While in Edinburgh last month filming the latest video blog, I made time to visit the newly opened Brew Dog Bar in the city. We didn’t feature it in the Vlog because it doesn’t serve any cask beer, and that particular Vlog is about cask beer. But as we were filming on my bleedin’ birthday, once we’d finished I hooked up with my old mates Allan and McAlastair and we hit the town.
We ended up here:
|I don’t think it’s ever this quiet|
after 11pm, on a Tuesday night, and the place was buzzing, mainly with young, studenty people who seemed more passionate and knowledgable about beer than you might expect.
Brew Dog make headlines, and increasingly piss people off (or simply bore them) the way some people pick their nose. They just can’t help it. Like Aesop’s scorpion who stung the frog carrying it across the river, it’s in their nature. And perhaps the greatest shame about this is that it hides some of the true facts of their operation behind a screen of punk attitude. Because much of what they do is really very good indeed.
The service in Brew Dog Edinburgh was incredible. In parts, it was the best service I’ve ever seen in a pub or bar.
The main element of this is that if anyone looked hesitant or unsure, or simply paused a beat too long at the bar, the member of staff serving them would pour a small taster into a shot glass and offer it to them. They might ask what kind of beer people like, or they might say, “This is my favourite beer, it’s amazing, you’ve got to try it.” Then another member of staff would say, “No, try this one, this is my favourite beer ever and they say they’re not going to brew it again. I’m trying to make it sell really quickly so they realise they have to.”
The bar was covered in sample glasses. As soon as one person swept them up, they’d start dropping on the bar again as the relentless tide of tasters kept coming. And the money flowed over the bar in the opposite direction.
We’ve currently putting together the fifth Cask Report. This year, we’ll be recommending large programmes of samples and pro-active offering of tasters as the main strategy to overcome various barriers to drinking cask ale. The thing is, we’ve recommended it every year, and it hasn’t happened yet, even though every time we do research asking people why they don’t drink real ale, they tell us this would make them drink more. I’ve mentioned it before on here too. I don’t understand why more pubs don’t do it more often.
Now here’s a bar that does it in spades, does it brilliantly – and is rammed every night of the week with people paying premium prices for interesting beers.
Brew Dog Edinburgh’s bar staff are young, hip and good-looking – as you’d expect from a company so concerned about its image. I was quite worried they were going to be a bit too cool for school – not the case. They also happen to be friendly, enthusiastic, and visibly knowledgeable and passionate about beer.
Forget the CAMRA spats, the Portman groups spats, the SIBA spats, the stupidly strong beers and the roadkill. Brew Dog should be getting headlines as a case study in how to hire, train and motivate brilliant bar staff, brilliant ambassadors for beer.