Thursday 18 February 2010

So, looks like it IS a competition after all.

I was either wrong all along about this being a one-sided, made-up competition between BrewDog and Schorschbräu that was just a part of the BrewDog marketing machine, or I was right when I said that this would become a self-fulfilling prophesy as it got hyped up. Either way, I get the impression both sides are taking it personally (although thankfully BrewDog removed the personal jabs against the Franken brewer from the promo move). Why do I think it's gonna become self-fulfilling and just reach new heights? I just came across a piece on about Schorschbräu losing the record. A rough translation below.

With an alcohol content of 41%, the strong beer brewed by BrewDog has more alcohol than that brewed by the Franconian Brewery Schorschbräu in Gunzenhausen, British media reported on Tuesday. The 330-milliliter bottle is under the name "Sink the Bismarck" (The last voyage order the Bismarck) is available for 40 pounds (46 euros) over the Internet. The beer is named after a war film in which the British Navy hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. The brewer of the Franconian Brewery Schorschbräu, George Tscheuschner, however, expressed doubts about the alleged new record.

He has supposed that the Scots would have kept the beer in whiskey barrels and it was therefore also included whiskey alcohol, he told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Nuremberg. He was just about to prove it. "I wish there to be fair competition," said Tscheuschner. He himself would soon bring out a beer with 45% by volume of alcohol. The high alcohol content is achieved by the so-called Eisbockverfahren, where the beer freezes and separates the ice crystals. The remaining liquid, the alcohol and sugar concentration is then even higher. Schorschbräu in Franconia Gunzenhausen specializes in strong beers.

Tscheuschner said he was producing limited editions of no more than 1,000 bottles a year. Of the 40-percent "Record beer," the Schorschbock that he had previously produced 95 bottles. The bottle costs 99 euros. This pipeline is clearly a specialty for collectors and enthusiasts.

So, yeah, he thought they might be cheating, and of course now he's gonna come out with another volley. I guess competition is healthy, and a race for a record like this, while perhaps silly, is kinda fun too. As long as it's a clean fight with respect on both sides, I say let them at it!

But, won't somebody think of the children!?


BBC Radio 5 had both James and Georg on for an interview in the early hours of February 19th. Nothing about accusations of cheating was brought up, and Georg, although saying that as a German he couldn't play the "war card", said he thought the video was very funny. For his part, James said that they had wanted to make a beer that hit the strength of whisky for some time, and it was simply a case of timing that led to the name and this new competition between the two breweries. Georg basically said that it's to everybody's advantage, and one of his drivers was to introduce new, challenging tastes to German drinkers who are normally used to the usual Helles, Dunkles, Pils and Weissbier offerings from German breweries (he's right too). He said they're planning another one. So, all in all, pretty civilised, and it would have been nice to hear the two brewers talk directly to each other with out a presenter in between. Of course the radio presenter couldn't help but throw in phrases like "the Bunker" and "Blitzkrieg". No wonder the Germans just shrug it off...


Mark Dredge said...

Oh dear. It's hard to see where or how this will end?! Perhaps a collaborative 50%-er? If there is any more one-upmanship then it'll get silly. Still, in spite of everything, I'm very excited to try the beer!

(I didn't think that Sink! was barrel-aged, I don't remember seeing or hearing that anywhere?)

BeerReviewsAndy said...

uh oh, it's all getting a bit silly.

can't we just have great drinkable beer that's different and at an affordable price.

Unknown said...


I'm really interested in knowing how the Germans really view this. Never mind the brewery but the wider beer scene. Is it just a big laugh and we're all getting upset over nothing?

I've been to Germany. I've drunk with Germans my own age who were really friendly. I've also been in bars there where their has been an older person obviously upset at my presence because he had been deeply affected by the war.

BrewDog have made themselves the Basil Fawlty of the beer world. "Don't mention the war, I did once, but I think I got away with it" - the full line doesn't often get quoted. BrewDog have not got away with it in my view.

This whole thing is playing on my mind quite a lot and I'm annoyed that BrewDog have stepped over the line. I want to know if the beer is good. I can't bring myself to buy the beer or mention it's name.

James, BrewDog said...

not for Sink! we aged Tactical Nuclear Pingu in whisky casks. The IPA however, was not. Taste it and you wiil see.
@woolydave - you are just being a bit too sensitive and overly PC on this one buddy. As a shareholder I will send you a bottle for free to review.

Barry M said...

Dave, so far the response from my colleagues has been generally more about the fact that there's such a thing as a 41% beer. Only one person said the Deutschland über alles bit was close to bad taste, but others didn't seem to have a problem. It's a small, young audience though, so maybe far enough removed from the shared history that they're not offended. I'll be keeping an eye on broader reactions, but as I said, so far it's more about the record going back and forth.

James, I thought as much, thanks for the confirmation. Would love to try it and test it out on my German mates, alongside a re-viewing of the vid.

Barry M said...

So, as it's lunch time, I've been scanning some German news sites.

DW World has a piece, at the end of which Georg says he sees the funny side of it:

Schorschbraeu Managing Director and brew master Georg Tscheuschner told Deutsche Welle he saw the funny side of the BrewDog film and even said he doesn't mind conceding defeat to his Celtic competitors. But he warned that it was only temporary.

"We'll just brew another, stronger one," he said. "Forty-five percent shouldn't be a problem and we have beer enthusiasts waiting for it." say that the name was aptly named.

Bayerischer Rundfunk commented on the name, saying it was after a film, and said "Obviously, a tip in the direction of Germany, whose strong beer wanted to sink the Scots."

