BREWDOG – BRISTOL

BrewDog
Baldwin Steet
Bristol
BS1 1QW

NINTH VISIT: THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 2014

Not one. Not two. But three visits in one day.

The initial plan had been to go shopping and then, and only then, go drinking. Sadly, that plan didn’t come to fruition. As is often the case when I hit Bristol my first port of call was Baldwin Street. I wanted a Hoppy Christmas but there was no Hoppy Christmas at the inn. Actually, the choice was a little limited as they were starting to get ready for the Siren tap takeover that was happening that evening. I ordered a Zeitgeist and took a seat. The place was sparsely populated. Only myself, one member of staff and a couple who had just popped outside to share a fag. There was a faint rotting cabbage odour that made it easy to leave after just the one beer. I’d planned to go to Fopp and then Rise but instead of going the more direct route straight down Baldwin Street I decided to walk along Welsh Back then cut up King Street. Uh-oh.

While walking from Colston Yard I’d hoped to stumble upon the newly opened Belgian beer bar, the Strawberry Thief. I knew it was somewhere between the Yard and BD but it wasn’t on the route I took. It was roughly 4pm but my concept of time was getting a little hazy. The place was still relatively quite but the staff were gearing up for the evening’s shenanigans. I asked manager Lucy where the Strawberry Thief. Ah, it’s on that street. This visit I decided to try the Konnichiwa Kitsune. It was a pretty tasty little number. The staff were whipping a batch of mulled Dogma. I quite fancied giving it a go but it was quite ready. Then I heard it was going to be four quid for a third pint, which seemed a little pricey. Perhaps the cost of electricity has gone up again. I left on a quest for the Strawberry Thief.

It had gone six so the Siren beers would be on so I headed back to where it had all began six or so hours earlier. The place had filled up nicely but I couldn’t see any of the Siren crew. I looked at their beer list. There was nothing super-exciting on it. It was all core range or stuff I’d encountered before on many occasions. I asked for a Broken Dreams. I knocked it back in a couple of gulps then left and undertook the long stagger to the train station.

BDB Tim Burton

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EIGHTH VISIT: THURSDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2014

I was in Bristol to see The Wedding Present play Watusi, which is very possibly my favourite album of all-time. Naturally, I made sure I had enough time for a few pre-gig beverages. As it was Stout Day I ordered a Cocoa Psycho but, as is the BD Bars way, it was served way too cold so I ordered a Lobos from Mikkeller and Fort Point to give the stout a little bit of warming up time. Lobos is billed and an experimental IPA, or so the dude behind the bar told me. It was okay. Kind of like a slightly sour barley wine. The Cocoa Psycho was still a little on the cold side so I popped back to the bar and bought a half of the Wild Beer & Fyne Ales Cool As A Cucumber, which, via the magic of the hopinator, has been jazzed up with lime peel and mosaic hops. It cost £3 (after EFP discount) for a half pint. When I sat back down it dawned on me that it is only £4.90 a pint (without discount). That’s a crazy bit of mathematics! The stout still wasn’t at optimum drinking temperature but it was getting towards stage time so I scooped it down and departed.

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SEVENTH VISIT:THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2014

Two visits that were split by a Wayne Hussey solo gig at the Bierkeller.

The night before Dieu du Ciel were in town and had staged a meet the brewer and tap takeover at BrewDog. As a rule I don’t work Thursdays so I’d initially planned to attend but circumstances dictated otherwise and I work a full five days in a row. (Oh the indignity!) But it wasn’t too disastrous as I knew I was going to be in Bristol the very next day for an acoustic goth gig and I’d have a little bit of time to mop up the DDC dregs. I asked a couple of folk I know what two beers they’d recommend if I only had time for two. Other people also chipped in with suggestions and the overall winners were Moralité and Aphrodisiaque. My favourite bartender was behind the bar working his last shift before jetting of to Colorado for an epic beer tour and to attend the GABF. (Scumbag!)

There were still a wide range of DDC beers to choose from but I decided to go with the two that had been recommended. Moralité is a 6.9% IPA that’s brewed in collaboration with The Alchemist (of Heady Topper fame). It’s a damn fine IPA. Not the finest I’ve ever had but I’d more than happily drink many many more just to be certain. The Aphrodisiaque was another great tasting beer but I felt it could’ve done with another 4 or 5% being chucked onto the ABV.

Time to go see Hussey…



… who was far better than I was expecting him to be.

The beer in the Bierkeller was poor so I’d quelled my thirst with a couple of cans of cider so now I was wanting something super tasty to bring the evening to a suitable close (and I wanted the Great White North Badge on Untappd). I decided to go for a Rosee d’Hibiscus and, to win me my badge, a Peche Mortel. The Rosee d’Hibiscus tasted like strawberries and cream sucky sweets – an interesting diversion but not one you’d want to consume all day long. The Peche Mortel was a very pleasant stout but one I felt needed and extra 2 or 3% chucked onto the ABV.

There we go. Two visits. Four beers. All four very tasty (although the stouts needed a bit more boom!) The winner was the first win I tried – Moralite. Maybe one day I’ll get to try a Heady Topper.

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SIXTH VISIT: SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2014

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition that when I’m on my solo pub crawls around Bristol I pay two visits to BrewDog – one of the way in and one on the way out – and today was no exception.

After having two excellent Wiper & True beers up the Goods Yard I decided I may as well have another of the beers. Triptych, and I might be making this up, is a brewed blend of three W&T beers. Anyway, it makes no difference what it actually is because what it actually is is ace. I first tried Wiper & True at the Bristol Beer Week fundraiser last year and really enjoyed the beers of theirs that I tried. A year on and they continue to impress me more with every beer.

