Brewdog – To beer or not to beer?

Established in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie, BrewDog are a multinational brewery and pub chain based in Ellon, Scotland. Since their founding, they have opened 33 breweries and brew bars across the UK. BrewDog want to make the public as passionate about craft beer as they are.

So how can a craft beer brewery go from making a beer, to owning 33 breweries and distributing their beers throughout the country and indeed the world, all over major supermarkets in the space of only 10-12 years. Most craft brewers struggle to even stay afloat in this competitive market. Do they have special connections? Is there a Dragon funding their initial start up for a massive wedge of the shares? Are they millionaires already before they owned a brewery? Did they con the hard working public into crowdfunding their hijacked craft beer campaign?

None of these, it’s because they make really good beer… isn’t it?

They didn’t have a business plan, just a mission to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they were. Well in my case, they succeeded. I’ve never put so much passion into reviewing something before. I’ve got a real taste for it.

So let us settle down to review a few of their main beers, the ones you can find in the supermarket, forget all their limited editions (or ones they could not sell of of yet) and lets get straight to the bulk buy options, the best sellers, the reason they are the envy of every home brewer and craft brewer who wants to go professional or just get their beers on tap at their local.

PUNK IPA 6/10

This is perhaps their flagship beer. The Punk IPA, it’s likely to be the most popular once everyone’s settled down and tried a few others and picked a favourite. It tastes like beer, it tastes like IPA, it has a moderate yet above average abv of 5.6%. It’s post modern so that’s “the future”, but it’s also classic so that’s “the past” too. It’s described as light, malty with a pine and grapefruit taste. The pineapple and lychee are a subtle but good touch, and the hop varieties give this some exotic notes. Hmmm, I’m not sure about the lychee bit, but I wont protest too much as I can taste that it has been made with at least one late hop edition. Probably not earthy enough to be Fuggle, so I would guess Cascade as it’s everyone’s favourite. I’m not sure why its called Punk? This beer certainly doesn’t make my head bang or even make me feel like I’ve been punched in the face. It does however make me feel a bit down and out broke with it’s whopping £2.50 a bottle of 330ml to drink at home price tag, just like I felt all through the 1970s punk music era. Still, it is drinkable if you’re young, hip and Scottish enough to appreciate it.

ZOMBIE CAKE 3/10

Wake up and smell the coffee. No really, it does actually smell of coffee. Strangely enough it actually tastes of coffee too. Quite strong, black coffee. is it a coffee? It has a hint of chocolate and vanilla, is it a Starbucks coffee? Can I get whipped cream and a marshmallow on top? It’s two sugars short of being my morning pick me up and it comes without the aftertaste of an Irish coffee. If you leave it open for a few hours and then zap it for 30 seconds on full power in a 900 Watt microwave (times may vary depending on the make and model of your microwaves and it’s power settings) then you could serve this up to your loved one at 7:00 am. Just make sure it’s not a school day. At 5.0% abv, we don’t want any car accidents especially in Scottland with it’s zero tolerance to alcohol and driving. Who on earth thought coffee and beer would go together? That’s like drinking a glass of milk after brushing your teeth or fish-flavoured yogurt. Personally, I poured the second half of it down the sink and moved on.

DEAD PONY CLUB 4/10

Initial impressions were amazing, I could not believe that a beer could get so much citrus flavour and sharp tang without a bitter burn just through the use of hops. I took another sip. It must be using mountains of Yakima Valley hops like Simcoe and Tomahawk added just at the right time during the boil and left in for dry hopping jut enough to get the full aroma. Years must have been spent perfecting this. Unfortunately, on reading the label that’s where my excitement stopped. It uses grapefruit juice concentrate. Grapefruit IPA Teenypop Juice, with a clever name. A cross between a Paloma (tequila, lime and grapefruit soda, the national cocktail of Mexico) and a Hemmingway Daquari (white rum, lime and fresh grapefruit juice). I did managed to finish the beer but this is not a session IPA. This is a novelty beer to try just once. I didn’t pour it down the toilet, but I’m so glad the multi pack did not include a second one. I hope no ponies were harmed during the making of this cocktail and anyway, this dead animal idea is more for cider and not beer.

QUENCH QUAKE 0/10

Vomit in a can, or in my case bottle. What the actual fuck is going on in Scotland? An outbreak of lactobacillus could be the cause or perhaps wild yeast such as Brettanomyces. The black plague even. Did rats crawl up your arse, die and then get shat back down into the mash tun? I don’t know because its not on the label. First sip I spat back into the bottle, I had to have another sip in disbelief! Second beer down the sink in one night, come on Brewdog?! The revolution has been quenched. Quick give me a pint of Fosters to swirl my mouth out with. You can’t actually sell this? Sure, I’ve got three gallons of home made apple wine in my garage that I made ten years ago in demijohns that I just haven’t got round to throwing away yet, in the desperate hope that time will age them and remove all the rotting vinegar flavours (huh, deep breath, coma coma coma). Take this off the shelves immediately. It’s not beer.

