History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce, but do Karl Marx’s wise words also apply to the end of history? The philosopher Francis Fukuyama wrote a book with this title to describe Western Democracy as the final end point of the evolution of the political system, but it is also the name of a beer that was brewed in 2010 by the so called punk brewers, Brew Dog. Having been thwarted in their attempts to brew the strongest beer in the world, when their offerings of Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%abv), and Sink the Bismarck! (41%) were surpassed by a German brewer; Brew Dog retaliated with The End of History with a strength of 55%. It was limited to 12 bottles and came mounted in a stuffed grey squirrel or stoat and retailed for £500 per bottle. And that should have been that. Joke over. Except it isn’t and the brew has been recreated to celebrate the change in legislation in the state of Ohio that limited the strength of any beer brewed in the state to below 12%. To be able to purchase a bottle, which will come mounted in some stuffed roadkill animal, you need to invest a minimum of $20,000 in their American fundraising equity scheme.
If that doesn’t appeal, perhaps you should look out for a revival a bit closer to home. People of a certain age might remember when lager was the big coming thing and all kinds of producers were trying to gain a foothold in the market. One of these was Hofmeister, marketed as a Bavarian lager but in fact an insipid 3.2% offering brewed by Courage in Scotland. If you tasted it you have probably forgotten, but what may have stuck in your memory is George the bear. He was a cheeky chappie with a yellow jacket and a pork pie hat, and in the adverts we were encouraged to ‘Follow the Bear’ as he got up to his hilarious antics. Unfortunately, some saw his japes as encouraging antisocial behaviour amongst drinkers, and the original adverts might now have some problems getting past the censor. The brand was discontinued in 2003 when an annual sales decline of 47% cut production to just 4,000 barrels per year.
Now he’s back! But even the most optimistic entrepreneurs would have a hard time selling weak tasteless lager these days – even Fosters and Carling are 4.0%. Instead, Hofmeister has been recreated as a 5.0% Helles (pale) lager made by a fourth generation family owned brewery in Bavaria. It won’t be the top of my list when I next order a pint, but it sounds to be a superior beer to the original, so the question is why should a company attempting to produce a quality lager hitch up their wagon to something that was inferior and demonstrably failed in the past?
So what else is ripe for revival? My first thought was Babycham, the first alcoholic product ever to be advertised on British TV, but a bit of research revealed that it has not gone away, and the brand owners took Cath Kidston to court for infringement of copyright in 2013. What about Double Diamond? It may have worked wonders once, but its presence is now confined to a 2.8% keg version probably only seen in clubs, though there are rumours that small batches of the original version are still produced for Prince Phillip who is said to drink a small bottle nightly.
Despite rumours to the contrary, I don’t agree with everything that Karl Marx wrote, but with history perhaps he got it right.