Beer and Pavement

Attention Whores: Wayne Coyne and BrewDog

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Rock vs. Beer by SM on June 8, 2012

For a little context, watch the following two videos. Beware, however. Both are NSFW. The first due to imagery and the second due to language. Although, they both feature nudity…

From the Flaming Lips, featuring Erykah Badu[1]:

From Brew Dog:

First, let’s address the Flaming Lips/Erykah Badu video.

It seems that Wayne Coyne and the Lips upset Ms. Badu by releasing the the video for their collaboration on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” before she was able to approve it. What was she so upset about? Well, the video features Badu as well as her sister in a bathtub (at different times, you perverts). In various shots, the tub is filled with water, glitter, what appears to be fake blood, and something white, milky and sticky (you can figure out what it represents). In addition, Badu and her sister’s bodies are on full display[2] including slow-motion shots of their rear ends getting smacked.

FWIW, the video is decidedly NSFW. There’s no debating that.

What is up for contention, however, is whether it counts as art or just a bit of soft porn, intended to shock. The slow, lingering shots of the women’s bodies certainly can be titilating for someone into that kind of thing[3]. Additionally, the various substances clinging to their bodies surely is a fetish for someone. Still, I’d argue the concept and portrayal is beautiful and adds dimensions of motherhood and birthing to the song that I never heard before. While the imagery is no doubt very graphic, it also contains a large amount of artistic merit.

The above was my take before I knew of Badu’s displeasure. Something doesn’t sit well with me when rich (yes, the Lips are moderately rich at this point), white men use sexualized images of women – particularly women of color – for their own gain[4]. Her complaints paint head Lip Wayne Coyne as a master manipulator who exploited the images of Badu and her sister for shock value[5], garnering more attention for his band.

Of course, I also see the other side of it. This video is a case of Wayne being Wayne[6]. When he’s not posting a video of a naked Badu in blood, he’s Tweeting pictures of his naked partner (NSFW), walking out of a giant vagina (you guessed, NSFW), or flashing his own twig and berries in a video (REALLY NSFW or bicyclists). The man is not afraid of using the naked form in his art. So, Badu should have had some idea that Coyne would do something like this. It doesn’t excuse Coyne for not running it by Badu first, but one has to wonder what she expected from a man who is constantly surrounding himself with imagery of naked women[7].

In the end, the Lips apoplogized after Badu and Coyne had some back-and-forth Tweeting. The video was pulled with an edited version due Monday. Coyne apologized. Both parties received a fair amount of attention. Life goes on.

The second video features BrewDog’s attempt at pitching a reality series. Others in craft beer have tried this, but few have produced anything as compelling or aggressive as BrewDog. That said, many simply chalk it up as the Scottish craft brewers looking to create a little publicity with yet another stunt.

For the most part, the show looks like something one would find on almost any cable network. You have engaging subjects in James Watt and Martin Dickie doing crazy things like finding multiple ways to destroy corporate beers[8] or cooking in the nude[9]. They have a travel feature where they visit some of the best brewers in the world. Basically, all the things they normally do have been captured and pieced together in video.

As I suggested above, some grow weary of BrewDog’s never-ending efforts to garner attention for their little brewery, even when it isn’t their fault. They brew beers both ridiculoulsy high in alcohol and low. They package beers in dead animals. And they generally do whatever they can to upset the beer traditions and corporate overlords of the United Kingdom[10].

Personally, I don’t care. Aside from a few early bottles I did not enjoy, BrewDog has consistently wowed me with some fantastic beers. I even find some of the stunts they put on to be entertaining as I’m sure Watt and Dickie intended[11]. Besides, their message isn’t for the converted American craft beer nut. It’s for unitiated[12] of their own homeland.

What these two stories have in common is that they were created by attention whores. I don’t mean this in a derogitory way. The men in question just long for loads of attention. They stir up controversy so as to enter the conversation. In the end, it garners attention for their craft as well which means income.

I’m okay with this. Corporations do silly things all the time to get your business. Why can’t indie-crafters?

