Saturday, 22 February 2014

BrewDog - More Than Meets the Eye


Fraserburgh is cold. The wind whips off the North Sea in a salty smack that hits you like a brick wall. The waves are grey and angry and it doesn't take much imagination to feel for those that earn their living from it. BrewDog Fraserburgh isn't at all what I'd been expecting.  In an old, rickety looking warehouse, surprisingly still standing against the sea front elements is, what was until recently, BrewDog Central.  Their brewery and offices.  It is hard to believe.  Inside on a wet concrete floor a  few stainless steel brewing vessels remain, the main kit having been whisked off to the spanking new brewery at Ellon, 27 miles away.  While you do get a bit of a Ghost Town feel, there is nothing sad about Fraserburgh. It has two (very hardy) permanent staff here and they still brew, store and mature beer. And Boy are they enthusiastic about it.

James Watt you can tell is still proud of it. It all started here and from this spot, BD bluffed, begged, borrowed and outrageously gimmicked their their way to the success they have now.  James, himself a veteran of the chilly seas outside (he was a trawlerman) tells us and reminds himself of how it began. Of the way they contracted for a million bottles without a bottling line, of the struggle for money and always the belief that the vision he shares with friend and business partner, Martin Dickie that selling better beer to people, beer made in their own vision, was something they were simply going to do. As we pondered all this, we supped a wonderful Passion Fruit Sour, so clean, yet so redolent of the fruit itself , that the sourness was an almost unnoticed counterpoint. So beautifully balanced at 3% I had two. A Jasmine IPA followed, straight from the conditioning tank. It was still being dry jasmined and had some time to go, but it was distinctive and different.

We (journalists and bloggers) had started earlier with a tour of the new stainless steel cathedral that is Ellon, on an industrial estate between Aberdeen and Fraserburgh.  The kit, designed mainly by Martin Dickie and funded by "crowd sourcing"  is state of the art and purpose built. Steel piping snakes along the walls, it wraps itself around fermentation vessels, mash and lauter tuns, conditioning, CO2 and glycol tanks.  We dodge outputs from the centrifuge as it spits out spent yeast and trub (they believe in clear beer here). We climb stairs, inspect a state of the art lab, watch hypnotised as the bottling line cleans, labels, fills, caps and nudges the bottles on their way to packing. They seem almost human as they queue to meet their transport to any one of the 30 or so countries they could end up in, patiently waiting in line, then rushing forward, eager to be next.

The brewery is still being tweaked. Engineers are moving kit, but the business continues unabated. The staff seem at ease in their job and there is an easy egalitarian feel about the place.  Martin shows us a small pilot plant where a brewer is busy putting together her own recipe. Someone asks what her normal job is. "Oh" he says vaguely, "anyone that works here and wants to know more can have a go at brewing" he remarks. And adds "Who knows? It might well end up as a production beer". We enter a vast warehouse, only just handed over from the builders a few days ago.  Mountains of kegs, keykegs, bottles, products marked for export and all kinds of sundries fill the place. On the far side a veritable distillery of whisky, bourbon and rum casks sit in serried rows, full of maturing beer.  Bottled beers and kegs imported for their own bars are there too.  This is a big operation, but Martin tells us, they have room to expand. James tells us later that they will do.

It is time for a drink and a chat. After all we are invited there to see what's behind the facade.  To be charmed after some bruising encounters. To scotch some myths. We start, where else with Punk IPA, fresh as a daisy, with Seville orange, peaches and tropical fruit, it gets universal approval.  Then Jack Hammer, straight from the conditioning tank, all big C hopping, but with cask like mouthfeel as it hasn't yet been brought up to bottling carbonation. It is 7.2% but tasting nothing like it. No jaggy alcoholic edges in this beer.  Dead Metaphor is quietly coffeeish, with chocolate and subtle smoke. Not overdone as some are, it is as smooth as a baby's bum. AB15, an imperial stout, has spent time in both rum and bourbon casks and has vanilla sweetness, with a touch of rummy raisin. We are told to expect salty caramel and popcorn, but advised it was more of an impression than a taste.  Whatever; it was a beer you'd imagine yourself sipping, late at night,  from the depths of a deep armchair, in front of a dying fire. Rich and contemplative.

