Last month, as Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, here in the old country, well Scotland in particular, the Scots were commemorating their patron saint. As, earlier this year, I championed the patron saints of both Ireland (St Patrick – March 17th) and England (St George – April 23rd), I figured that I should review a Scottish beer to celebrate their patron saint (St Andrew – November 30th).
And I have a beer that is ideal for this occasion – from the Brewdog Brewery; over the last year or two Brewdog have, perhaps more than any other British brewery, been pushing the envelope with exotic brews and ingredients, and from the selection I recently purchased online from the brewery I have selected their limited edition ‘Tokyo’ stout.
Brewdog usually brew their ‘Tokyo’ stout to a more than respectable 12.9% ABV, but this particular brew is a limited edition, brewed to a scary 18.2% ABV that, as I mentioned in my recent rant, led the British Liver Trust to suggest that “If a woman were to drink a (330ml) bottle she would be technically binge drinking.”
I digress, this edition of Tokyo Stout claims to be the strongest beer brewed in the United Kingdom, and while it falls far short of Sam Adams ‘Utopia’ at 25%, it is considerably more affordable at a price of £6.99 (about USD $11.50) for a 330ml bottle. To the best of my knowledge the previous strongest British beer was ‘Roger and Out’ brewed at the ‘Frog and Parrot’ brewpub in Sheffield, originally brewed to 16.5% now brewed elsewhere to about 12%.
Of course we’re talking top fermented ales here, to my knowledge the strongest bottom fermented beer remains Samisclaus lager brewed to around 14%. That is unless anyone knows otherwise, I’m happy to be corrected.
Anyway, on to Tokyo Stout brewed by the Brewdog Brewery in Fraserburgh, that’s in Scotland, northern Scotland, almost as far north as you can go without getting your feet wet.
Their own description of the beer reads thus : “This imperial stout is brewed with copious amounts of speciality malts, jasmine and cranberries. After fermentation we then dry-hop this killer stout with a bucketload of our favourite hops before carefully ageing the beer on French toasted oak chips.”
I’m guessing they mean toasted French oak chips, and a bit more research reveals no less than five different malts, champagne yeast, ‘Galena’ hops from the United States, Cranberries and Jasmine.
So with an antique Edinbugh crystal beer goblet to hand, I opened this rather special bottle.
The first thing you notice as you pour is the head, which is the colour of burnished brass, or rose gold, very rich and accompanied by a rich spicy nose with definite hints of treacle. The head itself subsides quite quickly, and there’s little or no lacing.
As for the flavour, well as you might expect, normal beer descriptions don’t really seem appropriate when you get to such potent concoctions. Like Thomas Hardy Ale, we’re in the realms of sherry and port in terms of strength and depth of flavour.
The first flavour that hits you is strong dark liquorice, then you get waves of Christmas pudding (with brandy butter!), rich dark treacle and even hints of tobacco. In a blind tasting, I suspect that, like the Duchesse du Burgogne that I reviewed for The Brew Club, this isn’t necessarily recognisable as a beer.
It’s a great sipping experience that warms the mouth like a good port or brandy, and unlike super-strength Belgian brews there is no hint of candy sugar, it’s a grown up delight.
The brewery sums it up on the bottle label – “It’s all about moderation. Everything in moderation, including moderation itself. What logically follows is that you must, from time, have excess. This beer is for those times.”
Amen to that! I’ll give it 5 stars, a truly awesome, yet well balanced beer experience. Ever try Brewdog Tokyo? What did you think?
Update – Brewdog attempted to counter claims of irresponsibility by launching an ‘Imperial Mild’ called ‘Nanny State’ – brewed to a mindblowing 1.1% ABV, but to no avail, a ‘watchdog’ has misquoted Brewdog’s ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.’ claiming that that “It’s obviously unwise for any company to urge consumers to drink to excess.”
So… Brewdog have now launched ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin’ a 32% ABV double cask matured uber-imperial stout, weighing in (after shipping) at at eye-watering USD 66 for a 330ml bottle, or USD 100 per pint! Needless to say I’m trying to get hold of a bottle. That puts Scott’s recent ‘how much is too much to spend on beer‘ into perspective!