Established in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie, BrewDog are a multinational brewery and pub chain based in Ellon, Scotland. Since their founding, they have opened 33 breweries and brew bars across the UK. BrewDog want to make the public as passionate about craft beer as they are.
So how can a craft beer brewery go from making a beer, to owning 33 breweries and distributing their beers throughout the country and indeed the world, all over major supermarkets in the space of only 10-12 years. Most craft brewers struggle to even stay afloat in this competitive market. Do they have special connections? Is there a Dragon funding their initial start up for a massive wedge of the shares? Are they millionaires already before they owned a brewery? Did they con the hard working public into crowdfunding their hijacked craft beer campaign?
None of these, it’s because they make really good beer… isn’t it?
They didn’t have a business plan, just a mission to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they were. Well in my case, they succeeded. I’ve never put so much passion into reviewing something before. I’ve got a real taste for it.
So let us settle down to review a few of their main beers, the ones you can find in the supermarket, forget all their limited editions (or ones they could not sell of of yet) and lets get straight to the bulk buy options, the best sellers, the reason they are the envy of every home brewer and craft brewer who wants to go professional or just get their beers on tap at their local.
PUNK IPA 6/10
This is perhaps their flagship beer. The Punk IPA, it’s likely to be the most popular once everyone’s settled down and tried a few others and picked a favourite. It tastes like beer, it tastes like IPA, it has a moderate yet above average abv of 5.6%. It’s post modern so that’s “the future”, but it’s also classic so that’s “the past” too. It’s described as light, malty with a pine and grapefruit taste. The pineapple and lychee are a subtle but good touch, and the hop varieties give this some exotic notes. Hmmm, I’m not sure about the lychee bit, but I wont protest too much as I can taste that it has been made with at least one late hop edition. Probably not earthy enough to be Fuggle, so I would guess Cascade as it’s everyone’s favourite. I’m not sure why its called Punk? This beer certainly doesn’t make my head bang or even make me feel like I’ve been punched in the face. It does however make me feel a bit down and out broke with it’s whopping £2.50 a bottle of 330ml to drink at home price tag, just like I felt all through the 1970s punk music era. Still, it is drinkable if you’re young, hip and Scottish enough to appreciate it.
ZOMBIE CAKE 3/10
Wake up and smell the coffee. No really, it does actually smell of coffee. Strangely enough it actually tastes of coffee too. Quite strong, black coffee. is it a coffee? It has a hint of chocolate and vanilla, is it a Starbucks coffee? Can I get whipped cream and a marshmallow on top? It’s two sugars short of being my morning pick me up and it comes without the aftertaste of an Irish coffee. If you leave it open for a few hours and then zap it for 30 seconds on full power in a 900 Watt microwave (times may vary depending on the make and model of your microwaves and it’s power settings) then you could serve this up to your loved one at 7:00 am. Just make sure it’s not a school day. At 5.0% abv, we don’t want any car accidents especially in Scottland with it’s zero tolerance to alcohol and driving. Who on earth thought coffee and beer would go together? That’s like drinking a glass of milk after brushing your teeth or fish-flavoured yogurt. Personally, I poured the second half of it down the sink and moved on.
DEAD PONY CLUB 4/10
Initial impressions were amazing, I could not believe that a beer could get so much citrus flavour and sharp tang without a bitter burn just through the use of hops. I took another sip. It must be using mountains of Yakima Valley hops like Simcoe and Tomahawk added just at the right time during the boil and left in for dry hopping jut enough to get the full aroma. Years must have been spent perfecting this. Unfortunately, on reading the label that’s where my excitement stopped. It uses grapefruit juice concentrate. Grapefruit IPA Teenypop Juice, with a clever name. A cross between a Paloma (tequila, lime and grapefruit soda, the national cocktail of Mexico) and a Hemmingway Daquari (white rum, lime and fresh grapefruit juice). I did managed to finish the beer but this is not a session IPA. This is a novelty beer to try just once. I didn’t pour it down the toilet, but I’m so glad the multi pack did not include a second one. I hope no ponies were harmed during the making of this cocktail and anyway, this dead animal idea is more for cider and not beer.
