Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who let the dogs out?

Last Thursday with the help of some friends I tasted my way through the 4 Brewdog beers that came in on the most recent import. I approached the task with mixed feelings, on the plus side the beers have had a mainly positive reaction from bloggers in the UK, and they are in styles that are perhaps more commonly found in the new world than in Britain offering a bit of a novelty factor. On the negative they have to take the prize for the worst labelling I have seen in a long time, the trendy urban dog themed labels left me wondering if I was going to get a pair of new jeans and a hoody rather than a tasty beverage. Unfortunately with at least two of the four beers I would have been better off with a new piece of street ware. While there was certainly evidence that the boys in Fraserburgh can brew some top beer there was also evidence that quality control has a way to go yet.

First off I started with Hoprocker, a lager brewed with NZ hops and one that in this part of the world is sure to draw comparisons with the Macs beer that shares its name. Unfortunately the Scottish contender has a long way to go with this example being riddled with diacetyl.

Hoprocker 5.5%abv

Pours a light gold with a quickly disappearing white head. Aroma is totally dominated by a huge dirty butterscotch character with a hint of grassy hops. On the palate the butterscotch is joined by a smoky note, a hint of sourness and a late bitterness. Diacetyl bomb.

So not a great start but things can only get better right? Next up was the Punk IPA I had heard good things about this one and was relieved when clean hoppy aromas wafted up from the glass. While the Hoprocker is marketed as including NZ hops, Punk IPA isn’t but I would be surprised if it didn’t have a healthy dose of NZ hops added late in the boil. Tasting broadly like a cross between Emerson’s Pilsner and Three Boys IPA Punk IPA was a solid NZ style pale ale, from Scotland of course.

Punk IPA 6%abv

Pours a light gold with a thick white head. Aroma features resiny hops, citrus particularly grapefruit, and passionfruit. On the palate there is good deal of perceived bitterness right from the start. Grapefruit and passionfruit are continued with just enough sweet pale malt character to cushion the bitterness.

Next up was Hardcore IPA, punks bigger brother. So Bad Brains went on the stereo, I did my best Henry Rollins impersonation and I got ready for what should have been a fantastic beer. It wasn’t . I have tasted a limited number of Imperial IPA’s a couple from NZ and a couple from the States and let me tell you this had very little in common with any of them. Alcoholic heat obliterated almost anything else this beer might have been able to offer. At the time I muttered something along the lines of it being similar to washing you mouth with vodka prior to performing self dentistry.

Hardcore IPA 9%

Pours a light gold with a fluffy white head. Aroma features butterscotch and big solventy hot alcohol with hints of bubblegum and the slightest trace of resiny hop. On the palate there is a mouth coating alcoholic sensation, sweet cloying malt and a huge warming alcoholic finish that reminds me of shoting vodka. Dire beer.

Time for some redemption. Last up was the stout Riptide and a cracker it was to. Full of all the right flavours it was a well constructed beer that drank well below its strength (is that a good thing?) and much improved my plummeting opinion of the brewery.

Riptide 8%abv

Pours a very dark ruby with a tan fluffy head. Aroma features confected malt character with hints of green banana, astringent grain and chocolate. On the palate there is a creamy mouth feel, chunky chocolate and toffee a resiny hop note and a long balancing roasty finish. Great strong stout but not an Imperial in my opinion.

And so to my title, who let the dogs out? Two of these beers should never have left the brewery gates let alone travelled the length of the earth to be sold for a small fortune. Even rising stars need to worry about quality control. Next up will be the kings of keg Meantime.


yalnikim said...

Heartily agree on the Hardcore, Punk was fine but didn't quite carry the hops well enough, and I'm glad I didn't buy the Hoprocker. Might crack the Riptide tomorrow.

I've had three good experiences from Meantime and I keep hearing excellent things about the one left in the cellar (Coffee), so I'm looking forwrd to a good week. I might actually go pick up a couple of the 750ml bottles for the cellar, they're a nice party/dinner bottle.

I'm glad Rumble's are a little more adventurous than Regionals.

Tandleman said...

I am not really surprised by what you say Kieran. When these guys get it right, they do so in style. When they get it wrong they really get it wrong. I have written about them from time to time and your ratio of failure seems typical.It annoys me too when they send out badly brewed or possibly infected beer.

It is high time the British small boys put quality control a lot higher up their priority list.

Anonymous said...

I didn't buy those ones from Rumbles pretty much on account of the packaging - reminded me of Mac's rebranded bottles. probably a shame because even if they are up and down, they sound a lot more interesting than macs!

actually was reading a mildly interesting article/case study about the branding of an english micro brewery and its beers this afternoon, here:

pity about the beer though, or at least the one I had. i picked up an Otter Bright in Auckland on the weekend (wonder if Rumbles have it, didn't see it) and it was very dull indeed. on a soft base of lager malt there was just very little going on in the hop department at all - quite a let down, considering that I had actually bought the bottle partly on labelling (i liked it).

looking forward to your review of meantime's beers. at $16.50 i could only treat myself to one of them, the IPA, which I found rather too sweet and sticky, but otherwise quite good. i am afraid though that i couldn't stop thinking about how i had seen these 750ml bottles in clapham sainsbury's at 2 for 7 quid back in december. ie. 2 for about the same as we paid for one here in wgtn. but it was only hours before we flew to germany and our bags were already threatening to pop their zips. no chance of smuggling two big bottles in. oh well. ED

The Beer Nut said...

Funny, I found the Rip Tide a little understated. Paradox, however, is absolutely cracking, if you can get hold of some.

Weirdest of all: who ever heard of a British craft brewer doing 33cl bottles? Wassatallaboutthen?

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Wassatallaboutthen? America I imagine. Its a very annoying size however I am glade I wasnt stuck with 500 mls of some of them.

Anonymous said...


Oh for gods sake the packaging argument again! Not buying something due to marketing is the same as buying something because of marketing, equally as detestable! So do you enjoy Tui?

yalnikim said...

here here anonymous. i try everything i can and couldn't really give a shit about the label. i like some and i don't like others but i'd never ever make a purchasing decision on it.

thought we were all a little past that.

Anonymous said...


Apparently not...sorry forgot to put my name last time