Questions and answers follow as we sip. James tells us all that it has been a struggle to get where they are and you can believe him. Anecdotes flow about the early days when money was tight, contract deadlines tighter and brewing capacity tighter still.  There is still a revolutionary zeal in there, but behind the hype there is an undoubted pride and a determination to brew good beer.  They believe in training, in educating customers, they talk of new openings, company ethos, getting better at what they do, but they come back to the same theme. They don't care what it costs, but they want to brew beer that stretches, that challenges, but which tastes good.  They want to educate the public and give staff professional beer qualifications. One proviso is repeated. If James and Martin don't like it, it doesn't go on sale.  We talk about hops. This is everyone's favourite subject. Facts and statistics fly around.I write them down conscientiously, but what it boils down to is an infeasible amount of hops per hectolitre, in many varieties, for one of which (it may have been Simcoe*) BD is the world's biggest user.  I ask about cask beer. James is somewhat reticent about it, but doesn't rule it out for the future.  That's good, particularly as they are looking at having more session beers and they did make very good cask indeed. At least he didn't laugh me out of court.

Later we meet at BrewDog Aberdeen, their first bar.  It is very pubby in fact, apart from the rather stern line of grey keg fonts watching over proceedings.  The staff are enthusiastic and (even though they didn't know I was a guest) keen to explain in a very non condescending way about the beers on offer.  James is pleased about that when I tell him later, but in fairness it has happened to me before in other BrewDog bars.  Nor do I recall there being a Captain Haddock like beard in sight, which does set them apart too. But in a good way.  We ate in MUSA also BD owned. The beers are good and we are talked through them, not by James or Martin, but by various BrewDog managers. This came as a complete surprise to at least one and it compounded a sense that the employees are all fully on board.

So why was I there?  Firstly because I was invited, but secondly because I was invited by James with whom I've sort of clashed swords with before.  Why were we invited?  Officially to show us the new brewery and how it is going, but I think the unspoken sub plot was so we could see there is more to BD than a dead squirrel and ridiculously strong beer.  I got the impression that rather like Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, there will be a slightly different public face - this is a big serious business now - but innovation, quirkiness and downright cheek won't be far under the surface. After all this is a young company run by young people with fresh ideas and a happiness to cock a snook at things. James and Martin are understated bosses, but they know what they want and how to bring their own people along with them which can never be a bad thing.  Both are impressive in different ways, with James shyer and more thoughtful than you might imagine and Martin the brewer and engineer, getting the brewery as it should be.  Hopefully too there will be great quaffing beer and maybe even a return of cask, though I won't be holding my breath.  You can bet too that there will be a lot more to hear about in the next few years and loads of interesting beers from this shiny new brewery. Was I impressed? You bet I was.  Was I wrong? In many ways yes. Things are often a lot clearer close up.
 
But you know, I don't think that matters so much as the fact that these guys are beer people through and through and unafraid to say so. Beer people, even when they don't brew cask are invariably impressive.  It was good to hang out with them for a bit.

At MUSA, while I particularly enjoyed the Jura Riptide, who could fail to like a beer with "Hello My Name is Vladimir" complete with a label featuring Mr P.

Disclosure: BD paid for and organised our visit.

* Simcoe was mentioned, but it was actually Nelson Sauvin

74 comments:

John Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Clarke said...

Good to see you've been well and truly "dog-washed" there. Did they insert the chip as well? Look forward to lots of BD fanboi stuff here in future.

Anonymous said...

