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Forget whisky, is Irn-Bru-flavour beer the perfect Burns Night drink?

Maverick Scottish brewers Vault City have put out another edition of their Irn-Bru-flavoured beer, but how does their Iron Brew taste?

A can of Irn Bru soft drink poured into a glass, and a can of Iron Brew sour beer from Vault City poured into another glass.
Iron Brew is Vault City's tribute to the iconic Irn Bru soft drink. Let's see if it tastes anything like whatever the original is meant to taste like.

Today we’re going to push the boundaries of Scottishness by trying out an Irn-Bru-flavour beer and seeing how it compares to the real deal.

Edinburgh-based sour brewers Vault City have been shaking things up and challenging our preconceptions for what beer should be for years now.

Standard yellow lagers? No, thanks.

This lot are more keen on stamping their names on outlandish creations like the luminously coloured, Blue WKD-flavour beer they made last year in collaboration with Peterhead’s Brew Toon.

Bright blue beer from Vault City in a glass, next to a glass of Blue WKD.
The Blue WKD beer I tried last year from Vault City and Peterhead’s Brew Toon.

And further along the colour spectrum, they’ve also been putting out bright-orange beers, in the form of their popular tribute to Scotland’s OTHER national drink, Irn-Bru.

I bought a can of their latest release, Iron Brew, and had it side by side with a tin of the original to see how the two compared.

Taste test: Vault City’s Irn-Bru-flavour beer, Iron Brew

The Iron Brew beer in mid-pour.
Pouring out the Iron Brew beer.

What flavour is Irn-Bru?

It’s a question scientists have been asking for decades.

The official Barr’s soft drink recently had an ad campaign where various characters tried to guess, with some saying bubblegum, some saying tutti frutti.

I reckon it just tastes like the perfect hangover cure.

But according to the taste profile on Vault City’s website, their sour beer version of the soft drink has flavours of “Iron Brew”, “Bubble Gum”, and, of course, “Girders”.

The can artwork of Iron Brew, alongside a glass full of the Irn Bru beer.
Check out the can artwork on this. I’m not sure it could get more Scottish.

I poured out my beer alongside some real Irn-Bru, to see if Vault City managed to capture the essence of whatever the hell it’s actually meant to taste like.

Initially, I recoiled in surprise just from smelling it.

It honestly really, really smelled like the regular fizzy drink.

And it looked like it too… just with a big foamy beery head on it. Disconcerting.

Anyways, down the hatch it went, and the results were… shockingly good, as I was truly expecting to end up needing to pour this down the sink.

The author recoiling in surprise at the Vault City product.
My genuine, actual reaction to the beer. Fear? Revulsion? Confusion? In actual fact, it was very pleasant surprise on my face.

What’s the verdict on the Vault City Iron Brew beer?

I said in my review of Vault City’s Blue WKD beer that it was so wacky and out there that while I enjoyed the experience, I would never have another one — not the case here.

At 4.8%, it wasn’t too boozy, and whatever they put in it made it eerily similar to the proper stuff, just with a thicker consistency of beer.

Seriously sickly sweet (which is my kind of thing), balanced out with the base sour beer, it’s a very rare example of a “freaky” beer actually worth trying more than once.

That being said, I really don’t think you should have this with your haggis, neeps and tatties this Burns Night – unless you are as Scottish as our national bard himself.

But for all other occasions, seek it out.

Rating: 4.5/5

  • Kieran is a former craft beer barman and usually publishes his beer column every Tuesday online. You can also read his column in the P&J’s Food and Drink magazine, which you can find inside your Press and Journal newspaper every Saturday.

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