BeerCast #59 – IPA is Dead

Posted by on Mar 29, 2011 in BeerCasts, Brewery Showcase | 5 Comments

Last month Fraserburgh’s BrewDog released a series of four India Pale Ales to showcase the wonderful versatility of hops. Being BrewDog, they called it IPA is Dead, and bottled the four base IPA’s after having kettle and then dry hopped each of them with a single variety. Bramling Cross, Nelson Sauvin, Sorachi Ace and Citra are the hops involved – each added to a beer with the same malt content – and all brewed to 7.5% and 75IBU. We got hold of a pack, and assembled our team to discuss whether this means the end for IPA’s – or just another beginning. On the panel this time are Richard, Shovels, Grooben, and (fast becoming a regular) Stuart. We also added a bonus beer for comparison – another single hopped IPA – Kernel India Pale Ale Citra (7.2%). Stand by for big scores, big discussions, and the best way of cleaning a lion’s cage…

1. IPA is Dead Bramling X (7.5%abv)
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
330ml glass bottle

Hailing from the hop gardens of south-east England, Bramling Cross was developed at Wye College in 1927 by a Professor Salmon. The name comes from the Golding variety Bramling being crossed with a wild Manitoban hop from Canada. Giving strong spicy blackcurrant characters, it has a relatively low alpha acid content at 5-7%, meaning more need to be added to give a bitter effect. Commonly used for cask bitters, BrewDog avoided comparisons with the beer they love to hate by upping the hop load and calling the beer Bramling X.

What They Say
“Good old Bramling Cross is elegant, refined, assured, (boring) and understated. Understated that is unless you hop the living daylights out of a beer with it. This is Bramling Cross re-invented and re-imagined and shows just what can be done with English hops if you use enough of them.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Grapefruity aroma, leafy autumnal undertones 8
Shovels – Quite an earthy hop, good but not blowing me away 7
Richard – Fruity, then more rich berry fruit as it warms 7
Stu – I love the fruitiness and I’d be happy with four of these 7

2. IPA is Dead Nelson Sauvin (7.5%abv)
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
330ml glass bottle

Back in 2000, the New Zealand based Hort Research crossed two older NZ hop varieties at their base in the south island city of Nelson. Such was the grape-like flavour the new hop imparted, they called it Nelson Sauvin. White wine and crisp fruitiness are the order of the day here – BrewDog already use large amounts of Nelson Sauvin making one of their most popular core beers, 5am Saint

What They Say
“Nelson is a love it or hate it kinda hop. We are cool with that, if we wanted to keep everyone happy we would be brewing Fosters anyway. Sharp as a razor, this New Zealand hop slices its way through your taste buds and is brutally resinous, almost scraping the intense flavours of passion fruit along your poor tongue.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Don’t get wine from this, but I do get lots of grapefruit 7
Grooben – A bastard lovechild of Trashy Blonde and 5AM Saint 6
Richard – The wineyness gives way to grapefruit, but it then gets too sweet, and grapefruity beers should be bitter
Stu – One or two sips is Ok, but it goes a bit far for me 5

3. IPA is Dead Sorachi Ace (7.5%abv)
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
330ml glass bottle

Sorachi Ace is the wildcard and the joker of the hop pack rolled into one. Developed for Sapporo in Japan, it first came to real prominence elsewhere during the global hop shortage of 2007, when necessity meant other alternatives had to be explored. Why is it unusual? Some of the other UK bloggers who have sampled IPA is Dead have used the following terms to try and sum it up – soap, musky caramel, creamy butter, orange peel, herbal, undrinkable nettle-flavoured cat pee (is there a drinkable nettle cat pee?)…

What They Say
“A hop that tastes of bubble gum? Seriously? No, we did not believe it either. But it does! This is one unique, son of a bitch of a hop. Lemony, deep, musty with a smoothness which belies its power. This hop is lemony like a lemon who was angry earlier but is now tired because of all the rage.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Tastes like lemon cheesecake, every sip is nice and then not nice, it’s fascinatingly interesting 8
Grooben – Synthetic, perfumy, with the alcohol coming through 7
Shovels – I’m not sure I like it but I’m not sure I don’t like it 6
Stu – I wouldn’t sit down in front of the telly with it 4

4. IPA is Dead Citra (7.5%abv)
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
330ml glass bottle

Finally Citra – definitely the hop du jour. Only developed three years ago – by the mighty Sierra Nevada (who know a thing or two about hops) – it was first presented at the 2008 World Brewing Congress. RateBeer has 63 beers on its rankings with the word Citra in the title (so that’s not including those that simply have it somewhere in the recipe). It has taken off in a big way – easy to see why with the pure Pacific US flavours, Citra imparts flavours of pretty much every zingy fruit you can think of.

