Can “Brew Dogs” thrive where “Brew Masters” failed?

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If you’re a long-term reader of this blog, you know I have a thing against the blokes from BrewDog, the Scottish craft brewers that pumped out such undrinkable, attention-whoring beers like Tactical Nuclear PenguinThe End of History (featuring roadkill stuffed with bottles), and Royal Virility Performance, a beer brewed with Viagra to celebrate the “first night” of William and Kate (apparently that stuff works!).

My feeling then – as it is now  – was that these beers weren’t brewed to take the craft of beer making to new and interesting places, they were brewed as a scream for attention from the brewery, quality of the beer be damned.  Sure they were unconventional, funny and generated a lot of buzz, but as a beer geek, I felt that such style-over-substance shenanigans had no place in the craft beer world.

But they might be awesome on TV.

The folks from Esquire just sent me a link to the trailer for “Brew Dogs” a new show featuring James and Martin from BrewDog, and it looks…really good.

That hurt a little to say, I’ll be honest. 

brewdogsThe 30 second clip is full of them high-fiving a scraggly Greg Koch from Stone (that beard is getting crazy!), practicing their golf swings on empty bottles, pumping up a crowd at a festival, and taking off their shirts at a table full of senior citizens.  There’s action, wit, sarcasm, interesting accents, and two compelling figures traveling the country looking for tasty beer.

In other worlds, it’s kind of like the show Don and I wanted to make for the Discovery Channel a few years ago, before we lost out to Sam Calagione and his show “Brew Masters.”  Like “Brew Dogs,” I even had outlined a party scene with seniors for a future episode (I wanted to get frat boys and seniors together at a toga party to debate the merits of Pliny the Younger versus Pliny the Elder – TV magic!).

“Brew Masters” was pulled off the air because Big Beer allegedly threatened to pull all of its advertising from Discovery’s networks if the show was allowed to go on, but honestly, the show was most likely doomed because it kind of sucked.

It was a single brewery, not a nationwide romp, and Sam Calagione came of as a super nice guy, which is the worst thing you can have on a TV show – just look at the success the acerbic Anthony Bourdain has enjoyed.  “Brew Masters” was week after week of “can we get our special beer to the festival on time?!” and other friendly minutiae at the brewery that quickly started tasting flat.  Whether or not big beer accelerated the invertible is a matter up for debate, but I think “Brew Masters” was already starting to drown in its own mediocrity.

A TV show on any topic, from storage lockers, to duck whistles, to myth busting, has to be entertaining to anyone who watches it, not just the people who are interested in what the show is about.  You can do this with humor, interesting characters, chemistry between hosts, hooliganism, interpersonal conflict, or all of the above if you want to have a hit on your hands.  From the 30 seconds I’ve seen, I think “Brew Dogs” might just have a shot of delivering what “Brew Masters” could not – a show your mom would watch and enjoy.

Plus, it’s not going to be a 60 minute infomercial for a single brewery like “Brew Masters” was, which should make it harder for big beer advertisers to pressure the network.

And about the network.  “Brew Dogs” will air on The Esquire Network which we all know and love, right?  What?  You’ve never heard of it?  Well it’s channel number…ummm…whatever G4 used to be (they took over the former mangeek network).  So it might be a step below Oxygen (or even Boomerang), but hopefully enough people will find the show to give it a fighting chance to survive.

After “Brew Masters” failed, no major cable carrier wanted to gamble on a show about brews or brewers – trust me, we know this first hand after our production company tried to sell our concept to all of them.  Fingers crossed that James and Martin and “Brew Dogs” shows the world that a series about beer can resonate with a broad audience, and the World’s Greatest Beverage gets another shot at the big leagues where it can turn legions of people on to the wonders of America’s awesome craft beers.

What I’m saying is don’t screw this up, you two attention whores.  We’re all counting on you.

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Categories: Beer, brew masters, brewmasters

Author:Jim Galligan

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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25 Comments on “Can “Brew Dogs” thrive where “Brew Masters” failed?”

  1. July 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    I tried to message you guys about this when the show initially sold earlier this year. In fact, it was this loyal reader that first discovered the infancy of BrewDogTV, as merely a one off sizzle reel at the time, right here on your blog and subsequently put the the creators in the room with the folks at then-G4 where it was received with open arms. While I receive no official credit on the series, Im not ashamed to say it happened because of me (for better or for worse).

    But what that really means is that this series sold because you guys initially highlighted it for me to find. Just thought you might want to know just how far you reach goes.

