BrewDog Punk IPA vs Punk X

BrewDog seem to be calming down a bit. They’ve started doing more keg beer (rather than denouncing it as passé, although they don’t serve it in their bar), have one bar open and another two on the way, and seem to be concentrating on getting their beer brewed rather than trying to annoy some Germans. They’re still experimenting, as the bottles of Eurotrash I have on the side will attest, but one thing they’ve been doing is looking at their core range, especially the beer that started them off – Punk IPA.

It was the first of their beers I tried, given away free at the February 2009 Twestival in London, and I rather like it, but things have moved on a bit since Martin and James opened their brewery – a couple of years of experience and recruiting means that not only do the bosses know more about making beer but they also have a team of people to work with when making new beer. As such they’ve had a reexamination of Punk IPA and brewed a new version, currently nicknamed Punk X.

Punk and Punk X
Can you tell which is which?

I first tried the new beer in November at The Rake, where they did an evening with both on tap and asked for our opinions on which was better. A little while later some popped up in their online shop (and there’s still some left by the looks of things) and I grabbed a few bottles for reasons of ‘research’.

Punk IPA is an in your face beer. That’s its reason for existence, to be big and punchy as a calling card for BrewDog, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, again I assume as intended, it’s not a beer that everyone likes – I got to try a lot of it at the Twestival due to people having a sip, not liking it and then handing their bottle to me. When released it was very hoppy for a British beer and while hops are appearing in much greater concentration more recently (due to increasing numbers of hoppy US beers making their way over here, as well as BrewDog’s influence and the general cycling through of popular beer styles) Punk IPA is still up there. It’s not particularly balanced, with a big muddy hop swamping the nose and dominating the flavour. Behind that there’s an okay maltiness but as I’ve drunk more hoppy beers I’ve slowly gone off Punk. That’s not to say I don’t like it – it’s a nice beer on keg and cask, with a nice hop bitterness, and I usually have a few bottles of it in the fridge, but many of BrewDog’s other beers are nicer, as you’d expect due to it being their first.

Punk X is an altogether different beast, despite coming from almost the same ingredients (from what I’ve seen they’ve added a malt and changed the way they hop the beer, although using the same hops just at different times and in larger amounts). The bottles I have are slightly hazy and it pours a bit livelier than the Punk (although I suspect this is just due to it being closer to the experimental stage) but even on the nose it’s very different. There’s a lot more green hops on the nose, smelling like you’ve just rubbed a bundle of leafy hops between your hands – resiny and pungent. To taste a lot of that disappears, with the hops sitting quietly at the back of things. Up front is a lighter, more elegant beer, with some gooseberry-like fruit, apples, blossom and a pleasant dryness leading to the gently grassy finish. On tap it was, from my hazy memory, even more floral and fruity without quite so much of the overt hoppiness, and better than the bottles I have at the moment – something I suspect is due to it still being a changing prototype. The tap version was very much something I could see being a regular beer, but the bottle version I have at the moment is a bit less mainstream, with enough of the pungent hops in there to turn away regular drinkers. It’s interesting though, and has made me realise that I need to learn more about beer making yet again – this beer has even more hops in than the regular Punk IPA but the bitterness has been lowered from 68 to 45 IBUs. There’s more info on the differences between the beers in James’s post about the tasting at The Rake.

One of BrewDog’s ideas is to replace Punk IPA with Punk X, with the tastings they’re doing generally ending with everyone being asked to choose which one they’d want to be Punk IPA in the future, and after a couple of pints at The Rake I quite happily chose the Punk X – that version really was rather special. However, thinking on it in a more sober state of mind I reckon that’d be foolish. They’re very different beers and while I think Punk IPA could do with some refinement I don’t think Punk X is its replacement. I don’t want the Punk X to go away (and have already bought a few more bottles from the shop) but reckon that with a little bit of BrewDog’s brand magic they could have another beer on their books.

