Art Stoat Confidential

Bergdorf Goodman window display from Crappy Taxidermy dot com.

Stoat and Grey Squirrel, a cartoon coming to a bar near you.  Or not.

I am grateful to BrewDog for always giving me something to write about, even stoats. Stoat is a funny word, especially if you say it a lot.  But there was something about this recent press release from James Watt of BrewDog that felt a bit like a bad dream.  Wait, you’ve made a what?  A 55% nettle and juniper infused blonde Belgian ale packaged in roadkill and selling for 700 pounds?

OK, ok– I’ve been working on the lucid dreaming thing,  and the one I’ll have next will involve a wild yeast visiting Fraserburgh, allowing Brewdog to make a kriek with James’ grandma’s raspberries and the whole thing will be packaged in wildflowers.

Choice of glassware for Brewdog's The End of History, Meret Oppenheim's teacup.

I’m a fan of taxidermy, even crappy taxidermy which is a blog I peruse on a regular basis. I hope that The End of History will be immortalized on that site, preferably with the stoat in the kilt. As a joke, I get the End of History and the brewery’s missives about the beer sure are fun to read, but this beer, it’s no Meret Oppenhiem’s tea cup. It’s not my cup of tea.

The End of History, Brewdog's newest beer.

Right now, most of my friends are looking for work or  are really struggling and the last thing we could do is fork out 700 pounds for a bottle of beer (500 for the bargain stoat) and I can’t help but feel that the brewery has left us in the dust, if just this once.  I find myself resenting those 12 punters who were flush enough to buy it; they probably sold all their BP shares right before the spill.

Maybe that’s the point of The End of History, to make it to the pages of the Metro, and to consign the roadkill to the Samsara of endless Ebay auctions.  But you know what would be really post-modern and punk? (And I say this having gone to graduate school in the same department where Derrida lectured.  I even know someone who stood next to him at the urinals there.)  Give the beer away.  Give it away to people who just signed on for the first time.  People who don’t even like beer.

Sometimes I worry that BrewDog are so caught up in being contrary, in fighting their white whale of the Portman group and neo-prohibitionists that they may end up seeming, especially to those who haven’t tried their stellar beers, as being a bit of a stunt-based brewery.  Rather than competing with German breweries, why not look closer to home for friendly competition, to Thornbridge and even closer to Williams Brothers, both are breweries who are doing exciting things, reinventing the session beer as well as creating alternatives to the mass-market lagers and they do it with packaging and finesse that speaks to a wider audience.

BrewDog are stunningly talented brewers who have given me much joy and have always been generous.  I can understand their mistrust of the market and the press who’ve given them a really unfair time of it, and these strategies are no doubt a reaction to that.  In many ways this has worked in their favor, giving them lots of free press, and they have continued to trust the drinker throughout it all which will be the thing that matters in the long run.  In ten years, I want to see BrewDog beers available everywhere, with a bigger range of even more amazing beers (packaged, preferably with the help of their previous collaborator, Johanna Basford.) In that context, the End of History will be just a weird souvenir, like that shellacked frog mariachi band you bought on a bender in TJ.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but is now just a grotesque gathering dust.

7 Responses

  1. I would only comment that the Thornbridge beers I tried at the GBBF were super. They have their own way of doing things, largely letting the beer speak for itself. Not a bad thing in my book.

    Softly, softly, catchee monkey seems to work for them.

    • I am a fan of Thornbridge as well. I also think their fresh, elegant and colourful packaging will really help them reach a wider audience. If we are talking about turning more people on to beer, that’s always important.

  2. On a good causes website I sometimes look at, there was an item about Brewdog’s beer packaged in animals, posted from an animal welfare point of view. It has elicited 480 comments so far, many condemning animal cruelty, even though it’s clear the animals were already dead, so no cruelty can be involved. I commented twice how it was publicity stunt, which has worked as they’ve all now heard of Brewdog, when they hadn’t before – but my words were swept away by a flood of horrified overreaction.

    Funnily enough, the more pertinent question of bad taste never arose.

    • Neville, you are pretty brave to dive into that fray. Brewdog must know this would push some buttons, even thought they are clearly animal lovers. These are really subtle questions– like this winter girls all over trendy Shoreditch were wearing vintage furs. Sure, the coats have been around a while, and maybe it’s OK to wear second hand fur– they are saving them from the landfill, but to do so is to invite all kinds of reactions.

      I used to like the old anti-fur slogan, “Fur is dead”– definitely something that could be said for this beer packaging as well!

  3. purlygrrrl: cyber-brave? Perhaps, but sometimes I feel the need to prick others’ pomposity. Besides I like to throw the voice of English common sense into the maelstrom of hysterical overreaction. Not that it made any difference.

  4. Hope the beer’s better than “sink the Bismark” that just tasted like hops shaken up in some cheap sherry. The idea that all publicity is good publicity doesn’t seem to be working for Kerry katona? Don’t think many of the people who read about this beer will associate it with the brew dog bottles they see in Tesco. They seem to be doing all this to amuse themselves which is an end in its self but like most in jokes loses it’s appeal very quickly for those on the outside.

    • “They seem to be doing all this to amuse themselves.” I have to say there was a feeling of a private joke about this one beer. It was like something my friends in art school would have done for laughs. I think their beer deserves better!

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