Thornbridge Jaipur and BrewDog Punk IPA

BrewDog Punk IPA as it looked in 2009.

Yesterday BrewDog released DIY DOG, a free book containing recipes for every beer they’ve ever produced, and the first thing we did was look at the entry for the original Punk IPA.

We think it’s pretty cool that BrewDog have released all this information, not only because it’ll be handy for us as home brewers, but also because it enables us to prod about and indulge our nosiness.

In Brew Britannia we set out how Martin Dickie began his career at Thornbridge before founding BrewDog with James Watt. While it’s obvious that both breweries’ flagship beers, Jaipur and Punk IPA respectively, shared certain key characteristics, we’ve always wondered just how close the family resemblance might be. Or, to put that another way, was the UK craft beer [def. 2] boom of the last decade or so built around two iterations of what is essentially the same beer?

Thornbridge Brewery as it looked in 2013.
Thornbridge Brewery as it looked in 2013.

Mitch Steele’s excellent home brewing manual IPA published in 2012 (our review here; buy it, it’s great) contains instructions for brewing a clone of Jaipur. We know from a conversation we had with brewers at Thornbridge in 2013 that it’s slightly off the mark in that, for one thing, it suggests using Vienna malt which (if we understood correctly) was actually only part of the Jaipur grist for a short while. (Maybe in the period when it Wasn’t the Beer It Used to Be?)

So, with that adjustment, and assuming Mr Steele’s recipe to be otherwise roughly right, here’s how it stacks up against the specifications BrewDog have provided for their original version of Punk:

c.2009 Jaipur (adjusted) 2007 Punk IPA
ORIGINAL GRAVITY 1.055 1.056
TARGET FINAL GRAVITY 1.010 1.010
ABV 6% 6%
Malt Maris Otter pale ale 3.5% EBC ‘Extra Pale’
Mash temperature 65°c 65°c
First hop addition 7.3% Chinook
5.2% Centennial
6.2% Ahtanum(18.7%)
10.2% Chinook

11.8% Ahtanum(22%)
Second addition 7.3% Chinook
5.2% Centennial
6.2% Ahtanum
-(18.7%)
11.8% Chinook


11.8% Crystal(23.8%)
Third addition 21.9% Chinook
15.7% Centennial
25% Ahtanum

-(62.6%)
18.7% Chinook

11.8% Ahtanum
11.8% Crystal
11.8% Motueka(54.1%)
Boil time 75 mins ‘we recommend a 60 minute boil for most ales’
IBU 55-57 60
Yeast ‘neutral ale’ Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)
Fermentation temp. 19°c 19°c
Dry hopping None None

Those really do look like pretty similar recipes to our untrained eyes.

Having said that, there are obvious differences, and also a few important bits of information missing — for example, we don’t know the alpha acid levels of the BrewDog hops.

So, Experts, it’s over to you: how far would you expect e.g. the final addition Motueka in Punk to go in distinguishing one beer from the other? Is that, or any other difference, sufficient for you to feel Punk was a really distinct product c.2007?

In the meantime, that leaves us about where we started, except now we wish we could walk into The Rake at about the time we started blogging and order a pint of each to compare.

22 thoughts on “Thornbridge Jaipur and BrewDog Punk IPA”

    1. Less than the difference you get in one beer from the variation in hop oils from different locations.

  1. One thing that’s interesting is that neither includes any crystal/caramel malt, while the modern iteration of Punk does (likely a result of Brewdog’s increasing interaction with American brewers over time).

    1. I’d have to check Mitch Steele’s book but I thought absence of this malt was a defining characteristic of modern American IPA. In this sense, a beer like SN’s pale ale is different as it has always used some caramel malt; it shows the English bitter influence, the malt side, more, in other words.

      Punk IPA today seems rather close to the original despite the evolution of recipe, a little less harsh, perhaps.

      Gary

      1. I think Mitch Steele recommends keeping crystal malts to around ~5% of the grist, which is pretty much what it is in modern Punk.

      2. Not really. I would say easily more than half of US IPA (brewed in the US) still contain crystal malt. It is probably way more than 50% of them if you consider that some breweries might use it at very low levels where it is barely perceptible by eye (and in rarer cases by taste). The all pale malt US IPAs are still rare beasts, relatively speaking.

        1. Thanks and I should have said, some brewers counsel to avoid crystal at all or use at at low levels, 5% or <, I think this is a fair reading of Mitch's book which I just looked at, or e.g. this type of advice: https://www.jaysbrewing.com/2012/10/31/6-friendly-suggestions-to-make-your-ipa-different/

          The point being that the sweet edge a lot of English bitter has wasn't wanted for US IPA. It's not the lack of a sweet tooth there (au contraire) but more that the C-hops and other New World hops profiles generally clash with a Lyle's-type taste.

          Gary

  2. Well, I’m not a home (or other) brewer, but I drank both of these in the early years and always thought they were very similar. At the same time, I always thought a lot of APA/IPA is similar. I think many people whose palates aren’t finely attuned, even in craft beer circles, would be hard pressed to differentiate these from SN pale ale or Lagunitas’ IPA, or for that matter, Grant’s IPA as I recall it from the early 90s, on a blind tasting that is.

    Perhaps Stone IPA too although its body is heavier and this is a particularly well-balanced hoppy brew.

