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February Beer Club

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Yeah, so I'm still running dry on beer puns. Fortunately, there's a pretty good chance you don't care about that, so I'll just explain that Beer club is a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. It ended up being a rather small gathering this month, with just the core group showing up... and yet, plenty of fantastic beer was had by all.

Beer Club February 2013
(Click for bigger image)

Despite the less than ideal conditions, I'm going to record my thoughts on each sampled beer. For posterity! Yeah, the sip test is often unreliable, so take this with a giant boulder of gourmet sea salt, you nerd (he sez, as if it's a bad thing). Roughly in order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the above picture):

  • Samuel Smith's Organic Lager - Pretty standard Euro-lager affair here, though perhaps a higher quality version of such. Nice noble hoppiness and a surprising yeast character (nowhere near a Belgian strain, but it did add character to an otherwise normal beer). B
  • Eagle Rock Jubilee - One of my contributions for the night, or should I say, it's actually Jay's contribution, as this was part of our trade. I figured I shouldn't hog all of it to myself, though perhaps I should have, as this was reallly good. Smooth, creamy, spiced but not harshly so, this was a beauty. They call it a spiced old ale, but it feels a whole lot like a winter warmer and heck, let's just call it good beer. Beer Club crowd seemed mighty impressed as well. A-
  • Cisco Lady of the Woods - My other contribution, I liked it so much the first time, that I just had to share another with everyone else. I'm always surprised at how well received sour beers are by the Beer Club crowd, though perhaps I shouldn't be. I tend to call this beer club, but it originally began as beer and wine club, and this beer certainly has a nice Chardonnay character that turned some heads. Still an A by my reckoning...
  • Heavy Seas Black Cannon - One of them semi-local Maryland breweries, this wound up being a very solid black IPA. Beautiful nose, slight roasted malt character dominated by piney, resinous hops and maybe a bit of citrus. Alas, the taste didn't quite hold up, though again, still a very solid beer. B
  • Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve - Hoo boy, I hope you like clove, cause they must have packed this thing to the gills with cloves. Fortunately, I do like that, though the beer is pretty straightforward otherwise. B
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers - One of my long time favorites, just as good as ever. Fancy new label, too...
  • Heavy Seas Bourbon Barrel Aged Siren Noire - Holy chocolate milk, Batman! Seriously, like drinking slightly boozy yoohoo. Not getting much bourbon at all, though perhaps it's contributing to the almost creamy, vanilla character that goes so well with the chocolate flavors that dominate this beer. Really enjoyable and perhaps the most interesting beer of the night, if not exactly the best. B+
  • BrewDog Tokyo* - Another beer I've had before, this thing is a total monster. Clocking in at over 18% ABV, it's a pretty potent beer, though the solid malt backbone and addition of cranberries and jasmine help even that out a bit. Still a B+ in my book.
And with that, we had to cut things a bit short. A few sad beers were left unopened, but it was starting to snow and we didn't want to crack open that bottle of 14% Samichlaus (seriously, beer club compatriot Anthony brought Samichlaus and Tokyo*, which average out to somewhere around 16% ABV, pretty badass if you ask me. As a fan of older vintages of Samichlaus, I advised him to cellar this 2010 vintage until at least next Christmas and he seemed pretty excited about that prospect). So that just about covers it for this beer club. At the next beer club, my Fat Weekend IPA should be ready to go, so I'm pretty excited.

I Hardcore You

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Last year, I did a double feature of Mikkeller's I Beat yoU and Brewdog's Hardcore IPA. One of the great things about doing double features of styles like the IPA is that you can get a good feel for the diversity of flavor within the confines of a style that can sometimes seem... samey. This usually works out, but for the Mikkeller/Brewdog session, I did find that both beers had very similar profiles. I enjoyed both though, so when I heard about this collaboration where they essentially just blended the two aforementioned beers, then did some added dry hopping, it made sense. I assumed it wouldn't be all that different from the two component beers, but I'm not quite sure of the result:

Brewdog and Mikkeller I Hardcore You

Brewdog and Mikkeller I Hardcore You - Pours a dark amberish brown color with a finger of lightish head. Smells of huge, juicy citrus and lots of resinous pine, with some sugary sweetness in the nose too. Taste is absolutely dominated by hops. Citrus, pine, and a thorough bitterness all throughout the taste. Mouthfeel is full bodied, heavy, well carbonated. Overall, this one seems more messy and unbalanced than its constituent parts, though I haven't had them in quite some time. It feels much more bitter right now too. It's certainly not bad, and I am enjoying it, but I was expecting more. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 6/15/12.

