Last night I spent a couple of hours in Cardiff’s new BrewDog with a few non-beer geek friends. They enjoy going drinking with me because they use me as their ‘beer guide’, asking for recommendations from the line-up of whatever is being served. Sometimes it can put a bit of pressure on a night out, with high expectations of me selecting great beers for everyone to enjoy (which is not always possible). For once, however, I had the opportunity to sit back, smile and relax while the ‘Brew Crew’ took over.
It didn’t come easy, and there was some friendly rivalry between me and one barman over whether Dead Pony Club is better than Punk IPA (it is, by the way), but after that it was good watching the bar staff get stuck in, dishing out various samples and talking people through the beers. Whether I’m asking for a Punk IPA or Burning Sky’s Devil’s Rest, the staff at BrewDog always ask ‘have you tried it before?’
“We don’t like to see beer go to waste,” explained one of the Brew Crew. This was a little later on. Our group had occupied the downstairs snug and were surprised to be offered waitress service. Not only were we brought pints, but several samples of different beers, helping us to pick out our next two or three beers in advance. In spite of the bar being busy (Cardiff city centre on a Friday night) we had an unparalleled level of service.
It’s no secret that BrewDog is amongst Cardiff’s most expensive bars (with even a pint of ‘house beer eg Punk IPA coming close to a fiver), resulting in a classic shock reaction from one of my friends (“how much? And it’s not even a pint?” etc); however, he was the one most won over in the end. You’re paying a premium but it is clear what return that premium is giving you – not only good beers, but well trained and passionate staff serving those beers.
It’s not a bar I could do a long session in though, partly through cost and partly because there’d be no point – I would soon start to lose the benefit of all the good beer as it all gradually clashed and merged on my palate. That’s why we headed to the Queen’s Vaults afterwards, a proper boozer where the beer is cheap, pool balls fly across the room and the Jukebox offers Pink Floyd. We could have gone to Zerodegrees, or the Urban Tap House, or the City Arms. They’re all excellent places, roughly on the same street, and with BrewDog now raising the bar it’ll be interesting to see how they all react in the coming months.