Name – Joker IPA
Brewer – Williams Brothers
Classification – 'Contemporary' India Pale Ale. (It's about time we all started officially separating the classic style IPA's from these ultra-modern versions, don't ya think? What with them being about as similar to each other as Laurel and Hardy.)
Strength – 5.0% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Deep tangerine amber. Or, to state it in more technical terms - 'pretty damn lush.'
On the nose – No less lush. But surprisingly malty for a hop heavy beer, with the aromas of rich butterscotch and farmhouse loaves muscling out the far more placid scent of tropical fruits.
On the tongue – Well, well, well. What a clever beer this is. An entirely new, and distinctly 'Scottish' approach to this 'ultra-now' beer style.
On the subject – The Williams 'Brothers' are exactly that. In the final days of the last millennium, Scott and Bruce Williams decided to exploit the combative effects of sibling rivalry by turning their competitive energies outward into the wider world, and a formidable new brewery was the result. Their début beer, the astounding 'Fraoch' Heather Ale began turning heads worldwide in almost no time at all, and all manner of super-distinctive brews have since followed.
On the market – As far as the aforementioned 'Fraoch' is concerned there are no availability problems at all, but the rest of the range can take a little more finding. You could ask the boys themselves, or contact the benevolent provider of this wee bottle, The Real Ale Store.
On the whole – 8/10
On the whole – 8/10
Well, aside for being manifestly gorgeous, this is actually a fascinating beer.
Being the bold, expeditionary, innovative types that they are, Williams Bros have grabbed the concept of a contemporary, highly-hopped beer and sprinted all the way to the hills with it.
Significantly, those (metaphorical) hills weren't the mounts of just any old nation. This beer has clearly been given the good old fashioned Scottish treatment.
In very broad terms, the classic ales of Scotland are infused with a hearty malt-driven robustness, they're enriched with dark berried fruity themes, underpinned with toffee and roasted nuts, spiced up with all kinds of heathland wildflowers, and brewed with a general richness of flavour, body and alcoholic potency which is both unique and utterly delicious.
By and large then, they are enormously different beasts to the modern hop-heavy, super-citrus golden beers which are appearing in ever increasing numbers these days.
But in many ways, that very issue of 'ever increasing numbers' is becoming a tricky one for producers of contemporary highly-hopped beer. After all, how can breweries continue to find ways of making their versions stand out among this ever swelling crowd of grapefruit greats?
Well, Scott and Bruce Williams have found a pretty darn clever way. And it's one of those ultra-simple but eye-rolling ideas which head brewers everywhere must be wishing they'd thought of first.
With Joker IPA, this brewery has taken the key elements of what is (all too often) referred to as a 'hop-bomb', and thrown it together with carefully selected aspects of classic Scottish ale.
The result is every bit as remarkable as you might expect.
Big, super-high-pitched grapefruit, blood orange and apricot smack right into and fully intertwine with rugged dark hedge fruits, damson, well ripened plum, sumptuous suggestions of bracken and tree bark - there are even impossible traces of toffee and black treacle in here. It's really is the most beautiful carnage, and no two mouthfuls are ever the same.
Midway through, I did spend a moment wondering what the occasion might be in which I'd plump for one of these in place of either a more conventional modern 'hop-bomb' or a regular Scottish classic, but by the end of the bottle I was so damn miserable about not having another one to open - I figured there'll probably be a whole bunch of such occasions in the not too distant future. This is far too enjoyable to drink just once and be happy.
By the time I'd got over the trauma of only having a single sample in my possession, I realised I'd learnt one thing for sure from discovering this beer.
The Williams Brothers are no Jokers.
Be in no doubt.
These boys are deadly serious.