Man Meets (Brew)Dog

While the last two weeks of deadlines and new assignments and consulting meetings and Toronto Beer Week have been singularly exhausting, they have also provided a number of unique situations and opportunities. Like last Monday, when I was able to sit and sup a while with BrewDog co-founder James Watt.

It shall come as no surprise that I am not the biggest fan of BrewDog’s high-strength offerings – at least those I have tasted; Watt has promised me a miniature sample of the End of History, mailed once he returns to Scotland and to be reviewed here after it arrives – but I have enjoyed several of their other, more conventional brews, including their IPAs and the whisky barrel-conditioned Paradox Islay. So it wasn’t an entirely hostile audience the lead Dog encountered immediately following my Malt & Molluscs sampling at Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill.

Our chat covered numerous topics, from beer (obviously) to whisky to politics, and spanned a few hours and three bars. And it was just that, a chat, rather than a notebook open, could-you-please-repeat-that-for-the-record interview. Still, some notions linger, such as:

  • Watt explained that his brewery’s headline-grabbing high-test efforts need to be viewed within the context of the fiercely traditional U.K. beer market, where innovation in the fashion of U.S. craft brewers is rare and attitudes can be more than somewhat straight-laced. For a small brewery in northern Scotland to make its voice heard in such an environment, sometimes drastic steps – and presumably missteps, as when the brewery lodged a complaint about their own beer with alcohol watchdog The Portman Group – must be taken, he said.
  • Talking about BrewDog’s IPAs, primarily the lower strength Punk, Watt explained that their presence in North America was not to his mind exactly an ideal state of affairs and even admitted that were he in Poughkeepsie and staring at a fridge full of pale ales, he would likely pull something fresher and local in place of his own beer.
  • He also noted that, for the present, at least, North America was but a minor market for the brewery, compared to the closer European markets where they sell the bulk of their beer.
  • He readily admitted to a real fondness for the Forty Creek Confederation Oak Canadian Whisky I poured for him and expressed interest in getting hold of a bottle to take with him back to Scotland. Hmmm, Paradox Canada?

Thee was more, but some things are best left between us dogs.

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