BrewDog bites back at critics
We caused a little controversy this week with the launch of the UK's strongest beer, 18.2% Tokyo*, and the claim that it will help alleviate the country's irresponsible binge drinking culture.
James Watt, BrewDog founder, who was the first industry figure to come out in favour of the Scottish Government's minimum pricing strategy on cheap alcohol products, firmly believes the UK's alcohol abuse habits are caused by multi-national brewing companies which control the market, and the bodies set up to police them: "Tokyo* is £9.99 for a 330ml bottle but you can purchase 24 cans of lager or a litre bottle of 40% ABV spirits for the same price - why isn't Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Focus tackling these very real issues at the heart of alcohol misuse?
"The fact that they are so quick to jump to the conclusion that a high-end, limited edition beer like Tokyo* is at the route of the country's alcohol problems is evidence that they, like the government, are looking for scapegoats. Tokyo* is available online and in four specialist beer retailers in the UK. Only 3,000 bottles were available, and it has a £9.99 price tag. Only those passionate about beer were ever going to seek this out. Compare this to the marketing of Tennents and tell me who's irresponsible or as Alcohol Focus Scotland's leader, Jack Law, put it, ‘deluded'.
"We want to bring about a change in the way we consume alcohol and innovative products which show people what beer should taste like are exactly what is needed to rid the binge-drinking mentality. Full flavoured brews such as Tokyo* are for savouring. Pairing with food will enhance the flavours - something you'll never hear said about Tennants who will basically do everything in their power to sell bland beer at the cheapest price possible. It's no wonder an industry dominated by faceless multinational corporations producing soulless liquid cardboard are in such dwindling decline."
Watt continued: "We're ensuring that there's a new, responsible wave coming through the UK industry by introducing customers to unique beers that people will savour - products such as ours are exactly the type of innovation an industry in severe decline needs."
BrewDog was the first company to come out in favour of the Scottish Government's minimum pricing strategy on alcohol. Watt continued: "Responsible drinking is at the core of what we do because the types of beers we make actually encourage responsible consumption and a better understanding of beer. The minimum pricing strategy from the Scottish Government will not affect premium, artisan products such as ours and is instead aimed at ending the ridiculous price points which are fuelling binge-drinking and adding to Scotland's unbalanced relationship with alcohol."
Tokyo*, the oak-aged imperial stout, which has been produced in a 3,000 run of limited edition 330ml bottles retailed at £9.99, is aimed at a small, niche market of beer aficionados and there is a small amount available left to buy at http://www.brewdog.com/product.php?id=26
Zak Avery, named ‘UK Beer Writer of the Year 2008" by the British Guild of Beer Writers and as a retailer, wholesaler and blogger, is one of the UK's leading beer experts agreed: "Instead of celebrating BrewDog's achievements of being globally-celebrated craft brewers, of putting the focus on the craft brewing scene in Scotland, and of being at the forefront of the new wave of craft brewing in the UK, the spotlight instead is being shone on a spurious link between their beers and alcohol abuse.
"While there is no doubt that alcohol misuse is a problem in the UK, and not to belittle the resources that this eats up and the misery that it may cause, the beers that BrewDog produce are not part of that problem. Tokyo is produced, marketed, priced and sold as a super-premium product. To claim that this type of beer is part of the alcohol abuse problem is akin to blaming Michelin-starred restaurants for the oft-reported obesity epidemic"
Greg Koch, founder and CEO of Stone, the top craft brewery in the US and voted number 1 brewery in the world by Beer Advocate also agreed: "The great British brewing culture has been reduced from a former shining star, to just a handful of tiny sparks of light...which the nanny state is endeavouring to stamp out.
"I have been quite bemused to learn that the once-famous British brewing culture has been reduced down to the nannying of lager-louts and binge drinkers, and the eschewing of character and style worth contemplating....and the inability to tell the difference. BrewDog's beers, like ours, are for those who prefer to contemplate rather than chug."
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- Spoke to James in Cornelius on the way back from work who told me that the sole case he had sold out within 90 mins last week! G Dunbar03.08.2009
- yep Richard did a great job and seemed to have them all agreeing by the end. Even the fool that is Nicky Campbell said it tasted good. I have to say though that the whole thing does come accross as clever spin by you guys manipulating the media into free advertising. david02.08.2009
- Its been excellent to see this week just how stupid and irresponsible the goverment and health proffesionals have become. magicdave602.08.2009
- I saw Richard Mclelland on BBC1s The Big Questions this morning. I suppose the launch of Tokyo* gave the producers something to hang their hat on in a debate over responsibility within the brewing industry. Whether or not the problem lies with brewers, or those that operate bars targeted at young drinkers (the so-called vertical drinking establishment) as part of an irresponsible on-trade, or the retailers (not just supermarkets) who will turn a blind eye to the law and sell stupidly underpriced alcohol to teens, Richard gave a clear and articulate defence of BrewDogs objectives and the point of this beer, and I was pleased to see that he was supported by the likes of Martin Narey (former head of the Prison Service, now CE at Barnardos) who called the whole Tokyo* furore a red herring, broadcaster James O Brien and a very excellent pub landlady. As ever, the media react lazily and broad-brush topics like this for easy headlines and moral outrage, so getting a fair and balanced hearing on national TV, over the heads of Fleet Street, was pleasing. Good luck. Simon Sanders02.08.2009