The beer world has been mildly abuzz for the past day over British beer writer Roger Protz's scathing criticism of a new beer coming out of Scotland that claims to be the world's strongest. Tactical Nuclear Penguin, from BrewDog Ltd in Fraserburgh, is an iced Imperial Stout that purports to have reset the bar at a whopping 32% ABV. In his blog piece, posted yesterday, Protz calls out BrewDog for "their over-inflated egos and naked ambition" and says that, at any rate, TNP doesn't actually count as beer because brewer's yeast tends to poop out at around 14% alcohol.
As might be expected, the comments section practically caught fire as the brewerati swept in to BrewDog's defense (some going more gentle on Protz than others in the process). Twitterers weighed in as well.
Today, Protz responded on his blog, admitting he may have been a wee bit hasty and careless in some of his prior comments, though this allowance didn't come until after Protz had reminded readers of his credentials and wondered aloud about those of his critics. Protz's followup, as much a call for civility as anything, also did not answer questions about why he seemed to take such issue with the basic notion of a high-alcohol beer (especially when it pushes no boundaries of beverage-alcohol strength in general).
As of now, an open question still remains: Why is it a foregone conclusion that TNP is "not beer at all," as Protz asserted? Certainly this is not the first beer to concentrate its strength via freezing, nor would it have been the first to incorporate a wine or champagne yeast if it had done so (there's no indication this is the case, but Protz originally suggested it was and seems to exclude such concoctions from his definition of beer). Plenty of beer aficionados – probably even plenty of beer writers as tenured as the distinguished Mr. Protz – would prefer to fixate on the source of the fermentables (here, grain) as being the chief criterion for what constitutes beer.
If nothing else, this is a huge boon for BrewDog as they will benefit from the added (free) publicity. But it's also a healthy debate to be having – one about traditional versus experimental; sessionable versus sippable; old guard versus new guard; and who gets to make the rules versus who should bother playing by them.