Archive for the ‘brewdog’ Category

Down the Rabbit Hole
January 20, 2011

The European Beer Bloggers Conference?

Now that I have escaped London I can look on it as Alice might, wandering past the rabbit hole.  The six years I spent there are more solid than a wild dream, but no less strange.  London still holds for me a kind of bland terror spiked with moments of thrall. Often my time there felt as if I were pleading my case to an unseen tyrannical force full of whimsy and danger, not unlike the King and Queen of Hearts.

But was there ever such a labyrinth of surprises as London?  Not in my life.

So it was with a keen sense of timing that I sampled BrewDog’s version of that quintessential of London brews, the porter.  That it’s named it after the blue-skirted adventuress, Alice, makes it all the more fitting to sample before my return.  Alice Porter is as surprising as I’d hoped, with a big tart cherry nose straight out of the bottle and shifting notes of bitter chocolate, pollen-like hop florals and a bit of pleasant mineral tang all topped with a bruise-dark cherry sweetness.

I’m going back to London Friday for a day, hopefully having a pint or two at the Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington and saying hello to a pizzled dragon or two guarding the city before making my speedy return.

And I will return again, certainly, in May, for the Beer Bloggers conference.  Now if I could only find the right rabbit hole to get me to the conference in Portland in August…

Life Through a Sparkler
January 18, 2011

House of Trembling Madness Illustration by Rebecca Wright

I’ve lived in Yorkshire now for nearly two months, living in three different cottages and one hotel room.  My nomad ways are over (for a time) and I find myself in a little cottage (“Moonlight Cottage” it’s called on the door, in that affectionate way the British have of naming their houses) in a little village a few miles outside of York.

It’s the kind of place where people win prizes for floral arrangements and making elderberry wine.

Though I may not win any awards, I have begun a little private brewery in the Moonlight Cottage– the first batch is bubbling in the fermenter as I write, an American Pale Ale brewed on the Cold Moon from partial extract, steeped with Crystal malt and Northern Brewer bittering hops and lots of Cascade for aroma.  I’ll be dry hopping this batch with more Cascade or Amarillo hops– I have yet to decide.

In the two months of Northern living I’ve drunk many a beer from a sparkler, which is a particularly Northern way of serving cask ale.  It is a method of delivery that produces a denser head and a mouth-feel that is creamier, at least initially.  I like it, or maybe I just like the beer up here that seems to echo the laid back understatement and love of place– predominant Northern qualities, if I can generalize.

I’ve had some cracking pints, which must be fuel for a future post.  The House of Trembling Madness, a medieval drinking hall specialising in Belgian beers, has become my new York local.  Oh how I love it’s cozy strangeness.  But there are no handpulls– no cask ale.  Mr. Malting made the mistake of asking the guy behind the bar if they had any “real ale” on, and he returned with a perfectly straight face, “What do you mean by real?” Which just made me like the place more.  And in the Shambles there is Pivni, which always sets my heart racing as I peer in at the taps.  It was there I tried BrewDog’s There is No Santa, the standout Christmas beer (and I tried quite a few this year)– with its velvety-nugmeg-dark-comfort– unforgettable!

The other unforgettable pint was of the omnipresent Black Sheep Bitter.  Yes, it’s everywhere here, and I was loathe to try it as the pints I’d had in London were just not that great, but I found myself snowed in in the village of Hutton-le-Hole on the moors during the beginnings of the brutal winter snows.  The Crown pub had been closed due to the snowy roads but somehow on this night the landlord made it in, and this was the beer they had.  There were just a few of us there but he’d stoked a roaring fire and if that wasn’t the most beautiful pint of bitter I’d ever had, I’d be lying.  And I had two more, something I almost never do.  I commented that the beer was so much better than the Black Sheep I’d had in London and someone called out, “It don’t travel well!”

On that night, tucked up near the fire, all the moors coated in fondant and sparkling in the moonlight, I thought, “and why should it?”

