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Taking on the Big Beers of BrewDog

After working 11 days straight I was given a four day weekend from Thursday through Sunday.  For the most part I stayed non-existent.  I cleaned the house, caught up with some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, went grocery shopping and had a few beers.  And truly I mean that I only had a few beers, well that is until Sunday afternoon.

To call this an epic tasting simply would do it no justice.  How about we come up with a new word for moments like this?  I’m going to go with brewtastical.  Yeah that sounds just right.  Phil and Kelly of Dos Beerigos opened there house, and parts of their refrigerator, to a group of us for this tasting.  Included were Ed Roberts from Total Wine in Ft. Lauderdale who has become mister beer news for us in South Florida with new releases.  Tony Kirkish, a new comer to South Florida but by no means a new comer to craft beer.  He hails from San Diego where there is many a great craft brewers.  Brian Torres and Vanessa Heine, collectively known as Brinessa, graced us with their presence as well.  Brian works at the Total Wine in Boca Raton while Vanessa writes an awesome blog about cooking with beer.  Lastly was Tom Barris who you might remember from such festivals as Brew at the Zoo and NewTimes Beerfest.  Okay so you now know the players involved.

Everyone brought beers to share but unfortunately (or fortunately for our livers) we did not get to them all.  A lineup that included such big names as Dark Lord 2010, AleSmith Speedway Stout, Ballast Point Sea Monster and Bell’s HopSlam was over shadowed by two elephants in the room.  Well actually one of the elephants was a penguin.

Tony was nice enough to bring his bottles of BrewDog’s two extreme beers, the 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin and the 41% Sink the Bismarck.  None of us had any clue really what to expect.  We have all had Sam Adams Utopias before and reviews between are mixed on our thoughts on it.  Some of us do not even like calling it beer, myself included, but more on that later.

Beware the Penguin

We decided to end on these two bottles, as if that really needed to be implied, and started off with the beer that shocked the world in November 2009.  Donned in penguin suits, the boys over at Scotland’s BrewDog unveiled Tactical Nuclear Penguin as the biggest beer in the world at that time.  It was a big imperial stout that was then eisbocked three separate times to get it to the bold 32% ABV.

It was filled almost to the top of the bottle but next to no carbonation at all pretty much prevented this from having any problems with shipping or opening.  It was then placed in a paper bag that has a hand drawn penguin and the 32% remark adorning it.  When poured into a glass it came out a brownish red color and not the typical black you see from an imperial stout.  I’m no eisbocking guru but I’m assuming the freezing removed a lot of the color of the stout when the water was froze off.

I dared place my nose into the glass to take my first smell and I was upper cut in the nose and down.  But like a fighter I was able to recover and get back into this fight with just minor damage to my sense of smell.  Oddly enough I was not the only one that was hesitant to actually go right into this assault.  Everyone else was swirling theirs around in their glasses and still slowly smelling it.  Well Brian and I decided it was time to accept our fates and take this angry penguin on.  We toasted our glasses and took a sip.

You know that face a lot of you make when you have some really strong shot or drink?  You know the one.  Your eyes close, your mouth gets small but remains open and and your cheek bones rise.  Yeah well that’s what I did.  I wish someone would have gotten a picture of that.  Well maybe not.  The alcohol taste is that intense and it sticks with you throughout the taste and lingers around quite a bit afterward.  There is a smokiness to it along with a caramel and soy like sweetness.  The consistency is a lot like soy sauce.  The alcohol is warming and so very strong.

In the end I would say the penguin defeated me via submission due to alcohol choke.  I’m glad I got to try this but it’s not my thing.  I’ve said before how I don’t care much for most bourbon aged beers so you know my taste for liquor is next to nothing.  This just comes across as a liquor to me or that hybrid notion I spoke of earlier.

