Roger Protz Slams BrewDog or Just Steps In It, Depending Upon Your View…

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In a quick piece on his blog, British beer writer Roger Protz takes a quick smack at BrewDog’s recent release of its Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a beer it claims to be 32-percent alcohol. In it, Protz chides:

James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, said the beer was “completely pushing the boundaries”. Indeed, and it’s also pushing beyond breaking point what sensible beer writers and connoisseurs will take from this bunch of ego-maniacs. Those of us who attempt to paint an image of beer as a fine drink enjoyed in moderation by sensible people have the ground cut from beneath our feet by BrewDog, which just plays in to the hands of the yellow press, ever anxious to give beer a bad name.

I’ve also recently chimed in with thoughts on BrewDog’s release. Protz is taking a bit of a beating in his comments section, whether deserved or not (he appears to get a few of the facts wrong about the beer in his short post).

Putting this aside, Protz inadvertently stumbles into a pretty interesting existential question about beer. Can a beer that is brewed with something other than brewer’s yeast really be considered beer?

Naturally, the wild buckeroos in Fraserburgh claim this is the world’s strongest beer, even though technically it’s not beer at all, as brewer’s yeast cannot work beyond a strength of 12 or 13 degrees. Clearly the new product, called Tactical Nuclear Penguin (what were you smoking last night, chaps?), was finished with a wine or champagne yeast.

Off the cuff, I’d say he is off-base here but I can’t say I’ve given the subject that much thought. Part of me wishes that Protz’s view be considered the correct one on this point as it would substantially undermine a lot of the extreme beer ridiculousness that strikes me as decidedly unclever. I’d be interested in what others think on the subject.

Aside from the pure humour in seeing the generational divide here between the upstart young extreme brewers and the old-timey CAMRA set and the toughness of his words, I found this bit on Protz himself a bit entertaining this late work day.

Roger is the world’s foremost beer writer and taster.

Not “one of” or offered with any other modifier, just foremost. Even with his impressive CV, it’s a pretty bold claim. And foremost taster? I’m not sure I even know what that means. Some food for thought I suppose.

A student of personal histories, I’ve also always been partial to this bit of Protz’s early history, from storied source Wikipedia:

He joined the Labour Party Young Socialists and became editor of its newspaper, New Advance. While remaining in the Labour Party, he joined the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League (SLL). In 1961, he resigned from New Advance to become the editor of the SLL’s youth newspaper, Keep Left. He was sacked from that, he says, for being too left-wing.

Within a few years, he moved to the rival Revolutionary Socialist League, where in 1964 he became the founding editor of Militant. After leaving the RSL, he joined the International Socialists where in 1969 he became the editor of Socialist Worker. He was expelled from the editor’s role in 1974, and soon afterwards from the party, going on to found the Workers League.

UPDATE: Protz has responded to his critics with a post that, despite his claims of being an Internet newbie, is a classic flame war response: deflect criticism, return fire, then call for a truce. I think he raises some good points, as I’ve noted, about whether BrewDog’s beer was exclusively made with brewer’s yeast but his attacking manner isn’t going to win him many converts to his arguments.

4 Responses

  1. His own byline notes that he is “the world’s leading beer authority.” I’ve been thinking about hitting the Wayback Machine to see if that was there before Michael Jackson’s death and, assuming it isn’t, how long it took to appear.

    I tend to have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction against the whole extreme beer push, and part of me thinks that the last thing we need to do is to go HIGHER alcohol with beer. It does seem, at times, that extreme beer really just serves as an attention getter. From a business standpoint, I have a hard time believing that this sort of product would make any sort of decent profit if you actually took all the time involved in making it into account. Eh. Maybe at $130/bottle. Frankly, I’d rather drink an IPA.

    As someone noted in comments on my own post about BrewDog today, the one thing you’ve got to give them is that they really do kind of put their money where their mouth is. I’m not sure it’s the best strategy for them and their investors, but it is, at the very least, consistent.

  2. If you watch their promo video you can see that they actually distill the beer once brewed. The Germans call it eisbier.

    • Hi Dean-

      I agree that is what the video shows. I would be curious, however, as to whether any non-brewer’s yeasts made their way into the fermentation…

      • If the argument is that it isn’t beer because it is distilled, and eisbock is also freeze distilled, doesn’t it follow that eisbock is also not beer?

        That just seems off to me. The use of freeze distillation cannot disqualify a beverage from being beer.

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