I still like BrewDog. Despite their occasional forays into the world of pissing people off (see the joys of their ‘falling out’ with CAMRA and now non-attendance of the GBBF for a recent example), they still make tasty beer, try interesting things and sometimes even let a blog post out into the world that hints at something more fluffy and respectable under the spiky exterior. So, when my one night off in a couple of weeks was threatened by a release of new beers at The Rake, including free Punk IPA on tap all night, I faced the threat and lost my Quiet Night In.
Along with a celebration of the new beers the day also had some significance in that it was the public release of the latest tranche of shares in BrewDog’s Equity for Punks scheme. It was originally designed as a one-off that allowed people to buy shares in the company(at about £250 each) to raise the cash for them to build a new bigger brewery on some land that they owned, as well as fund a number of other projects, and I kicked in some money. However, the other projects seem to have eaten all the cash and with BrewDog currently needing to up production to meet demand (with certain distribution channels closed down [including supplying cans of Punk IPA to any of my local Sainsburys…] to focus their stock on the on-trade and Meantime doing a little bit of contract brewing for them to fill in the gaps at the moment) they’ve now released another stack of shares to raise more cash to help the brewery become reality. I was at first slightly peeved that the money didn’t go where we were originally told it would, but with three BrewDog bars now open and a fourth appearing in Camden (as soon as licensing issues get knocked on the head) I’ve now reversed that peevedness and invested again. They’re still offering lifetime discounts for anyone who buys shares as well as money off in their bars, and they’ve dropped the minimum investment to £94 (for 4 shares – they did a stock split on the old ones). Details are over on the Equity For Punks website. Anyway, that’s enough pimping the company I own a bit of, on to the beer.
We wandered upstairs into what I’ve come to think of as The Tasting Annex of The Rake, where Martin Dickie, floppy haired brewer, and James Watt, shaven-headed front-man, led us through the beers they’d brought along. First up was a golden beer with a big hoppy nose that people were hmming and swirling around their glasses in an effort to work out what it was. I, surprisingly, got it right – it was Punk IPA, their regular beer, which due to it being free downstairs was the cause of the queue at the bar and also the large number of stumbly people about – BrewDog nights at The Rake do not end soberly. Rather than start us off with a special release they gave us their solid flagship beer, which I still seem to drink rather a lot of. Big green hops, lime, sweet orange and a bit of soapiness on the nose followed by lots of bitter hops up front in the mouth, sweet and flat in the middle and a tastily dry finish. Martin explained that the beer was put together as two fingers frantically waved at Deuchars IPA, a rather nice (in my opinion) beer that doesn’t really do the name of IPA any justice – it’s nothing like the heavily hopped, high strength beers that were shipped to India in the days of the Raj. To Martin this beer is all about the hops, with a stack of US and New Zealand varieties being added, including the brewing trade’s current darling, Nelson Sauvin, for tropical fruit and gooseberry flavours. Anyways, I still rather like this and have found that the consistency issues I’ve seen in the past (with bottles from the same delivery tasting different and dodgy kegs sometimes popping up) have disappeared. Anyways, I rather like this one and have a case of it sitting at the ParcelFarce depot waiting for me and my baggage trolley to wander over to take it home this evening.
Next up was the first of the new releases, Prototype 17. Harking back to the Prototype 27 that I got last year, this is their Lager 77 (a rather tasty and hoppy lager) matured in whisky casks with Scottish raspberries for four months. This is a limited edition beer for the summer, with only 8 casks (and 30kg of raspberries) being used. On the nose it had a big sweet and sour raspberry tang, with a hint of Haribo. To taste it started with clean sour fruit and finished bitter. In between there were hints of raspberry jam, raspberry leaves and a quick burst of syrup sweetness in the middle. This was pretty good and I suspect it’ll make a fantastic beer to quaff in our annoyingly warm late summer (organised by Mother Nature to give everyone a chance to whinge about there being no summer and then another to complain about the autumn being too warm), however it was a bit flat for my liking.
We then moved on to the beer that I’d come along for – EFP 2011, the Equity For Punks beer. Since becoming a shareholder there have been two occasions to visit the brewery and mingle with my fellow BrewDog fanboys, but on both occasions the world has got in the way – firstly my train to Aberdeen for the AGM in December 2010 was cancelled due to snow (although I later heard it went anyway and got through fine. However no trains came back for a while) and then I was trying to change jobs around the shareholders brew day, when the EFP was created. There was a discussion on the Sekrit Shareholder Forums about what the beer should be and on the day they created a black IPA. Martin described the difficulty with the style being balance – you want to create an IPA and not just a hoppy stout. On tasting it I’m not so sure that the balance swung in the direction that was intended, but I rather like it – the rest of the case of beer waiting for me down the road is EFP. On the nose it had a big coffee hit, with dark chocolate and a hint of vegetal hop. To taste it was rich and stout-like, creamy in texture, and bittersweet with a big coffee finish. Along with using a colossal amount of hops they also matured the beer on oak chips for 4 weeks to give it more woody oomph. This is one I think I need to try again at home to get more out of it, but it was tasty enough on the night for me to order some (exclusively available to shareholders for £1 a bottle), even if it didn’t seem as complex as the ingredients and construction palaver suggested it should be.
The final of the three new beers was Black Tokyo* Horizon, a collaboration between Mikkeller (brewer of Black), BrewDog (brewer of Tokyo*) and Nøgne O (brewer of Dark Horizon) – see what they did there? They got together to brew back in December 2010 and after some months in whisky casks the beer spent the last few in tanks with some ‘chocolate’ – 6kg of grated 100% cacao ‘Venezuelan Black’ from Willie’s Cacao (he of the Wonky Chocolate Factory). The beer poured like soup, dark and faintly evil looking. On the nose it had soy sauce & Marmite, dark chocolate, orange and a hint of creamy grains. To taste it very syrupy and sweet, with fruity chocolate syrup and a finish of Cadbury’s whole nut. Way too sweet for my palate but an impressive beast of a beer. They carbonated it to cut back some of the sweetness and lighten up the mouthfeel and I can’t quite imagine what it’d be without those bubbles – sweet chocolate malt ketchup?
I managed to drunkenly corner James for a couple of moments as I stumbled out, slightly less in my cups than the last time I met him at a tasting, and managed to extract some details of the next AGM – sometime in November. With my new job meaning that holiday time in November is non-existent I see some fun times ahead with Caledonian’s sleeper trains…
BrewDog Prototype 17
Whisky cask aged lager with raspberries, 4.9%. £3.99 per bottle
BrewDog EFP 2011
Black IPA, 7.1%. £1 per bottle, exclusive to shareholders (and £1.20 who can find it hiding in the BrewDog shop…)
BrewDog/Mikkeller/Nøgne O Black Tokyo* Horizon
Collaborative stout, to be released…