Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Punk and Hardcore beer!
I stopped by Seattle's Big Star Beer Market last night. It's an unassuming store just off Aurora on 105th that looks like your run of the mill mini-mart from the outside, but inside features Seattle's largest selection of beers from around the world. This place treats beer like a fine wine, importing hundreds and hundreds of beers from all over, the variety and depth of their beers is almost staggering when you walk in. How do you pic out a Lambic when there are 80 different ones to choose from? If you're scratching your head wondering what a Lambic is, it's a beer brewed only in the Pajottenland region of Belgium by a process of spontaneous fermentation. Lambic's aside, you'll find about every beer you're looking for at Big Star, along with hundreds, if not thousands, you aren't. And sometimes you stumble upon ones you just have to buy... like Punk IPA and Hardcore IPA, two beers from Scotland's BrewDog brewery. At $12.95 per 22 ounce bottle because it's a very new and limited import, not too many punk rockers are going to be buying it, but I just couldn't pass it up after reading the back of the bottle:
Ha ha ha, awesome. The brewery's website is brewdog.com and it looks pretty popular in the UK. While they have one distributor in the US, they seem quite small making it about impossible to find, except locally at Big Star. Besides Punk IPA ("a post modern classic ale"), BrewDog also makes Hardcore IPA ("An explicit imperial ale"), Riptide ("a twisted merciless stout"), Paradox ("whiskey cask aged imperial stout"), The Physics ("a laid back amber beer"), Hop Rocker ("a statuesque lager"), and Tokyo (a 12% imperial stout brewed with jasmine and cranberries). Brewdog's naming and marketing has gotten them in hot water with The Portman Group, the UK's self-regulating alcohol industry body. From the UK Independent:
An "aggressive" beer sold under the name Punk IPA faces being banned after a ruling that it would promote irresponsible drinking.
The drink and two others made by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Hop Rocker and Rip Tide, were found to have breached marketing rules in a provisional decision by the Portman Group, a self-regulating industry body.
It decided Rip Tide's description as a "twisted merciless stout" would be associated with antisocial behaviour, while the claim that Hop Rocker was a "nourishing foodstuff" and that "magic is still there to be extracted" implied that it would enhance physical and mental capabilities.
BrewDog, which was set up 18 months ago by two former law students, reacted angrily to the decision, saying it threatened to put the firm, which sells to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Oddbins among others, out of business. The company is given the chance to respond before a final ruling.
James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog with Martin Dickie, denied the advertising would encourage irresponsible behaviour. The label on Punk IPA, the main seller of the three, says "this is an aggressive beer, we don't care if you don't like it", which Mr Watt said highlighted the contrast in taste with light lagers.
"Our branding, our packaging, is a little bit edgy. The word 'aggressive' is used because of the biting bitterness in it. It's a heavily hopped beer. It's not something you can drink a lot of," he said.
"We could [change the label] but should we be pushed into changing our approach by our competitors? I think what they [the Portman Group] are doing flies in the face of anti-competition laws."
He said irresponsible drinking was more likely to occur as a result of strong lager produced by the major brewers being sold for a third of the price of his beer.
The Portman Group has also made a provisional ruling against Skull Splitter, a beer produced for 20 years by the Orkney Brewery and named after Thorfinn Hausakluif, the seventh Viking earl of Orkney, who had that nickname. It was decided the phrase was associated with violence and also could be a reference to its effect on the drinker's head.
Wacky Brits! I can't believe the name or a witty description can get a beer banned!
Carl from Tigertail says they'll be stocking Punk IPA and one other Brewdog beer starting tomorrow... and they will be priced at about half what I bought mine for! So if you want to try it out, hit Carl and Tim's (ex-Fallout Records owner) fine establishment later this week!