Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sink the Bismarck


It doesn't matter how good a product is, it has to find its market somehow. Whether it be bicycles, burgers or beer, if potential customers don't know about it then nobody will buy it. Some businesses have a reasonably inherent shop front and need do nothing much more than put an open sign up and some sort of description of what they do. The word "Bakers" above the window of a shop that sells bread might work.

A multinational company that sells lager has to do an awful lot more. Perhaps they might sponsor a football competition. Not a bad idea really as most blokes like football. I particularly dislike football, as I've said before, and I'm rapidly realising that this is perhaps one reason why I dislike major brand lagers too.

BrewDog of course use various interesting and sometimes controversial tactics in getting themselves noticed. I've always been quite tolerant and even pleased about their tactics. I like their off the wall approach and anti-establishment ethos. When the other serious beer writers were getting upset at Brewdog's admittedly slightly silly pranks with the Portman group, I defended their actions.

I loved the idea of them making the strongest beer in the world and their willingness to regain their record when a German brewery snatched it from them. It was so obvious when they posted yesterday about all of this that they were planning to release a yet stronger beer still. By complete coincidence I tried Penguin for the first time last night. It's a very interesting beer and although I'm not sure I'd buy very much of it, it is certainly one of those experiences I'm glad I have had.

I want to try their new 42% beer, I really do.

I'm going to digress, but in a way that will be completely obvious very quickly. My father is still alive and a fact that most of the time I'm very pleased about. He was born in 1938, just before the start of the Second World War. He was evacuated from his home in Bexley Heath, just outside London, during the early part of the war but was allowed to return home towards the end. Unfortunately, Mr Hitler decided to send over a V2 rocket that exploded very close to the front of my Grandparents house - my Grandmother and my father were there at the time.

I have very fond memories of my paternal grandparents. My Grandmother in particular was a very fun loving person. She told me the story one day of the V2 rocket and how my father was in the back room at the time. He got covered in soot as he was sat in front of the fire and the shock wave travelled down the chimney. I laughed at this, only to be severely chastised for finding it funny. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered my Grandmother had been seriously injured by broken glass from the explosion as she was in the front room at the time. I didn't find this out until after my Grandmother had died. I can never go back to her and apologise for laughing.

I am young enough to have not been affected by the war. I am old enough to have learnt from many people who did suffer as a result of the war just how terrible it was. The sinking of a German boat, with 2,200 people on board, of whom nearly 2000 died, is a tragedy that may well have been a justifiable event in the circumstances, but it is no joke.

I am embarrassed and deeply sorry that I re-tweeted the news of the new record this morning. I only noticed that BrewDog had broken the record again, I had not realised what the beer was to be called.

I have no more to say on the matter.

58 comments:

Barm said...

Spot on Dave.

Kristy said...

A great post Dave - very well written.

denzil said...

I think they're flogging a dead horse with this strongest beer thing. There was an argument that Penguin was an attempt to make a good beer and it was the strongest beer in the world. This is just pissing about and shows a real bankruptcy of ideas. If Penguin was so good why not keep it in stock instead of abandoning it just because someone made something stronger.

Maybe Mr Protz was on to something after all.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Spot on sir! I only wish I could have put my thoughts across as eloquently as you!

Michael Ironside said...

Or maybe Mr Protz wasnt.

Whilst I wish to take nothing away from the story you have told. Im not sure that the intention in the name was designed to create such feelings.

I dont think that making light of the War is big or clever. Nevertheless we have moved on now and we are able to joke about certain aspects of the war. One of the most sucessful comedy series in the UK 'Allo 'Allo built its entire being on making fun of all sides in the war. Its hilarious and thats why it sells so well in France, Poland and now Germany.

I honestly do not think that the boys at Brewdog sat down with the premise of causing offense to anyone with the name of this beer.

Curmudgeon said...

But when Alcohol Focus Scotland get into a froth about it, it will all be worthwhile ;-)

Kristy said...

