Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Single Hop Celebration - BrewDog's IPA is Dead



One of my  favourite books as a child was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'm sure that you are all familiar with it so you don't need me to retell the story to you. I often imagine that BrewDog's brewery resembles the Chocolate Factory with penguin shaped Oompa Loompas running around fulfilling the beer whims and wishes of our very own Willy Wonkas of the 'Craft' beer world, BrewDog's Martin Dickie and Captain James Watt as they create their boundary busting beer equivalents of Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight and other eccentric gems.

Some of their beer creations are almost Wonka-esque in their marriage of weird and exotic tastes and flavours. A quick look at their latest Abstrakt : 05 beer confirms this - It's a Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted coconut and cacao. BrewDog are clearly not afraid to take risks when creating new beers and the introduction of their new four pack merely reinforces this philosophy.

The four pack is collectively and provocatively called IPA is Dead and contains beers singled hopped with Citra, Bramlin X, Nelson Sauvin and Sorachi Ace hop varieties.

The concept behind the BrewDog's single hopped beers is simple. Each bottle contains the same malt backbone, the same 75 IBU's and all have 7.5% ABV potency rate. The only difference in the beers occurs during the kettle and dry hopping stages where a different single hop is used for each. The four hops come from different parts of the world with BrewDog's aim being to showcase and show off the flavour, power and aroma of their favourite, different hops.

So, with nothing better to do, Mrs Beer Monkey and myself set about sampling the four different beers over the space of an evening to discover whether any, some or all of the single hopped beers led to us experiencing the '100% hop awesomeness' that BrewDog claims on the bottles.

First out of the bottle was -

Bramling X - This smelled really lovely when I popped the cap off. It had a delightful layered complex nose that gave off an unctious sweet aroma of tinned pineapple and blackcurrant Tunes that lightly dissipated to reveal  barley sugar and candy floss. It's taste was just as nice. It had more pineapple and barley sugar that was balanced superbly well with the strong malt alcohol bite that nicely toasted the throat on the way down. It had a burp inducing lively carbonation not seen since Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe's visit to the Bubble Room to sample some of Wonka's Fizzy Lifting Drinks. It also had a nice lingering bitter finish. This beer is an extremely drinkable and enjoyable beer. So much so that Mrs Monkey proclaimed that it was the 'nicest BrewDog beer that she has ever tasted'.

Next up was -

Nelson Sauvin - This was another nice beer but the Bramling X edged it for drinkability and balanced flavour. The Nelson Sauvin smelled and tasted of candied grapefruit, mango with shards of sharp grapefruit bitterness. There was also some Kiwi fruit and more citrus bitterness that masked any semblance of a boozy, alcohol bite. It was an initial full on hop assault on my tongue and tastebuds that diminished gradually to leave a lovely lingering bitter tingle.

Sorachi Ace - A strange one this and quite beguiling.  Both of us didn't particularly enjoy our initial glugs of this beer. It smelled and tasted strange. It was a mixture of floral, caramel and wet grass with a tinge of musky mildew. Perhaps it was a little bit too fresh but five minutes after it had been poured, it had transformed itself into a rather nice beer. The initial strangeness had gone and in it's place was a delightfully subtle and very lovely blackcurrent jam flavour that gently filled my mouth that gave way to a soft, unobtrusive bitter linger. I still can't work it out.

Citra - And now on to the final beer of the night. This one uses a hop that seems to be the current hop du jour - Citra. It has been used by quite a few breweries recently and there are some fine examples of the style out there, most notably Fyne Ales' Jarl and Oakham's Citra. So how did the BrewDog Citra shape up? It had a punchy citrus nose full of ripe mango and pineapple with fresh, resinous hops pretty much apparent from the off. More pineapple in the mouth accompanied by some chewy fruit salad and a pleasant balance of sweet malt and some hop bitterness. The flavour  reminded me of some Nelson Sauvin beers. I was expecting more a grapefruit citrus but instead it was totally tropical citrus and pineapple notes. It gave way to some alcohol but not much in the way of a bitter finish.

Which one did we prefer? Both of us agreed that the Bramling X was not only the stand out but also the outstanding beer of the night. That's not to say that the others didn't have their merits. I'm particularly looking forward to trying a bottle of the Sorachi Ace in a few months hence to see if ageing it slighty can buy it the time it needs so it can finally work out what kind of beer it wants to be.

Overall, the four single hopped beers are an interesting and exciting experiment which proves that when it comes to creating tasty and adventurous beers, BrewDog may just be holding the Golden Ticket.



  1. Someone who was at the launch described the Sorachi Ace as "all over the place". I quite liked that.

  2. interesting tasting notes. I really loved the Citra and for me the Nelsin Sauvin was second favourite.

    That said I had a few half pints of the Bramling X recently in North Bar and they were excellent. Hard to do side by side tastings as the hops strip your pallet so much that my palate was wrecked by the end.

    Have a look at my blog to see what I thought to them all on tap.