Arty Beer from BrewDog and Flying Dog

One of the great things about living in London is that there is more art around for easy viewing and consumption than almost anywhere else in the UK. Some of the world’s most famous art galleries as well as a thriving scene of smaller establishments and popups, along with artists themselves practically hanging around in the street showing off their work. Unfortunately I am a lazy heathen who, despite bursts of attempting to appreciate art, generally ends up missing the interesting exhibitions and doesn’t generally find the old school ‘paintings’ end of the art world all that thrilling. These days one of the main ways I interact with the artistic world is through the labels on bottles of beer…

The obvious first stop for my tour is BrewDog, fans of pretty labels, especially those from Johanna Basford, whose intricate linework is something that I need to obtain and stick on my wall. If only her shop wasn’t closed for refurbishment or restocking every time I remember that it exists and my walls are bare. Actually, she’s got a Kickstarter project  going at the moment that’s only three quarters of the way to the target with a few days left to go – be good and chip in so we can all get some pretty animal pictures.

[Update: Within hours of me posting this the Kickstarter hit full funding. I couldn’t possibly claim that it was all thanks to me…that’s for others to do.]

Anyway, BrewDog. In addition to pulling in Ms Basford and Keith Shore (on the I Hardcore You label), they’ve also been working for a while to supply beers to the Tate Modern’s café and restaurant. Recently a new one celebrating their current exhibition of Roy Lichenstein’s work has appeared and was made available to shareholders in their online store – Lichtenstein Pale Ale, aka TORPEDO…LOS!:

BrewDog Lichtenstein Pale Ale

While my knowledge of the mainstream art world is fairly pathetic I know a tiny amount more about the world of comics and have always liked Lichtenstein’s reinterpretations of comic artwork. I can understand the annoyance of comic artists who feel their work is always considered ‘lesser’ while a ‘real’ artist like Lichtenstein doing very similar things is held up as ‘proper’ art, but I like the idea of art being just as much about the creation as the final product – hand painting shading dots in huge pop-art canvasses is something different (although not necessarily better) than drawing comics.

Anyways, I will be trying to see the Lichtenstein exhibition at some time before it disappears as well as Rian Hughes’s response, the Image Duplicator exhibition that will be in Orbital Comics in late May – comic artists taking Lichtenstein’s work and reinterpreting back to the original inspiration using their own techniques. But anyway – Beer:

On the nose it’s got the expected green hops but also lagery malt with a bit of caramel and some chilli spice. To taste it starts out quite sour, rolls through some unthreatening maltiness, a touch of red fruit and then ends with some sour hops, rye bread and biscuitiness. Overall it’s dry, light and pleasantly fragrant from the hops, slipping down rather easily while not being too threatening – just the sort of thing you want to serve to the less craft beer aware folks visiting the Tate’s cafe. According to their blog post, which is uncharacteristically light on beer details and heavy on the Lichtenstein, it’s a rye ale, which might explain the dryness and rye bread, which I’ve not seen them do before – it’s not as confrontational as most of their beers but I hope they do some more in the same vein.

Next up is a can that I obtained as part of my most recent BrewDog order (I get a shareholder discount…leave me alone) – Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA:

Snake Dog IPA

The illustration is from one of my favourite artists – Ralph Steadman. As a die hard Hunter Thompson fan during my university years I latched on to his blotchy grotesques and caricatures which illustrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and On the Campaign Trail, and have been keeping an eye out for more since – I still need to get copies of Will Self’s Psychogeography and Psycho Too, both for the self-righteous ranting as well as the artwork.

Steadman has been illustrating Flying Dog’s beer labels since 1996 but the Snake Dog is the first one of the beers that I’ve seen in a can, turning a paper label into an image that complete wraps around the container. It may not have the rest of the body of the titular Snake Dog, sticking with the snakey head, but it’s still a beautiful thing and currently the only can in my ‘label’ collection.

On the nose it’s got a big brewday hit – the combination of Marmitey malt and green leaves that used to float around town when I was a kid and let us know that it was a Thursday. Along with that it has a touch of ginger and some spiced orange. To taste it has a hint of balloony rubberiness around the sides and some bitter orange peel. It’s generally quite green and sour, with some boiled sweet fruity sweetness in the middle as a respite, but turning back to bitter green hops and spice. It finished with spicy candied ginger and grassy hops. A bit of a kick, but a pleasant one.

I need more pretty labelled bottles and cans in my collection. I also need somewhere else to put my collection or an easy way to remove labels from bottles intact – I’m running out of space…

…and just as I schedule this post to go live in the morning BrewDog post this up on their blog – it seems that one of the managers at their Aberdeen bar is a dab hand with a bit of paint and they’ve now got a Steadman style dog on the wall at BrewDog Camden. Looks like I’ll be making a field-trip soon…

BrewDog Lichtenstein Pale Ale
Scottish Rye Pale Ale, 5.1%. ~£3.50 a bottle or £12 with a hotdog and chips at The Tate Modern until May 27th

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA
American IPA, 7.1%. ~£3.50 but sold out in the BrewDog shop.

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