Every so often Hophead arranges a beer fight to be waged on its ever-ready taste buds. To gauge the performance of the new and unfamiliar, Hophead chooses a champion with which they must battle. This champion will be a quality beer to which most people will have access. Today it’s the turn of:
The term “IPA” is almost as universal and varied as the term “beer” so we are in for an unpredicatable contest. The champion is Punk IPA (Brewdog, Fraserburgh) 6% ABV
There’s a strong tingling hop aroma. It’s a dry IPA which seeks out every taste bud in your mouth and gives it something to ponder. If you can leave it long enough to warm up a little then you’re rewarded with some herbal aroma notes (thyme maybe?). A hophead buddy.
Joker IPA (Williams Brothers, Alloa) 5% ABV
There’s a tamer fruity aroma with slightly smoky/peaty notes This is too malty and not hoppy enough for hophead. There is a lasting bitterness but it’s not especially pleasant. It is supposedly brewed to put a smile on your face – if so, you are easily pleased and probably piss yourself laughing at Martin Lawrence movies.
Verdict: KO round 1
Bengal Lancer (Fullers, London) 5.3% ABV
Hophead liked the look of this beer but there was very little aroma. There was a creamy mouthfeel with rich flavours – this is a mellow IPA and not a bad drink in its own right. Dark and robust – Bengal Lancer is no fresh and fruity IPA. The bitterness is all on the tongue and not in the nose.
Verdict: Lanced by the champ – but a plucky showing.
Proper Job (St Austell Brewery, Cornwall) 5.5% ABV
And a proper job ‘tis too! There’s some loving care gone into this – a fresh and very drinkable IPA. The sharpness of the hops is tempered by a balanced sweetness. Not quite a hophead buddy but very good none the less. The strength is deceptive in this one.
Verdict: Job’s a good ‘un but can’t beat the champ.
Old Empire (Marston’s Brewery, Burton) 5.6% ABV
Marston’s are masters of brewing beers which are very OK. There’s nothing wrong with them but hophead hasn’t met one that stands out yet. This one doesn’t let you down. It is a sweet and (too) malty IPA with quite a coffee aroma to it. Maybe this quest will turn up a stunning Marston beer but hophead is prepared to be underwhelmed.
Verdict: very OK but the Empire does not strike back.
White Shield (Worthington) 5.6% ABV
The bottle claims this is an IPA but there are some beer sites that categorise this as a strong bitter. In a contest like this, that would be a fairer comparison and it would compete well with similar beers. However, as White Shield has chosen this battle to fight – here we go. The aroma is metallic and there’s a slight sour taste on the tongue. The after taste is unmistakably raspberries (who put them in the bottle?) This is a nice beer, but hophead thinks it’s chosen the wrong war to fight.
Verdict: A white shield? More like a white flag. Punk IPA is still the champion.