‘Hooray for beer, I’m really glad you’re here’ – Bowling for Soup
I’ve already mentioned before that one of the lies I told Dave to get him to like me when we first got together was that I liked beer. This was in the early 00’s when ladette culture was still prevalent and I wanted him to think I was a proper geezer bird. At the time, nothing could have been further from the truth, I mean, I could force down half a Fosters with lime if I had to but that’s where my affinity with beer ended. Over time though, thanks to what I fondly like to call ‘chick beers’ like Desperados and Cubanisto I can easily sink a few pints on a night out before I go back onto the Prosecco. I’m such a laaad!
Ever ones to try something a bit different and broaden our horizons yet still live within the constraints of two NHS salaries we decided to get a Living Social voucher for a beer tasting afternoon at hipster joint du jour Brewdog in Newcastle. After all is was only £19.99 for two people (only available weekdays or Sundays) and old Einstein Newman over here had the brilliant idea of booking it on a Sunday of a bank holiday weekend – I’m nothing short of a genius. How bad could it be?
Well as it turned out, not bad at all. In fact, as such a lover of the old grape juice, they were going to have their work cut out for them in converting me but the whole experience was very pleasant indeed.
We were met by barman Ben who was going to take us (and abut 8 others) through the different beers. He spoke enthusiastically about the company and although he said it was the boring bit, I actually enjoyed learning about how they were started by someone who hated his job and an accountant or solicitor or something like that and wanted to do something he was passionate about instead – stories like that make me believe anything is possible – even converting me to liking beer!
One point (before we get onto the beer) I found particularly interesting was when Ben said that Newcastle City Council were against them opening in the City due to fears it further encouraged binge drinking culture. This resonated with me as one of the very first blog posts I ever tried to write was a top 10 of Newcastle’s happy hours, until I learnt that bars aren’t allowed to advertise their happy hours (and ‘press’ like me are discouraged from writing about them) for that very same reason. Who knew that Brew Dog and I had so much in common?
Anyway on to the good stuff. We tried 5 in total and just got shy of half a pint each time (which at about £4.50 a pint at the bar seemed like a pretty reasonable deal considering what we paid for the voucher). We were talked through each craft beer (which is different to real ale FYI – craft beer doesn’t have live yeast in it) how it was made, how popular it was and what smells and flavours we were supposed to be able to detect in each glass.
First up was the most popular Punk IPA – this is the stuff you’ll see in supermarkets (and I think they even sell it in Wetherspoons?) It was probably my favourite to be honest, it tastes the most like a good lager, a very ‘Sunday afternoon in a beer garden’ type of drink. Next was King Pin and 5am Saint which were both much of a muchness to me sadly. I mean, they were nice, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think my pallet is mature enough to tatse the subtle differences between each one and it all just tasted like ‘beer’ to me. Not that that’s a bad thing, I just couldn’t really tell the difference all that much – I happy sat and drank them though, very happily.
On each table there was also glasses of hops and barley to have a look at, sniff and even taste (only the Barley though, you don’t want to be eating hops – one of which was so malty it tasted exactly like Marmite, and I was in heaven)
After the third beer we were treated to a lovely spread of meats and cheeses to cleanse the pallet a little bit. I was very pleased to note that it was exactly the same board I’d seen going out to regular paying customers – so us voucher fwends weren’t getting a bum deal when it came to the scran.
‘After dinner’ or at least ‘post food’ we were treated to the last two beers, Jet Black Heart which was very Guinness like, very thick and heavy, almost chocolatey. I have to say the tasting of it I had I really enjoyed, it worked well after food as it felt very much like a desert, i’m not sure I’d be able to drink a pint of it though. Then finally the final beer The Hardcore IPA, named as such because it’s 9% (which, fact fans, is the minimum percentage of wine I’ll drink) and betchabygollywow did it have a kick to it. It was probably my second favourite after the Punk IPA to honest, perhaps that’s because it was another IPA or perhaps it’s because it was the closest percentage to wine, I’ll let you be the judge.
All in all it was a very fun bank holiday afternoon with the hubby, drinking beer, eating cheese and chatting to some different folk we would never normally get the opportunity to meet. Special mention must go to Ben who lead us through everything. Having someone passionate about what they’re talking about is half the battle and he really sold all the beers to us without ‘selling’ the beers to us. If that makes sense?
There’s always a worry with a Living Social voucher that you’re getting something a little sub-par, that’s not really on offer to the general public and it leaves you feeling a little cheated. Well I left feeling a little buzzed, but also like I’d learnt something, which is worth £20 of anyone’s money. I’ll be completely honest I’m not entirely sure it would be full value at full price (£52) and I’m also not sure who, other than a stag do perhaps, might buy such a thing. However if you ever see it pop up as an offer somewhere, there are worse places you can spend a Sunday afternoon for your money.
My only regret is I didn’t half inch one of the glasses when no one was looking – they were really cool!