Reviewed today: After Yang, Josh Elton: Early Doors, Your Name.
In January 2013, I emailed The Belated Birthday Girl a picture I’d just taken of a disused tanning salon in Stockholm, and she got very excited. Seven months after that email, she came back to Stockholm with me, by which time the tanning salon had been converted into BrewDog Kungsholmen. They make BrewDog bars out of the most unlikely places, but that was the only time I could claim to have before-and-after pictures. At least, until now.
There’s a post on this site that went up in November 2007, discussing the opening day of the new Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International. It’s so comprehensive a discussion that it opens with a picture of the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station, taken just minutes after the last train to the continent had left from there.
Fifteen years later, that terminal’s now a BrewDog bar, which makes for a rather more spectacular before-and-after comparison.
Not now, Spectacularly Pissed And Shouty Man On The Last Bus Out Of Aberdeen Airport Who’s Apparently Never Heard Recorded Stop Announcements Before, we’re not in the mood. Mainly because we never intended to be on the last bus out of Aberdeen Airport in the first place.
We had a plan, and it was a good one. BrewDog were holding their first Annual General Meeting in three years in Aberdeen, and we were going to use our weekend up there to add a couple more of their bars to our tally (see also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Flying up on the Friday evening, flying back on the Sunday evening, using the credit we'd got from British Airways when they cancelled our flights to the 2020 AGM (which never happened because of Covid) - there's a good day and a half there to fit in all our activities. And then BA took both of our flights off the schedule, meaning we now had to fly up later on Friday night and fly back earlier on Sunday afternoon. And then we had more delays on the Friday night when they gave our plane away to some tax-dodging bastards so that their flight to Jersey wouldn't be held up too long. We eventually got a replacement, which got us into Aberdeen Airport shortly before midnight and therefore onto this bus, sat behind a guy who smells like he would literally burst into flames if you lit a match within ten feet of him.
Still, as we calm down with an incredibly late Northern Monk nightcap at BrewDog Aberdeen, we reflect on how we now have a revised plan to crush that one and a half days worth of activity into a single Saturday. As long as nothing else goes wrong, we should be fine.
The last trip we made to a BrewDog bar outside the UK was Hamburg, which was two and a half years ago. The last trip we made to a BrewDog bar outside the UK by plane was Seoul, which was over three years ago. It's quite possible that after all this Covid nonsense, we've forgotten how to travel.
It's certainly the case that we've forgotten how to book Heathrow Express tickets three months in advance to knock them down to an acceptable price - we didn't realise that until it was too late to do anything about it. Still, it means that we start this adventure with our first ever go on the new Elizabeth line, which is currently just a rebranding of the pre-existing slow trains between Paddington and Heathrow (but will eventually connect fully with central London and the East End badlands). The trains look nice, though they're really just Overground carriages coloured in purple.
We get to the airport long before our flight's due, because you've heard the stories - aviation is broken now, and Heathrow is in a permanent state of chaos. But once we've got there, we whizz through check-in and security at a satisfyingly high speed. Our bags aren't so lucky: the baggage conveyors break down literally as we're checking in, and appear to be down across the entire airport. "Just leave the bags on the floor there, they'll get on the plane," we're told. It's a less than reassuring start, both to our journey to Reykjavik, and to a travel article that mysteriously has the words 'part 1' in its title.
The pandemic has, among other things, made it clear how rigid a calendar this site works to: there are certain milestones that take place at the same time every year, except for the years when we’re not allowed to do that. Edinburgh in August and London Film Festival in October are the big dates: the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme in February too, to a lesser extent. And then there’s Easter, when The Belated Birthday Girl and I have made it a thing that we spend part of Easter Sunday watching a film made in whichever part of the world we find ourselves in at the time. In recent years, that’s tended to overlap conveniently with our ongoing quest to visit as many BrewDog bars worldwide as we can.