I sat down to enjoy my beer and noticed that Andy was in the pub. Such a realisation prompted me send the following Tweet: ‘I’m in @BrewDogBristol and @BrewDogBarAndy isn’t here – I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.’ Within a few moments he replied that he was on his way. He’s a damn good lad is Andy. I wanted to be heading up the hill to check out what the Colston Yard was up to now it was under new management – management that promised to return the Yard to it’s former beer glory. But. There’s always a but when you try to leave a BrewDog pub. But I decided to ask Jenny a question that I’d been meaning to ask online for a few weeks: Is This.Is.Lager just a rebrand of Fake Lager or is it an entirely new product? It’s a new product. I ordered a pint. It was decent. It’s not likely to make me away from the like of Jackhammer or Dead Pony too often but should it ever make an appearance in cans it would be the perfect beer to stock up the fridge with when the sunny times return. Andy hadn’t arrived by the time my pint was finished. I’d no doubt catch on my back through in an hour or two…

… after a visit to the Colston Yard and, an initially unplanned detour, to Small Bar I arrived back at BrewDog. Andy was on duty, as was manager Lucy. I started my second visit with an ABCED from Wiper & True. I don’t know why it’s called ABCED but I believe I was told. Next up was a hit of Hardcore. For a while Punk was the BrewDog beer that was the poorest shadow of its former self but at the moment I think that it’s Hardcore that holds that dubious distinction. I felt I was just getting in the way of couples and groups so I left but not before I’d once again written DEAD on the bar using beer mats. Oh I’m so fucking hilarious. NOT.

BD Pirates

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FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 28 AUGUST 2014

When walking from the Grain Barge to The Exchange you pretty much have to walk right past BrewDog so it would’ve been rude not to pop in for two or three. And, besides, I had to meet the main man of Bristol Beer Week to buy a (a specially made fatboy sized) t-shirt off of him.

As I looked at the beer boards I knew there was a beer that I especially wanted to try but I couldn’t remember what it was. Then I remembered. And it wasn’t on the board. Evidently, Stone’s Wee Erky had been finished earlier that day. No big deal – there were still plenty of tasty delights up for grabs. I decided to start with an old favourite: I Hardcore You. As usual, Molly asked if I’d like a sample. She’s the only Bristol BrewDogger who still asks if I’d like a sample. I can only assume that she looks upon me as the old man I am and thinks that I’ve inadvertently stumbled unawares into her bar and she’s being nice being by trying to save me some cash and a crazy and unpalatable taste sensation. As usual, I declined the sample. We decided to go outside where it was less crowded and cooler. The I Hardcore You seemed to be in fine form so it was glugged down super quick. Acid Mothers Temple weren’t due to be on stage until after nine and we had no desire to see the support band (having seen them before and not en joyed them) so it seemed like a good idea to hang around in BD for a little longer. I decided that drink number two would be a pint of Gyp Wit from relative newcomers to the world of beer, Gypsy Inc. I’d heard folk say that Gypsy Inc. is some sort of collaboration between BrewDog and Mikkeller and that all their beers are rubbish. Well, Mikkeller are definitely involved and as BrewDog are selling the beers I guess that means they are also involved so the first point is true. The Gyp Wit was pretty decent. Not remarkable. But certainly not rubbish. So I guess that means the second point is 100% inaccurate.

While scoring my Gyp Wit I had a wee chat with my favourite Bristol BrewDogger, Andy. He wasn’t working. It was good to see him on the other side of the bar. Back outside Manager Lucy was chatting to my girlfriend. I’d later learn that my girlfriend had informed Lucy that her soft drink range (or BrewDog’s to be exact) is rubbish. She does have a point. ‘Craft’ beer is great but ‘craft’ soft drinks seems like an unnecessary indulgence. I left the two of them talking and nipped back inside for a Cocoa Psycho. Since the move to the new brewery some of BrewDog’s heavily hopped beers have taken a bit a quality tumble but the same can’t be said for their stouts. BD have always brewed great tasting stouts but they’ve been reaching new heights over the last year or so. I’d love to see a return of Lumberjack but in it’s absence I’ll more than happily drink Cocoa Pyscho.

AMT stage time was fast approaching. It was time to go.

The next time I’m in BrewDog Bristol will be during the forthcoming Bristol Beer Week…

BBW 2014

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FOURTH VISIT: FRIDAY 18 JULY 2014

Two visits for the price of one!

Andy was on duty. He’s from Scotland. Every BrewDog bar should have at least one Scot on the payroll. I like Andy. He’s one of the best staff members I’ve encountered in a BD bar (or any drinking establishment). I’m certain he’d be a great BD bar manager. We chatted about beer and general nonsense then he dropped the bombshell that he is going to Denver for the GABF. I love Denver. I no longer like Andy.

Andy suggested I try a hit of Founders Rübæus. It was good so I thought I may as well go for a whole glassful. It’s very probably the best raspberry beer I’ve ever tasted… admittedly the competition isn’t overly stiff.

I decided to have another drink before heading to the ticket shop to buy tickets for the forthcoming gigs by Acid Mothers Temple and The Phantom Band. But what should I have, what should I have… of course, I should have been enjoying Enjoy By but a customs hold up had destroyed that little dream. The night before I’d decided to bring my growler with me and fill it with something tasty but when it came time to stuff stuff in my manbag I couldn’t be arsed carrying the growler so it got left at home. As I stared at the beer boards wondering what to drink next I saw the reason I’d planned to bring the growler – Mikkeller Green Gold . Damn! I eased the pain by having a one on the premises. Then I said my goodbyes and headed off.

On the way back out of town I popped in for a swift hit of BD’s Jamsmine IPA and a can of Ten FIDY to go.

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THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 30 MAY 2014

I was in town for a gig: Melt-Banana and decided that after last week’s annoying visit to BD I should give the place a chance to redeem itself. The place was busy but seemed devoid of the idiots that had taken over the place the previous Friday. Barman Andy wished me a happy birthday – obviously he’d been paying attention to Twitter.

I ordered a Mikkeller Schwarzbier. It was acceptable enough but not a patch on the Schwarzbiers that German breweries create. Next up was a Paradox Heaven Hill. In my opinion big hefty stouts are what BrewDog excel at and this one was no exception. It a dark and complex but prefectly formed brew. Lovely stuff.

It was tempted to have another beer but decided to drift back over the river and have a pre-gig beverage at the Seven Stars.

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SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 23 MAY 2014

When did the assholes takeover BrewDog Bristol?