Punk IPA
Scottish IPA, 6%. ~£1.50 per 330ml bottle at the BrewDog shop

Punk X
Prototype Scottish IPA, 5.6%. ~£1.30 per 330ml at the BrewDog shop (while stocks last)

BrewDog End of History tasting at The Rake

Tuesday was a special day. Originally I was meant to go to a tasting of Jura with the distillery manager, but that got cancelled at the last moment. Then a message popped up on the BrewDog blog that they’d be running a tasting at The Rake. Perfect timing it seemed, to start with, until I realised that my recent weeks away from town had moved my chubby fingers even further from the pulse of London than normal and I’d missed a key fact about the day – London Underground were going on strike. Plans were made, starting with working from home and culminating in a train and bus meander into London Bridge. However, in the manner of all good plans, I foolishly changed my mind at the last moment and my bus/train/train/train plan turned into bus/train/train/walk, leaving me at Waterloo a bit later than I hoped and The Rake a decent walk down the road. I turned for the first time to London’s new saviour – the hire bike (aka Boris Bike [even though the plan was initiated under Ken Livingstone] aka Red Ken’s Unmotorised Metal Steeds [an acronym that I am trying to push without much success]). So, I arrived at The Rake redder in the face than normal, sweating more than normal, significantly deader than normal and in need of a beer even more than normal.

HalvesThe BrewDog chaps had brought along quite an interesting selection, complimenting the free tastings that they ran upstairs with a couple of interesting beers on tap. I started out with a half of each. First up was Dogma. Formerly known as Speedball, it’s a malty beer with added stimulants: Scottish heather honey, poppy seeds, kola nut and guarana. The beer poured almost headless and reddy brown in colour, with a crisp malty nose. To taste it was chewily malty but cut off quickly with a dry lager crispness. It finished with a little bit of hop bitterness and a hint of fruity malt. It was worryingly drinkable, despite its additions and 7.8% alcohol content, and I blame it in part for the slow decent into drunkenness that the evening became. More worryingly, I have a case of it in the post which I think I ordered when I got home…

The second of my brace of pre-tasting beers was a preview of Abstrakt:03 aka AB:03, the next in the Abstrakt series and follow up to the Abstrakt:02 that I tasted earlier in the year. In Abstrakt fashion it’s one of BrewDog’s experiments released in one batch with the caveat that the recipe will not be repeated and this time it’s one of their early IPAs, brewed at 9% and then matured for 2.5 years in some 1965 Invergordon whisky casks with strawberries and raspberries. The whisky was bottled at 42 years old and each of the 10 casks was filled with the IPA and 20kg of strawberries from brewery co-founder Martin Dickie’s grandmother’s strawberry farm (as picked by the BrewDog staff). After a couple of years 2kg of raspberries were added to each barrel for a finishing sourness. The beer has been recarbonated, as many of BrewDog’s aged beers are, and this carbonation level was the only real difference between the keg version I started the evening with and the bottled version I tried later at the tasting.

The beer poured flat and red, as you’d expect for something with 22kg of red fruit per cask, and didn’t have all that much to the nose other than a slug of sour fruit. To taste that sourness came through, with the raspberries dominating the underlying sweetness of the strawberries and complimenting the bitterness of the base IPA – it was more sour cherry than berry. The wood seems to have done more accentuating than adding, with an oranginess coming out heavily at both ends of the flavour, almost adding a citrus pettiness to the beer, although there was a hint of smokiness that may have come from the rather exhausted wood (42 years of whisky maturation is going to pull out quite a lot of what the cask had to give). There was also a less hoppy bitterness that my notes suggest was ‘like sucking a peach stone’ that popped up in the middle along with some sweet fruit. A very interesting beer that tasted almost like a belgian sour cherry beer than an fruity IPA.

Shortly after finishing my beer, and having a chat with Neil from Yet Another Gin who popped by on one of his whistlestop tours of the bars of London, I was called in for the third tasting of the night, having grabbed a ticket from BrewDog’s London sales manager Tom Cadden, and made my way to the rather full upstairs room where BrewDog boss James Watt was waiting to pimp his beer at us.

