Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Beer, class and snobbery

A lot of people have been blogging recently about whether enjoying exotic and rare beers is a form of snobbery. One that really struck my eye was the article from Curmudgeon here. In it he quotes a definition of artisanal from the dictionary:

"Artisanal. Adjective suggestive of handmade goods and old-fashioned craftsmanship. In the food world, a romantic epithet bestowed upon the cheesemaker, breadbaker, bacon-curer, etc., who labors in his or her integrity-steeped native locale, independent of the pressures and toxicities of Big Food, to produce exquisite high-end, SMALL-BATCH edibles available by mail-order."

In my opinion anyone who described anything as artisanal is both a snob and a fool! This notion that things are somehow better than others because they are made by small companies in sheds is absurd. The reason mass produced food and drink is generally of lower quality is because it is designed to be cheap and henceforth the quality of, and amount of care taken over, the ingredients is significatnly lower. It has nothing to do with the fact it is made in a high-tech factory with the latest production methods. I had an argument recently about artisanal bread and how if it were to be made in an industrial factory using exactly the same ingredients that it would clearly be better than if it was made in a shed in Hampshire.

My main problem with the drinking of rare and exotic beers though is that companies seem to be able to add a huge margin on their products simply because they are "hand crafted" and "artisanal" beer. Yes I know you use more and better quality ingredients but I often sometimes recoil at the price of beer in certain "craft beer bars". BrewDog's tagline is that they aim to revolutionise the beer world with new and interesting beers. Well I can tell you that most definitely won't happen by selling £4 pints of punk in an edgy and alternative bar in Camden.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A trip to BrewDog!

After months of anticipation I was overjoyed to see that the new BrewDog bar in Camden was officially open last week. Although not a huge fan of their marketing techniques I am an avid fan of their beers and so I clearly felt that a trip was warranted. The offer to meet an old flatmate, who shares my love of their beer, for drinks prompted the perfect chance for a trip. 

Upon arrival I was pleased to see that at least 8 of their own beers and a good number of foreign beers were available on draught and complimented by a staggering bottle list of again both their own and some rare foreign brews. We decided to start the evening with a half of the low strength, 2.8%, Blitz. As I ordered the barman asked if I'd tried it before and I told him I had not. He then decided to offer us a taster after telling us it had quite a strong flavour. Obviously people had tried it and complained after being misguided by it's strength. I have to say I was quite taken aback by this as I'd always thought I looked like someone who knew their beer. Maybe the lack of piercings and a tattoo, which appeared to categorise a large part of the clientèle, made him think that I hadn't tried BrewDog beers before. Anyway, I found the beer to be a delightfully light and extremely hoppy beer and one which will definitely lay down a challenge to other brewers to create excellent beers in the low strength tax bracket. On this note, on the same night I also had the chance to try Weltons' PridenJoy which although I didn't know it at the time is listed in Roger Protz's 300 Beer to Try Before You Die. This again was a lovely light beer; lacking the big hop profile of the Blitz but still an excellent brew.
Having tried 2 beers which now sit in the low strength tax bracket and found them to both be exquisite I implore other brewers to also try and create masterpieces that can be drunk all night without the fear of the dreaded morning tenderness.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's Christmas! Bring on the naff sounding crap beers!

So it's less than 2 weeks until the big day and we're well an truly into what I like to call the season of excess. For most of us that means long nights in cuddled up on the sofa  with a hot beverage. For others it's the chance to try the pointless yearly ritual of ordering pint after pint of novelty Christmas beers "because it's nearly Christmas" and finding them to be generally disappointing at best and simply shoddy in the worst scenario. I always feel at this time of year that brewers get lazy and brew a relatively boring and uninspiring beer, whack a novelty name on it like Rudolph's Big Red Nose and expect it to sell.

In the worst case some of the names are simply crass and sometimes very distasteful. This year I've seen the Beachy Head Christmas Jumper which has caused quite a lot of controversy and also had the delight of tasting a pint of Santa's Bulging Red Sack whose pump clip was suitably distasteful as the name would suggest. Needless to say the I've had no Christmas beers this year I could classify as good or even reasonable.

What I can't really understand is why this idea seems to be limited to Christmas it's not like we regularly see beers called Halloween Honkers or Easter Bunny's Cum Filled Cheeks. If you've had any good Christmas beers  then let me know and I'll be sure to look them out for a tasting.

On a slightly contradictory note I think this is without a doubt one of the best beer names I've ever seen: