Brewdog claim to be bringing the best craft beer from around the world to the masses but in actuality they are just pushing their own product at all costs.
Since Brewdog took over exclusive distribution the selection of Mikkeller and To Øl beers the supply and selection has decreased massively. If you are a wholesaler you can still get a range of these beers from Brewdog and the public can buy a very limited selection in there growing chain of bars.
So why did Mikkeller agree an exclusive contract with a company who don’t have end-stage distributon? Brewdog still rely on wholesalers to sell their products. Selling beers appears to be a funny old situation. In this instance Mikkeller make the beer add on their level of profit to cover costs of brewing, wages, materials, transportation, taxes… Brewdog buy it from them add on their (x)%, sell that to a wholesaler who adds on (y)% then finally the customer buys the goods with the retailers (z)% added on at the very end. Every time someone handles beer another level of cost is added and the cost for the consumer continues to grow.
So Brewdog have added themselves into the equation and added an additional level that increases prices for the consumer that didn’t exist before.
By Brewdog exclusively distributing Mikkeller it benefits just Brewdog, its anti-competitortive and not supplying great beer to the masses, its actually making it harder and more expensive.
Why is Brewdog selling the same beer for more? (CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE)
I’m told a number of shops in Scotland are selling a good range of Mikkeller beers along with a few token offerings from To Ol. I visited Good Spirits Co, while on a business trip in Glasgow and they seem to be buying from Brewdog and had some bottles I’ve seen nowhere else in the UK, but they don’t have an online shop. Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham have a massive selection, but no online shop.
It appears Brewdog are selling to retail outlets that don’t have an online shop. There are some Mikkeller beers available on a number of online shops but these are remnants from before Brewdog took over distribution.
So where can you buy Mikkeller beer online in UK now? It appears that its just Brewdog’s own online shop, Brewdog’s online shop sells just 13 guests beers! Just 13 and only 4 of those are Mikkeller, the exclusive importer only sells 4 beers?
Are they distributing or controlling supply? If you want to bring great beer to the public you make it widely available in large amounts at good prices? Brewdog have taken an attractive product, monopolised the market and now restricts other business’ access to the product.
Its just business I hear you say, true this is how things are run but I speak from the viewpoint of the drinker and we are sorely missing out at the expenses one specific company’s thirst for profit.
IPA is Dead? From these example it’s a bit wounded.
Earlier this week I headed over to the Brewdog bar in Leeds to sample thier latest range of single hop IPAs, IPA is Dead 2013. Three of the beers were available on tap but they’d sold out of El Dorado so I bought a bottle of that one.
First up was Dana (Slovenia), Smelt very musty, like an old dishcloth, fried onions and curry powder a very savory aroma. It tasted better than it smelt but not by much. Once again this odd savory flavour, no typical hop flavour to speak of but I got a lot of cinnamon and cardamom alongside a grassy lemon taste. Not good.
Next up to the crease was Goldings (UK) This was more like it. I spotted aromas of fresh Golden Delicious apples, chi tea, nutmeg a nice aroma but rather faint. In the mouth I picked out nettles, dried orange peel, candy floss sweetness, lingering earthy lemon bitterness and copper coins. A decent example of how you can use this common British hop in an IPA. Personally I thought Bitches Brewing’s Graduate IPA that was also all Goldings was a million miles better.
Third was Waimea (NZ) Inital aromas of Frazzle crisps and rather musty, burnt corn on the cob. Following on to the taste of lemon peel, a hint of paravoilets, musty resin and Indian spices. Similar to Dana but slightly better, regardless I won’t be rushing back to try this hop any time soon.
Finally poured from the bottle was El Dorado (USA), the barman told me this was his favourite. By this time I’d become a bit disappointed by the whole experience. This IPA smelt of spiced orange marmalade, apricot, dextrose. It tasted like lychee and galia melon. Somewhat of a generic juices fruit flavour. The most drinkable if forgettable. I hoped for much better.
I did a equal mix of all four into my Teku glass, it was a bit better and filled in all the holes but still that horrible musty aroma of Dana forced its way through. Not a great set of IPAs this year. I’m always interested in these sets of beers but I can’t remember being overtly impressed by any of the complete sets but usually one or two jump out.
I will continue to visit and enjoy drinking Brewdog beers at their Leeds location but these were a bit of a waste of money.
I’ve been meaning to do this for ages. As you may or may not know Hopzine lives a double life over on my YouTube channel. Even when this blog is a bit quiet I’m still posting video reviews nearly every day.
