As mentioned in an earlier post, I bought into the whole Brewdog Equity Punk spiel. I’ve suffered a number of jibes for that, particularly from my housemate who laughed in my face at the idea that anything about me could be “punk”.
It hasn’t all been mockery, however. As a “punk”, I caught wind of Brewdog’s inaugural London beer festival early enough to snag tickets.
This was a full day, with a lot to break down. I’m going to start with this post covering the overall atmosphere and a couple of the regular beers. Then I’ll follow up with a post just focusing on my beer highlights – the imperial stouts.
I arrived at the Copper Box Arena in Stratford feeling pretty confident I knew what to expect. This was just going to be a beer festival, right? It might be a little funkier than your standard CAMRA-organised meetup, but the basic principles behind it are the same.
In reality, I came away from the arena surprise (and very squiffy). While yes, the mechanics of Mayhem were similar to the Great British Beer Festival or others, the balance and the feel were quite different. While at GBBF the focus is front and centre on the beer, with some sideshows to amuse you while you rest between pints, here the attention was more balanced. Aside from the slightly shaky attempts at a keynote speech from founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, the whole affair felt much more professional.
Is that a good thing? I’m not completely convinced. Much of the charm of GBBF is knowing that so many of the staff are amateurs who have volunteered just for the day. You don’t get that same sense of camaraderie at Mayhem – but I suppose with a dozen people queuing behind you, there’s not much chance for a chat with whoever’s behind the bar anyway. Other than arguing with one guy about whether it was possible to serve beer in third pints (yes, seriously), interaction was pretty limited.
Still, the beer was good, the food excellent, and as the arena floor gradually morphed into a mosh pit I still found myself having a good time. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed there’s a repeat performance next year.
And in no particular order, here come the beers.
Fat Head’s, Bumble Berry Ale 5.3%
As the name suggests, Bumble Berry is a honey blueberry ale. Already, it sounds more like a dessert than a beer.
Bumble is a delightful novelty. See, while some brewers spend a lot of time trying to craft the perfect beer, Fat Head’s have taken a different path and decided to brew a blueberry muffin instead.
It’s actually pretty good: sweet, cakey, and fruity; a vanilla base with blueberries cutting through on top. I don’t pick up any of the promised honey, but it’s more than sweet enough without. A little too sweet for breakfast (also socially unacceptable in many circles), but this would have been a good way to start the evening. Would I drink it all night? No. But it’s worth going out of your way to taste a half. 4/5
Brewdog, Albino Squid Assassin 7.4%
I was pretty excited to try this one. Having been out of production for a couple of years, with much fanfare Brewdog brought the Squid back into commission to celebrate Metro Mayhem.
Squid is a red rye IPA, and at over 7%, packs a bit of a punch. That’s apparent as soon as it hits my tongue – there’s a heady, alcoholic warmth that quickly spreads through my whole mouth.
I have a sniff, and take in some oily hop aroma: not especially pleasant, but I suppose that’s a matter of taste. I take another sip…and there’s that warmth again, as expected, but where are the other flavours?
For all that fanfare, I came away from this squid feeling disappointed. Many other beers pack in chunky flavour at far lower volume. This, somehow, has taken a whole lot and done very little with it. 1/5
Siren x Civil Society, Cradle of Culture 8.5%
One of many sour beer collaborations we tried on the night, Cradle is a sour double IPA from Siren (whom you may remember from here) and Florida-based Civil Society.
Cradle is a cloudy gold in colour with a very pleasant aroma, a mix of pineapple and freshly cut grass. The flavour is very different from anything I’m used to: I think this may be the first time I’ve had (intentionally) sour beer in a couple of years, so the lemony sourness takes me by surprise at first. It’s a real explosion of citrus fruits, but it has a firm bitterness behind the acidity to back it up.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Cradle of Culture as much as I did. 4/5
Brewdog x Overworks, Cosmic Crush Cherry Sour
Another sour collaboration, this time between hosts Brewdog and their new partners Overworks, Cosmic Crush comes in two flavours: I chose the cherry over the peach. Either way, it gets fermented for several weeks in oak barrels with the respective fruit added in order to obtain that fruity flavour.
Cosmic Crush Cherry is pink, honestly – not quite as lurid as Früli, but it’s not far off. Despite that, it doesn’t have the overpowering fruity aroma I was anticipating. Sure, it smells of cherries, but it’s gentle, natural. It’s an enticing smell, not the medicinal hit of cherryade.
It’s when you drink it that you get that initial hit of cherry, which is lovely, but afterwards the sour punch is overwhelming. I can’t help but compare it to the balanced sourness of Cradle of Culture, where there were other aspects to round it out.
As sour beers go, it’s probably not all that bad. But as a newbie to the style, I can’t say I much enjoy it. Perhaps I’ll have a different view coming back to it later, but for now, Cosmic is a 2/5.