BrewDogging #55: Edinburgh Lothian Road

"Oh dear! My Clydesdale Bank is now a trendy craft beer bar!" GOOD.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks, Tower Hill]

It's August, it's the height of the 2018 Edinburgh Festival, and I'm not there (as I explained earlier). Nick and several of the Pals are in Edinburgh as I write this, and hopefully we'll hear how things went for them in a future post. Meanwhile, The Belated Birthday Girl and I are at home in London keeping ourselves fresh for the fest in 2019, when I'll have to confront the horrifying fact that it'll be the thirtieth anniversary of my first visit.

But even on a year off, you can't keep me or The BBG away from the place. Particularly when they opened up a second BrewDog bar in the city earlier this year - in fact, right now it's doubling up as Fringe Venue #102. So during the late May Bank Holiday weekend, we popped up there to pay it a visit, and to do several dozen other things as well, like we usually do. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, as you'll see.

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BrewDogging #54: Tower Hill

Look very closely and you can see a whole bunch of people who don't know how shuffleboard works.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks]

A few months ago I was banging on about the recently-opened Seven Dials bar, and how huuuuuuuge it was, and how it was obviously going to be BrewDog's new London flagship bar. Well, part of that might still be true - you can't beat the geometric centre of the West End as a location. But since then, BrewDog have opened another London bar in the City, and it's huuuuuuuger.

Then again, that's part of its problem - it's in the City, so my traditional roundup of other interesting things in the area would resemble Alexei Sayle's theoretical publication What's On In Stoke Newington. (For some reason, new London BrewDog bars keep reminding me of Alexei Sayle routines.) So instead, I'm going to tell you about three separate visits I've made to the bar since it opened back in April, each one showing off its features in different ways.

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Bermondsey Beer Mile: Slight (many happy) Return(s)

The Kernel Brewery, taken by The Belated Birthday Girl in 2014. You can tell it's an old photo, there are people in it.Twenty years ago today, I pressed a single button on a computer keyboard and UNLEASHED HELL. (Well, I say it was a single button, it was probably more like a messy FTP upload, but you get the idea.)

July 14th 1998 - Bastille Day, no less - was the day that I launched The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey, the Demon Internet website that eventually migrated over to this thing on Typepad. So, I've been spouting off on the internet for twenty years today. As I usually do most years, I'd like to thank all of you who've been reading this nonsense, no matter what proportion of those two decades you've been here for.

Still, the question remains: how do I best celebrate the anniversary of the creation of a website?

And the answer is: with the help of The Belated Birthday Girl, I've created another one.

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BrewDogging #53: Overworks

Carelessly, Overworks has chosen to serve its beers in glasses that feel pain.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn]

Earlier this year - in BrewDogging #49, to be precise - I introduced you to the concept of the Intergalactic Beer Visa, a small passport-sized booklet allowing you to collect stamps from each of the bars you visit. At the time, I didn't mention that the visa also has a competitive element to it, in that you can claim prizes for collecting stamps from all of the bars in a particular category. For example, all the ones in England, or Scotland, or London.

The easiest prize to claim is one they call Homedog, for anyone who manages to visit all of the bars in the brewery's home city of Aberdeen. The Belated Birthday Girl and I achieved that over the space of a single weekend - a weekend, in fact, when the number of Aberdeen BrewDog bars literally increased by 33%, thanks to the opening of BrewDog Overworks. We even managed to fit in an entire AGM between the second and third one.

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BrewDogging #52: Tallinn (Nordic Expedition II part 4)

Two of the most prominent features of BrewDog Tallinn are a merchandise wall and a Stargate.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo]

March 30th - April 2nd 2018

Having started in Denmark, trekked through Sweden and made our way across the water to Finland, there's one more country to go before this Nordic Expedition is complete. To be honest, up until recently my mental image of Estonia has been shaped by two things: the old Film Unlimited trope of the Estonian Butler Movie as the archetype of esoteric cinema, and the former sumo wrestler Baruto. (A couple of years ago, I managed to combine the two for an April Fool's gag.) But last time we were in Finland, we heard that the city of Tallinn had become a new hub for craft beer brewing: there were even Finnish brewers who'd moved over there for the tax breaks.

That isn't as dramatic a move as it sounds, as Tallinn is ridiculously close to Helsinki: just half an hour by plane, or two hours by boat. We take the latter option to travel to Estonia, using the Tallink Megastar ferry. It's Good Friday morning, so the West Harbour Terminal in Helsinki is full of Finns making the same journey for the Easter weekend, all being addressed over the PA as ‘dear darling passengers’. Our window seat on the Megastar turns out to be a good choice, despite the fantastically rude kids who barge in front of us every so often for a look: the voyage isn't as spectacular as our one into Finland, but approaching Tallinn through a layer of ice is still pretty impressive.

