The annual Prototype series by BrewDog is becoming a festive ritual for me. I always try to set aside an evening to enjoy the 3 or 4 (used to be 3, is now generally 4) new offerings and I’ve been blown away in the past by Jack Hammer, Cocoa Psycho (both from 2012), Brixton Porter & Interstellar (both from 2013) and Hop Fiction (from 2014). Although there have been other prototypes released in 2015 – Stereo Wolf Stout, Elvis Juice & Lizard Bride – the festive season prototypes are usually pretty special.This year seems to be no different, with a good range of styles and strengths across the 4 beers. The official details on these beers can be found here – https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/the-2015-brewdog-prototype-series
Instead of going through the series by abv, I decided to go light to dark, starting off with the Session IPL and finishing with the Milk Stout; here are my thoughts on each…
Session IPL | 4.4% abv | Dry Hopped Lager
India Pale Lager is not a style of beer I’ve sampled a lot to be honest, although RateBeer has around 346 separate beers listed under this category. One of those I had tasted before, and enjoyed quite a lot, was India Hells Lager by Camden Town Brewery (pre sell-out!), but I didn’t have a strong opinion on lagers in general either as it’s not a style I tend to go for.
This one pours a clear straw colour, with good carbonation and a clear white head which seems to stay around until the very last drop exits the glass. Hops are at the front of both smell and taste, with some light cereal notes underneath. The taste is crisp and clean, with fresh citrus hops mellowing into light grassy notes toward the finish.
Overall, I thought this was crisp, refreshing beer with good flavour and a real lightness. Although not a fan of lagers, this is one I’d go for again, but it’s probably the weakest of these 4 beers for my tastes.
Hopped-Up Brown Ale | 6.3% abv
Again, not a style which BrewDog are renowned for, so I like the fact that the prototypes have these more experimental beers. Full on hops in this one, and it’s the strongest of the 4 also, so the treatment of the style is probably what most people associate with BrewDog beer – hopped up and decent abv!
This pours a dark burnt red, with a foamy off white head which disappears quite quickly. Good hops on the nose, lots of citrus and pine but also some earthy tones underneath; the hops seem grounded in the aroma of this beer. The initial taste is some chewy, bitter, pine hoppiness which tastes really fresh, and then gives way to the more bitterness and earthy undertones from the malt. This beer goes down easier than I expected, and the finish is not as heavy too.
Overall, this is a nice winter warmer of a beer with a well-balanced flavour profile. I prefer this to the Session IPL, but the best is yet to come.
Black IPA | 5.3% abv | Single Hop Black IPA
I am a big fan of black IPAs. It’s always great to taste a good black IPA which balances the toasty darker notes of the dark malt, with the lighter, citrusy hops of an IPA. Being a single hop IPA, this one is a good one for me; simcoe is one of my favourite hop varieties and having it stand alone against the dark malt background here really interests me.
This pours jet black, with an off white/light cream head which stays for ages. The simcoe hop aroma is up front with solid citrus, grapefruit, mango & pine followed by some roasted coffee from the dark malts. The flavour is similar, with the initial hit of hops giving way to some nice bitterness with roasted coffee again on the finish. The simcoe hops give this black IPA a really pleasant freshness and this is very easy to drink. I think the abv is just in the sweet spot too, any higher and this beer could feel overpowered.
Overall, this is a really good beer, and my favourite of the 3 tasted so far. I’d happily shell out for pints of this stuff at any time of year!
Milk Stout | 4.8% abv
I’d actually tasted a version of this before, on tap with nitro at DogTap; it tasted amazing then so I was interested to see how that carried through to the bottled version.
This beer doesn’t disappoint, it pours velvety smooth, treacle, jet black with a light tan head. It smells lightly sweet, like soft burnt toffee with some hints of raisins and dark fruit. There is a dark chocolate bitterness in the taste, and the beer is really smooth and it feels good to drink. Lots of body to it and then there are more soft burnt toffee notes toward the finish. This is a really good milk stout, and perfect for drinking at this time of year.
Overall, I have to be honest and say I preferred this beer on tap with nitro – it was just mega smooth and tasted fantastic; but the bottled version is great in its own right too. It stands out as my personal favourite of the 4 prototypes (with the Black IPA a very close 2nd!) and is easily one of my favourite milk stouts I’ve tried so far.
I’m interested to see which of these reappear as a more regular release from BrewDog. To be fair, I’d be happy to see all 4 take up space on tap lists in the BrewDog bars in the future and I think each beer fills a space in the style & flavour profiles across BrewDog’s range of beers. For me though, if I had to choose just one, it would be the Milk Stout, because it is simply an outstanding beer; this could very easily be as popular, if not more so, than Jack Hammer or Cocoa Psycho and I would love to see the Milk Stout become a regular fixture in the BrewDog calendar.