RIP beer blogging, c.2007-2014. Died on a jolly to Aberdeen. Et tu brute? I make it Boak & Bailey and Ron Pattinson left standing now offering something other than PR.

You, Zythophile and ATJ? Very clever, they know what they're doing seducing the older and wiser critics.

Sure, i'd be tempted by this kind of freebie myself, and i've no special beef with brewdog, i've fond memories of their cask beer. But, if you want an example of why beer blogs are in decline this is it. If i want to read puff pieces paid for by the marketing man's expense account i can buy the weekend papers.

Tandleman said...

Wondered who would be first. You have to speak as you find. As I said not holding my breath on cask but I can see clearer what's behind the bullshit.

It was that and the large bag of twenties we were given.

Tandleman said...

Hello Anon hiding there. What rubbish. I am an unpaid blogger who speaks as I find. Loads of evidence of that. You clearly want me to tell a story that wasn't there. I rather doubt you'll see me propping up a BD bar soon because of my visit, nor anyon
on my account.

Funnily enough I wrote about what I saw and experienced. You think I didn't realise that I would get flak? You see this isn't a career. It's what I think and find and sometimes I have to confront my own prejudices and find there is two sides to the story.

Don't care for it? Tough.
no matter what I wrote I'd get flak? Well big deal.

John Clarke said...

Well you could have written nothing. As it is it does come across as a bit of "I got a great big freebie from BD and now I think they're great". Job done by the BD boys I'd say.

John Clarke said...

...or even turned down the invitation.

Tandleman said...

Of course I could have written nothing but I speak as I find. A free trip to Aberdeen? Wow. That would hardly turn my head. Do you think I am in need of a freebie?

I didn't come up the Clyde on a bike you know The point is that I found good things A bit easier if I hadn't I suppose. But there you are.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting take on Brewdog.Was in a couple of Brewdog bars in London recently and there is no doubt in my mind that even slightly colder than preferred my beer had lots of flavour.They may get a lot of flak but they can brew good beer.
cheers john

Curmudgeon said...

Hmm, I didn't get an invite...

Tandleman said...

It was hardly Sadat going to the Knesset John. Why shouldn't I go? Who or what am I compromising? Myself? Hardly. No more than you do with your open kind to craft keg.

I'm too old to play silly beggars. I thought long and hard and went. Had an interesting time and a rotten hangover.

The world hasn't changed.

Tandleman said...

PS. This what you get typing on a phone. I meant to say to John his "open mind to craft keg".

John Clarke said...

Hand on heart I can't say I wouldn't have gone. In fact I almost certainly would have. And I agree BD make some very good beers indeed (along with a few, er, dogs).

All I will say, though, and this was why I initially commented as I did, was that your post did seem to lack the critical eye that as a rule makes yours one of the more grounded blogs around.

jesusjohn said...

Funny you mentioned Ryanair in the piece as I was reading it thinking exactly the same thing.

Your post has much in common with this Graun piece on Ryanair this weekend - http://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2014/feb/22/ryanair-customer-service-improved-problems

Back in my blogging days, I wrote in 2009 that it would be good to see BD launch some session beers that had their trademark ballsy flavours and, Dead Pony excepted, I still think there's more they could do here.

(Worth noting that Fake Lager - terrible name aside - is very good when on form.)

Overall, given the disclosure is there and the nature of the trip as a junket is not hidden, I think this is an interesting blogpost highlighting two things:

1) That BD are clearly adopting the O'Leary recipe to "stop unnecessarily pissing people off" - which I think is long term the right approach. And that they want the world to know it.

2) That the beers, when on form, can be very good indeed. But I'll believe the talk on the promised range of exciting session able beers when I see it, as we've heard that before.

Cooking Lager said...

Oh dear Tand. A free piss up and you're anyones ;)

Tandleman said...

Just following your advice Cookie. Don't tell thats a bad idea!

ABrewHaHa said...

