Brewdog Monk Hammer

Brewdog: Monk Hammer (Scotland: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear banana yellow to pale gold. Moderate carbonation. Large white bubbled head.

Nose: Pineapple. Pepper. Soft banana sweets. White flour. Lightly earthy hop character. Bubblegum.

Body: Pineapple. Pepper. Lime juice. Tart. Milky middle. Hop oils. Key lime. Sweet peach.

Finish: Pineapple. White flour. Pepper. Pear drops. Bitter. Drying. Hop oils. Jolly ranchers.

Conclusion: You know, I’d broken open a few cans of this when they first arrived and I found them pretty underwhelming. So, when I broke this open for doing notes I was kind of expecting the same.

Turns out it has mellowed and matured in those few short weeks and turned into a bit of a different beer from the one I first encountered. Huh, turns out, even for hoppy beers that super fresh is not always the best, or so it seems. The Belgian yeast has smoothed the body to create a creamier constancy, but to far less degree than most Belgian style IPAs – I guess it is because here the hops are such a big part of what makes the beer what it is – they give less room for smoothing. Here the hops are less bitter, but what that means is that the pineapple comes through far clearer – instead of a bitter bomb it is now fresh as hell.

There is that peppery character that comes with the Belgian style, but it is still the tart hop character that reigns. The bitterness of the original’s hops only really comes out in the finish, and even there it is present rather than assaulting. Please don’t take that as a criticism, just an observation, I like that they have done something different with this. The original Jack hammer has been returned to in pubs many a time over the years, and I have a soft spot for that. However while this is not as brash, it feels better overall. Each element stands out clearly – the pepper character provides an adequate replacement for the raw hop bitterness and the smoother, creamier body just manages to make each flavour element stand out more.

Hopefully all the Jack Hammer variants will end up this good. Go Belgian yeast, you rock star, you did good here.

Background: This year Brewdog will be doing four variants of their very hop heavy IPA Jack Hammer. I found Jack Hammer pretty good at first, but over the year or so it has been out its unsubtle, but powerful punch of hops has become a bit of an old friend. This version is made with Belgian Yeast. I’ve seen massive changes with Belgian yeast in IPAs before, most notably Stone’s excellent take on the style. Drunk while listing to a punk band called “Leftover Crack” – I had seen they were playing nearby shortly so had decided to investigate and see if they were and good. So far seeming solid enough.