Not a pleasant visit. As soon as I walked in I could tell the place was populated by drunken dicks. There was a group of lads near the entrance who were taking great delight in making it as difficult as possible for anyone to get past. When I said excuse me they just stood a glared at me with a drunk arrogant fuck look on their faces. I didn’t ask a second time and shoved my way through the middle of them. I expected some comment or abuse but to their credit they said nothing. I made it to the bar and ordered a Titan and an AB:16. They place was rammed and I didn’t fancy my air being polluted by the ignorant space hoggers so I made my way back outside. The same scenario that greeted my arrival heralded my departure.

My girlfriend had headed straight to the toilet and on her return she didn’t see me at the bar so assumed that I had gone to the gents and subsequently waited at my usual bar spot for my return. I willed her to turn round and look out of the window so I could attract her attention and get her to head outside. I tried phoning her but the music was being pumped out at a volume that made it impossible for folk to hear their phones. I didn’t fancy have a third round with the assholes as I felt it might finally lead to fisticuffs and me lying broken on the floor. I could see Andy passing my girlfriend a cloth but couldn’t quite make out what happened. I finally caught my girlfriend’s attention and she joined me outside. I asked why she was handed a cloth. A manky bastard had puked all over the bar and the floor and my girlfriend had received a bit of collateral damage. Not the kind of thing you expect to happen at a BrewDog bar. The offender was ejected quickly and leaned against a lamppost while his friend tried to convince the bouncers that they had no legal right to refuse anybody a drink. Eventually the two drunk buddies staggered off down Welsh Back holding on to each.

But what about my drinks? The Titan was okay but a little past it best. The AB:16 had the aroma of a wet dog and tasted only marginally better.

Not the greatest ever trip to a BrewDog Bar.

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FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 18 JANUARY 2014

The winner of my Drinking Establishment of 2013 award. BrewDog Bristol has everything you need from a quality boozer: great beer, great staff and, regardless of the time you visit, a great atmosphere. I always feel a little special whenever I walk through the door of BDB. Of course, I am a little bit special.

After several pre-gig beers in the Three Tuns, TFRNV, Beer Emporium and Small Bar we hit the Academy for a Half Man Half Half Biscuit gig. BrewDog would have to wait. The gig was excellent. So excellent that between the gig venue and BrewDog I managed to fall over and walk out in front of an ambulance and consequently fall over again. Oops.

The bar was buzzing but thankfully not too rammed as my back was hurting like hell and I needed some space. I ordered a Gigantic IPA, which I think was almost as tasty as my back was sore. I chatted to a few folk that I know and probably pissed off a few folk that I don’t know. The Gigantic was gone so I ordered a Plank Dunkler Weizenbock. I was happily supping away at my Plank and then my friend reprimanded me for drinking half of his AB:14. Oops. I finished the Plank. It was time to go home.

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REGAL – GLOUCESTER

Regal
St Aldate Street
Gloucester
GL1 1RP

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 2014

We were in Gloucester for a bit of cinema tourism. The Equalizer had departed Swindon cinemas before we managed to get it together so we decided to pop up to Gloucester to see it there (and have a general mooch about town). The film was great, especially the scene in the DIY store which was like an episode of the A-Team but with actual fatalities. But with movie out of the way our thoughts turned to food. As is often the case when I’m in Gloucester I was tempted to give Chimichangas a go but as is always the case when I’m tempted to give Chimichangas a go I discover that the place deserted and I immediately change my mind. We wandered through the docks…

INDY MAN BEER CON – MANCHESTER

Indy Man Beer Con
Victoria Baths
Hathersage Road
Manchester
M13 0FE

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER 2014

How can you fail to love the Indy Man Beer Con? You get to drink great beer while staggering around a disused Victorian Public Baths!

I woke up drunk from the night before. It had been a good night that had started with drinking Stillwater in the King’s Arms and had ended with a mosh at a Future of the Left gig in the Garage… and in between those two events we managed to knock back some cans of Bengali Tiger and some pints of Devil’s Backbone IPA in a Spoons. The morning started just before seven with a bottle of IPA Citra Galactique (by Brasseurs du Grand Paris) in the house the on the train we had a bottle of Moet & Chandon followed by a can of Smog Rocket and a bottle of La Noire (by Correizenne). By the time I arrived in Manchester at 11am I was already pretty trashed. We wandered in the general direction of the Victorian Baths but eventually got bored and flagged down a taxi.

Once inside the festival my opening salvo was an Original (Cider) from Thistly Cross. After that it was beer overdrive! At some point I got so drunk that I actually stopped logging beers on Untappd. Before that I spent a fair bit of time hanging out in the Turkish Baths and on a rocking chair that was somewhere near the Magic Rock bar. Along the way I met up with old friends but probably didn’t make any new ones. I had a lovely time.

For the sake of historical accuracy, here are the beers I had (before my ability to tap an iProduct screen escaped me):

So’Hop – Moor
Gamma Ray – Beavertown
Earl Phantom – Beavertown
Cap Dog – BrewDog
Pognophobia – Magic Rock
Sour Bikini – Evil Twin
Imperial Doughnut Break – Evil Twin
Fuck Art This Is Advertising – To Øl
One Hells Of A Beaver – Camden Town and Beavertown
Black Betty – Beavertown

Yeah, IndyManBeerCon 2014 was great… I will be returning in 2015.

IndyManBeerCoon

SIR DANIEL ARMS – SWINDON

Sir Daniel Arms
Fleet Street
Swindon
SN1 1RQ

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

I’d caught an earlier bus than planned so I had a few minutes to kill and I either had to do that killing at the train station or in a Spoons with a beer. I chose to kill it with a Bengali Tiger. The barman, who I think was the manager, asked if I wanted a glass. I replied that I did. He replied that he thought I would say that, which made me wonder why he’d bothered asking. I had no desire to engage him in conversation so I merely smiled in response. I took my beer in a glass to a vacant table. I took a hearty swig then gave the pub a quick sweep to see how many other folk were having a pre-10am alcoholic beverage. A load of men dressed in hi-viz jackets and steel-toecap boots were just finishing off their breakfasts. Most of them also had a pint glass containing beer. A couple of pints with breakfast then a couple more with lunch – it’s no wonder that the majority of construction projects in Swindon never get completed on schedule. I glugged down the last of the Bengali then sauntered off to catch the train to London.

