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.

* * *

SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

* * *

FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

* * *

FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

* * *

THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

* * *

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

* * *

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.

Advertisements

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.

* * *

SEVENTH VISIT: THURSDAY 5 JUNE 2014

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

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.