A Dog on Deck

Despite my obvious interest in the beer industry, I only have limited experience working behind a bar. So far, I’ve poured pints at CAMRA beer festivals, my own Festival of Brewers and some other special events hosted by local breweries. So, when an opportunity to become a ‘Dog on Deck’ came up with Brewdog, I thought it was a good chance to really see the behind the scenes working of a busy City Centre bar.

My History with Brewdog

It’s fair to say, Brewdog have come under a lot of criticism recently. Mainly around their recent marketing campaigns. I have to admit, it’s also tested my patience with a brewery I have been a staunch supporter of.

My history with BrewDog dates to early trips to their, at the time, new bars – Manchester and Newcastle amongst others. I fell in love with the concept. Not necessarily the ‘Punk’ ethos, but more around what they were trying to drive forward. Craft beer for the people. Beers challenging the status quo. Beers that tasted fantastic.

Just a few of the beers I needed to know about!

So, when the third round of Equity for Punks investments came up, it was a no-brainer for me to invest. Again, I must stress, this wasn’t about being a punk, or defying the mainstream. For me, it was a £95 one-off fee to one of the greatest craft beer clubs in the UK. I could bag discounts in the bars, online, and get an invite to one of my favourite events every year – the Brewdog AGM.

However, as the company has grown, my initial romance has waned. I think the biggest factor in that, though, is the awesome variety of craft beers we now have in Leeds, the wider West Yorkshire region and on our doorstep in South Yorkshire and Lancashire. Brewdog bars, to me, have become somewhere you just go to drink Brewdog. if you want more choice, there are alternative places that offer that in abundance.

Leeds is Blessed

All that being said, I still value my EFP membership and I’m an advocate of their beers. One of the other EFP perks (perhaps opportunity is a better word!) is to take part in their ‘Dogs on Deck’ scheme. Initially, this was for Brewdog non-bar staff to work shifts in the bars. After interest from a few EFP members, they expanded this out to EFPs too. A great chance for me to see what goes on behind the scenes!

Pizza time!

So, on the 15th of September 2018, I worked my first ever shift in a City Centre bar.

Leeds is blessed with two Brewdog bar. Although my preference was to work the smaller one near the Corn Exchange, it made more sense to work at the Brewdog North Street bar instead. Here, the bar is much bigger and offers in-house pizzas too.

My day started by meeting the team I’d start my shift with – Matt, Tom and Erin. A friendly bunch who didn’t take long at all putting me to task. First (and most important according to Tom) was till training. A fairly straight forward system that was easy to pick up after a few goes.

Looking bemused by the till system

Next up I was shown the ropes in the kitchen. Not that I’d be left alone in here, thankfully, but the experience was pretty cool. For someone who can do an alright job cooking at home, it was good to see what a more professional environment looked like. My first pizza wasn’t great and had to be re-made, however my second, later in the afternoon, was a much better (some might say artistic!) effort.

Unleashed on the Bar

For the rest of my day there I was unleashed on the bar. This was my most favourite part! It wasn’t too busy which meant my lack of experience wasn’t greatly exposed by having a million people waiting for beers. But, it was busy enough to get a feel for what it’s like to work in that kind of environment.

It was pretty cool to share some of my beer knowledge with customers. I was equally appreciative, though, of the support I got from the bar staff if I struggled a bit. Perhaps the most useful part was Tom casually wandering behind me and whispering (beer!) suggestions in my ear to keep the flow going with customers. 

Pictures courtesy of James @GammonBaron

It was a brief, but useful insight into how somewhere like Brewdog works. After my shift, Tom asked me whether I’d be switching my career to bar work. My immediate reaction was to say no, but on reflection there’s a bit more to it than that.

My day was enjoyable, particularly pouring the beer and speaking to customers. Actually, I do think I’d be comfortable working behind a bar, just not a Brewdog one. I think I might find it a bit too intense at times. My instinct tells me I’d be much more at home in a pub/bar with fewer beer lines, in a more traditional environment. Whether that actually ever happens, time will tell!

A huge thank you goes to the team at Brewdog North Street who helped me on the day. Also to Brewdog HQ for giving me this chance. If you’re an EFP and intrigued at doing a Dogs on Deck shift, go for it!

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