BrewDog is a company that can never be accused of lacking balls. They have no qualms about breaking the mould, chucking more hops in the brew kettle, rubbing people up the wrong way, or packaging beer in taxidermied squirrels. So, when they set about brewing a red ale – that oh-so-staid style that we in Ireland know so well – there’s no real surprise that they came up with a 7.8% ABV beast that’s hopped to hell and back. There’s also no surprise that they’ve well and truly BrewDogged the name: introducing 10 Heads High
This ‘Imperial Red Ale’ is loosely based on a BrewDog prototype that first saw the light of day a year or so ago: Hops Kill Nazis (best not to ask, isn’t it?). I remember thinking that HKN was like a turbo-5am Saint – a bigger, meaner, hoppier version of the amber ale they do in their core range. 10 Heads High has beefed up even further in the malt stakes, but (thankfully) hasn’t lost any of the hop assault of its ancestor.
So, this oddly-named concoction pours a deep red/amber colour with one of those heads that goes the distance. From the off, the aroma gives a real big dose of thick pine resin – there’s no doubt that there’s a shedload of American hops in this. There’s also some thick sugary stewed red fruits, caramel and some earthy notes. The taste is a battle between thick caramel and pine resin, with a hint of chocolate and a bit of pithy grapefruit and blood orange chucked in. The piney hops fully assert themselves in the end – there’s a seriously bitter kick, which lingers on the palate for a good while. In terms of body, this is a bit thinner than I expected – that initial ladle of thick malt that hits you kind of peters away, leaving a bit of an incomplete feel to it. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of great flavour in this – especially from those resinous piney hops, which really hit you hard.
Think of this as the angry cousin of Irish red ales, one that’s sick of subtle caramel and fruitiness and just wants to move out of mammy’s house and go loco.
It’s in Ireland now – you should be able to pick it up for between four and four and a half quid at a decent beer store near you. If you can’t find it, then contact the importers, FourCorners, and they’ll be able to tell you where’s stocking it.