It’s not a revelation to anyone who’s visited my house that I have a thing about some of BrewDog’s beers. If you are a long-term reader of this blog (hi mum!), you will probably realise this too, even if in more recent times I’ve not said much about them. Unfortunately this is a sign of their success, as they’ve become more ubiquitous and part of the establishment – the kind of thing that new-thing-loving bloggers like myself drink more than write about. However, they recently sent me a bottle of beer, so it’d be rude not to say a word or two about it, especially as I’ve already picked up a couple of bottles of it for my stash. The beer in question: Paradox Compass Box.
I like to think that I’m a dutiful friend. I am often asked to help people move house and I’m now very good at coming up with convincing excuses as to why I’m unable to assist. But try as I might I couldn’t come up with a reason not to help out Jason of Whisky Squad fame when he invited me along to his carefully named ‘Beer Amnesty’ to help reduce the number of bottles he’d need to take to his new place when he moves shortly.
I arrived at the field of battle with a couple of donations of my own and was rather alarmed to see a neatly fanned out arc of beer, carefully arranged in alcoholic-ness order. The alarm was not due the neatness of arrangement or anything so simple, but more due to the middle beer clocking in at around 7%. Glasses were obtained, snacks were put within in easy grabbing distance and battle was joined. My notes are non-existant other than the names of the beers, so here’s a list along with what I remember:
- Coopers Vintage Ale – Jason started us with a beer from his motherland, Australia. The vintage ale has a bit more to it than the regular Coopers Pale, which is a nice light ale, with a chunk of ‘leave me to mature a bit’ maltiness and a nice chunk of fizz. A good start.
- Brewdog Zeitgeist – a black lager that has more in common with a mild than Asahi black. Good and malty with a light fizz.
- Loddon Hullabaloo – the first of several that didn’t quite stick in my brain…
- Brewdog Chaos Theory – I assume this was a stepping stone on the way to the Hardcore IPA, with less hops (but still quite a lot) and more rich maltiness adding up to a rather tasty beer. I still have a couple of these in the cupboard waiting for a rainy day – it didn’t set the world alight but I will be looking forward to drinking them.
- Kernel White Ale? – I’ve tried it before and was rather pleased to have it again. It’s still a cloudy mix of wheat beer and ale with some nice citrus. I need to visit the brewery again soon to stock up.
- Hook Norton 12 Days – The HN Christmas ale and one I tried at The Strongrooms after work recently. It’s got a lot of fruitiness to it (fruit gums and other fruity jelly sweets?) and a nice rich back that holds off from being a full on Christmas ale.
- London Brewers Alliance Porter – I’ve opened one of my bottles of this and this one went the same: explode. It’s rather lively and we lost a chunk of the bottle as it tried to escape across the table (Dave took a more paranoid approach to opening his next beer, as the photo shows). However, the bits we did get in a glass were rather good – coffee and chocolate without too much sweetness.
- Brewdog Prototype 27 – one of my donations. It’s definitely changed a little since I opened my first one, with less hops and much more sour fruit coming through. I wasn’t too keen, but it went down well with everyone else.
- Monkman’s Slaughter – no memory of this one at all. I think it was one of the few that could mainly be described as ‘beery’.
- Dark Island Reserve 2010 – the next year’s edition of my Christmas beer and still rather excellent. Big with coffee, dark chocolate, red fruit and rich maltiness. I think I liked my one better after a year of aging, but I’ve no clue if that’s just the batch or the time in the bottle. Even though it seems to have gone up to close to £10 for a 330ml bottle I think I might try and find out.
- Brewdog Tokyo (12%) – one of the three Tokyo’s Jason brought and the only one we opened (the others accompanying him home at the end for reasons of palate fatigue). Unfortunately I don’t remember much about it, which is annoying as it’s the only one I’ve tried. Brewdog do seem to have stock in again, so hopefully I’ll grab one for myself soon.
- Kernel IPA Citra – I’ve had the Simcoe IPA but this one blew it away – rounded flowery hops with a touch of lemony citrus combined with the usual excellence of the Kernel IPA. Another one for the shopping list.
- Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore You – another donation from me and one that I rather annoyingly missed out on buying again recently when they made a second batch. Big and fruity with ridiculous amounts of hops, yet worryingly easy to drink until you fall over.
- Aventinus Eisbock – strong and concentrated by freeze distilling (the process that Brewdog took a bit further when competing with Schorschbräu) this was a bit treacly in the glass with a very concentrated sweet beer flavour. Not my favourite.