The biggest difference between corporations and indie-crafters lies in the resources they have to throw at such controversies. So, corporations can blanket us with one stupid, attention-getting stunt after another without ever really committing to big-time cotnroversy. However, if you’re a craft brewer or indie rocker, you have fewer opportunities to make a splash with far-reaching marketing campaigns. So, you have to get more bang for you buck by drumming up a little controversy. I get that.

What I don’t get is the blatant disregard for their audience and/or fellow collaborators. Why did Coyne have to exploit Badu’s willingness to appease his artistic vision by posting a video she obviously would not have approved? Why does BrewDog spend so much time even addressing their corporate competitors when their beer should speak for itself[13]? I don’t know the answer to this, but this aspect of the attention-grabbing is disappointing.

There are more positive ways to grab that attention. Sufjan Stevens has made a living off of completing just 4% of a project when he claimed to be working on a 50-state project[14]. Sam Calagione changed liquor laws in Delaware and crossed the Potomac (or was it the Delaware?) with a keg of beer to open his brewery[15]. These stunts hurt non one, garner attention, and generally keep the focus on the product.

Either way, it’s clear that Wayne Coyne and BrewDog need attention. I don’t mind that they need it. I just wish we could get back to the music and beer.

Notes:
1Sorry. It’s been taken down. You’ll have to bear with my descriptions or use your memory if you were able to catch it.
2FWIW, this is not the first time Badu has been naked in a music video. Check it (NSFW, obviously).
3Let’s be real. I enjoyed it. The women are beautiful and I thought it was tastefully shot and edited.
4How would this debate be different if we were talking about Larry Flynt or Dov Charney or Terry Richardson? Would it be any different?
5Is anything Wayne Coyne does shocking anymore?
6I recognize the irony of using this phrase. It sounds an awful lot like “boys will be boys.” So, I’m already uneasy with this argument. However, it is a layer of the onion that must be peeled.<-I'm way better with this metaphor.
7In part of Badu’s online rant, she mentions that she loves the Lis’ show. If you’ve ever been to a Flaming Lips’ concert in the last 12 or so years, you’re pretty acutely aware of the nudity involved. Also, they’re called The Flaming Lips. What do you think that means? Wayne Coyne ate some habinero peppers one day?
8Waste of money.
9Gross.
10This is pretty easy to do. I enjoy it when beer bloggers from the UK visit the Coalition. They have a different perspective to provide. However, they are a protective lot when it comes to beer tradition.
11Surely, you all realize this. Everytime you bring up BrewDog, they get more attention and then more money. Ditto for Wayne Coyne.
12The message isn’t for you, Real Ale Guy. They don’t want your money. Go back to your pint.
13Stone does this as well, but their arguments are not so mean-spirited. When Greg Koch talks about “fizzy yellow beer”, I get the sense that he is promoting his beer more than shooting down the big boys. BrewDog come off less nuanced.
14However, I suspect he will put out a flurry of 5-10 more state-themed albums at some point. Oregon’s next, I predict.
15I think I have totally butchered this story. Possibly none of it is true.

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In Defense of BrewDog

Posted in Beer, Travelog by SM on June 22, 2011

One of the most amazing achievements of the American craft beer scene is its overwhelming influence on foreign brewers, particularly those from lands with their own brewing traditions. The movement toward traditional brewing techniques with “extreme” ingredients has greatly influenced craft beer all around the world. One such brewery who has taken what American breweries have done and run with it is Scotland’s BrewDog.

Some like to criticize BrewDog for being putting more hype than hops in their beers. The attitude displayed in their copy and graphic design suggest a similar arrogance found in that of Stone but without the great product to back it up. BrewDog often goes for the gimmick with their insanely high ABV beers like Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%), Sink the Bismark (41%), or The End of History (55%). There’s also the insanely low ABV brew Nanny State that comes in at a whopping 1.1% ABV. Such stunts cause the skeptical beer nerd to be…well…skeptical.

