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Archive for the ‘Country: Scotland’ Category

Sink the Bismarck!

June 10th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

I’m about as tired of the “Most Alcoholic Beer on Planet Earth” arms race as I am with the existential nerd debates over “What IS beer?”*  Sure, BrewDog’s 41% Sink the Bismarck! is a gimmick, but, surprisingly, it’s a damn fine one at that.

There’s nothing wrong with gimmicks–in all facets of life and art.  They often act as envelope pushers to enable the way for more “legitimate” enterprise.  Like the skanky strippers who gets Triple-D breast implants paving the way for the girls next door to get more reasonable and socially acceptable Cs.  However, sometimes, these gimmicks are damn fine in and of themselves.  Such was the case with this bad boy.

Sink the Bismarck! is shockingly considered a double IPA and, what is even more shocking is that it truly is one.  This is no boozy near-liquor mess, this is actually a beer with all the beer check boxes in place and checked off.  It smells boozy sure, so boozy in fact it singes your nose hairs (better clip ‘em before you sniff this one); but it also has a nice bitter hop presence wafting through.  And what’s even more amazing is that the beer is actually carbonated.  A very fizzy carbonation, in fact, totally indicitive of style.

It’s super alcoholic sure, and it necessitated my first career all-male sixsome with the 11.2 ounces (priced at about $7 per ounce–YOW!) to put the bottle down.  Two ounces per dude was more than enough and we probably could have split it eight ways.**  There’s no other beer in the world like this.  It’s so strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but is bitter.  So strange to drink something that tastes like liquor but has a tingly carbonation.  It’s not something your mouth is used to.***  The bitter hops taste comes through quite strong and this is amazingly neither a thick nor too sweet of beer, like most high ABVers are.  It’s a sipper, it might even make you cough, but it’s clearly a jet-fueled DIPA and a damn tasty one at that.

Comparisons will most frequently cite Sam Adams Utopias (a masterpiece in and of itself but far too flat and liqueur-ish to compare) or the similarly alcoholic DIPA Dogfish Head 120 Minute (amazingly MORE malty sweet and LESS carbonated than this one, even at half the ABV) but both are way off base.  As for me, the only similar thing I’ve ever imbibed to Sink the Bismarck! is a friend’s home-distilled hop liquor, which of course differed in that it wasn’t carbonated.  I haven’t exactly been floored by any of Brewdog’s “normal” ABVed stuff, but they are just killing it with the high octane brews.  Buy a bottle or buy a “share” of a bottle if you can.  You won’t regret it****.


*Still, I suppose that’s better than them wondering what beer and pizza to serve a new Belgian neighbor.  (My suggestion:  Bud Light Chelada and skip the pizza, bring over a pasta bread bowl from Domino’s.)

**Ironically, while having a sixsome with this bottle of beer on the rooftop of Chicago’s swank Palomar Hotel during a friend’s bachelor party, nearby, countless sinewy homosexual lasses in tiny boy shorts seemed to be foreplaying their way to some gang sex in the pool.  It just so happened to be International Mr. Leather weekend in town.

***Apropos of the previous footnote, I won’t make any gagging jokes.

****And a few sips will make you forget the foreplay to gang sex you saw in the Palomar’s hotel swimming pool.


March 4th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Country: Scotland, Grade: A plus, Grade: B plus, Style: Stout

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 worldtitle 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?

Stone Collaborations

November 13th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | No Comments | Filed in Brewer: BrewDog, Brewer: Cambridge, Brewer: Ken Schmidt, Brewer: Maui, Brewer: Stone, Country: America, Country: Scotland, Grade: A-, Grade: A-/B+, Style: Pilsner, Style: Porter

Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter

8.5% ABV bottled

Like corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, macadamia nuts are one of those foods us Jews innately like for some reason.  But, unlike corned beef, chopped liver, lox, and gefilte fish, which you gentiles often don’t quite have a taste for, all human beings love macadamia nuts, arguably the world’s best nut.  Thus, I was quite excited for the first beer, I’m aware of, to be made using luxurious macadamia nuts.  As Morty Seinfeld once said, “They’re like 80 cents a nut!”  I’d really enjoyed the previous Stone collaboration beers I’d had–their Special Holiday Ale with Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin and their Belgian Triple with Mikkeller and Alesmith–and luckily The Drunken Polack was able to secure me a bottle of this treat too!  This beer is cool in that one of the collaborators is a home brewer, the aforementioned Ken Schmidt, who won a contest Stone put on, crafting a beer so good the big boys from San Diego decided to try and recreate it on a larger scale.  This porter–as mentioned earlier this week, a “new” favorite style of mine–is getting near universal acclaim, but I wasn’t quite as floored as the masses.  And, I’ll readily admit, that’s probably due to my expectations.  What with its massively long name, essentially listing all the ingredients at once, I assumed the most prominent flavors would be of macadamia nuts and sweet coconut.  So, when I got a beer that was actually prominently focused on the Kona coffee, I was confused at first.  Eventually, being a big fan of coffee beers though, I grew to really enjoy this one.  This is very much a roasted, dark and rich beer ala Peche Mortel.  Not a hair of sweetness.  Really got only the slightest hint of slick sweet coconut and macadamia nuts on the finish, but maybe those with niftier pallates can extract those flavors better than I can.  Nonetheless, another great one from Stone.


Juxtaposition Black Pilsner

10% ABV bottled

Better and more succinctly named than the previous Stone collab, but equally hard to photograph with a non-label label I’m still not sure whether I like or not–major pain in the ass to have to get your magnifying glass out to figure out which of the collaborations you actually have–this was another beer sent to me by Drunken Polack.  A Stone completist, I absolutely needed to try this joint offering with BrewDog and Cambridge, but I actually wasn’t that excited for it.  A pilsner?  Bleh.  I was so wrong though, this was quite delicious.  After you get over the fact that you’re tasting an incredibly hoppy dark beer, you can see Juxtaposition for it brilliance.  Floral and piney on the smell, some added roastiness on the taste, shockingly drinkable for the ABV.  This isn’t quite the iconoclastic beer Stone seems to think it is–aside from the coloring–but it’s awesome nonetheless.  I wish I had more bottles of it.


Keep the collaborations comin’!