The first time I ever bought beer
online was to buy three BrewDog prototypes. I’d only just started this blog. I’d
only just discovered BrewDog via a couple of bottles bought from Utobeer. The
deal was: three bottles each of three new beers; you buy them, drink them, vote
for the best and they make it. Those bottles cost about £6. I ordered them and
a few days later a case of beer arrived at the door. Beer being delivered to my
house was revolutionary in itself – I can sit at home and beer comes to me –
but so were the flavours in those bottles.
There was Zeitgeist, Bad
Pixie and Chaos Theory. The best two eventually got made. When I first had
Chaos Theory I ‘discovered’ hops. It was rasping, bold, bitter and so full of
aroma that it irrevocably changed my drinking. Those three beers and the fact
that BrewDog had made them and were asking people to vote for them – that I had some
kind of input into the choices made – was exciting, different, cool.
I love BrewDog. They’re at the
forefront of a change in British beer. I look out for the new beers with
excitement, wondering what’ll come next and how it’ll taste. That excitement is
what I love. They also do stupid stuff which I don’t love. Sadly, the stupid
has overtaken the exciting. Of all the beers they released in 2011, only one
really excited me (apart from Avery Brown Dredge, of course): Sunk Punk. It had
story, it was fun, it wasn’t just a beer made for column inches and it wasn’t a
middle finger rammed into someone else’s face.
We have this awkward relationship now
where I love them but feel constantly disappointed by them. It’s just a brewery
so it’s irrational to feel this way but it’s like a first-love kind of thing,
and like a lover hooked I still follow them around waiting, hoping, for the
good moments to return.
And so when they announced the 2011 prototype challenge I had to get the four beers. It was the thing which got me
hooked in the first place. This was a chance to bring it all back again. I get
to drink four new beers, I get to taste what 2012 might bring, I get to vote.
Blitz! is 2.8%, made with just caramalt
and then lavished with West Coast hops. It’s a dark caramel colour and it’s got
this mad, brain-teaser of an aroma which keeps you puzzled throughout: it’s
like walking into a cake shop with a sack of open C-hops in the corner -
marshmallows, sweet caramel, candy and toast, then tangy American hops, piney
and pithy. The bitterness is nicely done, it’s balanced and it’s easy drinking
and the body is really good. A 2.8% triumph.
Prototype 17 (4.9%) is a pale ale
(Trashy Blonde?) plus Belgian yeast and raspberries. BrewDog like raspberries, don’t
they. It smells slightly funky with cloves and berry fruit. There’s not too
much going on, which is a shame. The raspberries aren’t big, the yeast detracts
rather than adds, the hops seem to have disappeared. Disappointing.
Scotch Ale (7.5%) looks incredible in
the glass: a deep red-brown, like embers just about to burn to black. Take a
mouthful and it shocks: sweetness, caramel, an over-powering aniseed and
liquorice, as if some bastard mate tipped Sambuca into your other-wise
delicious beer, then some peat, a medicinal twang and something floral wafting
in the background. The body is full which makes it really satisfying to drink
but it feels discordant with loads of stuff going on and none of it really coming
Hops Kill Nazis (7.8%) is like 5am
Saint’s badass bigger brother. Deep red in colour, toffee, flowers, red berries
in the nose and a bitterness which builds in the background. It doesn’t taste
super-fresh but that’s probably because it isn’t. It’s a fine beer but I expect
more from BrewDog when they add lots of hops to things – it’s just a little
None of the beers made me jump up and
shout wow, which is what I want from BrewDog now. Blitz! is the best and it
surprised and teased me in a good way and I like that (so I voted for it), but the other three
aren’t beers I’d buy again. But that’s almost not the point. It’s not what I
went into it looking for. I went to see if we could work things out.
And we can. These beers are what
BrewDog thinks are potentials to add to their range for 2012 and that’s interesting.
One is low-ABV, one is all about the malt, one is about the hops and one is
about experimenting with what they already have. That’s four beers covering
four very different areas and all of them are approachable. They are all
probably first-time brews; if brewed again then they’d no doubt improve.
I always look forward to what BrewDog
do. With a bar 10 minutes from work, it’s where I’ll drink most in 2012, I’m
sure. And in 2012 I’ll be looking at what BrewDog do: how they grow, develop,
deal with the challenges they faced this year. With over 6,000 Equity for Punk
members they’ve got to think about more than just themselves now. I also hope
they make a few new beers which make me go wow and which get me excited. I’m
pretty sure they will.