BrewDog’s European Business Development Manager Jonny Reid made a quick stopover in Dublin recently. Four Corners distribute their beers in Ireland and got Jonny to host a tasting in Probus Wines. The brewery has an ardent following (and I’m not counting those in the Equity for Punks scheme) and over 50 showed up for this Thursday night tasting.
Jonny gave the history of the company and talked us through the remarkable growth the brewery has had in its 7 year history. He may not brew the beers himself but he represents the other part of the company, which is a key part of their success. They not only wanted to put out good beers but also for people to know who they are and what they stand for. For the craft beer industry, it can be difficult to attract attention but for BrewDog, they combine good beers with a healthy dose of “he who shouts loudest” to attract attention in the crowded market-place.
So on the night four beers from their core range were sampled. These were Nanny State, 5am Saint, Hoppy Christmas, Hardcore IPA. However, the tasting wasn’t quite finished yet. There was a surprise beer to be tasted that many haven’t had before (usually sells out quickly when it’s available on these shores) Tokyo*, which has been dubbed an “Intergalactic Stout”. Due to the number in attendance this beer had sadly to be rationed, which is perhaps no bad thing as it weighs in at 16.5% abv.
Cheers to Jonny (who had to host the tasting standing on top of a stool) and the Four Corners crew and Probus’ Paul Fogarty for putting this on. BrewDog have put out the following tasting notes and information on these beers in their core range.
After leaving a match in Donnybrook, I couldn’t help but be struck by 3 billboards clustered around the same intersection advertising big beer. There was one promoting Peroni in a manner influenced by the George Clooney Nespresso ads, one from Budweiser how they can help you get a job and one promoting Kronenbourg 1664 drawing on classical French alcohol advertising practices of old.
Three billboards in close proximity promoting beer. All three being lagers. Two promoting the foreignness of the beer and one just an out-and-out escapism message (or perhaps AB InBev are giving up brewing & reinventing themselves as a recruitment company). Anyway, they show that a traditional Big Beer marketing tactic’s alive and kicking.
Not content with dipping their toes into the “crafty beer” market, they still persist with countering the “lack of choice” argument with launching foreign brands on a market. It’s as if they use the same play book from back in the days of the East India Company. Do they think beer drinkers still eagerly scan the papers for notices of what wondrous, seemingly exotic and possibly much sought-after beers to arrive off the boat? Well, the ads indicate that the big selling points of one the beers in question is that they are foreign and foreign means better, more exotic – hell they must be if they went to the trouble of shipping them. Well, that may imply of course the beers are imported and not brewed locally (under contract potentially).
Above all, it’s a back handed slap to the local independent brewing industry. It’s not an Irish thing nor a British one, it’s one that’s being repeated all over the place. Look at the US, Molson Coors have Blue Moon to get a piece of the “choice” market and a response from AB InBev was to push a beer from the “largest micro-brewery in the world”, namely Stella Artois. Seriously they tried to position Stella in the craft market on the basis that the Belgians know brewing. It’s similar to when in the 1980s, the microchip & PC revolution was taking hold in the US and the Soviets were trying to build the largest computer. They simply miss the point. They really only do this with lager, with the exception of the occasional wheat beer.
Big beer can put these new beers into existing establishments and many fail to take root. Bar owners have been known to complain that these beers often are slow to shift (not unique enough perhaps?) and can be reluctant to try carrying a craft beer (bottles can be an easier sell to them). However, continuously launching new beer brands can help attune consumers to break with existing brands and try other things. We need to ensure they get the opportunity to try something really special.
Yes, folks it almost upon us whether we want to start thinking about it or not. For those not watching Netflix (although look at the number of seasonal movies being added), we can’t escape the Christmas ads on TV nor the Christmas songs being blended into an in-store playlist. The Christmas lights are not only up but they’re on in the city centre. Selection boxes were being sold as far back as the start of September. Yet, we’re still only two-thirds the way though of November. There’s 10 days to go of seeing people with questionable facial hair. However, a big shoutout to Bo Bristle & it’s #GetYourBristlesOut team, donate to them here: http://ie.movember.com/team/1541521 (soon the facial hair will be back to being owned by the hipsters)
What makes the fast approaching silly season palatable is the arrival of Christmas beers on the shelves. However those produced by Irish breweries are only starting to arrive with one of my perennial favourites being Dungarvan’s Coffee & Oatmeal Stout. I’ve kept a bottle from each year it has been released. More seasonal offerings from the likes of Eight Degrees, White Gypsy and Bru Brewery.
