The boilermaker. An annoying name for a tradition as old as modern whisky – drinking it alongside a beer. With BrewDog having expanded into spirit-making and continuing to grow its bar estate, it was only a matter of time before it got in on the action. While this isn’t the first time they’ve done whisky and beer stuff, it’s certainly the most concerted effort – three whiskies, from three producers, each matched with a BrewDog beer. I’m not a big fan of two of the three, but the third I’m quite partial to: Compass Box Transistor paired with Punk IPA.
While the traditional boilermaker wasn’t something that was thought about enough to find a complementary beer and whisky match, we’re now in a flavour-obsessed future and it’s all about the pairing.
BrewDog has worked with boutique blender Compass Box, Scottish independent bottler Duncan Taylor and Dutch distiller Zuidam to produce three whiskies, each of which pairs up with one of the brewer’s headline beers:
- Compass Box Transistor with Punk IPAIf you wan
- Zuidam Torpedoed Tulip (a spicy rye whiskey – one of Zuidam’s specialities) with Dead Pony Club pale ale.
- Duncan Taylor Skeleton Key (a smoky blended malt) with Jet Black Heart stout.
When they came out, I headed down to my local BrewDog to try them, and was fairly unimpressed with the Zuidam and Duncan Taylor whiskies – they both worked quite well with the beers, amplifying and contrasting flavours in appropriate fashion – but the drams themselves didn’t really hold up. Transistor, however, was a different matter.
Compass Box Transistor X BrewDog Punk IPA
Nose: Butterscotch and vanilla toffee, and a touch of spiced apple ready to go in an apple pie – an uncooked Granny Smith, sliced and dusted with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. A hint of candied lemon leads into fruit jellies and sultanas. Shortbread and brown butter develop.
Palate: Slightly thin with a lot of vanilla to start. Gets richer, with butter, almonds, butterscotch and sharp-but-thick apple sauce. Candied peel and fruity jelly appears with cream and some gently tingly spice. A touch of dry oakiness sits right at the back.
Finish: Almonds and spice – cinnamon nut brittle.
Punk IPA then Transistor: the Punk emphasises the candied fruit and creamy elements of the whisky.
Transistor then Punk IPA: the whisky kills the fruitiness of the Punk and most of its interest. Chase the beer with the whisky, not the other way around.
As a long-running Compass Box fanboy – my proper first post, almost 10 years ago, was about Compass Box Hedonism – I’ve been slightly disappointed by some of its most recent releases. However, Transistor is very much a straight down the line CB blend, invoking the things that made me like Great King Street and its variants, while also fulfilling the boilermaker brief.
It also looks really pretty…
I don’t think it has quite the tropical fruit character that Compass Box boast of in the official tasting notes, but it is run through with fruit in the way that I seem to demand from whisky these days. It also doesn’t shy away from first-fill bourbon cask vanilla and spice – the tell-tale signs of modern whisky, which this most definitely is.
Transistor is now my go-to dram in BrewDog bars. I don’t often stray from their beer offering, but as they do a £5 deal for a schooner of Punk with a dram on the side, I am occasionally tempted.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a BrewDog shareholder and get a discount in BD bars. I suspect the company is never going to pay a dividend, so you may drink its beer safe in the knowledge that you will not be affecting my material circumstances.