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Rogue Brutal Bitter

June 22, 2009

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Rogue’s Bitter Badboy

Anthony Says:


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While my experiences with Rogue Brewery have been otherwise outstanding, I must admit that I’ve passed up on their Brutal Bitter for far too long. I blame it on the imposing bomber bottle, the cantankerous looking character on the label, or perhaps more likely, some sort of subconscious reaction to “bitter”. Indeed, in spite of its ubiquity in the UK, it seems that North Americans are just generally not well acquainted with this style of beer. Oriented as we are towards watery lagers, our collective palette shudders at the thought of drinking something called bitter- much less “brutal” bitter. Even for those like myself, who’ve had the privilege and opportunity to expand their beer horizons, this vestigial hesitance to drink bitter is surprisingly hard to shake. Indeed, as difficult as the above admission may have been to make, it verges on embarrassing after having finally sampled this excellent brew.


Brutal Bitter pours a cloudy, copper-tinged hue of amber with a billowing creamy head. While a light caramel malt aroma is present, the nose is heavy on hops: nutmeg spiceyness, pine, undertones of herbal tea and a strong scent of dewy fresh grass. An initially rich mouthfeel finishes refreshingly light, crisp and dry. As impressive as the nose and mouthfeel may have been, it was the taste of this beer that really got me hooked. Hints of green tea and grapefruit accentuate a bitterness that is both strong and somewhat muted; toasted malt and brown sugar flavors are far much more prevalent than I had expected.


The bitterness here is not nearly as blunt and overwhelming as the name might suggest. Nevertheless, it supplies the dominant- though not sole- element in a surprisingly dynamic flavor profile. My best guess is that the use of spicy crystal hops, as opposed to more citrusy varieties, provides for rich hop flavors while reducing the overall acidity of the beer. Overall, while the name Brutal Bitter might conjure up images of the mouth puckering equivalent to drinking a sourball, the reality is a well-balanced and abundantly flavorful beer.

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Gatlin Says:

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This may be the best hoppy beer you can currently find at the LCBO. There are only a handful of local brews available in Toronto (Hop Addict, Hop Head, Hopping Mad, West Coast IPA), which surpass Brutal Bitter in flavour and quality. This beer is a must have while still available.


Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 750 ml brown glass bomber
  • Alcohol: 6.50% by volume, 5.2% by weight
  • Colour: 10 SRM
  • Bitterness: 59 IBU

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A blinding head of bright white bubbles emerged off the pour. The head seemed to last forever with little dissipation, and when it finally did, a thick coating of lacing covered the glass. The body of the beer was a beautiful orangey, copper colour with moderate visible carbonation.


The nose is a powerhouse of pure hop oils. All the key flavours are present: pine, citrus, herbal, grassy and floral. A slight bit of juniper is also detectable. The malt background is quite complex, but is somewhat subtle in aroma. The malt stands out as being made with extremely fresh and/or high quality ingredients.


The taste is surprisingly not that bitter….certainly not “brutal”. What is brutal, however, is the pure aromatic hop flavours that are accentuated like no other beer I have tried. All the smells come through with equal resonance on the pallet. It is a mystery to me how they have so perfectly captured the full range of hops flavours, while leaving out the tart, astringent bitterness. All things considered: the scents and flavours here are bang on. I could drink this beer all night if it weren’t 6% abv.

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Some Final Thoughts


Anthony Thinks:

Pros
  • Great hoppy alternative to IPAs
  • Aromatic nose and dynamic range of hop flavors
  • Pleasantly bitter flavor profile that encourages, rather than dissuades, further drinking

Cons

  • May disappoint those seeking a more purely bitter brew
  • Bomber bottles are unwieldy
  • Strong alcohol content prohibitive for a session beer

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Unquestionably 4 stars. Brutal Bitter hits all the right notes and is an excellent brew for intermediate beer drinkers seeking to up their hop game and/or make a foray into the world of bitters. Drinkable enough to be a session beer, perhaps the only drawback is that its heavy booze content and bomber style container will have you seeing double in double time


Gatlin Thinks:

Pros:

  • Perfectly captures the essence of hop flavors in all of their manifestations
  • Many otherwise subtle flavors smack you right in the face (or mouth)
  • Unique and incredibly well crafted

Cons:

  • Cost, availability and bomber size
  • Not much going on in the malt department
  • So tasty you might overlook the booze content and wind up drinking more than you bargained for
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Overall a 4½ star bitter. This beer is universally accessible and would be enjoyed by almost everybody. However, big beer drinkers might nevertheless be disappointed by the lack of raw bitterness

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So, What’s On Your Mind?

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