Recurring events in the booze world are often slightly scary as they remind me how long I’ve been obsessed enough with drinks to remember them. In some cases it’s slightly scarier as it reminds me how long I’ve been writing this blog for. So, to break the recent stretch of blogging drought and remind me of the passage of time, an annual release from BrewDog – IPA is Dead 2013.
A range of 3 single hopped IPAs, each with the same recipe other than the hop. This year’s selection includes El Dorado, Dana, Goldings and Waimea…
The idea is the same as for the last two years, keeping the bitterness at 75 IBU although with an ABV drop to 6.7% from last year’s 7.5% – brew four beers to the same recipe (an adapted Hardcore IPA one), but use a different hop in each and do so in ridiculous quantities. While we see many brewers using silly amounts of new world hops it’s not quite so common to see someone dry hopping (repeatedly) with Bramling or other English classics. This year’s hop selection includes Goldings as the expected token old skool English variety in the line up, but after being blown away by Bramling X and Challenger can my biased palate side with the home team for a third year in a row?
First up I went for El Dorado, a relatively new variety from the Moxee Valley in Washington state, a place where they grow rather a lot of hops. It’s the first variety that I’ve seen with its own website, twitter account and Facebook page. There’s not a lot of info about the hop in the wild, but their website explains that it was released in 2010 after being developed by CLS Farms. Their own brewers notes talk about tropical fruit, citrus and grassy flavours, but as that pretty much describes every new world hop it’s not particularly helpful. From reading around a bit it seems that it’s hard to get for homebrewers and is all about delivering both a hit of grassy citrus and tropical fruit, which again describes most new world hops. Anyways, the beer…
It poured the clearest of the bunch, maybe a sign of the BrewDog folks using their shiny new centrifuge to filter the bunch (and not quite tuning it right until they got to this one), maybe just a sign that El Dorado helps keep things clear. On the nose there was some spicy tangerine, pine resin, fragrant woodiness (sandalwood?), muddy grass, biscuits and some CO2 sourness. On the palate it was quite simple, with light spice and bitter orange, backed up by a touch of tinned peach. It lingered a bit long on the finish, with pine needles, bitter wood and, after a while, some floral notes. I didn’t get much in the way of fruit, with the peachiness only really appearing when I opened a second bottle to make sure that the first one’s lack of fruit was an anomaly. It was the most subtle of the four beers, which doesn’t mean all that much when it comes to the IPA is Dead sets – pleasant, but without as much hoppy character as expected.
Next I tried Dana, a Slovenian grown cross of local hops with Hallertauer Magnum. The Hallertauer has a bit of a pedigree as well, being bred from American Galena hops, which in turn came from Brewer’s Gold, the archetypal English bittering hop. Used for both bittering and aroma Dana has a relatively high alpha acid content at about 11% (The El Dorado comes in at about 14%, from the bits of info available secondhand online) and looks to be packed full of essential oils.
On the nose this had sharp green hops, pungent hop lofts, mulched grass, lots of spice and a strange note of the rubbery underside of carpets – bits of black rubber and musty carpet. To taste it had more of the carpet tinged rubber, which died down to damp cloth and bitter grassiness. It finished sweet, green and grassy with balanced bitterness, before the rubberiness leaked back in. This was my least favourite of the set and one of the few BrewDog beers that I don’t particularly want to drink again. The combination of damp fibre and rubber was, strangely for someone who likes whisky from Ledaig, not for me.
Third was the Goldings, my great hope for the set. Goldings is more a family than a particular variety, including Bramling amongst its various different cultivars, and has been around for a while, with Wikipedia claiming it was being grown pre-1790. The BrewDog blog post narrows them down to being East Kent Goldings, grown along the English Channel coast and the most likely source for US grown variants. Goldings is the first hop I knew of by name, having gone to school in West Kent (I don’t know if there’s an east-west rivalry, but I hope disagreements are worked out using morris men and intricate dance) but have yet to try a single hop beer using them. That’s unsurprising, thanks to their ubiquity in classic English bitters and the inevitable relegation to ‘uninteresting’ that normally garners from modern brewers.
On the nose it was quite sweet, with a touch of black tea and peaches, although generally quite light. On the palate there was lots of peachy fruit, but otherwise it continued the theme of being lightly flavoured. There was good bitterness and a touch of grass, but all in all this tasted of ‘traditional English’ bitter. It finished with some good, green hoppiness, some green twig and a bit of dustiness. This didn’t inspire me in the way the Bramling X and Challenger had in previous releases, but it was very much a concentration of the flavours I expect from a bitter, with an extra kick of peachiness. More interesting than the El Dorado but one that I’d consider a ‘regular beer’ rather than a silly IPA is Dead special. I might have to splash out on a few bottles of this if it comes up for sale on its own…
Last was the Waimea. It’s another rather new hop, only appearing last year, and comes from New Zealand. The main source of information for it seems to be a data sheet from New Zealand Hops, a supposition I make from the repeated use of the phrase ‘granddaughter of Pacific Jade’ that pops up in almost every other description I’ve found, many linking back to the sheet. Pacific Jade seems to mainly be used for bittering and has a high alpha acid content of 12%-14%, but Waimea ups that to between 16% and 19% and also adds in, the notes say, interesting citrus characteristics when used as an aroma hop.
On the nose it was reminiscent of the Dana but more controlled, with more rubber-tinged musty carpet, decomposing pine needles, ground mixed spice (powdery nutmeg and black pepper) and an almost peaty, mulchy edge. To taste it had intense green hops – chlorophyll and dusty leaves. Some malty sweetness cut through the hop, which otherwise led with touches of rubber, blackcurrant and dry spice. It finished quite pungently, with decomposing evergreen leaves, bark and sour pond water. This had the air of a toned down version of the Dana and was all the better for it. There was lots going on, but there wasn’t one flavour that dominated, with fruit and spice mingling with more traditional hoppy flavours. Despite the potentially ‘bad’ flavours in the description this seemed to work rather well, although a bit over the top (as expected from the IPA is Dead series).
A strange bunch, with two quite similar beers and a pair of much more restrained ones. Other than the Dana I found all of them quite good, although without as much of the tropical fruit hit that I’d expect from a BrewDog selected bunch of single hops. It could be my palate getting used to big, hop-produced flavours, or it might be that this was an atypical set of BrewDog beers. I suspect it’s the former.
BrewDog IPA is Dead 2013
Single Hop IPA, 6.7%. £9.50 for a pack of four from the BrewDog online store.