Michael - your loyalty to Brewdog is commendable but in this case I think misguided. To suggest that they didn't realise the furore this would cause is to suggest that Brewdog are stupid and that's not the case, they know exactly what they are doing and it is offensive.

The premise of Allo Allo was not to make fun of the war but to spoof war-based film and TV dramas, I don't remember them ever laughing about the death of 2000 men, nor will there ever be a time when it's appropriate to do so.

Curmudgeon said...

War always produces black humour.

And we should not forget that the Bismarck sunk the Hood with 2,000 British sailors on board, so any moral outrage is misplaced.

Whorst said...

As a beer drinker, I could care less about a 41% abv. beer that should be drank from a spirit measure. Why bother?? If I'm after that sort of thing, I'll drink proper whisky.

RedNev said...

As I wrote about Schorschbock on my own blog, I feel that brewing ever-stronger beers is like constructing ever-taller buildings: intriguing, but ultimately pointless. I also agree with Whorst's point.

Mark said...

Nicely put. I've bought a bottle of the beer because I want to drink it (I can't resist a freeze-hopped beer, can I?). When I first heard the name I didn't like it, then I watched the video (which I think is hilarious, if a little xenophobic) and see that it's just a 'joke'. The trouble is that joking about WW2 in this way is not funny. The name seems to have been condensed down to just Sink! but that doesn't hide anything. I'm a bit mixed in how to feel about the beer; the oneupmanship is not really that cool and stinks of arrogance more than anything else. I see where they are coming from in the name, especially after reading what Brewdog have to say about it, but come on! I hope there will be some concentration (and not just on concentrating the alcohol!) on the beer this year, that's what we all want more than anything, I'm sure.

The beer better be bloody good.

Tandleman said...

Good post Dave. You all knew this was coming one way or another. Brew Dog ceased to be clever and intriguing some time ago, to be replaced with a juvenile inability to see themselves from the outside. Or worse a calculated disregard of what others think.

Mark. You give the impression you'd buy anything just to be able to say you've done it. It must be an age thing and why you feel the affinity to Brewdog that good taste would suggest you shouldn't.

Curmudgeon. You are right and wrong. War does bring out black humour of necessity, but the fact that the Bismark killed 2000 of our lads, doesn't make this name better, it makes it worse.Respect and all that?

Kristy. You are right. And this daft we won the war thing just makes me despair!

Cooking Lager said...

As a shareholder, is there no way to express your unhappiness beyond a blog?

Richard said...

The name might not matter so much if this was just on the clip of an ordinary handpull beer in a pub - you'd probably get the majority of people finding it vaguely funny and ordering a pint, and some finding it a little distasteful and giving it a miss. I've seen tons of risque clips over the years go without mention.

That it's a specialist beer of interest to a certain type of drinker means that the people who buy it won't be able to avoid thinking about the name, and reading more into it.

I guess my point is that they should be careful with their names, because the people buying their beers are taking the names more seriously than your average drinker.

Woolpack Dave said...

Richard.

Look at Pump Clip Parade

They are dealing with what is starting to become an unacceptable level of inappropriate humour associated with beer.

G. Chapman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Tandleman, I like Brewdog's beers and want to try this one. Is there any harm in that? You are a different type of drinker to me, so what?

Woolpack Dave said...

Cookie, yes there is something I can do; nothing, which is less than I was going to do.

James will understand what that means if he reads this.

As a share holder I could do more, but I'll bide my time and see what happens.

Tandleman said...

Mark. Just encourages the buggers.

Cooking Lager said...

It’s a pity that Dave, really, a pity that an equity in your portfolio is not a company you believe is acting in an honourable fashion and there is little you can do about it even if you were inclined. Every single equity in my portfolio is one that I am proud to own due to the fact that I consider the business to be honourable and its practices worthy of my respect. This is because the equities I hold are publically tradable, allowing me to buy more or sell my holding if the company does something I consider dishonourable or not in the interests of me as an owner. Also as I bought at below intrinsic value rather than several times above intrinsic value I don’t need to wait for an unlikely future where the equities become worth what I paid for them. Still, there’s always the club discount on these offensively named beers which is worth something at least when they are not on bog off in Sainsbury’s.

