Thursday, 8 September 2011

Oh Deer.

Shock, horror! It would appear that Brewdog have decided to brew yet another pointlessly high abv beer! This time, following on from the 'success' of stuffing a bottle up a squirrel's arse, this beer will be dispensed through a stag's head. Full story here.

My first reaction to this news was 'oh god, not again'. I'm sure a lot of people feel the same, following Brewdog's exploits with Sink The Bismarck and End Of History. We've all cottoned on to the fact that Brewdog feel the need to pull a publicity stunt every few months for marketing reasons, and blog posts of this ilk don't exactly starve the attention seekers up in Fraserburgh of the frenzied spotlight they evidently desire - but whatever happened to letting your beer do the talking? Sure, every business that aims to sell a range of products, be it craft beer or Harry Potter novels, needs to market themselves to a certain degree. But Brewdog seem to have embraced a marketing strategy that aims to fill us with as much bullshit as they can and hope we'll find it cool, or punk. Oh the irony. Anyone fancy some shares?

This new beer, named Ghost Deer, is a 28% blonde ale. And, apparently, according to the marketing geniuses at Brewdog, 'combines the 3 things that we are most passionate about: craft beer, art and taxidermy'.

Craft beer. Art.

And taxidermy.

...what the fuck?

I'm starting to wonder who the target demographic is for all this, because my reaction to a line like that is to swear blind that I will never, ever let the damn beer pass my lips, not even at gunpoint. I'm sure all the Brewdog fanboys are creaming their jeans, but I find it repellent. I'm not offended, outraged, or, well, insert whichever hyperbolic term here you fancy... I just think it's crap. I can almost imagine the marketing department all slapping themselves on the back and congratulating one another on how 'cutting-edge' and 'funky' they are. It's the Emperor's New Clothes of marketing - even if no one else can see through the bullshit, I bloody well can.

This could all be excused if the beer was any good, and Ghost Deer may very well be. I doubt it, with an abv so needlessly high, but whatever. I have not tasted Sink The Bismark, but I have had the 'pleasure' of End Of History, the 55% beer rammed up a ferret's arse. It's terrible. Awful. Taste in beer is subjective, you say? Well, maybe so. But one colleague of mine described his taste of End Of History as how he would imagine (or at least I hope he only imagined) it would feel to be abused by a priest. A tenuous link, perhaps, and probably a rather more unpleasant experience than a taster of End Of History... but only just.

But, do you know what the most annoying thing about all this is? When Brewdog take their fingers out of their bums, they make some absolutely fantastic beers. We craftbeerites all know this. One of my all-time favourite beers is their Paradox Smokehead. Another is Chaos Theory... which, last time I heard, they'd stopped making, or at least stopped supplying it to most of the places (and therefore customers) who would still very much like to enjoy it, thank you very much. I don't know why this is, but I wish Brewdog would spend more time concentrating on the fantastic beers they do make that really do talk for themselves, instead of pulling nonsense like brewing strong, headline-grabbing battery acid to be poured from an orifice of a stuffed animal.

Thing is, I know Brewdog, or at least James Watt, does care - I've seen it for myself. I've watched him taste several of the Kernel Breweries fantastic IPAs, making notes on each, not long before the new recipe for Punk IPA was trialled. The new, or now current, Punk IPA is excellent - a huge improvement over its predecessor, which was a bloody good beer in its own right. So, knowing this, do I feel bad about my ranting about their marketing strategy? No. I have an opinion and I call things as I see them, and if that pisses people off, well, so be it.

In a nutshell:

Brewdog's marketing and obsession with high abvs and dead animals - bullshit.

Their core range of beers, like Punk IPA, and other beers, including my favourites - awesome. Keep it up.

Now, if only I had a bottle of Paradox Smokehead to quaff once I get down off my box!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The good beer, good food pipedream

Been a while, but I've decided it's time for some mad bloggery once more. This post is partly influenced by the one made recently by rabidbarfly, but it's also something I've been thinking about a bit recently. It's part rant, part canvassing opinion, I suppose.

I'll get the rant part over first. Food in pubs. I like going to pubs for food. Generally speaking, all I ever tend to want is a burger, a steak, fish and chips, sausage and mash, and... well, that's it, really. That's kind of my point. I want basic, traditional pub food. If I want some fancy new-fangled foreign dish that I've never heard of before, I'll... go to some fancy, new-fangled restaurant (that I've never heard of before). To be fair, most of the so-called 'traditional' boozers I've been to within the last year or so have had pretty reasonable menus on this front. But, and it makes me shudder even now (and not in a sexually pleasing way, let me stress) I used to work for a company by the name of Mitchells and Butler. Or Butlers. No one ever seemed to know which was right. Before that it was Six Continents Retail, and before that it was Bass, I believe. The identity crisis of this joke of a company extended to their menu, where they thought the best way to appeal to the traditional pub goer was to come up with a menu that followed the foolproof plan of, basically, throwing all sorts of shit at the wall and seeing what stuck.

They did have the aforementioned 'traditional' dishes available, fair enough. But the menu was also peppered (haha) [Ed - you're fired] [Ed - I am the Ed] [Ed - you're still fired] with obscure foreign dishes. Not my cup of tea with regards to pub food, but fine as long as the recipes are spot on, and the chefs in the kitchen are skilled enough to faithfully create them... neither of which were the case during my, er, 'stint' at M&B.

