Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Main Event

In Ale to the King’s concluding piece on Brew at the Bog Festival 2012, we bring ourselves to the main event, the festival experience itself.

Arriving around 10PM on the Friday we pitched our tent after a back and forth trying to locate where the entrance to the field actually was. Being the initial Brew at the Bog the campsite understandably small, taking up a very restrained area at the rear of the field. As already discussed this successfully encouraged more of a festival feeling despite the expanse of empty grass. However this did mean those wanting an earlier bedtime were kept awake by those partying until 6AM. It may have been something unique to allow more space, leading for a quieter night for those who wished it, a rarity in festivals.

I’ve only lived in Scotland for about a year and a half, but the weekend of the 4th and 5th seemed unseasonably cold for even this country. However even this had its upside; we’d noted the Brewdog beers that would be on offer and brought the ones that weren’t – the icy weather provided out tent with a fine beer cooler.

However in the morning campers were able to appreciate the lovely view across the Moray Firth as they enjoyed their breakfasts. After that there was some time before the festival kicked off at midday. That’s some time to kill before the entertainment starts, so unless you’re into the camping experience and start times are similar next year, Ale to the King would recommend coming on the Saturday morning itself.

The day kicked off on the second, Go North stage, with He Slept on 57 delivering a crowd engaging performance that really suited the venue. A band I’d never heard of, but a pleasant surprise that was very enjoyable and the whole musical day took this theme. Small bands, who clearly brought some of their following with them, but largely unheard of, delivering great music that fitted enormously well with the festival.

On the culinary front there was your standard festival fare; tasty churros with hot choc-sauce dip, lovely, greasy Aberdeen Angus steak burgers (these were especially delicious), excellent, quality fish and chips that ranks amongst the best I’ve eaten and the Tea Posy. This was a charming caravan converted into a retro-50s cafe with a beautiful spread of cakes out front that really went down with will a pint of icy Punk IPA.

As the day wore on the happy, contained and relaxed mood was maintained by both the bands and the exceptionally professional and friendly staff who performed sterlingly in the bitterly cold conditions. And cold it was, if its similar conditions next year remember to bring many, many, many layers. It would have been nice to have had significantly more indoor and outdoor heaters provided, fingers crossed for next year. Once the third jumper was on under the coat however there was something quite fun about drinking Zeitgeist Black Lager in a freezing, fairy-lit room to the sounds of acoustic folk.

There was a varied crowd in attendance, from ale fans, festival lovers, hipsters and party animals that made for a really interesting and enjoyable mileau.

Under the beautiful setting sun and fug of more than enough great beer I realised that this inaugural festival was already doing a great many thing right; if this is anything to go by next year’s will be even more cracking that this one.

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Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Beers

Brew at the Bog, a festival who’s beer is supplied almost exclusively by Brewdog? This is something Ale to the King couldn’t say no to!

Ale to the King believes that beer is best viewed in the context in which it exists, be that history, whether its from bottle, draft or pimped-out carton, environment its drunk in, distance from birthplace… the list is almost endless. So Brewdog beer served at an inaugural festival that bears much of their branding in the Highlands was a special context indeed.

The beer selection looked great, with pre-festival reports of Punk IPA, 5AM Saint, Zeitgeist Black Lager, 77 Lager and the IPA is Dead range (Citra, Bramling Cross, Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin). Sadly, upon arrival the IPA is Dead range was nowhere to be seen and bar staff weren’t sure what had happened to it. A shame, since I was really looking forward to trying those I have yet to have the pleasure of, but the beers offered were still something to get excited about!

The weather was incredibly cold, the wind and chill blasting in from the Moray Firth, bringing with it flakes of white from the snowcapped mountains. The first beer I tried, and my general go-to grog, was the Punk IPAThe cold really pervaded all the beers, blasting them ice-cold. Using Ale to the King’s previous review as a control, the iciness of the Punk IPA on pump really brought out the tropical flavours, totally overriding the citrus notes. It also boosted the sweetness in the after-taste, leaving the mouth feeling like it was coated in glycerine. Certainly odd but for a different, exciting tasting experience I’d really recommend throwing a can or two in the freezer and drinking at sub-zero temperatures.

