Brewdog Collabfest 2017

Talk beer to a modern beer drinker and you can probably expect Brewdog to come up at some point. Whether you like them or not, they have influenced the UK beer scene significantly since they arrived. They have challenged the way we experience beer, from flavour and style, to product branding and marketing. There isn’t often a day that goes by without something happening in the Brewdog world. Recently, this seemed dialled up to eleven with two significant events happening. First, the launch of Equity for Punks V, then Brewdog Collabfest.

Full disclosure, I am a Brewdog shareholder. I am a fan of the beers, the brand and what they do, however I try to look at things as objectively and as fairly as possible. There are some things they do that I like, others I don’t. I do believe Collabfest is one of the things they get right!

This year marks 5 years of this great beer event. The concept is straight forward, Brewdog bars team up with a brewery (usually local) to design and make a beer together. Then, during one weekend in October, all the beers are made available in Brewdog bars for one big global beer festival.

Lining them up!

Such is the growth of Brewdog, this year saw an incredible 34 different brews. Not only from the UK bars, but mainland European Brewdog bars as well. With so much variety in beer styles, all 34 not only seemed to be designed to challenge taste buds, but also showcase just how far some brewers have moved away from traditional beer. It’s a sign of the times, then, when the only ‘traditional’ beer I could spot in the list was an IPA. Even then, using the word ‘traditional’ is a bit of a stretch as it was a US West Coast style IPA! No bitters, milds or pales here, but some very creative and interesting drinks.

Beer is made from four core ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast). However, lots of brewers are now stretching beer styles by adding other natural ingredients. This was prevalent in this year’s Collabfest, with additions of cherries, vanilla, peach, coconut gooseberry and even rhubarb. For a fan of modern beer, this is a terrific choice of beers to sample. I must admit though, if I weren’t a fan of these beer styles, or was new to this scene, I might find the experience overwhelming.

Spot the ‘Pina Colada’ style beer

In previous years, I’ve found myself in London during Collabfest weekend. Usually spending a very happy afternoon in Brewdog Shepherd’s Bush, where all the beers are available at once. This year, I wasn’t in London so got the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Brewdog North Street, in Leeds. My ‘home’ Brewdog has always been the original Leeds bar, in the shadow of the Corn Exchange. The reason for choosing North Street, though, was they have enough taps to put all the beers on at once.

I always thought Brewdog North Street a little out of the way when it first opened. However, this area of central Leeds is fast becoming a hub for great beer. The Reliance and Brunswick sit just down the road, a little further on you can find North Brewing. Also, nearby is Belgrave Music Hall and the myriad of other bars in walking distance from there.

With a friend, we worked our way through every beer except three. Pretty unbelievable when you look at the numbers! However, we shared flights boards of third pint measures, so it wasn’t quite the messy afternoon you’d expect. Here’s my favourites; beers that I hope get re brewed for regular availability.

Gothenburg and Mikrofonbryggeriet – A Guy Called Fudge (6.5%)

This was a super fresh and fruity New England style IPA. Light in colour, this hazy beer is a typical yet very well-made beer of this style.

Dundee & 71 Brewing – Collaborator (7.2%)

A malt focused doppelbock. This was sweet, smooth and very tasty.

Aberdeen and Fierce Beer – Very Big Moose (12.0%)

This was the winner for me. A superb Imperial Stout brewed using Columbian cacao, Madagascan vanilla and cinnamon. Smooth, sweet and easy to drink despite its ABV.

It was great to once again sample all the beers as part of this festival. Although next year it would be nice to see a few traditional style beers that rely more on the original four ingredients of beer and not all the added items. Although I do enjoy these beers, the true brewers craft for me is taking just the four ingredients and making something amazing every time.

We did leave some beer for other people. Honest!

At the start of the article I mentioned that Brewdog had also opened Equity for Punks V. This is a crowd funding platform for people to invest in the company. The reason I originally invested was to say I was part of one of the coolest beer clubs on the planet. That reason hasn’t changed! I think I’ve easily made back my investment, and then some, with various discounts and freebies I’ve had over the years.

Brewdog do a very good job themselves of encouraging people to invest, so I’ll leave Equity for Punks V there. All I will say, is that if you’ve read this article and do decide to invest, then using my referral code would be greatly appreciated (I could get free beer!). The code is R113527.

It continues to be an exciting ride for Brewdog with some amazing things that have happened, and will no doubt happen in the future. One thing for certain though is that Collabfest has become a must do annual event if you enjoy tasting different beers!

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