Great, now I want to go and revisit the component beers again. But I'm guessing that won't happen anytime soon. I'm pretty stocked up at the moment, though I do have a couple Mikkeller beers in the pipeline. Though if I remain a month behind on reviews, you probably won't see anything for a couple months. I may have to do a quick catchup post at some point, but I guess we'll see.

Devine Double Feature

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I think the reason I have a high opinion of Brewdog stems wholly from this beer. It happens to be a collaboration with Gypsy brewer extraordinaire Mikkeller, which probably has a lot to do with it, but except for one curious case, I've had a very positive experience with Brewdog beers. This one was a revelation though, and might be my favorite from either brewer. I wasn't a big barleywine guy at the time, nor was I particularly well versed in barrel aged beers, so this one was a big turning point for me. Unfortunately, they've only made two batches of the stuff, one in 2009 and one in 2010. I managed to get my hands on one of each last year, and they've been aging in my cellar ever since. I do hope they get together again and make something like that 2009 version, because it truly is sublime.

Anyway, I cracked these beauties open recently whilst taking in a pair of documentaries about filmmaking. Waking Sleeping Beauty tells the story of the animation renaissance at Disney from 1984 until 1994. Reasonably interesting stuff, though the story isn't quite as compelling as the origins of Pixar (which, actually, is rather intertwined with the general Disney renaissance). The other documentary I watched covered a decidedly different type of film. Machete Maidens Unleashed! covers the "untold story" of exploitation filmmaking in the Philippines in the 60s and 70s. It was completely unintentional, but this documentary actually covers the making of the movies I watched whilst drinking Devine Rebel the first time... Speaking of which:

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2009

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel (2009) - To recap, this beer is fermented with both ale and champagne yeast, features a single hop (which I believe is that fabled Kiwi hop, Nelson Sauvin), and is partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels... It pours a deep, dark brownish amber color with minimal head. Smells strongly of fruity malts, with plenty of well matched Scotch aromas. Taste is sweet, lots of rich malt character, some fruitiness (maybe raisins), and a bit of that barrel aged vanilla and oak Scotchiness. Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, very smooth, but with enough carbonation that it never gets cloying. There's a little booze character too this, and I feel like I can taste the age of the beer, but it's still damn good. Well balanced, complex, unique. Overall, a fantastic beer. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 243, bottled on 7/5/09 (same as the last one I had).

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010

Brewdog and Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010 - As it turns out, this beer is not quite the same recipe. I think the general idea and process was the same (ale and champagne yeast, Nelson Sauvin hops, and partially aged in old Scotch barrels), but they say: "More malt, more hops, more oak and more alcohol than last year's edition." And indeed, this one is a whopping 13.8% ABV! The appearance is a little more on the brown side, with just a hint of that amber color, and about a finger of head (though it disappeared quite quickly). The aroma is very similar. Sweet fruit aromas (raisins), Scotch, and booze. The taste is much more powerful. Lots of booze. There's a fruity malt character, but the Scotch and booze overwhelmed some of that character. Still lots of complex flavors, but perhaps not as well balanced as the original version. Mouthfeel is a little bigger and fuller. More carbonated, less smooth and creamy, more warming alcohol. Cleary shares DNA with the original Devine Rebel, but quite distinct. Still a good beer, but not quite as perfectly balanced. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 4/27/12. Batch 406, bottled on 11/2/10.

It was an interesting (and intoxicating) night. I would love for them to make some of this stuff again, but who knows if that's on the horizon. In the meantime, I'm going to have to make do with another of their collaborations, called I Hardcore You, which is actually a blend of Mikkeller's I Beat yoU and Brewdog's Hardcore (which, incidentally, I reviewed in a double feature post of their own a while back!)

