Time For a Change
The College has been an Aberdeen nightlife staple for over 20 years now - it has certainly been somewhere I have frequented over the years. Situated at the top of Union Street on Alford Place, it has been a constant stop for the people of Aberdeen to enjoy drinks, partying & live sports.
However eventually all things change and evolve to keep up with the times, and that's exactly what The College has done. Now known simply as "College", the bar has gone under a total refurbishment - promising to bring “an inclusive and metropolitan venue to Aberdeen City with something for all”.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the relaunch event on Friday evening before the doors were officially re-opened to the public.
Firstly - College looks absolutely stunning. I cannot believe the difference that has went in to the transformation of the bar. I would go as far to say that College is now probably one of the nicest looking bars in the city. The first thing you will notice is just how light it is compared to how College used to be, which I always thought was quite dark. The hanging lights scattered throughout the bar, along with the large windows which allow an abundance of natural light, makes such a difference.
The overall attention to detail is incredible, and it's hard not to be instantly drawn to the huge copper beer tanks situated behind and to the side of the bar (more on them later). The bar, as it did previously, takes centre stage - a large U shape, surrounded by stylish green stools and ample seating in the many booths.
There are two large screens at either end of the bar, meaning it will be hard for you to miss any of the live sporting action. Each booth has a small screen, along with a "press for service" panel - meaning you don't have to miss any of the match to get a drink! College have also taken inspiration from American sporting arenas by installing a custom built perspex "viewing cube" above the bar. Whilst it wasn't active on Friday, it looks like an awesome centrepiece and will instantly draw attention. There is certainly nothing else like it in Aberdeen.
Around the back of the bar, there is plenty more seating along with a stage for live bands and a well sized "dance floor" area. The toilets are upstairs as they were before, and finished to a very high standard. If I was to have any criticism, it would be that the cubicles seemed to be a tight squeeze - but you spend minutes there compared to hours in the bar.
Whilst the emphasis seems to still be on College being a sports bar - it’s clearly much more than that. For me, it looks like the perfect spot to come and watch the football, but in a luxury setting that anyone can enjoy.
Now lets talk about the big copper tank in the room - Tennent's Tank Lager. Whilst I'm not usually one to wax lyrical about Tennent's Lager, I'm also not one to diss it. I like Tennent's Lager - it’s perfectly fine. So when I heard that College were going to be the first bar in Aberdeen (and only the third in Scotland) to have Tennent's Tank Lager, it seemed like quite a big deal. And understandably so - it tastes great!
For those unaware, tank lager is unpasteurised and unfiltered lager that is straight from the brewery to the tanks. The lager never really sees the air until it hits your glass, meaning it is essentially as fresh as it comes. Not to mention the tanks themselves are an absolute standout feature for the bar itself - they look absolutely stunning, and are a welcome addition to the city.
You can just tell that it looks like a good pint! And it certainly is; crisp, and full of flavour, much more so than your standard pint of Tennent's. It's also a lot less gassy, meaning you won't get that bloated feeling that usually comes with drinking lager. I definitely recommend giving it a go, and I guarantee it will surprise you.
Beer wise, College has an awesome selection of draught beers available, including the aforementioned Tennent's tank lager, their own house City Lager, two dedicated Beavertown (haters gonna hate) taps and a Cloudwater rotational tap - now that in paricular is huge for the Aberdeen beer scene! There is also a wide range of bottled/canned beers such as a variety of Beavertown, Magic Rock and BrewDog.
They also have a vast selection of spirits and cocktails available - they have even crated a signature "PB" (PB Devco) range of cocktails that will be available across their venues in the city.
I just want to end by saying thanks to College for inviting me along to the launch event - we had an absolute blast and we will definitely be back soon. I encourage you all to go along and check it out for yourselves - I guarantee you will be shocked at the difference.
Sell-outs Or Smart Thinkers?
Beavertown Brewery are one of my favourite breweries around, they are the brewery behind what is still my favourite beer of all time - Tropigamma. So when the news broke today confirming what had long been rumoured - that Heineken were buying a minority stake in Beavertown, I was understandably, initially, slightly worried.
I've long had this notion driven in to me; partly due to the craft beer culture as a whole, and partly due to marketing from BrewDog and general craft beer culture, that all big brewing companies are evil, and any craft brewery that gives up any of its stake to them are total sell-outs. But are they really? Lets look at this realistically before we all jump to conclusions and stop drinking Beavertown. Before I get in to some of the facts and my own thoughts about it, check out the press release from Beavertown here. They also have links to a document with just the facts, and a Q & A with Logan Plant - founder of Beavertown.