I regularly peruse three beer blogs, this week they all write about the same trip.
And yet I'm still not persuaded. Last time I had BD beers it was at a beer launch hosted by Josie, she's there to distract you from the beer, and of the six or so beers we sampled I can honestly say I'd only go back for one.
But we all enjoy a freebie and as we all know Free Beer is always best.

Cooking Lager said...

Eye, tand, nowt wrong with selling out so long as you get a decent price! Sniping is jealousy.

Rob said...

Well John Clarke seems to be on a bit of a downer at the moment. Tand wrote something about Brewdog which wasn't critical. Shock horror! And he seems to have a weird fixation on Boak and Bailey using pen names (like no one has ever done that before).

py said...

I'm going to defend tandleman here, I think this is actually his most insightful and unbiased post in years.

John Clarke said...

Rob

My only reservation about Tandy's article was not that it wasn't critical but it was entirely uncritical which is a slightly different thing. Still, as he makes clear, he writes as he finds and if it was all good then so much the better. And if this PR exercise is an indication that they are to start behaving more like grown-ups then that is good too.

As for B&B they can use whatever names they want but what I do find odd is that they have chosen to publish a non-fiction book using pen names. Howveer having exchanged private emails with Bailey I can fully understand why they have done this.

Tandleman said...

John: I don't think I was uncritical, even though, frankly there wasn't much to be critical about.

I said that they had gimmicked along the way and that I wouldn't be holding my breath about cask (At least I asked) but actually this was impressive. Sorry about that, but it was. When you see the old brewery and the new and how this has grown from an idea into a multi million pound business exporting to 30 countries in seven year, you really have to be.

And the owners are impressive too. Sure they are outrageous at times, but it works for them.

I'm old enough (too bloody old) to care if people think I'm bought. I just told it as it was.

Finally on this one, the wish to brew session beer? Get back to cask also BD.

One question which I meant to ask but didn't is "Did they keep all their casks?"

Tandleman said...

py: Bollocks. I am a cask man to my core, but I've drank more keg in my time than you've had hot dinners.

StringersBeer said...

The interesting thing about this, for me, is that the pooches do the traditional "press" junket rather than edgy guerilla marketing stuff. And golly, it worked. What next? Advertising? (now that they've got enough money to "set on fire"). It's all part of growing up.

Rob said...

John, your comments on B&B's facebook page make it clear you dislike them. 'Outing' them just looks vindictive and attempting to score points.

John Clarke said...

Rob

I don't dislike B&B at all - I just find them rather irritating at times. And I'm not alone in that I know. As for "outing" them - that wasn't me and it's not something I would do - as you rightly say that seemed to be vindictive and point scoring.

John Clarke said...

Tanders - I agree that despite all the hype (and worse) along the way, BD have got themselves into a very enviable position - and all credit to them for doing so.

Rob said...

John, you were the first to use their name (along with a delightful remark):

"Well that's just the sort of smug comment I'd expect from you Mr..."

Yes the other person having a go at them is worse, and rather creepy. But you're not exactly smelling of roses from that particular exchange.

Apologies to Tandleman for mentioning this here.

John Clarke said...

Yes, but Bailey's real name was already out there in fact (courtesy of one of the rather unpleasant fake Twitter accounts) so I wasn't revealing anything. And as for the rest of my remark, it may have been less than subtle but was I think not inappropriate in light on what had gone before.

By the way - who are you?

Cooking Lager said...

No one thinks they bought you Tand. I like the article, it shows that effective PR is basically flattery towards opinion formers like yourself. People are just jealous they didn't get on an all expenses free piss up.

Rob said...

Just because you can find their name out if you look hard enough doesn't mean it's right to go about publicising it. I've found the brouhaha around B&B recently generally distasteful, and you are adding to it.

Remark in itself - whatever, it's your opinion. Remark combined with name (which they don't publicise) - passive aggressive bullshit.

