Sunday, 5 June 2011

Justifiable Extreme or Hyperbole?


I'm sat here drinking a Bitch Please. It's the second time I've drunk this beer. The first time was after I'd seen some comments about it, including a few complaining that it tasted phenolic. I had not actually realised that it was whisky cask aged, and neither had Ann when she ordered a case from BrewDog. It's a barley wine, and she likes barley wine, she thought she'd like this one. She most certainly does not like Paradox, but I do. I was keen to try it.

On this particular occasion I'd been to the pub already, so my taste buds, and perhaps synapses, were not operating at full potential. Yup it smelled and tasted of phenols, so what? I tweeted the fact to the world in general.

That got a few replies, mostly questioning the sense in making a beer taste so horrible. There is part of me wonders if that was part of the understandable BrewDog backlash that is a current theme around the beer-related social network. But I still maintain that if you put a beer in a cask that previously held a phenolic whisky then the beer is very probably going to be phenolic. It's a bit like complaining that a vindaloo is 'king hot.

And to carry on that food analogy one has to realise that most people don't like over-the-top spicy food. Indeed, I cannot remember the last time I heard anyone order such silly dishes as Vindaloo. Likewise, it is expected that most beer drinkers won't like this beer.

In any case, I've decided to drink another bottle of Bitch Please, to suffer so I can give a more considered view on what is admittedly a stupidly boundary pushing beer.

Smell: strong charcoal, smoke, TCP, typical malt whisky aromas. Dissipates as the glass is swilled around and allowed to breathe. Gives way to barley wine aromas of dried fruit, but only after some time to let the whisky dissipate.

Taste: Overpowering magic marker, solvent, alcoholic. The base barley wine has been beaten to a quiet whimper, those Scots have bloody well nigh on killed any subtlety. Sure, the base beer is still there, fighting its last breath smothered by the big clout of Jura, but I have difficulty discerning anything I can find flavour descriptors for.

So, what's the point? It is just a crazy idea designed to do nothing more than send the beer geeks crazy and raise the profile of an already over-hyped brewery. Isn't it?

And yes, I'd agree, but I still like it for some bizarre reason. But then I like phenols and I like those mad extreme single malts. To be fair, there are plenty of people that don't. Paradox works because the base stout still works in balance and isn't nearly beaten to death in the process. Bitch Please starts to question the sense in spirit cask ageing, and I'm drawn to love it just for that, despite its faults.

What really interests me is not so much how successful the beer is in its execution; there are plenty of reasons to say that there are flaws. What really interests me is how it fits with the developing esoteric beer market.

It is our view that the traditional cask market is becoming somewhat stagnant and saturated. With an ever increasing number of breweries, and with us all fighting for front-bar font space, back-bar fridge space and off-sales shelf space we all have to fight for a part of that market.

Looking at keg, crazy stunts, fun poking, deliberate institution unsettling and the odd bit of stepping-over-the-boundary might well be something we will all have to do more of.

Bitch Please might be over-hyped, but over-hyping is the way to get your brewery noticed and grow up into a success. Furthermore, despite the current backlash, BrewDog continues to grow.

Right, now we've got that out of the way, I'm going to finish the glass..... and as I do, it's growing on me and the barley wine is fighting back.

36 comments:

Ed said...

Can't say I've noticed much about Bitch Please, but I don't like the name and I don't like phenol so it's not for me.

HardKnott Dave said...

No Ed, it most certainly isn't. But it's not your fault that you lack the sophistication......

Seriously, it's really an extreme flavour that deserves the controversy. As for the name? well, that just adds to the effect.

StringersBeer said...

Yep, I reckon making beer taste like shit, then telling everyone that they're dicks if they don't think it's great, has to be the way forward.

Source Deli said...

Why push your name by producing something that's unpleasant. I'd rather remember them for Punk and Hardcore. Sierra Nevada never produced a beer tasting of marker pens, just quality well made ales.

Sonic Youth have various side projects that are largely un-listenable, I ignore this and just listen to Daydream Nation and Goo, their good stuff.

Darren said...

ballanced comments on an unballanced beer, nice post

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Some silly Vindaloo for me please; with about four pints of boring mild to wash it down. Then on to the onion rings with Ranch and a Best Bitter.

HardKnott Dave said...

Stringers and Source, if their ideas are so daft, why then do they keep growing faster than any other brewery?

BUL180, onion rings and Ranch with Best Bitter? you extreme Oregonian.

John Clarke said...

Why are they growing fast? Perhaps selling at possible knock down prices to supermarkets? 5am saint - yours for 99p a bottle in Sainsburys. Very punk.

Having said that I do want to try this newbie. Might get two - one for early consumption and one for a year in the cellar to see what happens.

PS - your beers went down a storm at Stockport and thanks for the last minute extra kil.

StringersBeer said...

I didn't say the idea was daft. They've got beer in the supermarkets and the Systembolaget, and they attracted a serious drinks brand investor, so I guess it worked for them. As far as it goes. Fast growth of course, of itself, isn't always a good thing. Unless you're planning to cash in the brand a.s.a.p.

