BrewDog is at the forefront of beer experimentation. The self-proclaimed leaders of the Craft Beer Revolution would be one of the first names on the teamsheet if you were compisquad of breweries known for their madcap ideas, pushing the boundaries and, it must be said, trendsetting. Beer nerds want to see what they do next, hipsters want to be seen doing it next. The fashionable beard, ear-stretchers and tattoos combo is in abundance in BrewDog bars, with the brewer’s alternative methods drawing an similarly alternative crowd.
None more so than in the Hipster Stronghold of Shoreditch. This area of East London is the spiritual home of moustachioed counter-culture is now home to the world’s first (I’m assuming) cereal cafe, a Pillow Cinema (a cinema with hundreds of pilliows instead of seats, and Underdog – a speakeasy style cocktail bar beneath BrewDog Shoreditch serving up house concoctions using BrewDog beers.
The Old Orleans apothecary-style bar is uber-cool. It combines the kooky, off-centred old fashioned cocktail bar with what BrewDog do so well – beer – providing a combination that no hipster could resist and would even prick up the ears of anybody into good beer or good cocktails. A fusion of the two can only be sublime.
Underdog, with its resident mixologist and myriad uses and abuses of beer in their recipes, has been a roaring success. As a result, and with interest in cocktails growing once again, the bars have started to serve BrewDog beer cocktails.
The first on the list at BrewDog Cardiff was this – Russian Psycho. Like all of BrewDog’s Cocktails, it cost £7.50.
I love White Russians. Sweet, rich, creamy and warming – it’s the perfect liquid dessert. I also love Cocoa Psycho – I’m not a huge fan of coffee but I think it gives the beer a lovely depth of flavour, complimenting the roasty malt and bitter chocolate notes. This, and the fact it was first on the list, made me try it before the others.
It’s a creamy chocolatey colour with a frothy pillowy foam that takes on a lighter hue of the liquid. It looks like a little chcocolate milkshake. There’s a big chocolatey bubble in the centre, with three coffee beans sat in the foam around it.
There wasn’t much in the way of aroma from it. I was expecting a lot more from a reduction of an awesomely rich beer, but there was no intensifying the smells. If I had to describe the smell, I could only say “watery”.
The reason becomes clear on closer inspection. The chocolatey bubble turns out to be the top of a ball of ice, covered in a layer of the cocktail that had just been poured over it.
Having expected a rich, creamy cocktail, I was hugely disappointed. The flavour was of very watery bitter coffee, with hints of creamy chocolate but that was a very difficult note to pick out. It wasn’t very complex, the most prevalent flavour being this lingering sweetness that I have only come across once before – the taste of a cask stout just before it turns completely sour.
The finish was of watery milk and souring malts. Not terribly pleasant, and certainly not what I was expecting. I’m not sure if it lacked enough cream or the beer simply cut through it totally, but it just wasn’t rich enough. For a reduction of a pretty intense beer, it was essentially bland and only managed to produce what I’d consider an off-flavour. And it cost me £7.50 to taste something for which I’d consider asking for a refund.
Better than the beer? No, not really. Looks great though.