Why do you care who I am? All that is relevant here is that I have no connection with them whatsoever other than I read their blog, like I do tand's etc.

Tandleman said...

Now Folks. I don't do Facebook, so have no idea what was said, but anyway, Boak and Bailey aren't relevant to this piece.

No more please.

StringersBeer said...

@cookie, I suspect it's not so much that people are jealous of the free piss-up, as being envious of the status of "opinion former".

Coxy said...

"It was good to hang out with them for a bit" ha ha , I think that says it all.

Tandleman said...

Coxy. That was ironic. But it was.

ABrewHaHa said...

just to add to the B&B, their names are on their Blog, not sure if it's a recent addition but it clearly says who they are.

Rob said...

ABrewHaHa, those are their pen names not real names. Anyway, Tandleman quite rightly told me to stop, so I really should do so now.

ErlangerNick said...

Tand doesn't do Farcebook? There *is* hope for humanity after all!

(Posted whilst drinking right gassy keg Fuller's.)

Cooking Lager said...

Everyone on the internet uses a pseudonym Rob. Clarky's real name is Malcolm. Clarky is a stage name from when he was an actor and needed to join Equity in order have a small part in Coronation Street as the French illegitimate son of Percy Sugden conceived during the war. The character didn't last long as Clarkey's french accent sounded welsh and ended up dying under Curley Watts car. Apart from a small role in the bill, Malcom never acted again but kept the name Clarkey.

I know this because I met him once at a blogger twissup and he showed me a signed photo of him and Bill Waddington who played Percy Sudgen.

John Clarke said...

Damn you Cookie - my secret is revealed.

Cooking Lager said...

Sorry, Malcolm.

Barry said...

The scary thing here is that all these blog pieces read the same. They all went to the land of oz and it was wonderful. Fine. But then you see it was a select few. Why weere they picked? Did anyone offered refuse?

It's particularly disappointing when you get yourself, someone people have previously looked up to, who has been critical of Brewdog, suddenly gushing like a fanboy after one freebie. And a chairman of Camra as well. Did you even bring up the issue of cask? I'm guessing not.

Very poor.

ld said...

I see BD still incite a unique level of discussion in the blogosphere, eh? I've left a lengthier comment over on Martyn's blog, but looks like you had a good time.

ld said...

I see BD still incite a unique level of discussion in the blogosphere, eh? I've left a lengthier comment over on Martyn's blog, but looks like you had a good time.

Leigh said...

Gah! Above comment by Leigh. God knows what blogger is doing to my ID here.

Tandleman said...

Barry: The reason they all read the same is that we were given a draft blog piece to amend as we saw fit, provided it was favourable. Otherwise they wanted the £10,000 we were each given returning. Er, No.

You are a dope. I covered why we and I was picked in my article. Me - because I had a public falling out with James at IndyManBeerCon when we were both speakers on the same panel so presumably he thought it good to invite someone clearly not on his side. As for the similarity, well, we went at the same time, to the same places, saw the same things and experienced the same things. Got a clue yet?

ATJ and Martyn were invited because they are bloody good writers I suppose. There were guys from Finland, Norway and Sweden too. And why would a beer writer refuse anyway? Explain that.

You really cannot be taken seriously when you write like this. I covered the main points you complain about in the body of the article. You either didn't read it properly or didn't understand it. (Likely) As for not even asking about cask, read the effing blog. What do I say about that? Read the bloody thing.


I went as a beer writer and I'll go where and when it suits me in that capacity. As for CAMRA? My record speaks for itself.

So don't mistake me for someone who turns the other cheek when you have a pop. I'm not.

Mark said...

You've nothing to apologise for. You bent over for BD and did what it takes for a solid freebie. Don't feel bad, there's a guy on the web who seems to make a living out of blagging free beer and no one seems to bother.

Tandleman said...

Not how I would put it my friend. See above.

John Clarke said...

