I still like Brewdog. I may be in two minds about some of their marketing and some of their beers, but they’ve so far all been worth a try. So, when I read on their blog that they were going to have a release event for one of their latest beers in London, putting on the only cask of the otherwise bottled beer and might bring along some interesting other things to have a taste of the date swiftly went in my calendar.
The beer in question was Brewdog Abstrakt:02, part of a ‘range’ of beers with a simple ethos – only one batch of each will be made, once it’s made the recipe will be retired, and each beer will simply be named as Abstrakt: with the next number in sequence. The Abstrakt:01 is a slightly mad 10% abv vanilla infused belgian quadrupel and the #2 is both a more conventional beer and also slightly more scary – a triple dry hopped imperial red ale (more conventional) at 18% (saywhatnow?).
The release event was at the Cask in Pimlico, a pub that I’ve been meaning to visit for a while. Formerly the rather dodgy Pimlico Tram, it’s been taken over and redone as one of the new wave of pubs focusing on good beer that have been popping up in London. Upgrading their gear since the reopening they now have a bar packed with hand pulls and taps, with a constantly changing range of real ales and keg beers. Behind the bar is their latest addition – tall fridges stacked with interesting bottled beer. I suspect they are one of a small number of bars, if not the only one, who have Brewdog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32% and ~£60 a bottle) and Sink the Bismarck (41% and over £70 a go) ready to sell.
While waiting for the Abstrakt to appear, me and drinking buddies Ewan (who was randomly sharing our table until we both realised that we’ve met on a number of occasions) and Alan decided to try out a few of the other beers on the bar:
- Brewdog Hardcore IPA – one that I’ve already written about in bottled form and was disappointed by. After my recent taste of Prototype 27 I had decided to give it another try and I’m quite pleased I did. On tap (and I suspect in other bottles to the one I got) it is a rather nice strong ale – a chunk of sour citrus hops with a big warming malty booziness finishing dry and almost tannic. One that I now need to find in bottle again for further experimentation
- Brewdog The Physics – my memory is awful and my notes for this are non-existent, but the main thing that I remember was that it was nice. Of all the Brewdog beers that I’ve tried this is the one that most tasted like a normal easy drinking session beer, even it was 5%.
- Brewdog 5am Saint – lemony hops and a biscuity body with a floral and citrusy finish. A light and refreshing summery beer and rather pleasant.
- Cliff Quay Black Jack – one that was sitting all on its own at the end of the row of taps and with a simple description of ‘Aniseed Porter’ – those both being things I like I couldn’t really say no. It was quite strange – strongly aniseed on the nose, but less so on the tongue, it tasted more like a creamy aniseed mild, with the beer behind the aniseed being a light porter (contradiction though that may be) with a watery milkiness to it. Surprisingly refreshing but not particularly full bodied.
At this point a bell was rung and Brewdog’s sales guy, Richard McLellan, strode amongst the throng delivering an occasionally drowned out tribute to the glory of their beer. Then the scrum faced the bar and drove… The crowd did move quite slowly at first, as even though it was being sold in third pints the beer had decided that it liked being head rather than liquid, and a chain of jugs and spoons for flicking off the foam was quickly formed. At £3 a third it was far from being cheap, but it was a) the only keg of the beer in existence and b) 18%, so I forgave them.
The Abstrakt is a deep red/brown beer which (as the pouring misery demonstrates) popped up with a good head to start, which quickly faded in the glass. On the nose there was lots of orangey citrus with an undercurrent of slightly stale hoppiness. To taste the alcohol came through quite quickly, fading to a bitter citrus hop finish. There were hints of vanilla at the back of the mouth and the citrus of the hops was joined by a berry fruitiness in the centre. However, in the end I found it a little unbalanced towards the bitterness of the hops. They recommended that Ab:01 be cellared for 1-2 years and I wonder if that could be a good thing for this one as well – a bit of rounding of the bitterness as well as bringing out more of the orange and vanilla could balance this a lot more for my taste.
Shortly after this a tray started making its way around the pub, containing small tumblers with a shot of a slightly murky brown liquid in, the second reason I had come down – a taste of Sink the Bismarck. The beer was created as part of a mini-war between Brewdog and German brewer Schorschbräu, which started with Brewdog pushing the 31% Schorschbock into being the second strongest beer in the world with their 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin. The germans came back with a 40% version of their beer, only to have the Scots go one stage further with both the 41% Sink the Bismarck and a bit of Brewdog style marketing:
It seems that Schorschbräu have fought back with last month’s 43% version of the Schorschbock (complete with ‘rising to the bait’ tagline of ’cause Frankonian Men don’t dress like girls’) so we shall see what Brewdog come back with.
The Bismarck is a many times hopped beer which is chilled in an icecream factory before having the ice removed and the process repeated a number of times. This is more of a freeze concentration than a freeze distilling, removing all of the warmer freezing elements in the beer and leaving something that is not entirely unlike beer cordial. On the nose it was quite powerful, with lots of booze, as you’d expect, a touch of hops and some (butch) floweriness. To taste it was a bit of a punch to the face, with a burst of malty fruit and icing sugar fluffy sweetness fading through sour berries to a warming, malty bitter finish with a hint of wood smoke and orangey hop. It’s one that definitely has to be sipped and it’s really not a whisky – the whisky distillation process takes out most of the flavour compounds that are deliberately left in here, creating almost an anti-whisky in approach and flavour. I have a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin at home and, impressive at it is, I don’t think I need one of these as well (although if the Penguin doesn’t live up to expectation I may have to visit the Brewdog shop and lay down a scary amount of money for a bottle).
Alan and I ended the evening on a half of the Hardcore IPA, a fitting end to eject us, slightly swaying, into the street. As usual Brewdog’s beers are a bit hit and miss for me, but both they and the Cask require further investigation.
18% Triple Dry Hopped Imperial Red Ale
Available from beer specialists and the Abstrakt website
~£10 per 375ml bottle, 3200 bottles available
Brewdog Sink the Bismarck
41% Kettle hopped, dry hopped, freeze hopped IPA
Available from beer specialists and Brewdog’s website
£40 per 330ml bottle, brewed in small batches so not always available immediately.