Friday, November 14, 2008

BrewDog Prototypes

Sometimes when I read about the beers being made in the US and other countries less hide bound to traditions and beer styles I am green with envy. As much as I like Czech beer, innovative brewers are few and far between, Kocour and Primátor being the prime examples, although of course there are smaller regional breweries doing interesting things. Recently, in conjunction with Evan Rail and Pivní Filosof, I reviewed the Punk IPA from BrewDog that I picked up in Oxford. Thus it was last week that a box of BrewDog’s prototype beers for 2009 arrived at Mrs Velkyal’s school, containing Chaos Theory, Bad Pixie and Zeit Geist.



The first I tried was the 7.1% ABV IPA, tentatively called Chaos Theory, which I think is an excellent name and certainly allows plenty of scope for marketing guff on the label. Described as an IPA, I have to admit that I was expecting something along the lines of the Punk IPA. The first thing that struck me though was that this one was much darker, more of a dark amber bordering on red, although again there was a rather minimal head. As would be expected from an IPA, the nose was full of citrus, in fact it was very pungent, with a mix of Seville orange marmalade and bittersweet pink grapefruit. The contrast between bitter and sweet was to be a constant theme in the beer, the first taste being very bitter, and something of a shock if the truth be told, but subsequently it mellows out to reveal its jellied undertones. As you would expect from this style it is very hoppy and the aftertaste reminded me of drinking an excellent single malt with a nice warming afterglow. The final few mouthfuls were syrupy sweet in a way that reinforced the jelly, an excellent beer overall.



Next up was Bad Pixie, which according to the BrewDog website is a wheat beer flavoured with juniper berries and lemon peel. Having become something of a devotee of wheat beer in recent months, I was intrigued by the idea of the juniper berries and could half imagine the Queen Mother giving up her Gordon’s for this. The beer is very pale and had a bubbly white head that very quickly dissolved into nothingness, leaving an almost soapy rim around the glass. The nose confused me for a while, because I couldn’t place the smell, until eventually it hit me that it smelt a bit like a stale pub carpet. In some ways it was similar to the Zoigl smell I wrote about a couple of weeks back, but without sufficient potency to make you thing there was something going on, more that something was off. Taste wise, it was rather spicy – leaving a warm chilli glow on the roof of my mouth which was laced with citrus – given the juniper berry and lemon peel additions that is hardly suprising, the problem was that there was nothing backing up those flavours, rather it was just very dry. It was almost like a lemon meringue pie left on the windowsill for a few weeks.

Last up was Zeit Geist, advertised as a classic Czech style dark lager, and it is certainly dark – dark ruby with a light espresso coloured head, which in common with the other beers disappeared very quickly. As you would expect from a dark lager the nose was dominated by coffee notes, with subtle hints of burnt toffee and even a delicate floral tone suggesting the use of Saaz hops. The burnt theme came through in the tasting, although this time it was less coffee and more chocolate, I would go so far as to say it was like a singed Hershy bar, sweet yet sour. As it is advertised as a Czech style dark lager, I guess it is only natural to compare it to beers such as Herold Dark, and while it doesn’t match that in terms of body and flavour, it would hold its own against the industrial darks such as Staropramen, as such it is an easily drinkable dark.

The point of this exercise is not just to rate three beers, but to say how one would change them with a view to their improvement. I would not make many changes to Chaos Theory, I really enjoyed it, and while at 7.1% ABV it is in no way a session beer, it is an excellent beer for enjoying a few pints with your mates, and I can imagine that it would go very well with a long meal – preferably involving stovies and clootie dumpling – its bitterness more than balancing out the sweetness of the latter. The Bad Pixie, if I may be so bold, I would forget about altogether, it simply does not work for me, I would also though add the caveat that a wheat beer is would be an excellent addition to the range, just not this one. Zeit Geist has potential, but it needs to receive a proverbial kicking from some of the big boys of the dark lager scene to whip it into shape. It isn’t bad, it is just a bit weedy and as such out of keeping with the image cultivated by BrewDog of being Britain’s bad boys of brewing, beef it up, maybe teach it the fine art of smoking and you could have a contender on your hands.

For more opinions on these beers also pop over to Pivni Filosof's blog!

3 comments:

  1. Funny, we liked the beers in the same order, though I wasn't so hard on Bad Pixie, I think it is a project, needs some work, though, I liked the idea of the lemon peel and juniper berries, if they can be pumped up a bit, bad pixie could make a very fine summer drink.

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  2. Hhhmmm, Chaos Theory. That sounds interesting!

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