    Fingers crossed for the series. The filmmakers are great guys and huge beer geeks. Good people.

    • July 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

      Wow, seriously? I think Don posted that reel – let’s blame him if it all goes wrong! :)

      Crazy to think we have that kind of accidental influence, but I’ll sure as hell be telling that story to my wife!!

      And as long as you’re putting people in rooms with other people… ;)

    • July 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks, Ethen. If you want, you can still take full credit for the show getting picked up.

  2. MrVoice
    July 24, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Keep pitching Jim…a show with you and Don would be a show I would love to see…

    • July 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      Thanks, Mr. Voice, I’d certainly love to make it. Don’s been crazy tied up to launching his new beer palace in Nampa, Idaho, and I miss the big lug around here. If he won’t take time to post stuff here, I’m pretty sure he’d make room in his busy schedule for TV fun. We’d have a blast.

  3. July 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was BD’s End of History that came packaged within taxidermied stoats, not Sink the Bismark.

    • July 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Good catch, Ted. I just fixed the link – that’s what you get when you’re blogging too fast, kids!!

  4. July 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    If we can have beer made especially for Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and It’s Always Sunny…, it only seems fitting we get a TV show made especially for beer. Or brewers. Or something.

    I was actually sifting through all this info this morning and was surprised at a long list of beer-related shows in some sort of consideration/marination: http://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/craft-beers-place-on-network-television

    • July 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

      Hmmm…not sure how old that list is, but some of those projects have been hanging around for awhile. Usually it either happens or it doesn’t and luck and timing are equally as important as skill and knowledge.

      Anyway, I wish ‘em all well – can’t have too much beer on TV!

  5. July 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    I’ll watch any show about making beer.

    • July 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      I’ll drink a beer while I do!

    • July 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      I agree. I watched Brew Masters (and enjoyed it). I watched How Booze Built America (and enjoyed it). If these two Brew Dog guys aren’t complete douches, I will watch and enjoy this too….if I can find the network. (Like they give a rat’s ass about the old guy demogreaphic)

      • July 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

        I think they do give a rats ass about the old guy demo, because G4 used to be a geeky-guy video game kinda network, but now it’s a “man’s” channel. I think they aged things up a little and broadened the appeal beyond Olivia Munn in cosplay costumes (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

        Anyway, I’m hoping the show is good. I think James’ and Martin’s schtick, which makes me crazy in the beer world, will be perfect for TV.

  6. July 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    As a long time reader of B&WBros. I really hope you guys dig the show! As one of the executive producers, I can tell you, it’s been a looooong road to get here. Like you guys, we had a different iteration of this show get bumped by Discovery in favor of Brew Masters so we’re doing everything in our power to make sure this is a show that is first and foremost about craft beer. Then, of course, it’s about James and Martin acting like James and Martin (which hopefully, Jim, you’ll grow to love). Yes, they are self-aware attention whores, but we’ll try not to let them screw it up. There’s actually a line in Philly when James says, “This is science! This is innovation! But mostly, it’s a questionable gimmick used to draw attention to a little known cable TV show”.

    We’re working our asses off on season one right now (currently on day 3 in a string of all night editing sessions) and we’re pretty psyched about how it’s turning out. There’s brewing, drinking, ridiculousness, comedy and massive amounts of love for the craft brewers and craft beers in each city. We try to feature the craft beer scene of each city just as much as we feature the brewers we partner with for our crazy brews.

    Whether or not it gets ratings or anyone likes it, hopefully it counts for something that the folks who made it are just as passionate about craft beer as the people we’re making it for.

    • July 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Sounds like the right group of people to do something special, and hopefully it’s a hit. I think we’d all like to see it do well.

      • July 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

        Thanks, Jim! I hope it does well too. If it sucks, I deny any involvement, and these messages never happened.

        • July 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

          I guess then Ethen really can have all the credit. :)

  7. Wendi
    July 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Personally, I would have liked to see you and Don doing this show….just say’in…..

    • July 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Thanks, sis. Maybe you and Emily can do a show about American bakers in France…

  8. BeerBear
    July 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Looking forward to beer shows every night, I might go back to watching TV.

  9. Drewcifer
    July 25, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    I hope it is successful, but how many people will it reach shucked away on a niche channel that many people won’t get? Even “Three Sheets” got shown on Travel and Spike, and those are basic channels. And that was a fairly crap show.

