Saturday, January 31, 2015

India India by Pilot brewing

The third review of the year is another big-hitter, a double IPA from Pilot, one of Scotland's newest breweries and a product of the boom in craft beers and ales.

Pilot of Leith, Edinburgh, began brewing in November 2013 with the ambition to make beers that were different yet drinkable, off-the-wall rather than out-and-out wacky. They launched with a Vienna Pale Ale, a fairly tame precursor of what has since followed. These past 12 months Pilot's adventures in brewing have seen them brew beer with parma violets, seaweed and cocoa nibs.

With their latest brew, Pilot used ingredients including jaggery sugar and fenugreek, putting the India back into IPA and making an educated nod to the history of this style.

The aroma is warm spice and tropical fruit, and these carry through to the taste, which is surprisingly sweet, delicate and welcoming, with washes of passion fruit, liquorice and toffee, before suddenly moving to a medium dry bitterness that lasts and lasts.

You can certainly taste its 8.5% strength, though it's far from harsh or over-powering. Texture-wise, it's lovely. Think mango juice.

India India is complex and sophisticated, a beast of a beer with big flavours, a solid body and a potent hit. It comes in hefty 660ml bottles, making it ideal for sharing.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Easy IPA by Flying Dog Brewery

Easy IPA (4.7%) by FLying Dog Brewery

Continuing January's vegan theme, attentions switch Stateside to the town of Frederick, Maryland and the magnificent Flying Dog Brewery.

Flying Dog celebrate their quarter century this year, and since their maiden flight in 1990 they've brewed a steady series of craft ales, winning over beer lovers in the States and on this side of the Atlantic. Their international acclaim and reputation for good beers was no doubt aided by renegade journalist Dr Hunter S Thompson and his artist chum Ralph Steadman who helped with their branding. It was Thompson who coined their slogan, Good People Drink Good Beer, and it's the indefatigable Steadman whose distinctive artwork adorns their labels. (Thompson was a neighbour of founder George Stranahan - they shared a love of explosives apparently - and introduced him to Steadman.)

Flying Dog's Easy India Pale Ale, packaged in cans, is relative newcomer to these shores. Its aroma is a hefty hit of pine resin along with more delicate notes of spices, apricot, clementine and soft summer berries. It pours straw pale gold with a thick creamy head and light lacing down the glass.

First off, this IPA has a gentle malt flavour - think oat biscuits rather than anything more caramel - and the sweet stone, spices and soft fruit flavours remain as the drink progresses through to a long, dry bitterness that'll have your lips smacking loudly for more, but leave your palate intact.

The canned Easy IPA is a fine beer, and worth trying out if you see it, but it's their Imperial Porter Gonzo (named in honour of Thompson) that you really, really, really must try out. Complex, potent, rich, delicious. It's truly a great. At 9.2%, Gonzo is a beer for savouring rather than swallying. The Easy IPA on the other hand is a session-friendly 4.7%.

With a couple of exceptions - the Black Honey IPA and Pearl Necklace oyster stout - all of Flying Dog's products are vegan.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Vestan West Coast IPA by Heidrun Brewing Co/Drygate

Vestan West Coast IPA 6% by Heidrun Brewing Co.

Rather than having a Dry- or a Tryanuary I've gone vegan for a month.

Beer-wise, having a Veganuary means being a little bit more discerning about what you fill your glass with. Beers that use isinglass, or finings, are out. (Isinglass is derived from dried fish bladder and is used to help filter out the small particles of dead yeast left over from the fermentation process.) Bottle-conditioned craft beers are a fairly safe bet for vegans; mass-produced beers and cask ales less so.

Vestan West Coast IPA is one such vegan-friendly beer, and hails from the Drygate Brewery in Glasgow under the Heidrun label. Bottle conditioned, this powerful IPA proclaims its vegan, unfiltered status on its lo-fi branding, something more breweries ought to consider.

The aroma on Vestan carries a big resin and pineapple hit, thanks to the hefty helpings of Simcoe and Amarillo hops, both hugely popular in American IPAs.

Unlike many IPAs though, Vestan West Coast IPA pours very cloudy and has little carbonation, much like a cask ale. The first taste is a headrush of pine and pineapple, grapefruit, tangerine and new leather, and there is a long, long-lasting bitterness that carries with it hints of pepperiness. At 6%, Vestan is a big, bold and brooding pint, one that's more suited for sharing than for sessions.