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It doesn’t feel like a year since the last BrewDog AGM, that’s because it wasn’t. I did have to check, though, just in case I’d been having too much fun over the past 12 months.
Last year’s ‘meeting’ was held in June while this time it was brought forward to April, presumably to gain maximum exposure before their share offering – Equity For Punks – ends next week.
The sixth-annual AGM returned to the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre last weekend for more beers, food, tastings and music. As well as the all-important business update of course.
Being a complete sell out with over 6,000 in attendance the event was bigger than ever before. And better too.
More shareholders, more bars, more food, more fun.
After a few early drinks, the crowd filled the main arena in anticipation of James and Martin’s business update.
You’d think it would be the least exciting part of such a day but it was highly entertaining.
How could it not be when the company owners enter the stage dressed as a pantomime horse? (Martin was the back end, if you’re wondering).
I was impressed with their charisma and stage presence last year but they seemed even more confident this time around.
After a few jokes (see above) there was a look back at 2015; the good: impressive financial results, 10 new UK bars opened, massively expanding their Ellon brewery and starting work on an exciting new brewery in America. And the bad: THAT TV show, breweries selling out left right and centre and not being able to keep up with the demand for their beers.
In true BrewDog style, they managed to turn a potential ‘bad’ into a good. After 200,000 cans of Punk IPA had to be recalled for containing a profanity on the bottom, rather than sacking the employee responsible he was awarded Employee Of The Month! Cue rapturous applause from the crowd.
They then set out two main goals to aim for by 2020.
1. To be 1% of the UK beer market (they’re currently just 0.1%)
2. To be the best company to work for in the UK
These sum up the overall theme of the presentation. Regularly referring to ‘their beer’ and ‘their people’.
More details followed of their upcoming new sour brewery and Lone Wolf Distillery, which has already started producing craft spirits. And lots of other announcements such as new beers (I can’t wait for Neon Overlord, a mango & chilli IPA) and the revelation that they faced a legal challenge over the name of Elvis Juice – their grapefruit IPA – from the Elvis Presley estate.
New BrewDog bars were announced for Norwich, Southampton, York, Berlin, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Malmo and most excitingly, Dalston.
You might think the borough of Hackney in North East London can’t compete with most of those cities. But it will be home to 10 small brewing kits which can be hired by the public, with brewing lessons available for those not experienced. And some of the best-brewed beers will end up on sale in the bar! Good luck finding them on Untappd, though.
Finally, there was one piece of official AGM business.
As a response to the various takeovers of craft breweries in recent months, James and Martin proposed to amend the companies articles of association to rule out the possibility of BrewDog being taken over by any “monolithic purveyor of bland industrial beer.”
The crowd were asked to vote on the motion to “entrench BrewDog’s independence”.
Needless to say, the motion was passed.
With the business stuff out of the way, it was time to get down to the main reason we were all there.
Six full bars – eight if you include the ‘Can Bar’ and ‘Truck Norris’ outside – featuring an array of special brews from BrewDog and five and a half guest brewers.
Officially they were Modern Times, Cloudwater, To Øl, Columbus Brewing and Victory Brewing. However, most of Modern Times offering was unfortunately stuck somewhere over the Atlantic, so a few Omnipollo beers were hastily shoehorned in instead.
This was followed by BrewDog’s own special DIPA, Born To Die, released that very day. Along with countless other beers from the 50+ available.
I was very impressed with the three IPAs available from Columbus Brewing, a completely new brewery to me.
It was disappointing that the more interesting Modern Times beers didn’t arrive, though. I’ve been a big fan of them for a while and have drunk their core range many times so was looking forward to some new stuff.
The guest brewers held tasting events for a limited number of people.
Each cost £5 per ticket for a sample of two beers and a 30-minute discussion. I attended BrewDog, To Øl and Modern Times sessions.
Starting with the first BrewDog session hosted by head of production Matt Licklider.
The first beer was part of the Blitz sour series, this one Blackberry. Not quite as good as the Passionfruit I had from the bar earlier but very enjoyable and enough to get me excited about BrewDog’s upcoming sour beer brewery.
The second turned out to be my beer of the day. A barrel aged version of the fairly recent rye IPA, Albino Squid Assassin. I like the original but can’t say it’s the best rye beer I’ve ever had. It’s amazing what six months sitting in a barrel can do to a beer, this was phenomenal.
