BrewDogging #71: Cambridge

This picture by The BBG looks so utterly *alien* these days that I'm going to let you click on it to see it bigger. You're welcome.A Tale Of The Before Times (#5 of 5)

I'm posting this towards the end of June 2020. We visited our 71st BrewDog bar during the first weekend of March. There was a plan that by this point in June, we would be guzzling pints in our 72nd: but with travel restrictions being what they are, that isn't happening any more. (If you're wondering where that bar might have been, there's a subtle clue on one of the pages linked to in this piece.)

Let's say it out loud: Cambridge may well be the last new BrewDog bar I write about on here for some time. At this stage, it's hard to tell how many of the bars we've previously visited will survive this mess: we know already that Helsinki hasn't, which is a damn shame. In the circumstances, it's incredibly weird looking back three and a bit months to March 6th-8th, seeing what we did over the space of that weekend, and how little of it we could get away with currently. Sure, there were rumblings coming from the east that we were heading for trouble, but the main way I remember Covid-19 from that weekend was having the official Vietnamese campaign song stuck in my head for most of it. There wasn't any sense that this could have been our last weekend away for some time: whereas just one week later, we were sitting in the Brixton Ritzy watching The Invisible Man with a growing awareness that we probably wouldn't be able to do that in a few days.

So, as we head towards the July 4th re-opening of English bars with an increasing sense of dread at the second wave they could be instrumental in stoking, join me as we get all nostalgic about what things used to be like as far back as last Spring...

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Under Size Me: A Veganuary Experiment

Vanilla is the new Black: warm mushroom pate with lemon and rice, accompanied by field mushrooms and spinachA Tale Of The Before Times (#2 of 5)

This was all The Belated Birthday Girl's fault idea. She announced late last year that she wanted to attempt some sort of reset of her eating and drinking habits at the start of 2020. It's a popular idea, of course: some people do Dry January, some do Veganuary. Her plan was to do both, simultaneously. As a supportive partner, and also for reasons of simple practicality, I decided I'd join her in her efforts.

I've described how our Dry January went in my review of BrewDog's first alcohol-free bar, which opened that same month. In brief, as the number and variety of alternatives to booze has rocketed over the past year or two, it turned out to be a relatively easy exercise, as well as an educational one. Veganuary was a slightly different kettle of tofu, however. It took us both a little while to realise what an asymmetric undertaking this was: as a veggie, The BBG just needed to cut dairy out of her diet, whereas I was giving up an awful lot more as an omnivore. Still, we got through it. And as I had to work a lot harder to get through a month as a vegan, I obviously won.

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BrewDogging #70: AF Old Street

Getting the white balance right was always going to be tricky on this one.Somewhere in the backlog of site content that's been building up since the start of 2020 is a pair of posts relating to what happened during January. Specifically, The Belated Birthday Girl's decision to go both dry and vegan for the first month of the year, and my decision to tag along in order to see what it was like. (That decision was also influenced by my desire to avoid awkward social situations where she's forced to sip on glasses of water while I'm chugging egg nog by the bucketful.)

One of those posts is going to focus on the vegan side of things, and will note how targeted a demographic I felt in early January, as everyone from McDonald's on up suddenly announced new vegan lines on sale. The other one - this one, in fact - is just looking at how we managed to avoid booze for a month. And once again, there was a big push in various quarters to provide new products for the newly alcohol free. You've probably guessed one of them by now.

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BrewDogging #69: St Pauli

That blue and red glow near the bottom of this tower block? That's BrewDog St Pauli. You can ignore everything above that, for now.You can almost imagine the board meeting at BrewDog plc. One of their execs is doing a PowerPoint presentation, pointing out that since they took over the former Stone brewery in Berlin there’s been a notable upswing in sales in Germany. It’s probably about time they opened another bar in the country. Maybe in Hamburg, perhaps?

Offscreen, we hear a quiet rhythm being beaten on the boardroom table, gradually increasing in volume: three beats, then a pause, then repeated. And as the camera turns towards James Watt and Martin Dickie at the other end of the table, we hear the vocal chant that accompanies their banging.

“Ree-per-bahn! REE-PER-BAHN! REE-PER-BAHN!

This (wholly imagined) chain of events will ultimately lead to The Belated Birthday Girl and me spending our first ever Christmas Day in a BrewDog bar: specifically one located in the St Pauli district of Hamburg, at the top end of the naughtiest street in Europe. Coincidentally, it’s the 69th bar we’ve visited. I thought this next sentence would more or less write itself, but it’s harder than it looks.

