Scottish craft brewers James Watt and Martin Dickie, AKA the Brew Dogs, have their own show on the Esquire Network devoted to high-brow beer. Each episode concentrates on a city or region recognized for it's brewing prowess — and this season, one of the cities they chose to profile our is very own hometown. The episode will helpfully be re-airing throughout L.A. Beer Week, which starts Saturday, Sept. 20. (The L.A. episode airs, repeatedly, on Sept. 19 at 11 a.m., Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., and Sept 28 at 6 p.m.; the original broadcast, if you missed it, was Aug. 27.) Check out what the duo has to say about the art of brewing, the L.A. beer scene and what they'd both be doing if they weren't making beer.
Squid Ink: What first inspired you about beer, and how did your first batch turn out?
James Watt: The beer scene in the UK when we started brewing was dire. It was totally uninspiring, stagnant and dull. It was Sierra Nevada's beers that really opened my eyes and got me excited about beer. The U.S. craft beer scene is a huge inspiration to us.
Our first batch was awful. And our second was not much better — since I dropped my car keys, mobile phone and a mercury thermometer in it.
SI: You opened your brewery in 2007. Where did the term BrewDog originate? Did you initially think it would become a full-time gig?
Martin Dickie: When we started out it was just me, James and a chocolate labrador called Bracken, hence BrewDog. We always intended for it to be our full time jobs, but we never knew quite what direction it would lead us in or how fast it would grow.
SI: How long does it typically take you to film one episode in any given city?
JW: We're in each city for about a week.
SI: One of the great aspects of the show is how accessible it is to the casual beer drinker. What are some of the steps you take to insure that your appeal goes beyond the professorial beer geeks?
JW: We're pretty hardcore beer geeks, but we know that if you're not familiar with what alpha acids are or what the hell wort means then it can be quite intimidating. Taking the hardcore jargon out of it and putting it in conversational terms makes it so much easier to get into beer. And once you're in the door, you'll want to know those more nerdy beer facts and seek them out for yourself. Beer is meant to be enjoyable, so we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Which comes quite naturally to us.
SI: In the second season of Brewdogs, you visit L.A. Tell us about your time here and how you see the city's craft beer scene developing.
JW: Loved it. The beer scene in L.A. is maybe a little bit behind some of the other cities on the West Coast but it is catching up fast! And it is home to the best home brewing scene on the planet. Father’s Office in Culver City makes phenomenal dishes and has a killer beer list. The city rocks. We stayed near Venice beach and I loved it down there. Gritty, edgy yet beautiful at the same time.
How can the beer scene improve? Just keep on truckin! There are loads of great bars in L.A., with more opening all the time. It just needs a few more world class craft breweries to make it a stellar beery destination.
SI: While filming, have you encountered a lot of folks traveling long distances specifically to seek out particular breweries?
MD: Loads. People make pilgrimages to breweries all over the world. It's insane!
JW: We noticed it when we were filming and we've seen it even more since we opened our own taproom on site at our brewery. The distances people travel to check out where our beer is made and meet our team is crazy. Good crazy.
SI: Describe the drinking culture in Scotland. Is scotch only for old men? And do the younger generations prefer craft beer or the big brands?
JW: Scotch is not just for old men, no. In fact we have aged a number of our beers in all sorts of whisky barrels. It's a great way to see some unique flavors imparted into beer.
MD: Craft beer in Scotland is growing, but we're still a long way off yet. In the past few years we've certainly turned a corner and beer drinkers are becoming more wise to the tricks and tactics employed by the big, industrial breweries, and they're turning to the smaller, more honest breweries for exciting beers to try.
SI: What would you be doing if you weren’t brewmasters?
JW: I'd be a fishing boat captain.
MD: I try not to think about it.
SI: There are only so many ways of describing beer, yet you Scots employ the best adjectives on the planet. Can you arm us with a few beer-specific doozies? Some of the best words for being ‘smashed’?
JW: Does anybody really get smashed anymore?!
MD: Not since 2001.
SI: Here in the West Coast, in particular, we're notorious for our hopheads. In Europe, not so much. Do you see that changing?
JW: For sure. One of our most popular beers is Jackhammer which is crazy bitter and super hoppy. Our beers are really influenced by the hoppy styles American craft breweries are renowned for, and we seem to be doing ok!
MD: It's not a case of changing tastes to hoppy as opposed to less hoppy, but broadening variety and offering drinkers more beer styles and flavors.
SI: For the home brewers out there, what are one or more flavorful spices that could be added to a beer that most people would never consider?
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JW: Crack cocaine in beers is underrated.