NOTTINGHAM PRESS LAUNCH
the scourge of organisations like The Portman Group and CAMRA,
have come a long way in just five years – from their first
commercial brews to continuing notoriety about the beer strengths
and their promotional gimmicks (beer served from a dead animal?)
and now an expanding chain of bars – of which this is the
latest. The more blatantly provocative moves and self-publicising
might seem a bit much if the beer wasn’t up to scratch –
but Brewdog are producing some of the best beers that you’ll
ever taste, and the fact that they refuse to bow to outdated rules
about what makes an ale ‘real’ or what sort of advertising
makes drinking seem suitably unenjoyable is just the icing on
the cake. We need people to stir things up!
And so Brewdog open their latest bar in Nottingham, and Strange
Things is there to check it out. The official opening
was on February 25th, thought it had unofficially opened a few
days earlier.. and tonight – the 28th – is the press
launch. Who knew there were so many press people in Nottingham,
former restaurant, the new Brewdog bar has a nicely minimalist
feel – brickwork walls, rows of tables and stools making
it feel unlike most of the other bars around town. And then there
is the beer – a mix of Brewdog’s own stuff and assorted
imported guest ales. This is a not really a bar for the Saturday
night partier – one of our party on a sneak preview visit
on the opening night was upset not to be able to get a vodka and
coke, the idea of actually expanding her horizons and trying something
new apparently beyond her. Add to this the fact that beer is not
cheap here and you have a place for people who drink beer for
the taste, not the intoxicating effect. Indeed, while lots of
Brewdog’s beers are breathtakingly strong, they are served
in suitably restrained measures, many available only as half,
two-third or one-third measures.
Your Strange Things team arrive just after 6pm
on the press launch night, and settle down with a glass of 77
Lager. This is not your typical Brewdog drink – for
a start, it’s a lager, not an ale. It’s also probably
the least distinctive of their beers – not unpleasant, but
not really outstanding either. As a lager, it’s very good;
but that’s not really saying much, given the competition.
We move on to the beer brewed especially for the launch week –
Hops Kill Robin Hood. This is much more like it –
flavoursome and impressive, exactly the sort of thing that you
rarely find in either pissy lager or ‘real ale’.
However, our enjoyment of this beer is put on hold by the commencement
of the tasting session, as the Brewdog guys take us through a
selection of the beers, entertainingly filling in the background
to the brand and the beers while enthusiastically pointing out
the joys of the various drinks. And what an impressive selection
We open up with Punk IPA, a 5.6% beer that is the only
Brewdog beer I’ve been previously familiar with prior to
this bar opening. I wasn’t overly impressed with it when
I had it in another pub, but here it’s a revelation, showing
just how a good beer can be ruined by bad handling in dodgy venues.
Tonight, the Punk IPA is fresh, citrusy and delicious.
5AM Saint is the beer I was sampling on the opening night,
and is a tasty red ale – not as distinctive or impressive
as Punk, but certainly very flavoursome. The fact that
it is the ale I’ll probably drink the least of here shouldn’t
be taken as a dismissal.
up is the still-under-development Prototype 17.6. This
isn’t widely available yet (though is on tap at the Nottingham
bar as I write), but hopefully it will be, as it’s stunning.
Brewed with raspberries, it has the flavour of a fruit beer without
the excessive sweetness that mars some of them, and is utterly,
utterly gorgeous. Whatever this finally ends up as, it looks set
to become a firm favourite, given the general reaction tonight.
The 9.2% Hardcore IPA is also pretty stunning. As is
the case with most higher-percentage beers, it’s deceptively
sweet and quaffable, with a solid bite that demands you drink
it slowly, savouring the taste. It’s another hugely impressive
beer that seems hard to top. But coming up next is something very
Paradox normally comes at 10%, but this particular batch
had been aged for longer and was a whopping 15%! A whisky cask-aged
imperial stout, this is an imposing, black beer served in a sensibly
sized portion (in a whisky glass). A couple of years ago, I have
a virtually undrinkable 12% whisky/beer collision at the London
Beer Festival, and so approached this with caution. But no such
horrors awaited – instead, there was an enticing aroma that
hit you before you’d taken a sip, followed by a wonderful,
enticing flavour once you did. Paradox is spectacular
stuff, and sensible point at which to conclude the drinks tasting
– it’s hard to see what could follow this, apart from
the meat and cheese platters that are handed out. An ideal accompaniment
for beer, these platters could be just the thing for a leisurely
afternoon of food and drink.
A couple more beers follow for your intrepid Strange Things
team before we decide to stop while we are ahead of the game /
still able to walk in a straight line, and head for home. But
Brewdog is certain to become a regular place for us to visit in
the future. With a good atmosphere, good beer and conveniently
located next door to the Broadway cinema, it’s going to
be a hard act to follow for other bars. A game-changing venue
in a city where there are lots of pubs but very few decent ones,
this could just be the answer to the beer-drinker’s prayers.
Those of you in cities without a Brewdog bar yet – start
lobbying for one now!