Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Someone's got a Bad Attitutde

Live Beer Blogging at the European Beer Bloggers Conference was one of the highlights of the weekend, allowing us bloggers etc. to try seven different beers in 35 minutes! 5 minutes with each beer and brewer/rep, it was basically speed drinking for the excited beer blogger! One of my favourites (and many others) was Bad Attitude and their TwoPenny Porter.

Coming from Switzerland via Italy, Bad Attitude's packaging and branding are fantastic - alternative and very artistic, they would stand out on a supermarket shelf with their unique
and striking designs. The use of 'Stubby' bottles also give it an unusual edge, and most definitely tastier than the usual French 'stubbies' from the supermarket or Calais! Full of fantastic quotes from confident and uncompromising people (Kurt Cobain, Jack Kerouac and many others) ,they fit in line completely with the ethos that Lorenzo from Bad Attitude (BA) explained to us.

Bad Attitude's 'Two Penny Porter' was simply a magnificent, faithful and tasty Porter. Chocolate and coffee notes, even a slightly salty/soy sauce aroma and taste were mixed with a dangerous drinkability. Topped with a Union Jack bottle cap, it really tipped its hat to the British Porter.

Bottle from the Live Beer Blogging

This beer simply did not taste like an 8.1% beer! On the table, we all guzzled it down with abandon and really enjoyed it. Everyone noticed how easy to drink it was. For many, it was the stand out of Live Beer Blogging. Testament to its fantastic taste, all of the beers that Lorenzo from BA had brought with him were quickly snapped up by eager bloggers!

The funny thing about BA is that, if the rest of the team and brewers are anything like Lorenzo, then they really don't have a bad attitude to how and why they make the beer they do! Lorenzo was funny, charming and genuine about his companies tasty and unassuming beers. Lorenzo and the other fantastic Italian I met at the weekend, Alessio from Hoppy Hour, really see beer as a simple, unassuming product that is social to the very core. I couldn't agree more, and I think BA really could grow with its unique branding and tasty beers! Like all good products and brands (and salesmen), Lorenzo let the beer do the talking and it really impressed us.

What I got my greedy mitts on.

Sneaking away with a bottle of the aforementioned TwoPenny Porter, I also got my hands on a Bootlegger California Common and a Winter Warmer. The Winter Warmer was a well balanced English bitter, tawny coloured and slightly hazy. Again, surprisingly drinkable at 8.3%. Perhaps it's the summer sun and heat, but the beer seemed a bit average in comparison to the Porter. Maybe I should have saved it to the dark winter months, but the bottle was too alluring!

The Bootlegger California Common was a really enjoyable beer, blurring the lines between a Pilsner and a pale ale. Bitter and zesty, when it's cold it really gives you a citrus kick. I think this would be a perfect beer to bring your regular lager drinker into the obsessive world of Craft Beer. It also went excellently with my Cypriot-style olives, with lemon juice, coriander and extra virgin olive oil. A great combo for summer weather and summer beers!

Hopefully, their dazzling success at the Conference will encourage them to get involved in the British Craft beer scene (though expansion is understandably always difficult!). Cheers Lorenzo and BA for some fantastic beer and I can't wait to try some more! Hopefully, they'll get to the U.K. soon! I could really imagine a company like BrewDog importing the beers and selling them at their bars/online/shops, perhaps inspiring a younger generation to try some crafty brews!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

European Beer Bloggers Conference - Day 1

As written previously, I won a ticket to the first ever . It's all I could talk and think about it for the previous days before, and after a little bit of a mission around Moorgate I finally got to The Brewery!

A very fancy place, you could tell that the City boys/girls there for the 'Investment Funds Conference' etc were very jealous! Got my badge, and began to meet some beer bloggers and try some beers! Easily the standout beer for me and many others was Sharp's Single Brew Reserve 2010, with the use of the unique
Czech hops Bobek giving an unique fruity aroma and taste. Many bloggers cheekily had glass after glass, and so did I!

Peter Haydon's talk about London brewing history was interesting, with an insight into the development of beer and brewing in the city. David Sheen's talk about the British and Worldwide beer markets (past, present and future) did have some interesting topics of discussion, but was definitely far too statistic heavy. Statistics can be interesting, but only if presented well and not with 50 others!

The 'Do's and Dont's' of Beer Blogging brought up a lot of interesting and relevant discussion points - Should you accept free beer? How should you criticize bad beer, if at all? How do you treat other bloggers, criticize them and their thoughts? How should you design, layout and use technology on your blog?

