Look back 5 years, and enter BrewDog, a game changer for the UK beer scene.
Set up in 2007, they have since been brewing an ever expanding range of craft beers with high quality ingredients, knowledge and perhaps most importantly real passion. Whilst on their website they say their beers are 'in no way commercial or mainstream' their brand is becoming increasingly recognisable.
Of course the scene is bigger than one up-start brewery. On all my recent trips to London i've visited a little pub called The Euston Tap which is a dedicated to offering London the best in craft beer. The range they have is ridiculous - they post an update on their blog each day of what new beers they have in and unlike BrewDog it isn't associated to one brewery meaning they can get in whatever they like. The downside (aside from it being a good 300 miles away from my flat) is that it's housed in one of the original stone lodges for the train station meaning it's tiny, hardly any seats, not somewhere you can easily spend a leisurely afternoon unless its sunny.
The newly opened BrewDog bar in Newcastle is exactly this. plus boardgames and hide away sofas.
The other half is a huge fanboy so when I won us some VIP passes to their opening night he felt like a kid in a very alcoholic sweet shop. I can't explain it in better terms that BrewDog is a very cool 'thing' and when something like that comes to your city there is a noticeable buzz.
I could try and maintain a vague tone of professionalism, but you know this is 'beer for punks' and with free draft all night I got drunk, in a good way. My days of downing stella are well behind me thankfully.
The bar has a stripped back industrialist look, lots of exposed steel beams, bare concrete walls and floor but it also has lots of lovely touches. The walls have a wooden panelling which has the odd mis-matched coloured stripe across it. As I looked at this more closely I realised it was the flooring of an old gym hall, the coloured stripes the old court markings. Things like this make it look very fucking cool. There were also lots of glowing light bulbs which off set the harshness of the steel and brick.
O and although they don't do proper food (I had been hoping for the Tim Anderson created burgers they offer in their Camden bar) but the cheese and meat platters are well worth a try. I have a vague memory of cramming a huge piece of creamy goats cheese in my mouth whilst almost falling down the stairs.
We were invited to a tasting with James the co-founder (who later in the night I couldn't stop myself going 'man this is sooo fucking cool, I love it blah blah blah' hmm, sorry about that) who educated us to how to taste our beer properly, and the different processes that go into making it. The tasting finished with their 18.2% Tokyo which is one of the strongest beers made in the UK, it tasted like no other beer i've ever tried, sweet with a smell sort of like sherry but tasted like a strong stout.
What I couldn't understand was the two women during this tasting sipping on glasses of white wine. Really the mind boggles.
And this educated view on the beers doesn't just come when the big boss is speaking, the staff here are fantastic. Knowledgable, friendly and always willing to offer advice on what to try, nearer the end of the night I was just asking to try 'something fun'. You can make as many fantastic beers as you want but that doesn't mean you'll necessarily open a successful bar if you don't make the right atmosphere. There is a pub in town which I regularly go to as it is just behind my work, and even though I go in at least once or twice a week, the staff are always rude, up their own arses and make absolutely no effort to be friendly let alone polite. I left BrewDog after 1 night and already knew the names of half the staff.
BrewDog is a company that is totally on it in terms of attitude and atmosphere. They may say it's beer for punks, but don't worry there isn't any GG Allin blaring out and leather isn't mandatory. Go, now, spend an afternoon there and discover beer better than tasteless lagery pisswater.
BrewDog Newcastle is located at 16 Dean Street, you can get them on twitter @brewdognewc