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BrewDogging #30: DogHouse Glasgow

Doghouse (late Sunday night, it's not always this quiet)[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell]

Last year, at the 2015 BrewDog AGM, a lot of big plans were announced. Many of them involved BrewDog opening new premises that weren't just straightforward bars. A press release listed the following: the ShuffleDog games room, a chain of Dog Eat Dog hotdog diners, the Newington Fix coffee bar, and a restaurant/bar/bottleshop combo called DogHouse.

One year on, let's check on their progress. ShuffleDog has been up and running in Leeds since last July. The Newington Fix has spent a year in planning permission hell, and it's still not certain whether it's going ahead or not. Dog Eat Dog - or at least the initial Angel branch - has been and gone. That leaves us with DogHouse, which opened in Glasgow last autumn to a few grumbles which I noted at the time the Soho bar opened. A few months later, at the end of last January, The Belated Birthday Girl and I headed up to Glasgow ourselves to see if they'd been resolved.

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BrewDogging #29: Clerkenwell [inc. Small Venues 2015 exit interview]

It's literally only just occurred to me that BrewDog Clerkenwell is a Small Venue in its own right.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona]

Clerkenwell! To be honest, it's not a part of London I've needed to visit for decades. But when I initially moved here in 1984, my first job was based in a Clerkenwell office. Coming up above ground at Farringdon station in December 2015 gave me all sorts of weird flashbacks, tempered by the fact that there's been a huge amount of development in the area over the last three decades. In the course of researching this piece, I decided to check up on my old work boozer from those days - the Sekforde Arms - only to find that it closed down as recently as last July.

Still, that's not the bar I've come here to visit. I'm here with The Belated Birthday Girl to check out BrewDog's latest London opening, and then move on to another bar to see a comedy show. Which has a major bearing on the rest of this article, as you'll see.

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BrewDogging #28: Barcelona

Stereotypically, Spanish Cthulhus are apparently more touchy-feely than ones of other nationalities. Click for embiggened proof. (Photo by The BBG.)[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff]

The BrewDogging Projick began in early 2013. Ever since then, The Belated Birthday Girl and I have been looking out for events we can use as an excuse to visit a BrewDog bar location. Birthdays, for example. For my birthday in 2013, we went to Stockholm: for The BBG's birthday three months later, we went to Leeds. No matter how much Yorkshire pride you may be carrying around with you, I think you have to admit I won that one.

Fast forward to 2015. My birthday: Brighton. Hers: Barcelona. Should we call it a draw, then?

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BrewDogging #27: Cardiff

Annoyingly, this is the only decent light source inside the whole of the Cardiff bar, so this is all you're getting a picture of.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho]

Given some of the destinations listed above - Tokyo, Bologna, Brussels, Florence - it does seem like we've left it quite a while to get around to the Cardiff bar, which is after all a mere two hours away from London by train. It's just been a question of finding the right combination of events to get us down there.

Coincidentally, a month before our November 2015 visit, I was sent there for work, and managed to do a little scouting in advance of my already-planned return with The Belated Birthday Girl. To be fair, it wasn't a typical week in Cardiff - it was during the height of the Rugby World Cup, and the Australia-Fiji match was on at the Millennium Stadium during my visit, which made booking a budget hotel a taxing proposition. (The Ibis, for example, was charging £500 a room for the night of the match.)

By the time we headed out there again a few weeks later, things had calmed down a lot in the city. Still plenty to do, though.

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BrewDogging #25: Brussels

A surprisingly coherent panorama shot of the inside of BrewDog Brussels: most of the panoramas I take with my phone end up with creepy half-formed people walking through the middle of them. Click to see it bigger.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Soho]

It's October 2015, and The Belated Birthday Girl and I are in Brussels, preparing to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of our mate Jon.

Inevitably, our thoughts turn towards death.

Bear with me on this one.

