Friday, December 4, 2009

CAMRA, BrewDog, BJCP Styles and (Grand) Pappy Protz

Well, there is yet more controversy around BrewDog. As a blogger, I'm legally required to write about this. They've tried to push the limits of brewing, and especially British brewing, to the breaking point-- using, horrors of horrors, Champagne Yeast and traditional German techniques. Bowing to the French and Germans, about beer no less, naturally set off CAMRA, and even the usually level headed Roger Protz, who is the singular reason I went gay for CAMRA. Protz, as detailed beautifully over at Brookston, was refusing to call this beer. This story was reported there better than I can do myself.

What I can add here are two things, one about my speculation of what Brew Dog might do to British brewing, the other about our interpretation of British beer as Americans, through the guise of the BJCP. As Brew Dog pushes the limits of British Brewing, they run the risk of running themselves out of business. There are great traditional breweries, sure, but there are a large number of startups that brew ultra-traditional brews because they sell, mainly to CAMRA. These breweries could expand to doing more creative beers, in established markets and with established tones. Perhaps they could even bring back the Old Ales, Barleywines and XXXX beers so well established and discussed by Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. Not to mention, there are 3.5% alcohol beers in the UK that pack much more, and more appropriate, ranges of flavors into the medium than many of the 7-9% Brewdog beers have done. These masterful breweries, if invited to do more 'American' style beers, could likely whomp the whippersnappers at Brewdog, if their base would let them. As a CAMRA member of dubious standing, I say go on.

As Americans, we believe in antiquarian British beers. We want the beers of our forefathers when they were stationed there, hence the continued inclusion of Southern English Brown, a beer I have never seen popularly mentioned in two years of living there and numerous trips back since (including being at the GBBF and Festivals south of the Thames). The BJCP, following a mission of preservation, are nice enough to keep these styles alive, but it belies what we want from British beer. It is also what the flat-caps and bearded wierdies (both of which I qualify for at times) of CAMRA want. British beer is marketable as twee, and while some lovely baby steps have been made, this wholesale attack by Brewdog might be shortsighted. As I mentioned above, they could easily be beat by expansions in the product line by the most traditional brewers. They also will open up the UK to the amazing, longer standing, American beers. While I wish them luck, enjoy their beers and think they do put a bit of a UK spin on things, I'd be more interested in a British version of a US IIPA or even an American (Texas) Brown with UK hops and malts, rather than Dogfish Head: Scotland.


  1. I don't know about "Dogfish Head: Scotland" - they seem to be doing it better than Dogfish Head. I say why bother with making a brit/US double IPA? The stuff they are doing is way more exciting.

  2. The super stouts are exciting, but aside from those they list a lager, two IPAs,a blonde and a heather bee, all but the last are standard US fare. My dissapointment is that they essentially make American beers, with American hops, at American strength. The beers of theirs I've been lucky enough to have had (8, if memory serves) are generally good. I'd love to see them do punked up beers with UK ingredients, 90IBUs of fuggles and EKG. MO doesn't cut it, a ton of US brewers use that as standard.

  3. Personally I say let them make whatever they want to make. Success will be determined by the masses, not by the anal retentive holier-than-thou "experts" like Roger Protz.

    I found it funny that the very first line of his article is "BrewDog have surpassed themselves with their over-inflated egos and naked ambition."

    Over inflated egos!?! How about your next statement, my Protz. "...claim this is the world's strongest beer, even though technically it's not beer at all, as brewer's yeast cannot work beyond a strength of 12 or 13 degrees." Yeast is yeast. I don't think the monks of old were all that concerned with the origins of the strand of yeast, just that it worked. You can brew beer with baker's yeast. Does this make it less "beer?" Talk about an overinflated ego.

    The many different styles of beer that exist today are because somebody did something (either intentionally or accidently) to push the envelope. What would you say if 35-40 years ago Schiltz started complaining that Samuael Adam's isn't real American beer because it doesn't tastes like piss.