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BrewDogging #51: Malmo (Nordic Expedition II part 2)

It's the lightbox that confuses me, I think. Perfectly acceptable when it's behind the bar advertising the tap list, less so when it's outside the building.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading]

March 25th-27th 2018

These multi-city journeys require some planning, you know. Over the last decade or so, we've taken plenty of inspiration from The Man In Seat 61 when it comes to potential methods of getting around. But ultimately, you have to fire up multiple browser tabs for plane, train and boat websites to co-ordinate all the bookings, and that's before you even get to the hotels. Still, it all somehow comes together, and you even have a paper trail at the end of it. In the case of the original Nordic Expedition in June 2016, I can now look through my mail inbox and see that we had our route through Norway, Sweden and Finland booked and locked down by April 16th.

So imagine our delight when BrewDog Malmo opened just over a fortnight later, in an entirely different bit of Sweden. It was too late to change our route by then, and even if we'd wanted to it would have taken us massively out of our way. We always suspected we'd be coming back eventually to tie up that loose end. And two years later, here we are.

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BrewDogging #50: Reading

Possibly the fourth or fifth brunch ever served at BrewDog Reading. I dunno.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials]

We were only ever meant to be doing twelve of these, you know. But here we are. Fifty.

I'd be the first to admit that these BrewDogging posts have been coming out at somewhat erratic intervals. Back in 2013, we knew where we stood: we started off the year with a plan to visit all twelve bars we knew about, and by the end that had increased to thirteen. Since then, as new bars have opened, we've gone to them whenever it's been convenient for us to get there. There was always going to be some sort of saturation point reached, either on our part or on BrewDog's, and I'd assumed we'd reached it in 2017 - a year when (as previously noted) the company opened just three new bars and closed four old ones.

But I'd underestimated James Watt's desire for world domination. If 2017 was a quiet year on the new bar front, 2018 is shaping up to be anything but, with some pretty ambitious plans for new locations. In March 2018 alone, two bars opened on consecutive weeks. You already know about Seven Dials, where we grabbed brunch on its opening weekend. One week later, we did it all over again in Reading.

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BrewDogging #49: Seven Dials

Tell you what, James, just PayPal a few grand to that email address over in the left sidebar and we'll say no more about it.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford]

Before we get started: have you seen this shit?

This is what they call the BrewDog Intergalactic Beer Visa: a booklet full of pages where you can collect stamps from all the bars that you visit. This is exactly what The Belated Birthday Girl had in mind when she came up with the idea for her Projick in 2013, inspired by the stamp rallies we've encountered on various tourist routes in Japan. As she couldn't persuade the bars to manufacture stamps for her own personal records, she had to make do with creating a space in the back of her 2013 diary in which he documented the date and highlights of each bar visit.

Five years later, and BrewDog have nicked the idea wholesale. So, yes, we now own a Beer Visa each. Technically, this may mean that we have to visit all of the bars again at least once. But let's not think about that right now, and instead concentrate on the latest BrewDog bar to open in London.

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BrewDogging #48: Oxford

It's rare that I use a daytime shot of the outside of a BrewDog bar, isn't it? So here's one.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, 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, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong]

As regular features go, it has to be said that BrewDogging has become increasingly irregular. When we started back in 2013, The Belated Birthday Girl and I had a simple aim: within a single year, visit all of the BrewDog bars that were open at the time. By the end of the year, we'd visited all thirteen, at which point they started opening more of them. What the hell, we thought, we'll try to visit those as well.

As you can see from the list above, counting after Nottingham, that's an awful lot of bars. We always suspected there might be a point where BrewDog's expansion would slow down to a trickle, and 2017 appears to have been it: a grand total of three new bars opened in 2017. One of them was the taproom at the new American brewery in Columbus, Ohio, and it'll probably quite some time before we get around to visiting the US again, what with one thing and another. One was in Tallinn in Estonia: let's just say we'll come back to that in a few months. But the third one was in Oxford, and that we can do right now.

We went to Oxford for a weekend break back in November 2017: since then BrewDog have opened another new UK bar, and have an ambitious set of openings planned throughout 2018. So it's possible that the slump we encountered in 2017 might only be temporary. Watch this space, as they say. Meanwhile, here's what happened on our first trip to Oxford since that time in 2008 when we spent the weekend in prison.

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Collabfest 2017

If you don't want to be spoiled, don't count the number of beer glasses in this picture.I won't lie to you, it's all been a bit one-track around here this month. That's always the case when it's a festival month, whether it's Edinburgh or London Film. The latter finished last week, and there's still a little more writing to be done on the subject, which should be with you soon. But in the meantime, I'd understand if you were looking for some sort of break after a few dozen movie reviews in a row.

So how about a few dozen beer reviews in a row? Would that work for you? No? Well, tough.

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