The plan for this weekly blog is to round up everything I’ve done on Youtube, post brief write-ups of my reviews and give you a one-stop shop for all your video beer review goodness.
Vampire Slayer – Clown Shoes – 10% abv
Whenever I think of Clown Shoes I think have how Greg Puckett says the brewery’s name in his accent. How can you resist this beer its called Vampire Slayer for Cliff’s sake. When I took my wife up a glass of this I played the Nerf Herder track used on the open titles for Buffy The Vampire Slayer…she’s an obsessive fan.
The beer itself is a monstrous imperial stout, black as Dave Vanian’s quiff with a decent head for a beer of such high abv. On the nose I picked out dry cocoa, prunes, raisins, bitter coffee, sticky molasses, tobacco. A mouthful of velvet-like beer washed over my palate with flavours of bitter chocolate growing to a rich roasted malt character, port, demerara sugar sweetness, a vague impression of hops finishing on a high percentage cocoa chocolate and a good whack of alcohol that wasn’t very well hidden
Clown Shoes’ 2nd Anniversary beer was a real winner and a great example of what you expect for an American Imperial stout, I loved it!.
West Coast Red – Bristol Beer factory – 5.5% abv
While rendering a batch of videos I cracked open this bottle. Dark Amber in colour. Aromas of crystal malt, filter coffee, cooking chocolate, red currents a mineral edge that reminded me of polished aluminum along with a hop bouquet of lemon and lime. After taking a swig I tasted a good amount of hops resin, crystal malt, rye bread, mild coffee,chocolate, dried fruit and a lingering grapefruit and lemon cutting hop bite. Assertive but not astringent. Solid it nothing to write home about.
Black in Japan – Brasserie de la Senne – 7.2% abv
This was the first beer I drank when I got to ’t Brugs Beertje on our first night in Bruges. The other brewery in Brussels beside the majestic Brasserie Cantillon, De la Senne produce beers with an undeniable American influence but with their feet firmly planted in Belgium. This Black IPA is as you’d expect, a black beer topped with a nice frothy dark beige head. The aroma is of liquorice, milky coffee with a lovely hop background, a cocktail of grapefruit, orange and a slight hint of pine. Pithy orange grapefruit juice, blueberry and raspberry coming from the collision of hops and dark malts. Falling away to espresso and maybe a hint of a traditional Belgian yeast, dark chocolate and lasting citric hop finish. A lovely beer! I’m a big fan of this brewery and I hope we get to see more from them over here in the UK
Madness IPA – Wild Beer Co – 6.8% abv
After seeing Zak Avery rave about this on Twitter I knew I had to try it for myself. Pale orange beer with aromas of apricot jam, lime zest, lemon peel, floral not a massive nose but what was there was nice. Once in the mouth it really opened up, flavours of big punchy resinous pine and succulent grapefruit, pineapple and a solid backbone of buttery shortbread.
Probably the best beer I’ve had from this brewery so far.
Last night I ventured over to the new Brewdog bar behind the Corn Exchange in Leeds. On my way home from work I popped in for a beer and to check out the brand new addition to Brewdog’s expanding bar chain on the first night of its “soft opening” two days before its properly open to the beer drinking hordes of Leeds.
I’ve been aware of its location for a while situated in the White Cloth Hall at the opposite end to Pizza Express.
It’s a funny spot, its near lots of bars that the average beer drinker would run a mile from and rather small. Just next door used to be the great record shop called Vinyl Tap, the place I used to buy records by The Damned, Sex Pistols and The Clash as a teenage. It kind of feels right I can now buy a half of Punk IPA in the location near to where I was indulging my teenage Punk Rock obsession.
The bar is pretty small but perfectly formed. Since the early plans the layout downstairs has change a lot. The stairs have been replaced by a new spiral staircase and the bar is bigger and in a different place to it was originally planned to be. Upstairs is more of a sit down affair where people can sit around enjoy something to eat (cold food only as there is not kitchen) and make a serious dent in the impressive beer list. Downstairs is for quaffing hoppy IPAs, big potent stouts and chatting as the varied but cool playlist plays over the speakers.
The beer list isn’t huge but well judged. About 6-8 Brewdog beers on tap and then 3 guests (this time it was Magic Rock Cannonball and two from Mikkeller). The bottle/can list is pretty bloody good, you can buy a good amount of one-offs and seasonals from Brewdog along side a great list of guests from Alesmith, Ballast Point, Maui, Birra Del Borgo, De Molen, Mikkeller and Green flash to name a few and all at decent prices for a bar.