Eau de Stoat
October 29, 2010

I feel it important to note, however briefly, that I have tasted The End of History and lived to tell the tale.  The tail of the stoat, it must be said, was rather perky thanks to the BrewDog taxidermist who also seemed able to eradicate any tire tracks or other signs of roadkill demise, if we are to believe the forensics from the press release.

The End of History is a lot like putting your face in a cocktail of moonshine and synthetic musk cologne. It’s half liquid, half vapor.  It might have been a blonde-Belgian-nettle-and-juniper-infused ale at one time but now it is just a £38* swallow of fuming singe, like the stoat giving up the ghost all over again down your gullet which will burn like the crap brake pads on the deux chevaux of history which has just stopped on some Aberdeenshire back road for a scampering stoat who may or may not have been drinking.

During the tasting, the charismatic James suggested one should always greet the beer with a hullo! and approach it meditatively, as one would a new friend.  So, to the tablespoon of 55% beer, just poured from the bowels of a weasel into my fluted glass, I would say, “I’m glad I didn’t have to pay £500 to taste you. And I guess this means all my pretence of being a vegetarian is blown? Just between you and me, stoat.  Between you and me.”

*calculated estimate of generous swallows in a £500 .33 pint bottle, though for the record this writer did not pay said amount.

BrewDog End of History

AB04: A Cerveza Worthy of Xochiquetzal
October 29, 2010

Xochiquetzal, Aztec Goddess of fertility, female sexual power and chocolate.

Aztlán is the mythical land of the Nahua people and the concept has been used by the Chicano movement in America to refer to the Mexican lands annexed by the US and the cultural hybridity of Mexian-Americans. I am from Aztlán, though technically it is a place that does not exist and as a gringa it gets complicated.

Last night I went to the launch of BrewDog’s new AB04 at the White Horse.  How strange to be standing in this West London gastro pub, full of upwardly-mobile young white professionals and to taste my home, Aztlán, in this beer.  Brewdog have combined chocolate and chilis in this black imperial stout– sure to make you swoon at 15%.

The word chocolate is from the Nahuatl, and new archeological findings have not only dated the invention of chocolate by the Mesoamerican peoples almost 600 years earlier than previously thought, but this evidence suggests the first chocolate was actually a kind of beer.  Researchers have suggested “the distinctive taste of chocolate was stumbled upon by ancient brewers fermenting cacao pulp to make a kind of beer known later to the Spanish as chicha.”  Chicha is a beer which involves masticating the maize prior to fermentation and is still brewed in some parts of Mesoamerica, giving us a contemporary glimpse of ancient brewing practices.

Could the AB04 hint at what that ancient cacao-beer might have tasted like?  Probably not, but like Aztlán, it can stand in as a glorious invention.

At  the tasting James Watt asked the crowd what foods they thought might pair with it and immediately I thought of mole- named for the verb moler, or to grind.  And what a grind making the mole is!  The ultimate in slow food, it’s a lot like brewing beer: labor-intensive, communal and full of variations.  It takes two days to make the mole, which contains chilis, chocolate, seeds and herbs.  And like beer, it is a food in which one can put dreams and wishes, memories and hopes as you grind and stir and grind and stir.

Briar’s on Fire
October 26, 2010

Smoked rose petals.

Berliner Weiss mit blut: the only drink they serve in the asylum.

a hint of ozone.

I’m drinking BrewDog’s Prototype 27.  Mr. Malting and I took a first sip, immediately looked at each other and said, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab— a Los Angeles perfumer/magician, who makes a scents based on circus side show characters and famous deviants. If only there were a perfume that smelled like this beer!

It’s a puzzle to the senses– the closest I’ve come to synesthesia in a beer, and no less refreshing for its complexity.

