Aberdeen is not as crap as I expected it to be. It's got a raw beauty to it, like a dirty Bath, which sees the blocky grey building take on a golden glow if the sun shines. A modern shopping centre newly opened, lots of shops for the missus, tall and interesting buildings and a busy middle make it a city with many attractions. Of course, I only went for one thing: the BrewDog bar.
Around every dark corner is that Scottish beacon: a red T hanging outside each pub. And there are a lot of pubs, many of them looking exactly the same; flat-fronted, dark-windowed (presumably so you can’t see in or out), grim. Refreshingly, when you turn the corner onto Gallowgate you see the blue and white shield of BrewDog and nothing else, a bright and modern counterpoint to the grey all around. Smart and cool outside, just two shields note its place with the windows misted just suggest at the bodies inside.
Through the door and it's smaller than I pictured, but perfectly formed. Sofas to the left and right, tables and stools up the right hand side and high chairs in the middle, industrial bare-brick walls with the bar taking up the whole back space. The blackboard tells you what's on and it's poured from matt black fonts. One board is for the BrewDog range, the other is for the imports. The bottles fill the fridges like flashing lights attracting your eyes to the prizes inside.
I start with Punk because it's hard not to. They have the new one at 5.6% as well as the original which is sold as Punk '10. The new one really is very good. 5am Saint is the big seller or at least it was until the new Punk arrived. Now the staff, who are really well informed and do a great job under the superior supervision of Bruce the bar manager, don’t fear the hard sell on the Punk, worried that someone’s first sip of BrewDog would leave them running back to the Tennants. Whereas before they might have reserved the flagship beer until someone has tried 77 and 5am, now they can go straight for the Punk (which isn’t to suggest it’s now a muted beer; far from it – it’s now a better rounded beer with so much hop flavour, bitterness and aroma. I tried Punk ’10 side-by-side and it’s still a great beer, I just prefer the quaffable qualities of the new).
All the other beers were also excellent. 77 and 5am Saint are the best I’ve tasted them and Alice Porter is smooth and full bodied with just a hint of vanilla at the end. On the other board are some Mikkeller beers, I Hardcore You (amazing stuff) and on the third visit Bitch Please is on, the collaboration with 3 Floyds. They also have a really interesting whisky selection which they don't advertise, so if you want a nightcap then make sure you ask – I loved the Smokehead and Six Isles.
In the evening the bar fills up and there's a great atmosphere, cool with a good soundtrack playing in the background, a mix of young and not-so young drinkers. It’s a good place to drink but it's the sort of place that's very dangerous; it's easy to lose hours of your life in there moving from beer to beer (available in thirds, including a tasting tray, halves and pints and soon to be two-thirds). What's most dangerous is how you want to try every beer they have. And I think we did that. Plus every whisky. And then more beer... It’s a great bar to drink in with great and informed staff and BrewDog have created a place that’s definitely worth travelling to: add Aberdeen to the list of beer places to visit (soon to also include Edinburgh and Glasgow where new bars are coming... will it be possible to do a BrewDog bar pub crawl?!)
This excess of beer and whisky left us in a terrible state for brewing the next day, which is the reason Zak Avery, Pete Brown and I were up in Scotland. Zak’s covered it here, including how the booze-broken brains of three award-winning writers couldn’t scrape together a sentence of label text, and a sneak preview of what the beer will be.