Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bourgeois Beer: Brewdog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin

The second installment of Bourgeois Beer comes to us both as a surprise.  I had ventured to my nearby liquor store in search of a good Scotch.  It's been a while since I had Scotch and I felt this situation needed to be remedied.  When I got to the store, however, I was surprised by a sign in the beer aisle that stated "Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismark, we have them.  See the management."  Ok, the name is pretty intriguing, I now want to now what this is all about.

TNP and STB are both freeze distilled "Superbeers" from BrewDog.  For those unfamiliar with the freeze distilling concept, the long and short of it is that an alcoholic beverage is subjected to a very cold temperature and since water freezes at a much higher temperature than alcohol a portion of the water becomes ice.  This ice is removed and the remaining liquid now has a higher concentration of alcohol.  Compared to regular distilling, where alcohol is boiled out of the liquid and the rest is left behind, freeze distilling produces a drink that's a lot more like what you started with.  See the wikipedia article here.

TNP is made by taking Brewdog's Paradox Imperial Stout, aging it for 14 months in the same types of used sherry casks used to mature Scotch whiskey.  It's then freeze distilled up to 64 proof.  Yeah, this stuff makes Utopias look like baby's first bottle.

The bottle was cool when I got it home so I decided to try it cool->warm first.  I used my Utopias glass since I figured $90 beer deserves a glass made for a $200 beer.

The beer pours a dark amber with almost no carbonation, and is very clear.  I take that back, there is no carbonation, the first bubbles were just the result of being poured.  This beer isn't nearly as dark as some others I've seen, but it is just about as thick.

I'm still not entirely sure what I sniffed in that glass can be considered beer.  It immediately tells even potent Rauchbiers that their weaksauce smokey flavor will not be tolerated in the Penguin's house.  The beer smells like black pepper, smoke from a backyard grill, and burnt wood with a solid background of alcohol and chocolate.  I am now prepared.

I wouldn't recommend drinking this too warm as that quickly destroyed whatever semblance of subtlety the flavor was holding on to and really plays up the alcohol flavor, making it obvious you're drinking a 32% ABV beer.  When it was still relatively cool the other flavors were strong enough to mask the alcohol at least a little.  First off, it's smokey as all hell.  It takes a good few seconds for anything besides that overwhelming smoke flavor to present itself.  I guess in this way it has something in common with the Scotch I was looking for but I never like my scotches this smokey.  When it's finally done with that it switches to a flavor I can only describe as smoked kielbasa.  It's thick, still smokey, spicey, and meaty.  I maybe picked up a little over-roasted coffee, but it vanished pretty quickly.  I couldn't get any of the more stout like flavors of nuts or chocolate that the sniff hinted at.  This beer takes you for one helluva ride.  It's almost like Baijiu in that respect.  Also the tendency to remind of meat, although Baijiu gave me more a deli meat...salami or ham character.

In contrast to the wild flavor explosion that is tasting the beer it actually feels pretty flat in your mouth, probably due to the complete lack of carbonation.  If you've ever used cold cream to remove makeup, it's kindof like that. (I was a zombie for Halloween, don't give me that.)  I guess I'd say maybe a very thick version of "silky".  It didn't really feel like my mouth was being coated with it, like most dark beers that are this viscous feel like.  Although the aftertaste did hang around for quite a while, and was very very smokey.

While TNP goes around the superbeer complaint I voiced in my previous Bourgeois Beer on Sam Adams' Utopias, it just ends up being unlike beer or wine and becomes...sausage.  Seriously, folks, it's strange.

(I would note that after I wrote this up I did manage to convince a visiting friend to buy a bottle of Sink the Bismark and let me try some.  I didn't get enough or remember it well enough to write a full Bourgeois Beer on it, but I will say that it deserves its higher BeerAdvocate rating and actually tastes like beer.  In this case it's very close to a Belgian Strong Ale like Duvel, without as much yeasty character.  Actually very good and completely belies its 41% ABV.  It's supposed to be an IPA, but I just didn't get that.)

Drink on!