Crikey Tanders, I wish I'd not said anything now (should have confined it to private email). Did you expect all this stick?

Coxy said...

"What's the problem?" The doctor asked.

I replied, "When I urinate, it smells of anything that I've eaten or drunk. For instance, if I eat sugar puffs it smells of sugar puffs, or if I drink a chicken Cup-a-Soup it smells of a chicken Cup-a-Soup. What can I do to make my pee smell like pee doctor?"

"Have you tried drinking Budweiser....?"

moral, don't knock the dog too much

Ari Juntunen said...

In Finland, we two invited beer bloggers Jaakko and myself, opened the discussion about the all-expenses-paid trip to Scotland on the local beer forum before the journey. Quite similar comments as here, some people were delighted, some were envious, some proclaimed the death of beer blogging. Perhaps the most hilarious commentator stated that he would have declined the BrewDog invitation but would have accepted a trip to a more interesting brewery.

Benjamin Nunn said...

Interesting discussion. I have some sympathy with Tandle, while at the same time feel another surge of anger with BD coming on.

A lot of us go to beery events from time to time where we get freebies. It takes 30 seconds to rattle off a 'stick us on the press list please' email, and so long as we can be bothered to make our own way to wherever the launch or trade session or whatever is taking place, we'll get free beer, sometimes free food, sometimes more (the goodie bags given away at Batemans brand launch the other day were awesome!)

Sometimes it's hard to stay too critical in the face of such generosity (which, lets face it, is why they do it!)

I'm not saying it's right and, yes, it contributes to the divide between Joe Public and 'beer writers', but it's a nice perk and makes up for the fact that beer writing is a loss-making hobby for most of us most of the time.

This, however, is on a different level.

It's not surprising that BD cherry-picked the audience, paid to fly them to the nether reaches of Scotland, and presumably put them up in relative luxury - a company that has enjoyed such unparalleled growth can easily afford to do so. But most brewers cannot and will not ever be able to do something like this.

But a combination of selectivity (Tandle may have been a token pro-cask presence, but were *any* of the invited noted anti-keg or keg-skeptic writers?) and hypocrisy (it's all completely at odds with the 'people power' ethos that BD constantly spout) creates a situation where nobody could possibly emerge smelling of roses.

No surprise to hear that Scandinavians were in attendance - there's a huge BD fanboy base there for some reason. But where was Protzy? Who was covering the event for WB/Beer or London Drinker? Where was the criticism? Talk about choosing your audience to get a sympathetic write-up.

Ari Juntunen said...

I have been a CAMRA member for several years which is quite rare in Finland. But not anymore, I got too tired with the endless debate of real ale versus craft beer. I love cask ale but I love also West Coast IPA (keg) and German Kellerbier and a lot of other beer styles. I have written quite critically of BrewDog beers in Finland and was surprised of the invitation. I asked James Watt why he invited me. He just said that he discussed with their Finnish importer. I do not know anyone of that company but perhaps they have read my blog.

It was a wonderful trip as other bloggers have been written. It was great to visit two BrewDog breweries and drink their beers. I had also an opportunity to taste a Six Degrees North beer in their Aberdeen bar, visit Moorings and CASC, drink cask ales of Fyne in the very traditional The Grill. Most amazingly I had a Stone DIPA on cask in Aberdeen airport, brewed by Mitch Steele in Adnams. Pleasant 40 hours in Aberdeen, Ellon and Fraserburgh.

Tandleman said...

Ben and John. Good job that I am not so rabid as some. Always felt myself to be reasonably enlightened. God knows what stick I'd have had if I wasn't.

BD isn't just round the corner and the lap of luxury hotel was a perfectly nice but plain Ibis.. Don't think you can just ask people to pop round.

Still. There you are. BD aren't as bad as I thought. As I said earlier it was hardly Sadat going to the Knesset. The world will continue to do in, I'll keep drinking cask with the odd bit of fizz when in London as I am now.

