BrewDogging #1: Bristol
MOSTLY FILM: Eat My Shorts!

BrewDogging #2: Camden

Can't we have both?I am a spy in the house of love.

No, wait a minute, that's not right, I'm actually the other thing. I'm actually the complete opposite.

Because it's Valentine's Day, and the BrewDog bar in Camden is holding an anti-Valentines theme night, with rare beers laid on for people who don't believe in that sort of guff. So The Belated Birthday Girl and I have deliberately cut short our pre-booked Valentine dinner to come here and drink those beers, while occasionally flicking the V's at each other so that we fit in with the theme. Luckily, we seem to get through the night without being spotted as the impostors we are.

If any of the 12 bars we're exploring in this feature could be said to be our 'local', it's the one in Camden: a good half-hour's travel from home, but worth the trip. We've been there on a couple of big occasions - notably the International Arms Race event where they had a beer-off against American brewery Flying Dog, and the Equity Punk Tour where boss James Watt met up with a bunch of the shareholders in the downstairs Hop Bunker. And Valentine's Day probably counted as an occasion as well, as BrewDog chose that day to put on three special beers for a limited time only. Hence our curtailed romantic dinner, obviously.

Lichtenstein Pale Ale, the first of the three, has an interesting story behind it: BrewDog were asked to make a new beer by Tate Modern, to celebrate their Roy Lichtenstein retrospective. Nobody seems to be able to explain yet what 'celebrate' means - will it be on sale in the Tate shop, or in their restaurant, or elsewhere, or all three? Whatever, it's a nicely drinkable brew, with the usual emphasis on hops that we've come to expect from the brewery.

But if Lichtenstein is made of hops, then Jack Hammer is made of FUCKIN' HOPS. I mentioned it in the previous post: it was the beer that came second in last year's Prototype Challenge, but generated so much love from the drinkers (including The BBG and myself) that they pledged to wheel it out on a regular basis. Its super-bitter taste isn't for everyone - we saw at least one girl take advantage of a free taster, and chuckled as her face turned into the melting Nazi at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark - but for us, it's up there with Hoppy Christmas as one of their finest drinking experiences.

The problem with BrewDog's hoppy beers is that they tend to kill the taste of whatever you have afterwards, and that was initially the problem with Hello My Name Is Ingrid - an almost legendary BrewDog concoction made for the Swedish market, and hard to get hold of nowadays. But it turns out that it was a clever choice for the third beer in the set, as it isn't as reliant on hops for its flavour as the other two: instead, a helping of cloudberries gives it a fascinating fruity tang that makes it quite different from anything else I've had of BrewDog's before.

So the beers were all well up to scratch: what about the bar? Given that we've only tended to frequent Camden on special occasions or weekends up until now, it was interesting to see what it looked like on a school night. It wasn't quite as rammed as on previous visits, granted, but still pretty busy: it's a year older than the Bristol branch, and has a clientele with a recognisable proportion of regulars. The food is usually decent (obviously, we didn't manage any tonight), with pizzas and burgers for both veggies and carnivores. And although the staff don't have quite the same level of puppyish enthusiasm that we encountered at Bristol, they still seem to be good at spotting the confused newbies at the bar and pouring taster glasses down their necks.

My one worry is that having established a solid reputation in its first year as BrewDog's first English bar, Camden may start resting on its laurels a little bit. On Valentine's night, the gents was in a bit of a state, with one broken urinal and a measurable layer of wee on the floor. A minor detail, but it's the sort of thing that could put off people who don't have an actual physical addition to their beer. Which means they're safe with me for now, but they just need to be careful.


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