Saturday, 25 April 2015

BrewDog: Jackhammer (IPA)

BrewDog: Jackhammer was one of the most talked about IPAs of 2014 and really it is nt hard to see why.  Put bluntly, this is an IPA by which all others may be judged.  Such is the incredibly well balanced but not at all delicate nature of Jackhammer, all room for rhetoric is completely constricted.  This is one beer that does just fine speaking for itself, thank you very much.

Jackhammer pours a delightful apricot-ochre with a slightly turbid appearance.  A pleasant, snowy white head forms, soon giving way to firm lacing.  Immediately the nose is hit aggressively with a burst of beautiful grapefruit-driven hop aroma that unfolds into a veritable fruit salad.  White peach, mandarine, mango and lemon peel aromatics all suggest a generous dry hopping.  Five hops went into the making of this IPA: Centennial, Columbus, Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo (with the latter three used in the dry-hopping phase) hence this beer truly deserves the title of "hop bomb."  It is worth noting that Jackhammer's aroma is not at all acute - instead it presents as being gentle but persuasive.  I could smell the beer from across the bar as it was poured for me.  Furthermore, Jackhammer's aroma has a certain underlying bready quality about it, thus suggesting a very well weighted malt bill.

Jackhammer's slightly caramel sweet malt backbone and refreshingly carbonated, medium bodied mouthfeel do well in leveraging the torrent of hop driven fruit flavours that wash over the palate like one's first ever dip into the Indian Ocean.  Fans of hop forward and fruity beers will feel right at home here.  Jackhammer's tropical fruit aromatics transcend directly to the palate in the form of dense peach and mango.  Upon licking my lips I could also taste lemon peel and pineapple that somehow sat comfortably between the sweet and the tart.  A hint of toffee shines through before the utterly divine hit of highly resinous pine strikes the back palate.

It is worth noting that for all these flavours the intensity is well weighted and balance remains throughout.  The hit of resinous pine does not linger to the point that it leaves one feeling as though the palate will ulcerate at any given moment - instead it makes its presence known and then retreats - like a summer storm over the foothills.  This is all quite remarkable considering that Jackhammer boasts an IBU of 100!  Moreover, there is very little suggestion of alcoholic heat, thus Jackhammer belies its relatively high ABV of 7.8%.  Indeed, this is a fairly polite brew considering its ramped up hoppiness - it does not scream and shout like a three-minute long punk-inspired thrash piece - instead it takes the more progressive route (think Metallica-era ...And Justice for All rather than Paul Baloff-era Exodus and you get the picture).

BrewDog really are the masters of ramped up IPAs.  Nuff said.

Evil Twin: Ashtray Heart (Smoked Porter)

There is beer and then there is beer concocted by genius mad scientists who proudly boast having no fixed address (insofar as to the lab / brewing facility in which their creations are brought into being goes).  The genius mad scientist in question here is Evil Twin brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø - twin brother to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller - who has come up trumps once more with a phenomenally good smoked porter, lovingly dubbed Ashtray Heart.  Given that Mr. Bjergsø will be in town for Melbourne's Good Beer Week festival in May 2015 I thought it highly appropriate that I should reacquaint myself with the results of his brewing experimentations.

White I am certain that Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø himself is no creature of pure malevolence, Ashtray Heart is one almighty beast of a smoked beer.  The end result of a laboratory experiment gone horribly right, Ashtray Heart pours a very dark brown - bordering on black - with a thin tan head that slowly dissipates to almost nothing.  Some smoked porters leave me wanting in the carbonation department - not so with this specimen.  Ashtray Heart's carbonation is low to medium but enough to ensure that the brew is refreshingly drinkable.

As the name strongly suggests, peaty smoke dominates the aroma, however there is an underlying waft of toffee and Bourbon booziness as well.  Giving the glass a gentle swirl and allowing the beer to warm slightly are recommended for full effect.  What follows through onto the palate delivers on the promises made - and then some!

Further to Ashtray Heart's immensely smoky flavour there are notes and nuances that range from an initial bitter entry (most noticeable when the beer is at its coldest temperature); slightly sweet toffee, caramel; coffee, cacao, mocha; charred woods and hints of Bourbon.  The Bourbon character is especially pronounced given the beer's booziness - Ashtray Heart quite deliberately does little to hide its relatively high ABV of 8.9%.  All considered, the boozy quality is superbly well weighted so as to compliment rather than dominate the experience.

Yes indeed, this is one masterfully created marvel of brewing science that delivered on everything its name promised.  One cannot help but ponder Ashtray Heart's malt bill and the methods used to create its immense smokiness.  I imagine that the ingredients and techniques employed herein shall forever remain the sort of closely guarded scientific secret that commands an exorbitant amount of hush money - such as what is really governing climate change (a small hint may or may not lay in the photo above).