- X33 – brought back from Prague this was a scary thing. My memory was slightly going by this point but I mainly remember the fear.
- Kernel Imperial Stout – Thick, dark, chocolatey – this was the LBA Porter with nobs on. I’m going to need a wheely bag when I next get to the Kernel brewery…
- London Pride – I reckon this one had been in the bottle too long. Musty and prickly in a way that didn’t inspire enjoyment. While some of Fullers’s beers age well, Pride doesn’t. Which doesn’t matter as bottles of it don’t last long in my house anyway.
- Brewdog Paradox Speyside – a whisky barrel aged dark ale that I rather like, although I’ve not tried the one matured in speyside casks – I’m not sure if they change the beer recipe, but every one I’ve tried has had a different flavour. This one had some nice fruit and a touch of whisky flavour that the other ones didn’t. I’d suspect that some of the whisky had been left in the barrel before filling but a) the excise man doesn’t like that and b) the Brewdog guys would have decanted it into their hipflasks before filling the casks.
- Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16 – similar to the Paradox, this is Old Engine Oil matured in Highland Park casks that had previously held 16 year old whisky. I’ve written about it before but having come back to it I rather enjoyed it. Being able to taste the difference between the base beer (which I’ve found a few times since I first tried the Ola Dubh) and this has been very useful as it shows the rounding effect of the wood and the various sweet and savoury notes it adds. I’m still not sure that the price differential from 12 year old to 40 year old maturing cask is worth it…
- Kernel London Porter – I tried this a few days earlier as the SMWS rooms in London now stock Kernel beer. It’s along the same lines as the Imperial Stout but with the sweetness dialled back a few notches. Dry and dark, much niceness.
- Yorkshire Warrior and Yorkshire Moors – beery. Not bad, but didn’t stick in the mind.
- Kernel Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale – shockingly this one also didn’t stick in my mind other than really liking it. Definitely one for me to find and try again.
- Meantime Lager – with the room starting to flag we decided to move onto something lighter and this fit the bill perfectly as well as running us out of beers that weren’t hidden away to fight another day. It was light and had a definite taste of grain and hops, rather than the often found lack of anything interesting in a yellow fizzy beer. I can see why it was used in the most recent Hugh Dennis/Oz Clark road trip to insanity program to prove that lager doesn’t need to be boring.
That was 24 beers, so we decided to round things off with another Coopers Vintage while we digested pork scratchings, considered toasted cheese sandwiches and generally cogitated. If anyone else needs help reducing beverage collections to help with house moving, please let me know – I can always make room in my schedule.
Jason has also written up the various shenanigans over on his own blog.
In my previous post I declared ‘whisky deluge #2’, however a weekend of not drinking after a week that included an embargoed whisky tasting writeup (so as to keep the blind tasting bottles secret for the next few sessions) mean that the deluge has been cancelled. For now.
Christmas is traditionally a time of over indulgence and I am far from being someone who wants to buck tradition (any excuse). There may have been turkey, pies, bologneses and casseroles over the festive period, but much more importantly there has been booze. Here’s what I’ve been drinking:
My friend Mr Utobeer came through for me again, after an unplanned drop-in while wandering around Borough Market with Mondoagogo a few days before Christmas, and added to my bottle of Orkney Dark Island Special Reserve (left until after Christmas so as to be shared with people who love nice beer more than my family). Other than some bottles grabbed as a present for someone (as my order from Brewdog hasn’t been sent yet as they haven’t yet brewed one part of it – a bottle of the second batch of Tactical Nuclear Penguin) I also grabbed, and have since drunk:
Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 40 Reserve: I tried the 16 a few weeks back and discovered at the same time that they now did a beer matured in a 30 year old Highland Park cask. Then I went to the SMWS last week and was informed that they also do a 40, which they had a couple of bottles of at obscene prices. Then I found one at Utobeer for the scary price of £7.60. The verdict – much like with the 16 year old it wasn’t all that impressive. It was a marked difference from the younger barrelled beers, with more of a woody whiskiness than before, but still not worth the cost in my opinion. A really nice heavy dark beer still.
Brewdog Paradox: Isle of Arran: They may not have sent me my beer yet, but I still like the Brewdog chaps. And their beer. This, to continue a theme, is another whisky cask matured beer (Innis & Gunn have a lot to answer for) and one that I’ve tried before. I rather like the Arran distillery, producing some of my favourite SMWS whiskies as they have, and I really liked my last bottle of this that I tried. This one was slightly disappointing – not so influenced by the wood as the last one, but still a really good dark ale with more fruit and less vanilla than the Ola Dubh.