BrewDogJames said...

The idea of an IPA as strong as whisky is something we have been fascinated by for some time. This is not a knee-jerk reaction to a beer launched 2 weeks ago, this has been 5 months in the making. Double IPAs rock, we wanted to try and crank the speakers up and rock out a quad IPA. IPA amplified if you will.

Schorschbrau also riled us for 2 reasons. When we launched Penguin they tried to steal the show with a beer which they may launch, someday somewhere in the future. We had a beer on the market and they had something they were going to make. Secondly they contacted us and tried to sell (yes sell!) us their secrets of brewing high ABV beers. Consequently we wanted to playfully poke a bit of fun at them, hence the name and the silly little video.

This is very much about the beer itself though. Penguin divided drinkers, the whisky influence and the power of Islay whisky flavours too much for many drinkers. Sink! is about having a carbonated 41% beer which has all the classic IPA components. Kettle hopped, dry hopped then freeze hopped (yes, freeze hopped with Chinook!) for a deep fruit, resinous and spicy aroma. A full out attack on your taste-buds ensues as the incredibly smooth liquid delivers a crescendo of malt, sweet honey, hop oils and a torpedo of hop bitterness which lasts and lasts. Four times the alcohol, four times the bitterness and 4 times the hops!
Was the name a little misguided? Perhaps, perhaps not. Calling beers names with WWII themes, battle ships or indeed film names (as is the case here) is nothing new at all and Three Floyds Grosser Kurfuerst a very recent example from another craft brewer. We love the Bismarck film and thought the name was a good fit for the beer. I accept the criticism here and with hindsight it was maybe not the right call to make. We are still pretty young and learning all the time. The beer was named after the 1960s film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sink_the_Bismarck!
I would strongly argue that the beer itself is very innovative though. Furthermore, surely having the world's strongest beer is something pretty cool and something to aspire to. Does no-one else remember when American brewers going head to head for the title? When Sam Adams went from Triple Bock to Utopias and over World Wide Stout, was the reaction the same? Pushing the envelope and taking beer to new places is fundamental to our beliefs about craft beer, be it brewing a hoppy 0.5% ale, throwing 60 lbs of raspberries in a whisky cask or playing around with high abvs.
Keep on rocking in the free world
James, BrewDog

Velky Al said...

What's next, an English brewery to up the ante and name a beer "2 World Wars, a World Cup and now the World's Strongest Beer"?

Cooking Lager said...

My prediction, Velky is brewdogs next beer will be "Gary Glitter's old insistence". All publicity is good publicity.

The Beer Nut said...

"surely having the world's strongest beer is something pretty cool and something to aspire to"

If you're seeking publicity for a brewery, yes. Though then I don't see why one would be riled at another brewery making a stronger one, since it gives you the opportunity for another round of publicity for your next, stronger, beer. And so ad infinitum.

But from a drinker's point of view, no: I don't see anything cool or aspirational about having the world's strongest beer in the fridge. Any more than, to paraphrase Mr Oliver, having the world's saltiest dish sitting next to it.

Melissa Cole said...

My thoughts echo your own Dave, not impressed either http://girlsguidetobeer.blogspot.com/2010/02/sink-this-silliness.html

Barry M said...

James, thanks for copying and pasting that from your BeerAdvocate post. I'll copy what I said on Michael's blog.

"Schorschbrau also riled us for 2 reasons. When we launched Penguin they tried to steal the show with a beer which they may launch, someday somewhere in the future. We had a beer on the market and they had something they were going to make. Secondly they contacted us and tried to sell (yes sell!) us their secrets of brewing high ABV beers. Consequently we wanted to playfully poke a bit of fun at them".

I thought it was clear that they already had this beer, tested, ready to go, so not exactly trying to steal the show. On my blog, you commented that Schorschbräu was due to launch in January, like you already knew about it. And they did launch it in January, right?

