Although it's been open for more than a year, it was just a few weeks ago that I visited BrewDog Manchester for the first time. I have been to a London Camden branch before, swayed by the prospect of vegan bottled beer and a cool atmosphere, but I actually didn't even realise Manchester had become home to a BrewDog until I was invited to a beer and food pairing there.
So yes. The first thing to know about BrewDog is that all their bottled beers are vegan. And some of them are pretty damn good. Cask ales not so - I remember being told this by the bar staff in Camden, and also the Barnivore site lists them too.
The food pairing I was at was a special event - not a general public one. And when I first got the invite, and saw I was being invited to try out BBQ food with the beers, my heart sank. I love food, and I like beer, but I was absolutely positive there would not be a place for me, once I made my declaration of animal-product avoidance. How marvellously surprised I ended up being!
It seems the chefs at BrewDog Manchester rose to the vegan challenge with great gusto, and I was treated to an inventive and delicious selection of vegan food while everyone else chewed on dead animals. The flavours and dishes the chefs created for me were really rather exceptional, even better than some of the vegan eateries I've been to! (Which takes me off on a small tangent, just to say that the Tuesday vegan evening at the Salford Arms is also incredible food, and the chef again, isn't vegan. Interesting).
I started with a smoked tofu on chilli salad, which was paired with Tongue Tied - a beer designed to go with sweet and sour foods, with hints of lemongrass and coriander (BrewDog's words, not mine). Loved the food, and enjoyed the beer. I felt the BrewDog peeps had done good work with pairing this one.
This was followed by one of the brewery's most popular beers, the 5am Saint, an amber ale which was served (for me), with vegan 'pulled pork'. This was mushroom in a tangy barbecue sauce, over a sliver of sweet potato. Yum. I liked the beer, and I LOVED the food!
After this was my least favourite beer and my most favourite dish. I didn't get the name of the beer and forgot to chase up, but it was a sour beer which tasted like an unsweetened, bitter cider mixed with vinegar. Not really for me, something of a Marmite beer (you'll either love it or hate it). The food it was paired with though absolutely delighted me to the core - vegan mac 'n' cheese (standard mac 'n' cheese for everyone else).
I mean, I have never even seen vegan mac 'n' cheese on a vegan menu, never mind get it in a non-vegan bar that boasts a BBQ menu! I think it was the fact that the kitchen had really gone the extra mile to make this for me that delighted me so much. Served in a tankard, too!
I told BrewDog Manchester to put this dish on the menu. I hope they listen to me. Vegans will flock from all corners of the North West for a fab non-dairy mac 'n' cheese! I think if they added some nutritional yeast, onion granules and yellow miso paste into the sauce for the extra cheesy flavour, then it would be just about perfect.
Next came another of the BrewDog staple range - the Punk IPA. A pale ale which was far more to my palate and likely one of the ones I'd choose to drink when visiting the bar in the future. It's a strong one at 5.6% ABV but didn't taste heavy, as some stronger beers can. Yup I liked this one, and the veggie curry that I had to go with it (as pictured above).
Last but not least was the Cocoa Psycho - imperial Russian stout brewed with chocolate and coffee. Very unique, and in particular, so was the way the BrewDog folks decided to serve it. This was proffered to us as a beery dessert - ice cream floaters. The stout was poured in jars and ice cream (vegan, for me), plonked on top. I really enjoyed the sweetness of the ice cream with this beer.
I think I'd have not been able to manage drinking the Cocoa Psycho otherwise, as it tasted very strong and bitter with the coffee and chocolate flavours. And super-strong at 10% ABV. However, it was paired extremely well with the ice cream and I got a few ideas brewing (groan) for future dinner parties at home.
Went home a little tiddly, stuffed to the rafters, and utterly thankful for being treated to such a wonderful array of vegan food, and was made to feel like a welcome challenge rather than a pesky disruptive guest. Totally brilliant.
BrewDog Manchester - what's in it for vegans?
The bottled beers, are obviously a strong point :) There are a few bars in Manchester which have a small selection of beers which are vegan, but I *think* pretty much all of BrewDog's bottles are vegan-friendly. And they have a wonderful range to suit all tastes.
Plus the bar itself conveys the BrewDog vibe and is a cool place to chill out and catch up with friends in. And there isn't a great number of decent bars in the Peter Street area of Manchester (in my opinion). Nice to know there's somewhere to come in this part of town, and it's a handy meeting place if going on somewhere like the Palace Theatre.
As I say, I was at a special event for all the wonderful vegan food I was provided with at BrewDog Manchester, so it's not usually offered as part of the normal menu. However, I do believe that they have a vegetarian option of Mushroom & Halloumi Buger which can be made vegan by taking out the halloumi and adding extra mushroom, according to their blog post.
It would be even better though to have an option where something didn't have to be 'taken away' or changed to make it vegan, as you somehow just can't help but feel you're getting a lesser deal if that happens. Call it human psychology. Like if it just said 'Mushroom Burger', that would be fine. Aren't we complicated creatures? But knowing a dish is, in its entirety, already vegan, kind of makes you feel better about it.
I'm crossing every crossable part of my body that the chefs decide to put a vegan mac 'n' cheese on the menu though - not only would Manchester vegans flock to try it, there are plenty of people out there with dairy intolerance as well who would no doubt be intrigued and bowled over. It would be an utterly unique addition to the menu and fabulous USP.
BrewDog Manchester - you're great! Now get that mac 'n' cheese on the menu :)