“The decision to align ourselves with Heineken was all about their expertise, resource, route to market and most importantly the dynamic of the deal. They want us to continue doing exactly what we do now, and they will be there as a support network if needed.
Lets take a look at some of the facts of the deal. I'm not going to go through everything, just what I think is most important.
It’s a minority deal: Heineken are not going to own Beavertown. They are going to be a minority shareholder. Beavertown's destiny will still be their own to shape.
Logan Plant will remain founder & CEO: He's led Beavertown on this journey until now, and he'll continue leading them with his vision for the company.
Beaverworld will create up to 150 new jobs: What's not positive about jobs being created? And further to Beaverworld, they hope this deal will allow them to open up bars across the UK, which will in turn create more jobs.
There will be no recipe changes: For me, this is key. The beer has always been the key factor when it came to Beavertown for me, and as long as the beer doesn't change, then neither will my opinions of the brewery.
As for my own thoughts on this - sure, I love craft beer and everything that it stands for. But I am not going to lose any immediate sleep over this. I've read the press release, and I've read the facts - so unless Beavertown are straight up lying to us, then things sound like they are only going to get better.
Certainly in my experience there's plenty breweries out there who are either owned or partly owned by large companies and haven't compromised on quality; Ballast Point still make fantastic beer, Camden Town? I enjoy their beer, and even Goose Island to a point still make pretty good beer.
I'm not going to go on and on and make out like I'm some kind of financial expert, or make out like I know what kind of impact this might have on other breweries - I'm just saying things like I see them.
This news is understandably going to upset some people, and I have no doubt they will lose their fare share of customers, and they might have even broken some links with other breweries with this move. For me however, as long as the beer remains great - then I'll keep drinking it.
And who knows, I might even take a trip to Beaverworld one day 🍻
Last year seen my first encounter with Neapolitan Ice Cream Pale Ale by Yorkshire giants Northern Monk. Back for 2018, this time in a big boy 440ml can, I decided I had to put it to the test again. Here's what Northern Monk have to say about it:
"First, it began as a terrible idea. Then, it ended in a terrific result. We're talking about a pale ale brewed to mimic the shades of the classic Neapolitan ice cream with additions of lactose, strawberries, and chocolate sauce. Neapolitan Pale Ale became such a sleeper hit in 2016 that many of the Monks consider it one of the high points of the year as did many of our fans. Its soft creamy mouthfeel and nuanced sweetness are designed to trigger your sweet childhood memories... a reawakening of your inner child by means of a grown up bevy.
This year we've upgraded to tall boys and crammed in even more sunshine to this modest pale ale. Strawberry, chocolate and vanilla come shining through and hark back to those days by the beach."
I was pretty favourable on this beer last time round, giving it a 4.5 out of 5, so I was looking forward to seeing if it could get any better...
Neapolitan Pale pours from the can a bright golden amber colour, leaving a big foamy white head. Straight away you get LOADS of strawberry on the nose, along with a sweet creaminess and a hint of vanilla - this smells nothing like a beer! Flavour wise you instantly get the creaminess from the lactose - it is so smooth! There is then more strawberry...loads of it, which is mixed with sweet vanilla, however the chocolate flavours seemed to be lacking slightly for me. That doesn't take away from the taste of the beer however - it still tastes great. For me, this quite a bizarre drink, as it is lacking any of the maltiness, or bitterness that you would typically expect from a beer- but again, it works!
Overall, this was another stellar beer from Northern Monk - one absolutely perfect for summer. However, I don't know what it is, but I don't seem to be as blown away by this as I was first time round. Sure, it is still a great beer - one that I definitely recommend that you try, but it just seemed to be missing that initial "wow" factor that I remember when I first tried it. It could be something to do with the quality of "Ice Cream Ales" coming out of Aberdeen lately, but it just doesn't quite top last years effort for me.
Neapolitan Pale gets 4.25 out of 5 from me 🍻
Magic Rock Brewing
If you have any kind of passing interest in craft beer on Instagram, then you will probably be fed up of seeing these beers by now - everyone has been drinking them! I've been keeping mine aside for a special occasion - in celebration of finishing the BrewDog Summer Run, however staying in BrewDog afterwards made sure that never happened as planned...