Ze Germans will not like this

So after many glasses of water it was time for the main event.  Sink the Bismarck was brought into the beer world by BrewDog in February of 2010 to defeat the “evil” Germans that had defeated TNP for the strongest beer in the world.  Sink is a 41% quadruple IPA that also does have some freezing done to it as well.

I was looking a little more forward to this one as it is an IPA of sorts.  So I’m thinking that the hops should be really in your face and maybe even out the alcohol burn a bit.  Oh how naive I was.

Sink comes in a similar brown paper bag but this one only has a simple 41% hand written on it.  Simple and to the point.  They don’t need any scare tactics other than that to get your shaking in your boots.  We popped the top and this one too was filled almost completely to the top but there were no problems.  We all smelt the cap of the beer and were amazed by how it smelt just like opening a bag of hop pellets.  Fresh and resiny.

It poured into a glass in a similar color and fashion as TNP with a brownish red color and no head at all.  I was now thinking I was going to be in a match with my previous opponent’s twin brother.  This outcome was not looking good in my favor.

The smell of the brew itself was quite different from that of the inside of the cap.  This time I received a good ol’ one-two to the nose from the hops and alcohol.  I really need to learn to keep my hands up.  This time not only was the alcohol smell strong but it burnt my nostrils.  Yes you pick up this hoppy aroma but it is just pushed out of the way by the booze.  I returned to my feet and again I took some time to study my foe to determine how to attack it.  This time I just went head on.

In the immortal words of Ralph Wiggum, “It tastes like burning.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  My mouth was absolutely angry at me at this point.  The mixture of a citrus hopped A Bomb mixed with the intense alcohol was numbing.  I could literally feel the alcohol burn in my nose again my entire mouth warmed up so quickly that I honestly thought something was wrong with me.  I finished the sample then tapped out.

So in my battle against BrewDog’s two gigantic beers I ended up 0-2 in my battles.  Now I will absolutely give credit where it is due and say that BrewDog set out to make two extreme alcoholic beverages and they did exactly that.  I commend them for that.  I also loved the hilarious videos they made with the release of each of the two brews as well.  These just aren’t my thing.  I am not a devote liquor drinker.  I am not even a casual liquor drinker.  I enjoy a nice gin and tonic a couple times a year but that’s it.  These two are just too boozy for me and this is where the debate among us occurred on whether these are beers.  While yes they do include beer ingredients it is just so hard to call it beer without carbonation to me.

But I’m just a guy with an opinion, that’s why I have a blog.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions and it is fun to debate these things.  I just don’t want anyone to think I’m getting down on BrewDog because I’m not.  I think they are awesome and great for the craft beer community.  I really enjoyed Paradox, Punk and Hardcore from them.  So if you are a big fan of BrewDog or you work for BrewDog and are reading this (thank by the way), I love BrewDog.  These beers were just not my thing.  And me not having these anymore will just free some up for those that will truly enjoy it.

Again thanks to Tony for sharing these.  I am very glad I at least got to try them.  Thanks to Phil and Kelly for opening their home to us.  And thanks to Ed, Brian, Vanessa and Tom for joining in on the fun.  It was a great time and one I will always remember.  My tongue is scarred for life.

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  • Reply Phil (Ferm)

    Great Times, Great People, and Great Beers…..

    May 3, 2010 at 11:11 am
  • Reply Kelly

    I really enjoyed reading your reviews. Good job! It was definitely an experience to remember forever. See you tonight at Coffee District for Round 2- get it? lol

    May 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm
  • Reply Michael Reinhardt

    I’ve got both of these waiting in the wings and I hope to be able to add to the discussion. In regard to the color of the beer, I’ve eisbocked for several weeks and not lost the color of the brew. I personally think that Brewdog just brews fairly light colored stout. Tokio is a good example of the lighter approach. It’s still cool that you got to try the brews.

    May 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm
  • Reply Mike

    Thanks for the info Mike. I actually meant to mention your beer that you made by eisbocking but it slipped my mind. I really want to try Tokyo though as I enjoyed Paradox.

    May 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm
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