Whatever. Do you really want to run your business as a copy of a copy? Do you not worry that this will look a bit, er, sad?

StringersBeer said...

P.S. Are you planning to open a chain of noughties theme bars as well?

HardKnott Dave said...

Stringers, are we any more a copy of BrewDog than the many hundreds of traditional microbreweries who brew brew pale hoppy bitters none of which seem any different to the last?

James and Martin know we've taken some of our inspiration from BrewDog they and are happy with that. We would like to think we also take inspiration from other brewers too. I've been known to listen to what you have to say from time to time....

Are there any truly original ideas in the world?

StringersBeer said...

No offense intended Dave, I just worry that this kind of thing could backfire for you.

HardKnott Dave said...

Stringers, absolutely no offence taken. It's a valid point. I worry about how the market is going to develop. There are only so many beer drinkers and out of them there are only so many will respond to a certain style.

The current "Craft Beer Revolution" which is disputably there, even if calling it a revolution might be overstating things, might saturate at some point in the future. What do we all do then?

StringersBeer said...

Nothing comes out of the blue. And there's nothing wrong with showing yer influences.

SourceDeli on the subject of "influences", I'm sure that Sonic Youth lot deffo had some MX-80 Sound records. Which is not a bad thing.

RedNev said...

Whatever the quality of the beer, the name is stupid, and I expect some will find it offensive. But then Brewdog relish any publicity, and this name is just another one of their childish pranks. I think it's time they grew up.

HardKnott Dave said...

mmm, the name "Bitch Please" has some interesting meanings.

It could be that those who critique are the butt of the joke.

Bitch Please in Urban Dictionary.

RedNev said...

I see, Dave, call anything offensive a joke, and anyone who doesn't like it is humourless. Come on, you can do better than that hoary old excuse.

Yvan Seth said...

@RedNev

One man's offence is another's joke. In this case the joke may be on you - whether you like it or not. Whether or not a joke is offensive, in good taste or morally acceptable are different questions... and who're we asking: the mass of humanity? Some "chosen" few?

Most British TV comedy I've seen these days seems childish and well-beyond borderline-offensive: BrewPoodle fit right in! They do seem to endeavour to be a pop-culture brand (that way lies the Big Bucks.) If the cost of getting more people drinking beers like Punk and 5AM instead of Stella and Fosters is a few "bad taste" stunts then so-be-it. Kill or cure?

Meanwhile I'll hope that they don't stop making their crazy brews, which is what I love 'em for. I'll also rest assured that any BrewPooch controversy is a small storm in one giant brewing-industry teacup.

Anyway... you are perfectly within your rights to be offended and respond with righteous indignation. But recognise that somewhere out there somebody will respond by sniggering into their bitch, please. :)


@EveryoneElse

Mostly only those who're already drinking the cool-aid will have heard of Bitch Please, let alone tried it. That includes many who seem to love to sucking the vitriolic acid from BrewDog's poisoned teats merely to complain about the evil tar they subsequently find in their mouths. People do love a bit of drama.

I love the risk of it - will BrewDog's next oddity of brewing be wonderful or awful? I buy into this wholeheartedly. If I have a beer that doesn't work for me I shrug and pass any extras on (tucking one or two away to try a year or so later.) If you don't like things this way... then stick to the more predictable line-up! Or simply don't buy their beer.

Anyway, get on with the brewing people! :)

HardKnott Dave said...

Nev, first of all apologies for offending you. Perhaps I should put in a standing order of apologies, as I've a feeling there will be more that is not specifically designed to offend you, but is aimed at younger generation that will inadvertently offend.

Let me digress for a short while. We were sat in a pub the other day. The manager of the pub is a lovely chap, probably late 20's early 30's. He's got one of these silly wide ear piercings as well as a few other body adornments that would have been considered offensive a few years ago, but are somewhat run-of-the-mill today.

I was chatting with some mates about music for a little promotional project we are working on. I was expressing a desire to use genre from my own youth. This was questioned as perhaps being a little to old for our real target demographic, age wise.

That was a very good point I thought. I'm aiming about 10 years too old really. I need to aim at a demographic nearer mid 30's rather than mid 40's.

At my grandparents house I'd have never dreamed of asking to watch The Young Ones or Not The Nine O'Clock News or Black Adder. Far too offensive and stupid for them. Goodness knows what they would think of some modern comedy now.

It is interesting that this blog attracts comments from people who object to BrewDog but seem to like my beer. Perhaps I'd be better shifting to a younger audience, where there is a broader, more accepting audience for new and progressive.

I don't know how the markets compare in size, but the younger market certainly has more gaps in it.

I had a Twitter conversation with Martin Dickie as a result of this post.

"@HardKnottDave regarding comments on your blog, your better to be one of a few than 1 of 700. Invest in your beer and let the people decide"

Indeed, should I be 1 of 700? Or am I better being one of a much smaller number of more progressive breweries, and perhaps offensive to the old guard?

Steve Lamond said...