    Net net, all this style of beer is very similar IMO. But then English bitter was the same in its heyday, and probably mild ale.

    Brewers’ beers coalesce generally into well-defined groupings, it’s just how things are, you rarely have an outlier in this area. AAL is an extreme example of the process, no irony of pun intended.

    Gary

  3. I always thought the original Punk IPA has far more perceived bitterness, especially upfront. Jaipur was always slightly mellower with its perceived bitterness. I was very disappointed when they change the Punk recipe, it went from something aggressive, to something overly flowery that masked it’s bitterness. Jaipur on the other hand, is still my goto beer.

  4. I *think* I could tell the difference – Punk is slightly crisper and thinner (not in a bad way) and has more upfront hoppy, grapefruity bitterness, whereas I’ve always found Jaipur tastes stronger (in the alcoholic sense) and generally more perfumed.

  5. I’ve never had the opportunity to try either beer, but it seems the rather low level of the Motueka addition wouldn’t be that perceptible to all but the most discerning palates. The subtle stone fruit character would be dominated by the Chinook.
    As Gary has said, most of the big IPA brewers (like Mitch Steele and Vinny Cilurzo) recommend keeping the crystal malt ratio very low to keep the malt sweetness from clashing with the hops. The Stone Go To IPA (their version of the ‘session IPA’) is very light in color.

  6. What’s bizarre is that Brewdog never in any of their literature mention the fact the Dickie worked at Thornbridge just prior to starting Brewdog.

    Was there some kind of falling out? Whats Brewdog’s line on this?

    1. I think the problem is that, as we all now know, Watt and Dickie are a pair of wild and crazy PUNKS who knocked up their first recipe in a SINK while they were HIGH on DRUGS, or possibly while they were STILL HUNGOVER from the NIGHT BEFORE, or else they did it on a BET and if it didn’t work the LOSER would have had to jump NAKED into the NORTH SEA, and it did work, in fact it was AWESOME, but they went and jumped NAKED into the NORTH SEA anyway, because they’re PUNKS.

      And a period working in a JUNIOR CAPACITY at an INDEPENDENT BREWERY run by a WEALTHY ENTREPRENEUR in ENGLAND… I’m not sure where that would fit in, really.

    2. At a guess, it interferes with their “two young rebels with big ideas who set out to build a revolution with just a homebrew kit in their garage” spiel. It’d be like Malcolm McLaren admitting that Steve Jones used to do session work for Jeff Beck.

    3. Thornbridge maintain that there was no falling out, say nice things about BrewDog, and seem a bit baffled — maybe even a bit hurt — by BrewDog’s weird avoidance of mentioning Mr Dickie’s time there.

      We actually asked them recently to clarify whether perhaps they’d made him sign an agreement not to mention Thornbridge in marketing his new brewery, which we know has happened in other cases where young brewers have left one firm to start their own; they said they definitely had not.

      When we asked BrewDog about this by email while researching our book, they chose not to answer that particular question — ‘NO ANSWER HERE’ says the response. On Twitter this week their head of PR pointed out that Mr Dickie includes it on his LinkedIn profile and another member of their management team said that it is mentioned in staff induction sessions.

      So it is purely, we think, that it interferes with a good story of a pair of risk-taking home brewers made good.

      1. What I can’t believe is how dumb people are to buy into the whole thing. The whole angry young men thing is purely a marketing strategy to sell more beer. They are both probably run of the mill guys underneath the facade.

        I think being seen as the ‘chuckle brothers of brewing’ is a small price to pay for the amount of cash they will make when they sell out, and don’t for a minute think they wouldn’t if the right offer was made. They would be laughing all the way to the Bahamas!

        1. I’m never sure how much the punters actually do buy into (or even care about) the whole punk-as-fuck independence-or-death schtick. Maybe that side of things has more to do with getting free publicity by giving journalists an easy story to write? Maybe most of the punters are more interested in the fact that the beer tastes pretty nice and the bottles look kind of cool?

          (Aside… this sort of thing comes up a lot when craft brewers sell out: “ah ha, you thought they were independence-or-death fanatics, fervently devoted to the anti-corporate ideals of The Craft Beer Movement. But now it turns out that they’ll sell those ideals out in a flash when the big money comes knocking!” But did we really think that? And (Brewdog aside), did they ever claim that? Or did we just think that they seemed like nice enough people and made good beer?)

    4. Why does there have to be rifts and beefs in beer? Does it sell more or is there nothing else to write about? Can we just not grow up and drink great beers produced by innovative passionate people?

  7. Without knowing the amounts and times the hops were added, it’s hard to evaluate these recipes. When the hops go in is at least as important in building a flavor profile as which hops go in.

    But still, a compelling case.

  8. I don’t see anything the least bit surprising about this. Why is it so difficult to believe that Dickie just took his own recipe with him to Fraserburgh and started brewing it there with a couple of tweaks?

    1. Agreed… Nobody asks how similar some Forestone Walkers beers are to Goose Island. Or do they?

      There’s probably 50 breweries in the world who have very similar recipes to this.

      *Disclaimer: Brewdog make three beers for my company, Yeastie Boys, but I’ve never met Martin or James and we have no other relationship than as contract brewers.

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