I hated BrewDog’s first version of Nanny State (but then I think everything BrewDog do is either loved or hated - there's no middle ground any more), the 1.1% stupidly-hopped imperial mild. I liked the idea - a low ABV brew that still tastes recogniseable as a beer – it just tasted like over-stewed hop tea. I don’t think many others liked it either and BrewDog tweaked the recipe and brought out a 0.5% version with toned-down hops (though using a list which reads like lupulin erotica: Centennial, Amarillo, Columbus, Cascade and Simcoe and dry-hopped with Centennial and Amarillo). Still liking the idea and wanting it to work, I bought a couple of bottles of the new batch.
It pours a russet, fiery-ember colour with a thick, lacing foam. The nose explodes with brutal hops, charred at the edges, roasted citrus, a subtle berry sweetness. The nose shocks and delights to begin but the more I drink the more I pick out the over-done flavours, the burnt rubber, the singed tropical fruit. It’s more intriguing than inviting, a kind of dig-around-and-see-what-you-find aroma. It’s relatively thin in the mouth, as you’d expect, but for 0.5% it’s very impressive. There’s very little sweetness, a dry astringency and some nuttiness then the hops arrive with less grace than a pissed-off tap-dancing rhino. It blasts in and explodes, rasping, hot, super-dry. You need to drink some more to ease the hop burn but the sweetness isn’t there and those hops just pile-drive back through again, an onslaught of saliva-sapping bitterness. It’s not a great beer yet the whole time it’s strangely intriguing, like looking at a pretty pre-op.
The 0.5% brew is better than the 1.1% version but that bitterness is just a real killer (and I tend to like the hoppy beers, dontcha know). The £1.79 per bottle price tag (plus postage on top) is also just too much when I can buy Punk for £1 a bottle – I like at least a little bang for my buck. I would like more breweries to make good low ABV beers. BrewDog’s Edge is superb at 2.7% beer and Thornbridge have just brewed The Light, a 2.9% beer, so there are a few examples out there, but I think there’s space for more. Anyone else interested in low alcohol beer (so long as it's nice and tastes like actual, real beer)?
As an aside, I was drinking this while cooking a chilli-hot Quorn and vegetable curry, which, when you think about it, is probably the food equivalent of Nanny State.