Some time ago, my wife and I took a trip to Scotland. We traveled with a good friend of mine who is Scottish, was making a trip back home and wanted to bring some American guests. I had a chance to drink some Scottish beers, mostly the regular libations such as Best and Tennets.
When I really started getting to craft beer, which was some time after this trip, I kicked myself for not making a point to try some BrewDog beer. I have found some since, trying Punk IPA and Hardcore Double IPA. They are fantastic beers.
BrewDog has a very distinct personality and ethos for how they run their brewery. They are outspoken on topics they are passionate about and do everything with a “do-it-yourself punk rock ethic.”
The brewery and taproom in Columbus, Ohio, is their first foothold in the competitive American craft beer marketplace. BrewDog has been planning on coming to America for a long time and finally landed in the Midwest. Columbus seems to be centrally located and a prime spot to keep America stocked in their punk rock, aggressively-brewed and over-the-top beers.
From the street, BrewDog Columbus is a gob-smackingly impressive building, gray in the setting sun with it’s black logo shining.
There’s a shark mural on the south face of the building, the perfect backdrop to a fantastic outdoor patio. When my brother, Anthony, and I walked in, we were greeted by a bottle and merchandise shop, complete with a Lego replica of the entire facility. It’s intriguing and hilarious at the same time. We rolled up on the hostess stand at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday night. It’s a brand-new facility, so the two-hour wait was breathtaking but understandable.
The place was packed, so instead of getting a table and access to the full menu, we opted for the patio, where secondary taps were set up in a shipping container and a guest food truck was serving some fantastic tacos. On the cool summer night, there were bags games and huge Jenga set up — plenty of activity around to sit and enjoy the space.
While there, I had a chance to try some of their other flagship beers. Every headliner beer they were pouring out of the shipping container were under 6 percent ABV. That’s a little unusual for a craft brewery in America, but I was happy to try a few.
The Punk IPA (again, fantastic) and Dead Pony Club were ultra-light with a 3.8 percent ABV. My brother ordered Elvis Juice (delicious, juicy IPA) and Jet Black Heart (the star of our trip, this stout is fantastic). All of the beers we had were beautiful and sessionable, straight-forward beers. It was easy to see how Punk IPA could take over the world with these other beers flanking it on both sides. We settled up and walked back through the merchandise shop. I grabbed a branded church key and some stickers. My brother had to buy a six pack of Elvis Juice in cans.
BrewDog cans are just being released as I am writing this column nationwide, and the brewery is announcing itself to the U.S. in a big way. With only two breweries, they have dozens of bars they own and operate all over the world, from the United Kingdom to Denmark, Tokyo, Brazil and Finland.
BrewDog also has something they call Equity for Punks. The company lets their global, punk rock beer fans buy shares, and they invite this massive group of shareholders to their Annual General Mayhem (AGM). This year’s first U.S. AGM took place on July 21.
“We loved Columbus,” said Keith Bennett, Special Projects with BrewDog USA. “The people, the beer scene the city. Everyone is and continues to be great. Commercially it also made a lot of sense for us given that you can reach a huge portion of the US population, and also there was loads of land giving us room to expand.”
It’s wasn’t all daisies to open here though.
As is the case in a lot of the country, local alcohol laws that are holdovers from Prohibition days hampered some of Brew Dog’s plans for setting up shop. One such law in Ohio was that a beer cannot be brewed in Ohio that exceeds 12 percent ABV. One of the breweries most famous beers is the Tokyo Imperial Stout, an incredibly boozy 18.5 percent. Brew Dog worked with local legislators to raise this cap in order for them to operate in Ohio.
I asked Keith Bennett, who is in charge of Special Projects for BrewDog US: Why come to America now?
“With America creating such incredible craft beers over the last circa 20 years, we only thought it was fair to give something back!” he responded.
You should start seeing BrewDog canned beer in our area very soon with labels such as Punk IPA, 5 Am Saint Red Ale, Dead Pony Club APA, Hardcore Double IPA and Jet Black Heart Stout. BrewDog also has a big online shop for its UK customers, and I am hoping they keep that practice going here in the States as well. You can order mix and match cases directly from the brewery overseas.
Name: Punk IPA from BrewDog Brewing
Notes: Layered with new world hops, to create an explosion of tropical fruit and an all-out riot of grapefruit, pineapple and lychee before a spiky bitter finish.
Would Go Well With: At BrewDog USA Columbus, try with one of the stone-baked pizzas, such as the Spicy Meaty.
Where to Buy: Binny’s Beverage Depot in various locations sells a six pack of 12-ounce cans for $10.99.
Joshua Riley is a Momence native who has tasted local beer on three continents and in 40 different states, recording more than 1200 beers on the app Untappd. A graduate of Northern Illinois University with a degree in English, and a former bartender overseeing more than 60 beers on tap, he dove into the world of beer when he first started brewing his own. Since then, he’s studied the craft of brewing and tasted along the way at more beer festivals than he can count. He lives in Momence with his wife, Sam and Penelope, his daughter. He believes craft beer is too good to waste, but also believes you should always drink responsibly. Reach him at Joshua Riley [email protected]
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