left on the best before date that M&S were selling for £1.50 and they were pretty poor; the hops had diminished a lot and there was much sweet, biscuity maltiness. Which is not necessarily bad of course but not what you want from Punk. I think Brewdog’s best before date is a year after bottling. Thus only halfway through its shelf life, the beer appeared to have deteriorated quite badly.

Maybe it was just a bad batch.

Conversely, echoing what Iain says above, I had half a Punk in a Wetherspoon pub the other day and thought it was pretty good.

I’d had half a Weird Beard Mariana Trench in another pub directly before, and preferred the Punk.

Punk is 5.4 in keg and 5.6 in bottle and can.

Do the differences go beyond ABV?

One presumes not but…

PS: obviously hoppy beers can lose their zip quite quickly but I was still expecting the six-month-old bottles to be better than they were. I was banking on the hops having faded, and hoping for a nicely rounded flavour, but the balance had slid too far towards the malt…

Storage conditions probably don’t help…most M&S stores leave the beer out on the shelf so in warmish conditions the hops will die pretty rapidly. 12 months is a long time for a best before on a hoppy beer at the best of times but in a warm supermarket it’s bonkers.

I find both Punk and Dead Pony very hit and miss, but I have had some brilliant cans of both lately.

I probably drink Punk IPA more than any other beer. Not because it’s my favourite, not even in my top 10 Brewdog beers I’ve drank in the last year, but because of it’s availability (and also the fact I’m handed one pretty much everytime I step into my partner’s parents house). I wouldn’t say it’s a last resort but then again I wouldn’t choose it if I went into a Brewdog bar/any good craft beer bar (which is a shame because I do think it tastes a lot better when I have had it in Brewdog bars, usually when I get a free one on my birthday)

Punk IPA on easyJet is a godsend, perfect way to ease into a drinking session before arriving at destination and fairly reasonable at £4.50 (yes I can buy it cheaper on Brewdog online with EFP discount but as plane beers go…)

I can remember first punk on cask I had, soton beer festival in 2009/2010 and also a few years later in the volunteer arms in Dunbar

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