* * *

SIXTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 2014

Downstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by dodgy looking reprobates. I ordered a pint of Devils Backbone IPA and a can of Bengali Tiger and took them up to the next level. Upstairs was busy. There was barely an unoccupied table and the tables that were occupied were occupied by OAPs.

I sat down on a couch and swigged my Bengali Tiger while I waited for the DBIPA to gain just a little bit of warmth. I hadn’t planned to visit Sir Dans today. The only pub I was going to visit was the Savoy but when I encountered a bad tasting pint of DBIPA there I decided I needed to visit Sir Dans and see what their DBIPA was tasting like. There are four Spoons in Swindon. The DBIPA tastes pretty damn fine in the Dockle, it tastes okay in the Groves and, as just mentioned, it tastes bad in the Savoy. And now I was sitting in Sir Dans with a pint of DBIPA. It tasted good. Not as good as it tastes in the Dockle but way better than the pint I’d recently had up the road in the Dockle. How can the same keg beer taste so different in four branches of the same pub chain in the same town? Odd.

Sir Dans DBIPA

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FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2014

Aye, I was very drunk but I really should have known better than go in this place at such an advanced time on a Saturday. I was surprised the door staff let us in especially after I asked ‘Can we come in, please?’ I didn’t bother looking at the beer pumps, I just ordered a can of Bengali Tiger. The place wasn’t very busy for a Saturday night. Men outnumbered woman by about 6 to 1. The atmosphere wasn’t nasty or violent but it certainly didn’t feel like a nice place to be. I was almost drunk enough to be tempted to start dancing but I felt that wouldn’t be fully appreciated by the folk already on the small dancefloor. I looked at the sleazy guys sleazing at the women half their age and I was struck by the sad realisation that a lot of the people present were probably thinking that I was a sleazy guy sleazing at woman half my age. Time to go.

* * *

FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 3 APRIL 2014

The continuing quest for Yeastie Boys…

For this visit to Sir Dans I did something that I don’t normally do. I went upstairs. There’s a whole new world up there. Different beers on the bar. And slightly more respectable looking customers. Apart from the people out on the balcony. They are well dodge. Don’t go out there unless you are looking for a fight that ends in death.

There was no Yeastie Boys on so I opted for a Nøgne Ø Brøwn Ale. I’m not usually a big fan of brown ales but I am fan of this beer. It must be the best thing to come out of Wainfleet. I fancied another but my presence was required at home. But only because I was buying chinese takeaway for tea.

* * *

THIRD VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014

I departed London on the 1536 to Cheltenham. Smooth running meant I touched down in Swindon the correct side of quarter to five. I couldn’t be arsed with the hour long walk home so I decided to get the bus. Fortunately, the route from train station to bus stop goes right past Sir Dan’s… well, it does if you want it to. I rocked up to bar and ordered two cans of Bengali Tiger. I didn’t even bother scanning the taps. The bartender made a well-mannered complaint about having just finished facing them up. I asked if they were selling well and she said ‘yeah’ and smiled and nodded. One can was part-poured into a ‘craft beer glass’ and a second glass was then picked up. I quickly interjected and said I only required one glass. Thankfully the second can was presented to me unopened. Nice. One for the pub and one for the garden when I got home. The place wasn’t busy but all the comfy couches were taken. I selected the seat that allowed me the best opportunity of slipping the unopened can into my bag without being seen by anyone. I doubt anybody would actually bother about me sneaking out a can but I’ve been informed by a staff member of a different Swindon Spoons that all purchases must be consumed on the premises – strictly no takeaway. I’m a nice and thoughtful chap so I wanted to do my best to ensure nobody was embarrassed by my actions.

The actions of two women at the table nearest to mine forced me to drink up quicker than I had initially planned. One of them went to the bar. Then she shouted that she’d ordered the drinks but needed to go pee so her friend would have to go stand at the bar and await their booze. The friend duly obliged. They were both pretty plastered. That’s fine. I have on occasion been plastered in a Spoons. But never when I have been responsible for a young child. I was also pissed off that they didn’t want their drinks to be left unattended but they were happy to leave a child unattended. The child was asleep in a buggy. It was too big to be in a buggy but too young to be left alone. And from the bar it would’ve been impossible to see the child. I waited until the women were reunited with the sleeping child then left. I should have said something. But, ultimately, what would it have achieved? A mouthful of abuse for me and the child would still be left alone the next time the women needed a drink at the same time as one of them needed a pee. Sad.

* * *

SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 9 MARCH 2014

Today I became a statistic. Today I scooped Sixpoint in Spoons.

Since Wednesday Twitter has been buzzing with tweets about beer geeks drinking cans of Sixpoint. Most of those beer geeks don’t normally dirty themselves by stepping over the door of a Spoons (or so they so) but for a can of craft USA beer they’ll happily comprise their standards and integrity (and, if they are a fan of Beyoncé, their xtianity). In a bid to justify just how evil Spoons is there has been countless horror tales of the sinister characters that folk have encountered while procuring their can based beverage. Whenever I read those tales I can’t help thinking that those sinister characters are exactly the same folk who have always frequented ‘local pubs’, which perfectly reinforces my belief that Spoons is the new ‘local’. As a famous poet once told me: ‘If you’ve been to the pub and at least one cunt hasn’t threatened to stab you then you haven’t been to a pub.’

As I awaited my turn to purchase a slice of history a guy standing beside me was informed that he wouldn’t be served unless he put on a top. Despite the fact that he had a t-shirt tucked into one of the belt loops of his jeans he politely said ‘Okay, fair enough’ and left. Before he received his ultimatum I thought he was a bit of dick but after he departed I couldn’t help having a strange and grudging admiration for him. He was still a dick but he was a dick who wasn’t prepared to compromise his integrity (perceived or otherwise).

I ordered a can of The Crisp (No one gets to see La Crisp! … Nigel…) and a can of Sweet Action. It would appear that the two for a fiver deal doesn’t truly exist in Swindon as both cans rang through the till at £2.50 each. Same result different formula. I was given two glasses and two unopened cans. Nice. I retired to a comfy couch to record my findings.