I quaffed halfs of 5am Saint, Jack Hammer IPA, and a damn tasty glass of Punk IPA, for me the current batch is really hitting the mark. I did delve into the bottles with a Green Flash Le Freak that to be honest was past its best and lackluster.
The new Brewdog bar is a great addition to the Leeds beer scene and whenever I head into Town for some beers it will certainly join North Bar and Friends of Ham on my little tour around the city centre. Yes its very similar and follows Brewdog’s house-style but to be honest I rather like them.
See you at the bar, get me a half of something pale and hoppy or a bottle of Speedway Stout…but I’m not sharing hands off!
Me and the Sorachi Ace hop have a chequered history, I hated it when I first tried it in BrewDog’s first set of IPA is Dead beers and since then have never got on with it. It’s that odd bubblegum, synthetic strawberry and mint ice cream flavour I get from that I just don’t like.
But when I discovered Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace everything changed. I first tried this at a special event that the Roosters Brewery laid on for a select group last year. This beer is a perfect example of brewing expertise at its highest, selecting the correct grains, hops and yeast to compliment each other and work in precise unison.
Poured from the beautiful custom made German bottles adorned with Milton Glaser’s fantastic graphic design this beer settled in my glass a very hazy yellow just like lemon curd topped with a pure white head. It resembles a slice of lemon meringue pie in a glass.
The Sorachi Ace hop is a strange one and I think you do get some of those signature characteristics but in the best possible way. It’s certainly big on the lemon front, fresh juice, lemon thyme and sweet lemon curd. Along side this I did get some of the bubblegum I’ve noticed before with this hop but also star anise and loads of fresh dill. Very herbaceous and full of lemony goodness.
As great as this beer smells once you raise a glass to your lips that’s where the flavour-party begins. The main thread to the flavour profile is earthy lemon peel, sugary-sweet lemon curd and fragrant lemongrass. Any potential tartness and acidity is kept in check with a backbone of soft pale malts. Another delightfully well place component of this beer is a resounding herbal and spiced edge that comes in the shape of a good handful of Dill and a mild aniseed or fennel. The yeast character doesn’t overpower but plays a supporting role. The re-fermentation with Champaign yeast keeps it lively and keeps flavours zipping along.
This is absolutely world-class, a perfectly refined beer that nods towards the traditional siason style but gives it an extra dimension that makes in such a special beer…fit for the Brewmaster’s Table.
Last night I attended the first Leeds International Beer Festival. Yep CAMRA do one in Pudsey and I have had a number of boring times there but this is new and actually in Leeds city centre.
Running until the Sunday (9th September 2012) at Leeds Town Hall, Leeds International Beer Festival have curate an interesting but small list of breweries to showcase from the UK. On the list are Magic Rock, Hawkshead, Quantum, Buxton (on one single small bar) along with individual bars for Ilkley, Kirkstall, Hardknott, Ossett, Thornbridge and oddly Timothy Taylors.
The venue was in the rather small yet grand main hall, a place where I graduated from University and also spent many evenings watching wrestling with my Grandma when I was a child. Back then it felt huge but now as an adult it seems much smaller. Bars lined the walls and a stand selling lovely treats and beer snacks from Friends of Ham stood in the middle. Along with some of the highlights from the British beer scene was a bar selling US Craft beer put on by Vertical Drinks selling the likes of Odell, Ska and lots of Sierra Nevada.
For me the venue was a bit small and badly laid out, it felt like they didn’t use the space very well. I did like how they had a small amount of food stalls indoors but you could pop outside and get some other things to eat all from high quality vendors.
There were a number of pleasant sounding indie rock/ folk bands playing on the stage. Personally I can do without live music at a beer festival, I’m there to drink beer and talk to people. I guess this was one of the key components of this festival to make it new and different, cool breweries (for the most part) and cool bands instead of some ragtime or a brass band you are likley to find at the average CAMRA festival. If the idea of making a beer festival more suitable to younger people it worked but something about it seemed a bit unfinished.
The ticketing system was a bit of a mess. You buy tickets online then queue up to give your name and postcode. Why book ahead if the queue is 10 times as long as paying on the door. The entrances were badly labeled, “Advanced Tickets” and “Box Office”. I’d bought my tickets but didn’t have a physical ticket…do I got to the box office to collect my ticket or stand in line with people holding paper tickets.
