The black sheep approach to marketing
July 9, 2009

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The guys at brewdog are good at making a beer with a story, and now they want you to do the telling.  They trust the drinker to taste something and to know when enough is enough.  And now, they’re trusting drinkers with their blog.

The Zeitgeist blog is a platform of the drinker, for the drinker, by the drinker, and that drinker is you.

When you buy some beer from the Zeitgeist shop, you get a code that will give you a chance to blog on the site. To make it even more fun, readers of this blog get a massive 70% discount on the lovely black lager.  Just enter SHEEP in the code box at checkout. How cool is that?

Zephyr
April 30, 2009

Sometimes I’m hard pressed to find things to celebrate, but not today.  I finished writing a piece that’s been hanging over me; writers block has been defeated, and within a few days of the deadline.  Also, tomorrow, a show called Novel Constructions opens at the Long Beach Museum of Art featuring a piece I wrote in collaboration with artist Edith Abeyta.

So, I cracked open my little bottle of BrewDog Zephyr which I was lucky enough to get in the pre-release 330ml bottle. It features a gorgeous pink label by Joanna Basford: a 12.5% Imperial Ale matured in a 1965 Invergordon whisky cask with fresh strawberries from Martin’s grandma.

The tang of berries is evident with the first pour.  The nose is completely fragrant and tart, reminescent of Cantillon fruit beers. On first sip this sings of spring. As it warms it becomes darker, beyond pastoral bliss to something of the woodland, like the Willow Song from the Wicker Man…Britt Ekland knocking on the wall…

The fine-planed wood of a new house.  Spilled sacks of grain.  Fresh hop vines over the porch and someone inside is already baking–vanilla and toffee.  Over it all is a strawberry haze, like some girlie-kawaii dream. The sweetness in this beer is in the malt alone. It’s not twee–the berries are there as fragrant essences, a kind of “attar” flavor you find grounding good krieks.

This is a beer full of love and light and play.  Toes in the grass.  Ivy crowns.  Daisy petals counted out even, always ending in loves me. A handfasting sort of beer, to be served instead of champagne at anything  joyful.

Like today.

All the cool kids are doing it.
March 20, 2009

Brew Dog Hardcore IPA and my metal face.

Brew Dog Hardcore IPA and my metal face.

Yesterday I tried to go to the London Drinker Festival but the queue was 100+ people deep and it was packed inside.  It looked like a queue for a nightclub– not an un-ironic facial hair in sight. I’m thinking they were all students from the nearby university.  I ended up at a pub with a friend drinking Tribute next to a table of screechy white wine drinkers, wondering if I’ll ever really get the hang of living in London, where even small pleasures like a beer festival are overrun with other humans, and crowds are the norm.

To soothe my angst, today I drink alone.  What do I drink, you ask?  Why, it’s that beer with pornographic promise, Brew Dog’s Hardcore IPA. After reading Mark’s tasting notes I immediately ordered some.

Wortwust will no doubt see me as a betrayer, drinking what can only be described as hop juice.  The most significant sensation from all this is not just the lingering bitterness but the real alcohol warming in the belly.  This is one comforting beer, which is strange because the brewery’s tasting notes are gleeful with hyperbole:

It just completely and utterly screws you over.  It is like being raped by a hop monster! Yet somehow it is difficult to leave it alone. The 9% makes your head go fuzzy, the warm tingling adds to the confusion. This beer messes you up so much you want to keep on drinking it just to try and figure out what is going on.

At  150 IBUs I have to wonder if I am just getting used to massive hoppage?  Because I have had hoppier beers.  Stone’s Ruination and my friend Bob’s dry hopped beer he made while in the Netherlands were serious pallet f*ckers, but this one doesn’t coat your mouth in hop oils.  There’s definitely room for other flavors here and I call that a win.

Hops are an acquired taste.  I used to hate hoppy beers, and then something clicked.  I had a hop breakthrough drinking Crouch Vale Amarillo, and I realized I would be craving these flowers forevermore. There isn’t much concept of a moderate session beer in the brews I really take to.   Maybe if I came of age quaffing ales in sessions with mates these beers would be impractical or a “sideshow.”

