Brewdog: Beatnik Brewing Collective: Imperial Red Ale (Scotland: Amber Ale: 8% ABV)
Visual: Reddish brown clear body. Small bubbled carbonation. Thin off white head.
Nose: Crisp clean hop character. Slight resin and hop oils. Mild malt drinks – ovaltine. Slight kiwi. Mild cherry pocked biscuits. Black liquorice.
Body: Slight cherries. Liquorice. Malt drinks. Malt chocolate. Smooth. Quite clean hop character. Kiwi. Vanilla toffee.
Finish: Liquorice. Toffee sweetness. Clean hop character. Palma violets. Slight glacier cherries. Slight hop oils.
Conclusion: Ok, first thing up – they avoided calling this a Red IPA, despite it having a fair good hop load in with the higher abv due to the high malt. So, good. They have got off on the right foot with me. The wildcard IPA naming convention for everything gets on my tits.
Speaking of the hop load, the hop character is delivered remarkably clean here; Some hop oils resin and bitterness but it is all smooth and easy drinking – The hop use seems to be all about the feel, with most of the flavour coming from the malt it seems, rather than late addition hops. Interesting choice.
Under the smooth, but well used, high hop level, the malt has a similarly soothing night cap, kind of ovaltine via vanilla fudge kind of character, with the fruit flavours from the hops ebbing below that. Early on there were darker liquorice notes, but they don’t seem to last as the beer warms even slightly. It hides the 8% abv very well, giving a few of those bigger flavours you would expect with the extra malt but little apart from that. In a blind testing I am fairly sure I would not have guessed it above 6% ABV.
It doesn’t overly surprise – I have seen people call it a ramped up 5 AM saint, and while not spot on, that isn’t exactly wrong – however after having a few I will say, surprise or no, I am in favour of it. Very no nonsense, very smooth. Brewdog has had a lot of experience with this kind of beer and it shows – they can deliver everything balanced so well. Doesn’t challenge expectations – instead matching them as well as could ever be wanted. If they decide to turn this into a regular I think this could be a very solid core beer for them. It feels odd as Beatnik special beer, but as a beer that you can get regularly I could see this as a more malty replacement for the gap left by Hardcore IPA in their line.
Background: So, as I may have indicated in my bias warning, I am a Brewdog shareholder, as well as being a reason for possible bias, it also means I have access to this beer; A beer voted for and made by the shareholders. I can’t remember the process too well, but we ended up with this, a high hopped, high abv, amber ale. Frankly any time you let beer geeks vote chances are you will just ended up with a vote for max everything. Ever. Subtle we are not. Anyway, I’d had a few of these in the week before doing the notes – first one I very much enjoyed, second I found average – however those were had amongst food, other beer, etc, so I was coming at this one clean to see how it help up on its own two feet. The glass used for this is technically intended as an IPA glass, but I figured a high hopped beer like this wouldn’t be hurt by it. Drunk while listening to Svalbard’s great new tune, amongst other of their tracks.