Brewdog, losing the plot?

brewdog-logo1Perhaps this is an easy target. I have never been a fan of Brewdog as company or as a brewer, nothing to do with the quality of their beer though. I have always been a tremendous fan of their bars which offer a great selection of good beer and great service. The Shepherds Bush bar is my local and is a lovely, open airy venue with a variety of seating and good pinball machines.

Recently though things have changed. It seems there is much more central buying. Neck Oil, Gamma Ray, Black Betty and Holy Cowbell are all good Beavertown beers but they are hardly cutting craft edge and having all four on at once seems excessive. Did they have to bulk buy to get the Lupuloids series? The remainder is also mainstream – Stone, Magic Rock, Weird Beard, BBNo all good but hey, we can get these anywhere. Camden Hells is the only non-Brewdog lager!

Staff have changed, service is slower, queues now exist at quiet times. More subtle things, I don’t see the manager having laid back team talks, staff aren’t interacting. (As a Chelsea supporter I notice these things.)

It may well be part of the corporate plan, Brewdog are an intensely commercial operation and the UK’s craft behemoth. Have they reached the limit of craft beer enthusiasts and to entice more mainstream customers in they have to offer names they have heard of like Beavertown etc. Become more like a normal pub? A pub for punks obviously.


An evening of beer and charcuterie at the Beer Boutique

Beer BoutiqueBeer and pig, what could be better? Well, smoked beer and smoked pig perhaps? We’ll come to that later. Mid-December, thoughts of Christmas shopping on hold, we go to Putney for a small ticketed event at the craft beer shop, Beer Boutique.

The evening was organised with The Charcuterie Board and Moons Green, passionate British artisan producer of everything piggy. Quite a broad group of people from beer lovers, pig lovers (no tittering at the back) and people fancying a good evening. Nice simple format with Beer Boutique Max introducing beer and meat men introducing the meat, eating and drinking our way through six beers and six different meats.

What Max lacks in beer and brewing knowledge he more than makes up for with enthusiasm, adrenaline and genuine passion. This worked well because it broke the ice and people weren’t afraid to ask questions. Most of all it was a fun evening, no beer geekery or po-faced tasting.

The beers were all classics and the charcuterie was both beautiful and plentiful.

We kicked off with Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome and marmalade glazed ham. Both relatively undemanding but simple and classic. The slightly bocky paired well with ham glaze and neither dominated.

Saison Dupont and English saucisson sec came next. The taste of the farmyard and a perfect marriage, a really successful pairing. This classic saison has a straw flavour which matched will with the earthy pig in a charcuterie board staple.

Most adventurous on both counts were Rule of Thirds (Siren/Beavertown/Magic Rock collaboration) and guanciale, that’s cured pig cheek to you. The beer was a very good IPA but given the stellar contributors not great and the guanciale was nice, a fine way to use cheeks. Personally a straight heavily hopped Citra or Cascade with a slice of lardo might have been better. The bitter IPA cutting the high fat is a fine principle though.

Westmalle Dubbel paired venison and wild boar salami. Malty and complex, the beer held up superbly against the rich venison. Keep eating, keep drinking and layers of flavour keep coming through.

Duchesse de Bourgogne paired with rosemary bresaola. The beer, a Flanders red ale aged in oak casks, is one of my all time favourites but pairing it with charcuterie was always going to be difficult. Both beer and meat were superb. As a pairing, average.

Schlenkerla Märzen and hot smoked bacon. Do I need to say more? Rauchbiers are often described as having the smell and taste of bacon, and the Schlenkerla is the one against which they are all judged. Hot smoking of bacon is a clever twist on something we all love. Lovely.

What a great evening! I’ll say it again both the beers and charcuterie were superb. No geekery, no pretentiousness. Only disappointment was that the charcuterie was not for sale and not easily available to the public. I really hope that this is the first of many such evenings. Sign me up now.

London Brewers’ Market at Old Spitalfields Market

London Brewers MarketIt’s a hybrid of a beer festival and market, and jolly good too. Old Spitalfields Market is one a of a zillion cool venues around London now and the Brewers’ Market is held in conjunction with the Independent Label Market. Music and beer, you won’t find DS of Chelmsford here.

You get all sorts here from the ‘have you got anything similar to Stella Artois?’ types (correct answer, ‘no, it’s all much better than that’) through ink sleeved Hackney hipsters to professional beer geeks (no, not me). It was also an event for my Meet-up chums of the Craft Beer Collective.

There was a nice selection of beer from some of London’s finest but the best thing about this event is the stalls are manned by the brewers so you can have a pleasant chat with them over a beer – and then buy more to take home. What’s not to like? (Ed: Overused phrase?).

Favourite beers? You won’t normally see much about lager on these pages so let’s startunfiltered_vienna_lager off with Signature Brew’s Unfiltered Vienna Lager. Vienna lagers have more malt character and this one is also unfiltered. Most intriguingly there is a hint of smoke, which I always loveWe are talking flavour. This is still a beautiful refreshing drink but not bland, fizzy and tasteless. Signature Brew’s schtick is beer/music collaborations (I don’t understand them, but hey ho, if the beer is good…) and so you will see something remarkably similar under the Doctor’s Orders label too.

crate-logo-largeBest beer on show (imho, natch) was Crate Brewery’s collaboration with the Norwegians called Imperial Stout vs Nøgne Ø. 8.3% of thick, heavy treacle, roasty, toasty dreaminess as my companion put it. “Apart from pizza the best thing Crate have been involved with” was another comment.

Also on show and selling well were the Beavertown cans, Hop Stuff’s new Arsenal Pale Ale, new By The Horns offerings such as Bastard Brag and Sour to the People and Windsor & Eton’s Republika lager. There, two mentions of lager in one piece.

Jaded with ordinary beer festivals? Want to drink and take home too? This is the place for you. Check when the next will be.

Venue:                         8/10
Beer selection:             7.5/10
Beer quality:                 8/10
Atmosphere:                 7.5/10
A good night out:          8/10
Total score:                   39/50, 78%

Meet the brewer – Beavertown at The Gun

Coolest Brit brewer?

Coolest Brit brewer?

And so to The Gun in Docklands for a ‘meet the brewer’ and talk about beer in cans. Lovely old pub on the river with the O2 Arena directly across the river and Canary Wharf rising behind us. Lovely summer’s evening. Great beer in a great cans. Logan Plant of Beavertown. What was not to like? Continue reading