This particular beer is definitely a hop panorama, like putting your face in a potpouri bowl of hops.  The mouthfeel is peppery, a gentle effervesence releases the esters.  There is a very brief melon roundness that is immediately seared, dried out.  It’s all here– the rose petals crushed by the footfall of pine and grapefruit peel.  Whatever sweetness is just left on the lips to dry there. You could almost forget this is carrying the whole thing.

There is barely any malt character to this beer but do I care?  No.

As for food matching, right now I am craving a Thai spicy green curry, or corn chips with black bean, jalapeno and mango salsa.  Call me crazy but I’m also thinking a chili-marinated halloumi burger with beet slaw would rock.  But I have none of these things so the real test will have to wait.  I have two more bottles after all.

Dancing Sparkle in Each Glassful
March 6, 2009

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The Beer Nut has decided on a most compelling theme for this month’s session– lager.

There are lovely lagers out there– Brew Dog’s Zeitgeist being the first that comes to mind.  But I’m more interested in talking about the unlovelies. Homer with his can of Duff.  Billy Beer. Hamm’s Beer Bear– one of the first commercials I remember, and I can still sing the jingle. Marketing beer to children works! But I digress.

In the US I knew lager as simply beer, and I thought there was no other kind.   My mother loved Michelob and would drink it very cold, just one bottle, after her game of tennis. For most of my childhood I thought this was a very sophisticated drink, as my mother was a very polished sort of lady.

The first beer I ever tasted was a Michelob– I was very small and we were on a trip in Florida, lost in the swamps there.  I had to take my tablets and there was no water, only beer, and not cold.  Poison! Suddenly this sophisticated drink didn’t seem so elegant after all.

In college I tried to drink Miller.  I think I liked the sound of the initials, MGD.  But once in a seedy bar in San Francisco my friend handed me a cold bottle of Rolling Rock.  Beer in a green bottle was a revelation!  It seemed colder, happier from the neck of green glass, which is of course how we drank it.  I can still feel the braille of the white and blue printed label and I confess it makes me thirsty just thinking about it.  It wasn’t good beer of course but if I was drinking it, it meant I was with friends, people I loved, and we were having a good time. I’m glad at the time the brand had not yet attempted their hoax marketing gimmick of “moonvertising”, where they claimed to use lazers to project an ad onto the surface of the full moon.  I contemplated a tasting of this beer, knowing it would bring on a bargain-basement of Proustian revelries, but lucky reader, I could not find a bottle of the stuff.

When I moved from San Francisco I just couldn’t drink Rolling Rock anymore.  I flirted briefly with Mickey’s Big Mouth (technically a malt liquor?).  The bottle was green and round, it fit nicely in the hand and the caps featured a picture puzzle on the inside which served as a handy drunkenness test.  But the love didn’t last– I switched to martinis and stuck with those for many years, swearing off all beer.

During my martini phase I was teaching and one of my students worked as a Bud Girl.  One of the writing assignments was to render a formative moment in a few pages.  She wrote about her experience peddling lager to lunkheads and titled her narcissistic ramble, “Beauty and the Beast”, concluding that by the time she was done with the job, Bud would have basically paid for her plastic surgery and she could go on to “real” modeling. The Beast in her story was not the mega brewery and its sexist approach to marketing, but the louts she enticed.

It’s hard for me to see a can of Bud without thinking of her, even now, and how the lager stigma goes beyond just bad beer– it represents advertising’s cartoonish gender divide and the bonehead banalities of our culture.  A Bud Girl doesn’t drink the stuff, she just wears the branded bikini, and the lager lout “beast” has the power to turn your beloved Burberry plaid into trash and your local A&E into a WWF smackdown.

Last night I was with a dear friend and drinking buddy who loves lagers and is not interested in drinking anything else.  I’m not a very good beervangelist– I’ve tried to tempt her to try other styles but she’s having none of it.  Yesterday, as we were putting a few pints away in the Cockpit,  I’d commented that most ladies in the UK seem to drink chardonnay, so what did that make us, drinking pints in a manly place like this?

“Oh, there’s a word– Ladettes,” she joked.  I’d never heard it before, though apparently there have been reality teevee shows based on sending these individuals to finishing school, etc.   I mentioned I would be brewing some beer, you know, probably whilst skipping out on my deportment class.  She said if I could figure out how to brew a lager we would be BFF.  I’ll be calling it Ladette Lager.

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