Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brutality at its best

A name like Brutal Bitter might get you into trouble these days. Couple that with 6.9% abv and you're certain to piss someone off, especially if you live within the reactionary reach of the Portman Group or Britain's Independent newspaper. It has taken a while for the mainstream media to get a hold of Brewdog's wrangling with the Portman Group - this has been a talking point in beer interest circles for quite some time, but now it has escaped into the world and it is saddening to see that those who chose to bring it to the attention of the wider public are as ill informed as those who took umbrage with Brewdog in the first place. Thankfully we have Pete Brown to take these people to task.

Rogue Brewing Company should consider themselves very lucky indeed that they live in a country where strong beer that is cleverly marketed is not seen as a worrisome thing which will result in the inevitable destruction of the very moral fabric of society. Of course there are parts of America where alcohol of any description is decried - Alabama comes to mind, but generally you will not note the level of hypocrisy that is levelled in Britain when it comes to sharply marketed strong craft beer. After all wine is lauded in every foodie supplement and not a mention of the mind bending alcohol levels is made. I find it very strange indeed that wine is thrown back by the half bottle by many people without a second thought, while the mention of a beer that weighs in at 9% sends the very same people scurrying under the table. Nobody would drink 750ml of 14% ale by themselves, yet the same volume of wine disappears with little thought or effort at all. I'm sure a beer like Brutal Bitter would get the same reception from the hand wringers as Orkney Brewery's Skull Splitter - it sounds aggressive and nasty and totally unsuitable for the public to cope with. No doubt they would want to drink pints and pints of it with the intention of getting smashed. Perhaps millionaires might enjoy getting hammered on craft beer, but let's face it, if the average person wants to drunk he/she grabs numerous tins of something cheap and nasty and gets on with the job. They are not going to spend 3 or 4 quid on a sufficient number of 330ml bottles of craft ale to do it. Why the hand wringers at The Portman Group and other nanny state organisations don't see this I have no idea.

The beer itself is typical Rogue with plenty of orange/citrus notes, an intense bitterness and a substantial rich malt backbone to bear the strain of the hops. The alcohol is evident but only in the background where is warms nicely, but otherwise lets the malt and hops get on with the show. Why it is called a Bitter I don't know. It's not Bitter as I and a couple of million British beers drinkers know it, but that's not a problem. My only sadness about discovering its true nature was a fleeting thought that an American brewer was attempting to brew this classic beer style because it is always fun to see what Americans make of a straight up interpretation of old beers styles rather than pimping them to extreme levels that are so common at the moment.


Anonymous said...

That is a pertinent point you raise about wine drinking here! I hadn't thought of that but I suspect there is some notion of class contributing to this hypocrisy.

It's interesting, when I go back to the US I am struck by the big flavors, some might say extreme, in much of the food there as well as the beer. In the UK it seems the palate is more subtle. Some Americans might say it is notoriously bland but I have come to appreciate that this is not the case.

Artist formerly known as Wurst said...

Apparently they call it a Bitter because it has English malt in it.

Brutal combines Oregon hops with English Malts. The Oregon grown Crystal hop is a triploid variety developed from the German Hallertau aroma hop variety with contributions from Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green. Crystal is the only hop used in brewing Brutal and it provides a massive amount of aroma without dry-hopping. The English malts used are floor malted Pipkin (a mellow cross of Maris Otter and Warboys, from an English company called Beeston, Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat.

Thom said...

Impy - There's no doubt that English beer is a about subtlety. I love low alcohol session ale with a nice balance of hops and malt. Americans do this beer excellently too, but things are dominated by extreme beer at the moment.

Wurst - the grist you described certainly explains the tasty malt complexity in this beer. I don't mind at all that it isn't a true bitter. I love full flavoured uncompromising American beer.

rabbi lionheart said...

Honestly, considering Rogue's nature, I'm not surprised that it is not "to style". I mean no offense, but Rogue is probably the last place I would look if I wanted to brew something typical. For example, they brew a Maibock with a yeast that is more typical of ales, and is top fermenting. At the end of the day, the most important thing to ask yourself is "Did I enjoy it?"

Thom said...

I don't pay a whole lot of attention to beer styles and never let them get in the way of enjoying a good beer.

The point I was trying to make (badly) is that when American brewers do a straight up classic style like bitter or stout or porter I find that it is done very well, (SN Stout and Pale Ale spring to mind) so when I spotted 'Bitter' on this bottle I thought I might be getting something like that. The beer not being to 'style' doesn't bother me - it tasted great and I really enjoyed it.

rabbi lionheart said...

Glad to hear it. I think I may have let your point slip by in a moment of defensiveness. Cheers.