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Gimmicks bad for beer: Charlie Bamforth

May 18, 2016
Professor Charlie Bamforth

Professor Charlie Bamforth

Brewers should be pushing the envelope in sensible ways rather than the “extreme ridiculousness” peddled by the likes of controversial Scottish outfit, Brewdog, says Professor Charlie Bamforth.

Bamforth told Australian Brews News that there are limitless opportunities for brewers to experiment and create excitement without resorting to such products as Brewdog’s The End of History.

“Inserting highly alcoholic beers into dead squirrels is a gimmick that I don’t think is very clever at a time when in many parts of the world – including this one – there are people who are only too willing to attack the alcohol industry. It isn’t sensible to be pushing products that really are all about extreme ridiculousness,” he said.

“I’ve been on the TV with the Brewdog guys, they’re smart guys. In my opinion they should know better. I like them but I don’t like that product, but I know why they’ve done it – The End of History was so they could get noticed.

“It’s marketing, it’s cheaper than buying a television advertisement for God’s sake, but I don’t like it,” said Bamforth.

Brewdog's The End of History

Brewdog’s The End of History

Another beer the Professor said he will not be rushing out to sample is the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout from Colorado’s Wynkoop Brewing, which uses bull testicles in the recipe.

“I don’t like the concept of Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, I think it’s grotesque,” Bamforth said.

“I have been reluctant to taste the product but I am reliably informed that the character of it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Rocky Mountain oysters. It’s a gimmick.”

When it was brought to his attention, Bamforth also condemned the stag semen “milked” stout created by a New Zealand brewery last year.

“It should remain either in the deer or in its intended location,” he said of the semen. “It should not find its way into beer.”

And he has little time for Chicha, the beer made by Dogfish Head using the traditional Peruvian method of chewing and spitting out the grains prior to production.

“Come on! You’re only going to do it once aren’t you? How many of these can you do, for God’s sake?” the Professor asked.

Genuine innovation
At the recent Institute of Brewing and Distilling Convention in Sydney, Bamforth pointed to the newly created Cascadian Dark Ale or Black India Pale Ale style as an example of brewers showing their creativity in the right way.

“It’s a very dark Irish-style black stout merged with an intensely hoppy IPA – even more hoppy than any IPA could ever have been that was shipped out of the British Isles,” he said.

“And they’re beautiful. There’s superb balance, there’s intense flavours.”

As another example he pointed to a dry-hopped lager made by one of his local breweries in California.

“It’s a great beer. They’re not afraid to actually push the barriers. I personally feel that you can push barriers in sensible ways and you can push barriers in not so sensible ways,” Bamforth said.

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11 Responses to Gimmicks bad for beer: Charlie Bamforth

  1. Nick Horgan on May 25, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    The same could be said of Pilsner, first brewed only 174 years ago…

  2. Jim Bob on May 25, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Could not agree more Charlie, e.g. Carrot beer, Egg and Bacon Beer, Semen Beer – piss off. It makes the whole craft beer industry look silly and immature and the average drinker would walk past it on the shelves, or perhaps stop for a laugh, then put it back down and buy something that doesn’t have these ingredients.

  3. Richard on May 19, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I don’t mind gimmicky beers if they’re done well. Anything that helps to create a discussion around beer in the mainstream is good. Gets people that just drink their TED’s or XXXX talking about beer and thinking there maybe something more to be than same beer they drink day in, day out.

    • Liam on May 22, 2016 at 2:14 am

      The Prof. says he has liked examples of dry-hopped lager & black IPA, hardly traditional and certainly not British.

      Brewdog’s antics are increasingly tedious and getting staler as time goes on.

      When we get to the point where the brewer takes a dump in the mash-tun can we all then agree that its time to move on?

  4. bierfesten on May 19, 2016 at 12:25 am

    DR Bamforth is a British traditionalist though teaching at Stamford in Nth Cali, so his views are based on traditional styles, with his expertise being ‘scientifically’ correct. Can’t see how bulls testicles or beer shoved in rodents would be in his wheelhouse.
    Bars and liquor stores need a story to sell, and no it doesn’t appeal to us beer nerds, but to new drinkers it’s got cache when they go to a house party. Bammy is beyond learning about beer, he’s tasted it. New drinkers want Bulls Testicle IPA, and new brewers need the support and thus ‘Marketing’ does have a say in how success a brewer is.

  5. doug on May 18, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I’d like to think it is boundaries being pushed…not barriers.

  6. Dan on May 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    I watched the Brew Dogs episode recently with Charlie in it, was a great episode and he seems like a very funny and knowledgeable guy.

    I agree that the beers he mentioned are gimmick beers, absolutely. Like he said it’s to get the brewery noticed in a very, very, very big brewer dominated market. Is that the only beers they produce? Of course not!

    BrewDog, as an example, have 10’s of 100’s of brews under there belt that push the boundaries in terms of beer but nothing that would be seen as extreme or OTT. They make fantastic beers loved by thousands if not millions of beer fans.

    These beers he mentions are a drop in the ocean for a craft beer scene that is slowly but surely gaining ground in a viciously competitive market, and if they have to make a few splashes to gain publicity then so be it.

    Let the revolution continue.

  7. Owen on May 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    “newly created Cascadian Dark Ale or Black India Pale Ale style”

    It has been around a fair while (6-10 years).

    • James Atkinson on May 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      No-one likes a pedant Owen. Considering beer has been around for many thousands of years, that is indeed very recent.

      • Owen on May 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        Very true James, it has.

        Good to see a true professor being quoted

      • Russ on May 20, 2016 at 4:57 am

        End of History is 6 years old as well. When did you write this? Brewdog have done plenty to push the boundaries of brewing since then, even sharing their entire recipe book to inspire the next generation of brewers who can in turn add to the developing industry.

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