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there's a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Mario wants to know what we drink when we're not drinking beer:

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let's talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as Scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.
Well, leaving aside the beer blog roundup of posts that aren't about beer, I didn't have much trouble picking my poison. A few years ago, and I would have said Coca-Cola. But then my doctor told me I drank too much Coke. And I won a basket of Scotch and Cigars. Warning: What follows is a long and arduous tale of how I came to enjoy Scotch, followed by a beer review (said beer having been aged in Scotch casks). Feel free to skip ahead if my blabbering is putting you to sleep.

Every year at work, we have a number of charity events, and for one of them, various teams put together a basket of goodies. People buy tickets and enter to win each basket. In the 7 or so years I've participated, I've won three times (the secret is to put your tickets in the bags with the least amount of tickets). There are always baskets of booze and beer, and they're usually among the most entered baskets, but the Scotch and Cigar basket only had one bottle of scotch, so I'm guessing folks went for quantity over quality, and so I won and thus began my interest in scotch (and to a lesser extent, bourbon).

The Scotch I won was called The Balvenie. It's a single malt Scotch, but unlike most single malt Scotches, The Balvenie comes from a single cask (I'm no expert, but usually multiple casks are filled with the whisky from a single malt, then blended together). It's the 15 year old version, but it's got a nice fancy label with all the relevant dates and whatnot, and as luck would have it, my particular bottle sat in the cask for 18 years (it was casked in 1990 and bottled in 2008).

The Balvenie 15

At the time, I was a little intimidated by the world of fine Scotch whisky. I didn't want to waste this gorgeous and unique bottle of Scotch on an unrefined palate. Truth be told, it was right around this time that my beer geekery went into overdrive. I was learning a lot about beer, so I knew how different things could feel after you refined your palate a bit. So instead of cracking the Balvenie, I went out and bought some cheap Scotch. I started with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. A scotch whisky blend, and relatively cheap stuff with which to acquire a taste for scotch.

My initial strategy consisted of pouring a little bit of scotch in a glass, then filling most of the rest with water. Yeah, if a whisky nerd ever reads this, their head might explode, but this is why I got the Johnnie Walker. I would have one of these every day, but each day, I would decrease the amount of water. After a couple of weeks, I was drinking it straight up (like a real, fire-breathing man!) and enjoying myself quite a bit. I finally cracked open The Balvenie and basked in its glory.

During this period, my friend Padraic took pity on my scotch newbie soul and gave me the rundown (Padraic is a big beer nerd too, and he also maintains a blog about tea - quite the renaissance man!) He gave me a nice list of Scotches to try, and pointed me to a blog written by his friend Jacob called Water of Life (Padraic also contributes some reviews there). Thus armed with recommendations, I began exploring the world of Scotch a bit more.

It's been slow going and I won't pretend to be an expert. Beer is my poison of choice and I've probably only had 7 or 8 different scotches in my life. I only recently figured out that Islay is pronounced "eye-wah". Speaking of which, I don't know much about the various scotch regions either (though Islay seems to be home to the peaty, smoky monsters of Scotch). But I tell you now, every time I pour myself a dram of The Balvenie 15, I find my appreciation grows immensely. It is a really spectacular spirit, and I'm glad I still have some of it left. Oh sure, I could buy myself another bottle, but as it says on the label "Each bottle is unique and unrepeatable."

But this is a beer blog, so to bring the subject back to beer, we'll naturally have to talk about Scotch barrel aged beer! I've covered a few of these, ranging from the sublime to the merely brilliant to the awkwardly balanced to the outright disastrous. Today, I review one of Brewdog's now defunct Paradox series. An intriguing idea - they brewed up some imperial stout, then aged it in varying brands of Scotch barrels. This one was aged in Smokehead barrels. It's an Islay scotch, and apparently quite heavily peated, with lots of smoke. In my above referenced examples, Islay seems to overpower the flavors in beer, even in an imperial stout. But two examples isn't exactly a big sample size, so here's a third.

