Regardless of whether or not you actually like the beer, you have to give Brewdog some credit for just how dominant they’ve become in the craft beer scene. They’ve swiftly grown from a couple of mates brewing up in Aberdeen to a supermarket shelf staple; to more than fifty bars across the world with plans to open a hotel.
Full disclosure – I bought into the hype last week and bought a couple of shares in the latest equity raise, which along with my paltry contribution raised Brewdog over £26 million. It’s not that I cherish and adore everything that Brewdog does – my Elvis Juice review was not exactly glowing – it’s more that I can now enjoy knowing that, in a very small way, I own a tiny part of that brewery. I wonder if we’ll see other craft brewers follow suit.
Punk IPA, 5.6%
Honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to review Punk. It’s everywhere: chilling in the fridge in your off-licence, stacked up on supermarket shelves, plastered across newspaper pages crowing about its 96/100 rating on RateBeer.
Punk pours a hazy amber with a bright white head and no lacing. The aroma is fresh and fruity: orange, pineapple, passion fruit. There’s a hint of malt on the nose too, but not much – the hops are front and centre with this beer.
The malt is more apparent on the tongue, where it helps to mellow out the hoppiness from the six (SIX!) different hops. That’s followed by orange rind and a long, lingering bitter finish.
It’s easy to see why this is rated higher than Budweiser on RateBeer. But does it earn 96%? Absolutely not. Far from being the tropical fruit explosion promised on the bottle, Punk is a perfectly passable IPA for everyday drinking: nothing more. 3/5
Vagabond Gluten Free, 4.5%
Vagabond is a bright copper in colour with scant head – perhaps a result of whatever arcane process Brewdog has used to strip out the gluten after brewing. It smells toasty and warm, almost as if there’s rye in the mix (there isn’t) with hints of orange.
Vagabond’s flavour is more rounded, more balanced than the Punk. There’s more caramel notes to savour and less bitterness on the finish.
Absolutely one to try for coeliac, and I wouldn’t mind drinking a bottle or two more either. 3/5
5am Saint, 5.0%
This is more my speed. Not just because I habitually wake up at 5am (gotta catch those worms), but also because the Saint in question here is a red ale.
Five is the magic number, apparently: as well as being 5.0% ABV, the Saint contains five different malts. That helps to break through Brewdog’s typical hoppiness and create something with more dark fruit aromas and flavours.
The flavour is a journey – it runs from blackberries to begin with, then to marmalade, with a hint of what I suspect might be aniseed. It’s warming and rounded and mellow, much more subtle than the other Brewdog offerings I’ve tasted, and with a lingering taste of sweet berries rather than bitterness. 4/5