Brewdog: Equity For Punks 2011 (Scotland: Black IPA: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown black with mahogany touches in the light. Solid creamy coffee froth coloured head that leaves suds trails.

Nose: Kiwi and lime. Good chunk of lovely hops. Roasted coffee beans. Passion fruit and dry mango.

Body: Lovely hops again. Roasted nuts and kiwi. Good dose of bitterness. Milky coffee or black coffee depending on the moment.  Sour lime. Strawberry crème middle at times. Texture is very smooth, though the hop prickle can give the impression of a much rougher feel.  Grapefruit.  A light toffee sweetness develops over time.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and hops. Rough texture remains. Coffee. After a while a strange ice cream sweetness develops that counterbalances the bitterness well.

Conclusion:  Some beers just work better than they have any right to. Made by Brewdog shareholders under supervision, this should by any normal expectations be a brewing nightmare.

Instead it is an insane tropical fruit ridden beer with bitter coffee and chocolate core.  The contrasting styles are so closely interwoven that the usual tropical fruit flavours are mixed in with kiwi and such other unexpected variants.  A bitter beer, yet the slight milky coffee trace makes it supremely drinkable.

That slight smoothness also gives it a huge advantage over the AB06, and shows the wealth of experience Brewdog have gained since making Bashah.  The IPA element of a black IPA has rarely been as evident as this beers citrus fruit styling.

A beer that never lets up its bitter growl, instead letting flavours mix in with its harshness and has the flavour range and sweetness as delicate additions that never push past its main core identity.

Seriously good, grab if you ever see it.

Background: Not an easy one to get hold of this one.  It has been on tap at some of the Brewdog bars, but bottled it is generally only available to shareholders in Brewdogs brewery.  As part of the shareholder package and a nice call to the “do it yourself” punk ethos, Brewdog holds a day each year where the “Equity For Punk”ers come to Scotland and brew a beer the style of which they have chosen by voting online.  This beer is the first of such annual offerings.   The beer has been aged on toasted oak chips and dry hopped heavily. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers, but I try my best.

We also have something a tad special, a guest tasting from Paul, and quite the tasting it is as well. Many thanks Paul.

Brewdog: Equity for Punks 2011 Black India Pale Ale (Scotland 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Darker than a moonless night on the Yorkshire moors, with a subtle deep mahogany hue reminiscent of the light haze given off by a distant town as you drive down a motorway at 3.00am.

Nose: The first thing that occurred to my plebeian sense of smell was the kick of the trademark Brewdog hops.  I mean, I could smell them from an arm’s distance away and I have long arms.  Like a monkey.  Underneath that kick to the sinuses (and it was a pleasant kicking, to be sure) was a caramel sweetness, edged with burnt toffee.  You know, the kind of thing you’d expect Bonfire night to smell of, but never quite manages to match the memory you have of it from when you were a kid?  Yeah, that.

Closer inspection (by that I mean sticking my nose in the glass and trying to drown myself in beer) reveals a surprising amount of liquorice undertones.  Not just any liquorice, but the kind you used to get with those awesome Sherbet Fountains.  It’s a sweet liquorice, but with slight hints of aniseed like Black Jack sweets.

Body:  Hops.  By Bacchus, the hops!  This is a bitter, bitter beast and smoky too.  I was half expecting something akin to Punk IPA.  Instead I got its bog-haunting, chain-smoking, werewolf cousin, who then decided to punch me in the mouth.  Lots.  But bless him, he decided to get me drunk and we had a high time telling each other all about the grand old days we had starring out at the sea from across the windswept moors and fens.

Conclusion:

This is a difficult beast to get a grip on.  It flies at you all fire and teeth and spit, demanding that you prove yourself its equal.  It’s smoky, bitter and brash as you like.  It tastes like autumn and is very much the antithesis of the kind of casual IPA you might expect to sip on during a hot summer’s day at a barbecue.  This beer is the kind of thing you drink as the gloaming sets in and the air begins to fill with the smell of smoke and the first touch of September.  This is a beer for when the leaves turn gold and the nights grow chill.  You need to persist with it, because there are some lovely subtleties that you might miss beneath the initial hop onslaught.  There are coffee notes here along with some lingering echoes of cinder toffee and burnt, sticky raisins.  I also detected some oak flavours alongside some very subtle citrus elements.  The more you drink it, the more the subtle influences emerge and you soon find yourself enjoying something well worth paying attention to.  It’s never a wholly safe experience.  That bite is always present, but the longer that time passes, the more you find yourself getting used to it.  And this really allows the more delicate notes to emerge from hiding.  Gradually, timidly malt flavours creep out of hiding, dazed and bewildered alongside a soft taste like smoked, muscavado sugar.

This is a special little beer.  If you were expecting a ‘regular’ IPA, then you’re going to get mauled.  Treat this animal with respect and a little patience and I think you’ll find something special beneath the sledgehammer batter of bitter hops.  Well worth a spot of any beer lover’s time.  If Punk IPA is best enjoyed with some Bad Religion, this bad boy goes well with a little Type O Negative.