This week’s work of art is by a Scottish artist, George Harvey, who painted Hop-Picking around 1839. The setting of the painting is believed to be in the Kentish area of England.
This week’s work of art is by a Scottish artist, John Quinton Pringle, who around 1904 painted Study of a Head, which is also known as Man With a Drinking Mug.
Here’s how the National Gallery of Scotland, where the painting is hung, describes Pringle and the work:
Pringle trained as an optician in 1874 and ran his own business as optician and electrician from 1896 to 1923. He used his shop as a studio after hours painting predominantly small canvases, like this painting. From around 1895 he developed an interest in French Impressionism, which influenced this work. This is one of three portraits Pringle made of an elderly man who frequented the Saltmarket area of Glasgow and visited the artist in his shop. The sitter was nicknamed ‘Kruger’ due to his supposed likeness to Paul Kruger, the Boer resistance leader and president of the Transvaal republic in South Africa. The painting is thought to date from 1904 – it is signed and dated but Pringle’s style makes it difficult to read.
This week’s work of art is the holiday-themed “The Wassail,” by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Scottish watercolourist and architect, designer and sculptor. He was best known as “a designer in the Arts and Crafts movement and also the main exponent of Art Nouveau in the United Kingdom” and he had “considerable influence on European design.” Born in 1868, The Wassail was painted in 1900.
The original painting is in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Below is a detail of the center panel or section of the painting.
Wassailing is, of course, a traditional English and European custom that took place around the holidays, sometime around Christmas and in other traditions into mid-January. To read more about it, there are interesting accounts at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas, About.com, Time Travel Britain and White Dragon.
To learn more about Mackintosh, Wikipedia is a good place to start or the biography at his “official” website, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There’s also a small Wikigallery with two dozen works and a good list of links at ArtCyclopedia.
It’s hard not to chuckle a bit when BrewDog manufactures another controversy to get free publicity. Their latest, and possibly greatest, stunt is their new world-record beater — at 55% a.b.v. — The End of History. As if a 110 proof beer wasn’t enough, each of the limited bottles (only 12 were made) cost £500 (approx. $770 U.S.). And they sold out in mere hours to consumers from the Canada, Denmark, England, Italy, Scotland and the U.S. Why, you may ask — besides of course supply and demand? The answer is no doubt designed to bait the press and especially animal lovers, because each of the twelve bottles is inside a small stuffed animal. That’s right, a taxidermist placed a bottle inside the body of 4 squirrels, 7 weasels and 1 hare, all collected as roadkill.
The BBC was the first to weigh in, calling it “perverse.” They got a twofer of outrage from both Advocates for Animals and Alcohol Focus Scotland. Libby Anderson, policy director for Advocates for Animals was quoted as saying “[i]t’s just bad thinking about animals, people should learn to respect them, rather than using them for some stupid marketing gimmick,” forgetting that animals are nearly ubiquitous in advertising, from cute and cuddly to perverse and scary. Remember the Foster’s Farm chickens driving around hoping to be eaten? She adds “[i]t’s pointless and it’s very negative to use dead animals when we should be celebrating live animals. I think the public would not waste £500 on something so gruesome and just ignore it.” Sorry Libby, I guess you don’t know the public as well as you thought, because it sold out in less than a day. Others have called it “shocking” and in “bad taste.”
Here’s how BrewDog describes the beer:
The End of History, at 55%, is the final installment of our efforts to redefine the limits of contemporary brewing.
This blond Belgian ale is infused with nettles from the Scottish Highlands and Fresh juniper berries. Only 12 bottles have been made and each comes with its own certificate and is presented in a stuffed stoat or grey squirrel. The striking packaging was created by a very talented taxidermist and all the animals used were road kill.
To me, the proof that it’s a put up lies in this fact. If you read much philosophy, perhaps the title of the beer, The End of History, sounds familiar? It should, because it’s taken from a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History and the Last Man,” which itself was based on an earlier essay published in the international affairs journal The National Interest. Fukuyama’s original 1989 essay is online, and a percentage of the later book can be read online through Google Books. In referencing the title, BrewDog comments that “this is to beer what democracy is to history.”
There’s also a pretty funny video about the End of History, you can find more about the beer at BrewDog’s website.
