Aberdeen Voice contributor for the past 8 years, Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah has been writing about BrewDog since before the Aberdeen flagship bar opened. She’s just back from a trip that she won on the BrewDog Airlines maiden voyage and tells us what it was like.
BrewDog shareholders, some 200 strong, invaded Columbus Ohio last Thursday. Beer lovers, some in kilts; many in BrewDog regalia, took to the streets, the breweries, the pubs, the hotels and the city arena in an orgy of love for the art of drink.
Perhaps no brand of beer has put the love and the art into their product and into pleasing the many ‘Equity Punks’ shareholders who made all of this possible.
Winning a place on the trip (thanks to doing a lot of buying, trading, and giving stickers away), I found myself at Stanstead Thursday afternoon waiting to take off.
The infectious, happy, perhaps zany atmosphere of the shareholders, staff and founders was there from the start and reached frenzy at points.
The plane was a private hire (with a remarkably friendly team) – in bespoke BrewDog livery. BrewDog blankets, toothbrushes, snacks, eye masks and antimacassars) awaited each passenger. We drank to our hearts’ content of BrewDog beers, its lovely gin and American style whisky.
Then, as an in-flight treat we tasted Flight Club – a brew designed to be drunk at high altitudes with extra flavour to compensate for slight changes to the senses at height. We toasted; we cheered, we laughed; we drank – to the point the toilets were at capacity – something the pilot said he hadn’t seen in 25 years of flying.
After a few or many beers at the hotel or in town, we assembled the next day to tour the brewery and hotel in smaller groups. I knew it was large (42 acres), but like everyone else, the complex on the outskirts of Columbus bowled me over.
I once thought the Ellon Brewery with its artwork and state-of-the-art systems was a Willy Wonkaesque fun factory; BrewDog’s Columbus premises is all that – on steroids and with a hotel.
We toured the brewery, meeting half a dozen operatives along the tour; the cannery and its hyper-enthused canner was smashing; the nerve centre control room was science faction as computer graphics illustrated what valve needed turning or what needed heating.
The hotel is everything we were hoping for; some of us stayed for a night or two in the rooms which were named after some of the beers, lagers, stouts and IPAs BrewDog’s created.
A giant bed, a neon sign over it, two beer fridges (one for your bathroom by the shower no less), and an option to put a draft of your choice on tap in your room and views to the fields and into the brewery: heaven.
When I got to the Hinterland room for the last night of the 4 night epic adventure, I was too tired to go out – and was deliriously happy staying in the giant bed with its fluffy pillows. It should be noted the shampoos, soaps and lotions were made with a BrewDog concoction ‘Elvis Juice’ – a nice citrusy, tart delight – these will, I hope, be offered for sale sometime soon.
Revelling in this fun city, many of us went to the Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey match on the Saturday.
Despite having a nearly equal shots on goal position, the Blue Jackets outclassed San Diego 3 goals to nil. The second was beautifully capitalised on from a chancy shot; the goalie had a certain style and an amazingly cool head.
After the game, many wandered to BrewDog in the Short North part of town – a very vibrant area with shops, no shortage of places to eat and drink, and a lovely fragrance bar called The Candle Lab, where you choose fragrances to make your own candles, soaps, body sprays and room sprays.
The Short North bar was heaving; but the zingy staff got everyone drinks quickly. There was a delightful, filling ‘Donut Drive By’ coffee stout that had been made with donuts; It was like being a cop on a stakeout in terms of flavour.
There was a deceptively 11% IPA (I think) called Diabolical Dream State. One of those was all I needed; I’d walked for miles that day to BrewDog’s Franklinton bar and the city’s German town. And I’d attended a hugely impressive tour at 451 Distillery.
Founder, distiller, creator Chad told us his story, explained in detail but perfectly simply how a distiller starts to distil, when they ‘cut’, and what they can do to ensure they get out all the alcohol from their mash.
He then gave us thimblefuls of a heavenly absinthe (which he’d explained to us very well), a remarkable mescal, rum, whisky and… a rosemary-heavy gin, Clawfoot’ – which I simply had to have. He can’t send his products to us alas – not yet anyway.
BrewDog Franklinton had a lovely roof terrace, but its appeal was not for this cold weather. The food was lovely, not least fresh hot pretzels served with mustards. The root beer float was tempting, but I opted for a traditional (non-alcohol) crème soda.
The trip saw us given lots and lots of goodies, drink, and opportunities to take tours (a bus trip to Cincinnati’s bars and breweries was offered, but I wanted to visit The Candle Lab). Even the inflight food was delish – with the vegetarian options putting other airlines to shame.
But what made this trip? Things did go wrong – there was a power outage, and one Cincinnati bus driver proved a bit less than clued up – but none of these were BrewDog’s fault.
What made this trip? The BrewDog team. The founding fathers James Watt and Martin Dickie kept us amused on the flight over as you would expect, but the crew from the UK and the Columbus crew worked tirelessly and yet somehow effortlessly.
The staffies make this company, as do the shareholders. I’ve never had such enthusiasm for a brand, for entrepreneurs; and I’ve never found anyone making beers as inventive, unique, delicious even audacious as BrewDog does.
I’d go on about the tour, about how the sour beers are made, about what the bars were like, and how much fun Columbus is. However, I’m well over my word count and can picture my editor pulling his hair out long before now.
Slate me if you will, but I am a proud shareholder who saw something great for Aberdeen city and shire in James and Martin from the first day I drank their beer, and as much as I’ll shout about what’s going wrong in the area,
I’ll equally shout about what’s going on that’s great. And that’s BrewDog. Cheers. And thanks to the wonderful person who traded me the sticker I needed. You rule.