Hop Rocker, 77, Fake: BrewDog has had a number of goes at the pale lager category and none of them has impressed me much. The latest attempt is called This. Is. Lager. and was launched last summer. Understandably wary, I decided to give it a head start by drinking it on a sunny afternoon after mowing the lawn, when little is demanded of a lager other than refreshment.
And I think it exceeded the minimum requirements of the task. Yes it was wet, and cold and crisply fizzy but there's also enough malt body to avoid being hollow or watery. The hops, meanwhile, are in that East Kent Goldilocks zone of imparting a refreshing bitter bite -- grassy, slightly metallic -- lasting long on the palate but without being overpowering. While the body is dense enough to pass for higher than 4.7% ABV, it's not any way sweet or bready. Most of all, the classic lager cleanness infuses the whole making it an absolutely perfect patio quaffer. Put it in a grown-up serving size and you'd have a rival for Pilsner Urquell.
From there to a more recent release from the Scottish brewery: Born To Die, an 8.5% ABV double IPA. Colourwise, it's not that different from the lager, the clear bright yellow a refreshing change in a world where double IPAs tend to be heavy, soupy, orange beasts. The aroma is very, er, BrewDog: a punky blitz of ripe mango, pine resin and dank, with maybe just a whisper of heat, hinting at the high ABV. That strength gets hidden in the fruit-forward flavour. It sings an innocent carefree rhyme of apricots and mandarins with only a slight bitter pinch on the end followed by a dry savoury finish. No heat, no chewiness, just a pure clean surface for the hop fun. I sipped slowly to savour it, not because it was hard going.
I think I can see why the brewery is making a big fuss of this beer's fragility: when the hops die off there isn't going to be any character to replace them; it will not, like some double IPAs, grow up into a decent barley wine. Though that said I'm not about to spend another €11 to test that theory.
Top stuff all round from BrewDog. These plucky kids will do well.
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