Except, again, for the years when we’re not allowed to do that. So Easter 2020 was spent in London watching 28 Days Later for grim infection-centric yoks, while Easter 2021 – and I don’t think I mentioned this at the time – was also spent in London, this time watching Rocks. (It's alright. End of review.)
Easter 2022? Well, we’re on the move again. We have a trip out of town, a relevant film, a BrewDog bar, and even a bonus city thrown in on top.
So, here we are at bar number 75. I don’t mind telling you, these things are getting harder and harder to write. Back when we started in 2013, and made our way around the dozen or so BrewDog bars in existence during our first year, there were interesting little quirks to every one we visited. But as the chain’s got bigger and bigger, individuality has predictably been sidelined in favour of a standardised corporate image. The regular sized bars (like, say, Chancery Lane) have become much of a muchness: you’re left hoping for the occasional deviation from the norm.
Well, we should be getting one of those in London next year, thanks to the recent announcement of the new megabar set to open in the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station. From the initial press release, it seems like every idea BrewDog has ever had – both good and not-so-good – is going to be mashed up into a single location, topped off with the health and safety nightmare of a slide connecting its two stories.
Maybe this is the future for BrewDog (and, perhaps, BrewDogging): small bars opening without much fanfare, interspersed with high-profile showstoppers. And if DogHouse Manchester isn’t a showstopper, then I don’t know what is.
Regular readers will know how Collabfest works. Every year, in the autumn, each of the BrewDog bars goes into collaboration with a local brewery, and they make a beer together. And then over a single four-day weekend - this year it was October 21st to 24th - all those beers go on sale in BrewDog bars simultaneously. Some years it clashes with the London Film Festival, some years it doesn't, but either way The Belated Birthday Girl and I have been to every Collabfest since 2013. (Even last year's, which was undertaken at home with cans because of the you-know-what.)
As always, the problem is that no single bar is capable of selling every single Collabfest beer simultaneously - this year there were 66 on offer in the UK - so a schedule has to be drawn up saying which beers will be on offer in which bars over the four days. Because The BBG is privy to Secret Knowledge, she had a spreadsheet with precisely that information on it, which we used to plot out which of the bars in London we'd need to visit on particular days to maximise our beer intake. And it was while poring over this spreadsheet that I found myself asking the following question:
"Wait, there's a bar in Chancery Lane now?"
This is how far it's gone now - BrewDog are opening bars and we're not noticing.
In many ways, the Edinburgh Festival 2021 was far from being traditional. But I've tried to keep this year's coverage on the site as familiar-looking as possible. And regulars will be aware of one particular feature that we haven't had yet: after an entire week of me babbling on about the shows I've seen, I hand over a page or two to Spank's Pals so they can present their own highlights and lowlights.
I can never be sure in advance as to how many of the people who came to Edinburgh with me on a particular year feel the urge to write about it. This year, I'm pleased to announce that a full 100% of my travelling companions have contributed. So here's The Belated Birthday Girl, who's doing her usual thing of focussing on the food and drink highlights of Edinburgh, seeing as The List Eating And Drinking Guide is impossible to get hold of these days. (But she mentions a few of her show highlights as well.) Enjoy.
Reviewed today: Shortcuts - Views From The Four Nations.
In previous Manchester International Festivals – look, just go back to part one of this piece and follow the links in there, I can’t be bothered typing them again – anyway, back then the hub of the event was Festival Square. For the other 102 weeks of the bi-year it was Albert Square, the big public space in front of the town hall. But at MIF time, it became a riot of food stalls, bars and tented stages offering mostly free entertainment.
This year was always going to be different, and not just for the obvious reason. Manchester Town Hall is in the middle of a massive refurbishment programme, meaning that Albert Square is closed off. So for 2021 (and probably 2023), Festival Square has relocated to the space outside Manchester Cathedral. It’s still offering booze, food and entertainment, but this time round entry has to be carefully controlled, with all visitors carefully spaced out into meticulously organised bubbles.
They would have managed it, too, if it hadn’t been for the inhabitants of Twat Island.