The Crisp is a lager/pilsner that clocks in at 5.4%. Due to my former life where I consumed a lot of Stella and Staropramen and Lowenbrau, being Scottish, Tennent’s and McEwan’s lager I still have a soft spot for lagers. Sadly, this wasn’t for me. It was certainly an improvement on the predominant UK brands but it still had next to nothing on the nose and next to nothing on the palate except a slightly oily finish. No. I won’t be drinking it again.

Sweet Action checks in at 5.2% and is described as a cream ale. It smells lovely: like a Thursday afternoon session in the Mikkeller Bar. The flavour is a decent blend of malt and hops but they both get on too well together and I couldn’t help feeling that I would’ve liked one of them to take control and push the beer onto the next level. It’s good but it feels a little too safe and friendly. I’ll possibly have it again but only as an occasional oddity.

Bengali Tiger is the big boy of the threesome and boasts a reasonably impressive 6.4% ABV. After I’d received The Crisp and Sweet Action unopened I decided to buy two cans of BT. The plan was to scoop one in the pub and have one in the sunshine of my garden. Unfortunately, as my eyes were turned towards the rugger both cans were part poured into rather stylish tulip glasses. Bummer. Bengali Tiger is the best of the three but even before we’d tried any of them we all knew that would be the case. It packs a decent juicy hop hit but nothing that several British brewers aren’t already doing and to a better standard. Will I have it again? Yeah, probably. But only if there’s nothing on draught that I fancy. And even then I’ll be more likely to opt for a bottle of Goose Island IPA.

I was only planning on having one of each of the cans but when I noticed that the Sixpoint/Adnams collab was on I thought it would be a gross injustice if I went home before having at least a pint of it. Ah, it was alright. It’s not going to inspire you to write a long and detailed letter to you granny proclaiming its merits but it’s certainly not the kind of beer that makes you feel that western civilisation is an steep and terminal decline. Decent enough.

And then it was time to go home to drink Courage Imperial Russian Stout and listen to cover versions of David Bowie songs. No. Really. It was.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

FIRST VISIT: THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2014

The Sir Daniel Arms is the only of Swindon’s four Wetherspoons that at the weekend turns into a discotheque. So, unless you like that kind of thing, it’s best avoided at those times. Arguably, Swindon town centre is best avoided at those times. I always find Sir Daniel Arms way too dark, which, admittedly, is occasionally a good thing. And more often than not I’ll see someone lurking in a corner who makes me think of the strip club scene in Beverly Hills Cop. No! I don’t mean the woman who Billy Rosewood kindly gives some money to. And there’s often a load of mothers who think it is acceptable to leave their empty prams and buggies in the middle of the main walkways. It’s a strange place. Even for a Spoons. But sometimes the quest for a certain beer means you have to venture into places you usually avoid. This time I was on a quest for the semi-mythical Stone/Adnams Double IPA. I’d already been into the other two town centre Spoons but had failed to find the DIPA (and subsequently left both places without having a drink) so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Sir Dans had the beer I desired. And they also had Saltaire Blonde and the Sixpoint/Adnams Righteous Ale. Not too shabby at all. Naturally, I ordered a DIPA. I’d heard the stories of it only being sold it halves so I decided to save everyone’s embarrassment and just ordered a half. Subsequently, the barman asked ‘Just a half?’, which suggested he would’ve happily sold me a pint of it but I sensed a trap and decided to stick with my initial sizing. It’s a good beer. I’m not sure I’d be happy paying the standard Stone in the UK price of 4-5 quid a half but at less than £2 for a half I thought it was a reasonable bargain. It has a nice fruity and juicy hop hit but it does finish with a rather annoying lingering sticky dryness. I think a half a time is more than enough and then it’s best to get a pint of something else to perk your palette back up. Half dispatched I returned to the bar and ordered a pint of the Saltaire Blonde. I like Saltaire beers but, although they are starting to make inroads, I don’t find them in my little corner of the world very often. Thankfully, it was another Saltaire success. I was tempted to grab a pint of the Righteous but I’m not especially fond of red ales so I headed to Glue Pot on a quest for Entire Stout.

BREWDOG (SHOREDITCH) – LONDON

BrewDog Shoreditch
51-55 Bethnal Green Road
London
E1 6LA

EIGTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

I was meeting a mate for lunch but I’d arrived in Shoreditch slightly too early. Two choices: go straight to the Well & Bucket (our lunch destination) or nip into a BrewDog for a swift two thirds of something. I’m always eager to grasp at every opportunity to flash my Equity For Punks card so BrewDog it was. After an initial read through of the beer board I had a shortlist of three: the Russian Doll Pale, IPA or DIPA. I decided to go middle of the road and ordered am IPA. It was good – decent mouthful of chewy hops with a nice oily bitterness but it’s not quite the taste sensation that Jackhammer currently is.

A customer approached the bar and ordered some drinks. The barman gave him a price. The customer asked if the shareholder’s discount had been applied. The barman apologised and said ‘you’ve been coming here for months so I really should remember that you’re a shareholder.’ The customer replied ‘you served me ten minutes so, yeah, you really should have remembered.’ The barman gave a nervous laugh. The customer remained stoic. I was tempted to see if the barman remembered I’m a shareholder but decided that it would piss me off too much if he didn’t.

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SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

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FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

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SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2012

So here I was back in BrewDog Shoreditch on a Wednesday but it wasn’t quite the afternoon as I had planned and hoped for. The place was reasonably quiet. Most of the tables were occupied but a few were still devoid of people. I went straight for a pint of Punk. My friend paid for the drinks. The server remembered him from previous visits and remembered that he was a shareholder, which is a nice touch. I can’t think of any beer – in the craft beer world – that is debated and discussed and dissed and dissected as much as Punk. Sometimes it is great. Sometimes it is rubbish Thankfully, this was a quality pint of Punk. When the Punk’s were dead I returned to the bar. The place was getting busier. There were two folk working behind the bar and they were both serving. A third member of staff appeared with glasses in his hands. He put the glasses down but instead of asking what I would like he started chatting to a woman at the end of the bar. It was apparent from their body language that they were a couple. After a minute or so he asked what I would like. I was tempted to say ‘someone who serves customers before they chat to their girlfriend’ but I merely asked for two Gonger IPA. I’d never had a beer by Stronzo before. I’m not even sure if I had heard of them before. The Gonger was good in a slightly weird way. Chewy and brown leafy was what I wrote for my Untappd check-in. We were sitting by the door. For some reason whenever anybody came in they left the door open even though it was closed when they got there. It wasn’t exactly freezing but it was still an annoying development. At the table next to us a member of staff was conducting a mini beer school and she kept getting up and closing the door, which saved me having to do it. I returned to the bar for a final beer – Blitz! Raspberry. This time it was a painless transaction. But I shouldn’t have bothered as the beer tasted dangerously close to vinegar.

