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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