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BrewDogging #22: Florence [aka Italia '15 part three]

Sod Brexit, this is as good a justification for Brentrance as any.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Brighton, DED Angel, Soho]

People of Britain! You see that board over on the left there? Let me break it down for you. The logo in the top right hand corner indicates that it belongs to the BrewDog bar in Florence: the third and final stop on our Italia '15 tour after Bologna and Naples, and the second of the two BrewDog bars that existed in the country back in June 2015. (We'll get back to that shortly.) As for 'aperitif', it's meant in the traditional Italian sense of food being offered to you alongside drink in a bar.

So, to summarise. On a regular basis, you can walk into BrewDog Florence, pay them eight euro, and they'll let you drink a pint of BrewDog beer and eat as much as you like from a buffet table full of hot and cold tasty things. And we're talking a large plate buffet here, not just namby pamby finger food.

People of Britain! Over the next few months, there are many who will try to persuade you that our country should not have anything to do with Europe. Taking the above as evidence, I suggest that you tell those people to fuck right off.

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Not BrewDogging: Naples [aka Italia '15 part two]

[ominous rumble]Our 2015 tour of Italy was, it's true, partly conceived around our desire to visit both of the BrewDog bars that existed in the country at the time. (We'll get back to that shortly.) Our friends weren't at all surprised when we announced our plans to them - they're used to this by now - and they appreciated that aside from the booze, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Bologna and (advance warning) Florence.

But Naples? Considering how much success the local tourist board used to have with their slogan vedi Napoli e poi muori, it's surprising how poor a reputation the city has now. At least, if you believe the people that The Belated Birthday Girl and I hang out with. None of them seemed convinced that you could spend six whole days there without going nuts. See Naples? They'd rather die.

Well, they're wrong. Naples is a terrific city in its own right (particularly if you veer away from the most obvious areas), and it's also a hub that's the perfect starting point for day trips to historical locations or ravishing beauty spots. (As well as the public toilet that they call Capri, but we'll get to that eventually.)

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BrewDogging #21: Bologna [aka Italia '15 part one]

More people outside than inside, but that's Italian weather for you: BrewDog Bologna, June 2015[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Brighton, DED Angel, Soho]

Have you been following BrewDogging since the very beginning? Remember BrewDogging #20, published back in June 2015? Well, here's BrewDogging #21, a mere nine months later. Sorry about that.

Here's what happened. The same month that #20 went online, The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent two weeks touring Italy. This is how long ago that was - at the time of the tour, there were only two BrewDog bars in the country. (We'll get back to that shortly.) Anyway, we had a very nice holiday which took in both of those bars, plus the cities they were in, plus a shedload of historically fascinating stuff in between the two, and a couple of bits of Switzerland either side of it all. That's a lot of material to be written up, and finding the time to do it has been tricky. In the time it's taken to do that, we've visited another eight new BrewDog bars: some of them have already been discussed here because I thought they needed to be covered asap, but for others I've been thinking "let's get the other ones written first, shall we?"

So here we are. Currently, there are holes in the BrewDogging series for bar numbers 21, 22, 25, 27, 28, 29 and 30. It's time to knuckle down and patch up those holes. And we have to start with the bar that caused all the delays - Bologna, the first stop in our Italia '15 tour, which we went to in June 2015. We did it in our usual style: travelling there the long way round, doing all the traditional tourist stuff alongside more esoteric arty things, and eating and drinking ourselves into oblivion. It was fun. Let me tell you about it.

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MOSTLYFILM: The Ministry Of Happiness

A selection from the Emirates in-flight entertainment menu. GAME CHANGER.I was back in Dubai for work last month. Last time I was there was about a year ago, and that visit was a little unusual in terms of how I wrote about it on the web. Because you know how these things work by now: I go away to foreign parts, I watch a couple of unsubtitled movies in the local cinemas, and I write about them for MostlyFilm in a section we've chosen to call Monoglot Movie Club. Except that last time I went to Dubai, it didn't quite happen that way. I went to the pictures twice, but the films were so uninspiring that I didn't feel there was a full article in there. (I burned off the reviews in a Simian Substitute post instead.)