Last night Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco hosted a little meet and greet with co-founder James Watt of BrewDog in Scotland. Having just enjoyed a cheesesteak together at Jim’s Steaks with James (and Greg Koch and Bill Covaleski) in Philadelphia the week before, I felt duty-bound to find out how he enjoyed the state sandwich of Pennsylvania.
I was handed a 5 a.m. Saint when I walked in joined the conversation already in progress. Apparently, cheesesteaks don’t compare favorably to haggis, but I think it’s all about what you grew up with, so I take no offense. We talked World Cup, Philly and beer, of course. John Dannerbeck and Dana Blum, both from Anchor Brewing, added golf to the discussion, and it turns out James is a big fan. I then moved on to the Hardcore IPA, brewed with American hops like Simcoe. At 9.2% a.b.v. and the Simcoe, it’s more like an American version, which is what they were going for.
I was going to leave early, but James opened bottles of both Sink the Bismarck and Tactical Nuclear Penguin so I stuck around, not wanting to miss another opportunity to try them both. This version of Bismarck had far more peaty aromas than the last one I had — a plus, I think — and the Penguin had a thinner mouthfeel and more spirity flavors, with less roasted malt character.
After Samuel Adams’ Utopias and the 31% Schorschbräu, the folks at BrewDog beat them both last fall when they came out with Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at 32%. Then Schorschbräu answered back with a 40% version. In February, BrewDog launched Sink the Bismark, again over-taking their German rivals with the 41% hop bomb.
I’m no longer sure what to make of the undoubtedly mock feud between Scotland’s BrewDog and Germany’s Schorschbräu over who can make the world’s strongest beer. I’m sure it’s great publicity for both companies, as each one-ups the other for the title. The latest salvo is BrewDog’s Sink the Bismarck, a clever name given the contestants.
Unlike the last extreme BrewDog beer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, this one is not a dark beer, but a hoppy one instead. Sink the Bismarck, at 41% abv, bests the latest 40% Schorschbräu beer by one percent.
Sink the Bismarck is a quadruple IPA that contains four times the hops, four times the bitterness and frozen four times to create at a staggering 41% ABV.
This is IPA amplified, the most evocative style of the craft beer resistance with the volume cranked off the scale. Kettle hopped, dry hopped then freeze hopped for a deep fruit, resinous and spicy aroma. A full out attack on your taste-buds ensues as the incredibly smooth liquid delivers a crescendo of malt, sweet honey, hop oils and a torpedo of hop bitterness which lasts and lasts.
As the BrewDogs readily admit, the whole things is somewhat silly, and I’m sure more people will continue to be angered by all of this, in a sense, I think, missing the point. This is great marketing. And while not everyone liked Tactical Nuclear Penguin, so far the reviews I’ve seen for Sink the Bismark have been mostly positive. Michael Ironside, who writes Diary Of A Hop Head, thought it was “wonderful.” Mark Dredge, who writes Pencil & Spoon, had this to say about it:
Maybe the hoppiest beer I’ve ever had, earthy, citrus, floral, imperial. So thick and full bodied, like syrup, like honey. It smells like a hop sack, so fresh, uniquely fresh, like hop resin, hop oil on the finger tips. It’s sweet like candy but hot like bourbon, it’s smooth but jagged, it’s bitter, it’s intense, it’s astonishing. Five months in the making, this is insane US Extreme IPA meets Scottish whisky, an unimaginable blend.
I’ve bought a bottle and I’m glad. Sink the Bismarck, whatever you think about the name and the marketing approach (it’s a bit of fun, nothing more – initially the name is shocking but it’s more of a jovial up yours than a vicious fuck you), is a special beer. It might not be to everyone’s taste – in all senses – but it’s a remarkable achievement.
Mark was over in San Francisco for SF Beer Week and I had a chance to spend some time with him at a couple of events, to the point where I trust his opinions and appreciate his point of view. Mark was also declared “New Media Writer of the Year” by the British Beer Writers Guild, so I don’t think anyone can dismiss his opinions out of hand. This is not just an extreme stunt beer, but a great-tasting one, as well. I hope I can have an opportunity to try it for myself.
Given that Schorschbräu’s website states that they’re at “40% and still going strong,” I’m sure we can expect yet another stronger release from them. What BrewDog has up their sleeve is anybody’s guess, but you can bet it’s something interesting.