Right across from the Gare Central in Brussels is the top destination bar in Belgium for anyone looking to sample great craft beers, Brewdog Brussels. Three stops on the metro from the European Quarter, at Putterie 20, and you enter a different world from the diplomatic bubble of Brussels.
This is a truly great venue to meet friends after work for a sundowner before going on for dinner, or just a place to meet and have fun, and it is conveniently located just a short meander from Grand’Place. The bar is huge but it quickly fills up most evenings, and stays open till late.
Housed in the original 1950s headquarters of the former national Belgian airline Sabena, it has a large terrace with views across the central city skyline to the Hotel de Ville – perfect for admiring a summer sunset. The design and layout of the bar take advantage of the curved steel staircase and high ceilings of the original period architecture to create a venue that is stylish, modern, open and friendly. It is comfortably laid out; this is where the airline’s VIPs used to wait before catching a train to the airport. There are private rooms to book for functions and the upstairs lounge can also be reserved for larger parties.
The bar has a range of more than 20 different beers on tap, both from Brewdog’s own range of signature beers, such as Punk IPA and Dead Pony Club, and guest draught beers from smaller breweries including many Belgian masterpieces. The bar also sells an incredible range of bottled artisan beers, and serves good quality unpretentious food and snacks to match the flavours of the many beers on offer; I can recommend the “Brewdog BXL Burger” which uses beef prepared with “Jack Hammer” beer.
Whilst Brewdog Brussels is unique in itself, it is also part of an international family of more than 40 bars spanning the globe – from the company’s original roots in Aberdeen, Scotland, to Roppongi in Tokyo. But the main business remains the craft brewery now located in Ellon in Aberdeenshire.
The entrepreneurial success of Brewdog as a business model is a fascinating story about two young men. They are Martin Dickie and James Watt, who started a craft brewery in Fraserburgh, Aberdeen in 2007 with the mission to save the world from bad beer. They quickly gained a reputation and a following of supporters who appreciated both the taste of their beers, their anti-establishment branding, the intelligent use of marketing through social media and their humour.
For example in their portfolio of brands they have the world’s strongest beer “Sink the Bismarck” at 41% alcohol by content, alongside a low alcohol brand called “Nanny State”, which was introduced after the company was severely criticised for their promotion of strong beers by industry watchdog The Portman Group.
Having started the business famously with just two men and a dog nine years ago, James and Martin have since both been awarded MBEs by the Queen for services to British business, and the company has grown at an amazing speed to an enterprise now owned by 32,000 shareholders with a turnover of £45 million in 2015, employing 540 staff and with a stable of brands that has grown from zero to a current day market valuation running into millions of pounds.
It’s a fantastic reward for investing in what started out as two young men’s amateur passion for brewing. On their journey, they have raised equity through crowd funding, through the sale of shares online and devoted energy and passion to the successful promotion and growth of their brands.
When people talk about Scottish pubs, the image that’s immediately conjured up is one of tartan, kilts, bagpipes, Rabbie Burns, haggis and deep-fried Mars bars. But the Brussels Brewdog hostelry is miles away from these clichés, and infinitely more enjoyable for it.
To sum up, it’s a modern, stylish international bar, serving great beers in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s just one small part of a wonderful success story for two young Scottish entrepreneurs, who still remain true to their original vision of saving the world from bad beer.
Who knows where the company will be in 10 years time; right now they have only one problem, and that is to how to manage their success,. But what a nice problem to have.
So if you are looking for a new place to rendezvous with your friends that is different from the run of the mill Euroland establishments, then try Brewdog. You won’t regret it, and who knows, you may even decide to invest and become a shareholder!