I was a bit worried that it would be a similar story this year, but happily, it wasn't. I saw three new films over there - two from Egypt, and one from Lebanon - and you can read all about them over at Europe's Best Website in a piece entitled The Ministry Of Happiness. Meanwhile, over here, the Bonus Red Button Content section for the article will consist of the usual mix of travel tips and video backup.

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Simian Substitute Site For March 2016: Cheeky Monkeys UAE

Cheeky Monkeys UAEMONTH END PROCESSING FOR FEBRUARY 2016

Comedy: I wasn't at the Fringe in 2006, but I remember the one poster that everyone was talking about at the time: a gigantic billboard with Tim Vine's name on it in huge letters, followed by the much smaller words "is not appearing at this year's Edinburgh Festival." Sometimes, it seems like not being there is the best publicity. It certainly worked for Richard Herring, who made quite a big deal last year of his absence from the festival - partly driven by the arrival of his first child, partly by his 2014 Fringe shows losing shedloads of money. As a result, his latest stand-up show, Happy Now?, hasn't gone through the same development process as his previous 11: he did a brief tryout of the material last September, and has been working it up to a full show that's now going on a tour of the UK. Inevitably, fatherhood is one of the key topics of the show - a bit too heavily for The Belated Birthday Girl's liking, although for me it's more of a springboard from which he can look at the general idea of personal happiness, and how possible it is to achieve that. It's Herring's typical mixture of the smart and the profane, and as ever draws heavily on ideas he's exploited in other formats. There's one magnificent comic riff in the second half involving his wife's parents, which felt too good for him to have just saved it for a single show. A bit of research afterwards proved me right - he's used the same routine, almost word for word, in both his blog and his Metro column. But if you've been steering clear from both of those, there's a decent amount of fun to be had.

Movies: A few notes to wrap up the whole business of Chinese New Year, following on from last month. In China, the holiday's celebrated with the release of a string of big dumb movies, and the Odeon Panton Street cinema in London is showing all of this year's CNY releases for the delight of nearby Chinatown residents, as well as fellow travellers like yours truly. The obvious one to see, given what year it is and everything, would have been The Monkey King 2, another retelling of the classic story. Instead, we willingly paid money to watch From Vegas To Macau 3, the new comedy from Wong Jing, a man whose name is literally the Cantonese for 'will this do?' (Your definition of 'literally' may differ.) It's the usual mess of crude jokes and incoherent plotting, given a little retrospective interest by the discovery that his pro-Beijing views have ruined the film's reception in Hong Kong. That's not a problem faced by his main competition this year: Stephen Chow's The Mermaid has, in the space of a couple of weeks, become China's highest grossing film ever. It's another one of Chow's fantastical, CGI-driven stories, in which a tycoon buys up an entire bay for land reclamation purposes, only to find that the tribe of merpeople already living there have other plans. To us in the West, this has the slightly odd air of being lectured on environmental matters by the Chinese: but to the domestic audience, it's Chow using his hugely influential position to tell his fellow countrymen to take it easy with the whole pollution thing, while leavening the message with delightfully silly jokes and some surprisingly hard-edged action scenes. The message takes second place to the storytelling, and that's why it works so well. The Mermaid is getting a bit of a tour around the world off the back of its Chinese success, and is definitely worth seeing if it makes it near you.

Travel: Well, it's a London thing rather than a travel thing, but presumably many of you reading this would need to travel to London to see it. So - as my final final word on the Year Of The Monkey, I should point out that the Magical Lantern Festival is running through to Sunday March 6th, and is definitely worth catching. Located at Chiswick House & Gardens in west London, it's a huge open-air exhibition of Chinese-style lanterns, depicting everything from the Chinese zodiac animals to a large scale replica of the Temple of Heaven. There are plenty of photos out there on the web for you to get a flavour of the show - The BBG, for example, has 98 for you to look at on Picasa, while there's still time. But it's no substitute for getting out there in the cold of an evening and seeing these glorious constructions up close. It doesn't appear to have been quite as popular a show as the organisers originally thought it would be, so ticket discounts are readily available: snap them up if you can.

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