James from BrewDog, in his generosity and wisdom, sent me a bottle of this stuff months ago and I finally opened it tonight.  I tasted it without reading what it was (for the record, I just looked it up and it’s one of 150 bottles made,  Hardcore IPA with raspberries aged in a whiskey cask.)  It came to me with the white, hand-written label.   I had no idea what was in it or how it was made, and there’s a certain delight in going in blind– the shock of the red  in the glass– surely berries are involved– and then the intense rose esther and smoke hit you like some sinister fairy-tale conflagration.  When the story is over, the glass empty, you feel like a child asking, again!  again!


Beers that Go Bump in the Night
October 23, 2010

Halloween, my favourite holiday, looms.  Usually around this time, Mr. Malting will dust off his extensive collection of Vampire Disco on vinyl and I bust out my Ben Nye “contusion” greasepaint color assortment and it’s a party.  Luckily, I have just the beers to kick off the season while I fine tune my skull face.

The fantastic folks at Cumbrian Legendary Ales have sent me a bottle of their 8% doppelbock named after a Cumbrian vampire legend from the 17th century: two red lights from yonder graveyard come forward and move around the house.   Something unpicks the lead of the glass in the window and then a corpse-like hand reaches in….

The Munich malt really dominates in the nose and centrally on the palate.  It has a nice red-amber tinge suitable for something named after a blood sucking fiend, and there’s an alcohol warming, though for such a strong beer it’s very easy to drink.  There’s a pleasant cereal-candy aspect to this that’s just sweet enough to remind me of a childhood treat hoard.

Bashah reserve, label by Johanna Basford

The next beer is the limited-edition Bashah, another version of the Brewdog-Stone collaboration, the original Bashah, which was dry hopped with Amarillo (my favourite hop) as well as the new-to-me hop, Hercules.  The beer was then aged in whisky casks with 30 kilos of tayberries in one and black raspberries in the other. (I’ve already had the Tayberry one last week, and enjoyed it in a totally non-verbal way, taking no tasting notes and just relishing the experience.)  I’m a huge fan of Bashah and when I saw that Johanna was doing the labels for these, I was smitten all over again with what Brewdog can do. The labels are about as goth as one can get, with the Stone gargoyle crouching amdist skulls and brambles where an owl perches and bats fly out over a full moon.  It’s the kind of beer label you’d want as a tattoo.  Or maybe that’s just me.

On uncorking the bottle the whole room is filled with the scent of chocolate raspberries.  The nose is powerfully boozy, with a note of sweet musk, like a heady perfume.  The tall, dense head soon wanes, lacing the glass with a delicate foam and the beer itself is an opaque black.  The raspberry version is more complex than the Tayberry, which was sweeter– a simple fruity chocolate delight.  But this has a lot going on– it is very similar to the Rake Raspberry Brewdog made a few years ago, but this is more balanced and smoother.  Vanilla and intense alcohol warming hit you first. Then, big, bitter chocolate follows and of course the mineral tang of earthy raspberry.  It’s only at the very end that I can taste the hops, though no doubt they are tempering the sweetness of the chocolate malt as well as drying out some of the fruits.  This is a very special beer, and I only wish I had another bottle to drink on Halloween.

Brewdog/Stone Bashah Reserve label

The Alembic of Destiny
September 25, 2010

So, sometimes things change, just like that.

I didn’t go on the mega-North-pub-crawl, despite everyone’s wonderful suggestions (though I should say the Brewery Tap in Chester, serving Spitting Feathers beers was fantastic.).  Our visiting the North West was totally consumed with hiking.

I went on the 38 pub crawl with some great ale hounds from the Randomness Guide to London.  I took notes but have failed to write them up due to our approach which saw us visiting all pubs on the route, condemning us to endless halves of Guinness.  It just proved how many really dire pubs there are serving the same 5 generic beers.

Now, Mr. Malting and I are sitting in the chaos of our tiny London flat amidst half-filled moving boxes, opening the bottle of BrewDog Abstrakt 01 which James kindly sent to me six months ago.  I probably should have aged this for another six months but we had something to celebrate.

