The brewery Brewdog seems to emote a wide range of emotions whenever their name is uttered among beer fans, whether it’s shouts of derision, and rolling of eyes. Or, their more vocal evangelical supporters, who may or may not be equity punks, no one can deny, that they push people’s buttons. Full disclosure, i’m an Equity Punk.
Maybe, it’s the brash marketing, this “punk” ethos, the constant crowdfunding, they selling of a stake to a US equity fund, or maybe it’s much more simple. Is it envy of their success? No matter what revisionist history you subscribe to, to get from where they were in 2007, to where they are now, a company worth appx £1bn is impressive. No matter what way you shake it down. There has even been some calls for James Watt and Martin Dickie to walk
It’s also extremely impressive, how they are very successful at exporting, and Ireland is currently in their top ten export markets, but realistically it’s the tie up to Sweden that is the cash cow that keeps them going. They also have a growing pub estate in the UK and further afield. They also, have been extremely successful at getting their beer in the hands of consumers. Dealing with Multiple grocers, and pubco’s like Wetherspoons, and also self distribution into other independent retailers, has seen them be able to price Punk IPA at both the top end of the market (about £5 a pint in their bars, or 4 cans for £5 in Tesco) This is all very impressive. Brewdog it appears are Marmite, you either love them, or hate them. The middle ground seems hard to find. I think the point gets lost sometimes, but they are in the business of selling beer. They are quite good at it. However are they taking less risks than before? Perhaps. They are undoubtedly still capable of great beers, Paradox Rye, Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin, and Jackhammer are testament to this, plus many of the small batch beers that never make it here that are exclusive to their bars.
The term Craft, is a term that has in my view been hijacked by marketeers, to convey something, and has by and large been bastardised, i’m pretty sure I saw a “craft” barber recently. But let’s put this into scale, in terms of size, Brewdog, are much smaller than many of the US brewerys they (and many beer fans) admire, take Stone for example, they produce much more, and have 3 breweries, 2 in the US, and one in Germany. Yet, they don’t get anywhere near the heat that Brewdog do.
I started this post with the intention of reviewing this new beer, and i’ll get to that. This just brings a wider context how inclusive is “craft” beer? In Ireland independent brewers hold appx 3.5% of the overall market share. This means that the vast vast majority of drinkers drink macro beer. In my view, and i’ve always thought this, there needs to be those gateway beers, and perhaps breweries, to bring people in, put an arm around them and get them to try something new. Something that won’t terrify them. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s akin to bringing someone to an Indian restaurant and recommending a vindaloo to someone who’s never eaten one before. You wouldn’t do that (ok if you didn’t like them you might) but the point remains the same. Without denigrating the work of some here, but breweries in Ireland like O’Haras, Porterhouse, and Bru, are churning out pretty safe beers which are in the middle, and wouldn’t be too much of a challenge to you stereotypical lager drinker. For every O’Hara’s we have DOT Brewing, for every Porterhouse we have Galway Bay, for every Bru we have Whiplash. There are many people making a living now from this industry, and there is a place for everyone as the market grows, but consistency will be key to their survival. Right now there are an increasing number of brewers here who are touching on world class category, and they’re beginning to tell their story outside these shores.
The beer itself, looks pleasing in the glass, I get hints of pears, and banana on the nose, almost like a Hefeweissen but not as strong. There is a biscuity and slight caramel taste, with moderate hop bitterness. All in all, not very offensive. It’s just a well made inoffensive beer. Not too much going on, but nothing wrong with it. Maybe they’ll tweak the recipe. To my taste, i’d reach for Dead Pony over it, or Whiplash Rollover. However, if you were out with a bunch of friends and their was a couple of non craft drinkers, this wouldn’t scare them away. It might just get them on the right path to more flavourful beer in the future. Is this the middle ground? Time will tell