BrewDog Bristol is the latest opening from the rapidly expanding brewery in Aberdeenshire who make “beer for punks”. Although, on closer examination, it’s a particular type of punk who chooses to drink thirds of ale and eat charcuterie platters in a bar with exposed brickwork and trendy lighting.
These punks are also certainly not Camra, with the brewery and the UK’s biggest real ale advocacy group not on speaking terms after Camra cancelled their bar at last year’s Great British Beer Festival.
In less than six years, BrewDog have gone from a small outfit founded by two 24-year-olds to creating beers of world record strength and driving a tank through the streets to herald the opening of a new bar, of which Bristol is their ninth.
But is all of this a triumph of marketing over substance or the most significant new bar opening in Bristol this year? I am firmly in the latter camp, and just to be sure of this opinion I could be found at the bar, in a table in one corner and a booth in the other on three nights over the past few days.
The only near equivalent in Bristol to here is Beerd on St Michael’s Hill. Both have a wide selection of beers on tap, and fridges packed with bottles from around the world. You can also choose to have these beers in both establishments served in thirds or two-thirds – the Australian “schooner”. But there the similarities end.
Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Dead Pony Club, Hardcore IPA, Hello My Name Is Beastie. BrewDog beers don’t just taste damn good, but also have some splendid names.
Dog A is served only in thirds. At 15.1% it must be the strongest beer on tap in Bristol, and at £5.65 a third, definitely the most expensive. Tasting more like port than beer, on Monday night I drunk it with Stichelton blue cheese.
As well as most of their own-brews, guest beers on tap at the moment are Shakespeare Stout from Rogue Ales in Oregon, Weizenbock from Copenhagen’s Mikkeller and Firestone Walker Union Jack from California.
Fresh from the Wild Beer Co. near Shepton Mallet was all consumed by thirsty customers in the first two days.
The one cider on tap is Sandford Orchards’ Devon Red, and I spotted Laphroaig whisky from Islay in Scotland and The Kraken black spiced rum from the Caribbean.
A selection of Pipers crisps can be seen in a fishing net above the bar, rather like in the Port of Call off Blackboy Hill, while other food includes a cheese and meat board, and cured sausages from Castellano’s of Fishponds.
Where BrewDog can now be found on the corner of Baldwin Street and Welsh Back used to be the Sceptre Tavern, before becoming BJ’s Liquor Emporium and most recently O’Brien’s sandwich shop.
The building is now unrecognisable since those days, with exposed brickwork, metal lamps above the bar and dangling bulbs. Both seats and tables are made out of wood and metal.
Beers are chalked up behind the bar, and in the corner nearest Welsh Back and Bristol Bridge are cartoon chalk drawings of the staff (above), which includes assistant manager Ned, formally landlord at the Portcullis in Clifton and Three Tuns in Hotwells.
BrewDog Bristol will certainly not be to everybody’s tastes. It is loud, brash and uncompromising. But it also has one beer kept behind the bar in a taxidermied squirrel. That might keep Camra out, but there will be plenty of other beer lovers flocking in. Perhaps even a few real life punks.
BrewDog Bristol, 58 Baldwin Street, Bristol, BS1 1QW