Last weekend my boyfriend and I braved the tail end of Hurricane Bertha and headed into town to Brewdog in Camden for a pre-opening hours brunch. Hauling ourselves out of bed at 7 on a Sunday (slightly hungover), walking the dogs in the pouring rain, jumping on an early train to London and then dodging showers and puddles between tube station and bar, we were both beginning to wonder whether it would be worth it, but we should have trusted that Brewdog would deliver.
I first heard about them a year or so ago, when Ste bought a few bottles of 5am Saint and Dead Pony Club in the supermarket, telling me they were made by his favourite brewery. They tasted pretty great and so I was converted too. They pride themselves on craft production of quality beers, rather than mass production and you can certainly taste the difference. Here’s the helpful infographic from their beer menu that tells you why their beer is better. I especially like that they don’t use additives.
Ste told me Brewdog also had bars all over the country (and the world, several in Scandinavia, and bizarrely, also Florence for any of my friends there reading this) and they had a few in London he wanted to try. It was his birthday coming up, so I decided to secretly organise for a few of his friends to join us to celebrate in Brewdog Shoreditch. Upon investigation, I also realised that Brewdog were selling shares at the time, in order to expand the business, but also to help engage loyal customers in their business. Buying shares were not so much intended to be a financial investment as a social one, in a company that seems to just want everyone to drink good craft beer and have fun, while pushing the boundaries of brewing. Perks include an invitation to the Annual
Shareholder Day Huge Party, money off drinks in their bars and online shop and getting to hear about great events such as last weekend’s BrewBrunch first. Stuck for present ideas, I went ahead and bought Ste some shares for his birthday. In collusion with the amazing staff at Brewdog Shoreditch, we presented Ste with his share certificate on his birthday night out, and he got quite a few free drinks to boot! He was a happy boy that night I can tell you.
Fast-forward nearly a year and back to last weekend’s brunch. For £20 we were promised a three course brunch with beers paired to each course, all before the bar opened its doors to regular customers. With a strict limit of 20 people, I booked tickets as soon as I heard about it. This is the second such event run in the Camden Brewdog, but I think it is something that all the bars do regularly. I’m not surprised, not only was it great fun, but it also gives the chefs in the bars a chance to get creative and cook with their very favourite ingredient!
We were the first people to arrive almost, so we picked a good spot at the end of the table right next to the bar (a good choice). I am a big fan of the industrial decor in Brewdog bars.
The walls in this one are made from a recycled gymnasium floor, which gives a lovely shine and has random painted lines from the various sports courts on it. I also desperately want the zigzag filament lighting in my home, I love the effect (which didn’t come out well in this photo). The provision of every board game you could imagine is also the mark of an extremely thoughtful bar (or one which is hoping to engage people in a particularly long and thirsty game of Monopoly).
The menu sounded fantastic, but I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about some of the stronger beers. I love most of their beers but when the percentages get up past ten I find them a bit too hard for my tastes, and several of these super-beers appeared, such as the Tactical Nuclear Penguin (another thing I love about Brewdog is that they don’t shy away from nonsense names) which is a whopping 32%, a stout which broke the world record for highest ABV when it was launched in 2009. Previous ‘tasting’ of this has resulted in some pretty odd faces on my part, so I was apprehensive to say the least at a dessert which claimed to include it!
We started out with some coldbrew coffee, which was really great on its own. Nicolo, who was running the event, advised us that he really loved it with some 5am Saint mixed in, so of course, 11am notwithstanding, we mixed beer in our cold brew!
Ste was a big fan – his two favourite things, coffee, and beer, combined. I was rather less enthusiastic. I’d have enjoyed my cold brew on its own, or the beer, but combined there was something slightly acidic about it, and the fizz of the beer gave somehow it a very odd flat taint. Not one I would recommend you try at home folks, sorry Nicolo!
By now slightly scared about the beer + food combining that was going on, I was delighted to see this land in front of me.
Being allergic to strawberries, I palmed these off onto a very pleased Ste, and absolutely wolfed the rest down. I was quite hungry by this point. I confess, I could not really taste the beer in the pancakes because of the syrup, cream and bananas, but they were lovely pancakes.
I was also distracted by the lovely citrusy beer which accompanied the first course. It may have disappeared even faster than the pancakes!
I also love how they recommend which shape glass best complements which beer. Bit of a revelation that there are beers good enough to warrant attention to such matters – I’d always presumed it was the territory of wine only. I shall be happy to conduct taste tests if there is demand!
Not long afterwards, this arrived at the table, along with two more beers.
Having had many a balsamic vinegar reduction in Italy, the idea of a salad dressing made in such a fashion wasn’t new, but the ingredients certainly were! It worked brilliantly – this was possibly my favourite introduction of beer into a dish, and is one that could easily be recreated at home to great effect. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but I think using a dark beer, stout or porter combined with some honey or brown sugar to combat the bitterness, would make a great reduction that would top a salad or equally a steak beautifully. I feel an experiment coming on and perhaps an update to this post next week!
This hoppy Kernel IPA was absolutely awesome, and whilst contemplating its rich golden hues I took my best photo of the day:
Next up was the dessert course, paired with a 10% killer barley wine. That same dessert course which contained the 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin! I think they were hoping to send us out into the street at the end of the event barely caring about or even noticing the relentless rain.I am fairly sure they succeeded, I was certainly feeling a little woozy by the time I got to the bottom of my coffee granita. This time I found the coffee/beer combination much tastier. Perhaps it was the beer already consumed, or the addition of a big dollop of cream into the mix, but the dessert, whilst having a huge alcoholic kick, was delicious. Though when I stirred it my blueberries sank, never to be seen again sadly.
As was to be expected from a Brewdog event, there were some pretty great people there, and it was a really fun occasion. Ste even found himself sat next to a fellow web developer and a girl whose boyfriend was a web developer (and also a Brewdog fan). We pondered whether there was a correlation between computer nerds (my terminology) and craft beer – it certainly seems most developer conferences are at least as much about the beer as they are about the internet geekery. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this!
Anyway, we both ended up more than a little merry and pretty well fed, and very glad we’d made the effort to schlep into London.
This is yet another Fiesta Friday offering with no actual cooking on my part. I can only apologise to you all – the pesky PhD thesis is taking up time, as is drinking all the beer. I hope the yummy photos make up for it though, and that I’ve brought enough beer for everyone!