For me, the most interesting point was raised by Pete Brown - Why do you blog? Asking yourself that question can really help you not only understand why you write your blog, but also whoyou write it for. These two questions really help frame someone's blog, their style and their delivery. Great stuff.

FlavorActiv notes!

The FlavorActiv tasting was really interesting. No doubt it will be useful next time I visit the pub, though I'm not sure how many bartenders would agree with any criticisms!

Dinner reception we had some Monsieur Rock and something else, and then finally onto Dinner, courtesy of MolsonCoors. Though a bit fish heavy (lots of pescatarians, such as Pedalling for Pints) the food was fantastic. My god-awful phone and camera didn't take a very good picture of the menu (or anything else over the weekend for that matter), but the Worthington Red Shield was really nice with the fish! After some fantastic dessert and a speech from Steve Worthinton, his experiences and his retirement, we headed downstairs for the new campaign launch for Pislner Urquell.

After watching their stunning new advert, we got to try some unfiltered Pislner Urquell straight from the brewery in Pilsen. FANTASTIC. Tasted so great, even some renowned lager-haters (I'm looking at you FemAle :-P ) even liked it!

Coupled with their fantastic and beautifully shaped glasses, Pislner Urquell have a fantastic product that not only should they be proud of but also has a real chance of making some headway in the UK. Fantastic beer!

Next update will be about Day 2, and my personal highlight - the Night of Many beers!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Brew in the Face?

Brewdog have recently created the website Beerleaks . It is, in their own words, to expose the "insipid, fizzy liquid...masquerading as beer" and "the slaughterhouse of conformity" that is the modern beer industry.

These are testaments that in many way real ale/craft beer drinkers and advocates would agree with, though perhaps with less pseudo-revolutionary speak and a more nuanced insight into the beer industry's strangehold on Britain's beer.

As Britain's beer industry ploughs more money into marketing campaigns, such as Fullers and Charles Wells, will Brewdogs assertive (dare we say aggressive) campaign help them to stand out, heighten brand awareness and get more of their beer (and other craft beer) sold?

Previous ad campaings by Brewdog have readily included criticisms of the beer industry, from smashing mega brand bottles such as Stella, Becks and Carlsberg to the critiques of using isinglass, malt extracts and other dodgy adjuncts. This latest campagin, with its 1984-eqque 'Ministry of Mayhem' encouraging us to drink bland and flavourless beers, is a much more damning and aggressive of the beer industry as a whole. Most definitely following the trend of previous campaigns, its gung ho and bold. The question, though, is whether Brewdog's focus on overt and hostile PR campaigns will leave them Brew in the Face? (Really couldn't avoid the pun :-] )

It's a difficult question. Out of Britain's burgeoning craft beer scene, Brewdog are unquestionalby its most well known brand and 'advocate'. Known for their daring, deriding and damning ad campaigns and videos, they have a degree of promience and buzz that few other breweries can match. If you agree with their tactics or not, they are giving the beer industry a youthful kick up the arse that few others can contend with. Their media-savvy tactics and insights access people and drinkers that maybe other brewries can't reach.

Most importantly, though, Brewdog does make fantastic beer. I love Brewdog's beer. Recently launched Avery Brown Dredge was a fantastic; incredibly hoppy with a fantastic grape fruit flavour, lingering bitterness a devilishly deceiving drinkability. So good I got normal 'lager' drinkers to even have a couple of sips and enjoy it!

And with that observation, leads to a pressing question; Will this campaign get the average (young) drinker off the street to try some craft ale, or will they continue with their Carling/Carlsberg/Fosters/Stella etc? Will they even see this campaign? Is criticising your opponents (who are rather titanic compared to Brewdog) the best way to get your product noticed, bought and adored over others?

In many ways, Brewdog's video is preaching to the converted, so to speak. Assuming that this online campaign is targeting a demographic that DOESN'T drink real ale/craft beer, will any of them even see it? Firstly, it's not on Youtube. For all the jibes about lesser quality and adverts we may have to contend with on Youtube, Viemo simply can't access the market the way companies on Youtube can. As well as this, criticisng others instead of voicing your positives can sometimes be a risky move (think John Kerry v. George W. Bush), though Brewdogs video is obviously well made and gets it point across.

More and more craft breweries are opening, and the ones that are doing well seem to be doing so without the need to criticise the 'Big Four', at least in public. For all the criticism we may give Brewdog, however, they are criticisng an industry and its practices that at least on a basic level many of us in the blogosphere would probably be in agreement with. Perhaps it's only their methods we don't agree with, but how else are companies going to distract (younger) drinkers away from the 'Big Four' and spend their hard-earned cash on more expensive and daring brews?

What are your opinions? I'm still undecided.