Last week we tried Brewdog Brewery’s lighter, bottled beers. They ranked well but did not lead to their self-proclaimed beer-volution. Time to get serious. This week, we tackle BrewDog’s bar in Edinburgh.
To start the day, my wife and I toured Edinburgh Castle. The views from its turrets gleamed. The city folded out in a mix of modern and old. Its industrial past and grime woven with green-scaping and Thai restaurants. But Edinburgh Castle echoed a shadow of itself: tired, over-restored, and filled with modern buildings.
Wandering back to our home-stay, we stumbled upon Brew Dog’s Brewery’s bar. It hid below Edinburgh Castle in a cement and steel alley. The small bar door opened to a narrow, windowed hall.
Inside felt like Edinburgh: part modern and stainless, but cosy with couches, wood tables, and a bar made of high school gym floor boards. Parched, we ordered from the chalkboard of ridiculous, I mean, rebelliously titled beers.
First pint: BrewDog’s “Alice Porter”:
It looked like a black stallion with invisibly microscopic fizz and a lace-thin, cream-colored head. Aromas rose with medium plus intensity, smelling of creme brûlée (they add vanilla), perky cedar or pine, and salty soy.
The palate was dry, sparked by extra acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol 6.2% and a medium plus body. The texture felt rich and frothy, like a bushy beard. Vibrant flavors would smack the unaware with fresh raspberry, caramel filled chocolate, toasted coffee, and soy on the finish. The length was medium plus. All told, Alice Porter was very good beer (4 of 5).
Next, BrewDog’s banned beer “Dogma”.
The Portman Group -beer’s head mistress- took BrewDog to court for eight months. Their issue: Brewdog’s beer titles breached conduct. Punk IPA, Hop Rocker, Rip Ride sounded too aggressive. But BrewDog won and then brewed this beer. They originally called it “Speedball”, to “give them something worth banning us for”. Portman Group banned it. Then BrewDog re-branded it “Dogma”.
The Dogma is dark brown with small, slow fizz, and a fine, thin beige lace. The aromas lack intensity but resemble burnt toast, burnt toffee, caramel, and raisins. The palate is dry but wonderfully fruity, with little acidity, little tannin, and 7% alcohol making for a beefy body.
Flavors are rich with caramel apple, heather, sticky honey, peaches, and raisin bread. Very complex thanks to adding honey and heather. Medium plus length. Dogma teeters on the edge of outstanding quality (5 of 5). It may reverberate too much alcohol on the finish. It may seem too heavy, creamy, and rich. Where’s the nose? Speedball this is not. But nothing detracts from this pure pleasure.
Next, BrewDog’s: “Libertine Black Ale”:
This was dark IPA, with a red core and a thin, cream-colored head. Aromas of charred wood and bitter black chocolate were far more intense here.
The Libertine Black Ale felt far less fruity. The acidity was up but average. Bitterness was greater. The alcohol ain’t for wimps at a hefty 7%. This was big beer with medium plus body. Flavors again didn’t leave room to think, with medium plus intensity congeners of black chocolate, cocoa nibs, beach wood fire, hint of warm caramel in back. Medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5). Lovely char.
Starving and dizzy from the intense flavors (and alcohol), we meandered into The Piemaker: a small café devoted to reviving the Cornish Pasty (pronounced “paahstee”).
Full of glee and curried veg wrapped in pastry dough, we ambled in and out of the endless thrift/charity shops full of crap, grab four packaged tomatoes and pasta at Tesco, and crawled back into our closet-sized bedroom at our home stay.
Check in next week when we return to the BrewDog for a special International Competition tasting.