And the brewery is smashing. That may be a hard thing to swallow. I met a lot of nice people too.

Get over it.

Tandleman said...

And when not using my phone there will be better spell checked comments.

Get over that too. (-;

Rob said...

I genuinely don't get why people have taken such exception to this.

Is it just because it's brewdog?

I've seen plenty of beer writers doing their collaboration brews and writing up about what a great time they had, how wonderful the brewery is etc etc, yet they haven't been accused of being bribed.

If all you did was go on freebies and give positive reviews then that would be different. I think people are more put out that you didn't come out hating them as brewdog are obviously enemy no1.

Gareth said...

Rob: Is it just because it's brewdog?

Yes.

I enjoyed the post by the way.

Mike F said...

Yes. It's just 'cause its BrewDog.

If Tand had been to Scotland on a trip to Williams, Harviestoun, Fyne, Tempest or Black Isle, paid for by the brewer and had written about what a great time he had, i reckon the worst comment would have been along the lines of "you jammy b###ard".

However, because it was BrewDog, he's getting some undeserved stick.

Brewdog dont do Cask: They don't have to. I have had plenty of great beer that wasn't cask(or bottle) conditioned. If you only drink cask conditioned beer, you don't like beer. You just like cask beer. It's like saying your a music fan but only ever listening to Jazz. Feel free just to drink cask but you are missing out on every other beer culture in the world.

BrewDog have been immature/annoying in the past. Absolutely true, however it was bloody good marketing and has grown the business from nothing to a big shiny new state of the art brewery.

Their beer is not sh#t. Ratebeer and Beer advocate disagree. Yes you may not like these sites but do you have a better way of mass rating of beer. Rotten Tomatoes is the same for Film score agregation. You personally may not like them, but you are in the minority and therefore outnumbered. Deal with it.

Anyone that has suggested that the author has acted with anything other than total integrity, you have done yourself a disservice. Everything about the trip has been disclosed, and do you really believe that Tand has written anything other than the truth as he found it.

Some of the comments on here are amazing. It's like they didn't even read the article. Boneheads.

In a few years time i hope we can see BrewDog form what they did for UK beer. Gave it a much needed kick up the arse. How many of our new brewers have they inspired to make some great beer. How many drinkers have spotted their beers on a supermarket shelf, realised beer can be exciting and started a journey of discovery into all kinds of beer. I know i did. Good luck to them, they deserve it.
Mike F

Benjamin Nunn said...

"It's like saying your a music fan but only ever listening to Jazz. Feel free just to drink cask but you are missing out on every other beer culture in the world."

Bullshit. Absolute bullshit. As it happens, I don't just drink cask, but this is disingenuous crap of the highest order.

*Every* 'beer culture' in the world was predominantly 'cask' - or something similar thereto - until about half a century ago. And beer has been brewed for THOUSANDS of years.

The modern-day keg was invented in the 1960s (and keykeg far more recently). Dedicated bottling lines (as opposed to filling growler-style bottles direct from the cask) only started after WWI.

Just because CAMRA happened in Britain in the 1970s and didn't happen so much in other countries doesn't mean that you can rewrite history.

Ever tried a cask Czech Pilsner? Or a cask Dusseldorf Altbier? It's great stuff, but also far more representative of the brewing traditions of these places than the more popular keg versions.

There are a lot of very good keg beers around these days, but they're good because they're good, not because they are keg.

mike f said...

A take your point. It is bullshit. And you are right. Until relatively recently, almost all beer was traditionally made. Most beer i drink in the pub is from cask and when it is on form it can' t be bested. However cask alt and pilsner are unfortunately exceptions rather than the rule. I stand by the fact that if you only drink cask you rule out many great beers. It's anyones own choice though. Drink what you like. Even BrewDog if you like

Curmudgeon said...

