Saturday was the semi-final of the Scottish League Cup. Aberdeen played Celtic and lost 4-1, as the penalty which lead to the fourth goal was awarded I made my way out of a packed Irish pub in an Aberdeen side street with my brother, disgusted at the 30 minutes of football we’d just witnessed. Giving up on the game we decided to try to find a better way to spend the afternoon.
I haven’t written about Brewdog despite them being a big local (and national) story over the last couple of years. That’s because I’m not really a big fan of their beer. I love their attitude and they certainly have a fantastic knack for promotion. The Fraserburgh based brewery has been a huge success since they began in 2007 and have done a superb job of getting up the noses of the more established brands and the booze establishment. They seem to have caught the general public’s imagination and are converting a large number of young drinkers into fans of IPA and steering them away from bland, commercial lager.
Ordinarily a local brewery forging a national, and international, reputation with a combination of attitude, humour and good marketing would be the perfect thing for this blog. The problem is I tried Punk IPA and I tried Trashy Blonde and while they’re ok I wouldn’t want to spend all night drinking them. They’re just a bit too bitter and that bitterness lingers long after the liquid has departed south towards your stomach. I understand they want an extreme taste and they love the hops but those two, some of their most commonly available beers, just don’t appeal to me.
Recently I’ve returned to the world of Brewdog to try them again. The Brewdog bar opened in Aberdeen and they took over the running of a small restaurant called Musa, also in the city. I’ve heard great things about both venues and thought I should give the Brewdog range another chance. So it was with that in mind that we hid from the football score and took refuge in the Brewdog bar.
Entering the bar at quarter to four on a Saturday afternoon it was good to see the place was pretty busy. There’s a couple of rows of tables, bare walls (with no TVs mounted on them!) and a large display of beer bottles behind the bar. There’s music playing but it’s firmly in the background so there’s no need to raise your voice to be heard. It’s a good atmosphere to walk into.
I’ve already mentioned the Brewdog beers I don’t like so I won’t discuss them again. Instead lets focus on the one I do like. I love 5AM Saint. It’s not a tame beer, like almost all the brewery’s output, but by my reckoning it’s one of the easiest to drink. Billed as an “Iconoclastic Amber Ale” it’s still very hoppy but it doesn’t have the over-riding bitterness that stays with you for hours. It’s a brilliant beer and one that featured heavily throughout the rest of my day.
In addition to the regular Brewdog beers on tap they had a few special guest beers available in half and a third of a pint glass sizes. That might seem a bit strange but the ABV of these 3 beers ranged from 9.5% to over 10%. We tried the I Hardcore U and the I Beat U beers, both from Mikeller. Both beers were amazing. Really nice to drink despite the brute strength. Thankfully the bar is the kind of place where you’re not just downing pints to get to the next one. You take your time, enjoy the beer and the good company.
I bumped into some friends I hadn’t seen for a while, they were enjoying the Alice Porter and the third of the guest beers – Bitch Please. It also seems that there’s a new version of Punk IPA on tap in the bar which has toned down the lingering bitterness. I’ll need to try that next time I go in.
Any downsides to the bar? Well complaining about the prices on tap would be unfair, they’re comparable to most other fashionable bars in the city without the accompanying hassle of negotiating groups of lads on the Stella (though seems like Peroni has taken over as the arshole beer of choice these days, much like Audi eclipsed BMW in the car world). However the bottle prices really did seem a bit steep. I understand they’re all imports and not that easy to find but I’ve seen a lot of them in the more specialist local shops without a massive markup.
If you’re hungry they serve cheese and meat platters containing top-notch examples of both (the one I saw had a brie, a hard parmesan type cheese and a blue cheese on it) along with oatcakes a fresh baguette, olives and chutneys. A nice idea that if I didn’t have plans for tea I would have had a closer look at.
Instead, we departed for The Athenaeum. A nearby bar that I hadn’t eaten at before. Looking at the menu outside Dave noticed they had Brewdog Battered Haddock on the menu and that was the decision made. I went for some tempura prawns and the pork and apple sausages with mash. Actually, that’s not quite true. First I ordered the chorizo and smoked duck salad, but they’d ran out. At 7pm on a Saturday night. Hmm.
Service was poor, we ordered a couple of diet cokes but four arrived, then when we ordered another one later on it didn’t show up on the bill. Thankfully the food was a lot better. The prawns were big and juicy, not overcooked. Dave’s fish looked awesome and I’m told it tasted pretty good as well. The sausages were good and the gravy was rich but the salad you see pictured was not the salad that came with the dish. No, the fish came with salad AND peas but the sausages came with nothing. Just mash. Which is a little bit strange.
Anyway we were half cut and hungry so a solid bar dinner was all we wanted and that’s what we got. After that we headed back to Brewdog to meet some friends and have some more 5AM Saint, before heading to the Music Hall to see Mogwai. Blanking the football out of my head it was a fantastic day.
Brewdog have announced plans for more bars in Edinburgh (with a big enough kitchen to serve pizza’s topped with hops apparently!), Glasgow and London and are actively looking for more locations. If one opens near you then go along, relax and try some great beer.