26 June 2008

A completist writes

OK, it may well be some time before I encounter Brew Dog's Buzz, since it's not likely to be imported on cask, and one sort of Paradox isn't really the complete set, but I was still really happy when I saw the two Brew Dog bottled beers that I had yet to try on the shelf in Redmond's last week. (Most of the rest I covered here, with a pint of Hype in Manchester last year).

Hop Rocker is the inevitable pale lager, and one I might not have bothered with if I hadn't been wanting to try them all. An odd beastie of very bright but pale yellow hue, with just a hint of a haze through it. The aroma is bitter and almost lemony, though not especially strong. They've struck just the right balance with the carbonation, giving that refreshing cleanness you want from this style without it being too much of a bloatmaking fizzbomb.

The flavour is... interesting. The citric notes are there all right, presumably deriving from a light hopping, albeit with some pretty pungent varieties. But there's also a strong sugary character to it as well. It's not the syrupyness of your typical tramps' lager, but more like the candysugar flavour from certain Belgian beers. The two flavours don't sit too well next to each other for me, and I'm not sure how a committed lager drinker would find them. It's an interesting beer, but just not in the right way.

I'm consistently amused by Brew Dog's labelling (even if certain humourless busybodies don't get it). I also used to live in Aberdeen, just down the road from the brewery. I found it impossible to read the description of Hardcore IPA without hearing the lilting Grampian tones. The text is reproduced on the right. It's the word "relatively" in the last sentence that's pure Aberdeen to me. Roll that R.

Like the brewery's lighter Punk IPA, this 9% ABV bad boy is pale yellow in colour. Hardly any head is produced on pouring, nor is there much aroma -- just a vague hops-and-boiled-water smell of the sort you get on a brewery floor. The first taste leaves you in no doubt of how much alcohol is in here: big, high intensity boozy warmth fills the mouth. But that's not to say it's malty, oh no, the bitterness actually stings. There's no trace of the fun-and-frolicsome fruity, citrusy gee-whizz American hops. This is a serious hard-as-nails Calvinist IPA with no quarter offered. Well, almost no quarter: as it warms up the caramel malt notes begin to make themselves felt and the sweet-bitter flavour takes on nearly a perfumey character. But the aftertaste remains big boozy bitter hops. Hardcore, as the label says.

I don't really know many other IPAs of this kind of power and strength, but if I had to compare Hardcore to another beer I'd be more inclined to point at Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot barley wine than, say, Great Divide's Hercules IPA. There's a definite market for this sort of beer, and I'd say it'll sell well on the other side of the pond, but extreme experiences like this aren't anything I'll be running to repeat on a regular basis. Now and again, however, it's worth it.

And just as I post this, I discover the brewery has started a blog announcing a new bottled imperial stout in their range. My completist plans are in ruins. Thanks a lot, guys.


  1. They sent me a bottle of their anniversary paradox. The documentation attached managed to confuse both the customs people and the Department of Substance Abuse, as it was declared as yeast sample for analysis.That is brilliance for you...

  2. I'd have thought anyone working in a Department of Substance Abuse would be easily confused. At least during working hours.

  3. Aberdeen, of course, is known as Furryboots City, since any Aberdonian meeting someone not local to the kingdom of granite will ask them: "Furryboots are ye fram?"

  4. Similarly, the area around Ballymena is known as "Disneyland" for the locals' predilection for statements like "He Disney want tae eat his tea".

  5. Calvinist IPA! I don't think that's in the BJCP guidelines, my friend. But good description, nonetheless.

    I tried Brew Dog's Paradox recently, seems like it's just arrived here in Virginia. Not bad at all, but like you, I'm looking to get a wider perspective of their line after reading some notes around the beer blogosphere.

    By the way, thanks for the American translation with Bigfoot/Hercules for your Stateside readers. Good stuff!

  6. Yeah, 'cos Europe has so many super-hopped high-alcohol pale ales that I could have used as reference points instead...

  7. Well, there are a few in Sweden, Denmark, Norway...
    I think Norway would qualify for the Calvininst bracket, too!

  8. The bottle of Hoprocker I had was full of diacetyl which perhaps explains the sugary sweetness you got. In fact the Hardcore IPA I had shared the craze.
    I think they would be smart beers if they were clean.