I’m still not in love with BDShoreditch.

BDShore

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

I’ve visited every BrewDog bar south of Burton-upon-Trent and Shoreditch is the only one I’ve not entirely taken to. It’s the only one where the other customer’s seem to think they are more important than everyone else in the bar. It’s the only one where the staff have seemed more concerned with flirting with their colleagues than providing the excellent service that is prevalent in other BrewDog bars. But, hey, we can all be a bit of dick on occasion and we all like a bit of an ego boost every now and again. Perhaps I’ve just been unfortunate in the past. Perhaps this visit would be different… Oh! Hold on. I would be arriving at the same time that all the trade session attendees would be getting booted out of Craft Beer Rising.

I arrived shortly after five thirty to find the place busy but not uncomfortably rammed. I snaked through the throng and found a spot at the bar. A cheery and attentive member of staff sidled straight over and enquired about my beer based needs. So far so good. I ordered a pint of Punk and a couple of Lumberjacks (order them at 5.30pm and they are just about warm enough to drink when breakfast rolls around). I flashed my EFP Card and didn’t have to remind him to apply the discount when he returned from the till and quoted a price. Even further and still good. I slowly supped my Punk while I awaited the arrival of my cohort. There was no way I was going to fight my way back through the swelling crowd with three drinks and reasonably sized bag without spilling a drop so I held court at the far end of the bar. It was a silent court but I held it well. The bar staff served new arrivals promptly and explained and chatted when that course of action was required. In those rare moments that no beers required pouring and the bar was clean and tidy the staff chatted amongst themselves but no backs were turned to the audience and whenever service was required they stopped mid conversation and happily stepped forward, which was good to see.

My drinking companion for the next few days arrived and relieved me off a couple of glasses then vanished into the melee. The place was getting full towards bursting and I was now swimming against a crowd a drunken craft beer enthusiasts. It always saddens me that people trying to get to the bar don’t realise it makes more sense to let people away from the bar first. Sadly I was saddened by such a scenario in Shoreditch. But I made it to my destination with my beer and my anger intact. The world is generally a better looking place when viewed from a booth table in an busy bar. We sat and chatted for 90 minutes or so. I happily worked my way through a Libertine and an 8 Wired Rewired before, finally, the Lumberjack was at an acceptable drinking temperature… it was worth the wait. Before leaving the premises I politely pushed my way to the gents where I encountered a couple of guys taking photographs of the record sleeve artwork that adorns the walls. Weird but preferable to folk shagging or snorting coke. As I departed I gave the bar a brief examination. People were queuing two or three deep. The staff appeared to be serving with speed and compassion. Nice.

I still wasn’t totally won over by BrewDog Shoreditch but my previous problems with the staff were fully exorcised. And I know I will return. Perhaps I’ll see how they cope with a Wednesday afternoon visit. Maybe then I can declare my love to the world.

STORMBIRD – LONDON

Stormbird
Camberwell Church Street
London
SE5 8TR

THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 17 AUGUST 2014

After a fairly sedate afternoon after a fairly hardcore couple of days we reached our final destination…

I do enjoy my infrequent visits to Stormbird. The keg and bottle selection is great (but I never pay attention to the cask line-up when I’m here) and very competitively priced. The bar crew are great (despite obvious exceptions). And there’s always a nice and relaxed vibe (although there’s often one or two folk who wear their hat indoors).

The place was quiet but it was difficult finding a place to sit as the sun was belting through the windows at an angle that meant one of us either had to wear their shades or a screwed up face – neither of those options are socially acceptable. But the table up in the corner far away from the front windows was free and shaded so we plonked our asses down there. First drink of the visit was an Odell 5 Barrel. We really don’t see enough Odell in the UK. Odell brew delicious beers. I wish Doug and his crew were based in Croydon instead of Colorado. But, hey, we’ll just have to drink Odell whenever we find it and be thankful. Next up we split a bottle if To Ol’s Black Malt’s and Body Salts – it’s a BIPA, Jim, but not as we know it – and very nice it was too. But it’s a To Ol beer so you wouldn’t really expect it to be anything less than very nice. My mate had a brief chat with one of the staff and discovered there was still some Lost Dog in stock. It was a stunning beer in its early days and we hoped that the ageing process had worked further miracles but, alas, time hasn’t been too kind to it. It certainly wasn’t undrinkable but it tasted a little thin and tired. It was an eleven pound fifty that could have been better invested elsewhere.

Some men in suits wandered in. They seemed slightly out-of-place in a pub in a suit on a Sunday afternoon. I wondered if they were gangsters having a refreshment break before getting back to the thirsty job of collecting protection money. They were probably just kitchen salesman having a celebratory beer after a record-breaking Sunday. And then a pigeon flew in and proceeded to do lengths of the pub. It banged into windows then sat dazed and confused until cajoled into a box then transferred from that box into another box then thrown out of the door. Just a standard Sunday afternoon south of the river.

Time was ticking on and I still had to drag my sorry soul 90 miles west. I ordered a couple of Green Flash West Coast IPAs to bring the weekend’s festivities to a close. It certainly wasn’t the best beer of the weekend but it was decent enough in its own little way. One bus, one tube, one train, one walk later I’d be back home after another successful London sojourn.