I'm glad you removed the more personal jabs against this brewer from the movie, but I still think the movie and all that gives the impression there's a battle waging here, when to my mind it all looks very one-sided and seems a more like toy-throwing from the BrewDog side.

As for the naming and attitude, I think enough people have made the point that I agree with.

Washy said...

Was there a similar fuss and palaver when Shepherd Neame advertised their Spitfire beer? I really can't remember. But it seems that these days people just love to get offended by anything and get their kicks from their own moral indignation. "Ooh, what can I find to get all outraged about today? How about a strong beer named after a war film!"

Here are some Spitfire advert slogans. Warning! Do not read if offended by bugger all.

"Downed all over Kent, just like the Luftwaffe"

"Rear gunners drink lager shandy"

"Goering. Goering. Gone"

"No Nazi aftertaste"

"First left, then third reich"

"No Fokker comes close"

"Not for Messrs Schmidt"

Etc...etc...etc...

The Beer Nut said...

And yet people like Washy (and perhaps Washy himself) get upset when war memorials are vandalised.

Washy said...

What exactly has the vandalising of war memorials got to do with the advertising of beer? Lost me there.

The Beer Nut said...

If a brewery did it to advertise their beer, many of the Shep's-just-having-a-harmless-larf brigade would be fussing and palavering faster than you can say jingoistic bolloxology.

Washy said...

It certainly was jingoistic tosh but it certainly worked. And it looks (judging by the attention this is getting) as if naming a beer after a so-so war film has had a similar effect. I'm looking forward to the forthcoming Brewdog range of Glitter Alcopops.

Woolpack Dave said...

Hurrah, Washy has a blogger profile.

Be back later, I have casks to wash and put a boring Zippy Red IPA into them.

Velky Al said...

You could start a Rainbow theme with your beers there Dave!

Bungle Black Lager
George's Pink Raspberry Weizen
RJF Thrice Hopped Pale Ale

Whorst said...

Dave, I got a beer name for your Lake land resort: Whorst's Underpants. Full flavored, ballsy ale!

Washy said...

Why not brew a 1.5% mild and call it "Hard? Not!"? You *were* going to do a small ale called "Sex In A Canoe".

BeerReviewsAndy said...

zippy red IPA - now that sounds good - will it be ready for my visit?

ive got a nice big bottle of stout to share with you...

Woolpack Dave said...

James,

I said that I had nothing more to say, perhaps I can change my mind. I did write a lot more and then deleted it, I don't think it will help.

Suffice to say I like what BrewDog do, but I could not support the new beer with that name, sorry. I really do think it went too far. Yes, I think it was a very bad choice for a name and is likely to overshadow my further involvement.

I've never watched the film. I don't like war films. I Googled the name and got the Wikipeadia entry. I guess most people would do that. It doesn't make the name look good.

Am I being overly politically correct? Maybe. My good friend Washy no doubt thinks so. But then he knows a damn sight more about military history than I ever will, so perhaps he is right.

However, for the record, I cringe at the Spitfire adverts. Sorry, yes, I do get the humour, but it's the same stuff we came out with in the 1970's in the playground. I think it perhaps should have stayed there.

Whorst said...

Ok, how 'bout ballsy, full flavored, cocky ale??!!

Tyson said...

Have Brewdog brought out a new beer? Can't say I noticed...Anyhow, keep your powder dry. Apparently the Hun are bringing out a 45% beer. Brewdog will no doubt retaliate. Which means the furore over Sink will sink faster than the, er, Bismark.

BrewDogJames said...

@woolydave - you are just being a bit too sensitive and overly PC on this one buddy. As a shareholder I will send you a bottle for free to review.

Tandleman said...

There is rather a lot of evidence that the Bismarck was scuttled after her main guns were all destroyed. She sank with her war ensign still flying.

Bit of an analogy with Brew Dog the way they are going?

Tandleman said...

Ha. Just seen James's reply. Now there's a moral dilemma he's set you Dave.

Very neat.

Woolpack Dave said...

James,

I don't know if you are right about being overly PC. Perhaps there are a lot of influences in my life that make me sensitive to war related joking. It seems to have hit a raw nerve much more widely around the beer world than anything you've done before, and I have difficulty defending it this time.