Christmas craft imports starting hitting these shores at the beginning of November. This is natural because of shipping issues and making sure it arrives on the shelves in plenty of time to sell it. Early offerings include the return of Hoppy Christmas & Santa Paws from BrewDog, Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale and three from Mikkeller.
The range of 75cl bottles available in off-licences should be available in greater numbers than during the rest of the year. Apart from a few usual “Belgian” suspects, they can be hard to come by at other times. However, it’s also a time to acquire some barrel-aged stouts from the likes of O’Hara’s & the Franciscan Well. Hopefully the White Gypsy range will be available too. Also, putting in an appearance are the gift boxes that usually contain a few bottles and a glass or two.
Needless to say the range of the seasonal offerings will grow over the next week or two. On the Continent the 6 of December marks the beginning of the festive period but here the season kicks into overdrive once this month’s pay checks arrive in people’s bank accounts. Regardless there’ll be plenty of good drinking between no and new year.
Craft beer is getting in on the scene of charity events. Joining the ranks of pub quizzes and races nights are charity beer tastings. I’ve hosted a number of these over the past few years but it’s great seeing them increase in popularity. They’re definitely a break in the monotony of the usual charity events, although a good pub quiz is good fun as well (earlier this year we even had one in Probus Wines so it coincided with good beer too). Tasting nights are no longer the sole preserve of the wine drinker. In fact, to broaden the appeal a combination of both works fantastically well.
So what’s the inspiration of the post you might ask? Well, recently I attended a Pop-Up Craft Beer night in the Inchicore Sports and Social Club. It was the latest fundraising event they organised for the renovation of the club’s roof. I really like the CIE Works and the surrounds so it was a great excuse the head down there. I had no idea of what to expect. Entrance was €5 and included a plate for the buffet (lots of artisan Irish cheese, bread and meat available). Of course, it wouldn’t be a craft beer event without Keogh’s crisps putting in an appearance too.
Beers had to be purchased and it was less of a tasting and more of a bar, although there were tasting notes provided. O’Hara’s Pale Ale was the only beer on draught and the others from the Porterhouse, Carrig and 12th Abbey were available in bottle. All the proceeds went to the roof so one was drinking for a good cause. For those not willing to try them, there were two Irish ciders (Dan Kelly’s & Ballyhook Flyer), as well as 2 types of red wine but only one white wine could also be purchased. A lot of fun was to be had and the club’s atmosphere made it easy to get chatting to those attending and to get their thoughts on the beers being sold.
While a given charity benefits an event like this, the ability of such evenings to introduce craft beer to a new audience shouldn’t be ignored. Take for instance people who show up to support the charity regardless of the event who go away with a new appreciation of a craft brewer or discovering a particular beer style. Charity beer tastings hit a wider audience than typically achieved through the usual craft beer channels and can be a good tool to win over new customers.
About Inchicore Sports and Social Club: It’s a community based organisation providing services and facilities for the people of Inchicore and surrounding areas. The Club provides a resource in a variety of ways to old and young in the Community. There is a bar, a lounge, a games room and a hall with a stage. Every week there are sing-along nights in the lounge. There is Snooker, Pool and Darts and we provide facilities for Community Festivals, Sports Days and local fundraising concerts, meetings, functions and a range of activities. The Club is open every week on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 7.30pm and on Tuesdays from 8.pm. We also open on other days and nights to facilitate bookings, functions, meetings and other activities. Annual membership subscription is €20 and €15 for senior citizens. For Up to date news about activities in the Club, check out its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/inchicoresportsandsocialclub