James Watt and Martin Dickie are rock stars in the craft beer movement. Since 2007, they’ve been pushing the envelope as co-owners of BrewDog, Scotland’s largest independently-owned brewery. They’ve brewed the strongest beer in the world, fermented a beer underwater, and even successfully lobbied Parliament to relax legal standards for serving beer.
You can currently see Watt and Dickie on Esquire Network’s BrewDogs, where they travel all over the United States to check out the local flavor of every American beer city. Just in time for the season two premiere on June 25, we talk with James Watt about his favorite American beers, his brewing bucket list, and his partner Martin’s nipples.
Paste: For BrewDogs, you explore the craft beer culture all around the United States, and you try a lot of different beers. Which American beers stand out as your favorite?
James Watt: Oh, so so many! But since I have to pick, a few that I love are Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, DogFish Head Noble Rot, AleSmith Speedway Stout, and Three Floyds Alpha King.
Paste: There are plenty of beers out there that seem to be weird for the sake of being weird. Have you ever brewed a concept beer that just flat-out didn’t work?
JW: Loads of loads! What we do is experimental and we love pushing the boundaries. That sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Most of the things that don’t work end up down the drain.
Paste: You make it a point on the show to convert craft beer virgins, is there a style of beer that’s most successful in that endeavor?
JW: The best thing about craft beer is the stylistic diversity. Different people like different flavors, and the great thing about beer is that there are flavors for everyone, from the decadent chocolate of an imperial stout to the tart acidity of a Belgian Lambic to the crisp zing of a hoppy pilsner to the roasted notes of a brown ale.
Paste: What do you say when someone says they don’t like “the taste of beer?”
JW: I say that it’s impossible. It is possible they don’t like the taste of the limited range of beers they have tried up until now. But there are so many amazing beers out there, and we are on a mission to open as many people’s eyes as possible to the world of craft beer.
Paste: You seem to have an obsession with your partner Martin’s nipples as it seems you refer to them at least once per episode. Is there an inside joke there?
JW: I am only human. I can’t help but be obsessed by his nipples. They are quite something. I think they may deserve their own TV show.
Paste: In season one, we saw you use water made from San Francisco fog, seaweed from the San Diego kelp forest, and Rocky Mountain sunlight. What’s your brainstorming process when it comes to creating beers for the show?
JW: Well, it might come as no surprise that it usually starts with a few beers. We like to take inspiration from the cities, the people, and the settings in which we are going to brew the beers.
Paste: You’ve fermented a beer at the bottom of the ocean, on a train, and on a barge floating down the river. Are there still items on your brewing bucket list? Could a space brew be in the future?
JW: I would love to brew a beer in space. I also think brewing on a transatlantic flight would be pretty epic.
Paste: Has there been anything that you’ve wanted to try for the show that was just impossible to pull off?
JW: I still want to brew a beer completely underwater. Fingers crossed for BrewDogs Season 3.
Paste: Which of the beers that you brewed for the show has been your favorite? How about your least favorite? What makes those beers stand out to you?
JW: I loved the beer we brewed with chocolate and coffee at Elysian Brewery in Seattle. The most challenging beer was the sour mash seafood-infused Scotch Ale we brewed in Boston. It was definitely interesting, unique and great to try, but certainly not an everyday beer.
Paste: If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting a brewery, what would it be?
JW: Ignore advice. Love competition. Embrace chaos. Go fast or go home. Passions drive everything.