I'd been meaning to get along and have a beer at Brewdog Camden so, on a sultry afternoon, I made my way over to boho Camden Town to check it out.
The place was deliciously air-conditioned as I walked in, with a few small groups of lunchtime hipsters dotted about, and a customer at the bar chatting to the barmaid. The place is branded top to bottom, and a small TV plays video of the zany BD antics on a loop on a fridge behind the bar. Not unlike one of Orwell's telescreens. Some beer books are dotted about for the customers to peruse, and there are board games.
The barmaid broke off from her chat to introduce me to the Brewdog Experience, which goes along the lines of, have you been here before, have you had Brewdog beers, etc. I hadn't and I had, so we got on with getting a pint. She was knowledgeable about the state of play with the beers, and open about who was brewing what these days - I opted for some Meantime-brewed Zeitgeist, a which seems to have given Meantime some problems. This pint was pretty good, maybe a bit hoppier than I remember.
I took my beer and plopped down on a stool facing the telescreen. The bloke from the bar sat down a few stools away and got a conversation started. He's about my age, but decided fairly recently that he liked beer, and was just getting his feet wet around the London scene. He was toting a copy of 'Man Walks Into A Pub' and had picked up this week's freebie Shortlist magazine, containing an article by Peter Brown (?) on the rise of craft beer. His particular interest seemed to be in the broadening of the gastro offering in 'craft beer bars' to include proper gelato, so he'd been going around to try and generate discussions with small pubcos and bar operators. Despite his years (a few above the age range Emma Cole at Craft Brighton identifies in the Shortlist piece, thank you very much), he was enthusiastic as a kid about what he was discovering.
He departed and I had another beer, this time a black IPA called Libertine. Single-hopped with Simcoe, it showed off the hop nicely, but the beer lacked a bit of complexity. I'd have liked that hop in an IPA. Sums up Brewdog's beers to me, they just stop short of being very good. The bar, though, was a pleasant place to chill out with a couple of their beers. Staff friendly and helpful, and they know their stuff, and the food got the thumbs-up for value and quality from my erstwhile drinking companion.
I suppose the thing is, with the pleasing expansion of 'craft beer bars' around London, the Brewdog brand is the USP here. I imagine I could have gone to the Crown & Anchor in Brixton Road, or Craft in Clerkenwell, and encountered similarly knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, but there's no doubting Brewdog's cult-like appeal to a section of beer drinkers. I'd be happy enough to shut out the irritating cacophony that occasionally issues forth from Fraserburgh and come back here to drink more of their beer.
It's also handily-placed for the so-called 214 Bus Crawl, a route which will take you from the Bull at Highgate, to the Southampton Arms, past Camden Brewing in Prince Of Wales Road, and by this place on its way to Liverpool Street.
I walked out of the place and back into the stultifying heat.
They tell me the second London bar will be in Shoreditch.