BrewDog is back with Edition 4 of IPA is Dead; a new batch of very much undead IPAs; the fourth year of this occasional series. Are they run out of hops yet? Is this it?
Four bottles, the same base 7.2% ABV IPA, a different hop variety in each, so we get to see what each brings to the party. Another take on Taste the Difference.
Edition 4 consists of the unfamiliar (to me): Comet, Kohatu, Exp 366, and if you thought that was all sounding a little X-Files, the new four-pack is rounded off with a more familiar friend: Amarillo. Will any be as good as Edition 3’s gorgeous Goldings or as diabolical as Dana? (which tasted like an IPA that had actually died)? Let’s see…
Comet and Kohatu – Trying not to think of Kohoutek
In 1973, the comet Kohoutek was going to be the comet of the century, but turned out to be something of a dim if not damp squib. What would these similarly named hops do for IPA is Dead?
Comet is a relatively little-seen US hop with, for some, too much of a reminder of the American wild hops from which it was cultivated. If that sounds like a perfect punk candidate, wild hops can taste a bit oniony, not often desirable in a beer. No alliums, but if there if there is a touch of grass here, it’s more than compenstated for by grapefruit and orange. A hint of the Sorachi Ace mould?
Funny how doing all these different hop varietals shows up the house style so clearly: the yeast and malt building blocks. IPA is Dead is built on jammy malt flavours, clearly present in the Comet, whose initial sweetness turns to mouth-puckering bitterness.
If the Comet looks like a glass of Lucozade with a big beige head, it doesn’t taste like it. This is refreshing and quite satisfyingly full, with pithy, bitter swings and honeyed roundabouts. And climbing off the carousel with a very drying orange oil lingering on the tongue.
Kohatu is either a Vic Reeves invention or it comes from New Zealand. Reported by my tasting partner Ron as having aromas of “sweaty pineapple pants”. I don’t know what gym he goes to, but there is a mustiness like petrichor (maybe the pine forest version), and definitely a background of tropical fruit salad (syrup).
Quite mild after the bitter Comet, but you’d expect that for a hop with lower alpha acid content. More subtly fruity in comparison with say, Cascade. It’s dry, especially on the finish, but has none of that American lemon-sucking quality. A little underwhelming, although it does give you the chance to taste the underlying IPA.
Exp 366 and Amarillo
“Exp” is for Experimental 366, but I’d’ve preferred Exponential 366. Hops to the power of 366! Probably best that it isn’t. It seems to be a yet-to-be-named American hop sort, but is it the same as HBC 366, which would make it Equinox (TM)?
Mid-amber in colour, another Lucozade-like one, but although it is refreshing, that’s where the similarity ends. Full of resinous and fruity aromas: pineapple and overripe melon with a bit of mould, like some of those Pacific hops. A nice catch of bitterness on the back of the throat as you swallow. White pepper. The pineapple is quite subtle; interesting to compare with the Amarillo, which I associate with the pineapple end of the tropical fruit scale.
Hard to believe that Amarillo has not appeared in IPA is Dead before, such a mainstay of the modern brewing scene that it is.
It’s livelier than the others, pouring like a Duvel, with a fine, champagne-like bead of carbonation and a longer-lasting head, as well as similar colour (head and beer). Not too disssimilar to the Exp 366 on the nose, with the familiar friendly aromas of pineapple – and to me, pineapple chunk sweets. Airier, lighter, less rounded. Makes the Exp 366 seem earthy.
The taste is lighter, sharper. Lemons as opposed to melons. Ron detects a faint, sweet strawberry tinge. Is this the BrewDog house style jamminess? Not as bitter as the Exp 366 on the backbite. The taste of pineapple chunks appears again on the finish, which is satisfyingly long. Summery, tasting light for its strength.
Comet: Spicy pork, not too hot. Thai green curry, pork fillet Stroganoff. Cheddar ploughman’s. Makes Ron notice the slightly cidery nature. Duck. roast, or maigret. Confit, even.
Kohatu: A piece of nutty cheese (comtal, gruyere).
Exp 366: Too obvious to suggest SE asia again? Seared scallops to pick up on the rounder depth to the taste.
Amarillo: A light curry. Tasty but not spicy hot. Korma or dopiaza. Burger with light-ish dressing.
Shall we write the obituary of IPA is Dead?
Not yet! This is a good set with no clunkers. Top hops this time for us were the good-old Amarillo, and the shiny, new Exp 366, which wins the day for being nicely balanced and very downable, standing up well as a single hop. I hope it gets a proper name soon.