My Mate Nick’s Homebrew: Mr Martin, cow-orker and ginger bearded buddy extraordinaire, has recently started brewing and after discussing what he was doing to make his beer presented me with one of his first batch of bottles. I left it to settle for a while and then cracked it open on Christmas Eve. It was rather lively, needing several glasses to pour out into without overflowing with meringue-like head, and in true bottle conditioned fashion was quite sedimenty at the bottom, requiring some care in the pouring. It was very very dark and quite sweet – a definite hint of black treacle without quite so much of its burnt taste. I suffered none of the ill effects that homebrew is famed for and I also rather enjoyed it. The fluffiness and sweetness suggests that maybe it was bottled a bit early but it wasn’t the worse for it. I look forward to brew number 2. Hopefully I’ll get some more…please?
Realising a few days before Christmas that you have visiting wine loving parents and no suitable bottles on the shelf was a mild concern, as I’m a very lazy man who doesn’t like carrying things back from the supermarket. The nice folks at Naked Wines jumped in to save me with guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery if I ordered by 5pm the day before – I ordered at 4:45. The next afternoon the slightly harassed looking delivery man turned up, dumped my wine and ran away quickly – I think there were a few people who had the same idea as me. Anyways, combined with a few bottles contributed by my visitors I definitely have enough wine now, although still only 3 spare slots on the wine rack.
Milani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Naked Wine, Italy): My first out of the box and grabbed to match a spaghetti bolognese. I quite like Montepulciano and this was slightly disappointing – quite rough, although it did soften as it aired, without as much fruit as I hoped. However, a couple of glasses went in to the bolognese sauce and the rest of it went down quite nicely with dinner.
Vicien Syrah 2007 (Naked Wine, Argentina): Rolled into service when the first bottle from my case ran out prematurely, this was really quite good. A nice full Syrah with a good amount of fruit that got better as it breathed. I stoppered it and finished it the next day and it was still very drinkable.
Howcroft Estate Limestone Coast Merlot 2006 (Tesco, Australia): Grabbed from my step-dad’s wine rack due to the word ‘turkey’ being in the ‘goes with’ list on the back, this was a nice light Merlot, full enough to battle with the dark turkey meat as well as not being too strong as to drown out the (admittedly dry) white meat.
Hardy’s Varietal Range Shiraz 2008 (Sainsbury?, Australia): Another donation from the visitors, this one isn’t quite done yet, opened to provide some lubrication for dinner part 2 – the christmas pud (delayed until evening to allow some digestion of lunch to occur). It definitely needed some time to breathe, having a harsh edge, but it quickly softened (especially when poured through my newly acquired wine aerater [thankyou Dave’nLet] which worked much better than we had imagined) and was a nice, spicy, fruity wine, complimenting the pud better than expected.
I’ve had a Christmas uncharacteristically light on whisky, despite a trip to Milroy’s a couple of days beforehand. I stopped by to try and pick up a bottle of rye to make the Manhattans that my mum had demanded via SMS (she had already bought cocktail cherries specially) and found that they were out of everything but a £180 per bottle Rittenhouse. I turned that down and got upsold when I tried to buy a 70cl bottle of Buffalo Trace, coming away with a 1.75l bottle (with free julep cup). I also grabbed a bottle of 15 year old Glencadam, having liked the SMWS bottling I picked up a couple of weeks back. The Trace is a solid bourbon, smooth enough to go either in cocktails or be drunk on the rocks (something that I’ve done a bit too much of since picking it up). The Glencadam is interesting – similar to the production Arran whisky in a way that I didn’t expect, with a fizzy icing sugar start, but also with a thick wedge of rubbery niceness running through the middle. It seems that I subconsciously do know my taste in whisky and Arran and Glencadam slot into it.
I used Glenfiddich instead of brandy to ignite the Christmas pud – the fact that I consider Glenfiddich to be cooking whisky when not too long ago it was one of the best whiskies that you could expect someone to have on their shelf has been commented on. It is cooking whisky…
Anyways, a vaguely restrained christmas that should continue to be restrained through new year – I’m on call on New Year’s Eve and don’t feel like lugging multiple bottles of whisky down to Shoreham-by-Sea (where I’m going for a party), but I’m sure someone else will look after my boozey needs…