The ticket price was far too expensive; I paid £6 then an extra 50p for handling? My mate Chris paid £7 for a paper ticket from Jumbo Records. £6.50 and I just get a glass that I don’t really want? Only one size of glass too, I’ve got too many pint pots from beer festivals as it is. Id have preferred at least the option of a half glass and as this was supposed to be an alterative to CAMRA festivals why not a nice tulip glass?
We were drinking this on keg not bottles but I couldn't find a photo of the tap front.
On to the most important thing… the beer. I’d have like to have been given an option of buying a third of each beer and my current hangover may have been lessened by that option. The beer was a bit pricey too, £2.50 a half is a bit pricey even for my beloved Kernel brewery’s pale ale. Beer Festivals usually are pretty well priced and these prices were more like bar prices. I did like the Monopoly money idea for tokens, it worked and beats the pants off those stupid cards you get at most festivals.
So what beer did I drink?
I drank mostly keg Kernel beer, I’m a massive fan of Kernel and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance of drinking more of their beer on keg. One of the nice things about this was having cool beers with a bit of life to them unlike tepid ales from a barrel on stillage like most beer festivals. YES! That’s right a beer with a head at a beer festival…SHOCK HORROR!
Chris loves Kernel's Export stout!
Lets get down to it.
First up was Kernel Pale Ale 4C, a wonder fresh tasting pale ale jam-packed with orange, grapefruit, mango, pineapple all the touchstones of my favourite types of beer. Next on to a beer that left quite a big impression on me when I first had it about a year ago, Kernel India Pale Ale Citra. Such a tasty IPA like a fruit bowl in a glass and dangerously drinkable for its sizeable abv.
For my next choice I moved back up North with a sampling of Ilkley Brewery’s Dinner ale, a 3.3% their version of an old Victorian style but hopped with hops from UK, New Zealand and Australia. I remember the headbrewer/owner Chris telling us about this when my homebrew group visited the brewery a couple of months ago.
This pattern continued for a while, a couple of Kernels and then something else. Back to Bermondsey we go for Kernel’s amazing Export Stout London 1890. My mate Chris is visibly giddy drinking this beer exclaiming, “This is the best beer in the world”. This beer is absolutely divine, oozing quality and rich roasted malt flavours. After another Kernel 4C I headed over to see Ann and Dave on the Hardknott stand. Very busy all night the twosome from Cumbria had a great range of beers on offer and I opted for a “Thank Chinook it’s Friday” on keg a lovely and quaffable session ale with a bit more “Oomph” and a big blast of hops.
Breaking from the routine I wandered over to the US Craft Beer bar where I nabbed a glass of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Saison. A solid beer if a bit unremarkable.
Ending then night off I once again visited Chun at the Kernel bar hoping on another 4C Pale Ale which had just finished and been replaced by Pale Ale Columbus and very nice it was too. Finishing the night on another Export Stout London 1890.
Leeds International Beer Festival was a good first effort but was certainly flawed. I urge you to go and check it out this weekend and make your own minds up and if all else fails just go to set up camp at the Kernel bar.
Brewed at the brand new “Craft Brewery” at Brains Brewery in Cardiff, Barry Island IPA is brewed in collaboration with my good friend and fellow video beer reviewer Simon Martin of The Real Ale Guide on YouTube. Over the last few years Simon has established himself as one of Europe’s most prominent beer vloggers (video blogger) or Beertubers as we often refer to ourselves.
Simon’s aim was to brew a big US style IPA just like the ones he rejoices over on his channel. Its hopped with Cascade, Summit and Zeus (sometime called Columbus/Tomahawk).
The beer in the glass is a tarnish yellow bronze with a fire extinguisher head of white froth. The aroma is oddly British, a nose of damp hay, old lemon peel, dulled grapefruits, limestone in a stream…earthy and rather mineral like, not what I expected.
The flavour is much more like what I hoped for than the nose. I tasted used ice lolly stick, dry straw, wheat, earthy lemon, waxy honey, spice like bay leaves, dried orange peel a hint of dry pithy grapefruit and the taste of ice cream wafers. The alcohol was a bit too evident, reminded me of a bigger version of Brains IPA or SA Gold. Ending with more sweet malt and a bitterness like tonic water.
One tasting note that I’m going to steal off Terry Kay of Beer Goggles Reviews that hit the nail right on the head…Toasted Cashew nuts. I was searching for a certin flavour and Terry picked it out perfectly.
The main thing that stopped this beer from being the beer it should have been is that Brains house yeast, it make what was supposed to be a big hoppy US IPA into a more traditional British IPA. This style of beer needs a clean unintrusive yeast like a California Pale Ale yeast that does it’s job and doesn’t really leave too much behind. I’d prefer much more late hops or once again that is yeast just taking over. A US IPA needs to be a showcase of hops.
