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

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.

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More BrewDog Ridiculousness…

This Thanksgiving morning here in the United States brings news of more extreme beer ridiculousness from across the Atlantic. Usually a level-headed place that only gets its knickers in a bunch when discussing gravity taps, cask breathers, and other real ale intricacies, the British beer scene is dealing with news that the BrewDog Brewery of Scotland has brewed what it claims to be the world’s strongest beer. I caught the story from beer writer Pete Brown’s website, and while I agree with the first line, I can’t say as much about the second.

Slag ’em or praise ’em, you just can’t stop talking about ’em.

But it’s nice to be able to talk about Brew Dog for the right reasons again. Today, the brewery announces the launch of Tactical Nuclear Penguin – at 32%, the strongest beer on the planet, beating previous record holder Sam Adams Utopias by 7%.

BrewDog certainly has a knack for public relations and marketing, born in large part out of its close following of the Stone Brewing Company’s playbook. Of the brewery’s beers I have previously written:

The irony here is, for all of the bravado and boastfulness, BrewDog actually makes very simple, approachable and traditional beers that do not push the envelope of taste or flavor.

So with news of a 32-percent alcohol beer, piggybacking upon the controversy caused by its Tokyo, a 12-percent imperial stout, and its low-alcohol Nanny State, co-founder and lead spinmeister James Watt is beginning to sound a little like the comedian Lenny Bruce, who late in his career spent all of his time on stage railing against censorship instead of telling jokes. Watt himself has invited much of the controversy, including the inexplicable filing of a complaint against its own beer (the aforementioned Tokyo) with the Portman Group, a trade organization representing beverage alcohol producers and brewers in Britain. This act of self-immolation led to the banning of the product from public sale.

While these efforts inevitably raise the brewery’s profile and public awareness of the brand, and perhaps it is even what is required to awaken a staid and conservative British marketplace, it certainly detracts from the brewery’s products and comes across as a manufactured marketing ploy.

So with this mini-jeremiad aside, I imagine the folks at the Boston Beer Company, maker of Utopias, the reigning holder of the world’s strongest beer crown, may have something to say about BrewDog’s claims to that title. Lab analysis and reports will follow and I imagine that the claimed 32-percent ABV TNP will reveal itself to be either a lesser fraction of that amount or mainly comprised of alcohol gained from whisky cask aging, on top of the freeze and water removal process .

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