However, I am extremely intrigued by the beer. TNP was great, I'll look forward to trying this one.

Tandleman, yes you are right, but a dilemma I am not surprised to find myself in. I will of course try the beer and report. How can I morally justify that? Dunno, but I'll have a while to think about it and then I'll post. I might just have to avoid the name, that's all.

Washy said...

If this Brewdog/German rivalry continues maybe they should call the next brew Dreadnought.

Richard said...

Shall we just refer to the bottle as "Where Penguins Dare" in homage to the Alister McLean film of (nearly) the same name?

That way we poke fun at the Germans, involves penguins and aren't potential mocking any real deaths.

Looking forward to trying the brew tomorrow in the Rake.

Barm said...

@tandleman "Ha. Just seen James's reply. Now there's a moral dilemma he's set you Dave."

Not really, as Dave would probably have bought a couple of hundred quid's worth of the stuff if James hadn't chosen a name in such poor taste.

Woolpack Dave said...

Wurst, Al and Sausage, thanks guys for your light hearted injections. Sorry I didn't acknowledge before.

"Sex in a canoe" we did discuss beers that should be called that but I would like to think that neither mine or BrewDogs could be accused of that.

The similarity with the name Zippy Red IPA and a puppet with attitude has been made, although if I remember rightly the puppet was yellow.

Woolpack Dave said...

Richard, I like that one.

Balm, spot on correct.

Barm said...

@tandleman "Ha. Just seen James's reply. Now there's a moral dilemma he's set you Dave."

Not really, as Dave would probably have bought a couple of hundred quid's worth of the stuff if James hadn't chosen a name in such poor taste. He's inadvertently stuck his hand down the toilet, as the Germans say.

Washy said...

I like Richard's suggestion "Where Penguins Dare". Alas now I can't stop thinking of other silly names along those lines: The Penguin Has Landed, The Longest Penguin, an so on and so forth.

Jeffrey said...

Double IPAs rock, we wanted to try and crank the speakers up and rock out a quad IPA. IPA amplified if you will. Double IPAs rock, we wanted to try and crank the speakers up and rock out a quad IPA. IPA amplified if you will.

When I read things like that from Brew Dog, I wonder if they really are young blokes, or two balding middle-aged uncles trying to sound cool while dancing badly at a wedding.

Get back to brewing good beers, like you did at the beginning, lads.

jesusjohn said...

'One of the greatest stadium rock bands in the world - R - E...O Speedwagon.'

Get your point, Jeff.

Tyson said...

What I want to know is how this will affect the smoking ban?

Eddie86 said...

I think creating the World's strongest beer is nothing bad - we've certainly had a few people in the bar talking about it, asking when we'll be getting some in, and asking more about Brewdog in general.

How many pub-goers in Scotland are talking about brewers down south - asking more about them and what they are doing?

With regards to the name, I don't think the intention was to offend, and therefore there is little problem. I can understand why some people would be offended, but in my opinion the easiest solution is to ignore the name if you don't like it. I'm offended by footballers 'diving' every time there is a light breeze, so I don't look.

All in all, as long as the beer is good, that's the bottom line. I didn't enjoy TNP when I tasted it straight after pouring, but a month later, with a brewer talking me through the beer, I liked it a bit more and understood it a lot more.

I hope to learn and understand more about beer by trying this.

Jeffrey said...

Eddie68, why should people in pubs be talking about brewers? It would be a bit strange if they were. Generally people go to pubs with with friends, and they don't spend their time talking about breweries that produce strong beers.

Eddie86 said...

Jeffrey - normally these people wouldn't be talking about brewers. They have their pint of Butty and relax and socialise. But this beer has, through being in the paper, got them talking, and asking about, the brewery. You can't deny that's good marketing - Brewdog are raising their profile.

Barm said...

Making people think you're a dick isn't the best way of raising your profile.

Velky Al said...

Eddie, let's not confuse good publicity with good marketing.