Welcome to our ongoing mission to explore what London has to offer the discerning lover of excellent beer – from pubs and retailers that take pride in the quality of their hoppy offerings, to local breweries and beer events. In this instalment, we check out a long-awaited craft beer destination.
BrewDog, for the uninitiated, is an independent Scottish brewer of rather bold craft beer. In the four years that they've been operating, it's probably fair to say that they have actively courted controversy – on-off arguments with the Portland Group and CAMRA alike, along with a distinctive penchant for brewing fiercely strong beers, have regularly kept them in the drinks industry headlines. It's clear that they're shameless publicity-seekers – emphasised by their latest stunt of driving a tank around Camden Town to promote the opening of their newest bar.
All of this would be rather annoying if it was just bravado – however BrewDog have always put their money where their mouth is. Behind the headlines, they produce consistently good beer. And their new bar in Camden, which seems to have opened on the sly several days ahead of the official launch, is a great showcase for this. We popped in yesterday afternoon to check it out.
The modestly-sized bar features gunmetal grey walls and ceiling, paired with brick, wood and large windows, providing a pleasant contemporary décor. The bar was quite busy with a combination of traditional Camdenites and beer geeks even in the middle of the afternoon, and became progressively more-so as the evening approached, to the point of near immobility.
The beer selection was, as expected, unapologetically focussed on strong, powerful craft beers. Ten of BrewDog's own draught brews were supplemented by half a dozen US and European imports from the likes of Mikkeller and Stone Brewing. Fridges behind the bar offered a good selection of similar styles of bottled beers. It was immediately clear that this is not a bar for the weak-of-liver or shallow-of-wallet, as the vast majority of beers boasted high (or stratospheric) levels of alcohol, and many of the beers had price tags to match. Two of BrewDog's more headline-grabbing beers, Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismark were offered in 25ml measures – oddly sensible considering their spirit-like ABV.
As is typical for BrewDog beers, flavours often tended to be strongly hop-focussed, with a considerable variety of pale ales on offer, alongside various porters and stouts. The highlight of our visit was a bottle of the now rather rare Chaos Theory, a balanced and comparatively delicate IPA, belying its 7.1% ABV, but with such a wide range of beers available everyone seemed to have their own favourite.
Despite the bar's busyness, the staff remained friendly and helpful, happy to help those who were unsure what to order. The presence of BrewDog's founders James Watt and Martin Dickie emphasised this. Food offerings were slanted towards hearty snacking, with pizzas and cheese and meat platters proving popular.
It seems that BrewDog Camden is not quite 'officially' open yet, but they've been doing great business nonetheless this weekend, and look set to continue to do so.
BrewDog Camden, 113 Bayham Street, Camden.