Are you familiar with BrewDog? My first introduction to those brewers from Scotland was probably one of their IPA's, either Hardcore, or Punk, although it may have been the Rip Tide Imperial Stout. After the first few, I knew I'd like their beer. Recently, they haven't proved me wrong.
I'm not a whiskey drinker, but they have a line of whiskey aged stouts that are some of the best whiskey beers that I've had. I believe it's their Rip Tide stout that is aged in the barrels. That beer is good and strong on it's own; however, it holds the whiskey flavors very well. To me, it's one of the few ways I can drink a whiskey (in beer form). I wish I could appreciate whiskey, but the alcohol in them to me is over powering. I don't get the subtle flavors... all I get is burning. To quote Ralph Wiggum, "it tastes like ... burning". The Paradox line (with individual batch numbers printed on the side of the bottle) gives me the opportunity to try some of the better scotch's, without having to try to tease flavors through 80 proof. So, I'm a fan.
Yesterday morning, I got a text from Aaron, the GM at Crane Alley, informing me that he would be opening up his bottle of BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin at 9:45. I thought, great, I'll hustle over there after softball (sadly, we lost both games) and get to try this beer. Around 9, he sent another message saying they were opening it soon, I didn't get the message until about 9:45 and responded immediately, saying I was "OMW". He texted back saying they had finished it; but seconds later called to say there was still a bit left. I said I'd be there in 10 minutes.
I got there, and the table had several familiar faces around it. There were some staff members of Crane, Brad from Radio Maria was there, and one of the guys who's a regular at the beer dinners (also a girlfriend or two). As I mentioned, the first beer opened was the Tactical Nuclear Penguin.
Sorry for the darkness of the picture, but it was late, and it's a cell phone. You'll note that there's only around an ounce in the glass; you won't really need much more to understand this beer. Some beers will take a bit more to find everything out about; this one explains itself nicely in an ounce.
I believe this beer is supposed to be a stout. It didn't really look too stouty. It was a dark caramel color. It didn't come across as being opaque; even in the thickest part of it, I could still see through it. It was flat, seemingly with no carbonation, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It smelled peaty, and smokey. There was a strong scent of alcohol. There didn't seem to be any noticeable hops present. If it's possible, it smelled like burning.
It felt... warm and burning. There was no effervescence. It was flat. It also felt thick, and the alcohol made it very drying. It tasted of alcohol. It burned. It also had a smokey peaty flavor to it, that is reminiscent of some of the barrel aged Paradox's from before.
Why was there such a huge alcohol burn? This beer is 32% alcohol. That's 64 proof. It's not beer, it's a shot. The ABV is pumped up by doing freeze distillation, similar to the way an icebock is made.
The beer was good. Although, it was kind of painful to drink. It burned. I don't do shots, I don't drink the fancy whiskeys for that reason. It burns. Could I drink this again, probably. But, I wouldn't want much more than an ounce.
The second beer in the lineup was Sink the Bismark. If you don't follow the link, it's a quadruple IPA, with four time the hops, and frozen four times (freeze distillation) to get it to 41% ABV. That's 82 proof. * Sink the Bismark was made because the guys at BrewDog wanted to make the worlds strongest beer. They had it with TNP, but then a German brewer produced something at 40%, so they upped it and to beat the Germans... hence Sink the Bismark.*
If the penguin was hot at 32%, the Bismark should have been a scorcher. But, this beer was an IPA. It had a pretty caramel color, that reminded me of whiskey. It had no head. It smelled of hops. I'm not sure which hops, but it was probably about half the hops crop in Scotland. When Aaron opened it, he passed around the bottle cap, as though it were a wine cork. The cap smelled of hops. I could also pick up a strong malt presence, there's got to be a lot of malt to get it that high, and under the layers of hops was the smell of alcohol. The mouthfeel was (of course) burn. This stuff sizzled on my tongue. It wasn't the sizzle of effervescence, this was alcohol. It wasn't the bubbles from champagne, it was the sting from Jack Daniels.
It tasted hoppy (I wish I knew which hops). It was almost like drinking concentrated hop juice. There was also a malty note, in addition to the alcohol. I'm not sure if this was aged in any barrels, but I started picking up woody, oaken notes. Ninja Dynamite said he tasted licorice.
After my first sip, it almost took my breath away. The alcohol burned as it's vapors came out my nose. It was a lot like taking shots. At one point, the top of my stomach started burning. I wondered, when did I develop acid reflux? My throat was burning. It was pleasant.
If you diluted this beer with equal parts water, you'd still have a 20% alcohol beer. You would have to cut it with about 5 times the amount of water to get it down to a budweiser. It would still have more flavor. Someone at the table wondered what the ABV of the rinse bucket was. Someone else wondered who would drink it. (I almost tried it).
The final beer for the evening was Tokio* intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout. (hmmm, the website lists it as Tokyo, beeradvocate has both TokYo and TokIo, however TokIo only has one review. This bottle says TokIo.)
This one actually poured with some head. It did dissipate relatively quickly, but it was there. It was a deep walnut (wood) color, almost matching the tables at Crane. It smelled of malt, bubble gum, a little bit of hops, and cherry or cranberry. It felt effervescent, and did have some alcohol burn, despite (ha, despite) being only (ha, only) 18% abv.
The taste was slightly tart, with definite alcohol, cranberry, and alcohol. It wasn't too stouty, but it did have a strong malt base. Overall, it was very nice. Normally, this would be one of the strongest beers you'd drink, on this night, it was the lightest. This beer definitely didn't seem as hot as the others. It was a nice finisher to the evening.
Overall, my favorite was probably the Tokio, followed by the Sink the Bismark, with TNP finishing it out. None of the beers were bad. They definitely expanded what beer is. Although some purists might say they aren't technically beers, based on the freeze distillation, but they are still beers to me. At the end of the night, my teeth hurt from the alcohol. I had about 5 ounces of beer in total, that average out to 30% per ounce. If Budweiser is 5% abv, and is served in 12 ounce bottles, these 4.5 ounces had more alcohol than 3 bottles of budweiser. It was much better than drinking 3 budweisers, that's for sure (not that I drink budweiser). *math may be somewhat fuzzy*
Do not try to drink it by yourself. You will make it through about half a bottle, then pass out, and wake up with $50 worth of beer spilled on you. This is a beer that you'll want to share the experience with someone, or several someones. With others around, they may taste something you don't (like Ninja Dynamite and the licorice), you may find something they don't. Additional flavors will add to the enjoyment of the beer. You can do it by yourself, but where's the fun in that?
If you can get this beer (which you can, but it's going to cost you) do it.According to Scott (who just checked out the prices) it'll cost over $150 for a bottle of Sink the Bizmark, and TNP shipped to you. Sink the Bismark is on ebay for $129 buy it now. Tactical Nuclear Penguin is on for $160.
Rumor has it, there will be a BrewDog beer dinner at Crane Alley in the future, which I believe will be attended by James.