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Friday, 18 February 2011

Punk Off - Punk vs Punk

For a lot of us, Brewdog Punk IPA is an important beer. Love them or hate them, in many ways Brewdog spearhead the good (craft?) beer movement in the UK and, as the brewery flagship, Punk is symbolic of the whole ethos behind the brewery. Punk is a statement of intent, and as a lover of good beer it’s something I feel a kinship for. When I put a bottle of Punk in my supermarket basket I feel like I’ve done more than buy beer; I’ve made a point, I’ve left the cheap, tasteless crap behind and I’ve paid a little more for a quality product, crafted by skilled people that care about flavour above all else.

Changing the Punk recipe would therefore be insane, right? A wise man once said: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But that’s exactly what Brewdog have done, determined that they can make it a better beer they’ve lowered the bitterness and alcohol and increased the dry hops in the recipe. They’ve made Punk better than it was, simple as that.

Taking that last bottle of original Punk out of the fridge, prising the cap off and pouring it into a glass, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a slight twang of sadness. The last time I’d ever drink Punk! Ever! Breaking open a bottle of the new version alongside it felt like the right way to see the old girl off; a passing of the baton, a changing of the guard.

Original Punk is filtered so, naturally, it pours a much brighter gold then the new comer. The aroma is actually quite reserved with currant skins, some white grape and elderberries. The malt is really there, bringing a toasty quality to the finish and the faintest hint of nuttiness or smoke. Then in floods that trademark bitterness, brutal and unforgiving. It’s a beer I know and love, perhaps lacking the impact it once had but still great.

New Punk is a completely different beer. The aroma is masses of satsuma, grapefruit and pine that follow through to the taste before giving in to a bitterness that feels perfectly in proportion. It’s dry and it’s light, perhaps a touch thin if being hypercritical, but it’s wonderfully refreshing. It feels like a move towards 5am Saint, it’s less aggressive than the original but it’s packed full of flavour and it’s effortlessly drinkable - exactly the type of beer I want to fill my fridge with.

Variation between batches has been a problem for Brewdog in the past, the Punk I drank here for example was far from the best I’ve had. I hope the same problem doesn’t hit the new recipe because, with it now being available in cans, it’s something I can see myself wanting to drink a lot of. I’ve tried the new version from a bottle, keg and cask; whilst all very different, they’ve all been great. It’s a brave move to change the product you built your company on, but I think it’s the right one.


dredpenguin said...

While it is a shame that the they are changing a recipe to one of my favourite beers, innovation is one of the hallmarks of good craft beer.

I still have a good few of the original punks in my beer fridge...I expect them to be consumed slowly and with dignity.

Chunk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

I agree entirely. I thought it an odd decision until I tried the new version!

"I expect them to be consumed slowly and with dignity."

Wait until you get to the last one, bet you don't want to drink it! :P

dredpenguin said...

I'm sure you are correct there Mark. I felt bad drinking the last one of one of my homebrews last night. Did not stop me though ;-)

Russ Pope said...

Given that you have told us that the new Punk is an entirely different beer, I'm surprised that they decided that it should be named Punk at all... but then I guess that's the power of marketing - why risk losing the existing market by changing the name as well as the recipe?

Mark said...

Flavour profile wise I think it is a completely different beer - especially when compared to the more recent batches of (old) Punk I've had.

I do think you've got a point though. They could've easily released it as a different beer.

SteveF said...

"Love them or hate them"

I neither love nor hate them, I'm fairly meh about Brewdog. I find most of their beers fairly uninspiring, but I have always really liked Punk IPA. Will be interested to try the new recipe.

Mark said...

Interesting. I woud say they definitely provoke reactions in people; certainly not one of those breweries that just chugs along unnoticed. Those reactions are usually of either strong support or significant dislike.

Look at the reactions to End of History and Sink the Bismarck for example.

SteveF said...

Oh yes, they undoubtedly do excite strong passions, both positive and negative. I may be an anomaly in not being massively bothered either way. However, I suspect there may be more people like me out there than you might imagine - i.e. a middle ground of people who aren't particularly interested in Brewdog, don't pay much attention to their marketing or like all their beers but do enjoy the odd one. I think, particularly in the blogosphere, there's a tendency for the extreme ends of a particular spectrum of opinion to get coverage, whereas the middle ground gets left behind. A quick glance at, for example, Comment Is Free confirms this pretty well. After all, there's generally not many people who comment on a blog to say, meh I don't really care (except for me apparently)!

As I say, I think Punk IPA is a really excellent beer. I'm looking forward to trying the new version!

James, BrewDog said...

Glad you approve of the new version Mark. It is a risk changing our flagship beer and what we wanted to do was take all we had learned since we started BrewDog and make Punk IPA better.

It is much more expensive to make now, takes much longer to brew and the losses are much higher due to the avalanche of dry hops. We feel all this is worth it for the flavour of the finished beer.

In terms of appearance, do you guys prefer the clearer look of the original Punk IPA or the lightly filtered more hazy look of the new version of Punk?

arn said...

James - From the photo's above the new Punk looks more alluring, more sumptuous. I cant wait to try it!

(btw sipping Zeitgeist as i type!)

SteveF said...

Well, having signalled my general meh-ness about Brewdog, it's probably only fair to relay one of my tweets from last night:

"At the @eustontap, always been underwhelmed by brewdog but the sorachi and bramling (sic?) are absolutely incredible."

The three of the IPA is Dead series I had last night were spectacular. So will maybe have to revise my opinions. Incidentally, the Tap bar chap (Tim I think) says that the new Punk IPA is better.

Leigh said...

nice comp - still not been able to do it myself so when I do I'l take your notes to hand and see how I get on.

Mark said...

"It is much more expensive to make now, takes much longer to brew and the losses are much higher due to the avalanche of dry hops. We feel all this is worth it for the flavour of the finished beer."

This! This is why I love Brewdog.

Cloudy, bright, whatever. I made a point in my post that the new Punk feels a little thin, I'd worry that filtering could thin it out further. I guess the other thing to consider is that A LOT of people out there that buy Punk wouldn't drink it if it's cloudy. For me, it's about the flavour and aroma, not how cloudy or bright it is.

Steve: I loved the Citra and Nelson. The Bramling X and Sorachi weren't for me, but they were really well constructed showcases for the hops I thought.

Leigh: Be interesting to see how your thoughts compare. I've heard there were a few stabs at new Punk before the switch was made, so you might be trying a different version to me.

JimmiTh said...

A bit late to the party here, but I have to chime in. I love BrewDog - Hardcore IPA is still my favorite beer. Punk IPA, at least until now, was my favorite "casual" beer. I'm not too happy about the toned down bitterness, and the new fruitiness, but it's still a damn good beer.

Like others, not sure why it had to take over the Punk IPA label, because it's so very different, and compared to the original, not all that "punk". Still have four of the original Punk waiting for a tasting by BrewDog newcomers. Not sure the new Punk is that good an introduction.

As for the haziness, I'd have loved the less filtered look for the original. So in my book, it's a plus for the new version.

Just had a taste of IPA is Dead. Absolutely love all four, surprised at Bramling Cross, Citra is very nice and piney, probably like Sorachi the least of the four. That fruity sweetness is not for me.

Reuven said...

Is there some way I can tell from the bottle alone if it is the new or old Punk?

BTW I like the unfiltered look. It is more 'homebrewey'. It gives it a more meaty look. That being said, I am also a fan of filtered beers like Knappstein lager- depends on the occassion.

Mark said...

Yep - the new version is 5.6% ABV and the original is 6%. Easy. :)