NANNY STATE 9/10

Hmmm, quite a nice drop of Ale. A round flavour and not overly hoppy just for the sake of it. Only 0.5% abv, so I guess this is the answer to all those mainstream alcohol free beers. Of course, even one can of these is enough for you to get in trouble in Scotland for drink driving, but at least down south we can enjoy it while stuck on the M25 on the way home from work without even thinking twice about the cops. Would have been funnier to add “session beer” on the label like the rest of your drinks. It kind of reminds me of the Panda Shandy we all drank as kids, but not nearly as sweet. I can only give you 9/10 Brewdog because the calories per unit of alcohol per pint ratio is way to high. This is truly fat bastard beer territory, not even nicely drunk, but nice and fat. You probably get beaten up if you were to be spotted with this is your Lidl bag for life.

Clockwork Tangerine 3/10

Another disappointing fruit beer that tastes nothing like beer and more like a weak fruit juice cocktail. I guess I’ll never understand it. Why bother putting hops in a beer if the fruit flavours come from fruit concentrate. My brother and I fermented a bottle of Ribenia once, but we didn’t call it blackberry wine. We called it fermented Ribenia. Yes our under-aged arses drank it, but we also nicked a bottle of Tia Maria and drank that too. Session IPA my arse! No one drinks this all day long on a Sunday. You’re mislabelling it and misleading the public. This is a novelty drink to try once in a small glass and then go and drink a proper beer. Fermented Fanta, nothing more.

Elvis Juice Na/10

I’m hesitant to try this beer. It’s another grapefruit juice waiting to assault my senses and tang my taste bugs. Another joke beer in my book, so I think I’ll save myself £2.50 for 330ml and spend it on a bag of grapefruits to consume while I’m drinking a normal beer that tastes of hops and gets it’s cirtus flavours from delicate selected hop additions rather than concentrate. Really Brewdog, I kind of feel cheated. The art of beer making has been desecrated for years by the mainstream money grabbing lager brewers and know as you see how stupid the public really are you decide to hijack the craft beer revolution by using false flavours and additives rather than explore the science of creating a unique hop profile or balanced malt bill. I know neither of these crops aforementioned crops actually grow in the Scottish climate, but neither do grapefruits. For years you’ve hidden your poor malt fermentation by distilling the liquor, soaking it in oak and furthermore blending it into a generic spirit. You’re carbon footprint must be unspeakable, with nothing local to speak of. Get back to basics, research the hop varieties you claim to be using and stop hiding behind a fancy can and unrelated beer names. You’re ruining the craft beer revolution for all of us. Please please please stop interfering with it by adding false flavours and destroying the hop profile that we’ve paid so much to enjoy.

There we are, some ups and downs I guess for a brewery that claims to be craft beer and yet marketing it the same way as WD JK Wicked and Monster Munch. With so many crazy varieties of beer on their portfolio, I guess they’ve lost track of what beer tastes like. Just to think of all the effort that went into malting the barley, roasting the rye and picking the necessary hop strains to breed a more resistant plant with more pungent beta acid aromas for it all to be swept away with a bit of orange peel and some Colombian beans.

Guinness is good for you…

A 1929 marketing campaign on behalf of Guinness, a fermented vegetable drink, well known and popular amongst the Irish and the Irish lovers all over the world, tried to convince us that Guinness was good for you.

First off, as a disclaimer, I need to clarify that when they say “good for you” they might actually legally mean “least worst for you” and in no way do I condone drinking excessively to try and prolong life. This would be counter productive. Drink responsibly and buy me a pint.

So how can a beer be good for you and why would Guinness be better than any other? We all know now that beer makes you fat.

Is it all just marketing bull or is there more too it? Yeah, sure, we’ve all heard that it contains more iron, indeed my mother would down a few pints of Guinness the night before she went off to donate blood. I always imagined the poor victims, laying there in an ambulance, receiving a transfusion and incurring a massive hangover on top of the internal bleeding.

Even as a firm believer that pickling is a tried and tested method of preserving, I’m sure you’d also agree that salting it, sugaring it and smoking it are also only applicable to raw vegetables and meat products and not to the human body. 

However, as beer is nice and there’s no way we’re going to give up that lovely beverage, even if tee-totality was the only way to achieve immortality, the fact is that without beer, what would be the point of existence?

“The life of man (in a state of sober) is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” – Thomas Hobbes.

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio here examines the cause and effect of calories verses alcohol content. The calories in equal volumes of a beverage can only be compared against their relative ability to get you squiffy. A low calorie beer, with a low abv would take considerably more volume of beer in order to get one smashed and therefore probably a lot more calories (and a lot more flushes for those water conscious beer drinkers amongst us).

“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates.

Lite Beer and Calories

So what about calories? Molson, a Canadian beer brand launched a light version of their beer in 2009 at 3% abv. This only just qualifies this as a beer. The Oxford English Dictionary, states that the definition of beer is “more than 3.2%… you Canuck pansy.”

The name Canadian 67, refers to the number of calories in a 12 oz bottle (341 ml in new money), far fewer than most other beers in the light or lite variety (the Oxford English Dictionary does not recognise the word lite and thus that’s not beer either).

