Regular visitors to The Brew Club, or indeed anybody with an awareness of modern British Craft brewing will know the name ‘Brewdog’ – the Scottish brewery that has been brewing uncompromising brews since the spring of 2007.
I reviewed their ‘Hardcore IPA’ for The Brew Club back in December 2009, Hardcore is brewed to 9% ABV, and while very hardcore, I gave it four stars. ‘Punk’ IPA is probably Brewdog’s most ‘mainstream’ brew; it’s made it into major supermarket chains, and I’ve seen it on draught in some quite stuffy London pubs.
Initially Punk was brewed to 6% ABV, but was relaunched recently and ‘down-strengthed’ to 5.6%. Knowing Brewdog’s reputation for brewing strong ales, I suspect that this might be a pricing issue – they’ve used lots more hops and started dry-hopping – rather than one of social conscience.
With typical modesty, Brewdog describe their Punk IPA as ‘Post modern classic pale ale’, and us such it’s probably closer to an American Pale Ale (APA) than an India Pale Ale (IPA) like Fuller’s Bengal Lancer or Greene King IPA (the best selling IPA in Britain).
Unusually, Brewdog have decided to market ‘Punk’ in cans as well as bottles; this has caused a bit of a stir, it’s been described as “Britain’s first canned craft beer” and the reason I decided to review ‘Punk’ now.
330 ml Bottled Punk IPA 5.6% ABV
But let’s start with the bottled version, it pours with a rich white head, foaming enthusiastically (I’ve had a few ‘reluctant heads recently), there are a few ‘smuts’ in the head – this brew is only lightly filtered.
It’s easy to forget, when you’ve found a brew in a supermarket, that you’re enjoying a craft ale, rather than a beer that’s mainstream and mass produced.
The brew itself is a dark straw colour and the head leaves considerable lacing as it finally fades.
The nose? Well it’s very hoppy, modern hops though, Chinook and Ahtanum from the US and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand (Nelson Sauvin is named for its similarity in flavour to the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety – more gooseberry and elderflower than grapefruit) – you’re hit with tropical fruit, grapefruit and a hint of pineapple, I don’t get any goosebeery.
The flavour is s hoppy, crisp and well rounded, with a plenty of bitterness and Maris Otter malt lurking in the background; this punk has bite, they describe the finish as ‘aggressive’ and I’m inclined to agree. It’s not necessarily as rich as ‘Jaipur’ or ‘Bengal Lancer’, but it’s a refreshing alternative to summer ale or lager.
And yes, even ‘down-strengthed’ (can I copyright that word?) it still packs a pretty potent punch.
It’s mightily refreshing, and worthy of four stars.
330 ml Canned Punk IPA 5.6% ABV
Okay, I’ve said before I’m not precious about canned beer, and in my review of brews from Bank’s brewery in Barbados, I actually preferred their beer from a plastic bottle so, let’s take the plunge and try this ‘canned craft beer’.
Okay, on pouring, the head is somewhat ‘dirtier’, and slightly smutty, compared to the bottled brew. Very ‘Punk’ – and the nose?
This is a different beer altogether!
As well as grapefruit and pineapple, there are hints of passion fruit and yes, elderflower in the nose. Despite being brewed to the same recipe, by being unpasteurised, this is a different, and more enjoyable beer.
The nose, while intense, has more subtleties, every sniff brings more subtle hints – I actually mistyped that as ‘subtle hits’ – which is also true.
The flavour seems deeper as well, at the risk of sounding (more) pretentious, this can be described as multi-layered, intense hops, intense bitterness, each sip brings something different.
I can see this going down a storm at summer music festivals, this could spark its own little revolution.
Given that I gave the bottled ‘Hardcore’ and ‘Punk’ four stars, I have no hesitation in giving this five stars, it is, without a doubt, a new classic.
And – for the record, I checked the ‘best before’ dates on both brews, the bottled ‘Punk’ had a full 12 months before its best before, while the unpasteurised ‘Punk’ has just six months but, believe me, there’s no fear of this lasting that long in my house.
And finally… both the bottle and the can are labelled with several different languages, so it’s being exported widely, I recommend you keep a look out for this particular ‘scotch’.
Bob the Brit