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Hardcore IPA

Other reviews for this beer:
Eddie Glick one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer read it ›
United Kingdom

Style: Imperial/Double IPA
ABV: 9.0%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Pair With:
[Editor’s Note: Nigel’s Hardcore IPA was an early recipe and an old bottle. Check out Eddie’s review later in the month to get his take on the latest recipe and, not to mention, a fresher batch.]

February can mean only one thing here at heavy drinking to ease the pain of the most God-forsaken, cold, dark, dreary, depressing month of the year.

At least that WAS what February meant prior to 2009, when our fearless leader, Eddie Glick, came up with the idea for the First Annual International Beer Month. I can now capitalize “First Annual,” as we are doing it again in 2010. This long planned event was organized months ago (and by months, I mean in late January), with an official e-mail from Eddie to the Dorks which said, in detail, “anyone want to do International Beer Month again?” After a couple of eloquently crafted replies of “sure,” away we go.

To kick off IBM², I chose an overseas brewer that has made quite a bit of news here in the States over the past year, Scotland’s BrewDog. Very much a new-age, punk brewer, BrewDog has made waves by continuously pushing the envelope with cleverly named and concocted brews. While clever names can easily be labeled as gimmicky, creating the 32 percent ABV monster Tactical Nuclear Penguin can’t uh … possibly be a publicity stunt, can it? In the hophead world, nothing measures the true level of creativity and skill than an imperial IPA, so BrewDog’s version, Hardcore IPA, will be an exciting trip for me.

I had my first BrewDog brew in December, the very well crafted Bashah, an American strong ale that was a gift from Eddie. I later purchased a bomber of Rip Tide, an imperial stout, and was not as impressed as I was with Bashah, but wasn’t displeased by any means. Thus, my very brief experience with BrewDog to date has been positive so far.

The styles I’ve sampled (American strong ale, imperial stout, imperial IPA), illustrate the unique take this European brewer has: basically, they’re a European brewery that evolved from the American craft beer movement of the past decade or so. Many of BrewDog’s beers have a decidedly American vibe to them, complete with edgy marketing and ABVs that would put even the manliest of Scottish resistance fighters to sleep after only a couple. This is not your grandfather’s traditional European beer; on the contrary, this is Scotland’s version of Three Floyds.

With that in mind, I crack open my wine-like bottle of Hardcore IPA. The pour reveals a surprisingly lifeless brew, with a minimal head of a quarter inch that appears only briefly, leaving the slightest of lace at the top throughout the rest of the session. Also a bit surprising was the color: translucent golden brown with a fair amount of sedimentation, it’s much lighter than I anticipated. But all in all, it’s a decent looking brew in my snifter.

The aroma is where things begin to go askew. While it’s not unheard of for hop monsters to have a strong citrus profile, Hardcore IPAs aroma is like getting punched in the face by an overripe grapefruit. Huge fruity notes, both citrusy and tropical, are quickly joined by the overwhelming aroma of alcohol and a touch of sugary, toasted grain. Where are the hops, you say? Good question. Quite honestly, it’s a terrible aroma for an imperial IPA.

The flavor is as disappointing as the aroma. While 9 percent ABV is high, it’s by no means unheard of. I’ve had plenty of brews that equaled or exceeded that level but had no detectable hint of alcohol. Not so with Hardcore IPA. Every time you swallow, you’re reminded that you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage. That’s not cool, in my book … I want a good beer, not a scotch on the rocks. The predominant alcohol profile is joined by that same fruity presence that hit so hard in the aroma. Zesty citrus and lighter tropical fruits do provide some light, effervescent tones, but don’t do enough to temper the alcohol. Light, sugary malt provides brief glimpses of caramel and roasted nuts, but again … they are quickly suppressed by an overwhelming alcoholic bite. The biggest mystery to me is this: where the hell are the hops? The bottle claims that four types of hops … unnamed, mind you … were utilized, yet, while a few hop characteristics are present, nothing about Hardcore makes me think “IPA.” I’ve had enough imperial IPAs in my day to know that even a 9 percent monster can still contain all the qualities I love about the style, but they are completely absent here. No balance, no flavor, and no substance leaves an empty, disappointed feeling for this Hophead. Medium bodied and incredibly rough on the palate, this isn’t a session beer … or a sipping beer … it may best be used as paint thinner.

Great. The only thing I have to look forward to in February besides cracking my skull open on the ice is International Beer Month, and my first selection sucked worse than a Ke$ha song (on second thought, scratch that … even Bud Light is better than a Ke$ha song). Hardcore IPA is a terrible disappointment, and I’m showing huge amounts of restraint by not giving it the one mug I was initially leaning towards. If you want a good imperial IPA, stick closer to home for now. While I’m hopeful that this is an anomaly, I’m disappointed in Hardcore IPA, and I’m left wondering just what to make of BrewDog overall. Let’s hope my next trip is more successful.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 4, 2010.
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