Good evening all. It's time for another series of capsule reviews, as Door 22 revealed the new Prototype Challenge beers from BrewDog (Fraserburgh, Scotland). Following on from last year's selection are three more unusually named offerings, with the purpose being to sample each and vote for the one you'd like to be brewed during 2013. I reviewed one of the 2011 collection during the inaugural advent calendar, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they've managed to come up with this time round. Reviews after the pic....
Nuns With Guns
Appearance: Pale golden colour, short-lived white head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass.
Aroma: Loads of grapefruit, hints of mango, malty sweetness, some sulfurous notes. Grapefruit smacks the olfactories from the start, has that Helles aroma as opposed to a Pilsner. Has some wet-dog funk to it after the nose has become accustomed to the hops.
Taste: Biscuit malt, honey sweetness, some light grapefruit in the background during drinking, finish isn't bitter but has some hoppy remnants linger in the aftertaste. Seems like an incomplete lager, too thin and watery and the hops don't offset the sweetness enough.
Mouthfeel: Thin, very light carbonation. Doesn't compliment flavours particularly well.
Verdict: Very imbalanced beer, comes across as a rushed offering. The Imperial Pilsner that made a brief appearance in the bars over the summer was much better, it feels as if they just liquored it back to the appropriate ABV percentage to create this one. Not recommended.
Appearance: Amber colour, short-lived thick white head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer.
Aroma: Grapefruit, pine, mango, malty sweetness in the background. Grapefruit very powerful at first, dies down a little bit once the nose has become accustomed to allow the pine to come through. Sweetness very much supportive. Some hints of orange become noticeable after a while.
Taste: Most of the flavour is almost overpowered by the bitterness, this certainly drinks towards those 200 theoretical IBUs! Pine manages to push through everything quite nicely, sense of alcohol (acetone, esters), biscuit malt, hints of tropical fruits but nothing significantly distinguishable. Finish is quite tart and contains some light grapefruit notes.
Mouthfeel: Thick, decent amount of carbonation, compliments the amplified bitterness.
Verdict: Pretty intense IPA; flavours on the palette need to be more balanced as bitterness virtually eradicates any subtleties except for the resinous characteristics of the hops. Certainly a contender for general release, but it might be wise to dial down the IBUs slightly to allow for a more interesting and varied drinking experience.
Style: Imperial Stout
Appearance: Jet black, thick dark brown head that settles to patchy covering over surface of beer.
Aroma: Cocoa powder, chocolate sauce, freshly roasted coffee, vanilla custard, banana, no sense of the alcohol. Very rich and chocolatey (Rogue Double Chocolate Stout immediately springs to mind), seemingly out-of-place banana smell is very similar to those pick and mix banana sweets, mixes well with the vanilla. Very interesting stuff, smells like a pudding/dessert.
Taste: Coffee, chocolate, caramel, custard, tartness during drinking that continues on into the finish, which is quite dry and has some toasty notes from the malt. Yeast extract, coffee, burnt sugar and slight oak flavour discernible through retro-olfaction, flavours aren't as intense or varied as the aromas. Aftertaste is primarily roasted malt and light grapefruit. Drinks very easily, although potential for the flavours to cloy means it's definitely worth sipping.
Mouthfeel: Thick, moderate carbonation, works well with the richer flavours.
Verdict: Not so sure about this one; aroma showed a lot of promise but on the palette it can be quite unbalanced, and drinks more like a flavoured milk stout than an imperial stout. Has the potential to be a great beer, but the taste needs to deliver what the aroma suggests!
Overall winner- Jack Hammer- it's got the best combination of a sensible ABV percentage and a decent flavour profile, but it needs to be dialled down slightly to make it worth spending money on in a bar. BrewDog are definitely still capable of making very drinkable IPAs, as evidenced with the Hoppy Christmas that I had last night, so they should probably forego the mindset of trying to brew unnecessarily bitter beers and just create something palatable. Last year's Prototypes were all about reasoned, plausible beers (so much so that the majority were repackaged and sold throughout 2012), but this year's series smacks of excess and one-upmanship, and none were particularly impressive in the end. What a difference a year makes!
Until next time....