Friday 27 February 2009

BrewDog Zeitgeist

I learnt the word zeitgeist in my first year at uni (maybe last year of A-levels, I don’t remember precisely) and since then it has peppered my essays as I try to sound intelligent, using an irresistibly vague concept which stands for the essence of a community or place or time. It’s a cool word.

Last night BrewDog launched their latest offering: Zeitgeist, a 4.9% black lager, billed as the first mass-market black lager in the UK (read the press release here). It’s a side project, with neither BrewDog’s logo nor name featuring on the bottle, and it was developed in conjunction with Dundee University art students who were asked to design the label. The winner was Heather Brennan with her beguiling military sheep (the more you look at them the more you enjoy them and find their differences fascinating - really cool!).

Zeitgeist comes with a ‘spirit of the times’ kind of idea - in a world of blogs and user-generated stuff - which is pretty neat: when you buy the beer you get a code and this entitles you to one blog entry on the Zeitgeist website here. The entry has no restrictions and the only stipulation (of sorts) is that it’s related to Zeitgeist (irresistibly vague). It’s a wikipedia art project created by the drinkers; the evolution of it undetermined, the content unplanned; a collage of people and ideas and words and images. And they aren’t going to be editing or censoring the stuff (“I’m pretty sure we’re gonna get sued” James told us, “but the site comes with a heavy disclaimer”).

The launch itself was fun, taking place in a small bar-come-gallery opposite Brick Lane in London. People were huddled around chatting sucking the beer out of the bottles. You know what was odd? I hadn’t drunk beer out of the bottle for ages and I loved it! Stuff the choice glassware, I want a bottle. We got chatting to a load of beer people: James from BrewDog, who it was awesome to finally meet, what a great guy!; Phil from Beermerchants and this blog; the effervescent Stonch; Aussie blogger Tim, who I discovered is not a Simpsons character despite his profile pic; and Steve from this blog. And the highlight: Roger Protz walked past me as I was walking in, like a cloaked ninja he fled into the night, with beer in his pockets and a hat on his head.

And the beer? We chatted to James about the development of Zeitgeist from prototype to finished beer. There’s a considerable difference. The prototype was a simple dark lager; some roasted notes and gentle hops and fizz to top it off. The real thing is a different beast: rich, smooth, stout-like, chocolatey and it’s got a hefty hop hit at the end giving citrus, spice and all things nice. It’s lager, but not as we know it. I got a bit carried away asking people whether they preferred the beer cold or ‘warm’: the decision was split. Cold it was a glugger, refreshing, easy to knock back; when it was warmer the depth of the roasted notes and hops pushed through and it was a lot more complex. I think they’ve pitched it just right for the full spectrum of drinkers.

And where can you buy the stuff? BrewDog’s website: here in its own case or here it comes in a box with Chaos Theory which is a wicked IPA. And while you are there check out the food and beer pairings that I wrote for their blog (there’s one more to come, look out for it, it’s a goodun').

I like the beer and I love the concept. I want to see how the website evolves. A negative to end: drink too many and your head thumps in the morning, especially if you get up early to do silly things like write beer blogs. Time for work.


  1. I had a good night and it was nice to meet you Mark. The secret is out. I am not yellow!

  2. Morning Mark, nice to see that you can write with lucidity post tastings! nice work!

    Me, I am sat watching Zidane on iPlayer, chugging on coffee.... have a great day and nice to meet you last night!


  3. Tim and Phil: Great to meet you guys... I'm sure we'll share a beer again soon!

  4. Great to meet you guys last night - glad you had a blast!

  5. In my experience, a good dark lager is too rare a thing these days. Anytime I see a Schwarzbier featured at a local haunt, I'll choose that to drink more often than not. Good to see BrewDog getting on that as well, but I doubt it'll make its way over here to the States.

  6. Hey E.S. Dark lagers are very rare in the UK, the only source of them are good beer shops and these are Euro imports.

    And BrewDog are ambitious pups who have designs of taking over the world!! I'd be more surprised if you DON'T get it. And I know they've not been well received by everyone in the US because of pricing, etc, but they are worth hunting down, particularly the Paradox range.

  7. Protz - the dark ninja. I like it.