Three tins from London's Fourpure Brewing Co. today, all promising hoppy delights, albeit in somewhat different ways.
We begin with American Pale, which is obviously far too street to put the word "Ale" on the end of that. Get with the times, granddad. It's 5% ABV, putting it on the high side for a British pale ale but lower than I'd expect an actual American one to be. It's a pale orange colour with a substantial haze and a surprisingly short-lived head. The aroma offers an understated mix of jaffa peel and earthy funk. I was thirsty and wanted to take a big first gulp but the high carbonation made that uncomfortable. And there's something not quite right with the foretaste: in part it's that earthy thing from the aroma which turns savoury and even slightly smoky in the flavour, suggesting some sort of flaw in the production process. There is a fun rush of citrus juice later on, and it leaves a pleasant lingering buzz of hop resins, but I found this a very hard beer to like, and indeed to drink.
I knew the situation was going to improve when I tilted the ringpull of Shape Shifter and copped a noseful of pineapple and guava. The first pour gave me a handsome glassful of clear amber liquid which I was just topping up when -- whoosh! -- in went a nebula of yeasty dregs clouding the whole thing up. They really should warn you on the can that this is to be expected. Shape Shifter is a "west coast IPA" of 6.4% ABV. By the time I got a proper sniff of it the tropical fruits had moved along leaving a heavy resinous dank in their wake. The carbonation is light, as is the texture, making for dangerously easy drinking. There is a little bit of an alcohol burn to remind you to take your time with it, however.
The flavour skirts along the line where burning bitterness, bright tropical fruit and heavy hop oils meet. All of them are present, and quite loud, but neither comes to dominate. On each mouthful you can switch your perception between them with the result that the beer never becomes boring or one-dimensional. The finish is dry and clean. It's perhaps surprising that the resins don't stick around more but away they go. And yes, I can taste that annoying yeast in there as well, and it's not improving things at all, so if you've got one of these to hand, pour carefully.
And finally the tallboy of Juicebox, a "citrus IPA", 5.9% ABV and brewed with citrus fruit which the ingredients list does not deign to specify. I made damn sure to tip this one into the glass slowly, resulting in a bright, clear glassful. The juice is not in the aroma: it doesn't smell of anything much, just a savoury twang a bit like the American Pale. And it didn't really taste of anything either, just kind of heavy and dull. Then I remembered what I'd last been drinking and went to give my palate a sluice with water. On coming back, there was the juice, but it is subtle. I often find juiced-up IPAs too sugary but this isn't like that, though nor is it especially bitter. The fruit juice adds a gentle fruit flavour and then there's a tangy orange bitterness from the hops beneath. It's still fairly plain and inoffensive stuff and I've tasted many's an IPA that has been far juicier brewed using hops alone. It may be perfectly pleasant drinking but it doesn't get past my innate scepticism around adding fruit juice to IPA.
Shape Shifter is the clear winner out of this lot. No messing about, just honking great hops exactly how you want them. Bosh, job done, as they say in Bermondsey.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
1 week ago