Friday, 13 March 2009

As-Live Tasting: BrewDog Hardcore IPA

21.05. Beer taken from fridge, bottle sniffed, poured out, photo taken.

21.10. Great colour to this beer, it’s a vicious orange-gold with a thin yellow chalk-coloured head. This is a 9% ‘explicit imperial ale’ for those not in the know.

21.11. Blimey it’s got a punch to the nose. It’s a booming glassful of oranges, distant grapefruits, pine and cold metal (cold metal? WTF? I don’t know.)

21.12. I’m holding back. I’m soaking it in. I’m letting the anticipation grow, the excitement build. This beer promises 150IBUs. That’s insane (is it even possible?!). I tried the last Hardcore but it wasn’t hardcore enough for me; not hoppy enough and too sweet. Apparently the hop shortage took its toll. Ok, I’m going in, stand back…

21.14. This mother bites. It’s BIG. A monster rising above its former self. The bitterness is clinging, scraping, unending. It’s caramel beneath but that joyously sweet pleasure is short lived before the hops mass-invade with citrus and pine and a dryness unexpected from anything liquid. To quote the BrewDog blog ‘It’s like being raped by a hop monster’.

21.18. I was writing about my brewery visit to Thornbridge but this evening’s beer has stopped that, plus I need a day before I edit that one properly - it’s looong (don’t let that put you off, dear readers).

21.20. Some background on my Friday night: I’m home alone and drinking IPAs (with one exception). I had ribs (using my own recipe designed for BrewDog – let me, or them, know if you want it) for dinner. The beers tonight have gone: 77 Lager (it was meant to be a Punk IPA but I didn’t have one cold), Thornbridge Jaipur then Stone IPA. I've always said I never write after I’ve been drinking… Tonight is different.

21.21. There’s massively condensed tropical sweetness in here, a whole spectrum of hop flavours, most of which my tongue cannot grasp because it has been smashed to pieces. But the important Imperial IPA thing is there: it’s addictively moreish. With each mouthful I want another. I want the sweetness to lull the bitterness but then I crave the bitterness to return.

21.24. I’m feeling good. Thank you beer.

21.26. Reading a few blogs: Reluctant Scooper’s evening BrewDogging sounds awesome. I’ll be all over that soon at The Bull. And Impy Malting, she’s a great writer (I wrote a few comments on the recent Session post when I was a bit drunk coming home from the pub after the Dark Star at The Bull – hey, The Bull has gotten a lot of plugs here!).

21.32. Been searching for food to try and pair. Gonna be a tough one.

21.34. White chocolate semi-works in a weird not-quite kinda way. I guess that actually means it doesn’t work.

21.35. Goats cheese is terrible with it. Avoid.

21.37. Mega strong cheddar okay but leaves a strange boozy flavour at the end, not helping either.

21.39. King of the cheese world next: Colston basset and Hardcore IPA = Nasty. I will conclude my little food and beer experiment with this: just drink the beer on its own, get a bit blurry headed and enjoy it.

21.41. Man the bitterness intensifies as you get down. It claws at your throat. It begs you to drink more but pleads that you stop. And it’s full bodied too. I’m making serial spelling mistakes and terrible typos; my brain and fingers are moving at very different speeds and I can’t tell which is going quicker. I fight it.

21.45. This is a challenging beer. It pretty much buggers you up. It’s unrelenting. Monstrous. Insatiable. It’s like a drug and you need the sweetness to ease the bitterness. But I’m feeling relaxed. I’ve got that warmth that the hops bring. I’m kinda sleepy. Chilled out. Probably a bit drunk now. It’s a real rollercoaster.

21.47. BrewDog Hardcore IPA done. It certainly is Hardcore. If you like hops then you gotta try it. If not then you’ll feel like you’ve been attacked by the personification of bitterness. Yikes. If you want it then get it here. I feel abused.


  1. Its a bit too much, there is one unidentifiable flavour that really doesn't work for me, I can't really put my finger on it, but it makes it off-balanced. I need to try it against other dry, hoppy beers and compare. I think it would be virtually impossible to find anything to pair it with, its too full on, will seek and destroy any other flavours.

  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    The masochist in my wants to try this beer. I've ordered some.

    I wonder if something spicy would work with it? Like a jalapeno grilled cheese sandwich? Or maybe kimchee?

  3. IM, let me know what you think of it because I think it's a cool beer, just a bit mental! I don't know about spice, there might be too much for the palate to get to grips with and it'll al just knock each other out. I'm thinking some kind of dessert might do it, maybe an uber-rich cheesecake?

  4. Jerk chicken would probably do it.

  5. hah! nice idea - and yeah, it's a hadrcore beer, no mistake

  6. Fuck food. Unless it's a fat platter of haddock & chips. Needing food alongside Hardcore is almost an admission of failure.

    Gonna have myself a Punk/Chaos/Hardcore tasteoff sometime soon. Gawd elp me guts.

  7. Haddonsman, as always you speak a great deal of sense. You certainly don't need food with the Hardocre.

    That taste-off sounds good fun!

  8. I had it with a cream dessert that had lemmon curd and passionfruit seed things in it. The cream and chunks of white chocolate didn't quite work but the lemmon sharpness and passionfruit zing were spot on. How could you use this to make a winner Mark?

  9. Anon, give us your name!! I can see the possibility of the lemon and passion fruit working. I would try the next one with some really ripe mango to add an extra depth of fruit sweetness and I would try adding something incredibly rich like clotted cream and marscapone to the cream base. The extra thickness and fat in the cream would coat your palate and help to suck up some of the killer bitterness.

    Maybe this would improve the pairing? Also, some kind of biscuit would help. Whether it's on the side or as a biscuit base. This should help to bring out the malt sweetness.

    What do you think?

  10. Hi Mark,
    While a beer may measure at 150 IBU's generally you can't tell any difference once you go over 90 IBU's. You get taste receptor saturation!

  11. Tim, I'd read this before, although I thought it was around the 120-130 mark? What happens once it passes that threshold? Do the flavours change into unappealing ones as it's overloaded?

    I wonder what the optimum peak of bitterness really is?

  12. Sounds like I need to order myself some of this!

    As a slight aside (and blatant self promotion) I have just posted an essay all about the power of the hop on my blog.

  13. Mark, I think that once you get to a certain level of bitterness you can't differentiate or appreciate any increase in bitterness. It's like painting darker black over the top of black - you still get black. Wait, that probably does not make sense!