Wednesday, 4 February 2015

An Abstrakt Concept

"INTRODUCING THE WORLD'S FIRST CONCEPT BEER BRAND" bellowed the press release announcing the launch of Brewdog's Abstrakt range of beers back at the tail-end of 2009. Promising to be 'MORE ART THAN BEER', the 17 releases on the label to date have been beautifully packaged in 375ml champagne bottles with jet-black corks and cages. The styles have varied from quads to imperial stouts to barley wines, but the ABVs have been high and the adjuncts extensive.

When this tweet went out last month, it attracted the response you would expect. A 'Cookies and Cream Imperial Stout' might be in keeping with the syrupy-sweet, adjunct-heavy beers in the range over the past few years, but as every attention-hungry craft brewery starts boosting their gravities and shovelling crazy flavours and Flumps into their conditioning tanks, the Abstrakt range has started to look less like an arty concept and more like... just another set of big beers.

In addition, up to this point almost every Abstrakt beer has encouraged the hoarder. Huge ABV monsters, released Across the UK, thousands of dusty black demi-bouteilles clog up cupboards as beer enthusiasts avoid opening their numbered collectibles. Beer is there to be drunk though, and up to this point, Abstrakt has served to discourage the consumption of the beers. I think it would be fun to flip that on its head and produce an Absrakt that needs to be consumed urgently.

So - here's my idea for a future Abstrakt. For convenience's sake, let's call it Abstrakt 20.

Abstrakt 20 would be Brewdog's first ever DOGO release - an appropriately canine acronynm meaning Draught-Only-Growler-Only. Instead of paying 9.99 for a low-profile corked-and-caged 375ml champagne bottle from their online shop, their Bottledog bottle shop or their bars, Abstrakt 20 would be a numbered 1 litre swing-top. I could imagine it being covered in a unique piece of artwork from one of their regular artists, such as Craig Fisher or Johanna Basford... or being almost entirely empty, save for a small logo and a bottle number. Whatever works for James Watt and company. What is paramount is that it is empty.

A 1 litre flip-top bottle, yesterday.
The beer destined for the Abstrakt 20 bottles should be time-limited, designed to be drunk at its best. In the spirit of Magic Rock's Un-Human Cannonball or - topically - Russian River's Pliny the Younger, it should be as big a double or triple IPA as can be wrung out of the Ellon brewhouse, with a final gravity coaxed as low as possible and dry-hopped to the point that the centrifuge tries to tender its resignation. Brewdog, for all their air-freighted IPA imports and Love Hops... neon signs, have never attempted to brew the ultimate big IPA, so this would be their chance.

On the day that the beer can be released, the Abstrakt 20 bottle can be taken to one of their bars or shops and filled, at no charge, with the beer. If the owner of the bottle wants to take it home, then so be it; if they want to grab four glasses and split it with their table in the bar, no problem. However, no bottle, no beer - without the Abstrakt 20 bottle, one cannot expect a pour of the beer that goes inside.* If you want to drink the beer, you would either need to get hold of your own bottle, or find somebody who has one and is willing to share. Abstrakt 20 would be either the ultimate social beer - destined to be shared - or the ultimate antisocial beer - open it alone, and you would need to finish it alone to enjoy it at its peak. Either way, it would be more art than beer.

On the front of the bottle are three boxes. When the bottle is filled, the server fills one of the boxes in with an indelible paint marker - they can tick it, draw a smiley face, write their initials, whatever they are in the mood for. Once the owner has enjoyed their three fills, and all boxes have been completed, it cannot be refilled again - and thus their Abstrakt 20 is complete. A unique piece of art, comprising the bottle artwork (or lack thereof) and the three contributions from the people who filled it.

Abstrakt 20. More art than beer. Coming soon?

(* - In reality, I think if a keg had been on for a week, I think it could be opened up to be poured like any other beer rather than simply ditched in the name of 'art'... Brewdog are a business, after all.)


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