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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary August 10, 2009



In the Doghouse

It was predictable, but the furore over Scottish microbrewer Brew Dog’s 18.2 per cent ABV beer Tokyo is still ridiculous, and says a lot about the counterproductive knee-jerk attitude we get from much of the health lobby.

Alcohol Focus Scotland dismissed Brew Dog’s claim that the record-breaker encourages responsible consumption. But a 330ml bottle will set you back £9.99 (rather more if, as many will, you buy it mail order) for (let’s round it up) six units of alcohol. That’s £1.66 per unit. There are many cheaper ways of getting drunk.


A Victory for taste

Brew Dog draws its inspiration from the American boutique brewery movement which is growing like mad in the recession because it offers drinkers something more challenging than the bland lagers that dominate the US market. A group of them came over for a tasting in advance of last week’s Great British Beer Festival.

There were some mightily strong beers on offer, but it’s strength of taste rather than ABV that sets them apart. You just can’t drink that much of them without glueing up your palate. I know. I tried.

Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania, makers of Hopdevil (6.7 per cent) and V12 (‘over’ 12 per cent ABV), made the interesting point that it was Prohibition that wrecked beer diversity in the States and the micros are only reintroducing the rich range of tasty beer styles that were lost.

He is now wondering, as I am, whether the movement has gone too far the other way in reacting to blandness and needs to produce alternatives that are lighter and more quaffable. Such brews can still be flavoursome and interesting, and that’s the important thing. If people can taste it on its way down it goes a long way to gaining their respect for alcohol.


Summit and nothing

But Barack Obama, what are you doing? At the ‘beer summit’ he called to smooth over the ‘misunderstanding’ between his mate, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jnr, and the copper who nicked him for trying to break into his own house, Sgt Joseph Crowley, he ordered a Bud Light. There was immediate controversy because Budweiser is now owned by a foreign brewery, Belgium’s InBev. But surely the real crime is in choosing something so flavourless, especially when there are so many interesting American beers to go for.

His drinking pals did little better, Gates plumping for a Red Stripe and Crowley coming out with most credibility by having a Blue Moon, which is made by Coors but is at least a wheat beer and so, technically, an ale.

So only one cheer for the White House fridge, but it’s significant that Obama, who’s no mug you might have noticed, knew the power of a beer in marking out time and space where people can forget their differences. And you don’t even have to get drunk.

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