First up for the tasting was the AB:03 again, this time from a bottle and, as mentioned earlier, slightly fizzier. This fizziness focused the flavour a bit more but didn’t change much. It is designed to get better in the bottle with age but I’m not sure how it’ll change. From my recent reading I think the hoppiness will calm down which should make the beer a bit sweeter and rounder, which might be nice. James also gave us a quick advance preview of what AB:04 will be: a 15% beer with coffee, cocoa beans and a naga chili – they added one naga to the 20 hectolitre brew…

Devine Rebel Mortlach ReserveWe moved on from there to the Devine Rebel Mortlach Reserve. Originally brewed in collaboration with Mikkeller in November 2008, the beer started out as a 12.5% barley wine before they decanted it into two Mortlach whisky casks that had held sherry before the whisky. These were then left until a few weeks ago when they were bottled, advertised on the website and quickly snapped up by the BrewDog fanboys, including three that went to me and arrived a couple of days after the tasting. Before bottling they highly recarbonated the beer in an effort to control the sweetness, as carbon dioxide has a souring effect on liquids it is dissolved in (hence the sweetness of flat soft drinks and the sour flavour of carbonated water).

It poured deep brown with a hint of orangey red and smelled of fruity grain, grapes and overwhelmingly of perfectly ripe pears. To taste there was more pear, sour caramel, uncooked malt, red grapes and a general background of mixed fruit as you often find with barley wines. It had a long woody finish which lingered with the fruitiness and, in short, it was fantastic. One of the best beers I’ve tasted and one that I’m very pleased I have a few bottles of. All I’ve got to do now is make sure that I save two of my three to sit on the side and wait a bit, as it should age well.

Last of the night was the beer that we had all come to try and the reason that I had made the journey across town on strike day – The End of History. The final chapter in BrewDog’s super strong beer war with German brewer Schorschbräu this 55% beer beat the german’s previous effort (a 43% version of the Schorschbock) and BrewDog have announced that they will do no more of these stupidly high alcohol brews. I suspect that this is in part due to a ‘get out while the going’s good’ approach to the publicity that they have garnered, as well as a more practical topping out of their freeze distilling process – it seems that to produce this beer they not only needed their local ice cream factory (-20ºC) and their industrial chiller (-40ºC) but also a piece of medical cryogenic freezing equipment (-60ºC) which was leased and has to go back soon. Each of their super strong beers has had a different base beer, with the Tactical Nuclear Penguin using an imperial stout, Sink the Bismarck an IPA and this one a belgian blond (infused with nettles and juniper berries), and this has led to each of them being quite distinct in flavour.

SusanHowever, flavour isn’t the main reason why people have been interested in The End of History. The first of the two things is the price, with it coming in at £500 and £700 per bottle, amounts that have led to BrewDog’s claim that it is not only the world’s strongest beer but also the most expensive. However, the beer inside the bottles is not the main source of the price, instead it’s the second reason why people know about it, the packaging. Only 12 bottles were made available to the general public (although I suspect that a chunk more beer was made and not part of those 12, to allow tastings and the like), which sold out in tow hours, and each was then placed inside an expensively taxidermied stoat or squirrel – the stoat brought along to our tasting was called Susan. This is a bit of a classic BrewDog move – deliberately shocking, ready-made for the media to pick up and with a point behind it that some will see as the excuse for the first two bits and BrewDog claim is the main reason why they did it (in this case, trying to make a point about beer as a luxury item and something hand wavy about honouring the lives of dead animals – the stoats and squirrels used were already dead rather than killed for the project, with the word ‘roadkill’ appearing often). I rather like the advertising campaign myself, tasteless as it is to many, and was rather pleased to be able to meet Susan. She was lovely. There is, of course, a video.

So, the ‘beer’: We were presented with a baby shot each and it was a beautiful golden colour, shining under the room’s lights. On the nose it had oranges, concentrated malt, citrusy hop and a hint of dry hops. To taste it started with an intense sweet citrus hit fading through fizzy refreshers (although uncarbonated) to seville orange, with hints of beery malt and bitterness, and with a long bitter orange finish. In true whisky drinker fashion I added a drop of water to see what happened and it softened out some of the alcoholic hit, brought out more bitter orange but helped it all amalgamate into more of a constant whole. Overall it was pretty impressive and definitely more of a proper drink than I felt the Sink the Bismarck was – I find it disappointing that this isn’t something that’s going to appear again and that it will be almost impossible taste outside of the occasional BrewDog special occasion.