Even if everything had been 100%, who in the blue hell goes to their local boozer and orders six thin slivers of bloody venison (and by bloody I mean the slices were fucking bleeding, I half expected a three-legged hart to knock me over escaping from a mad chef with a meat cleaver hurling insults in Arabic whenever I took food out) garnished with a single sprig of parsley from Brakes' groceries (sorry M&B, did I just reveal how shit your suppliers, and thus, your food are/is?) with their pint and their burger? No one.

Well, actually, quite a few people did, but this is Dulwich Village, dahling, where everyone is considerably richer and more pretentious than youse. One might suggest that M&B appealed to their target market with absolute perfection. One might. This one, however, will hurl your Incorrect, sorry, Insalate, Caprese to the ground and and shout BOLLOCKS. This is crap. This sort of food is pretentious, inedible twaddle, and I won't stand for it.

This particular establishment had two things wrong - a menu full of silly, non-pub dishes that weren't made correctly, and a dull, uninspiring beer range - the usual suspects, basically. Unfortunately, we don't have a kitchen at The Rake (well, actually we do, but it's upstairs, and can't really handle anything more sophisticated than Micro Pizza), but if we did, and we were a bigger venue, I'd like to think that, between myself and the persons who would have a say in such matters, we would come up with a menu that had very much the beer that we sell in mind. It would be all about beer and food matching, which refers me back to the rabidbarfly post. Personally I'd be against arty-farty starters and other dishes, as when I go to a pub, I like standard pub grub. But then, craft beer is anything but standard, so perhaps there should be food options that reflect that.

I think I've said my bit, really. Like I said, I'm sort of canvassing opinion - for my own curiosity really. What do you think? Should standard pubs stick to the traditional food, or try more, er, 'exciting' dishes, assuming they can do them well? What sort of menu would you like to see in so-called 'Craft Beer' venues?

Until next time, beery chums. I'm off to oil my sword...

...oh, behave yourselves.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Negativity and not much else

The first topic I'm going to be tackling in this new blog space of mine is, as the post title would indicate, negativity among certain folk in the Beerosphere. I'm going to be slightly careful with what I say, because I really don't want to find myself embroiled in a blog or Twitter war, nor do I want to make life unnecessarily difficult for myself or those I work with, and indeed, work for. I will be sounding off on this topic in general, however, there was something in particular that riled me this weekend enough to make this post (and in fact, finally start this blog, although I had been planning it for a while).

If you have worked out who I am (and let's face it, you don't need to be Sherlock fucking Holmes to do so), you will be aware that I was involved in organising and running an event this weekend just gone. I thought it went fairly well (Friday aside, when the Royal Wedding was on and NO ONE was doing well), but if I'm being honest with myself, I know it wasn't perfect. It was my first time doing anything like this, so it was very much a learning curve for me; there are a hell of a lot of things I would do differently next time around (and I hope that there is a next time) from start to finish, mostly to do with planning and advertising. Having said that, I'm still proud of what I and the others who were heavily involved in this, who will know who they are, managed to put together. Most of the beer enthusiasts (tickers, if you will, though I'm not entirely sure whether they love or loathe that term) told me it was the best selection of beers they'd had at a festival at the venue at which it was held, and I know that wasn't just to blow smoke up my arse, as they all came back each day to make sure they'd tried the beers they'd not gotten around to in their previous visits.

Overall, this was a rewarding project to be involved with, especially with the nice feedback from the customers. Now, I'm not suggesting that I only ever want to hear good feedback from whatever I happen to be involved with, but when people only have moany, nitpicky things to say, I start to feel like smashing heads through windows. The cask cooling system we had in place was not fantastic, I'd agree. It's something I will think long and hard about in the future. Promotion and publicity, sure, pretty inadequate. Not to bury my head in the sand or ask for a free pass or anything, but I've not done anything like this before, and to be totally frank and honest, I didn't have a clue. Fair cop, guv. I'll work on it.

Things like these I can accept and hold my hands up for. But when certain people don't have anything positive to say and bitch and moan about everything from the size of a pump clip to whether a Belgian-style Double IPA might be slightly too hazy for them, I start to lose my rag. I'll stop being specific now, otherwise I'll end up in trouble. But even generally speaking, I have noticed a hell of a lot of negative attitudes in the beer world. Aren't we supposed to be having fun and enjoying good beer? There seems to be less motivation amongst craft beer enthusiasts to celebrate the products and events that they enjoy, and more energy devoted to moaning about how a certain beer isn't quite up to par, or not as good as beer X, or, simply, 'shit'. For God's sakes, anyone looking into this scene would swear blind that we all hate our lives and find the entire craft brewing scene to be a misery. I know that this isn't true.

To be completely fair, I've probably had a bit of a moan myself at some points. I'll wager that, perhaps, so have you. How about we start celebrating beers and brewers that really excite us, and kick all the negative doom and gloom to the side?

I will if you will. Deal?

And so it begins...

Well, I've been threatening to start a beery blog, and here I am. I've decided against a whimsical, beer-related name for my blog. I couldn't really justify throwing in some hop-related pun for the mere sake of doing so.

This will pretty much be my space on the web to rant about goings on in the beer world. Sometimes, twitter and facebook just won't cut it! Sometimes, I'll just be giving my opinions on stuff, and ease up on the ranting... but for now, I'll just say that I don't mean to offend or upset anyone with anything that I say. If I do, well, let me give you the disclaimer:

The views and opinions contained in this here blog do not necessarily reflect the views of The Rake (for that is where I work) or Utobeer Ltd.

I wonder if anyone will actually read this thing? Until the first rant (which is seething in my veins and is imminent, let me assure you), fare thee well.