    While we all want to see craft beer on TV, I’ve got to be the devil’s advocate and say that it might not be the place for it. What is all that exciting about it? What about it screams for a prime time slot? And really, with the complex network of blogs, websites and YouTube channels devoted to it, does a television show add to the craft beer culture, or does the community just feel that it is some sort of legitimization?

    Brew Masters was unsuccessful, above all, because Sam didn’t have the proper voice. Bourdain was successful because he was a wordsmith in addition to being a cook, he had his own voice, and he developed it before he got in front of the camera. There’s a fine line between cranky asshole and entertaining curmudgeon, and Bourdain walked it quite well. I hope the BrewDog guys have their voice, as it could be the difference between opening doors or killing the possibility of craft beer hitting a major channel.

    As an aside, for you two guys, why not consider pitching a show to something other than network TV? Given how Netflix and Hulu are growing their original content, and are reaching a larger audience than the Esquire channel ever will, why bother with traditional television?

  10. Diss Content
    July 25, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    It looks like the “enemy within” has already been identified as a foregone terminal malignancy. The formulaic approach for TV/entertainment outlined appears to be right on target. Ultimately you will have to appeal to a broader audience (read: mouth breathers), to increase ad revenue, and likely lose the essential element which sparked the creation of your core product.

    G4 didn’t have low ratings; they had NO ratings, so the only trajectory available is up. What has G4 done to amass a viewership lower than the Hampton Inn lobby channel? They were already handicapped by being associated with ‘gamers’ who are typically logged on WoW for periods longer than a German opera, and therefore wouldn’t be the type to watch TV in the first place. I suppose they could have targeted the Amish instead, and may still have them on the back burner. I dunno.

    Most American’s can’t handle more than three choices in any pursuit. Bud, Miller, or Coors; Democrat, Republican, or Independent; Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry; Baseball, Basketball, or Football; Chevy, Ford, or Chrysler; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; unleaded, supreme, or diesel; McDonalds, Burger King, or Dairy Queen; ABC, CBS, or NBC; Olive Garden, Applebee’s, or a box of dead raccoons. So anyone outside the oligarchy will need to attract a customer base through finesse, cunning, and superior products. Rolls Royce has monstrous name recognition, but an annual customer base of well below one thousand ….globally.

    This is what ultimately serves as the stepping stones, which pave a path of good intentions. A genuinely focused program on craft beer will have an audience ceiling of some small number. If Jay Leno’s audience is three million viewers (less than one percent of the US population), I would imagine the finest beer program would place well below that threshold. Way below it.

    I see some fundamental changes as necessary in order for special interest programs to survive or be produced. First is to abandon that dumbing down for a broader audience approach. It hasn’t worked with craft beer, and it won’t work for a craft beer TV program. Changing a format from informative, to a Jackass-esque duo, traveling the country and being edgy and unpredictably scripted for a camera, will alienate the geeks, then attract some short term replacement audience before cancellation. The core product must match the core target audience. Keep in mind, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is still broadcast and there is minimal nudity. They are funded by viewers like you.

    That leads to the next change with pseudo-broadcast entertainment. I’ve got a cable box, and have had one since the early 80’s. I’ve got a cable bill which funds a series of several hundred channels which I have NEVER watched. In fact, my viewing habits could likely be monitored and one would see a relatively narrow band of channels, which on an a la carte basis, ‘should’ receive the lion’s share of my cable fees. But the lack of a truly free market in cable TV skews the bell curve, which may statistically indicate that I find ‘QVC’ to be just as compelling as ‘Wall Street Week’. We should be able to vote with our wallets, as well as be targets for sponsors.

    Sans some fundamental changes in monetizing specialty programming, via consumer weighting measured by cable decoder use, or specific channels selected for a custom cable package, the same end will likely manifest for a beer geek show. Crap, I’m missing the ‘Disposable Catheter Eligible for Medicare Purchase’ show on channel 874.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sam Calagione Wishes “Brew Dogs” Great Success | Beer & Whiskey Brothers - August 16, 2013

    […] While the topic wasn’t on the agenda, I just had to ask for his thoughts on Brew Dogs, the new craft beer television show featuring the brew-fueled antics James Watt and Martin Dickie from Scotland’s BrewDog […]

  2. Q&A with “Brew Dogs” Executive Producer Jared Cotton | Beer & Whiskey Brothers - September 24, 2013

    […] turns out I was right – the same attention-seeking antics that made me so exasperated with James Watt and Martin […]

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