Surely "traditional" lagers and albiers, while they may have been unfiltered (or only rough-filtered) and unpasteurised, did not undergo any meaningful secondary fermentation in the cask and thus did not qualify as "real ale" by the CAMRA definition.

Likewise British "running beers". According to Martyn Cornell in Amber, Gold and Black, most mild ales were released from the brewery in virtually re-racked form intended for pretty swift consumption.

The idea that in the 1950s most of the world was drinking draught beers that we would recognise as "cask" seems far-fetched, to be honest.

Erlangernick said...

At the Biereller in Franconia, they even have a word for a barrel that was tapped the day before and is suffering for it, but damn me if I can't recall what it is now. Been too long since the Bierkeller closed for the season.

A conscientious Wirt (publican) will dump a barrel that's been open over night, at least if it's clearly gone dead. Sadly, not all are so conscientious.

An interesting set of comments, in the end, IMO. Having despised Brewpup (CAMRA bashing, hypermarketeering whilst claiming punkdom or whatever) after first loving them (pint of absolutely fabulous cask Punk in the middle o Wales a few years ago), I would certainly have taken the boondoggle, especially if the lad James had personally asked me, given the background.

I still don't get why they don't do cask as well, even just for the purposes of world domination.

Erlangernick said...

Bloody keyboard on this P.O.S. netbook...

Cooking Lager said...

As this rumbles on, what is the price for a favourable review of Fosters Lager?

Curmudgeon said...

Depends if Tandy can wangle a free trip to the Royal Brewery in Moss Side - it's a lot nearer than Fraserburgh ;-)

Curmudgeon said...

"A conscientious Wirt (publican) will dump a barrel that's been open over night, at least if it's clearly gone dead. Sadly, not all are so conscientious."

Which underlines the point that this beer is not cask as would be understood in Britain.

py said...

I can see it now, Mudgie.

Fosters: why I was wrong all along.

Tandleman said...

I'd have thought that you'd be ideal for that Cookie.

Martyn Cornell said...

Benjamin Nunn - since the last thing I wrote about BrewDog before the trip was a vehement disagreement with James Watt over the need for a definition of cask beer, I doubt the expected me to be a tame fanboy when they paid for me to travel up to Ellon.

As iit happens I wrote my own blog piece almost exactly the same as I would have done had I been writing a feature for the day job: and exactly the same ethical obligations apply.

Anonymous said...

Are you renaming the blog to Brewdog Bitch?

Jay Krause said...

Well, as one who has also been to Ellon and Aberdeen as part of the 'Collab-fest' which BD put together last year, I'd be inclined to be on the same page as Tandy - it was a brilliant experience. They let us wander around the brewery at will and check out what was going on. Complete openness and great staff. Whatever I'd previously though about them (and it wasn't always fanboi gushing) once I saw the set up they've built, it really does impress that they're a completely professional outfit run by people who don't just give a shit about beer, but they live and breathe it.

A bit like every other brewery I've drank beer from, they do some stonkers and some duffers. Why can't they be treated like every other brewery now they're a bit more grown up? BD bashing is just as tiresome as CAMRA bashing.

spoonofmilk said...

I found this article after searching for GBBF information... I gather from both this blog, and one from BrewDog in 2011, that CAMRA and BD have had their differences in the past... I am hoping that's water under the bridge now, cos I'd love to see them at GBBF '14 (my first visit!)

I never realised there was such a division between keg and cask beer lovers... personally, good beer is good beer, whether it be bottled, kegged or casked and I'm delighted to try anything new, interesting and tasty!

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Simon said...

Please be quiet, Anna.

Anyway, I've a newfound respect for you, sir. Not because I like BrewDog, but because I like people who aren't afraid to give honest opinions even knowing it'll be unpopular among their usual audience. Good stuff.

I particularly enjoy how the post has unwittingly - via the comments - exposed the dogmatic, old-school "if it isn't brown, tasteless and flat, it isn't 'Real' beer" brigade for what they are.