The End of History

Anyway, it was certainly worth the multi-modal journey to London Bridge (along with the walk/bus/bus/night bus/cab and 2.5 hours that it took me to get home afterwards). The evening continued after the tasting with a slow slide into drunkenness, talking with some proud beer tickers (recording every beer they drink and trying not to drink the same one more than once) and then enthusiastically telling someone else that they seem to be very smily. I also caught the tail end of a conversation with James Watt in which he mentioned the BrewDog shareholders AGM – “It’ll be later this year and it’ll be awesome”. One train ticket to Aberdeen coming up soon…

7.8%. Limited availability on draft. Available from BrewDog for £1.79 per bottle.

AB:03 (Abstrakt:03)
9%. Available soon from £3 per half at The Rake (now run out). Probably £9.99 per bottle when released.

Devine Rebel Mortlach Reserve
12.5%. Sold out. £11 per bottle while available.

The End of History
55%. Sold out. It was £500 or £700 a bottle (stoat and squirrel respectively).

Otley beer tasting with lovebeer@borough

I rather like The Rake. Not only do they have many interesting beers on tap, but they’ve joined forces with Melissa Cole to put on tastings of interesting beverages under the banner of lovebeer@borough. It surprised me how few booze tasting there actually are in London that are available for regular consumers and lovebeer@borough is the only group that I’ve seen doing regular beer tastings (please let me know if I’m being rubbish and there are more) and as such making my way along to one has been on The List for a while. The latest to pop up on the schedule was a tasting of beers from The Otley Brewing Company, accompanied by company director Nick Otley and head brewer Charlie Otley, so the telephone was used and a place grabbed.

To be honest I didn’t have much clue who the Otley Brewery were. I’ve heard of them and seen their stark branding but assumed, as many do it seems, that they were from Yorkshire. Otley is actually a Welsh brewer, based in Pontypridd. They take their name from the family who do the brewing and push themselves as a national brewer rather than a small regional (apart from the occasional burst of Welsh pride), which causes occasional confusion – a story was related where a friendly yorkshireman recently picked up some of the their barrels from The Bree Louise while grabbing some of his own, to help the Otley boys collect them a bit closer to home. Otley, Yorkshire, is 250 miles from Pontypridd…

The Otleys had been running pubs for a while, picking up a portfolio of three since the late 70s, so it wasn’t much of a jump to move into brewing – they had the distribution channel waiting so ‘all’ they needed was a place to brew and someone to make the beer. They found a unit down the road from The Bunch of Grapes and sent Charlie off to Sunderland to learn how to make beer. While he was away the brewery was finished and Nick and Matthew (also an Otley, but one who didn’t make it over to London for the tasting) started experimenting, producing the prototype of their first brew, the O1. Charlie applied his new know-how and in 2005 their first commercial beers were produced.


The first one we tried, appropriately, was the O1. It’s a pale golden ale. It’s light to taste, with a pleasant sweetness and slight nuttiness drifting to an orangey hoppy finish. There’s not a lot to it but it’s an easy drinking beer that’s great for a rather hot and sticky afternoon, like the one we were hiding from.

Next up was the O5 Gold. It’s another golden ale and was originally brewed as a one-off for Pontypridd rubgy club. It used a combination of US and UK hops and went down rather well, selling out rather quickly. It was promoted to the seasonal list and from there up to the regular beer portfolio. It’s brewed with lager yeast and, according to the little booklet I grabbed, now brewed with just american hops. It’s, predictably, a light gold colour, and tastes good and hoppy – a chunk of lemony hops and a rounded bitterness providing most of the flavour. This one sits perfectly in my regular favourite beer category (hoppy golden ales) and it’s one that I’ll keep an eye out for.