Brewed with only Canadian water, barley and no preservatives. No preservatives?! What about the hops? No hops is a beer would be like, well… drinking an American mainstream Lite beer! Ok, point taken, it really isn’t beer. It’s barley water. Fair enough and probably much healthier if drinking an entire 6 pack during the match, but still not even nicely drunk. The beer promises to deliver “perfect balance of sweetness with a slightly hoppy bitterness”, and with Molson 67 Sublime there is now a lime version of this 67 calorie beer (to hide the fact that it doesn’t really taste of beer or anything).

This ratio of calories per abv per volume (Cal / abv / ml *568 =  Golden Ratio or GR) gives us a GR  of  37.2. Other light and lite beers in around this bench mark or marketed to be low calorie include Miller Lite (38.1); Rock Green Light (37.4) and Miller Lite (38.1). It seems pretty standard, but actually, Miller Lite comes in at 4.2 % abv, quite respectable for a lite beer. I’m not saying that Miller Lite tastes any better, but I do say that there is little difference in GR and therefore on the scale of 1 to Fat Bastard, they are both equally good. 

It’s Beck’s that comes in a winner here, their premium light at 3.8% abv it has far less GR at only 29.0. That’s pretty much the same calories as Canada’s 69, but with 25% more of the yummy stuff. Great news as Beck’s is one of the only mainstream beers that claims not to be brewed with maize, rice or broken biscuits. Not to be confused with Beck’s Blue that has 53 calories in a 330 ml bottle, but the abv is 0.05%. That’s a whopping GR of 1824.5! Good luck trying to lose weight and have a good time on that stuff.

Guinness contains approximately 166 calories per pint (imperial – 568 ml) and clocks in at 4.2 % abv on draft. As a comparison to the Canadian 67 “litest of lites” would be 115 calories per imperial pint. Guinness’ GR is 39.5 calories per 1% of alcohol in 568 ml. Not much different considering the lite beer is claiming to be the healthiest on the market and Guinness is thought to be drunk by fat bastards everywhere. On these results, I’m definitely getting more out of the stout than the barley water. It wins on taste 100% of the time.

The alcohol content is lower in Guinness Draught than in many other beers at the pump, but we have so far shown that that does not make it healthier? What about other mainstream brands of normal, not lite beer? I compared a number of well know lagers and beers from the local pubs to see if there was any big difference in my golden ration. Stella Artois (47.7 GR), Fosters (41.0) and Beck’s (49.6). 

What about real beer? Real ale? Czech Lagers? German Wheat Beers, English Ales? IPAs? Porters? Why would one beer be any more or less healthy than another?

It turns out that abv and Calories are very much directly proportional. In conclusion, unfortunately the healthy option is less beer and stay clear of zero alcohol beer or anything that claims to have a very low abv. If you’re driving, just stay at home. Hmm, not the answer I was hoping to contrive. But red wine is good for you isn’t it? So why not beer?

Of course its all flawed. The aforementioned Beck’s Blue, claiming to have an abv of 0.05 makes it the fat bastard beer of choice in my ration calculator. Mathematically, as the abv approaches zero, then the golden ration approaches infinity. 

High Alcohol Beers

At the other end of the scale we have stong ales like Brewdog Tokyo (51.6 GR), Carlsberg Elephant (also 51.6 GR) and the the world’s strongest beer, Brewmeister’s Snake Venom. It has a whopping 2025 calories in 275ml of beer. Weighing in at 67.5% abv which is about the limit for most moonshines. here we see the golden ration of 62 GR and we approach tubby telly territory, and of course, one of these and it’s lights out. Incidentally, this beer is made using a freezing process that false distils the beer by removing water and not the unfrozen ethanol (the angel’s stuff). Of course this distilling method does not remove methanol either (the devil’s share) and thus, the lights are out not only refers to your inability to remember what you did last night, but your inability to actually see too. This could be permanent and thus freeze distilling is illegal in many countries.

“Whereof one cannot drink, thereof one must be sober” – Ludwig Wittgenstein.

A study by the University of Wisconsin found that drinking Guinness can reduce blood clots and the risk of heart attack. Guinness contains antioxidants like those found in red wine and dark chocolate, which are not found in other beers. 

Dark Malts

This, perhaps is also true of all dark beers, stouts and porters, but not lighter beers, ales and certainly not lagers. Dark malts release Polyphenols, which are both anti oxidants and natural preservatives. Guinness contains antioxidant compounds similar to those found in fruits and vegetables that slow down the deposit of cholesterol on artery walls. This can help reduce blood clots and ultimately the risk of heart attacks. So a pint of Guinness actually counts as one of your five a day.

Conclusion

In conclusion I can see that its easy to get confused with all the false marketing around us, telling us that its healthy. A non alcoholic beverage such as Coke Zero claims to have zero calories. Is this healthy? It’s hardly digestible!

Science has told us that there are components in Guinness that are good for the body just like wine and chocolate. I have shown that to get pissed, there’s no real difference in lite beers, dark beers or lagers for calorie counters. You don’t get fat by eating fat, you get fat by sitting around on your fat arse. So next time, walk to the pub and walk home again. You’ll find you can drink whatever you like.

“I drink therefore I am?” – René Descartes John Cleese.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started