Aged in rye whisky casks it tastes massively of rye and whisky, unsurprisingly, but with some oak and berry fruitiness too. The ABV has increased to 9.2% but you’d never know, it’s super smooth and so very drinkable.
The second tasting session was equally good, this time from To Øl, perhaps my favourite international brewery. Hosted by Henry Hall, their knowledgeable, charming and funny head of sales.
The first beer, Hoppy Mondays, is an unspectacular but very solid American style IPA. A nice biscuity malt backbone with a clean, crisp hoppy finish from bags of Citra and Simcoe.
As a fan of 90’s Manchester music, kudos for the name too.
The next beer was very special indeed and my second favourite of the day.
Babushka is a 13.5% barleywine that’s aged in port barrels with prunes and dates.
Wow, what a beer. Sweet and complex with layers of flavour. It’s big and boozy but still very drinkable, like a quality port. You really got the prunes and dates coming through.
The third tasting was pretty disappointing, however. In fact, it was the only negative of the whole day.
Knowing that the Modern Times beers hadn’t arrived I was worried about the effect on the tasting. Half expecting it to be cancelled or swapped for one of the other guest breweries.
Actually, I would have preferred that.
Instead, we were served small, sample-sized servings of two of their standard beers. Lomaland, a saison, and Black House, a coffee stout. Both nice beers but both have been available online and in BrewDog bars for a while and were actually on the bars at the AGM.
Top 10 Beers At BrewDog AGM
According to Untappd I made my way through 21 of the many beers on offer (ironically exactly the same number as last year!), here are my Top 10…
- BrewDog – Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin (7.4% – Rye IPA barrel aged in rye whisky barrels)
- To Øl – Babushka (13,5% – Barley wine aged in Port Barrels with Prunes and Dates)
- BrewDog – Abstrakt AB:20 (14.2% – Tiramisu inspired barley wine / imperial stout blend)
- Columbus Brewing Company – Bodhi (8.5% – Dank, piney DIPA)
- BrewDog – Dog E (16.1% – Barrel aged imperial stout with naga chillies)
- Cloudwater – Old Garde (Red Wine BA) (8.5% – Collab with Burning Sky, Bière de Garde aged in red wine barrels)
- BrewDog – Born To Die 14.05.2016 (8.5% – Smooth & bitter DIPA)
- Cloudwater – DIPAv3 (9% – Much hyped, super fruity DIPA)
- To Øl – Fuck Art – This Is Advertising (11.3% – Belgian quad)
- BrewDog – Blitz Passionfruit (2.8% -Berliner Weisse brewed with passion fruit)
One of the biggest criticisms last year was the queueing for food.
BrewDog did their best to rectify this by having twice as many vendors, both outside like last year and dotted around inside too.
There were still huge queues at certain vendors though, particularly the BBQ and burger guys outside.
Being there for over nine hours and drinking a lot of beer it was sensible to eat lots of food too, so that’s what I did!
Highlights included a ‘Haggis Donut’ from Dram & Smoke served with Irn Bru jam!
And the hot dogs from Big Apple Hot Dog were so good I went back for a second.
I heard quite a few complaints about the price of the food but to be honest it was more than comparable to similar events in price but far better quality. These are artisan street food traders, not greasy fast food vans.
Some of them were still pretty slow though, including Longhorns once again. I gave them a miss purely because of the size of the queue. There was virtually no wait in the smaller, quieter Boyd Orr room which had a number of food options.
Things I Missed But Wish I Hadn’t
Head distiller of Lone Wolf Steven Kersley was there with some of his new team offering free gin samples. I managed to totally miss them.
Last year I was pretty terrible at paying attention to the bands but this time, I was somehow even worse. Genuinely having no clue who was playing at any time and barely going anywhere near the stage.
What can I say? I’m a food and beer blogger, I guess I was just too wrapped up in the amazing food and beer.
My program tells me that the music got off to a gentle start with a band called Swedish Death Candy. Then Scotish legends Idlewild returned for the third year and Frightened Rabbit headlined with UK Subs closing at 10pm-11pm.
Overall the AGM was fantastic. I liked last year but this was even better. I had an amazing time from the moment I walked through the door.
It’s hard to beleive how smooth everything ran. Consideirng there were over 6,000 people in attendance and BrewDog only organise events on this scale once a year.
Really my only complaint was the issue with the Modern Times beers but it’s a minor point and was more than made up for by the amazing beers, food and atmosphere.
Date of AGM: 09.04.2016