Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Two whales walk into a bar…

When I wrote about Chris Lewis’ long-awaited commercial beer a few weeks ago, I would have liked to mention another new project too, but it was still under wraps. Now it isn’t: the other half of the Zombier team, Jake Griffin, has now also launched his own beer.

Up Front Brewing is the name of the new project and the name is not an accident: eschewing the trend for crowdfunding, Jake is setting his stall out for organic growth and not being in debt to anyone.

I should mention that I have known Jake for five or six years now, so am not completely unbiased. He is an impressively energetic and driven man – not content with finishing his PhD while working as a brewer at Fyne Ales and then Drygate, he continued to homebrew, filling his Glasgow flat with demijohn after demijohn of experimental beers.

Up Front’s first two beers are an IPA called Ishmael and an American stout called Ahab – a literary reference which is over my head to be quite frank. Both were launched at Inn Deep in Glasgow last Thursday and at the North Hop festival in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Both are 6% and Jake has jumped feet first onto the can bandwagon. The artwork on the cans and font badges is by renowned artist Stanley Donwood, featuring stark black and white imagery.

The beer is brewed at Drygate, where Jake usually spends his days making their Gladeye IPA and Bearface Lager. I imagine choosing a brewery to produce Up Front’s beer must have been a fairly easy decision. If you can contract your brewing out to, well, yourself, why go elsewhere? Jake has a clear advantage over most “cuckoo” brewers in that he gets to work on a familiar kit, as it’s the same one he uses for his day job.

Ishmael is a modern IPA with all that that implies, bitter, pungently hoppy and on the murky side. It seems to have more sophisticated hopping than some, dank and fruity at the same time, yet for me is still missing the touch of magic that makes you want another. However, it’s certainly quite as good as plenty of other IPAs that people rave about, and I expect it will do just fine in the market.

Ahab is a more distinctive beer in its own right. If Jake hadn’t told me it was an American Stout I wouldn’t have categorised it as such; those roasty, dry-hopped things usually just make me think someone has dumped hops in my morning coffee. Ahab has big roastiness and cereal character. I think I can taste oats but forgot to ask whether it contains any. There is a nice thin dark chocolate note, similar but not quite the same as the dry cocoa of Zombier, and as you drink it a distinct black cherry flavour develops, finishing with cake and muesli and Black Forest gateau all at the same time. I might be on the floor after two pints of this but I’d remember it.







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