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SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 15 JUNE 2014

We’d been refused entry to the cinema so decided to undertake a little pub crawl. A bus from the city centre took us all the way to Camberwell. As usual we were greeted by an impressive line-up of beers. I started with a Bootlegger DIPA from London Fields, which seemed a little heavy going for that stage of the evening. For drink number two I went for a pint of Gamma Ray, which is undoubtedly the finest pale ale currently available in the UK. Next up was a Magic Spanner by Magic Rock, which was perfectly acceptable but a tad underwhelming. I closed the visit with a Framboise from Kirstall (keeping it Yorkshire), which was fruity. Four beers: one of them great, two of them okay, one of them not quite to my liking. Time to move on…

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FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

A lot of beer geeks don’t like to venture too far south of the river. Perhaps they’ll visit the Rake or maybe the Draft House by Tower Bridge and, if they are looking to bolster their CBV (Craft Beer Vitae), Beermondsey. Strictly speaking they like to stay were the good beer bars are more frequently encountered and the paths between them are more safely traversed. But if they dare to go where the tubes don’t go they’ll discover the Stormbird of Camberwell, which ranks amongst the best beers bars in the entire city. It’s spacious enough but especially sizeable. And every time I’ve been in there’s been a decent sized crowd in there but it’s never been overcrowded. Décor is age worn wood and muted colours, which is livened up by the logos of various breweries from various countries around the world. Stormbird has a simple and understated style. To me it feels like it belongs on the continent and I can’t help feeling that the punters should be speaking Dutch or Flemish. Whenever I visit Stormbird I long for Amsterdam, which is no bad thing. I’ve never bothered counting how many beer taps the place boasts but I’m guessing it must be somewhere in the region of twenty and the names on those taps are a veritable who’s who of the craft beer world. In the past I’ve enjoyed offerings from Mikkeller, Magic Rock, Ska, Lovibonds, Tiny Rebel and Brodie’s.

We been down Shepherds Bush for a gig – The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s 30th anniversary bash – and had then decamped to BrewDog until kicking out time. As luck would have it a bus runs from the north side of the green which has a final destination of Camberwell. Forty five minutes later we were walking through the door of Stormbird. We were concerned that they wouldn’t serve us so close to locking up time but we were greeted with a warm and pleasant smile. We opted for halves of the Brewfist and To Øl collaboration beer, Space Frontier. It was very tasty but there wasn’t enough of it. I knew we’d only be allowed one more drink so I went for a pint of one of London’s finest brews – Gamma Ray by Beavertown. I gulped it down in big satisfying heroic swigs. It’s a delicious beer and I look forward to the day that when practically every drinking den in London sells it. I would have happily stood in Stormbird drinking Gamma Ray until the sun came up but some guy nearby was trying to score another gin and tonic. He was advised that the bar was now very much closed. Oh well, time to go home.

BREWDOG (SHEP BUSH) – LONDON

BrewDog Shepherds Bush
Goldhawk Road
London
W12 8QQ

EIGHTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

Just a flying visit to try the Elusive and Weird Beard collab Lord Nelson and fill up my growler…

I came round the corner just as the shutter was rolling up. Perfect timing. I ordered a hit of Lord Nelson. It was good. It was very good. But is was a saison. Why the fuck was I expecting it be a stout? There were a hell of a lot of great beers on sale and many of them were seriously tempting me but I had to be over in the east by 1pm so I got my growler filled with Siren Limoncello and left.

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SEVENTH VISIT: THURSDAY 5 JUNE 2014

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SIXTH VISIT: SUNDAY 5 MAY 2014

And so the Oskar Blues Bank Holiday Booze Cruise made its way to the third and final stop…

Obviously, I was a bit drunk by this stage but as I was still good for a few more. I’d only had one Oskar Blues beer at BDCamden and another one in BDShoreditch, which was a bit of a poor show, so I decided that I’d make more of an effort now that I was at the end of the line.

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FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

I’d spent the previous two hours in a very busy Shepherds Bush Empire surrounded by men who were singing out of tune and were doing so with stale cider breath. I needed a quality beverage. Fortunately, BDSB is practically next door and, as per usual, they were selling forty quality beverages. The place wasn’t rammed but it was nicely busy. Most of the folk in there were far younger than me. If BrewDog can hold onto them they’ve got a loyal fan base for the next fifty years. There were still 14 Kernel beers available (although that changed to 13 while we were there) and I decided to go for their IPA brewed using Amarillo, Citra and Summit. In recent months there have been some grumblings in the beer geek undergrowth that Kernel are no longer creating IPAs that are as delicious as the ones they used to wow the world with. I would like to present this beer as evidence that Kernel can still whip up a world class IPA. I was tempted to have another but BrewDog’s Jasmine IPA was on. It’s a limited edition brew that supposedly isn’t going to make it into bottles. It would be a shame to not try it. So it tried it. It was good. Not as good as the Kernel. But still very good. Midnight had arrived so we had to leave.

As I gazed out of the window of a late night Routemaster that was taking me south of the river I realised that Shepherds Bush is now my new favourite BrewDog bar. Sorry Bristol.

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FOURTH VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

Just a brief visit to drop off some quality WWE merchandise. But I couldn’t pop in without downing a quality beverage. Seventeen Kernel beers (out of the 20 from Thursday’s TT) were still available. I decided to go for the Biere de Table Damson. I’m a big fan of Kernel’s Table beer/biere series. And the damson is the best of the few I’ve been lucky enough to try. It’s sort of a cross between a saison and a sour – a baby sour. I fancied another and several of the other 39 beers available but I also fancied seeing if I could get into Rough Trade East for the J Spaceman record store day performance. I headed to the tube station instead of the bar.

BDOban

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THIRD VISIT: THURSDAY 10 APRIL 2014

I was in town for a British Sea Power gig. Consequently, that meant I could attend the Un-Human Cannonball launch at the Islington branch of Craft Beer Co. Subsequently, that meant I could pop into BDSB and sample the Sour Brown from Lovibonds. O fortuitous day!

It was only 2.30pm so the place was recently calm and sedate. I’d only planned on having the one drink but when I spied that BrewDog’s IPA is Dead Kohatu was on I decided that I needed to have two drinks. I’d previously had a Single Hop Kohatu that had been brewed by Wiltshire’s finest – Hop Kettle. I was keen to see how a cask version compared to a kegged version. The taste was blackcurrant bubblegum, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The BD Kohatu is good. But it’s not quite as good as the Hop Kettle version. An away win for Team Cask!

