Battle of the Brewdog IPAs

Thee Brew Dog IPAs sitting on a wall
Thee Brew Dog IPAs sitting on a wall

Do we need to say how good Brewdog Punk IPA is? Even the hard-to-please Tandleman is a fan. It’s obviously influenced by hop-bomb American IPAs, but the thinner body makes it seem rawer and fresher

We thought we’d try it again, together with two other Brewdog IPAs.

Storm IPA is 8% and is aged in a whisky cask. It smells just like whisky and tastes like a bonfire. Actually, it’s quite harsh up front, but that does mellow into a nice rounded malt flavour. We couldn’t taste any hops beyond the smoke, so this is a totally different beast to the Punk. Absolutely fascinating, but we’re not sure we’d drink loads of it. Maeib wasn’t a fan either, but some people do like it.

Finally, we tried “Hardcore IPA”, an “explicit imperial ale”. It probably has the same level of bitterness as the Punk, but the malty flavours come through more. It’s 9%, but still tastes like a watered down Goose Island — that is to say, it’s not as special as a 9% beer should be. It’s jolly nice, but there are even nicer beers that do less damage to the liver…

We’ll probably stick to Punk.

Nice branding can make things taste better

Nicely branded Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale
Nicely branded Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale

We’ve always felt slightly guilty about how easily we are influenced by the packaging and presentation of our beer. This week, however, a friend tipped us off to a piece of research from 2004 which suggests we’re not being entirely irrational.

The experiment showed that people actually had a stronger pleasurable reaction to a soft drink when they were cued up to expect one brand or another, and presented with packaging.

Test subjects were given Coke and Pepsi without being told which brand was which. These drinks are chemically almost identical, as Samuel McClure points out. With no branding to refer to, the subjects showed about the same degree of “neural response” in the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” in both cases. Then, when they were told which brand was which (when they were “brand cued”) they not only stated a preference for one over the other, but actually, measurably enjoyed it more.

So, maybe when we get all excited by the nice label on a bottle of beer, and the pretty glass it’s served in, and the quality of the head on the beer — stuff that shouldn’t really matter, but does to us — we have a similar chemical-electrical reaction?

We’re not scientists. If anyone would like to correct or elaborate on our primitive understanding of what this research means, go for it!

Brooklyn/Schneider Hopfen Weisse

Both variants of the Brooklyn/Schneider Hopfen Weisse in their beautifully designed bottles
Both variants of the Brooklyn/Schneider Hopfen Weisse in their beautifully designed bottles

We’ve been wanting to try this ever since we first read about it. We’ve often wondered what a hoppier Weizen would be like, and we were also intrigued by the collaboration idea. Brooklyn and Schneider worked together to produce “a blend of Bavarian craftmanship and American ingenuity”. We managed to get our paws on both the Brooklyn variant and the Schneider version, and thought it would be fun to compare the two.

Unfortunately, the Brooklyn version exploded all over our carpet. What we managed to catch looked pretty odd. It was extremely yeasty, and an odd green-yellow colour, possibly from the dry hopping. It tasted… well, pretty foul, actually. Like hop tea. We’re assuming that we got an off bottle. It was all hefe, with maybe a bit of hop dust floating around in it for good measure.

We turned back to better-behaved Schneider variant, hoping it would taste as good as it looked. It didn’t really work either, sadly. The hop flavours clash with the banana-yeast and make it quite difficult to drink — we found it rather soapy and harsh.

Nonetheless, we’d encourage people who haven’t tried it to give it a go, especially if you’ve a high tolerance for bitterness. It’s the kind of beer people will either love or hate.

Update: Boak has decided it ‘tastes like rhubarb — it makes your teeth go funny’. Make of that what you will.

Insidious Stella Artois campaign sadly effective

The most recent issue of Marketing casually mentions, in an article on Stella Artois’ branding, that the lager contains “only the four traditional ingredients of beer” — malt, water, hops and maize.

So, it seems that the sneaky campaign from earlier this year has partially achieved its aim. That is, subtly linking the idea that beer has a limited number of traditional ingredients (as per the German purity law) with the four slightly different ingredients found in Stella.

Maize is not, of course, traditionally found in beer, and has only been included by sly brewers in the last century or so to reduce the cost of production and lighten the flavour.