Sound as a hound
Beer52’s Bryce Kitcher practices his bladder control on the final Brewdog Airlines jaunt
Monday 30 December 2019
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In February 2019, the first flight of “Brewdog Airlines” took off, flying 200-plus craft beer fans to Columbus, Ohio on a Boeing 647. Eight months later, I had the pleasure of being a passenger on the second and final flight, and got to take in the entire Brewdog Airlines experience.
Wanna hear about it?
The Brewdog chartered flight boarded in the salubrious surroundings of London Stansted, with a welcoming handshake from brewery co-founder Martin Dickie. Before taking to the air, there was an announcement from Dickie and his Brewdog partner James Watt, outlining what we could expect from the trip. To sum it up in one word: beer. More specifically, the beer, called Cloud 9, is billed as a ‘Transatlantic IPA,’ brewed to taste better at 40,000 feet. It is hazy, it is fruity, and I am about 95% sure dry-hopping was involved in the brewing process due to the bitter after-taste.
To keep us entertained (as if copious amounts of beer wasn’t enough), we’re provided with several items on our seats, including an iPad, loaded with movies such as Aquaman and Get Out, as well as several episodes of the Brewdog Show to last through the trip. There is also a bespoke in-flight magazine, detailing all of the things we’ll get up to over the next five days, a plastic beer cup, and a nice warm blanket in case things get chilly. Oh, and a Punk IPA, of course. Brewdog’s flagship beers are all on the menu: Punk, Elvis Juice, Hazy Jane, Dead Pony Club, as well as the aforementioned Cloud 9.
The experience on the flight is amazing and the level of service is exceptional. Whenever I run out of beer, a passing air hostess offers me another one. It may also be my first time getting warm food on an airplane which I actually enjoyed; the chicken tikka masala in particular went down very well with a can of Hazy Jane.
Nightmare at 40,000ft
Then, at around six hours into the nine-hour flight, everyone’s worst fears became reality: it is announced that the toilets were almost at full capacity. After inhaling several cans of Brewdog’s offerings, I am overwhelmed by mortal dread.
This issue prompts Brewdog reps to walk up and down the aisles asking everyone to “only use the toilet if you really need to”. Myself, I only ever use the toilet when I really need to – it’s not a place I’ll hang around just for a laugh – but that’s where my drinking stops. I can’t run the risk of a three-hour (plus the unknown amount of time it will take to get through US customers) stint of putting my bladder under extreme pressure. A similar incident apparently occurred on Brewdog Airlines’ first flight in February, with passengers apparently running full-speed off the plane to desperately seek a hole in the ground. All that beer has to go somewhere.
In the Dog House
Touching down in John Glenn Airport, we’re taken through US customs in a break-neck 45 minutes, then on to our buses with another goodie bag. Thankfully after the long flight, the journey to the 42-acre Doghouse hotel only takes twenty minutes. We’re all a bit sleep deprived and have been tanning free beer at altitude for the best part of half a day, and to be honest I’m starting to feel a little dislocated from reality.
This is perhaps why I don’t bat an eyelid when Wonder Woman welcomes us off the bus and hands us over to six-foot tall Pickle Rick, who in turn guides us towards the hotel. It isn’t until a grinning pirate-skeleton checks me into my hotel room that I remember it’s 31 October – Halloween – and everything clicks into place.
My room is on the third floor, overlooking the Overworks brewery. Not the view everyone would choose for their holiday, but for me (and probably you, if you’re reading this) the rows of sleeping barrels are the finest vista imaginable. The room itself is pretty spectacular, from the big-screen TV to the second mini-bar in the shower. After a can of Decadent’s Strawberry Coconut Smoothie, I sleep as deeply as I ever have in my life, ready for the next day’s adventures.
Down to business
The following morning features a tour of the brewery, starting with the lab, where Brewdog Columbus’ chief beer tester talks us through the chemistry and micro-testing involved in his work. He treats our group to a sample of the brewery’s latest experiment, a nitrogenated version of its Choco Libre Mexican-spiced chocolate imperial stout.
The brewery itself holds few surprises – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, to a degree – but what does impress is the sheer scale and level of automation compared to the craft beer setups I’m used to. The canning line is more like the gleaming conveyor of an electronics factory than the messy, temperamental contraptions I’ve come to expect, while the detail of the brew itself is controlled by a few smart people sitting in front of a lot of computers. I’m not completely sure how I feel about this emotionally, but only a total cynic could fail to be impressed.
The experience on the flight is amazing and the level of service is exceptional
Over the next few days we are allowed to explore three major cities in the region; Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. There will be more on these rather more extra-curricular adventures in the next issue of Ferment.
Tuesday, our final day, comes far too soon. After having such a blast in the States, all I wanted to do was go back to the start and do it all again. Our flight home isn’t until 10pm, so for my last half-day, I make sure to check out Brewdog Franklinton and Brewdog Short-North, as well as paying a final farewell to one of my favourite places on the trip, the Seventh Son taproom. I even managed a terrifying ride on a “Lime,” one of the thousands of electric scooters spread around Ohio.
Full credit to Brewdog, they organise one hell of a trip. I heard nothing but good things from the many passengers I spoke with in my five days in the States. Each and every one of them took home memories and experiences that they will never forget, it truly was a trip of a lifetime. If Brewdog Airlines ever takes to the skies once more in future, I pray that I get invited to do it all again.
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