How could I call myself a beer blogger if I didn’t weigh in to this particular ding dong?
Ordered my stash of Tokyo* the other day and I can’t wait for it to arrive. When it does, I’ll be sharing one bottle with Mrs PBBB and laying most of it down for those times you have friends round and it gets late and you say, “You know what? Have a try of this and see what you think,” and I’ll get wine glasses and split a bottle four or six ways. In other words, I’ll treat it exactly like the vintage wines and port I also have in my cellar (I don’t have many vintage wines – just a few – Christ, that makes me sound like a snob, doesn’t it?)
When I ordered the beer, the fact that people might be alarmed by the ABV never crossed my mind. When the storm broke I did one of those incredulous, disbelieving little laughs, then got very depressed indeed as the coverage piled up. By yesterday afternoon, I wanted to twist off my own head and urinate down my neck hole in frustration.
We all know it’s utter, utter nonsense to link a beer like this with binge drinking. No point in repeating the arguments here.
But two things prey on my mind.
The first is that, though the neo-prohibitionist attack is 90% alarmist bluster, I think there’s a kernel of genuine concern behind it. This is not Brew Dog’s fault, but the thing is, the beer is released in 330ml bottles. The vast majority of beer drinkers take a 330ml beer bottle and swig the contents straight from the neck. They shouldn’t of course, but that’s the culture. So when someone sees a press shot of a 330ml bottle, they can just about be forgiven for thinking that this is how it’s going to be drunk. I know that not a single person who forks out for Tokyo* would ever consider drinking it this way, but that’s not the point. Beer conventions are deeply entrenched, and products like this need to challenge them.
Which brings me on to the second point. Brew Dog court controversy. It gets them masses of free PR and will ensure that this beer, like many others, sells out in mere days. They’re rapidly becoming one of the most high profile brewers in the country. But this needs to be handled so carefully. Anything James and Martin say will be pored over by the press with a forensic level of analysis, and will be twisted and warped wherever possible. And having worked in marketing for longer than I care to admit, please believe me that the adage about “all publicity is good publicity” is utter tosh.
My criticism of Tokyo* is the pic above, and all pics I’ve seen of the beer so far. It shows more than one bottle. People buy bottles in four packs, to be consumed in quick succession. The above pic reminds people how 330ml bottles of beer are normally consumed, and subliminally suggests this might be consumed in the same way. It’s easy to add the link to the ABV and create an alarmist story.
By contrast, think of Sam Adams Utopias:
I think the bottle is dreadful and tacky, and the beer is amazing. But every single publicity shot I’ve seen of it has a single bottle with some of the beer sitting in a brandy balloon alongside. Anyone who sees it can tell that you’re not meant to drink this like a normal beer, and it makes the neo-prohibitionist case so much more difficult to establish.
It’s a small thing, but pictures are powerful. If Brew Dog showed more graphically how their beers were in fact consumed responsibly, there’d be far less controversy.
Question is, is that what the guys want?