The 5AM Saint on pump was similarly altered by the temperatures (I really felt sorry for the bar staff, clutching freezing cans and plastic cups all day). Compared to how it normally comes it was especially sharp and mouth-clenchingly tart. Unusually it took on a very bitter quality on the mid-taste and there was a great, new prickliness to the after-taste. Another one to put in the freezer for a taste experiment.

The 77 Lager was, predictably, unaltered by the cold. Being a lager its naturally served cold; not this cold mind, which lowered the flavour intensity somewhat and really brought out a quality of fine mineral water.

The Zeitgeist Black Lager felt extra carbonated and left a pleasurable tingle on the lips that turned prickly in the cold air. Despite this extra fizz the Zeitgeist Black Lager brought out a unique and overwhelming peppery flavour. A serious twist on an already intriguing beer and another worth experimenting with.

So despite the lack of the IPA is Dead range the beverages on offer at Brew at the Bog were a brilliant, very interesting lot that really changed in the conditions the festival afforded. Unless the beer storage and delivery are changed next year, prepare your tastebuds for an intriguing and surprising journey.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: Bogbain Farm/Brew at the Bog Venue

Continuing Ale to the King’s coverage of Brew in the Bog festival we turn our eyes to the venue itself.

Bogbain Farm is just south of Inverness, a good three hour drive from Edinburgh (obeying speed limits).

However, what a drive it is; its almost worth the excursion itself when you get across the Forth Bridge, past the dual carriageways (why are there no motorways in Scotland?) and hit Cairngorms National Park.
Before long you’re cruising through some spectacular countryside of snow-capped mountains and mirror-like lochs.

Make sure you check your petrol guage before setting off however, there was a slightly hairy moment when I underestimated how lacking in filling stations some areas of Scotland are.

Also take care when you hit the A9. This stretch is known for lunatics and we encountered our fair share along here.

Arriving at the farm, the camping area was located at the furthest end of the field. Here the cold weather works for the venue. Since campers were allowed to drive right up to the camping area the hardness of the ground prevented the field turning into a boggy, tyre-tracked sludge.

The camp-site was surprisingly small, but then this was the inaugural event, thus was never going to attract the numbers of, say, Wickerman Festival. This had both its merits and flaws. On the meritorious side it kept everyone together and created a more friendly, communal feeling amongst the small number of campers. Had it the run of the whole field then no doubt everyone would have spread out separately and it just wouldn’t have had that special ‘festival’ feeling.

However, that inability to spread out also meant those who would have preferred a quieter experience and got to bed/rise earlier were penned in with those who preferred to party until daybreak.  If you’re coming next year and prefer to wake a little earlier make sure you bring some earplugs.

Something everyone appreciated though, regardless of party-disposition, was the view. Stretching out across the horizon was a gorgeous scene of the Moray Firth. Make sure The campsite viewyou face your tent away from this to avoid an incredibly chilly, draughty night!

As for the performance and, more pertinent/important to Ale to the King, ale serving area, the building and surrounding grounds seemed very appropriate. Being a farm it felt suitably earthy and unpretentious for something that was supplied exclusively by Brewdog, yet had a slightly left-of-field feeling which fit the beverages  equally well. Ale to the King believes all craft beer should be considered within the context of that around it, and there’ll be more talk of that in tomorrow’s post on the beers, but in brief, it worked very well.

As a venue to partake in proper beer it offered something really unique that I’d highly recommend. Outwardly it was very scenic, a large, pretty farmhouse and barns with charmingly decorated disused farm equipment dotted about. Inside was the small The Bothy stage which played host to some great acoustic acts and was, crucially, warm! Decorated with a ornate accordions, fairy lights, tables and chairs and a stuffed otter, it was a great place to relax with a Zeitgeist Black Lager.

The second stage, Go North, was a mid-size white-walled barn. From the roof hung ropes of those old-fashioned fairy lights which are essentially painted lightbulbs. The whole thing was very charming, if bitterly cold.

