Let's start a review positively for a change, shall we? Innis and Gunn are a great brewer. I'd go as far as saying that they are not only one of the best brewers in Scotland, but probably one of the best in Britain - if not the entire world. Their lager is, by a country mile, the best I've ever had and I'm not a big lager drinker these days. They also make rather handsome pint tumblers that have a habit of going MIA when used to serve I&G's delicious beers in pubs. In short (or as the kids say these days, TL;DR), they're pretty damn spiffy. Scott would probably agree here too. He'd probably use a different word than 'spiffy' though.
As well as producing some damn fine lager, they also produce a really decent set of what I'd term 'core' ales; that is, a bunch of ales they produce all year round, regardless of the time of year or occassion. These are, by and large, all great too and I can heartily recommend the rum finish ale. In fact, I can recommend anything that involves the word 'rum' and/or 'ale', so having both at the same time is like some kind of bevvy-filled nirvana. Or something. I'm not entirely firing on all cylinders today.
So you know what's coming next. I've been nice for two full paragraphs now, without even a glimmer of cynicism or snidey remark to be seen. There must be a 'But' on its way...
Dear reader, you know me too well.
And here it is; But, nobody can be perfect all the time.
Scott reviewed I&G's Marmalade IPA a few weeks ago and although he enjoyed it, he felt that it could've been doing with a bit more marmaladey orange flavour through it. You know, the thing advertised on the bottle. And I kinda feel the something similar about the subject of today's review, Gunpowder IPA, in that it's missing ...something to help it stand out amongst the crowd. Probably some gunpowder to be fair. I didn't see that listed in the ingredients. False advertising again there I&G...
And I'll say this - and it's something I say a lot in reviews, so much that it could be my catchphrase ("it's good, but it's not right") - it isn't a bad beer. It's just that coming from a pedigree such as I&G, I expected so much more. And with a name like Gunpowder IPA, I was expecting it to blow not just my socks off, but my underwear as well. Something explosive. And what I actually got was quite ...tame.
Let's start with the smell. I do a bit of homebrewing these days. It's good practice for some stuff that might be happening soon... If you've ever smelled boiling hops before, you'll understand when I say that they have something of a wet dog aroma to them, that generally mellows out by the time fermentation has completed and the beer has been conditioned. For some reason, the bottle of Gunpowder IPA that I drank still had a lingering whiff of soaking pooch about it, mixed with a sort of sweet, syrupy aroma - sort of like the smell you get in the kitchen when you've been baking cakes. An odd combination to say the least. Not off-putting, just odd.
Onto the taste and with a name like Gunpowder IPA, you're expecting a big, hoppy explosion. Full on, in your face, hoppiness. Like someone loaded the hop shotgun (hopgun?) full of all the zingiest, fizziest hops on the planet, pointed the end at your face and unloaded both barrels. And it just wasn't like that at all. It was pleasant enough, no overpoweringly awful flavour. Just ...average. A little sweet, a sort of syrupy citrusy orange flavour, with a bready/yeasty aftertaste. But really quite mellow - none of the big hop flavour I was expecting. Tame. A little forgettable.
About halfway through the bottle I had a thought; have I&G perhaps filled this bottle with the wrong beer? Is what I'm drinking actually some of the Marmalade IPA that was leftover and has somehow ended up being pumped into the wrong place? Genuinely that's the only excuse I can think of here - that somehow a mix-up has happened at the I&G bottling plant. This can't be Gunpowder IPA - it must be something else, an imposter! But then an establishment such as Innis & Gunn wouldn't make a mistake like that... would they?
To try to confirm my suspicions, I had a look on good ol' Google to see what other drinkers thought of this beer. Ratebeer currently has it listed with an average score (from 12 votes) of 2 stars. Untapped has it at 3.5 (579 ratings). So about average then, in keeping with my opinion here. That sort of confirms that the bottle I had is the same stuff that everyone else has been drinking too, so no mistake at the bottling plant. So unfortunately, what that probably means, is that's just an average beer - a rare misstep by I&G - rather than an mix-up during production.
Which makes it all the more disappointing, really.