It’s over a year since we started these beer of the week blogs and we’ve yet to feature a BrewDog beer. With their attention seeking marketing and gimmick-riddled booze output providing love/hate talking points among beer fans, it can be easy to forget they make damn fine beers and have been the inspiration for many of the UK’s finest start up breweries. So I cranked up the internet in search of a BrewDog beer I’ve yet to try , eventually clicking the ‘add to basket’ link next to Vagabond Pale Ale.
At the time I didn’t realise Vagabond is one of the increasing number of gluten free beers hitting the market, but seeing as BrewDog are particularly good at creating specially targeted beers (their low alcohol beer, Nanny State, is as good as it gets) I had no regrets about choosing it.
As I would expect from BrewDog, it’s undoubtedly a quality beer. It smells like a quality beer, looks like a quality beer, and has a taste to cheer even my gluten riddled senses. But it does feel as if something is missing. A bit of punch; some added depth; a rumble of beery muscle. The flavours, as good as they are, slide through a bit too quickly without the beer complexity I would expect from BrewDog – although I don’t mind entertaining the notion that some sort of placebo effect is in action here: I’m expecting the lack of gluten will mean that something is also missing in the flavour department and am probably over-eagerly looking for it.
Concentrating on what I can taste, instead of what I can’t, brings the hop flavours into focus. They smell and taste exceedingly citrusy fresh, as if I’ve plunged my nose directly into a just-opened bag of hops (up there with opening a bag of coffee and frying streaky bacon as one of the greatest bursts of smell known to mankind), and they leave behind a pleasant pine bitterness at the finish. The malty base is light to suit the style and there are no discernible ‘other flavours’ that may have crept in to fill the gluten gap. The more I drink, the better it becomes. The more I stop pondering the goddam gluten, the more like a proper beer it tastes. The further down the bottle I get, the more I want another…
I haven’t had reason to drink too much gluten free beer so can’t compare Vagabond with much else in that category, but I would be surprised if many can match these standards. Indeed, there are truckloads of beers wallowing in maximum gluten content that are nowhere near as good as this.
This beer came from Beers of Europe
Brewery: BrewDog, Ellon, Aberdeenshire
Beer name: Vagabond Pale Ale
Hops used: Amarillo, Centennial