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BrewDogging #68: Carlisle

Just try something for me: open up the Warsaw review in a separate tab, and then flip between the pictures on the two tabs. Spooky, isn't it?This'll be the last BrewDogging of 2019, I reckon. (There's a research trip for another one still to be done, but you won't read about that until 2020.) In 2019, I wrote reports on eleven new bars, ten of which are linked to at the bottom of this page: Brixton, Paddington, Dalston, Union Square, Peterhead, Itaewon, Le Marais, Outpost Manchester, Perth and Edinburgh Airport, obviously not counting the one you're going to read about now. The vast majority of these opened this year, so we seem to be just about keeping up with James Watt's plans for world domination.

We should also report that we lost one: Angel, which finally pulled down the shutters after three separate attempts to make it pay its way. (Someone else is currently having a go at making the site work.) Maybe that makes you a bit twitchier about new bars when they open, looking for signs that they'll be able to make it through that all-important first couple of years? Maybe.

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Collabfest 2019

Collabfest 2019 at BrewDog Canary Wharf. If you look carefully, the signs are all there.We drank 57 beers last weekend. What did you get up to?

Regular readers will know what's going on here: since 2013, we've been regular attendees at BrewDog's annual beer festival, Collabfest. Once a year, each of their bars gets together with a local brewer and makes a brand new beer: and then for one crazy weekend, all those beers go on sale simultaneously in all the bars.

When we first did this in 2013, there were only eleven BrewDog bars and eleven beers on offer, and we were able to comfortably squeeze tasters of seven of them into the gap between a couple of films at the LFF. By 2019, that number has grown to, um, 78. Luckily for us, only 69 of them were available for Collabfest in the UK: the Asian and American bars couldn't ship their offerings over here, while Reading's contribution turned out wonky and had to be scrapped at the last minute.

Still, 57 out of 69 isn't bad, is it? Depending on your interpretation of the word 'bad', obviously.

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BrewDogging #63: Itaewon

마치 똥 힙스터 웨더스푼과 같다April 29th-May 6th, 2019

Well, you knew it was coming. We've done Japan: we've entered Korea via the back door of Busan: and now we've made it up to Seoul, where they've got one of these bad boys.

Was BrewDog Itaewon the only reason we went to Korea in the first place? Well, no. But it was probably the final nudge that drove us into visiting the country after several years of talking about it. And after a weekend in Busan bookended by horrendous weather, you'll be pleased to hear that our week in the capital is blessed with glorious sunshine throughout. It's a week that takes in two hotels, five palaces, and countless bars, cafes and restaurants. Plus, just like Busan, there's a bridge that needs to be named and shamed for its FILTHY LIES about a light show. (But that'll have to wait for another page: this one is just looking at the bars, restaurants and hotels.)

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BrewDogging #64: Le Marais

C'est juste une merde hipster WetherspoonsAs of Friday June 14th, 2019, The Belated Birthday Girl and I have been doing that thing we do for eighteen years. That thing has, over time, come to involve beer and travel in large quantities, so inevitably our anniversary celebrations would involve those too. And thanks to a pure fluke of timing, we could combine them all in one fell swoop.

Did you know that there's a Paris Beer Week? I know, it's a set of words that refuse to sound right together, like London Fashion Week or something. But it exists, it happens during the middle of June every year, and this year it coincided perfectly with the weekend of our anniversary. Which is handy, because we've had other Parisian beer business on our schedule for a while now.

And before you ask: yes, I know these are still appearing out of order. BrewDogging #63 is coming soon, it's just going to require a bit of a run-up to get to it.

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Mostly MIF 2019, and Partly BrewDogging #65: Outpost Manchester

I was originally going to say 10 PRINT HELLO 20 GOTO 10, but that seemed a little too meta.Friday July 12th

2310: Manchester Piccadilly station
We've arrived back in my home town once more for a weekend at the 2019 Manchester International Festival, bringing my coverage back in-house after four consecutive Festivals elsewhere. (It's running till July 21st, so at the time of writing you still may be able to catch some of it for yourself.) Over the next 48 hours or so, we'll be revelling in MIF's commitment to bringing us artistic experiences that haven't been seen before. A journey that along the way will bring to us new colour, new dimension, new value. New new new.

2350: BrewDog Manchester
Okay, so not everything here's going to be new. But as we pop in for our nightcap beers, we're immediately confronted by a DJ playing Billie Jean at top volume: it's funny how quickly that became socially acceptable again, isn't it? And as we sip on our #Mashtag2015 and Jackie O's Oil Of Aphrodite, I can't help but notice that over its seven years in the city centre, BrewDog Manchester has gradually become just another place in town where the kids come to get bladdered on a Friday night. A group of merry girls asks me to take a photo of them holding their cocktails: another group gets told off by bar staff for standing on the seats in their booth: a bloke takes his shirt off to mark something on the stroke of midnight, and is discreetly escorted from the premises shortly after. There's no trouble as such, but something essentially BrewDoggy seems missing. It makes you wonder what the new place is going to be like.

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