We then moved on to the first of the more regularly named beers of the day – the O4 Columbo. Their branding is quite stark and the names were equally stark to start with, being simply numbered. Charlie likes beers with names though, so the punning has begun. This is the next on their numerically ordered list after the unpunny Boss and it is, as with the last couple, a golden ale. Melissa’s choice for the tasting range was very much towards the more summery side of things, and this sat happily next on the list. Bitter hopped with Columbus from the USA, hence the name, and then dry hopped in the barrel with Chinook and Cascade it has a lot of floral bitterness and mushy hops on the nose. To taste it has a sweetness that fades to a chewy hop bitterness, finishing with more floral hops. You can really taste the effect of the dry hopping and it’s a good, if a little cloying, pint.

Next was the Motley Brew, inspired by a beer brewed at the brewery by Glyn from The Rake. The original was intended to be an 8% double IPA and it became a 7.5% IPA launched last December. The beer is now a more sensible 5.5% and is in the brewery’s portfolio as their April seasonal.  It was (deliberately) slightly hazy with a dry and bitter hoppy flavour. It had a prickly spiciness to it, reminding me of the air in Horsham on a brewing day when I was a kid, with the Marmitey hop smell rolling over the school playground.

Some hops, yesterday

Hops are a subject close to the brewery’s heart, with the first four beers showing a dedication to golden hoppy ales. The price of hops has risen considerably in the last few years and while the quality of British produce is improving, years of production to the specification of the mass market has made the plants less suited to the needs of microbrewers. As such Otley, like many others, import a lot of hops from the US, and in recent times New Zealand. This requires good forward planning, with brews not only needing to be alterered based on the state of the recieved hops, but also various varieties running out due to demand, forcing defensive buying. Otley use whole hops, rather than pellets, which also adds difficulty to storage and keeping them fresh. It’s not easy producing hoppy beer…

Next up was the O-Garden, the current champion beer of Wales. It’s a wheat beer with orange, coriander and cloves, with the peel and spices cooked for a bit in a kiln to remove some of the immediate sweetness. On the nose it was spicy, with a gingery note. To taste it was quite medicinal, with menthol/clove and citrus – like an orange studded with cloves ready to be dunked into some wine for mulling. It was nice, reminding me a bit of Umbel Magna, but much lighter.

Continuing the spicy theme we moved on to the beer that Melissa recently brewed with Otley – thai-bO. The name came first for this one, after some late night pub based plotting between Melissa and Nick Otley. Working within the Thai remit they brought in lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime peel and galangal to do the flavouring, drying the peel and then rubbing some of the ingredients together to make a fragrant mix. The galangal went in at the start of the boil, with most of the rest going in halfway through and the lime leaves at the end – the first batch used 500g of lime leaves, which is quite a scary amount. The beer has been popular, especially amongst those, like Nick’s wife, who don’t normally like beer. As such it’s now part of the seasonal portfolio, appearing this August on a more general release. It’s got a lot of floral citrus on the nose and is similar to the O-Garden in taste, although veering more towards the citrus. Unlike other asian influenced beers I’ve tried this one isn’t particularly sweet, the kiln drying helping moderate to that, making it much more drinkable. It’s not one for me to drink all-night, but it’s certainly an interesting and tasty addition to the list.

We then moved on a fairly new brew – the still anonymous O7. It’s a cloudy wheat beer, with discussion in the room over whether it was more Belgian or German in style (it used Belgian style yeast and is referred to as Belgian, but is being described as a weissen on the website…the consensus seemed to be German), with lots of different hops – a blend of three for bitterness and another three for aroma. It smells sweet and spicy and has the distinctive citrus/grainy wheat beer flavour with a chunk of sweetness. It switches quickly from that to a quick bitter hoppy finish. My notes suggest that it runs from bananas to Angostura bitters, but that’s overselling it a bit.

