India Pale Ale
BrewDog is also the current master of generating publicity and hype using controversy and edginess. In just under three years their headline-getting exploits are already legion. Perhaps their most famous escapade was brewing an 18.2% Imperial Stout that they billed as the UK’s strongest beer and then successfully engineering the banning of its label after themselves complaining to the UK’s beer marketing watchdog. The icing on the cake was then answering the “critics” by brewing a 1.1% abv “mild imperial ale containing more hops per barrel than any other beer ever brewed in the UK” that they called Nanny State. Their approach has been described as both edgy and cynical, the aptness of either description dependant on your point of view.
BrewDog describe their Punk IPA as a “transatlantic fusion IPA” and in giving a nod to what the US brewers have done in developing the IPA style, BrewDog seem also to have ‘fused’ some of the marketing as well. The label boasts in part:
“This is an aggressive beer. We don’t care if you don’t like it.” and “It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.” and finishes, “Just go back to drinking your mass marketed, bland, cheaply made, watered down lager, and close the door behind you.
Which sounds very much as if it was inspired by the screed on Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard:
“This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory—maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery or one that implies it will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing the words as you read this.”
Inspired by Stone or not, there could easily be an element of the Emperor’s New Clothes in the boast, where to doubt the quality of the beer is a sign that you are unfit and unworthy not the beer. Big words, but how are they backed up.
This beer is in your face from the start. Citrus aromas erupt upon opening the bottle and continue as you pour. The beer is surprisingly pale and lager-like in colour, under a perfectly white foam, though these similarities are short-lived. Hops dominate the flavour, leaving you with the impression that you are biting into a pineapple through the skin. Malt is present, though a little subdued and stands apart, not as tightly woven through the hops as the US versions of the style. The flavour is all pineapple and grapefruit, with a vigorous bitterness that lasts on the palate.
James and Martin from BrewDog describe the beer themselves in the video below. In it they describe the beer as ‘spiky’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘in your face’, all perfect descriptions for this beer, as are the flavour descriptions (pineapple and grapefruit, with kiwi fruit and mango). One thing they don’t talk about is balance or finesse, and neither seem to be the object of their IPA, which is where their ‘fusion’ departs the best of their US counterparts.
Still, Punk IPA lives up to its billing. It is big and it is obvious. It is agressive and loud. For all of that, it’s also enjoyable. It captures the infectious excitement that BrewDog seem to be injecting into the UK brewing scene and bottles it. It’s not particularly balanced, it’s not the best example of the style, but it is a beer that will have you talking and will leave an impression.
Try it if you like: Jeremy Clarkson