The main bar itself was something of a treat. Inside the larger, more exposed wooden barn, the beer was ice cold, no doubt helped by the weather but the staff remained friendly and were very pleased to help and even offer advice on what brew would suit one’s palate. Looming over this was a massive wagon (or some other farming contraption this writer is too ill-educated to have identified otherwise).

Beside this was, amusingly a sandpit, replete with toys to play with and the straw-lined floor made the whole area utterly unique. Just outside this was the grassy courtyard, surrounded by an overhanging roof that allows one to stand outside yet be sheltered from the elements should the sun raise its head.

Its an utterly charming, interesting, and with all the odd bits and pieces around, intriguing place to drink craft beer; if there’s another ale-filled event here in the future, festival or otherwise, Ale to the King has no reservations in recommending this as a great, unique place to enjoy yourself.

Brew at the Bog Special: The Spirited Dog

Ale to the King is a big and unashamed fan of Brewdog. These Fraserburgh latter-day pioneers of beer have arrived on the market like a like a bull made of sledgehammers in a china-cabinet. I wouldn’t be afraid to say this company are one of the driving forces that helped reinvent the craft beer scene as fashionable, edgy and sexy.

Its with little surprise the company have rapidly gone from strength to strength since the first time I became aware of them. Unusually it wasn’t in the local off-license or supermarket I saw their wares, but on tele, being drunk in Prince’s Street Gardens by Oz Clarke, James May, James Watt and Martin Dickie on the fantastic Oz and James Drink to Britain (please bring it back!).

Since this relatively early following of them I’ve seen their range grow in size yet impressively maintain its quality, their stock appear in more and more establishments, to opening their own bars all over the British isles. And yet somehow, they still maintain their spirit of small, feisty, rebelliousness.

So their next move comes as something unexpected. In these financially hard times putting their names behind a brand new festival may seem foolhardy, especially on something which is traditionally quite costly for something that often lasts only a day or two; without doubt the biggest events like Download and Glastonbury, with ticket prices over £200, will be feeling the pinch at the moment. Had Brew at the Bog been a shambling mess or worse, an unattended failure, Brewdog’s name would have gone down with it. The heavy branding no doubt adds an instant recognition, but with that comes a risk. As it turns out, it was a wise move. The organisers clearly knew what they were doing.

But then, come to think of it, that’s a characteristically Brewdog thing to do.

Its this kind of spirit that embodies the craft beer scene at the moment; defiant, revering innovation and bravery over reserve and safety, self-assured and with plenty of cochonnes. Craft beer is a link to our shared British history; one we should all be proud of as a symbol of determination and innovation, and its this determination and innovation which it needs to grow, like Brewdog, from strength to strength.

Brew at the Bog Special: Intro

Ale to the King is a relative newcomer to the festival scene, having only tackled the mighty metal worship of Download and the wonderful Wickerman Festival before. During my inaugural five days of camping and music at the former however, I knew straight away that I would be a big fan of festivals, and the latter confirmed it wouldn’t matter if they were big or small. So the drive from Edinburgh to Bogbain Farm, just outside of Inverness, was filled with no small amount of excitement as I made my way up to the very first Brew at the Bog Festival.

I’ll be covering various aspects of the festival, mainly on Ale to the King with other coverage on Culture Bomb.

But first, time for a Brewdog; its like going through my notes on a sensory level. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Good deal!

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A Spitfire pint glass and bottle of the beer itself for £3.49 from Aldi. If you’re a fan of the beer and want yourself a nice bit of glass to drink it from get down there; they’re sure to sell out soon.

Tasty Giraffes

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Enjoying a delicious 7 Giraffes on the shore in Leith.

Bar Review: Brewdog Bar, Cowgate, Edinburgh

by Louise Boyd

Name
: Brewdog Bar Edinburgh
Location: 143 Cowgate, Edinburgh

It seems only right that my guest post for AletotheKing features the very spot where my love affair with ale first began.