What They Say
“The Pacific North West of America is home to the Citra hop. America is not just about cheer leaders, a silly version of football, elastic top jeans and cheeseburgers. They grow remarkable hops and Citra is a killer example of this, embodying all that is good about American hops and then some.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Stu – This is absolutely my style of beer, I love it 9
Shovels – Citrusy hops are great because they are so cleansing 8
Grooben – Limey overtones, the most full-on fruity of the four 8
Richard – From start to finish it’s straight up tropical fruit

5. Kernel IPA Citra (7.2%abv)
The Kernel Brewery, Bermondsey, London.
330ml glass bottle

Finally, we put the Kernel cat among the BrewDog pigeons by adding a bonus beer at the last minute. To compare directly with the previous beer, we sample Kernel’s single-hopped Citra IPA and note the differences. Brewing in south London, Evin O’Riordain has come up with some stunning beers over the last year and a half – see our Kernel showcase for a few of them. Will the Citra live up to the others?

What We Say
Richard – I think that’s the perfect IPA, it’s strong, perfectly balanced, is fantastic and I love it 10
Stu – Some sweetness but this is just that touch more refined
Shovels – Subtlety to it, the hops aren’t that overpowering
Grooben – Not quite the crazy tropical fruit, tastes balanced

– (clockwise from top left) Richard, Shovels, Stuart, Grooben

BeerCast panel verdict
Kernel IPA Citra (36½/40)
BrewDog IPA is Dead Citra (32½/40)
BrewDog IPA is Dead Bramling X (29/40)
BrewDog IPA is Dead Sorachi Ace (25/40)
BrewDog IPA is Dead Nelson Sauvin (23½/40)

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #59 – IPA is Dead
  • Subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or our Site Feed
  • Our next BeerCast podcast is another brewery showcase, as we sample the three beers produced by Warwickshire’s Purity Brewery. Stay tuned for that, and look for Kernel IPA Citra to possibly make a run all the way to our 2011 Beer of the Year show in December.


    1. Jerethemuel
      March 31, 2011

      I’m still none the wiser as to how to clean out that lion’s cage – is it anything to do with the nettle flavoured cat’s piss? I googled that specifically as well. Now I’m here I might as well pass comment on the beer, though the only one I’ve tried is Bramling X. To me it was still pretty elegant and refined, at least for a 75 EBU IPA. Not that that’s a bad thing.

    2. Richard
      April 1, 2011

      From what Grooben was saying on the podcast, back in his zoo days the only way to do it is to get the lions somewhere else first – otherwise your day would go downhill pretty quickly…

      Bramling X is a great beer, love those fruity flavours. Citra was always going to taste like it did, Nelson was pretty average and the Sorachi went to a different place with every sip…

    3. Going Solo: Leeds Brewery’s Single Hop Range « The Beer Prole
      April 20, 2011

      […] started with the Sorachi Ace, the Japanese hop which had produced an intriguing and divisive IPA in the BrewDog release, with pepper, herbs and lemon cheescake amongst the multitude of tastes it […]

    4. Craig AS
      June 11, 2011

      Just tried the Kernal IPA (picked up from The Bottle in York yesterday). Yum. Very stong, bitter hops but the bitterness is offset by a vaquely liquorice/aniseed sweetness (if that makes sense). Me like. Glad I bought two bottles!

    5. Richard
      June 13, 2011

      It’s a great beer, eh? All of the Kernel beers have that signature strong hop flavour, but they are really well balanced so that sweetness offsets and nothing is too dominant. I didn’t know the Bottle had started selling Kernel beer, that’s good to see!

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