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Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

The CASC blackboard

There is a fair number of bars in Aberdeen, my research made me have a closer look at three of them, and then I stumbled across one more..

CASC – short for Cigars Ale Scotch Coffee, was visited twice. Once during a very quiet lunchtime hour, when the very few other visitors were still into the coffee part of the name. BTW, it looks like they take the consonants seriously, too. There is a humidor that looked impressive.

The beer means a large number of fridges with bottled beer as well as 24 keg lines. Lots of English, American and German beers, even a few from Norwegian Lervig. What I missed was a wider selection of Scottish beers, but maybe they feel that there are others who take care of that side of the market.

Revisited in the evening, fairly packed with a young crowd.

This bar probably has the best selection of beer in town, but go in the early afternoon to enjoy them. Centrally located in the rustic Merchant Quarter.

Bottle Cap is a brewery and a bar. They serve very basic food, too, in case you want to line your stomach. Their own beers were underwhelming. I tried three of them, and the general feeling is that you are being served home brews that did not turn out quite all right. Drinkable, but with an aroma that was quite unpleasant. Not a must stop.

Six Degrees North is next door, but in another league. They call themselves the Belgian brewers of Scotland, but there is more to the place than that. Note that the beers are not brewed on the spot, so this is more like a brewery tap than a brewpub. Not that it really matters much.

A blackboard, which you will not see on your way in, you have to turn around and look above the doorway once you are in the main room, shows the beers on tap, including a handful of their own beers. Once seated, you can have a look at the bottle list, which includes hundreds of Belgian beers . Some of the Six Degrees beers are in the classic Belgian styles, others more crossovers like Belgian IPA and Belgian DIPA. Fine beers, and fine Belgian cooking, too. This one should be on your Aberdeen shortlist.

If that’s not enough, there is a bottle list, too.

Worth mentioning is the Triplekirks, yet another church turned into a bar. The beers were fine, but there was a studenty competition going on that was extremely noisy.

Time to call it a night, as the next day was the big event – the BrewDog brewery visit

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I thought I would stick to Norwegian beers this spring, book writing and all. I was wrong. When I got an e-mail telling me BrewDog wanted to fly me to Scotland to visit their brewery, I was not difficult to persuade.

So, last Thursday, as the pubs were opening, I found myself on Union Street, Aberdeen. One of the places on my list was just a few minutes from the hotel, and it came recommended by the taxi driver that took me in from the airport.

The Grill does not look like much from the outside. It probably had a more elaborate sign, perhaps windows with frosted glass and more trimmings some decades ago. Some details of hops and grapes shows that this was more upmarket in another age.

A look at their web page – I was surprised they had one, shows a long history, the name unchanged since it opened as a restaurant in 1870. Their claim to fame, however, is of another kind:

When the pub reopened after the 7-month long refurbishment, (in 1925) John Innes hung a sign in the window which said “ No Ladies, Please”. For nearly 50 years this remained the policy, despite an invasion by female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress at the Music Hall in April 1973. This demonstration made front page headlines in the national press and the police had to be called to disperse the thirsty ladies!

It wasn’t until December 1975 that women were officially served in The Grill, following the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This was followed sometime after by the construction of a ladies toilet in 1998.

Going inside, it is a well kept pub. Nothing fancy, but tidy and clean. No signs of any food, let alone a grill, though, this is a place for drinking. A place dominated by regulars, good atmosphere, where people are greeted on their way in and their regular is poured right away. Local beers on several hand pumps.

I ask for an American APA from the Windswept brewery. The adult lady tending the bar asked if I had tried it before, and offered me a taster. This was apparently a bit outside the mainstream of their beers. It was pouted expertly, topped up and served with a fine head. The cask gives smoothness, but there was a fine bitter mouth feel, too. Malt, caramel, oranges, discreet pine. And APA? The cask treatment makes it difficult to say. An ESB with American hops is perhaps more correct.

A quite small bar, I looked in later, and it was more packed in the after work rush hour. Personal and attentive service. Some serious drinking old men, some reading their paper, some chatting. Not the cheapest place in town, but certainly not the most expensive.

I liked this place. No pretensions, polite service, well kept beer. But I would not be surprised if it was replaced by a fake Italian place with over priced coffee the next time around. I don’t know if Union Street will keep its name either, come to think of it. Go while you can.

Windswept APA

A proper pint

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Breaking news this morning: BrewDog bar to open in Norway. Or, on closer scrutiny: One step closer to one or more BrewDog bars opening in Norway. I’m sorry that I forgot to credit Ølportalen (in Norwegian) as the source for this.

Three Norwegians have secured a franchise agreement with BrewDog, establishing BrewDog Bar AS. They will not run the bars themselves, but in McDonald’s style deliver everything. Beer engines, interior design, cash registers .. and beer.

Two of the three investors are involved in newly established 7 Fjell Bryggeri in Bergen, which is rapidly making a reputation for high quality beers. They are distributed nationally by Cask Norway, who also distributes BrewDog along with other acclaimed breweries from around the globe.

