Whilst IPA is not my preferred tipple, the annual launch of their IPA Is Dead series from BrewDog is always something to look forward to. The premise is simple: four IPAs brewed exactly the same except each has a different hop used throughout. It is fascinating to taste the differences between the different varieties from all over the world (this year we have England, Australia, Germany and the US represented), but the real fun starts when you start to blend them. So here I am at the brewery's Camden bar with a flight of the four offerings and two of my favourite drinking buddies to toast the rude health of the scene's flagship style.
Rather surprisingly, the English hop Pioneer was the universal winner amongst our straw poll of three. Whereas the others all had characteristics often associated with their indigenous hops, this one most certainly does not. Crisp and fresh on the nose, my immediate tasting notes were strawberries and cream; there is a deep thickness present here, surrounded by subtle fruit flavours that make it very smooth and easy to drink. And unlike many from these shores, it is rather low on the bitterness, merely adding to the quaffability of the beer.
The US entrant Chinook is also remarkably pleasant with a lovely peppery smell to lap up. On the palate this is joined by undercurrents of grapefruit and peach, although the big dry bitterness might be too much for some – still, should be fun to play with when it comes to mixing! Mandarina Bavaria from Germany, funnily enough, leads with big orange flavours throughout, though the earthiness upfront in the taste is a surprise; meanwhile Australia's Ella is a little disappointing as sprinklings of floral notes and lemon struggle to make themselves known.
Time to play. Starting with the six different possible pairings, some very interesting combinations emerge that throw up a few new tones completely missing from their individual parts. Pioneer + Mandarina Bavaria has a huge hit of lemon sherbet on the nose before tasting very earthy and English, finishing off with a fruit kick right at the very end. The Ella + Mandarina Bavaria has a much bigger bitterness kick than either on their own, with both the citrus and vegetable tones vying for supremacy.
But my favourite duo is the Chinook + Pioneer combo; starting with a crisp, clean nose that brings to mind apples, the taste is refreshing and zesty. The bitterness from the former lifts the flavours of the latter to create a delicious IPA that will work a treat all summer long. Some further experimenting with three and finally all four varieties results more in the individual characteristics getting lost, although the Chinook + Pioneer + Mandarina Bavaria concoction does produce a rather nice peaches & cream burst. So there we have it, another fine selection of hops from all over the globe and an excuse to get creative with, even fuss over, your beer. The IPA Is Dead series is a lot of fun, best enjoyed with the company of others and preferably in the sunshine.
All four variations are available on keg and in bottle from all BrewDog bars and their online shop, and bottles should be arriving in independent bottle shops soon.