This one's been sitting around for at least a year, so perhaps the flavors have had enough time to come together and harmonize or something. The bottle says this should be served "at room temperature, unless you live in an igloo." In which case, I presume our Eskimo friends would have to find a way to warm up the beer. Fortunately, I don't live in an igloo:

Brewdog Paradox Smokehead

BrewDog Paradox Smokehead - Pours an extremely dark brown, almost black color with a couple fingers of light brown head. The aroma is dominated by peat smoke (as expected), with just a little musty yeast and roasted malt character shining through. That peaty smoke appears prominently in the taste as well, along with the corresponding scotch flavors, but you also get more of that roasted malt. Coffee and even chocolate make a welcome appearance towards the middle to finish, with a lingering aftertaste that actually works well. Mouthfeel is weird to judge. Feels very heavy and chewy, but that is perhaps due to the temperature (I don't normally drink beer at room temperature). Overall, this is actually a damn good beer. I never really had a fresh bottle of this, but I suspect that the extra time on my shelf has done this beer a favor, and that it would get even better with additional aging. The flavors have actually married together well, though it is not quite the perfection of Ola Dubh 40 or Devine Rebel. That being said, I'm impressed and a little saddened that Brewdog doesn't make these anymore. Perhaps I'll still be able to find a bottle somewhere... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/6/11. Bottle label says this is Batch 15, best drank before 19-8-16 (and unlike Storm, this one didn't have a little sticker over the date!)

Well, there you have it. I wish I had a bottle of Smokehead to chase this with, but what are you going to do. I have about 5 bottles of scotch in my little liquor cabinet with varying degrees of glory left in the bottle. Since this is a strong beer, I may have to forego the Balvenie tonight and hit up the newly acquired Ardbeg 10, whose Islay smokeyness knows no bounds. Someday, perhaps, I will do more considered Scotch reviews (they would definitely make great candidates for a double feature) here, but for now, this post will have to do.

Update: The Roundup has been posted. As it turns out, I'm very unoriginal, as lots of beer folks apparently go for the occasional dram of scotch as well. Go figure.

The Curious Case of Brewdog Storm

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In case it's not entirely obvious, I'm a complete sucker for barrel aged beers. I don't talk about it much on this blog, but I'm also a fan of Scotch. So beers aged in Scotch casks are doubly appealing to me. Enter Brewdog's Storm, an 8% IPA aged in Islay whisky casks. For the non-Scotch nerds among my readers*, Islay is a small island off the Western coast of Scotland that is the home of 8 active distilleries. There are, of course, lots of variations between each distillery, but one of the central characteristics of Islay Scotch is a smoky character derived from peat (think Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, though there are less peaty varieties of Islay Scotch). So when someone says they're aging a beer in Islay whisky casks, you should expect to find the smoky, peaty, almost medicinal flavors of the scotch somewhere in the taste.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, something went dreadfully wrong with this beer, perhaps compounded by a mysterious labeling snafu.

Brewdog Storm

Brewdog Storm - Pours a hazy golden orange color with almost no head, and what was there had big bubbles (i.e. it was mostly just the way I poured). The nose is full of Scotch whisky, peat smoke and not much else. There are some subtle beery aromas around if you really look for it, but they are faint. The taste is extremely smoky, with some sweetness and not much in the way of bitterness (which really only comes out in the aftertaste, mixed in with some additional peatiness). There are maybe some interesting complexities in the taste, but it's also not particularly well balanced. Mouthfeel is thin, definitely too light on the carbonation. Overall, it's completely overpowered by the peat smoke and scotch aromas and flavors. I like scotch (because I'm manly), so I thought maybe this might be ok when I started the beer, but it was ultimately not a good experience. The base beer was apparently an 8% IPA, but it absolutely does not stand up to the scotch at all. Also, as discussed recently, aging an IPA is a tricky proposition. Hop flavors tend to fade with time, which definitely seems to be the case here (especially given that it may be an older bottle than I initially thought, see below) - I really don't get any hop aromas or flavors, save a little bitterness in the finish. It's an interesting idea, but there are some major balance issues here and it's really not working for me. A tentative D - given the nerdy mystery below, I'm not sure what to make of this. Perhaps a "fresh" bottle would be better.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass on 9/10/11. Label sez: Batch 13, best before 2/2/12.