To finish we had a try of the bottle conditioned version of the O8. This is one of their first beers (the number is not necessarily consecutive), an 8%er brewed for the Great Welsh Beer Festival in 2005 before they were eligible to enter competition (you need to have been brewing for 12 months). It was a hit, selling out before its official release time of 8pm, and was the champion beer at the festival the next year. It’s fruity and sweet, with a fizziness from both the bottling and alcohol content. It has a bitterness that rolls around the side of the tongue and it’s thick in the mouth – my note suggested ‘Custardy?’. To quote Charlie, it’s ‘half tidy’. Which is, apparently, Welsh for good.

4% golden ale

O5 Gold
5% golden ale

O4 Columbo
4% pale golden ale

Motley Brew
5.5% IPA

4.8% clear wheat beer with orange, coriander and cloves

golden ale with Thai flavours

O7 Weissen
5% Belgian (German?) style cloudy wheat beer

Bottle conditioned O8
8% strong pale golden ale

Otley’s bottled beers are available from various outlets, including their own beer selling website – Real Beer Box
The Rake often has them on tap (keep an eye on the twitter feed for details) and Charlie also mentioned that the Bree Louise sometimes gets a barrel in.

If you want to try them all, then get up to the Otley (Yorshire) beer festival in November. Otley (the Welsh brewer) will be turning up with a full range to try and confuse the locals…

Stone Ruination IPA

This is one that’s been on my radar for a while. I’m a big fan of hoppy beer, having worked my way up through golden summer ales to hoppy British IPAs and then on to the more extreme US craft beer stakes, and also a fan of experimentation and novelty ales, so Stone Ruination IPA ticks a bunch of boxes for me. Coming in at over 100 IBUs, and thus into the realms of the unknown, it’s about as hoppy a beer as you can find on the market (even beating Brewdog and their love of having records) and thus definitely sitting on my list.

The Rake at Borough Market maintain a twitter feed on which they post what beers are on each day. This is excellent, as it shows me if there’s anything interesting I’m after, and terrifying, as I am a stupidly compulsive person who will travel across most of London (as long as it’s near the tube) to grab a taste of some booze that I’ve been looking for. So when I saw them announce that they had Ruination on tap, having been out of town on the other occasions I saw it pop up on the feed, I jumped on a bus and head London Bridge-wards to have a taste.


At over £3 a third it’s not one that you’re going to be drinking all night, and that’s before you get a taste of it. It’s quite a murky beer, with an orange bronze tint and the nose powerfully hoppy – like sticking your head through an attic hatch into a dry hop store on a hot day – floral but heavy and bitter. To taste it is a combination of every type of hope I can think of – purely bitter hops, dry hops, concentrated hop pellets, wet hops and hops growing in a field. It finished with more hops and little else – there is one category of flavour in this beer and it is the hop. At 7.7% it has a bit of a kick and combined with the over the top bitterness this isn’t one that you can drink much of – after 1/4 of a pint I had a pain behind my right eye, after a half I’d decided that I’d had enough.

I then of course ran straight around the corner to Utobeer and bought a bottle to take home.

Stone Ruination

In the bottle it looks the same but is a little bit different. The nose is similar, although not quite so flabby, becoming a smaller hop store with fresher hops, but the taste isn’t quite so varied across the range of hops as on draft. It has a coherent and pure citrusy flavour, with a hint of mustiness, running right through the middle of the palate and dropping off to a mushy bitter ending with a touch of malty sweetness and bitter orange. It feels more restrained and less like a novelty beer, and while by the end of the bottle your palate is still shot, it’s also quite refreshing.

The tap version is something to be tried at least once, although probably not more than once, but the bottled version is actually something really quite nice. You need to like hops but if you do then it is, as it says on the bottle, a liquid poem to their glory.

Stone Ruination IPA
7.7 % India Pale Ale from the USA
~£3 per 1/3rd pint on draft at The Rake and ~£3 per 330ml bottle at Utobeer

Quick Tastings

BladnochOld Malt Cask 15 year old Bladnoch – A baby single cask bottle that I grabbed from The Vintage House a while back. The nose has white wine, a light savouriness and a hint of charcoal. The taste is sweet to start but quickly fades to lightly coloured wood, sawdust and a dry slightly fruity finish. Water brings out a light violet perfume, softens the sweetness and brings out a solid woody finish. Not as light as its lowland provenance suggests.