The Cannonball Run is a yearly event by Magic Rock Brewing that celebrates one of it's core beers - Cannonball by releasing bigger, meaner variants of it. The past couple of years has seen Human Cannonball, and Un-Human Cannonball take centre stage, but this year sees Neo-Human Cannonball enter the picture. So the beers we have this year are:
As a side note, I didn't bother picking up the core Cannonball as part of this year - I know it's a good beer, and I'd already spent a small fortune on these three beers as it was.
These beers have been picking up so much hype - they have been all over Instagram. It was so hard to not drink them and keep them aside for as long as I did. So, without further ado...
Human Cannonball 2018
First up we have Human Cannonball, the 9.2% ABV DIPA. I have crazily never tried tried Human, or Un-Human Cannonball, however last year I spoke very fondly of another DIPA - Half Cut, which was brewed with Other Half, so I was unsurprisingly looking forward to getting stuck in to this one. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"Meet Cannonball’s big brother; we used more malt, more hops and more magical conjuring to crank up the flavour of our explosive IPA ‘Cannonball’. Get your taste buds ready for massive pine and candied orange aromas combined with bitter/sweet grapefruit and mango flavours all complemented by a deeply composed, satisfyingly malty base. Ever wondered what it feels like to be shot out of a cannon? Here’s what it tastes like."
Human Cannonball pours from the can a murky golden orange colour, leaving a big foamy beige head. Initial aromas are incredible - huge amounts of mango & pineapple combine with a massive dollop of piney resin to leave you gagging for more. And the taste certainly does not disappoint either...from the off it's massive fruit flavours; juicy mango, sweet bitter grapefruit and a hint of orange are followed up with a massive piney bitterness - this beer makes no attempt to hide it's alcohol, that's for sure. It was great to drink, and everything a proper DIPA should be.
This beer was awesome, and hopefully a sign of things to come for the rest. Human Cannonball is up there with the best of the DIPA's that I have had.
4.75 out of 5
Un-Human Cannonball 2018
Next up we have Un-Human Cannonball, the monstrous 11% ABV triple IPA. Now, I have only had a few triple IPA's in my time, and they are usually quite a mind-blowing experience, so I'm not expecting anything less from this beer. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"Once a year we receive the latest crop of hops from the US, intensely aromatic and bursting with potential they’re begging to be put to work. With three times the quantity of hops of our explosive IPA ‘Cannonball’ and even more than our flagship Double IPA ‘Human Cannonball’ we’ve created a fitting tribute to the new hop release with this our annual homage to the hop.
‘Un-Human Cannonball ‘takes IPA to another dimension-balancing massive citric aroma, deep tropical fruit flavour and gravity defying drinkability to deliver a hop experience that is out of this world. We’ve done our best for the hops, don’t let them down by ageing this beer: please drink as soon as Un-Humanly possible!"
Un-Human Cannonball pours a murky golden orange colour, similar to Human Cannonball, but with much less of a head. Initial aromas are LOADS of hoppy resin, with a slight splash of tropical fruits. Taste wise, this beer is unforgiving from the off - huge hoppy, bitter flavours are laced with some slight tropical fruit bombs; orange, pineapple & mango. It is slick smooth, with loads of alcohol burn to go with it...serious heavy hitting stuff!
This beer is great...it blows your head off, but it is great. As much as I enjoyed it, I did find the levels of alcohol a bit overpowering - however I just took my time, and savoured it.
4.5 out of 5
Neo-Human Cannonball 2018
And finally we have the beer I was perhaps most excited about - Neo-Human Cannonball, the 9.2% ABV NE DIPA. NE IPA's are usually my favourite beer style (when done right), so a DIPA version using loads of oats sounds absolutely out of this world. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"A New England update on our Double IPA Human Cannonball, this DIPA uses a high percentage of oats and wheat in the grist for a creamy smooth mouthfeel. We eliminated the bittering and moved the majority of whirlpool hops over to the dry hopping to maximise aroma. Fermented with London Fog yeast for an estery aroma and sweet finish the beer is served way more hazy than the original to maximise the flavour expression."
Neo-Human Cannonball pours a hazy golden yellow, leaving a thin bubbly white head on top. Aromas are quite similar to those of Human Cannonball - mango, pineapple and grapefruit alongside a splash of pine, however there is a creamy backbone to it all from the oats. After the first sip, I knew this beer was phenomenal - you instantly get the creaminess from the oats just as juicy mango & pineapple take hold of your taste buds. There's then a slight bitterness - not too much, just a bit, that rounds everything off. It all works wonderfully, and the mouthfeel especially is excellent - wow.
