Bass. Newcastle. Carling. The Brit brews that most Americans would probably consider exotic stack up to a pile of mainstream shite, according to the gents up at Scotland’s largest craft brewery – BrewDog. We won’t even ask what they think of Bud, Coors and Miller.
If you can get past the upturned noses and punk posturing so heavy handed it sounds like things overhead at a Hot Topic (“We are unique and individual. A beacon of non-conformity in an increasingly monotone corporate desert.”), the anarchistic Scotsmen actually make a solid brew.
Most recently, they turned heads with The End of History, the strongest beer in the world at 55 percent alcohol by volume – higher than most off-the-shelf whiskies and packaged in a taxidermied squirrel to boot. While they sold out before we could snag a bottle, the company graciously sent a 12-pack across the Atlantic for our sampling.
Maybe it was a good thing we never laid tongues on The End of History. Curmudgeons that we are, most of our favorites from the alcoholic rainbow came from the lighter side of the spectrum. Relatively, at least. At 9.2-percent alcohol, Hardcore IPA comes on strong with a punch in the face of hops, but finishes surprisingly clean and refreshing – maybe even a little bit sweet. The 4.9-percent 77 Lager comes on with less of bite, but strikes a much bolder, earthier flavor than the bland, lawn-mower pilsners we’re used to.
Then we broke into the hard stuff. Paradox Smokehead, which is aged in whisky casks from Smokehead distillery, tasted like smoked salmon juice, wrung out through a dirty sock, and fermented. The version of Paradox that uses casks from Isle of Arran goes a little easier on the campfire taste, but 18.2-percent Tokyo “intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout” had us reaching for the spit bucket with a sugary licorice taste and cough medicine finish – the only beer in the batch we couldn’t bring ourselves to finish.
Our verdict: Trashy Blonde, 77 Lager, Hardcore IPA and 5 a.m. Saint all get an enthusiastic thumbs up. The double-digit novelties, we regard with the same skepticism as the guy who uses a unicycle as his main form of transportation in the city: Would you really ride that thing around if no one were around to see you on it and gawk?