Beers Selection: The selection of beer is vast – not just encompassing Brewdog’s own impressive array of quirky, experimental brews – but the fridges are also brimming with tasty beer and cider offerings from far and wide. There’s always something new to try on tap too, with special limited edition Brewdog incarnations and other guest beers on tap – it’s a great place to sample something out of the ordinary.

My personal favourites include the fruity, easy drinking Punk IPA for summertime refreshment or the blacker than treacle Rip Tide stout (it’s strong stuff mind!).

Atmosphere: It took some time for Rob to convince me to accompany him to the Brewdog bar, I mean it’s on the Cowgate for goodness sake. But this funky little place is a far cry from the raucous hen and stag venues which surround it.

After a boozy afternoon in the Sheep’s Heid we stumbled in here for that all important ‘one for the road’, and I must say despite my reservations I was very pleasantly surprised.

Staff: The bar staff are laid back, approachable and confident in their beer knowledge.

Décor: Gone are the sticky carpets of the previous miserable karaoke dive and in its place are cool greys, metal, bricks and big, comfy leather sofas.

The best thing about Brewdog bar, aside from the amazing range of beer, are the little extras which make the bar somewhere you want to hang out with friends. From the board games to beer books to chalk boards offering friendly advice – ‘Don’t remember the song? Play air guitar!’

Louise Boyd runs the brilliant food blog Hungry WeaselYou can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Punk IPA

Beer: Punk IPA
Brewery: Brewdog
Type: India Pale Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5.6% Vol.
Film watched while reviewing: Total Recall

This is a powerhouse of a beer. Punk IPA isn’t weak, weighing in at a respectable 5.6% and has a Hell of a nose. As soon as I poured it into my dimple mug I was hit by an immediate kick of overwhelming elderflower with a slight hint of flour. It also comes with a pungent citrus flavour that lights up the nostrils.

The colour is gorgeous, a bright golden hue like sunshine topped with a bright white, thick, foamy head.

The first element of the sip doesn’t have a great deal to it. There’s a slight lime and grapefruit flavour. Its on the midtaste however where things really kick into gear. The grapefruit becomes ultra-bitter, along with the lime and other tropical fruit flavours, but the kind of fruits that come in sugary sweeties. These really cling to the sides of the mouth.

The after-taste to finish has the highest level of carbonation of what is a very lightly carbonated drink. The flavours die down and stay at a nice level, hovering at a level most other beers never reach the punch of at their height; and boy does it linger. It won’t dislodge from your maw any time soon.

This is a fantastic beer and one of Ale to the King‘s all time favourites. Its a very singular experience, pure, driven and powerful, like watching Crank or listening to a Motorhead album, and thus it delivers exhilaration few can match.

When in doubt, when you can, go for Punk IPA.

Review: Bombardier

Beer: Bombardier
Brewery:  Wells & Young’s
Type: Extra Special Bitter
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.7% Vol.
Show watched while reviewing: Alan Carr: Chatty Man/Stand Up for the Week.

For a beer that makes such strong claims to ties to traditional English brewing its a shame that Wells’ Bombardier lists two ingredients as Colour E105C and Stabiliser E405. Its already got some points against it in my book for that reason.

However, it does have a lovely chestnut brown colour, the type you’d expect from an old English fashioned beer. But that’s what the colourant is probably for. The somewhat fluffy white head stays nicely atop the drink and doesn’t go anywhere fast.

On the nose there’s a sweet but not sickly flavour of something akin to squashed-hard candy-floss which seems to eminate from the foam.

The foretaste is slight, a pleasant honey flavour with a smoothness that pervades the whole taste. The mid-taste leads on to something rubbery and something like a smooth walnut purée.

Smoothness is also present in the after-taste which is very faintly smokey, like the taste of cigarette smoke but if it were actually pleasant.

Its a sleight beer, smooth and palatable, but just knowing it has those chemicals in it means Ale to the King can’t, within my heart, recommend it. Even as I drink it I can only think ‘this isn’t fair; they’ve cheated to create this’ and like an Olympic athlete using illegal drugs to enhance performance, it has to be disqualified.

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