BrewDog’s Punk IPA is a flagship of sorts, both for the controversy-seeking Scottish brewery and the British Craft Beer Revolution of which BrewDog have styled themselves as the leader. Punk IPA is the symbol of the revolution, but it’s come in for some stick recently.
As a symbol of the revolution, it came as a surprise to some to see it on supermarket shelves. Some saw it as selling out, but most saw it as a long-awaited coup for good beer, with a “craft” beer forcing itself among the macro-lagers and the crafty brews, the “International beers” that are all brewed under license in some massive Midlands production facility and the pink, sweetened fruit beers with attractive paper packaging giving the illusion of quality and regard. Punk IPA was leading the way for smaller, independent brewers, taking valuable shelf space from the massive brewing conglomerates.
One thing that surprised me, however, was recently seeing Punk IPA in a Premier store, a little corner shop franchise more commonly associated with Booker Cash and Carry own-brand goods and tins of Spam. I was also surprised to see it in one of a chain of student pubs, among a range of five “International Beers”.
Scream Pubs own 32 bars all over the UK, three of which are in Cardiff – all of them in the student heartland of Cathays. The Woodville is placed closer to Cardiff University’s main campus than any other pub in the city, and it is a firm favourite with students walking home from lectures or heading into town on a night out. Like most student pubs, it is cheap, not quite cheerful and dominated by drinks offers.
The sight of Einstok bottles, from Iceland, made me feel more like I did when I saw Punk IPA in Sainsbury’s – this was a genuine attempt to get just a couple of good beers into the hands of drinkers who hadn’t discovered it yet. It wasn’t selling out, but modest beer evangelism.
The thing about Punk, and the Einstok Pale Ale for that matter, is that it’s a stepping stone, a gateway beer. It’s an inoffensive foray for lager drinkers into unfamiliar territory. Bland enough not to put them off but flavoursome enough to give them something to think about. This is the perfect place to invite young people to join the beer revolution, and it’s the perfect beer too.
As I mentioned in my post about beer cocktails earlier in the week, lighter beers have long been used in beer cocktails because they provide an excellent base to build flavours upon. Punk is right in there with the slightly tropical hop notes producing a pleasing though not terribly complex flavour – perfect to add something to. For beer cocktails Punk IPA is a relatively good candidate.
I had a quick glance at the drinks menu on a recent trip down Nostalgia Way with a proper student pub quiz (It was rubbish, and we sucked). There, on the list of cocktails was Posh Punk.
After my recent post about beer cocktails, and years of scorn at the idea, I decided to give it a go.
It was a struggle. It was pale and boring visually. There weren’t many flavours that I can wax lyrical about. It tasted stale, with the gin simply drying everything up – slightly too harsh for the delicate flavours from the hops. The Funkin’ Lime came through as a dry, bitter acid feel that I wouldn’t describe as lime flavoured. If you’ve ever juiced a number of limes and had a bit left over that you thought you’d keep for that cocktail party you’re going to next weekend, only to discover that it tastes like sour rather than citrus, you’ll know what I mean. After a couple of days, the juice starts to lose its fresh lime flavour and all that’s left is citric acid. That’s kind of what came through in this Posh Punk. It tasted simple – dry and dull.
I did a little bit of research (precisely one Google search) and found that this is actually an adapted – read: cheapened – version of BrewDog’s own creation. The original features Caorunn Gin, fresh lemon and Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade. Real citrus, a handcrafted spirit and a proper old-school lemonade surely make for a far better cocktail.
I really struggled through the version I had at The Woodville, which had more ice than liquid in the serving glass. Not value for money, considering the amount you get to actually drink and the fact that a perfectly good beer has been diluted with cheap lemonade, injected with a rail spirit and besmirched with an artificial additive.
Is this a cocktail greater than the sum of its parts? No. This beer tastes like a ruined version of the beer it’s based on.