Monday, 7 June 2010

Drinking the Unobtainable

Much as I love getting sent beer that is both (a) free and (b) unobtainable by normal means, I do wonder what to do with it. Of course, the obvious answer is "drink it, you fool", and so I have. And to justify drinking it, I'm also going to tell you what I think.

I'm not sure that anyone, anywhere is indulging in the sort of heroic folly that is Stuart Howe's '52 Brews' project. Not only is he running an ever-expanding commercial brewery, he is pushing the limits of what one brewer can achieve in a year. So far, everything I've tried from this project has been great; in the last couple of weeks, Winter Berry Strong and ESB Barley Champagne been impressive, with their traditional-ale-on-steroids character, big but beautifully balanced.

So far, what I've enjoyed most has been the 50 Hop IPA. Not only does it sound cool, it tastes great too, with layers of different hop character unfolding in the glass and across the palate. Totally brilliant, and endlessly drinkable. Well, I say endlessly - I'd like to be given the opportunity to put that to the test. The whole project oozes the sort of unhinged brilliance that you'd expect from a chap who not only routinely wears cufflinks, but also knows who Angerfist is.

At the other end of the country, displaying a similar sort of inventiveness (only with less cufflinks), the Dandy BrewPunks of Fraserburgh have released a tiny amount of their latest test brew, Prototype 27. In the assumption that you can never have too much of a good thing, they're taken their World Beer Cup gold medal-winning Hardcore IPA and aged it in a 1982 Caol Ila cask with 50kg of Scottish raspberries.

Like a lot of their more off-the-wall beers, this has left me not really knowing what to think - yes, it's a complex and tasty beverage, but I'm not totally convinced that it's a complex and tasty beer. The raspberry character sits alongside the pithy hops quite happily in the aroma, although the Islay phenolics distract somewhat. On the palate, the dry raspberry character comes to the fore, masking the thrilling, hoppy drinkability of the original, and then more phenolic smoke comes creeping in. On their blog, they describe it as "almost like a little bonfire inside a giant raspberry bouncy castle". I'd agree with that, although whether that is a positive or a negative description, I'll leave to your imagination.


  1. I've not tried the 27 but a mate has very kindly kept me a bottle.

    would love to try the 50 hop IPA, the ones ive had from 52 brews so far have been really interesting. still got some of the more challenging ones to drink too.

  2. I agree with you about the Hardcore being masked. I like the combination of cask and fruit though ... the fruit is natural and clean and sweet, the cask is dirty and gritty. For me they were quite seperate tastes in the beer (fruit first then cask) but they worked together too.

    Put some more thoughts about it here.



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