TNP started life as Brewdog’s ‘Paradox’ Stout’, brewed to 10% ABV using five different dark malts and two types of hop. Where Paradox is usually aged for 6 months in an Arran whisky cask, this particular brew was double casked, spending 8 months each in an Arran Whisky cask and an Islay Whisky cask to imbue peaty, smoky, whisky hints to the brew.
The brew was then transported to a local ice cream factory where it was chilled to minus twenty degrees (Celsius – that’s about minus six degrees Fahrenheit) for three weeks. As you are doubtless aware, alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water (-114C or -173.2F) so, while the water in the brew froze, the alcoholic beer remained. Brewdog periodically poured off the beer, leaving the frozen water behind. The process is known in Europe as ‘Ice Lagering’.
After three weeks in Antarctic temperatures they achieved their goal, 32% ABV, beating the previous record of 31% held by German brewer Schorschbräu. The guys at Brewdog made a video of the brewing process, and I suggest you take a couple of minutes to watch it, and then come back to me and we’ll try the beer!
Welcome back! Before we attack the Penguin, I thought that it might be interesting to start by trying the ‘neat’ Brewdog Paradox Stout.
Paradox Stout 10% ABV
As I mentioned earlier this is brewed with five different malts – Marris Otter, Dark Crystal, Caramalt, Chocolate Malt & Roast Barley and Galena, Bramling Cross hops. The resultant 10% ABV brew is then aged for 6 months in an oak, malt whisky cask.
It pours midnight dark with a trace of dark coffee head that dissipates quickly, we’re talking 10% ABV here and mere bubbles are shamed into submission.
The nose is dark, bitter roasted coffee and very dark chocolate, and the flavour follows through with resiny smoke and very subtle hints of vanilla and cinnamon coming through from the oak casks, this a stout with attitude.
Like Duchesse du Burgoyne this, to me, is on the edge of beer… it’s beer squared, and fairly new territory.. after a few more sips I get more chocolate, maybe a hint somewhere of raspberry hiding in the wings, but that might just be the vanillin from the oak casks.
After much deliberation, I’ve actually gone back to our rating system on this… and after due consideration I’m giving this three and a half stars – which makes it midway between “Something that does what it sets out to” and “Something that does what it sets out to, and does it well“.
When you get t the outer limits it’s not easy to differentiate… I’m going to wait a couple of hours and try the TNP.
Tactical Nuclear Penguin (TNP)
And so, a couple of hours later (and a little doze) later we come to TNP.
For that you might expect a silk lined box, or a wooden case inlaid with marquetry.
Those are more the polite suggestions I got when I mentioned the price of this beer in my loca, but the punks at Brewdog don’t go in for such fripperies – this bottle arrives in wrapped in a brown paper bag decorated with a (hand drawn) penguin. I’m tempted to frame it.
As is becoming a Brewdog tradition, the label puts everything in perspective: “This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.” I couldn’t bring myself to listening to Zappa while tasting TNP, a Southside Johnny album worked well enough for me.
If Paradox was on the edge of beer, then this is beyond the outer limits, the twilight zone (deedle deedle deedle deedle – time to turn up the Asbury Jukes methinks).
As expected, this poured midnight black but no trace of a head – the bubbles were scared by the rich tarry liquid. The flavour was dark, bitter and resiney… very smokey, very tarry.
No… this doesn’t work for me, it’s not beer and the potent flavours are overpowering and just not that pleasant.
I offered a taste to a friend who likened it to the liquid you get if you leave an ashtray out in the rain!
As with any beer, the taste is the thing, and I really wanted this to work… this wasn’t a kneejerk reaction by Brewdog to another brewery, they’d thought long and hard about what they were going to brew and how. I have my doubts that the brewery’s next überbrew – ‘ Sink the Bismarck’ – was brewed with the same attention to detail and (unless they offer a tasting sample (guys?)) I think I’ll pass.
Regardless of what you think about these super strength beers, I would suggest that the important factors (as with any beer) are the flavour and the enjoyment you derive from the beer.
In the case of Brewdog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin, it just doesn’t do it for me. After much reflection, I’m giving it 1½ points.
Rating: – Bob the Brit