The sarcastically titled range features four beers with the same malt base, 7.5% ABV and 75 IBU’s of bitterness but with a massive quantity of one type of hop used in each, including lots of late dry hopping. The four varieties are (from left to right in the photo): Nelson Sauvin, Bramling X, Sorachi Ace and Citra.
To try all four beers on tap at the same time was something which I couldn’t pass up, so I was there at about 5.15pm eagerly ordering my four third of a pint tasting glasses. Below are my typed up tasting notes from last night (typed into my iPhone so I didn’t look like too much of a beer ticker!).
NB - They are obviously all extremely ‘hoppy’, so I’ve tried to drill down into the flavour profiles of the hops rather than just state the obvious ‘It’s really hoppy’. I’ve also reordered these to match the order in photo above, although I actually tasted them in a slightly different order, not that it really matters.
Smells just like passion fruit, in fact it’s a total Um Bongo of tropical fruit smells, maybe not 9 that I could name... but not far off. Taste is a touch grapefruity to start with, although it’s more the combination of a slightly sweet orange flavour combined with mouth drying citrus that gives this impression. Very dry in the finish with masses of resinous citrus hops. Although a New Zealand hop I couldn’t help but think this had the taste of an English IPA on steroids, everything cranked up to 11, definitely didn’t have an American IPA flavour to me. Bready orange centre comes through a little more after a few minutes of warming in the glass, a definite fruit loaf base, not aged fruit loaf, but those ones you buy for toasting with butter. Probably the best tasting but just extremely fruity overall, it could honestly pass for a top notch fruit beer on a blind tasting.
This one isn’t as citrus fruit smelling as the others, more pear and apple, with a similar flavour profile to the smell, but with notes of almond, and very faintly smokey. The hops in this one actually remind me of Leeds Best. Which makes me wonder whether they use Bramling Cross in that beer, the website just states ‘English Hops’ but would be interesting to find out. I’ll drop them an email and let you know. This one is very rich compared to the others, possibly because the hops aren’t as citrusy to cut through that cakey malt base, making it much deeper and richer tasting. Also a slight sultana flavour which I think comes from the combination of the malt base and English fruit hop flavour. Hops in this one aren’t actually very drying. Very nice and would try again, but wouldn’t choose over the Citra or Nelson.
The smell and taste has a definite whisky quality, slight orange peel but herbal, lemony and medicinal. In fact, it’s Cointreau Liqueur that is the overriding flavour I’m getting. Definitely herbal, maybe Lemon Thyme? Medicinal, and not really in a pleasant way. Maybe this is just psychological but it does have an Oriental herb or lemongrass flavour, but it’s nothing I could pin down. It is bitter and dry like this style of IPA should be, but it’s an orange pith taste which isn’t really very appealing, and a lightly ashy dryness which is a little musty, a bit damp-burnt-cardboard. Wouldn't drink another of this but glad I tried, not entirely pleasant - An interesting experiment but for me doesn’t quite work. My least favourite of the four by some way. (NB – The very knowledgeable barman at North Bar said he liked this one best, so maybe it’s horses for course. What did you think of it?)
May sound a little obvious, but wow, citrus! Very, very lemony with a dry aftertaste. Smells of pine with a little pink grapefruit. Alcohol seems slightly more noticeable than the others somehow but in a good way. It took me absolutely ages to put my finger on this, but it also smells really strongly of peach schnapps. Most aggressive hop ‘bite’ of the four. Just creeps in as my favourite but the nelson is a close second. This is ruinously drinkable for 7.5%, extremely moreish. A truly amazing modern IPA. Think I’ve wrote the least notes on this one because I just couldn’t stop drinking it!
These notes were made on the four tasters, which for a beer this strength were easily big enough to get a good grasp of all the different flavours and smells within the beer. However, at the end of the tasting I ordered a half pint of the Nelson, then a half pint of the Citra, and it was at this point the Citra really got it’s head in front as the clear winner. It is just so hugely drinkable, with a dryness that makes you want to take another drink, and another and another. The Nelson was by far the fruitiest and probably had the most complex, interesting and wholly pleasant flavours of the four. But it was just too fruity to drink any amount of. It’s the moreishness of the Citra that sets it apart, and I hate to admit it but I can see why this Hop is getting plaudits from the blogosphere, particularly when showcased on its own like this, it’s an absolute belter.