Sunday 15 May 2016

Brooklyn Comes To Dalston

Brooklyn Brewery are on the road again, taking their 'Mash' concept out to nine countries. This week, they've been in London, with events like a DIY dinner party, and, over two nights, the 'Beer Mansion'. I hadn't previously visited any of the formal Mash events in London, so this appeared to be a good time to go along and see what an 'immersive' beer experience looked like.

In a Dalston back street, into a courtyard with odd bits of shipping container, a sign perhaps that railway arches are becoming a bit passé. Handed a can of beer at the door, I thought, 'blimey, how will they get 500 people in here?' I wandered over to a chopped-off bit of container, and, seeing a staircase heading down, entered the rabbit-hole...

Moments later, I'm in a building reeking of Williamsburg re-purposing. A former commerial/industrial building with large workrooms which are now 'spaces', replete with reclaimed furniture and knick-knacks, supplemented with a range of props and branding from the brewery. A huge room featured bands and DJs, and finding more stairs, heading up to rooms themed for IPA, food and beer pairing, and, at the top (though not the very top) a space devoted to Brooklyn's barrel-ageing and 'Ghost Bottle' programme. Garrett Oliver is on the roof, apparently, though he did pop over to the barrel bar while I was there...
Miss Gabe Barry, testifyin'...

I spent a lot of the evening here, listening to Miss Gabe Barry, 'Beer Education & Community Adviser', perched Greg Koch-like on a bar top taking listeners through a sensory journey demonstrating the creative process for their aged and special beers. There can be up to 70 Ghost Beers in the mix for consideration as a new addition to the range each year, and these events seem ideal to put a few of them in front of informed and willing tasters.

Peak Hipster?
In other rooms, a chef was giving away food by using punters' hands as plates. After platters, shovels and jars, this felt a bit peak hipster, but quite funny. The bar adjacent had saisons to pair with the pile of salmon and dressing. A dedicated IPA bar featured some stuff I'd not seen before, including the impressive Scorcher IPA, and local brewers were also featured, 40FT, Redchurch and Beavertown among them. Redchurch's version of a gose was available (Pillar Of Salt?) - nicely puckering, but a bit short of flavour. I'm sure it'll get better...

So, thoughts... It struck me that the arrangement of rooms somehow led attendees on a journey through the possibilities of beer. From the can of pale ale everybody picked up at the door, after that it was an invitation to find your own level, from the bottom of the building, and the beers you might be familiar with, up to the top. Like playing levels of a video game.

Defend Beer. Lots of the staff were wearing tee shirts with this legend on the front. I didn't get to the bottom of why, so I'm hoping somebody will enlighten me.

Purpose. A tenner to get in, which got everybody free beer samples and food, popcorn and other stuff, means Brooklyn can't be making much money off the Mansion. But there's enthusiasm and dedication here, so this isn't simply naked promotion of the 'brand', but also a way to show the new and curious beer drinker the possibility of beer.

Brooklyn. There's a confidence in the way they go about their work. It occurred me that they're mature and established enough to never feel pressurised into following trends, so it's unlikely there'll be a cloudy Vermont-yeast IPA coming out of Williamsburg anytime soon.

I came away with a Ghost Bottle (thanks!) and, having asked a lot of questions, with more knocking around the grey matter, which can probably wait until next time. I wonder whether next time Mash takes to the road, other UK cities might get a chance to experience this.

(I bought my own ticket, and was delighted to be offered a bottle to take away.)