Many of my fellow writers have already posted that we should be expecting Brew Dog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin to hit shelves in the U.S. very soon. Trust me, getting the beer this way is much cheaper. The price of buying from overseas and the shipping to do so are pretty hefty. But actually, I’m not writing about the arrival of the beer so much as I’m writing about something else.
I was sent this video link by someone from Newsy with the note that I might benefit from covering the story. Newsy covered the story of TNP hitting the shelves in the U.S. and thought about some of the stuff that was said in that video (of course, we’ve covered it a couple times from other angles). That is the topic about which I wish to expand.
Note the immediate shock (or is it incredulity?) in the voice of the Fox narrator when he says that the beer is 32% ABV. He goes on to mention that it is 6 times stronger than “regular domestic brands”…already the first assumption has been unveiled. Looks like we’re going to see a craft beer measured against a presumed normalcy, which will be the big boys. The National Post isn’t sure that Americans can handle the Scottish slosh. Really? Is this the “average American” who drinks the “regular domestic brands”? Well, if it is, don’t worry about it because they won’t be buying the beer anyway.
One of the underlying assumptions is that this is an unseen and unheard phenomenon. Strong beer. I’m frightened, I’ve never heard of that before. (I’ve personally made a beer that’s stronger than TNP.)
Is the craft beer drinkers really that unprepared for a beer like this? I don’t think so. I would have posted a picture of me waiting hopefully for this mystical beer, but I’m afraid that a picture would steal my soul.
Okay, the story goes on. ”Watch out America, UK beer drinkers aren’t messing around…while America has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Great Britain blah, blah, blah, holding your hair back while you puke.” Stuff and nonsense. First of all, the great majority of UK beers are lower in strength than even the normal domestic. Second, the craft beer movement across the world owes a lot to the U.S. (of course, I grant that the craft beer movement owes a lot to the world beer community). The point remains that it’s not so shocking that we can’t take it. I doubt I’ll be holding my hair back for three reasons: 1. I’m balding, so I keep my hair short; 2. It won’t be my first tango with a strong beer; 3. I think 6 beers, while quite a bit, is not enough to make me puke.
Ludiciris alcohol level? I’m not sure how to take the statement. Was it playful or denigrating? It seems somewhat playful, but I think it ultimately gets a big shrug of the shoulders from me. Of course, the next sentence seems to, under the surface, imply that the boys at Brew Dog are drunkenly sporting penguin suits, “having a good time” (seems to be lingo like, “tie one on”).
Now comes the wonderfully idiotic Time magazine quote: “…you can’t deny that if the beer becomes more widely available in stores or other brewers mimic…Brew Dog’s strategy, it could become hazardous…most drinkers don’t check alcohol levels on the label like the expiration dates on a milk carton.” Brilliantly stupid. In fact, this is so ridiculous that it would pass for parity on The Onion or other news sites. I checked the source of Time, and they use words like “scary” to describe the 32% ABV beer. You can really control people’s thoughts with fear, especially a stupid American public—which they seem to assume.
Yet they actually say that according to Watt, the price is prohibitive for unsophisticated drinkers. Translation: Bud drinkers aren’t going to pick this beer up. Back to Time‘s comment: I can and will deny that if the beer becomes more available, the result will be that Brew Dog’s strategy could become dangerous. Why do I take this position? We’ve had Utopias out for several years, which means it’s already been preemptively “mimicked,” and I’ve not seen an epidemic of hazardous consequences as a result. (And are craft brewers a bunch of uncreative copy cats?)
Another reason I deny the charge is that they use the words “if,” “or,” and “could” to build the case. In other words, it’s really simple(ton) to build an argument on hypotheticals. If shit was the same value as gold, then I would be wealthy when I went number two. What’s the likelihood of that? Sorry, I’m being a little ridiculous, but Time has driven me to it.
Furthermore, they’ve failed to define who “most drinkers” are in the context of what they are saying. If they mean macro drinkers, then Watt’s argument becomes more meaningful and utterly destroys and undermines what they are saying. Funny that they should say “most drinkers” after Watt has denied “most drinkers” would buy the beer.
So, the assumption seems to be that most drinkers are macro drinkers, which is really a fair assessment. But here is the question that I have: why don’t “most drinkers” check for ABV? Well, I think it’s because all of the macro beers are the same. Or it could be that they are buying cheap beer to get drunk anyway , and therefore, don’t care about ABV (of course, it’s unfair for me to characterize everyone who buys Bud as doing it to get drunk…but I do think that it’s very often the case). So, if they did buy TNP, then the assumption is that they would be drinking to get drunk anyway. Thus, how is it potentially hazardous? So, let’s just assume that most (read: macro) beer drinkers aren’t going to be buying TNP anyway. I think this makes the argument self-defeating from the outset.
But what if they are talking about craft drinkers who will actually buy the beer? I know that I always look over a beer to find out about it. I look at ABV, IBU, style, description and any other information. Let’s just assume, for a second, that the opposite of what Time said is actually true; namely, most people who buy this beer are a craft drinking minority who generally look at the label and may already know about the beer. Furthermore, wouldn’t you wonder why a beer is $53? I know I would. I think I’d ask why it’s so and do a bit of investigating.
Most people don’t check ABV like expiration dates on a milk carton. I’m having trouble here. First of all, the analogy is extremely weak (last I checked, ABV is not a direct indicator of spoiled beer). Second, Time appears to believe that the American public at large needs supervision. Make sure you keep close eye on us, we might do something stupid or behave irresponsibly.
Even so, give me a break. Irresponsible and stupid behavior from some has never been a good reason to disallow something from being available. It makes it sound like Brew Dog is scheming against an unaware public. If people don’t check the labels of what they’re buying, shame on them. They are not wise consumers, just simply consumers. Is this really what Time thinks of most people? They are to unaware to look at the label of a $53 beer? The statement also seems to imply that we can’t be trusted to be responsible.
Enough of this Time magazine statement, it’s just so poorly thought out that I’m leaving it before my head pops.
The review, the review, the review. What can I say? Now I’ve watched this review, and the gentleman had a fair amount to say about the beer. I wouldn’t call the review in depth, but I would say that he spoke about quite a bit other than the ABV. However, Newsy decided only to include the portions about it being powerful and the definite alcoholic notes. The selectivity of the statements reveals the philosophy behind the story. It’s apparently just booze in the minds of the people shaping and editing the story. I was fine with Newsy’s coverage of the story to this point because the quotes and statements they presented were representative of the party being quoted. However, they fall short on their usage of what the beer reviewer had to say.
Overall, Newsy did a decent job of reporting about the beer and the reactions to it. I, for one, am excited about TNP coming to shelves. In my mind, it’s not so much about the beer itself as it is about certain segments of the market being open to having the definition of beer being expanded. Even if you don’t like the beer, it’s great to see that something this strong can make it and that we have the chance to consume it, dumb as we are.