Yes the Barry Island IPA is a full-flavoured barrel-chested rugby player of a beer but I’d have preferred a bit more lupulin-scented perfume than the mud and the grass of The Reservoir Field.
This hand-bottled serving of Magic Rock’s new draft only release is their brand new Belgian Wit beer influenced Clown Juice India Wit Ale. Magic Rock have taken that traditional Belgian/Dutch style beer and given it a hop-fueld enema!
The beer in the glass was pale yellow with a thin head of pure white froth and emits an expected waft of coriander/parsley, cloves, lemon curd and then the brake are taken off and the hops rush in! A big punch of citrus peel, lemon juice and mild pine like a new car.
Once I took a gobful of Clown Juice I was treated to an initial authentic Belgian Wit style beer but then just like on the aroma this goes from a mild-mannered 30 mph to a reckless 120 mph in a built-up area. The inclusion of Citra hops was a perfect choice as it heightens that sharp lemon juice but is then softened by the yeasty esters to a lemon sherbet and sweetened by the malts to lemon curd. Citrus zest and juicy fresh pith add a tart and a bit of assertive zip. Uber drinkable for 7% abv, a good amount of body and before I knew it the bottle was empty.
The only drawback of Magic Rock Clown Juice is that I’ve drank my bottle and now I need to rush to my local craft beer bar and drink some more.
Thanks to Richard at Magic Rock for giving me the exclusive bottle to review. You can find Clown Juice on keg at all the best craft beer bars across the UK and even in Sweden too.
Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve just become more aware or just a bit spoilt. Recently I’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch as far as bottled beers go .Bottles of two of my favourite beers have been either a complete mess (sour and murky) and the other a bit lacklustre (the company doing the bottling really let the brewer down). It breaks my heart to tips away bottles of a beer that just don’t cut the mustard!]
Also I’ve had some bloody awful beers like Arbour’s Deeper Down DIPA that was clearly rushed out and full of diacetyl, it was a complete mess. It’s not just UK brewers that appear to be having issues with consistency and quality control I had a massively over carbonated bottle of Witchmaker IPA from Jester King in Texas. The Jester King beers wasn’t cheap and their lack of attention to the bottling process really ruined what could have been a great beer. This isn’t about naming and shaming but Arbor and Jester King deserved a slap on the wrist.
So what can the humble beer drinker do in these moment? Weather you are in a pub with a duff pint or at home with a dodgy bottle what should we do as consumers? Sit there and be very English about iit, mutter to ourselves and when asked just say “Everything is fine” or should we stand up and speak our minds?
I’m sure most of you reading this blog has taken back a pint to a surly barman and told them “There is something wrong with this?” only to be told “I’ve got a pub full of people and they haven’t complained”. From my stand point it’s not a matter of being awkward but maybe more about getting what you have paid for. If I buy a pint of Dark Star HopHead I want a lovely glass of crisp, bitter session ale that is going to both dance on my tongue and quench my thirst not a sloppy, infected murky half because the arsehole of a landlord doesn’t know how to keep his house in order.
It’s not just us drinkers and enthusiasts that expect their beloved beers to taste good its the brewers too. So as regards to drinking beers ina pub what should you do with a pint that is flat or infected or old? What should I get in return?
The great british pub sometimes appears to the the one place in the world that is unaware of the notion of customer service. The phrase “the customer is always right” often becomes “The customer is a ******* idiot and don’t know what he’s talking about”
Personally in a pub I’d expect a considered response, polite attitude and a replacement.
As a bottle beer drinker at home I can’t really take it back to the shop like a faulty TV, I’ve got battle on or just tip it down the sink.
But as someone with an online presence i can talk to the brewers themselves. I’m not out for getting freebies and Twitter shouldn’t be abused but I hope my opinions will be taken seriously. No small UK breweries can have sensory analysis departments like Stone or Dogfish Head but their quality control department should be their beer drinking public.
So what should I expect from a brewery if the bottle in my hands is not what I expect it to be. I personally think if there is an actual problem with the beer (infected or badly conditioned) I should be compensated. Afterall a brewery should be concerned with the publics opinion of their products. From my recent experiences I’ve had mixed replies. Some say sorry, some send over replacement bottles, some are actually concerned, some ignore me, some explain the situation in a professional manner and some just forget.
So my question to you is what do you do in this situation and what do you expect in return?