If you haven’t tasted the beer, you’re pretty likely to have heard the name. This explosively charged craft beer company hit mainstream media by storm and in under eight years BrewDog have become Scotland’s largest independent brewery, changing the face of craft beer in the UK forever.
But what transforms a duo of craft beer aficionados into a dynamic global brand? To find out, I caught up with head brewer Stewart Bowman, who reveals everything from BrewDog’s unique brewing process to the future of craft beer in the UK.
How long have you worked for BrewDog?
Nearly 7 years. Started Jan 2nd 2008.
What was the company like when you first started working?
BrewDog has been incredibly successful in such a short time, why do you think this was?
The time was right, for a start. The beer scene in the UK was dire when BrewDog started and there was a real thirst among many of us to get something better out there to the people. The beers that we and other new breweries create have changed perceptions of beer and challenged the status quo, resulting in an eye-opening experience for drinkers.
Take me through a day in the brewery
We start a new shift every day at 0700, with a quick briefing of the day’s duties. Brewing, filtering packaging, dry hopping, yeast handling etc. Any and all pertinent info is exchanged so that the new shift knows what to expect.
At 1030 the senior staff head off to a taste panel, in which we taste all beers that are just about ready for filtration. This is where we decide how our week will progress, beers for filtering means fermentation vessels will become available, and from this we can decide what to brew. While this is going on the guys are busy with everything from brewing to packaging, 24/7!
How does the BrewDog brewing process differ to that of industrial breweries?
Essentially we care an awful lot more.
The materials and specific processes we use are chosen because they add to the quality of the beer. From the malt, hops and yeast we use, through to the design of the equipment, every action and every decision is made based on the beer quality.
The big issue with most industrial breweries is that their driving factor for decisions is cost. They are all capable of making decent beer, but they have their hands tied by accountants and budgets. If you try and make beer on a budget it will eventually become a lowest common denominator product.
BrewDog imports American hops, what’s so special about hops from this area?
US hops are have an amazing array of flavours and character. They are intense, rich and have an incredible depth to them. We use mostly US hops because they bring the type of profile we want to add to our beers.
You don’t pasteurise your beer, why is that?
Because we don’t like the way cooked beer tastes. No matter how you spin it, beer should not be heated up.
What is it like working for the largest independent brewery in Scotland?
Exhilarating. We are a company that moves really fast, new beers, new projects all the time. It is incredibly fast paced. That is one of the main reasons that we are the largest independent brewery in Scotland.
What is your personal favourite BrewDog beer and why?
Right now, its the Jackhammer.
It’s like being hit in the face with a fresh bag of hops. In a good way.
What do think the future of craft beer in the UK will look like?
I know it will be amazing, but I couldn’t even begin to guess where we will end up. Short term, we will see a lot of new breweries and beers. With new bars starting to step up to the plate and provide a much better selection of beer.
A personal goal of mine is to convert as many restaurants [as possible] to carry a decent beer menu. And the only way to do this is by hosting beer dinners, explaining to people that beer is just as good (if not better) for paring with food as wine is.
What are your personal recommendations for Brew Dog’s newly released beers?
We just brewed our first pumpkin beer, Pumpkinhead, that has a really intense spicy profile for Halloween. And for our friends in Japan we brewed KONNICHIWA KITSUNE. This is an IPA with loads of US hops and a Japanese fruit called Yuzu. Think grapefruit on steroids and you’re halfway there!
And finally, what can we expect from Brew Dog in the future?
BrewDog are one of the most exciting beer brands of the moment, shaking off the boring image of beer once and for all. For additional info on BrewDog’s brewing process check out Bowman’s fantastic Beer School video below.
Images courtesy BrewDog