Mr. Malting has been offered a job in North Yorkshire and so we are moving, and not just leaving London as we have wanted to do for some time, but moving to a part of the UK that has captivated me since I first visited over a decade ago. (And the beer up there…Maud help me…!)  I’m in a dream-haze about it; I didn’t think our escape would be so soon and precisely hopeful.

So, on to the beer– the color of dark, baltic amber– I should really let mine settle a bit as the yeast is floating around but this flavour is quite mellow for a Belgian, and a quad to boot.  I’ve never had a quad so I have little to compare it to, but I have had a triple or two and this beer shares that fruit-wine character of a triple, yet it’s a bit brighter and the fruits are fresher.  There’s almost a berry jam note here and perhaps some tropical fruits as well.  This is vanilla infused but I can’t detect the vanilla, that’s probably due to my difficulty picking up that note in beers in general rather than the beer itself.  There’s a subtle honey nose.  Mr. Malting says it reminds him of a kind of liquor.  I get the faintest horse blanket finish on this– the only aspect that I could say with confidence reminds me of a Belgian ale, and is something I associate with some Belgian yeasts.

I feel a tad guilty drinking this so soon, but we had to toast our continuing adventure in this fair island, and as I look back on everything that has made me feel at home here and has fascinated me I have to say BrewDog has played a key role in all that and it’s only fitting.  Here’s to a new chapter!

Art Stoat Confidential
August 6, 2010

Bergdorf Goodman window display from Crappy Taxidermy dot com.

Stoat and Grey Squirrel, a cartoon coming to a bar near you.  Or not.

I am grateful to BrewDog for always giving me something to write about, even stoats. Stoat is a funny word, especially if you say it a lot.  But there was something about this recent press release from James Watt of BrewDog that felt a bit like a bad dream.  Wait, you’ve made a what?  A 55% nettle and juniper infused blonde Belgian ale packaged in roadkill and selling for 700 pounds?

OK, ok– I’ve been working on the lucid dreaming thing,  and the one I’ll have next will involve a wild yeast visiting Fraserburgh, allowing Brewdog to make a kriek with James’ grandma’s raspberries and the whole thing will be packaged in wildflowers.

Choice of glassware for Brewdog's The End of History, Meret Oppenheim's teacup.

I’m a fan of taxidermy, even crappy taxidermy which is a blog I peruse on a regular basis. I hope that The End of History will be immortalized on that site, preferably with the stoat in the kilt. As a joke, I get the End of History and the brewery’s missives about the beer sure are fun to read, but this beer, it’s no Meret Oppenhiem’s tea cup. It’s not my cup of tea.

The End of History, Brewdog's newest beer.

Right now, most of my friends are looking for work or  are really struggling and the last thing we could do is fork out 700 pounds for a bottle of beer (500 for the bargain stoat) and I can’t help but feel that the brewery has left us in the dust, if just this once.  I find myself resenting those 12 punters who were flush enough to buy it; they probably sold all their BP shares right before the spill.

Maybe that’s the point of The End of History, to make it to the pages of the Metro, and to consign the roadkill to the Samsara of endless Ebay auctions.  But you know what would be really post-modern and punk? (And I say this having gone to graduate school in the same department where Derrida lectured.  I even know someone who stood next to him at the urinals there.)  Give the beer away.  Give it away to people who just signed on for the first time.  People who don’t even like beer.

Sometimes I worry that BrewDog are so caught up in being contrary, in fighting their white whale of the Portman group and neo-prohibitionists that they may end up seeming, especially to those who haven’t tried their stellar beers, as being a bit of a stunt-based brewery.  Rather than competing with German breweries, why not look closer to home for friendly competition, to Thornbridge and even closer to Williams Brothers, both are breweries who are doing exciting things, reinventing the session beer as well as creating alternatives to the mass-market lagers and they do it with packaging and finesse that speaks to a wider audience.

