Friday 25 February 2011

Stella Max?

So, the previous post about big-dick bullying of smaller brewers by multinational megaliths shook loose a mysterious message from a US correspondent concerning PepsiCo.

My correspondent (we'll call him "Biff Boggle") referred to a relationship between PepsiCo and the giant brewing conglomorate AB Inbev, thus...
Not sure many know this but Bud and Pepsi have been secretly in cahoots for a while now...
I was intrigued. Cahoots over what? Biff was careful... "I predict a merger...soon" came the hesitant reply. I decided to look into this for myself, so hit the Interwebs to see what was in the wind.

A quick google search indicated there was a far-from secret relationship in some back-office functions at both businesses Stateside. Procurement (the Strategic Sourcing Consortium) and some media purchasing are two areas which have been shared since mid-2009, leading more than one market watcher to wonder whether a future merger might not be on the cards. However, and more intriguing, was Biff's last missive, reporting: experimental testing phase with both companies sharing one see if it'll work?
This location is apparently somewhere in New England, and secret. So, steps towards an eventual merger? There's been talk that AB-I and SABMiller might be looking at leveraging their synergies to create win-win scenarios. Who knows whether the real story lies there, or with Biff's mysterious scrying. Suddenly, seemingly innocuous stories such as this one take on more weight.

Reading too much into it? Perhaps. Meantime, I'm waiting patiently for more midnight missives from Biff Boggle. Courage, mon brave...

Sunday 20 February 2011

Humourless Corporate Bastards

"Do a piece" said Rabidbarfly Glyn Roberts. He's highlighting the spat between global drinks monolith Diageo and Lovibonds Brewery of Henley, over the use of the number 69. Seems Diageo think that drinkers will somehow be confused if they see Lovibonds 69 IPA, and think that in fact, they are consuming Diageo's VAT 69 'brand' Scotch whisky. I'd be inclined to credit people with more sense, but I guess Diageo's lawyers might be on their uppers - never hurts to 'earn' a fee. Or maybe they've gone a while without threatening a much smaller business with trip to court, or agreement to change their 'branding'.

Whatever, it seems that Diageo's shysters missed their deadline to file suit, so subject to any appeal, Lovibonds may be free to pursue their own business growth without spurious and spiteful harassment from some miserable corporation.

That isn't the case for tiny Welsh Artisan Brewing Co, though. They've been operating since 2008, brewing a range of German-style beers in a small premises in Cardiff. Simon Doherty, the Aussie who set the place up, decided to trademark his beers, and ran afoul of the regulation which lumps beer and soft drinks in the same category. The application roused the ire of PepsiCo, who own a brand of juices originally from the US, called Naked Juice. They've decided that 'Barenaked' is close enough to threaten their brand and objected to the application, even though Simon's beers are only available either from the brewery, or at a few outlets in Cardiff, while Naked Juice appears to be on sale in the UK (as of September '07) in places like Waitrose, Starbucks and Whole Foods.

Simon has tried to clarify his application relates to beer and merchandise, but Poppsy Co won''t back down. There's a very clear and cold analysis of the situation here, but really, to me it's nonsensical, and just another example of a giant corporation flexing its muscles to get its way. Poppsy Co probably spends more on one Superbowl ad than Artisan has probably spent in brewing beer since their launch. I don't know how much they put behind Naked in the UK - perhaps they think a bit of free publicity generated by their objecting wouldn't hurt. That sort of thing can backfire.

Don't Poppsy Co credit the consumer with any sense? There's no attempt to pass off Barenaked Beer as anything other than what it is. The beer isn't likely to be appearing in the same markets as Naked Juice anytime soon. And what about Twickenham Brewing's Naked Ladies beer? That name is much closer to the juices? And what about the estate of William Burroughs? Surely The Naked Lunch might mislead the reader over wholesome fruit juice? And then perhaps Diageo could make sure Sham 69 can't get back together again - old punks might get confused.

I remember in the 80's, the Comsat Angels getting the same treatment from another bunch of miserable bastards, who made them change their name in the US to the CS Angels, in case music lovers thought somehow their spiky new-wave stylee was anything to do with global telecommunications.

You know, sometimes there's the letter of the law (and neither of these cases has been before the beak yet, so perhaps common sense prevails anyway), and there's the moral high ground, and both of these bullied brewers occupy that right now. Who's for a boycott campaign? I'll bring the music - it'll be Waiting For A Miracle...

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Around The World, One Hop At A Time

To the Euston Tap, where BrewDog have commandeered the upstairs area to host a launch of their new limited range of single-hop IPAs. Our host, BrewDog's own south of England Duffman ("oh yeah!") is Tom 'The Cad' Cadden.

