“Let Them Eat Cake” – Misattributed quote from Marie Antoinette but definitely sung by Geddy Lee from Rush in ‘Bastille Day’
Part 2/4 of the Beer Quadrilogy
Previously : Part One – A Tale of Two Beers (& the Newcastle Beer Renaissance)
So where were we, 2011 and early 2012 had been a great year for beer in Newcastle. By the time it took me to write the first article two months had passed and the renaissance had carried on. Week on week an amazing selection of beers was hitting bar. From afar the likes of Brodies, Arbor, Redwillow, Kirkstall & Buxton started to appear. Tempest, Summer Wine and Hardknott became regulars in pubs. Local breweries continued to evolve with some stunning results. Festivals were excellent (Brandling Villa Sausage Festival, Free Trade Craft Ale & Bacchus Easter Continental Beer) and the customer base seemed to continue to grow. Even home brew started to become vogue with demonstrations and tasting evenings. All is very good but what could possibly follow a Renaissance…. How about an anarchic beer revolution
“Welcome to the craft beer revolution. Beer was never meant to be bland, tasteless and apathetic. At BrewDog we are setting the record straight. We are committed to making the highest quality beers with the finest fresh natural ingredients. Our beers are in no way commercial or mainstream. We do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness. We are unique and individual. A beacon of non-conformity in a increasingly monotone corporate desert. We are proud to be an intrepid David in a desperate ocean of insipid Goliaths. We are proud to be an alternative” – Brewdog Homepage
In early Autumn 2011 the rumours started. A few days later a twitter message confirmed that Brewdog were looking for a premises in Newcastle. Much excitement ensued with many suggestions of sites put forward. After a few weeks it was apparent that they had found a property (formally Hoko10) down on Dean Street, cue more discussion. It then went very silent, Camden opened, then Nottingham… we wondered whether the Newcastle project had stalled even had been forgotten about. Then in early 2012, the first signs of movement inside the pub, building and development started happening, and recruitment of staff ready for an early April Opening.
I like Brewdog bars, well the one I had visited a few times in Edinburgh. I quite like its stripped back aesthetic, chalkboard mentality and distressed font attitude. It shouts rebellion but with a good dose of clever marketing. That contradiction we will come back to. Of course the beer is the star, but to be honest in the 3 or 4 times I had been to the Edinburgh bar I had only had 1 brewdog beer, a mighty fine Alice Porter. All other times I had partaken from the guest beer board on which beers appeared almost from legend (Mikkellers, Nonge, Evil Twin). This array of beers did nothing for the Brewdog range which had started to become commonplace (even commercial) in many bars on dedicated hand pulls and readily available in supermarkets, making them certainly less attractive as the foreign interlopers. Sometimes the great tasting beers got lost in the marketing and hype that surrounded it and instead of promoting those positive aspects, the brand was too busy sticking it to “the man”. I totally get their ideals but I think sometimes, they try a little too hard. Great beer speaks for itself and Brewdog on its day have very good beer. And they have a great look and product to promote to new drinkers.
So with some interest I awaited its opening on the Friday. There was a VIP evening on the Thursday but I had a prior appointment at Mr Draytons Record Club, and didn’t expect to make it. So I was pleasantly surprised when on the Wednesday, I noticed that they were having a “soft” opening. At first I thought it was a Brewdog like gimic, but after seeing a number of the beeriartti tweeting from there, I decided to try my luck. The pub seemed a much larger version of the Edinburgh branch. The stripped out derelict comfortable look was very prominent. A mash up of concrete, gleaming metal clashing with the odd sofa. I particularly like the Wooden gym floor walls and the large no fuss concrete bar. A mezzanine floor gives more seating and an additional bar. Theres even a Elvira Pinball Machine… Someone described it fabulously as the futuristic zone from The Crystal Maze and I half expected to see Richard O’Brien abseiling from the first floor.
The beers on this first night were great. Of course I started with a guest beer. Tiger Baby, a refreshingly balanced hoppy ale with all the hallmarks of a classic Mikkeller beer. But quickly moved onto a range of impressive Brewdog beers. Firstly Libertine, a black IPA followed by halves of the IPA is dead series, on which, I particular enjoyed the Motueka version. The best beer of the evening was the collaboration Chris from Stone Stout, a potent big hitting ale. Huge chocolate coffee flavours in a sticky treacle like drink. A fabulous sweetness countered with a slight smokiness. Very Very good.
Turnout was great for this first evening considering this was announced via social media and being passed around Word of Mouth. Rod our resident beerologist was one of the first on the scene and you can see pictures of Brewdog Newcastles development and opening nights on his blog. Whilst a few of our group turned up for the Soft opening, many more were at the VIP opening the next night where a free bar was in operation. Myself and PJ sauntered in after our vinyl fix, into a much more crowded room of very inebriated people. I described it at the time as wandering onto the set of a very happy version of the Walking Dead. Within 15 minutes I had a half of a refreshing Brewdog American Saison and a third of fantastic brutal Tokyo* and was starting to move towards my own zombified intoxication. Both were great evenings. I have been back a few more times, I like the venue which continues to grow in character, its got great talkative knowledgable staff and always a fab beer selection (both guest and Brewdog). Its a great addition to the Toons great craft ale scene and I heartily recommend a visit.
So why a cake? On the Wednesday evening I was a little bit tipsy, (I believe I may have had a couple of very strong stouts) and I left with Andrew and Emma. We were busy debating about Brewdogs place in Newcastle beer life and the only way I could express how I felt was with this clumsy analogy.
“You know when you have a really good bit of cake, lets say carrot, I really like carrot… The cake is good by itself, its the substance that you’ll always go back to. Thats the bars we have in Newcastle, the free trades, bacchus’s, Brandling Villas & Top Arm’s…. Then you have cream on it, its even better, but its kind of a luxury. Thats Brewdog, a welcome addition to an already fantastic cake. The majority of the time I will want just the cake, but every so often I will want some cream”.
This pop-up was a nightmare, initially quick to assemble and then difficult to get it to work. I had to to make the pop-up from scratch. A strange Rhomboid shape was required to create the cake, with two very long sides for the profile elements and two shorter sides for the back. Once put together it formed an elongated kite shape with tabs on the shorter faces attached it to the back card. The point of he cake following along the main fold. All this was constructed in white card and then later a photograph of a cake (with pub names) was transposed on top.
The lid was constructed taking the measurements of the kite shape (with a few mm’s increase). Sides were put on, hopefully to cover the edges of the design but also to give the impression of dripping cream. The lid is folded upwards down the central fold and attached to the cake at the back. It was then I noticed a mistake.. as the cake closes and opens the lid refuses to go into place. I later concluded it needed to be a valley fold on the lid with a support mechanism inside. I thought about starting again but what would this cake be without a bit of brewdog rebellion. To counter the design fault I added a “leash” which can pull the lid into its correct position. A simple piece of cord threaded through the bottom of the card and lid of cake. On top it is knotted and hidden under the Brewdog logo, whilst another logo becomes the end of the leash (almost as an instruction). A finishing touch was the inclusion of a paper plate which seemed to add a bit of normality to the whole pop-up.