Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

February 24, 2014

Beer Diary:

Beer and TV, Together At Last

Esquire Network’s Brew Dogs is an entertaining showcase for craft beer.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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We’re in the waning days of this year’s International Month, and I’d like to talk about an import that’s not actually a beer—specifically, James Watt and Martin Dickie, the sometimes outrageous founding duo of the Scottish brewery

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, each episode of the show is the two of them visiting an American city and collaborating with an owner and/or brewmaster of a craft brewery there to make a beer that encapsulates that city. For instance, in Boston they teamed up with Boston Brewing Company founder Jim Koch to brew a beer with lobsters and clams (not to mention a sour mash that they inoculated with bacteria by bathing in it) on a boat in Boston Harbor. In Colorado, they made a beer with prickly pear cactus, using only the sun to heat their brew kettles, at the top of a mountain with Oskar Blues founder/brewer Dale Katechis. In Portland, Oregon, they collaborated with Deschutes to brew a beer with foraged herbs in lieu of hops, while floating down the Willamette River on a raft. And so on.

While the brewing challenges they make for themselves are a little gimmicky, I love, love, LOVE the home brewing aesthetic behind their overly complicated schemes. Most of the time they brew in five- or 15-gallon batches with equipment a lot of well-outfitted home brewers use. And some of the improvised techniques they use—like cooling the wort by dipping it into the river—will make any home brewers who’ve had to scramble to compensate for something that went wrong, a step they forgot, or some piece of equipment they just couldn’t afford, knowingly smile.

But the show is about much more than just brewing a batch of beer. Almost like a travel show, they give a rundown of their favorite breweries in the area and the best beer-centric bars and restaurants to visit. And these aren’t just popular places gleaned half-assedly off the internet. A lot of them are hardcore craft beer bars that only beer geeks would know about, let alone seek out, like the speakeasy (yes, it’s an unlicensed bar in a home brewer’s basement) Dean’s Scene in Portland or the hole-in-the-wall Lord Hobo a few minutes’ walk from Harvard. And I’m not biased at all by the fact that I’ve been to a lot of the places they mention.

Another thing I really like about the show is their stated goal of converting a million “craft beer virgins.” They do this by selecting a few local beers and doing “man on the street” tastings with (seemingly—it is TV, after all) random people. And they don’t fuck around with uninteresting “bridge” beers—they’re hauling out bombers of double IPAs, imperial stouts, and saisons. They also have food-and-beer-pairing sessions with local chefs and restauranteurs, again highlighting big-flavored, locally brewed beers.

Those spots highlight what James and Martin actually are, above and beyond being talented, knowledgeable brewers: passionate if not downright in-your-face ambassadors for real craft beer. And by “real,” I mean beer brewed by the people who built their breweries from the ground up based on their love of flavorful, authentic beer. Not faux craft horseshit like Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s, and Goose Island, just to name a few in a growing list of breweries around the world co-opted by mega brewers and passed off as the real thing to unwitting customers.

Sure, the show isn’t perfect—the frenetic cutting during scenes with a lot of dialogue can get intrusive—but it is entertaining, and, most important of all, it’s a great showcase for craft beer and the human stories behind some of the best breweries in the country. Cheers to James and Martin for once again bringing their zeal for craft beer to the masses!

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

Beer Dorks News

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