18 November 2016

Get your shades on

The rise of the craft beer can has provided a big opportunity for graphic designers and the brewers who commission their work. I suspect that this in turn is leading to a bit of a promotional arms race between companies as they battle for the customers' attention from the crowded shelves, a bit like what has happened with keg fonts over the last decade. While perusing the cans in a local off licence recently I couldn't help but be drawn to today's subjects, both garishly illustrated in a way to grab the drinker's attention and not let go. And in this instance it worked. Ring 'em up!

First to be popped open is BrewDog's Neon Overlord with its neon overload imagery. The beer, a 7.3% ABV IPA with added mango, coriander and habanero chilli, is a clear pale yellow and has a pleasant resinous aroma, plus some non-specific tropical fruit and a savoury background. So far so fun but the first sip brings out a hard, powdery, plastic chilli burn. It's disappointing because there really is a decent, well-constructed IPA underneath, one with a lovely peach-skin mix of fruit and bitterness, though maybe laying on the sweet pulpy mango a little too heavily. But that's a minor quibble compared to this idiot chilli pepper dancing in front of it, spoiling the view. I'll grant that it does leave a lovely belly warmth which almost excuses it, but that flavour is like being pepper sprayed in the face with each mouthful. I can't believe anyone would want a beer that does its best to punish them. Weird and utterly discordant, it's IPA childishly ruined.

Not as fluorescent but still headache-inducing is the can for Lupuloid, a recent addition to Beavertown's line-up. It's big on graphic and low on information so all I know before opening it is it's an IPA and 6.7% ABV. Inside it's an attractive bright pale gold with just a slight haze to it. The aroma is an exotic blend of honeydew, mango and a touch of squeaky green spring onion. This savoury quality absolutely dominates the flavour, turning to caraway seed at the front, and then a leafy cabbagey bitterness in the finish, fading out into a metallic pencil sharperner tang. Juicy it is not. While far from as severe as the Overlord fella I couldn't really get into this. It feels to me like there's a fruit deficit, which amounts to a fun deficit. All the joy appears to be confined to that artwork.

It was the artwork that made me buy them together but these IPAs do have quite a bit in common: their light and breezy appearance, a strength circling 7% ABV, and a great aroma followed by a very disappointing taste. Perhaps this is the fashion now. If so, at least it's clearly signalled on the tin so I can try to avoid it.


  1. It's such a relief to read your comments on the Beavertown beer. We keep questioning ourselves -- are we *missing* something, do we need corrective surgery on our tastebuds? -- because all their pale beers taste so savoury and rough-edged to us. We think other people genuinely like this profile, though, and that we're on the road to fuddy-duddyness.

    The can is pretty though. So pretty.

    1. Hmm. I don't remember thinking the same about Gamma Ray and Neck Oil, finding them both harshly bitter, but that was a while ago, when savoury came from yeast residue rather than hops.

      I'm glad you're not implying there's some sort of uncritical