Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Around The World, One Hop At A Time

To the Euston Tap, where BrewDog have commandeered the upstairs area to host a launch of their new limited range of single-hop IPAs. Our host, BrewDog's own south of England Duffman ("oh yeah!") is Tom 'The Cad' Cadden.

The brewery's bold proclamations and often irritating promotional flights of fancy have provoked a well-documented and lengthy sigh of exasperation on the interwebs (Martyn Cornell refers to the latest one here), but I've decided to ignore the bollocks and focus on the beer, which is often very good. So, don't read any more if you want quotes off the labels of the bottled versions - it makes my stomach hurt. In typical BD Newspeak however, the beers are all called "IPA Is Dead", based on a dialled-down to 7.5% Hardcore base, and single-hopped in the kettle and dry-hopped up to 75 IBUs. An interesting technical exercise which aims to showcase the characteristics of each hop. Draw your own conclusions from the name, or ask The Cad.

The Cad attempts the tricky "glass/bottle bottle/glass" trick a la Tommy Cooper; beer in fridge

I said the beers were often very good. I thought these were. The four hops chosen include hop du jour Citra from the US, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand, Bramling Cross from the UK and Sorachi Ace from Japan.

I'm not going to say too much about the first two, since the hops they're based on have been cropping up in beers from a range of brewers recently. However, having recently sampled Oakham's 4.2% Citra, I thought it worked slightly better in a session strength beer, rather than in a "one and done". Generally though, I like the way these 'new' hops soften the sometimes harsh citrus notes you find with so-called 'C' hops, specially in higher-ABV beers. The Nelson Sauvin imparted huge blackcurrant notes in the mouth as well as the mango and pineapple I tend to find, as well as that 'just-used-cat-litter-tray' aroma on the nose. Lychee and tropical fruit similarly predominate in Citra and both hops were shown off nicely in this package - well-balanced, complex and easy drinking.

The latter two beers were the most interesting. The Bramling gave off huge fresh pine and pepper on the nose - so much so, I thought the bare floor of the pub had recently been stripped. There was a slightly phenolic sweetness in the mouth which seemed to work well with the malts. It woke up memories of one of the Hitachino beers I sampled on draft in New York some years back. The Sorachi Ace hop has been talked about as being too difficult to brew with, but I don't see the problem. This is the first time I've sampled a beer using it, and it lent the beer astonishing complexity. Grassy lemony honey mint green tea sherbet all got offered up, and something else that poked my boyhood memory with a stick every time I took a sip and sloshed it around. This is a beer I'd like to try again.

These beers were from the keg and I didn't find them too cold or over-carbonated. Indeed, the liveliness of the Bramling version helped to open the beer up nicely, I thought. BrewDog are also doing a mixed 4-pack of each beer or single bottles, judging by the Tap's fridges.

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