Hmm, I looked a little closer at my bottle and I noticed that the batch and date details were on a sticker. I carefully peeled it off, revealing:

Brewdog Storm sticker thingy

Sorry about the craptacular picture (you can click it to see a bigger, blurrier version if you like), my old phone isn't quite up to the task, but what the hell? It says best before 2/2/10 on the original label. No wonder it's so bad! I suppose it could have just been a labeling mistake (which has been known to happen) that was band-aided with the sticker thingy... or it could be a really old bottle (which might explain why this didn't taste particularly fresh) that was re-labeled in order to trick people into thinking it was "fresh". I don't know what to make of this. Anyone ever run into that sort of thing?

I'm scratching my head over this. There are numerous points of contact that could be the source of the problem, so who knows where the fault lies. If there actually is a problem. It seems the nerds on Beer Advocate were also not very taken with this beer, giving it a C (for reference, PBR gets a C+). Even if it is just a bad beer, I'm still not soured on Brewdog. I have a few Devine Rebels (which, granted, were a collaboration with beer-god Mikkeller) aging right now, and another of their Scotch barrel aged beers, though Paradox uses a stout as its base beer, so I'm hoping that will work better.

* Actually, I estimate that at least 33% of the people likely reading this are big Scotch fans and probably know a lot more about Islay whisky than I do.

Brewdog Tokyo*

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Scottish brewers Brewdog are no stranger to publicity. It seems they are almost always embroiled in one controversy or another. Right now, they're in hot water over a weird public dispute with CAMRA, a British beer advocacy group that campaigns for "real ale" or ale served from casks (their complicity in the issue is up to debate, but that's not a topic for this post - the linked aleheads article covers the situation well). But in the past, they've seemingly courted controversy with their high alcohol beers, engaging in a race to the highest alcohol beer in the world, which I believe still remains the 55% ABV End of History (and just to ensure publicity, they packaged the limited edition brew in a squirrel carcass).

Hard as it may be to believe, that whole race to 55% ABV started with a 12% stout brewed with jasmine and cranberries and aged on oak chips called Tokyo. That initial release was experimental and never made it to the US, but after some reformulating, a new-and-improved version, now dubbed Tokyo* (they say it's a star, not an asterisk, but it sure looks like an asterisk and it seemingly performs the function of an asterisk, so whatever) was released. This new brew came in at a hefty 18.2% ABV. Both beers seemed to cause controversy in the UK, where newspapers and government officials claimed the high alcohol beer was contributing to a culture of alcohol abuse (or something). Even the beer's tagline "Intergalactic Fantastic Oak Aged Stout" was singled out as an endorsement of psychadelic drugs(?!)

In response to all the kvetching about Tokyo*, Brewdog created a new beer called Nanny State, a 1.1% ABV brewed with massive amounts of hops. They called it an "imperial mild" and apparently it was so low in alcohol that it doesn't legally qualify as beer.

Lots of people see this sort of thing and assume that Brewdog is just a publicity whore that brews gimmicky beers and chases after the "strongest beer in the world" title and I can see how their constant courting of controversy could be grating to some... but ironically, the craftsmanship of their beer often doesn't come up in such discussions, and that's a shame, because I've had nothing but good (even great) experiences with Brewdog beers (granted, I've only had 3 of them before Tokyo* - but all were excellent). In any case, I cracked open a bottle of Tokyo* last Friday and was quite pleased:

