18.2% ABV on tap
I’d pretty much avoided BrewDog ever since their inception, assuming they were just some gimmicky Scottish brewery more obsessed with constantly holding claim to the “most alcoholic beer in the world” title above actually crafting great stuff. Plus, their few bottles were prohibitively expensive around me and they didn’t really get that great of reviews on Beer Advocate. I couldn’t help noticing that my beloved Stone seemed to have a little international crush on BrewDog though, and the two collaborations they’d done together–Juxtaposition black pilsner and Bashah–had been quite good on tap, I just never cultivated any real interest for BrewDog offerings.
That all changed on a recent trip to DC where I made my first visit to Churchkey, one of the east coast’s finest new beer bars. The manly 18.2% imperial stout stuck out like a sore thumb on the menu and, with Churchkey selling beers in as small as four ounce pours, I figured, “What the fuck?”
I was blown away.
Tokyo* (the asterisk is important) is flat-out one of the best, most unique stouts I’ve ever had. This bad boy is not for sissies. It makes Bourbon County Stout seem as mild as keg beer at a frat party. Brewed with jasmine and cranberries added in the kettle, dry-hopped after fermentation, and aged for a few weeks on toasted vanilla oak chips, this beer is shockingly complex, flavorful, and sweet. It’s remarkable that all the flavors I mentioned above actually come through, mixing flawlessly together. It’s boozy sure, but not the kind of booziness that overwhelms that flavor into one hot mess.
Then again, four ounces was more than enough for me. For one night. Confused by lackluster ratings on Beer Advocate, a bit curious whether the few strong ales I’d had at the hotel before tippling Tokyo* had given me a screwy palate, I returned to Churchkey the next night for another four ounces. Marvelous yet again. Maybe even more so. I have no fucking clue what these other online reviewers are thinking. I really want to get a bottle of this, shit, I now really really want to try Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck. I no longer think these Scottish boys are gimmickmeisters, I’m absolutely certain they are true beer artisans.
Also at Churchkey, I was able to sample BrewDog’s Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016). A 10% stout aged for six months in Single Malt barrels, this one sounded promising–there are so few beers aged in Scotch barrels as opposed to bourbon, at least that make it to the States–but this one didn’t quite stack up for me. It was flavorful, smokey and roasted, a little earthy and boozy, but ultimately too thin for my liking. Then again, maple syrup would taste thin after having some glorious Tokyo*.
As a new BrewDog enthusiast, what are their must-try brews I need to seek out?