Between pouring this beer and scribbling the notes on the awesome, made-for-the-beer-nerd labels (there’s space for notes on appearance, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel!) I seem to have forgotten what I was drinking. When I look back at those scribblings, in the ‘appearance’ space I wrote “almost fluorescent yellow; looks a lot like a lager”. This, of course, is a pretty good thing for a lager to look like, so why was this noteworthy?
Well, I’d probably taken a whiff first and forgotten that this was a lager at all. You see, this was an India Pale Lager, or in other words, a lager with a shitload of hops. And when you sniff, the masses of dry-hopping (Chinook, Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic – a hop bill that reads like a beer geek’s wet dream), you get great blasts of grapefruit and grass and mango and litchi and absolutely no malt whatsover. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever smelt in my life.
It also tastes amazing. Under-ripe mangoes. mowed grass (not that I make a habit of chomping on grass cuttings, but you get the idea) and just a hint of malt right at the end. At 4.4% it’s the kind of beer you could drink all day. Except for the fact that this sadly did not win the 2015 Prototype Challenge, so unless they decide to add it in as a seasonal brew, the few bottles we have on a few stores around South Africa could be the only bottles we’ll ever see.
It was in fact the milk stout that came out on top in this year’s challenge. It’s a perfectly good beer, but didn’t wow me like the IPL did. But then again, I sampled the prototypes in Cape Town when it was 35 degrees outside, while the beers were tasted and rated and officially voted for in the UK in December, when the temperature rarely reaches double digits and there’s only about 47 minutes of daylight each lunchtime. Had I been in Scotland for the tasting, I might well have voted for the milk stout as well (though let’s be honest, it would most likely have been the black IPA). But I wasn’t in Scotland and my vote definitely went to the IPL. It’s the PERFECT beer for South Africa. Light in body, incredibly refreshing and so, so full of flavour. So why aren’t more people here brewing this? As far as I’m aware, the only brewery producing an IPL is Brewhogs in Jo’burg.
So, brewers of South Africa, I have a challenge for you. Well, part plea, part challenge. Please, by next summer, can we see more IPLs on our shelves: a lagers as crisp as a Windhoek or a CBC but dry-hopped with so much awesome that you can smell it before you’ve even located your bottle opener. I am laying down the gauntlet. Now, who’s going to pick it up? (Your suggestions on who is the right person to brew this are welcomed. I know who I have in mind…)
(Oh, and in case you think I’ve forgotten, the BrewDog prototype range is currently available – for a limited period only – at Liquor City Claremont, Liquor City Groenkloof and Roeland Liquors. Get some now and tell us what your favourite is).