Sambrook’s Junction – Grabbed at The Draft House Westbridge after I a) not only said that I would turn up to the regular Thursday night beverages evening with my college drinking buddies but b) also suggested a pub. These are both very rare events. I rather like the Junction, having tried it at a couple of other places, but this was the best I’ve tried yet (which as it’s only a few minutes walk from the brewery and the hub for post brewery tour beers isn’t entirely unexpected). It’s a dark ale with a nice balance of malt and hops leading to a fruity, wine-like finish. Good.

York Guzzler – The second of the three beers on tap at The Draft House (I can’t remember the third, but it was something I’d already drunk lots of before). This was a golden ale with a big chunk of bitter hops, almost to the point of going soapy but not quite. It was nice and citrusy on the finish and I could have happily sat and drunk it all night.

Brewdog TM10 – Found at The Rake on my way to Whisky Lounge London (their twitter feed tempts me with tales of what beer they have on and I was just walking past…), this is a beer brewed in honour of the 10th anniversary of the Tate Modern (hence the name). It’s rather good – a lightly hoppy reddish ale with a big slug of fruitiness. Happy birthday Tate Modern.

Purity Pure Gold – Supped at The Bridge House (a pub that seem to like and that I need to return to) after Whisky Lounge (as drinking whisky all afternoon was obviously not enough). It seems that Adnams are putting Purity ales into some of their pubs, which is a Good Thing as this was a really nice light golden ale with a bitter citrus zing. I would normally have described it as ‘hoppy’, but was informed that the H-word (as well as malty, the M-word) has been banned as a flavour description by Melissa Cole of Taking the beard out of beer. I will try and obey from now on.

Quick Tastings

A couple this week, but first something that isn’t a tasting – I live on the site of the old London Guinness factory, which has since been knocked down and replaced with flats (including mine), some offices (including Diageo, the makers of Guinness) and a park with a lake in. It looks like either we’ve had a scary fungal boom or Diageo have kicked out the St Patrick’s day river dye a few days early:

Diageo HQ

On with the drinks, this week all beers courtesy of a trip to Borough Market, which was in itself an excuse to go to The Rake:

Brooklyn Black Chocolate StoutBrooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10%, from Utobeer. Seasonally brewed from October to March) – Black to the point of almost total opacity (holding it up to a lamp did little but warm it up a little bit) and quite thick (it definitely has legs when swirled) this is most definitely a dark stout. Very sweet on the nose with a slug of alcohol. Thick and sweet on the taste with lots of chocolate malt, a hint of bitter dark chocolatey flavours and a nice bitterness at the end. Tasty but heavy.

Duchesse de Bourgogne [Wikipedia for those of us who don’t speak flemish] (6.2% flemish red ale from keg at The Rake) – I had a quick sampler of this before diving in and was glad that The Rake serve third pints. It’s very nice, but at the same time quite overpowering in both smell and flavour; not a beer that you can drink much of. On the nose it is Worcester Sauce and little else, as it is at first when you taste it. However, after a second sip you start to get used to the strength of flavour and pick up the rest – cherries, soft fruit and a little bit of bitterness. It is really rather good, although the strangely sour, salty sweet start might put many off.

Devine Rebel?

Brewdog Devine Rebel Reserve (12.5% barley wine from keg at The Rake, who called it Divine Rebel) – A reddish ale with not a lot on the nose. However, it’s thick and malty with a big berrylike fruitiness (maybe overripe bitter peaches?), a slab of bitterness down the middle and a slighty fizzy flavour on the finish. It almost hides its strength but happily kicks you in the head. A tasty evening/life ender.

Stiegl Pils (Salzburger Pils) – an Austrian lager that I jumped on after a week of complaining that I couldn’t find Ottakringer (the beer of my formative years in Vienna) in the Austrian deli near work. It’s typically light gold and not as crisp as I was expecting, with a ricey flouriness and a chunk of sweetness. It quickly fades to a much sharper hoppy finish with little aftertaste. Not one I’ll be jumping to find again, but refreshing after a couple of rather heavy beers.