There's more, but all seem to focus on the apparent struggle to make and keep a world record, and nothing, so far, about taking offence. I'm not stereotyping when I say that Germans do love their beer, so somethiing with 39.44 or 41% is gonna be of interest.

Maybe this beer is a vehicle for smashing the perceived taboos about "mentioning the war", or maybe, as I said elsewhere, it could be that Germans don't want to be seen as lacking humour, and it's others who have to feel offended on their behalf.

Rob Sterowski said...

Whether or not Germans are offended isn't really the issue for me. It's that dipping into The Sun's Big Book Of How To Make Anything And Everything Into A Rerun Of The War is really, really lame. I expect better from BrewDog.

Cooking Lager said...

You are all talking about brewdog. Lame joke, slightly offensive, undrinkable beer. I suspect a fair number would pay £40 for a bottle of brewdog james piss if he were to bottle it.

Barry M said...

Yeah, good point, and as I said on Michael Ironside's blog, I really dislike national stereotyping of any sort. I'm guilty of it myself in fits of pique, but I'm not broadcasting it as a marketing tool.

I got a comment from a colleague who is really into British comedy (most especially Blackadder), so is probably more open than most to this kind of thing (however as I started to explain the background, he had a look of sad resignation on his face).

He reckons the Germans are so used to this kind of war reference coming from Britain, that it's just a small drop in the ocean. As usual, it's the tabloids and football that generate the most war references, and he pointed out the release of the new German football strip, which is all black, that prompted tabloids in Britain to liken them to SS uniforms, referencing "Ze return of the blackshirts".

Is it easier for them to accept that kind of stuff if it's about beer? I reckon they just shrug and ignore it, because they have to really, unfortunately.

Barry M said...

Cookie, you're not wrong there! :D Could be done though!

Alistair Reece said...

Let's hope that Schorschbrau retain their integrity and dignity by not giving their next super strong beer a ridiculous name.

Unknown said...

I've already answered James on my own blog.

So, let me get this right, the Germans are not offended really, or are they just pretending not to be?

Or perhaps, quoting Fawlty Towers, they are muttering "however did they win the war?"

Alistair Reece said...


Based on the lessons of the last couple of wars, it will go like this for a while, and then the Americans will join and claim all the glory.


Barry M said...

Dave, the impression I am getting right now is simply that they are used to this kind of thing, they shrug it off as more of the same, ignore the connotations, and concentrate on the beery record aspect.

Whether they are offended deep down is something I can't really tell at the moment, despite being married to a German, visiting regularly for over 13 years and living here for two. As with everything, different people react in different ways, but that's how I see the media taking it. I'll keep asking though.

Anonymous said...

The Wehrmacht was like Wilson (Terence Stamp's character) in The Limey. Beat it up and it would come straight back at you with a counterattack and you had better not be brewing up a cuppa when they came back at you. As far as I can make out the British Army never learnt this lesson which was one reason they did not do well against the Wehrmacht in a straight fight. The Americans did learn this lesson but then they never had a straight fight with the Wehrmacht after Kasserine Pass. No, not even in the Battle of the Bulge! So Brew Dog should either go to 96% alcohol straight away or just give up now while they still can.

Anonymous said...

Woolpack Dave - we didn't "win" the war and neither did the Americans, it was the Soviet Red Army wot did it.
And if Brew Dog really want to rub the Germans' noses in it they should call their next beer Operatsiya Bagration (Operation Bagration)
ps. If the Japanese get into this fight, call the beer Manchzurkaya Strategicheskaya Nastupatelnaya Operaciya (aka Operation August Storm).

Barry M said...

Ok, Dave, got some more feedback from a broader base. A (German) friend posted it on a forum he's a member of to get general reactions. Most people just said "typical British humour" and thought that as it was such "over the top Kraut-bashing" that it couldn't be taken seriously, and besides, it was well done. One voice said it was neither funny nor well done, but he didn't care, while another thought it was completely bad taste, and in fact asked what if a German brewery had called a beer "Sink the Hood". He thought that the Germans seem to have to keep showing understanding when this kind of thing arises because of a shameful episode in their country's history.

Overall, from the 12 or so people discussing it, the majority just laughed it off.

Compare this to the opinion of an English friend of mine who was formerly in the journalism business as a foreign correspondent, and who has lived here for 15 years. I'll simply quote him:

Saw the vid. The man I was 15 years ago (fresh from Old Blighty and full of deeply ingrained anti-German prejudices) would have found the vid incredibly amusing. The man I am in 2010 finds this vid deeply offensive.

Let me tell you a story. Two in fact. The first concerns an ex-colleague of mine who started tour guiding for TUI, taking 'sausage munchers' to the UK. In a street in Hull they were out for a pub tour. The average age of the group of around 10 people was over 50. The group was attacked with beer bottles in the street by teenagers. When arrested one of the teenagers said, "They were Germans". This was supposed to be an explanation.

The second story concerns a group of German exchange students visiting St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Typical age 14. They were stoned by British kids from their own age group who were on holiday with their parents. As an explanation the teenagers said it was because the victims were German.

Now where did they get the cultural cues to do such terrible things? The War has been over for 60 years. The memory belongs to my grandparents' generation (and I'm no young sprog). It's my strong belief that 'Kraut Bashing', as the German Embassy in London calls such things whenever they appear, is the cause. It's time it stopped.

As a journalist I made a lot of money doing negative articles about foreigners. After a few years I got heartily sick of it and wised up.

I refused to do any more. It's time this sort of racist propaganda was stopped.

Unknown said...

Well, are there ever any real winners.

Anyway, thanks Barry, I'm still not sure myself what to think.