Brewdog Helsinki opened its doors shortly before Christmas, but for various reasons I haven’t managed to visit until now.* Fashionably late, I am here now to answer the question that I asked myself a year ago: is this something new that will shake up the local bar scene, or just more of the same?
*I tried to visit one busy night over Christmastime, but even though four people were leaving just as our group of four arrived, the bouncer decided to make us wait outside. I really hope this wasn’t a create-a-queue business tactic. Winter in Helsinki is not a good time for waiting outside. We went up the street to Punavuoren Ahven instead.
A photoshoot occupies one side of the bar as I enter (welcome to Punavuori..), otherwise it’s pretty quiet; a healthy after-work crowd soon arrives. No tv screens; just semi-loud music (leaning on the heavy side, but not as punk as you might expect from their marketing; Springsteen to Weezer to Bad Religion) and the hum of conversation–as much from behind the bar as from the patrons. Wood and metal; low lighting; a huge beer flavour wheel on one wall–it’s just on the cosy side of cool.
Yes, there’s a dog.
The 18-strong tap list included a bunch of Brewdog’s own, and a decent selection from Finnish micros–Rekola, Hiisi, and newcomers Maku. Four more taps are coming, and you can suggest on their Facebook page which local brews you’d like to see coming out of them. I’d still like to see some collaboration brewing, but this is a good start as far as engagement with the local scene goes.
— BrewDogHelsinki (@BrewDogHelsinki) January 28, 2015
There’s an abbreviated food menu (pulled pork, obviously, features) but I didn’t try anything.
The measures are interesting; I’m pretty sure this is the first time i’ve ordered 2/3 of a pint! The defaults are pint (568ml) and half-pint (284ml), with 1/3 and 2/3 also available. Is this the only place in Finland that serves pints? It might be. This makes me feel at home (Ireland has an open relationship with the metric system) but it also makes very clear the price difference in Finland compared to home. A pint of Punk IPA costs ten euros.
There are helpful, friendly bar staff in this country, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing that. Service can often seem cold; happily that’s not the case here.
The Brewdog staff–equal parts hair, tattoos, and enthusiasm–are friendly, patient, and eager to guide the customer to a good choice. Crucially, this includes giving clear, jargon-free descriptions, and readily offering tasters of the beers they’re recommending. Nobody wants to pay these prices for a beer they’re not sure they’ll enjoy, and in my experience many people don’t seem to realise it’s ok to ask for a taste of something. Even bar staff are sometimes surprised by the request. Hell, sometimes i just don’t have the courage to ask.
It seems Brewdog is serious about its “craft beer revolution” mission statement. At first glance it may seem no different from the other decent local bars (except for the measures), but the attitude of the staff really does mark Brewdog Helsinki out as a breath of
frosty fresh air.
Try for yourself, and be saved from beer selection anxiety!