Thing is, at the time I thought it was a really nice touch, and that they were doing it for everybody. But within seconds of it happening, The Belated Birthday Girl told me that the chap in question was JB, BrewDog's guy in charge of bar management, and he was greeting her personally because they've met a couple of times on occasions like this. And there was me thinking I'd found a suitable role for my retirement years, standing in the doorway of a BrewDog bar and welcoming people as they entered like it was a pissed Walmart. Not to be, sadly.
BrewDog have been angling to put a bar in this bit of East London for some time now. The closest they've got in the past was the ill-fated Homerton bar: after that fell through, they had a rethink and decided to open up a place in a district that's actually fashionable now, rather than one that's theoretically up and coming. It's been a struggle to get here, with the opening being delayed thanks to a campaign by locals who seemed to think that the bar would attract undesirables lured by cheap booze, not realising that 'cheap booze' is as far from the BrewDog ethos as you can possibly get. The location they had in mind before this one was big enough for them to consider making it their first Outpost brewpub, but in the end hassles with landlords meant that honour had to go to Tower Hill instead.
By comparison, the version of BrewDog Dalston that they've ended up with on the Stoke Newington Road looks like most of the other ones on their books - at first glance, anyway. But look a little closer, and there are a couple of nice wrinkles. For a start, it's spread over two stories - ground level and a basement - which allows for the large surface area BrewDog demands of its newest bars, but in two intimate-seeming chunks. Predictably, the upstairs bit is where the bulk of the action is on a Friday night: but there's still a decent crowd in the downstairs area, spread over the usual collection of booths, steps and tables.
That crowd is interesting in its own right for its diversity. There's a broad range of ages represented on the opening night, all the way down to the couple of patrons whose pushchairs are stashed underneath the stairs. Meanwhile, remember how the racial mix seemed surprisingly lacking in the Brixton bar? Not the case here. It's reflected in the music selections, which remind you of the anything-goes attitude of the old bar playlists before they got colonised by Radio Whiteboy: the segue from Snoop Dogg to the Smiths makes your eyes water, but it works in context. A bit overly loud, though, but that may just be a first night thing. (A total stranger struck up a conversation with me in the gents to observe that the sound mix in there was better than the one in the bar.)
Dalston has inherited one idea from dead old Homerton, and I thoroughly approve of it: aside from BrewDog's own products, the majority of the guest beers are drawn from London breweries within a small radius of the bar. This means we can guzzle on beers from the likes of Pressure Drop (with their own Pale Fire as well as their Track Brewing collaboration, Tiger Tail) and Two Tribes (who provide their own New Romantic Calamansi as well as a collaboration with Kirkstall called Bring The Noise). Inevitably, we fall back on a couple of BrewDog's own high ABV monsters to wrap up the night. (Paradox Islay and Ten Ton Truck, since you ask.)
It's an enjoyable bar, and an enjoyable opening night - one of three happening simultaneously, don't forget, which explains the late surprise appearance from BrewDog boss James Watt himself. The BBG buttonholes him for a quick natter, and gets a free taster of Mail Order Martian as a result. She somehow fails to ask Watt about the possibility of any vacancies for pissed Walmart greeters, but does find out that this is the middle stop of his whirlwind tour of all three of the new bars - Paris at last night's shareholder preview, Dalston tonight, and then Peterhead the day after that.
But where the hell is Peterhead, you might well ask? Well, that'll be episode 62. But where the hell is episode 61, you might well ask? Oh, just wait for the next one, okay?
[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, Dog Eat Dog/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, Edinburgh Lothian Road, Milton Keynes, Canary Wharf, Brixton, Paddington]