Monday, 12 December 2011

Dog in the manger

Iconoclastic Scottish brewer BrewDog have recently opened their first “craft beer bar” outside Scotland in Camden, North London. Like the existing ones, it serves no cask beer, only keg. Despite this, beer blogger Mark Dredge reckons it will immediately become one of the go-to beer bars in London. BrewDog have also recently let it be known that they are going to discontinue cask beer production entirely in the New Year.

Now, from my perspective, BrewDog’s craft beer bars are very much an “urban beer bubble” phenomenon and of minimal interest or relevance to me as a consumer. However, by completely eschewing cask, they are very much throwing down the gauntlet to CAMRA. Is this a sign that the terms of discourse of the enthusiast beer market are increasingly moving away from CAMRA, or does it just show that the bubble is becoming increasingly disconnected from the mainstream?


  1. All I can say with any certainty is that I won't be going to the brewdog bar.

  2. Mudgie. I think Des de Moor said it pretty well on my blog "Also agree that BD cask beers can be cracking and think they'd be shooting themselves in the foot if they stopped producing them. That is if they could get their feet out of their mouths first."

    They have begun to believe their own rhetoric and that they alone have a winning formula for beer in the UK.

    The test of a good brewer is not how much alcohol, hops and hype they can shove into a beer, but (among other things of course) how they can make brilliant lower gravity beers, preferably on cask. They passed that test with flying colours, so they can brew, but their heads are so far up their own arses that they failed to notice it.

    And at the same time as fooling some of the people a lot of the time by selling tinkered with beers for top dollar, they are flogging some of their best beer cheap to supermarkets.
    Very cool.

    They are just a disappointment. Well they are to me.

  3. See what happens when false dichotomies run up against each other? Old school BS (Cask=good / keg=bad) meet New Skool BS (cask=boring / keg=exciting). It's all BS. Here pursued to its illogical conclusion.

  4. I don't think you can take any inferences about this 'discourse' from Brewdog's activities. I suppose you could ask their customers if they have any views on CAMRA, but I'm not sure you'd get much sense from their fanboy harcdore. They'd sniff a Brewdog fart...

    I also don't see any of London's good beer bars waiting with bated breath to see what happens with this model.

  5. Sorry to say that having read Sid's comment a number of times, I can't make head or tail of it.

  6. Oh I think I can see what Sid's getting at. As for Mudgie's final questions - I think the answer is "neither".

    Expect lots of posturng when BD officially announce this - from both BD fanboys and old CAMRA hands alike.

  7. Don't give a toss what Brewdog do. They can bottle camel piss for all I care.
    Interestingly, here in Bristol, a local brewery is opening a place (I use the word advisedly) which will largely sell so-called "craft" keg beers. They are at pains to point out that it won't be a pub. No further comment is necessary.

  8. I have no objection to keg bars. That's their business decision. I was complaining about a good cask brewer choosing not to sell cask, while observing that those that mix and match are better place.

    If BrewDog stop selling cask, then they can suit themselves without any interest from me.

  9. I'm neither a BrewDog 'fanboy' (or a CAMRA old-hand) - I just like decent beer, and find it in both cask and keg.

    I like some of BrewDog's beers, others less so. I love some cask, and think others are pedestrian and boring.

    It's not about cask vs. keg - it's about good beer vs bad beer. Arguing about what's better is missing the point, and more than a little tiresome (from both sides).

  10. What are really up against each other are the "ironic moustache skinny hipster urban beer bubble" vs "the cask is always better than chemical fizz" tendency. Two viewpoints neither of which I remotely care for. So I'll be getting the popcorn in...

  11. Very positive write-up from Pete Brown here.

  12. Mudgie, you wrote that it's about the divide between:

    "ironic moustache skinny hipster urban beer bubble" vs "the cask is always better than chemical fizz" I've mentioned before, I live in Hackney, so I see enough of both. However, it's noticeable that the skinny-jeaned young things are as likely to want a pint of Landlord in a jug as a £8 import. A good example - CAMRA's superb Pig's Ear fest in Hackney last week had plenty of pleasant, engaged hipsters wandering around happily drinking cask.

    Equally, Mason & Taylor on Bethnal Green Road (probably London's most ironic-moustachioed beer specialist) proudly serves a well-kept range of 3-4 cask beers alongside its keg and bottle offer.

    The fashion, in so far as it exists among hip young things (and I'd say it does, though only to a degree) is for good beer. There is, as you might expect, little knowledge about dispense beyond the handpulls being more trad (though given 'vintage' in very cool, this is not a bad thing).

  13. Martin, Cambridge15 December 2011 at 20:07

    The BrewDog bar will be a welcome addition to North London's tired gastro-pub scene (Honourable exception award to the Southampton Arms), but the ending of cask is a sad move. The stronger beers may work well on keg, but Edge and the Porter were magnificent on cask in Spoons and Nicholsons pubs recently.


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