Next up was the beer that had brought me to Shepherds Bush: Lovibonds Sour Brown. I’ve tried countless times to procure some of Lovibonds’ Sour Grapes but so far I’ve failed to hunt it down. So when the opportunity presented itself to score some of their latest sour offering I wasn’t going to let it pass me by. Sour Brown smells great and it tastes great. Not majorly sour but, thankfully, not overly brown. It’s an all-round and well-rounded taste sensation. Well worth the detour.

While consuming my drinks I sat up the back under the world beer map. Nobody else ventured into the area the entire time I was there. It’s a great space. Like a Manhattan loft apartment. I would’ve happily sat there all day (or until someone else crashed my solitude) but there was a limited release IPA that required my attention.

BDSBBL

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SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 21 MARCH 2014

My number one task of the day was to secure a table at BrewDog Shepherds Bush. Unfortunately, this task wasn’t bequeathed to me until 20 past 5 when I was sitting an 18 minute walk away. I double timed it down Goldhawk Road and arrived at BDSB (which was spotted from a fair distance thanks to the newly installed shield) 3 minutes ahead of schedule. There were a few tables unoccupied so I relaxed. There were, however, a few people at the bar and I couldn’t gauge if they were new arrivals or if they already occupied a table and where just procuring another beverage. As I awaited to be served a group walked in and half of them went to the bar and the other took up residence at a table. Oi! Where the fuck do you think you are! MuckDonalds! By the time I got served (which was only a couple of minutes after arriving) only two tables remained unoccupied. One had a reserved from 7pm sign on it and the other was the first table you reach when you walk through the door. Arguably it’s the worst table in the house but it’s a table nonetheless. I wasn’t entirely sure what time my companions would arrive so I ordered two beers – I didn’t want to win a table only to lose it because I had to return to the bar. I ordered two old favourites: a pint of Mikkeller American Dream and a schooner of Lovibonds 69IPA. I took the spoils of victory to my throne.

I sat at my table a slowly supped my beer. I tried to look like a man who would not welcome company without actually looking like a man who would not welcome company – it’s a difficult balance but I believe I pulled it off. Around 20 minutes after entering BDSB the first two members of my entourage arrived: Mr Matthew Curtis – beer writer, musician, all round good guy (go visit his BLOG) – and his friend and fellow musician whose identity I’ve sworn to protect. The bar was filling up nicely and was now very much standing room only. There was a good buzz in the air. Occasional glances towards the bar revealed punters standing three deep. But when I glanced back just a few minutes later they people who had been at the back of the heap where now heading away from the bar with glasses full of delicious beer and big smiles. Impressive, most impressive.

Oh! One thing that I feel I should mention is the toilets. They were clean and fresh smelling every time I visited, which is nice. But that’s not the fact that I feel is worth mentioning. No. The fact I feel is worth mentioning is that every time I went to the toilets they were empty. Not another person in them. Just me. On the way down I’d pass someone on the stairs but once I’d opened the door I’d not encounter another soul until I was heading back up the stairs. The bar was absolutely rammed with people pouring liquid down their throats but hardly anybody needed to use the loo. Weird.

The fourth member of our posse arrived. The chat was flowing freely. The beer was flowing freely (although we did have to pay for it). I scooped a BrewDog Old World Imperial IPA. Then a Jackhammer – surely a frontrunner for the prize of BrewDog’s most consistently great beer. Then I was back on the Mikkeller American Dream, which I believe was served in a non-BrewDog glass, which I believe is the first time that has happened to me in a BrewDog bar (not a complaint, just an observation). Time was running out. Some of us had a gig to go to. There was enough time left for one for the road. Imperial Russian Stout’s for all! No! Not you. Or you. Just us four. Buy your own. We all agreed that it was most delicious. A great beer to end a great three hours in a great bar.

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FIRST VISIT: SUNDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2014

My flight back from Stuttgart landed at Heathrow. A perusal of the tube map revealed that one of the possible routes to Paddington was to get off the Piccadilly line at Hammersmith then follow the H&C. Hmmm… one stop up from Hammersmith is Goldhawk Road and brief wander along Goldhawk Road brings you to BDSB. It would’ve been rude not to pop in for swift two-thirds of something…

The Shepherds Bush branch of BrewDog is a big one room deal featuring trendy & subdued bespoke lighting with some interesting graffiti-style artwork on the walls. It’s minimal but not sparsely so. The centre of the room is occupied by several long benches, which operate as communal seating. But if you are having one of those moments when you don’t want a fat Scot plonking his ass down at your table you can occupy one of the booths that form the majority of the perimeter. The stools at the communal tables are well worth a mention as they are constructed from materials that had me recalling the cans of soda pop that made a brief appearance in the UK back in the 1980s – Squirt, Quattro, Tab Clear, et al. As you are no doubt know, BDSB home to 40 beer taps and several vintage video games machines, which makes it something of a Mecca for 40-something beer geeks. But there’s no bingo. It’s a cool but unpretentious space. Reading through a 40 strong tap list is a slightly daunting and time consuming task but thankfully I quickly homed in on Weird Beard’s Shark Biscuit. I’ve met the Weird Beard guys and the seem like genuinely amiable dudes. And I’ve also chatted, via Twitter, to Shark Biscuit co-creator Daniel Vane and, again, he seems like a genuinely amiable dude. And Weird Beard make great beers. Decision made.

While soaking in the surroundings I spied a Star Wars Trilogy machine. I was tempted to chuck some money in it but then remembered that I was shit at it when I was a kid so would undoubtedly be even shitter at it now. I stayed in my seat and politely smiled at the cabinet while I reminisced on days of misspent down Glenrothes Ice Rink. I finished my Shark Biscuit and fancied another but I also fancied being home and a second portion of Shark Biscuit would very probably lead to yet another portion of Shark Biscuit and that would… you know how it goes…. So I took the sensible but far less tasty option and returned my empty glass back to the bar and departed. I will return. As often as possible.