I’ll tell you what I love about Brewdog - hops. The hop flavour they manage to tear from those little green cones and force into their beer.
Hopping is a funny thing. On the face of it, it’s simple. You want more hop flavour and aroma in your beer, you add more hops. Right? Simple. Add hops early in the boil to extract bitterness and late in the boil to impart flavour and aroma. Easy. So why is it then that so many breweries fail to achieve this? Why is it that so many beers have a hundredweight of hop pellet thrown at them but don’t have good hop flavour?
Despite what the derisory best bitter diehard is quick to tell you, it isn’t easy to make a good hop-forward beer. It’s easy to throw handfuls of hop into wort, but what you’ll likely end up with is a beer that tastes vegetal, bitter to the point of astringent, tannic, leafy and grassy.
Back to Brewdog. Brewdog manage to use hops in a way that captures the essence of a particular hop variety. In their Punk IPA you can clearly taste lychee and tropical fruit from the Nelson Sauvin, you can get citrus peel and pith from the Chinook’s they use too. In Hardcore IPA they won World Beer Cup Gold by capturing the intense citrus of Centennial and teaming it with the resinous, piney dankness of Simcoe and Columbus. Maybe it’s the Scottish water their beer is made with, maybe it’s the combination of the sheer amount of hops they use and how they add them. Whatever it is, Brewdog are hop masters; a mastery that shouldn’t be underplayed.
The IPA is Dead series is a master class in hopping. Four beers built on the same base recipe, each one showcasing a different hop variety. It’s a series that isn’t appreciated enough; irrespective of how well each beer works as a finished product, they’re all brilliantly crafted expressions of a single, chosen ingredient.
The second instalment in the series features a variety called Motueka from New Zealand, Australian Galaxy, a classic English variety in Challenger and a new, experimental US variety named HBC.
Challenger: Immediately English. The malt is allowed to come through in notes of gentle caramel; balanced by a woody, bracken-like, bramble hop flavour. Damp moss and earth. Alcohol warmth with a near-brandy quality to it. No citrus in sight.
HBC: Now we’re closer to regular New-World-IPA country. Rindy, zesty, limey, peach and pepper. I’d believe you if you told me this hop was closely related to Citra. Grapefruit too. The malt morphs into a candy sweetness.
Galaxy: Keeping it real, citrus style. A step further towards the American IPAs I’m used to. Lots of citrus pith and grapefruit. Piney. Resinous. Delicious.
Motueka: Hard work in the best way - something that makes you think, something that demands your attention. Lemon mousse and mint. That cool feeling after you brush your teeth - menthol. Lime and something else tropical - maybe even coconut.
A brilliant four-pack of beer. I loved the HBC for its straight-up citrus and I’d order the Motueka again purely for how interesting it is. If you see them, give them a try.