I am not in the restaurant industry, and I am no accountant, either, so I cannot give an economic analysis of this venture. Of course BrewDog is a familiar name in Norway, Cask Norway has done a great job, getting their beers on the supermarket and Vinmonopolet shelves in remote outskirts of the land. The market is also ready for trendy beer bars appealing to the younger crowd – there are a number of them already, at least in Oslo.

But on the other hand, there are some extra obstacles around here.

  • They cannot name it BrewDog. The rest of the graphic design also has to be toned down to follow the rather draconian Norwegian legislation when it comes to advertising alcoholic beverages. Pump clips seem to be all right, but apart from that they have to limit themselves to a clinical list of the beers on offer. This means that a lot of the promotional effect of using the well established brand name will be lost.
  • The concept of these bars is expensive beer in small glasses, even in markets where beer is cheap compared to Norway. If you add an extra link in the supply chain – the Norwegian franchise holders – and top up with Norwegian taxes and Norwegian wages, the cost of a beer could be astronomical.

They could go for low rent neighbourhoods, playing on the rough, no frills style of their bars. OR they could go for the other end of the market, finding prime spots where the customers don’t worry too much about the prices.

I have followed, with amazement and amusement, the BrewDog penomenon from its early days. I have enjoyed (most of) their beers, and I have praised them on this blog before they became a world famous brand.

I welcome BrewDog Bar to the Norwegian scene. I doubt that their bars (singular or plural) will be my favourite hangouts. But, as I wrote about Mikkeller Stockholm recently, all beer bars or pubs do not need to appeal to all discerning beer drinkers any more. There will be niches for various segments – and we old-timers will have to adjust. What a luxury!

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If you thought the British beer scene was all quiet pints and cobwebbed pubs, you obviously do not follow Melissa Cole’s blog.

She did not like what BrewDog has to say about other british brewers in a recently published book, feeling that BrewDog owes the industry as a whole a bloody enormous apologyy. It wasn’t exactly a big surprise that they don’t feel the same way.

Looks like James is able to stock up on new anecdotes to use when doing Meet the brewer tours.

Favourite quote? 

And we also don’t work for Satan.

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I like single hop series of beers, though the current Mikkeller lineup of 19 varieties is perhaps a bit too much.

For once, BrewDog is a bit more moderate. (Who thought I’d write that in the same sentence?) Four single hop beers, brewed to the same recipe. Sold as a set. Which is not allowed in Norway, for some reason. Actually it is not allowed in Sweden, either, but the Systembolaget decided to be a bit elastic for once. 

I picked up my four-pack in Ølbutikken, Copenhagen. Cheaper than begging the brewery for free samples and then paying hundreds of kroner in duties and fees.

The Sorachi Ace has loads of fruit aroma, peaches and apricots. Roses and perfume. amazing fruit punch flavour. Very sweet, though some earthy elements in the tail. No dryness to speak of.

The Bramling X has orange and almonds in the nose. this one is also quite sweet. Oranges, sweet malt, peculiar dryness in the tail. Not really impressive on its own.

The Citra has a mouthwatering fruity aroma, grapefruits are dominating. Grapefruit and orange palate, but this is also on the sweet side. Very seductive.

Nelson Sauvin also has grapefruit and sweet oranges. Ripe orange flavour, opening into more bitterness. Some bitter almonds. Great beer, the best of the four.

It is very educational to try oth these beers side by side, and it could be an idea for other types ob beer, too.

So, there isn’t much of a chance of seeing this on the Norwegian shelves. But there are other BrewDog beers on their way.

Expect a slightly weaker 77 Lager. In cans for the supermarket shelves.

And Alice, which has sold very well in Sweden, will be available here, though with another name.

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A guest post from the Ulster-Scot again:

Travelling back through Scotland the tippler stopped off at Morrison’s supermarket in Girvan, an Ayrshire coastal town.  With a little while to spare there was time to peruse the beer shelves and the selection of Scottish bottled beers. 

So the other Saturday night while doing a bit of cooking a friend and I started to taste the selection. More Scottish notes later, but the first tried was Innis & Gunn oak aged beer.  Now an oaked Chardonnay or Shiraz, or the occasional whisky would be common, but I haven’t come across before and the Company believes it is fairly unique. In the Company’s own words:
 
Using oak to age beer is unheard of. But, the flavours imparted by the oak barrels (previously used to mature bourbon) lend an incredible depth of taste. Think vanilla, toffee and orange aromas, with a malty, lightly oaked palate; soothing and warm in the finish.
 
That is about right. A delightful full flavour with a little bitter kick, smooth and a bit too easy to drink.  Great little website to check out, too.

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I would not generally mind being at the White Horse at Parson’s Green, West London on an ordinary night. Bot the beer and the food is outstanding. I would certainly not mind being there when they serve a five course Burns dinner with BrewDog beers to match the food. Three new beers, including the Abstract 05.

Tuesday 25 January.

I will not be there. But I have some Haggis in the freezer. And my son bought a CD by the Red Hot Chili Pipers.

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