Interestingly I didn't get any TCP notes at all! Did you drink this chilled or as is...maybe that would procuse a difference?
I really liked the beer and could taste the individual ingredients, was pretty well balanced in my opinion actually. my notes:

"A lighter beer than I’d anticipated, chestnut brown with cream coloured head and a light level of carbonation. Fantastically complex nose, I can detect toffee, hops and smoked malt with some oak wood character. Smoky/peaty flavour certainly to the fore on the first taste with noticeable alcohol presence and a fruity sweetness that reminds me of toffos. Finishes with unmistakable sugar butteriness of shortcake an alcoholic warmth and the ghost of the wood. A good solid beer."

I'm not entirely sure why the name is what it is but meh, doesn't bother me.

Steve Lamond said...

And Dave, I tried your infrared and it was spot on. Got a beer delivery from beer merchants today and its got aether black and granite in it that I'm itching to try. Alas, neighbour signed for it so its not in my sweaty mitts as of yet. Almost tempted to break into my neighbours house if he doesn't get home soon!

HardKnott Dave said...

Steve,

I like this beer. My description here is aimed at those that are unlikely to believe me if I told them it was "AWESOME!!!!!".

My point of the post is really to point out that just because someone does not like a beer, does not mean that the beer is bad. Indeed, the beer world jolly well needs it's feathers ruffled, and it's getting it right now.

BTW, it is damn phenolic, sorry. In my book this is a good thing.

Anyway, glad you liked the Infra Red and hope the Æther blæc and Granite are to your liking too.

Pub Diaries said...

Would anyone raise an eyebrow if it was say Islay Ales using Whisky cask. They've used them from Bowmore to brew an ale for the Islay show which I found quite palatable. Perhaps the fact that i'd been drinking Islay Single Malts for a few days made it more palatable but would they be knocked for giving it a go? Probably not. Whereas Brewdog suffer from a very British problem in that they'll get knocked for rasining their heads above the parapit.

Steve Lamond said...

Will let you know!

I'm not a fan of Islay whiskys and wasn't keen when I had Smokehead Paradox a few years back at the Rake. I did like the Isle of Arran version though (well I think it was)

On their video they show that the casks were chosen from a pile, so maybe they weren't all from the same source?

But I agree, brewers should brew the beer they want to drink themselves, if all beers aimed to please everyone then there may as well just be one brewery...

Barm said...

Why would anyone be offended by people making experimental beer?

It's the acting like pricks that people object to.

Tandleman said...

"Perhaps I'd be better shifting to a younger audience, where there is a broader, more accepting audience for new and progressive."

Better brush up on your faux Americanese then Dave. Seems we have no ability to indigenously create, merely copy from America. Yes that's acceptance all right.

And whether anyone believes you or not, I'd be a little wary about jumping on that bandwagon. You is too old and not nimble enough.

StringersBeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StringersBeer said...

"your better to be one of a few than 1 of 700"? Is that like being a big fish in a small pond?

RedNev said...

Yvan Seth and Dave have both misread my comments. I was not offended - I said that the name was stupid, which it is, and may offend some people.

To both of you I repeat that trying to justify something that some may find offensive by accusing critics of having no sense of humour, of not getting the joke (etc, etc, ad nauseam), is a stale old tactic that you both should have grown out of by now, along with your ancient flares and 70s attitudes.

It's about time that certain juvenile brewers and their sniggering followers stopped giving beers names that may alienate 50% of the population. I mean women, in case neither of you has reached the 21st century yet.

HardKnott Dave said...

Nev, I think "bitch, pleeease!" is gender neutral in modern urban language, or even, perhaps, derogatory towards the male.

Sure, 40+ might well be offended, however, BrewDog are not aiming at middle aged people, but younger people who probably totally get the joke.

StringersBeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darren said...

how the hell did the review of a beer lead to such and out pouring. Dave make, drink and love what ever beer you want. Tell everyone who has issues with beers other than their own (or something safe) to go to hell.

I still think it was a good review of the beer.

Source Deli said...

I didn't say their ideas are daft, just wouldn't want to drink a beer with the flavour of marker pens.

I'm fairly sure the name was picked because they wanted to open the flood gates to verbal reproach, no such thing as bad publicity. I personally haven't tried this beer, but general consensus is a Roman thumbs down.

Brew Dog will continue to make interesting beers that push boundaries and test people's opinions. You wont like them all and they wont care.

I still don't want to drink a marker pen.

Mark said...

What controversy?? Did I miss somehting here? It's just a Brewdog experimental, one off, collaboration like any other.

Your post suggestes they did somehting like decide to age ALL Punk, Hardcore and 5am in Laphroaig casks!

AB06 is equally mental. Would you be ok with it if Bitch Please was part of the Abstrakt range?

What's the big deal?

HardKnott Dave said...

Mark, and anyone else who is interested. I DO like Bitch Please. It's controversial and that's what BrewDog do. I like the beer, but agree it's extreme. I have no problem with the fact that the vast majority of beer drinkers are never going to like it. That, basically, is what this post says.

Equally, it took me some time to "get" Tarantino. Walt Disney he ain't.

Steve Lamond said...

Did you post that last comment after watching have I got news for you Dave?