Thursday, 25 February 2016

#310: Keeping it Sweet

A few weeks back two Lagunitas specials found their way to the shop and, while usually sceptical about big bombers of American craft beer, my good experience with Hop Stoopid encouraged me to give the one of those, Hairy Eyeball, a go.

There's not much stylistic information given on the label of the Hairy Eyeball; it seems to fall vaguely into the nondescript American strong ale category, being high of ABV and... well, that's about the only statement of intent I can see. Thankfully, in getting to the 9.1% they've whipped up some sweet-tooth-pleasing chewy toffee and red apple opening that matches the beautiful clear dark red appearance of the beer. More dark malt stage hogging comes in the form of raisiny chocolate and apple syrup, completely quashing any chance of meaningful hop expression. Part doppelbock, part quadrupel, part barleywine; this is an undeniably enjoyable glass of beer that, despite its strength, is mercifully lacking in alcohol but sadly lacking in body and complexity. Still, halfway through you're bound to stop caring and just curl up in the sugary warm bed and go to sleep... right?

A jab of insulin and a scrape of the tongue later and you're ready for Brown Shugga, another vague, strong, clear copper release, this time hitting 9.9%. There's a bit more to this one, even if it does whack you first with that toffee apple malt stick that Lagunitas brandishes with reckless abandon in it's stronger beers. Yes, once that's over you can turn your attention to the aromatic grapefruit skin bitterness and sharp, pulpy mandarin and pineapple juice that lifts things off the malt floor. The palate gets another dose of chewy toffee caramel but this too opens the door for some pleasant, pithy orange and milk chocolate. And yes, there is a considerable element of brown sugar to be found. 

Whatever the billings, the Shugga seems to be the slightly more nuanced of these two enjoyable but admittedly simple, almost dumb beers. It basically appears as a American barleywine, minus the intensive, aggressive hopping and complexity of, say, Bigfoot (fanboy squeal).
If you've had enough of bitterness, sourness, or just contemplative drinking for while, give these a go.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

#309: Killing Joke

Albino Squid Assassin is the latest ridiculously named special from Brewdog, and it comes in a smart can decorated with a surprisingly literal interpretation of that name.

It is billed as a red rye IPA, and it plays that way on the nose and palate; juicy blood orange is the main player in the aromatics, all pulpy, pithy and bitter. To taste it starts out with the same satisfying orangey bittersweetness, all punchy and exciting, along with some sugary backing from a rather austere malt bill. I can't find much of what I expect from rye in this - that is, the grassy, peppery, spicy, bready graininess - but it does have a full, thick body that I'd usually enjoy in a beer but seems to strip away the joy of those bright, bouncy hops trying to be the top players in this one.

It's good and hoppy and brazen and it will no doubt scratch that itch for many a fan of Brewdog's unashamedly indulgent Awesomeness™ and Irreverence™, but for me it's nowhere near as fun as the can it lives in, certainly not as time wears on.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

#308: Smoked Alaska

This is a straggler from what can loosely be called the Christmas stash - a string of beers accumulated over the winter with no real regard for the fact that I couldn't possibly consume them all on or even near the day itself. 
As it happened, this one hit the glass this past weekend.

It is Alaskan Smoked Porter, somewhat of an American craft beer classic these days. Dating from 2012, this one didn't quite stink of smoke upon pouring its inky black and bubbly off-white head, at least, not in the sense I expected. It is smoky, but in a rather ordinary, pleasantly mild Irish dry stout way. This stands up to tastebud scrutiny, the palate treated as it is to a smooth, silky and medium-bodied dry porter with washes of mild tobacco leaf, soft, sweet milk chocolate and, right at the finish, a haunting flash of rauchbier meatiness. There's some complex dark fruit reminiscent of a much bigger imperial stout, but nothing to tax the 'buds very much; this one stays very much in the realm of the sensible.
For all the craft beer cred attached to this cap, what you get is a beer more subtle than supercharged, more brains than brawn, more contemplative than cocky.
I'll take that over a hot stinky boozebomb any day.