The brewery's bold proclamations and often irritating promotional flights of fancy have provoked a well-documented and lengthy sigh of exasperation on the interwebs (Martyn Cornell refers to the latest one here), but I've decided to ignore the bollocks and focus on the beer, which is often very good. So, don't read any more if you want quotes off the labels of the bottled versions - it makes my stomach hurt. In typical BD Newspeak however, the beers are all called "IPA Is Dead", based on a dialled-down to 7.5% Hardcore base, and single-hopped in the kettle and dry-hopped up to 75 IBUs. An interesting technical exercise which aims to showcase the characteristics of each hop. Draw your own conclusions from the name, or ask The Cad.

The Cad attempts the tricky "glass/bottle bottle/glass" trick a la Tommy Cooper; beer in fridge

I said the beers were often very good. I thought these were. The four hops chosen include hop du jour Citra from the US, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand, Bramling Cross from the UK and Sorachi Ace from Japan.

I'm not going to say too much about the first two, since the hops they're based on have been cropping up in beers from a range of brewers recently. However, having recently sampled Oakham's 4.2% Citra, I thought it worked slightly better in a session strength beer, rather than in a "one and done". Generally though, I like the way these 'new' hops soften the sometimes harsh citrus notes you find with so-called 'C' hops, specially in higher-ABV beers. The Nelson Sauvin imparted huge blackcurrant notes in the mouth as well as the mango and pineapple I tend to find, as well as that 'just-used-cat-litter-tray' aroma on the nose. Lychee and tropical fruit similarly predominate in Citra and both hops were shown off nicely in this package - well-balanced, complex and easy drinking.

The latter two beers were the most interesting. The Bramling gave off huge fresh pine and pepper on the nose - so much so, I thought the bare floor of the pub had recently been stripped. There was a slightly phenolic sweetness in the mouth which seemed to work well with the malts. It woke up memories of one of the Hitachino beers I sampled on draft in New York some years back. The Sorachi Ace hop has been talked about as being too difficult to brew with, but I don't see the problem. This is the first time I've sampled a beer using it, and it lent the beer astonishing complexity. Grassy lemony honey mint green tea sherbet all got offered up, and something else that poked my boyhood memory with a stick every time I took a sip and sloshed it around. This is a beer I'd like to try again.

These beers were from the keg and I didn't find them too cold or over-carbonated. Indeed, the liveliness of the Bramling version helped to open the beer up nicely, I thought. BrewDog are also doing a mixed 4-pack of each beer or single bottles, judging by the Tap's fridges.

Sunday 13 February 2011

Can't We All Just Get Along?!

It seems a few people were upset by my treatment of the main beer fanboy ticker websites in my previous post. Seems I was very harsh on RB and BA in blasting the latest antics Stateside. Of course, this was never my intention, and I therefore pledge in future to be more scrupulous about apportioning responsibility for the behaviour of spoogebeerian collectives who take extreme measures to tick the rarest beers. In fact, let me introduce you to my new best friend...
I'm sure we'll get on famously. This came off RateBeer, so clearly some of those members can happily laugh at themselves (or their less well-adjusted brethren).

While collectives of beer lovers are under the microscope, let me introduce you to Kevin The CAMRA member, courtesy of Summerwine Brewing's head man James...You can read all about Kevin here. Word is a commemorative tee shirt may be printed in Kevin's honour...

Group hug, anybody..?

Wednesday 9 February 2011

A Confederacy Of Dunces

I'm looking at you, HateBeer and TwatAdvocate. Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River relates the latest sorry episode of spoogebeerian gaming the system...

Pliny The Younger on EBAY - Seriously?

I've seen comments in threads on your pages where members who couldn't get to the brewpub were offering fervent wishes that maybe some of the 2011 batch of Pliny The Younger might be smuggled out and passed along to those less fortunate. And lo! it came to pass that one arsehole managed to do just that, and he putteth it on eBay.

You can sense the exasperation in Natalie's blog post. She saw their breast cancer beer hoovered up by these locusts, some of whom are now reaping $400 prices on eBay - there's one up there now. The point, however, is that Russian River asked beer lovers to respect their efforts to get this year's PtY to a wider audience, yet they're catching out visitors trying to get the beer out of the pub by hook or by crook. eBay seem to have removed the offending beer, and I hope they've banned the prick who tried to sell it.

Really, if these beer fanboy sites are to actually "respect beer" (the rallying call of TwatAdvocate), they should be jumping on this kind of thing - lock down threads, ban members, send a message they won't tolerate idiots who ignore the pleas of the brewers and try and feed this disgusting secondary market for their own profit.

I don't believe that brewers, by and large, generate hype for these beers (notable exception: Three Floyds). It all comes from what I've seen described as the Pokémon effect ("gotta tick 'em all!") generated by these fanboy sites.

Clean up your act, before its too late. These people don't have any business being anywhere near beer.