This beer was incredible, and quite easily in my top 5 for the year so far. Everything about it is perfect, right down to the shiny, glittery can. Do yourselves a favour and grab it while you still can.
5 out of 5
Overall, these were three absolutely incredible beers from Magic Rock. All three of them are probably up with the best beers that I've had this year. It's not too late to give them a go, and I highly recommend that you do. I'm looking forward to next years Cannonball Run already 🍻
Three More Beers Put To The Test
Here we are with Fanzine Week 4. Following Week 3's roaring success, I had high hopes for this one. Week 3 set the bar pretty high with Pulp Patriot, and I am dubious if they will reach that heights again any time soon. Again, if you are reading this then you are probably familiar with how it all works, but if not - refresh yourself here
This week we have the following beers:
Definitely an interesting selection of beers there. Obviously the DIPA immediately catches my eye, because I am a sucker for a good DIPA! I'm also interested to check out the lager, especially how it compares to Kingpin, and Indie Pale Ale to a lesser extent.
First up we have Hop Shop, the 9% ABV DIPA. A good DIPA is usually a go to style of beer for me, and while is was slightly underwhelmed by Native Son by BrewDog earlier this year I had high hopes for this one, especially off the back of Fanzine Week 3. Here's the official description from BrewDog:
"This hop-forward big IPA is intense, dank and resinous, with bursts of stonefruit and citrus. Grapefruit and apricot sit on top of a building bitterness, with a honeycomb malt base followed by a dry yet bittersweet finish."
Hop Shop pours a deep amber colour, leaving a foamy off white head. Initial aromas are stone fruits, caramel malts & resin. Flavours are grapefruit and some slight peach from the off, strong caramel malts are rounded off by a hoppy resin flavour. There's nothing too overwhelming in there for me, it's tasty enough, but it's certainly no Elvis Juice.
Overall, I found this an enjoyable enjoyable enough, yet unspectacular beer. It certainly did more for me than Native Son did earlier in the year, but it doesn't immediately make me want another can of it like Pulp Patriot in Week 3.
3.75 out of 5
First up we have English IPA (Small Batch) which is a 5.2% ABV Retro IPA. I can't say I'm too familiar when it comes to English style IPA's so this was an interesting one for me.
"An old school English IPA brewed with the addition of traditional English hops which bring lavender and bergamot to the front of the beer. Supporting the hops is a light biscuit malt flavour, followed by a dry, bitter finish with a touch of warmth."
English IPA pours a clear amber colour, leaving a foamy white head. Aromas are zesty citrus, caramel biscuit & floral hops. Flavours are pretty much in line with the aromas; citrus up font, backed with some slight biscuit & an overriding grassy earthy taste.
Overall, this was OK. I didn't particularly find it to be anything special. It's not necessarily a bad beer, just not too my taste.
2.75 out of 5
And lastly we have Interstate, a 4.6% ABV Vienna lager. Lager isn't my go to style of beer, and I can't say that I drink BrewDog's flagship lager Kingpin much either. But I was certainly interested to see their take on a European style lager, that's for sure.
"A perfectly balanced Vienna-style lager brewed with subtle spicy German hops over toasty-base malts which bring out bread crust and biscuit in the beer, followed by a bittersweet finish."
Interstate pours a pale golden colour, leaving a big foamy white head. Aromas are slight citrus, malts & biscuit with a hint of toffee/caramel. Flavour wise, it's pretty similar to the aromas; big malty, biscuity flavours are at the forefront before being rounded off with a crisp, clean, citrus flavour. This is a refreshing take on a proper European lager, and certainly enjoyable to drink.
Overall, I found this to be a pretty tasty lager - maybe even more so than Kingpin. If lager is your thing, then this should be right up your street.
3.5 out of 5
So overall, another round of decent enough beers from BrewDog, however, this is going to be my last Fanzine for a while. There is unfortunately just too much good beer to be drinking right now, and I want to be in control of what I drink. Drinking craft beer is an expensive hobby, and I don't want to take the risk that I end up paying for three beers where I don't enjoy two of them.
Whilst I'm not trying to discourage anyone from Fanzine - quite the opposite. I think it's a great service. I just don't think it's quite right for me - someone who wants to handpick the best beer out there, enjoy them, and then review them on here for everyone 🍻