There’s many times I stop buying certain beers. Sometimes it’s because the choice of new beers to try is overwhelming (and this just keeps getting worse). Other times, it’s because I fall out of love with a beer. Many know my long-time fondness for BrewDog beers, which has been held against me. This series of reviews called ‘DogYears’ is a trip back to revisit & check-in on beers from BrewDog I’ve loved & liked that are still available today to see how they are as the brewery from Ellon, Scotland palm-mashes the power-up button on their quest for beery domination.
5AM Saint is a red ale that in the past I have said as a regularly produced red ale available on the Irish Market it was lightyears ahead of every other red ale. At one time I said the same about Punk IPA versus other Irish produced IPA’s. However, several notable regularily Irish produced IPA’s are now lightyears ahead of Punk IPA in terms of flavour & craft. The one time romanticisings of a Nelson Sauvin powered IPA seem so distant.
Oddly, for the first beer of this series, I’ve eschewed Punk (which I have not had for over a year now) & instead gone for 5AM Saint, which I have not had since March last year. Before we dive into the beer itself, I want to first highlight a few things from my personal opinion about Red Ales I’ve said over the years:
- Red Ales are dull & boring; they are the John Major of beer styles
- Red Ales are for people who do not understand WTF they want in a beer
- Red Ales are the marmite of the beer world
- 99.9999999% of Red Ales are shite
- Fuck a Red Ale
Yup, I’ve said all of the above. Many reading this who know me are already laughing because they’ve heard me say these things on countless occasions in the past. Now, some context is needed here. I’ve generally always excluded Amber Ales from Red Ales, as to me they are just not the same. In reality, I’ve always made this exception because of Stone Brewing’s Levitation (RIP), & New Belgium’s Fat Tyre – both of which were/are fucking glorious. In fact, there’s been a few Ambers that have been remarkable to me (and that I’d happily drink over & over & over):
And that’s it. It’s an incredibly short list. Which brings me back to Red Ales, & more specifically, BrewDog’s 5AM Saint. For a time, this beer had an identity crisis in 2014 which frankly was an utter clusterfuck on BrewDog’s behalf as they tried to out-hipster even the most ardent hipster rebranding it as ‘5AM Red Ale’, which they rolled back to ‘5AM Saint’ over a year later, which according to BrewDog was because:
we realised it was not only something that our fans wanted, it was something that they pretty much called it all along anyway
So, I picked up a bottle of Ellon’s finest red along with some other of Ellon’s produce for this series, & was giddy about this one of my haul in particular. There’s always been something magical about this beer to me. It was the anti-christ of Red Ales. A misfit in the class. A true punk. My love for this beer in the past extended right into the kitchen, where I rocked out a 5AM Saint burger (5am ketchup, 5AM Saint candied bacon, 5AM BBQ marinated burger, punk ipa pickles, & 5AM Saint steamed bun).
As I crack open this bottle with my trusty Punk AGM2014 tulip glass (still one of my favorite beer glasses I own), that familiar dark seville orange marmalade aroma appears. I’m increasingly giddy just from the smell alone at this point. It pours into the glass like a dream still, & then there’s that familiar thick, luscious, decadent slightly off-white head on it with that unmistakable red hue.
Sticking my nose in, that marmalade as ever is present along with some wonderful lychee (a flavour that in my humble opinion is grossly under-rated in beers & not present often enough), & ahint of chocolate that reminds me of chocolate horlicks. Orange, chocolate, lychee, malt. That is what makes babies. Okay, maybe not. But still, I’m in familiar territory with this beer now. And it’s welcome.
That first taste is like stepping back in time to the first time I tried 5AM Saint; a red ale with attitude. Fuck yes! A million times ‘fuck yes!’ As much as I try to savour the beer, its drinkability soon takes over & suddenly I find myself with an empty glass & an empty bottle. It is still the most ridiculously enjoyable beer it ever was.
And now, it has me aching to side-by-side it with it’s progenitor, ‘The Physics’, which BrewDog have released as part of a three-beer throwback pack to celebrate ‘A Decade of the Dog’ called ‘Original Trilogy‘. I can only hope I manage to nab a pack of this to round out this DogYears series.