Keeping it fresh: Brown Paper Bag Project

Any reader of this blog will know I tend to whinge a fair bit about freshness in hop-forward beers. I bore myself with my whinging sometimes, but it’s for the best. Show me a brewer in the world who thinks their 6.5% IPA tastes better 7 months after packaging than it does after 7 days and I’ll pack this whole thing in and resign myself to a life on the shandies.

However, my whinging usually doesn’t take into account whether the hops used in the brewing-process-in-question were truly ‘fresh’. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter in my experience: totally fantastic (indeed, superior) aroma and flavour results in the world’s most lauded IPAs are more often than not driven by hop pellets or oast-house dried hops, rather than from the freshly-picked ‘wet’ hop brewing methods.

The major experience Irish consumers will have had of this latter type of ‘truly-fresh/wet’ hop ale, will be from the Sierra Nevada Southern/Northern Hemisphere Harvest brews. Tasty gear, but really, we’re all shooting ourselves in the kneecaps, as they’re being shipped thousands of miles and loitering in customs before getting into our glasses. In spite of how good the distro channels are these days, the beer you’re pouring into yourself will not be the beer the brewer intended it to be. Hence, the global lack of true ‘fresh hop’ ales (unless you’re a lucky git living close to a hop growing area, of course).

Well, if there’s one Irish brewery which has consistently shunned convention and messed around with lesser-known styles/methodology, it’s Dublin’s favourite gypsies, Brown Paper Bag Project. And yes, you’ve guessed it, they’ve gone and brewed a proper freshy.

But rather than pandering to the general palate of the modern hophead and looking to new(ish) power hops grown in the Pacific Northwest or down in the South Pacific, they’ve gone educational. They’ve gone…English.

Brown Paper Bag Project Lupe Garou

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Of course, trying to go and gypsy brew at-source with ‘wet’ hops in the South Pacific is probably more than a small Dublin brewing outfit can afford…but BPBP are still a savvy crowd. They’ve had an ongoing relationship with Ramsgate Brewery in Kent, so I suppose it didn’t take a geographical genius to realise that Ramsgate is right bang in the midst of the classic English hop growing regions. The home the globally acclaimed (but admittedly not too ‘fashionable’) East Kent Goldings hop.

2014-12-07 16.19.21

Lupe Garou comes out in a lovely bright golden hue with a wispy and lasting white head. There’s freshly-cut grass, white pepper, light lemon rind, and touch of dried cupboard-herbs on the nose, with an almost menthol character releasing itself as it warms. The taste gives wet spruce, white pepper, deeper lemon stuff, those fresh-cut-grassy notes again, and some slightly zingy spice. The malt base is simple and biscuity, with a little bit of sugary white bread dough; this is perfect as it allows the light and deeply nuanced fresh hop character to do its thing. There’s a decently spritzy medium body and no hint of the 6.5% ABV. Herby and citric bitterness to close out, while we have more of that white pepper and wet-morning-forest-stroll spruce lingering.

What a totally bloody interesting beer. I’m a guy who doesn’t give English hops the time of day for the most part…they’re just a piece of my boring-brown-bitter drinking past. But this brew makes me think.

BPBP have achieved something fantastic here: a light, summery, heavily nuanced beer that truly showcases one of the more traditional and less-celebrated hops in the world of brewing. Beers like this should be mandatory drinking for today’s crowd of self-proclaimed ‘Hop Heads’ who’ve been weaned solely on the passionfruity and piney goodness of the New World.

Lupe Garou is by no means ‘my thing’, but I like it and I find it super interesting. It’s a reminder about why I bloody love the beer scene: surprises and innovation lie in even the most traditional-seeming of places.

{I had this on keg dispense in Stoneybatter’s L. Mulligan Grocer; as far as I’m aware, this brew is draught only…so check out your local good-beer pub over the next week or two and hope it arrives}

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About beermack

Tech is the day job, but beer's the first love. Clean and hoppy wins the race. Great to have lived in Dublin through the Irish decent beer revolution, now back in the UK plying my trade in the Big Smoke.
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