QUENCH QUAKE 0/10
Vomit in a can, or in my case bottle. What the actual fuck is going on in Scotland? An outbreak of lactobacillus could be the cause or perhaps wild yeast such as Brettanomyces. The black plague even. Did rats crawl up your arse, die and then get shat back down into the mash tun? I don’t know because its not on the label. First sip I spat back into the bottle, I had to have another sip in disbelief! Second beer down the sink in one night, come on Brewdog?! The revolution has been quenched. Quick give me a pint of Fosters to swirl my mouth out with. You can’t actually sell this? Sure, I’ve got three gallons of home made apple wine in my garage that I made ten years ago in demijohns that I just haven’t got round to throwing away yet, in the desperate hope that time will age them and remove all the rotting vinegar flavours (huh, deep breath, coma coma coma). Take this off the shelves immediately. It’s not beer.
NANNY STATE 9/10
Hmmm, quite a nice drop of Ale. A round flavour and not overly hoppy just for the sake of it. Only 0.5% abv, so I guess this is the answer to all those mainstream alcohol free beers. Of course, even one can of these is enough for you to get in trouble in Scotland for drink driving, but at least down south we can enjoy it while stuck on the M25 on the way home from work without even thinking twice about the cops. Would have been funnier to add “session beer” on the label like the rest of your drinks. It kind of reminds me of the Panda Shandy we all drank as kids, but not nearly as sweet. I can only give you 9/10 Brewdog because the calories per unit of alcohol per pint ratio is way to high. This is truly fat bastard beer territory, not even nicely drunk, but nice and fat. You probably get beaten up if you were to be spotted with this is your Lidl bag for life.
Clockwork Tangerine 3/10
Another disappointing fruit beer that tastes nothing like beer and more like a weak fruit juice cocktail. I guess I’ll never understand it. Why bother putting hops in a beer if the fruit flavours come from fruit concentrate. My brother and I fermented a bottle of Ribenia once, but we didn’t call it blackberry wine. We called it fermented Ribenia. Yes our under-aged arses drank it, but we also nicked a bottle of Tia Maria and drank that too. Session IPA my arse! No one drinks this all day long on a Sunday. You’re mislabelling it and misleading the public. This is a novelty drink to try once in a small glass and then go and drink a proper beer. Fermented Fanta, nothing more.
Elvis Juice Na/10
I’m hesitant to try this beer. It’s another grapefruit juice waiting to assault my senses and tang my taste bugs. Another joke beer in my book, so I think I’ll save myself £2.50 for 330ml and spend it on a bag of grapefruits to consume while I’m drinking a normal beer that tastes of hops and gets it’s cirtus flavours from delicate selected hop additions rather than concentrate. Really Brewdog, I kind of feel cheated. The art of beer making has been desecrated for years by the mainstream money grabbing lager brewers and know as you see how stupid the public really are you decide to hijack the craft beer revolution by using false flavours and additives rather than explore the science of creating a unique hop profile or balanced malt bill. I know neither of these crops aforementioned crops actually grow in the Scottish climate, but neither do grapefruits. For years you’ve hidden your poor malt fermentation by distilling the liquor, soaking it in oak and furthermore blending it into a generic spirit. You’re carbon footprint must be unspeakable, with nothing local to speak of. Get back to basics, research the hop varieties you claim to be using and stop hiding behind a fancy can and unrelated beer names. You’re ruining the craft beer revolution for all of us. Please please please stop interfering with it by adding false flavours and destroying the hop profile that we’ve paid so much to enjoy.
There we are, some ups and downs I guess for a brewery that claims to be craft beer and yet marketing it the same way as WD JK Wicked and Monster Munch. With so many crazy varieties of beer on their portfolio, I guess they’ve lost track of what beer tastes like. Just to think of all the effort that went into malting the barley, roasting the rye and picking the necessary hop strains to breed a more resistant plant with more pungent beta acid aromas for it all to be swept away with a bit of orange peel and some Colombian beans.