Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: October 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Birthday Brewdog Tour

We love a bit of a roadtrip every now and again, and having been kindly invited up to the Brewdog brewery by malt master Angelos (who we first met at this excellent homebrew competition), Jim decided that a 400 mile journey up to Ellon would be a great way to spend his birthday. and frankly the only way to travel to a craft beer Mecca would be to make the quasi-religious Hajj via the various Brewdog bars on the pilgrimage.

Seeing as it's rather a long way from Sheffield, we made a proper long weekend of it, calling at as many Brewdog bars as we could on the way, just to stick with a bit of a theme! Obviously we also found many more fantastic places on our travels... look out for another post in the near future for these.

Our plan was to begin on home soil in Brewdog Sheffield, before heading up to Newcastle and then on to Edinburgh, with an overnight stay in each city, then on to Aberdeen and finally the Big Dog - the brewery itself in Ellon. The bars all follow a similar mould... always slightly industrial, with booths, matte black paint and walls clad in what can surely only be made from a sports hall floor. With slightly different offerings from Stone, Mikkeller and Boon or Weihenstephan on the guest lines and at least eight of the host beers on the other taps, there is always a beer for everyone. Whilst the beer list and venues are similar, it's the staff that set each apart and give the bars a distinctive character. Every single person we spoke to behind the bar was helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and polite enough to seem interested in our slightly odd quest!

Clockwise from top left: Brewdog Newcastle, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh
En route to Aberdeen, we decided to add in a somewhat impromptu trip to Dundee, where the Royal Exchange building plays host to the ornate bar. Due to it being only part way through our drive, as we sat twiddling our thumbs for the lunchtime opening we drew straws for the designated driver. As the bar opened, Laura opted for a Fritz-Limo apple juice. Jim clutching the figurative long straw more than made up for this, indulging in the 8% Molotov Lite from Evil Twin. For the birthday boy, this was the perfect opener to the proceedings, light, floral and a nice accompaniment to the beef and Five AM Saint pie. Moving on to Stone - Points Unknown, another ludicrously strong pre-afternoon beer in the form of a Belgian style tripel at 9.5%, which has been barrel aged in wine and tequila before being blended with a delightfully fresh West Coast DIPA, to form an awesomely rounded, hoppy, slightly tart, massively boozy and all round stunning drink.

By Monday it's definitely fair to say we were adequately warmed up to complete our pilgrimage to the brewery itself, along with the Dogtap there. Based in Ellon, a half hour bus journey north of Aberdeen, it is absolutely ENORMOUS and still clearly in the process of rapid growth.

Upon arriving at the brewery, we were greeted by Angelos who was to be our guide and beer guru for the afternoon. The bar attached to the brewery follows the same pattern as the rest, except with the reflective majesty of the pilot kit at one end. As we moved to through to the large building behind the bar, wandering through a maze of impossibly shiny stainless steel, we began to see the scale of what the Brewdog machine has become, with three massive fermenting vessels in the centre of the building and a £3million bottling plant taking up around half of the space of the main warehouse.

We were firstly shown the four main brewing vessels (mashtun, lautertun, kettle and whirlpool) - a setup that allows 4 different beers to be on the go simultaneously and up to 10 brews a day to be produced. Our tour continued along to conditioning tanks and the dry hopping stage of the process, where we were lucky enough to have a taste of the super chilled and ridiculously fresh beers. The highlights were the legendary Punk IPA, with an outrageously juicy hop character, and Tokyo - at around 17% and -1 degrees, it was practically a syrup, fruity, sticky and downright delicious. Black Eyed King, which becomes the base of the "Dog" series of beers, was also phenomenal. Many of the fermenting vessels are situated outside the brewery building itself... with 15 that can contain 800 hectolitres, it's not hard to imagine why. The sheer scale of absolutely everything just blew us away... despite being familiar with many a brewery, we'd truly never seen anything like it. Again, the enthusiasm of those working there was obvious, and the whole building felt a bit like a beehive, everyone working busily as a team and the air filled with an electric innovation. With their recent milestone of £10million through crowd funding, we will no doubt see many more exciting things coming from this remote corner of Scotland.

After a pit stop in the tap room - a Five AM Saint for Jim, and a stunning sour cherry pilot brew for Laura, it was time to get the bus back to Aberdeen and grab a good night's kip ready for the 7 hour drive home the following day. Totally worth it.