Brewdog Tokyo*

Brewdog Tokyo* - Pours a dark brown color with a finger of tan head. There are some pretty amber highlights when held up to the light. The smell is rich, chocolatey and boozy, with a lot of smaller notes floating around the nose that I assume are due to the cranberries, jasmine, and oak aging. Very complex and pleasant. Taste is full of rich flavors, incredibly sweet (some of that cranberry fruitiness present), with very little in the way of roastiness (though it's still there). The beer certainly has a kick to it, but the finish is very slick, leading into an aftertaste that is a bit strange (but not necessarily unpleasant). Full bodied, nice carbonation in the beginning that yields to that slickness in the finish. You get a very nice warming sensation from the alcohol, which is not really hidden at all, but which isn't entirely overpowering either. Clearly a sipping beer meant to be drank slowly, you may need to be in a certain mood to enjoy it, but I was apparently in such a mood. Despite the 11.2 ounce bottle, it would probably be a nice beer to share as well. I normally drink a few beers in a night, but in this case, I only had the one... Overall, a very interesting, complex beer. I wouldn't call it perfect for me, but don't let the controversy fool you - this isn't a gimmick, it's just a well crafted beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 18.2% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a goblet on 7/22/11. The bottle says it's batch 007 and that it's best before 1/15/2021 (I guess that's what high ABV gets you!)

Additional Nerd Details: I searched around a lot to figure out what the deal was with the asterisk in the title. I'm pretty sure it's just used to distinguish between the original batch and the newer, stronger batch, but then I noticed that my bottle is actually labeled "Tokio*" (with an "i" instead of a "y"). It's clearly the same beer as Tokyo* (it's certainly got the same ABV and the label is consistent with everything I know about the beer), but that at some point they must've changed the name to Tokio* (perhaps it was just a batch 007 thing). Searching around the interwebs, I see various explanations for both the asterisk and the "i", but nothing definitive. One explanation that seems plausible to me is the notion that naming your beer after an actual place (Tokyo, Japan) is illegal in some places and required the name change. Or something. Funnily enough, this marks the second time I can't really figure out what the heck is going on with a Brewdog beer name, the other being "Devine Rebel", for which I still can't figure out why Divine is spelled that way. Perhaps an email full of pedantic questions is warranted.

So despite all their publicity stunts, I will continue to seek out and try more Brewdog beers, even the gimmicky ones. Indeed, I even have one of their Paradox stouts (a series of beers aged in various Scotch whiskey casks) sitting on my shelf right now.

Double Feature: Royal IPAs

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So everyone was all excited by some sort of Royal Wedding last Friday? Sorry, us Americans don't really understand or care about that sort of thing, but there were a surprising number of beer-related stories to go along with the wedding (also, April 29 is apparently the anniversary of Hitler and Eva Braun's wedding). Beer nerds got deservedly uppity at the Royal pronouncement that Beer was not "an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen's presence at such an occasion." Scottish brewers Brewdog had already made light of the whole affair with their beer called Royal Virility Performance, a 7.5% ABV IPA containing, among other things, herbal Viagra, chocolate, horny goat weed, and "a healthy dose of sarcasm." (Apparently a few bottles were sent directly to the royals - I wonder if they consumed them behind closed doors...)

Yeah, Brewdog's beer smacks of a publicity stunt, but that didn't really bother me, and in light of the Royals' disrespect, I actually think it's pretty awesome. So in honor of the wedding, I cracked open a few beers made at the Brewdog brewery. Not that I was watching any wedding coverage. No, to match up with the two beers, I decided I'd catch up on the first two episodes of Game of Thrones (it's quite good so far!)

Mikkeller I Beat yoU

Mikkeller I Beat yoU - As previously mentioned, Mikkeller is a self-described "gypsy-brewer", meaning that he travels all around the world, brewing his beers on other brewery's systems. This one was brewed at Brewdog in Scotland, and according to their site, "the instruction for the Scotsmen was clear: we need shitloads of hops in this one!" And a shitload of hops, this has. According to Beer Advocate, it's also got quite a variety of hops as well: Herkules, Centennial, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus hops (maybe more). Indeed, the title of this beer is a nod towards the International Bitterness Unit (IBU), a unit of measurement used to quantify the bitterness of beer, though I don't really know how many IBUs this has.

