We’re only just recovering from the almighty hangover we acquired following the BrewDog launch night last Thursday, so apologies for the delay in sharing our thoughts with you.
To open, a rather grandiose statement that is nevertheless absolutely true: without BrewDog, the microbrewing revolution would not have progressed at the same pace these last few years, and as a result the state of Manchester’s bar scene would be very different.
The explosive growth of the company has inspired individuals across the country to try their hand at brewing, and as craft ales have grown in both popularity and quality an increasing number of establishments have started serving them.
Take Font, for example. What was once nothing more than a venue providing students with £2 cocktails to get them pissed now has one of the best stocked bars in the city. Other similar tales are not hard to find.
Why? Because craft ales are suddenly big business, with a large part of the credit due to BrewDog taking them mainstream.
This raises an important question: is there a place for a BrewDog bar in Manchester? If everywhere from the dives to the pubs to the bars already serve BrewDog, can a dedicated venue truly offer a unique experience?
The answer, we’re happy to report, is “yes.” What helps is BrewDog’s choice of location. Initially planning to setup in the Northern Quarter, the company shifted its focus to Peter Street, an area that has fallen on hard times after once having plenty of (admittedly awful) drinking establishments. Which Sam can attest to, having once worked in Brannigans, where she was made to dance to “Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine” at four in the morning – wearing a papier mache comedy head, no less – before cleaning the bar. BrewDog’s arrival could well spark positive revitalisation.
Whilst the exterior might put you in mind of an All Saint’s shop, and give rise to fears that this is little more than a fancy spot for trendy arseholes, inside the aesthetic is kept pleasingly simple, with good use of wood and glass and extra illumination coming from raw light fittings, which gives an industrial rough-around-the-edges feel to the place.
Seating is sparse, and includes a handful of wooden benches that reminded us of secondary school science class, and the music is kept quiet, creating the perfect ambience for conversation. The bar staff were friendly and attentive, clearly clued in about what they were selling and happy to dish out samples.
The place was quiet when we arrived post-work but soon became busy. We dubbed the press wristband we were given the “booze band,” and endeavoured to take full advantage of the free drinks it entitled us to. If you happen to come with someone for whom good quality beer is not a big deal, then there is a range of good quality spirits, ciders, and wines available. But, of course, the main attraction is the extensive range of BrewDog’s own beers.
The brewer has a well-deserved reputation for quality, with Punk one of the best flagship brands offered by anyone anywhere in the world, a sharp fruity burst of pure flavour. Dead Pony Club is a new pale ale that clocks in at just 3.8% yet still offers a firm, robust taste. Zeitgeist is a deep, smoky black lager. Riptide is a rich, chocolatey stout. IPA is Dead Galaxy is like a supercharged version of Punk. Hardcore a wonderfully malty, bitter ale with notes of caramel and toffee.
We were also lucky enough to sample BrewDog’s fifth anniversary beer Dog A, which clocked in at 15.1% and combined chocolate and coffee with Naga chilli. We went out on Tokyo, which we’d been meaning to sample for some time. Given its high percentage, it was no surprise the evening ended in a blurry haze, but we had a great time reaching that point.
Reading the notes we’d made the next day – hastily scrawled sentences that were barely legible and of no great use when composing this piece – was a fun experience. The message was simple enough: not only do BrewDog do an incredible job with their beers, they also get their bars right too.
We’d wholeheartedly recommend making your way down to BrewDog one night. You’ll need to make sure you’re rather flush when you do, though, as the prices are a little on the steep side. That being said, you do have to pay for quality, and more often than not it really is better to spend £20 on a few good beers, as opposed to many mediocre ones.