BrewDog are stunningly talented brewers who have given me much joy and have always been generous.  I can understand their mistrust of the market and the press who’ve given them a really unfair time of it, and these strategies are no doubt a reaction to that.  In many ways this has worked in their favor, giving them lots of free press, and they have continued to trust the drinker throughout it all which will be the thing that matters in the long run.  In ten years, I want to see BrewDog beers available everywhere, with a bigger range of even more amazing beers (packaged, preferably with the help of their previous collaborator, Johanna Basford.) In that context, the End of History will be just a weird souvenir, like that shellacked frog mariachi band you bought on a bender in TJ.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but is now just a grotesque gathering dust.

Year of the Dog
January 9, 2010

James and Martin of BrewDog, Photo from The Independent

James and Martin of BrewDog, Photo from The Independent

2010 is off to a great start, at least where beer is concerned.  Today I woke up to an email from Martin with good news:  BrewDog have hit their target for investors for Equity for Punks, which means all their exciting projects, like the eco-friendly brewery and brewpub are going ahead.

What I love about BrewDog is not just their beers, but how ambitious they are, and how they seem to carry off anything they set their mind to.  It’s inspiring and I’m proud to be one of the  investors.  But if you missed your chance to invest– you still can as the deadline has been extended to Feb 19th.  Just think of the fab AGMs…that 20% life long discount…and being part of an exciting beer journey with one of the bravest and most talented breweries in the UK.

Today is a happy day, indeed.

New Beers Resolutions
December 31, 2009

The Beer Chicks have asked us for our best and worst beers of 2009.  There is a tie for best– between the sublime BrewDog Zephyr, and Pete Brown’s traditional Burton IPA– the same beer brewed for his voyage which he documented in Hops and Glory.  After fermenting for two years, it took on all sorts of mysterious, vinous, lambic-like characteristics.  Really haunting and complex, made moreso by its role in such a marvelous narrative.

In 2009 this blog turned one.  It started as a whim and has now become central my lens on life and London.  The days of the lone blogger are over; I’m part of a community.  It’s introduced me to fascinating people, many who are now friends.

My biggest leap of faith in 2009 was investing in BrewDog.  Why did I do it when so many in the blog-o-shire put forth compelling arguments not to?  When it’s not really an investment? When the Equity for Punks promo material was clearly sexist? When the guys at BrewDog went one stunt over the line and reported their own beer to the Portman group?  I confess the lifelong 20% sweetened the deal but really, I believe if anyone can inject new life into brewing in the UK and turn on a younger generation to craft brewing, it’s BrewDog.  Their beers excite me and capture my imagination. James’ sincerity and passion have won me over. I want them to do this thing– the new brewery, the brewpub, everything. It’s going to be amazing, the kind of thing that is already alive and well in the US. The Equity for Punks scheme is a bit crazy, but it just might work, it might be this kind of craziness that’s needed to ring in this sea change. What a coup it will be if they pull this off. These are exciting times in terms of craft beer, especially in Scotland, but in the whole of the UK.  I don’t want to miss it and I want a front row seat.

My big mistake of 2009 was not brewing enough of my own beer, not finding enough time, bottles, gumption.

The Beer Chicks have also asked us what kind of beer-o-phile do we want to be in 2010.  For me that would be a home-brewster beervangelist of a higher order.  Brewing stronger, bigger, tastier.  I want to take the beer message to the people.  And by people I mean non-beer drinkers.   In 2010 as in life, I want beer to dictate my travel itenerary and season my travelogue.  I want to eschew the role of foodie in favor of beer bard and alethropologist. I want to have a green knees up in Hastings at Beltane. I want to be my own surveyor of a beer map of Scotland and hunt for booze in Bruges.  And all this I can do, provided the Border Agency sees fit to keep me.

Happy New Year, beer-0-sphere!