While the perceived gimmicks above don’t bother me, the fact that I had tried few BrewDog beers that I actually liked said more about the brewery than any marketing strategies. The Tate Modern Saison was nice. Their collaboration with Stone was interesting but not mind-blowingly good. And the IPA’s and stouts I had were okay, I guess. In my opinion, BrewDog did very little to earn my beer money.

Then, I had their collaboration with Mikkeller, the I Beat U. I’m a sucker for insanely hoppy, American craft-style IPA’s and DIPA’s. This one certainly did the trick. I figured that maybe BrewDog had figured out how to brew a proper American-style IPA or that, at the very least, Mikkeller had a positive influence on the brewers from Scotland. I was intrigued enough to keep an eye open for BrewDog’s beers. However, due to some changes in distribution, BrewDog is no longer available here in Missouri.

Enter my trip to Spain.

I have more to say about the trip and the beer there, but BrewDog deserves their own post, review. After several fruitless searches for good beer bars and stores, I finally discovered a gourmet food store on the Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona. While there were many interesting beers from which to choose, I had to think strategically. My day pack didn’t allow much room for beer (nor did my back want to lug that much extra weight). Plus, we were leaving the next day for Granada. Carrying a load of beer on a plane with no checked luggage did not appeal to me. So, I went with six 11.2 oz BrewDog beers. Let’s review…

IPA Is Dead Sorachi Ace and Citra
Both IPA’s were single-hopped with identical malt profiles, 7.5% ABV, and 75 IBU’s. The idea was to single out popular hop varieties in order to discover the virtues of each. Mikkeller has done the same, but rarely have their versions been as intense as these two beers. First, I tried the Sorachi Ace, if you recall, the centerpiece hop in my own New Slang Saison. The flavor and aroma were huge on this one, but Sorachi Ace really should be used sparingly or in combination with other hops. The hop at 75 IBU’s just comes off like lemon-scented cleaning supplies. Still, it was an interesting experience as I watched The Simpsons dubbed in German on the airport hotel TV.

Next came the Citra-hopped beer. Wow. I can see why this hop is quickly replacing Simcoe as the hop-du-jour among professional and amateur brewers alike. It’s so citrusy and not harsh at all. Excellent beer.

Hardcore IPA
Before heading out for the evening, a friend and I decided to break open this DIPA. Hoppy with the proper malt backbone to balance…This was nothing like any BrewDog IPA/DIPA I had consumed previously. Aside from the single-hop beers, this beer easily proves BrewDog’s worthiness among American craft beers.

Bitch Please, Paradox, and Tokyo
After the Hardcore IPA, we had a dinner with friends in their mountain-side village home. I brought these beers as a contribution to the meal. We saved them for after dinner, which was the right thing to do. I opted to start with the Bitch Please barley wine, a collaboration with Three Floyds. Fucking A. I figured the barley wine wouldn’t stand up after the two big imperial stouts, but that was a silly thing about which to worry. It was the peatiest thing I’ve had not in a Scotch bottle. Unreal how peaty this beer was. Luckily, I was sharing.

Second was the Paradox…oak, bourbon, molasses…This was the quintessential Americanized imperial stout for which we all crave. This beer came correct and stood up to the peat in the previous beer. At this point, I was clearly sold on the BrewDog’s legitimacy, but the ability to brew an imperial stout such as this one cinched it.

Finally, we opened and slowly sipped on Tokyo. I am a huge fan of Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and this beer is its equivalent. Sweet, syrupy, black coffee, and bourbon…Oh, and tons and tons of booze. They aren’t joking when they claim this beer to be 18% ABV. It kicked our ass for good, but it was totally worth it.

After trying these six beers while on holiday, I am a huge BrewDog fan and believe in their ability to brew big beers. I know that between their hype machine and forays into mediocre brewing, they have lost some of you. However, it’s never too late to come back and try BrewDog again. Now, if only they shipped to Missouri…

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Still In Spain, Still Alive

Posted in Beer, Travelog by SM on June 9, 2011

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We’re still here and I’m making due. Trust me, the selection above is not what I’ve typically had here with my tapas. Still, it’s been interesting. I’ll get back to full-on blogging within a week.

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