It pours a nice dark orange color with a finger of head and some lacing as I drink. The smell is complex, with fruity citrus, some pine and resin notes and maybe even a little caramel. The taste is very sweet with that hoppy bitterness kicking in about midway through the taste and following through in the finish. This beer actually reminds me a lot of Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA (which makes a sort of sense, given the similar ABV and the use of Simcoe hops). Carbonation is a little low, but that leads to a smoother mouthfeel and a relatively easy drink for such a high ABV beer. It's a very complex beer, and some of that comes out even more as the beer warms. Excellent IPA, though perhaps not the best. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.75% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/29. Hops: Herkules, Centennial, Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus (and maybe more). ?? IBU's

Brewdog Hardcore IPA

Brewdog Hardcore IPA - Pours a bit darker and maybe more amber than orange, it's still very similar. The nose is not quite as complex, but still quite solid, with a similar smell. Taste is not quite as sweet, and the bitterness is a little more front stage, but not by much. There's less complexity here, but it's still quite a good DIPA. It's perhaps suffering from the comparison to the Mikkeller beer, which is indeed quite similar. I'll give this a B+, but the difference between these two beers is perhaps less than the difference in ratings implies.

Beer Nerd Details: 9.2% ABV bottled (12 ounces). Drank out of a tulip glass on 4/29. Hops: Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe. 150 IBU's

Apparently there exists a collaboration beer between Mikkeller and Brewdog where they basically mix batches of the two above beers, and then do some extra dry hopping. It's called I Hardcore You and if I can find a bottle, I'd like to give it a shot!

I also have a few of Mikkeller's single hop beers, where they basically use the same IPA recipe, substituted different types of hops for each batch. This will be a very interesting experience. From single-hopped beers I've had in the past, I can say that the amount of difference between those beers can be quite astounding.

This week's double feature was a whopper. Barleywines are among the strongest beer styles out there (both of the below beers are over 11% ABV), so I knew I was in for an interesting night. From a filmic perspective, I was going to try and match the intensity of the style, but decided to go another route and perhaps contrast the style with something a little more lighthearted. As luck would have it, Netflix sent me an intriguing double feature this week: For Your Height Only and Challenge of the Tiger (both on the same disc, no less). If you haven't heard of them, I don't blame you. They're both pretty horrible films, but I was hoping for a "so bad they're good" experience out of them.

For Your Height Only is basically a Bond knock-off starring 3 foot tall filipino martial arts master, Weng Weng. Ok, so maybe he's not a martial arts "master", but it's a pretty fun film in that respect. Weng uses his height to full advantage, often sneaking up behind low objects, sliding across the floor, and of course, he punches nearly everyone in the crotch. In one particularly rousing scene, he takes on some tough guys with the help of a tall woman, who basically throws him at their enemies. It's very amusing. The story is absolutely dreadful, but manages to hit all the Bondian notes it should (there's even a jetpack!). Challenge of the Tiger was one of a long series of cash-ins on the popularity of Bruce Lee. After Lee's death, a number of imitators appeared, and chief among them was, of course, Bruce Le. Heh. Ultimately, I ended up paying much less attention to this film, though I have to admit that I was surprised by the amount of nudity and sex on screen here. Oh, and there's some martial arts and fighting too. Ultimately, both these movies suck, but I am easily amused, and these actually made a reasonable match for the Barleywines. Speaking of which:

Devine Rebel

BrewDog and Mikkeller Collaboration: Devine Rebel - Scottish brewery BrewDog has been making a name for themselves with some very extreme beers. They were one of the crazy breweries attempting to make the strongest beer in the world, achieving and losing that status multiple times in an arms race that seems to have only recently ended. I believe they currently hold the record with a 55% ABV behemoth called The End of History (which you may recognize as the beer that's packaged inside a rodent carcass). Interestingly, they also make a 0.5% ABV beer called Nanny State (apparently a response to uptight government officials worried about the brewery's pursuit of the strongest beer title). Clearly, these guys are not to be messed with.

Enter Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a crazy Danish homebrewer and self-described "gipsy-brewer" who takes his show on the road, brewing his beers at different breweries throughout the world. He has a home base of sorts at the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen, but that is not a brewery. He releases his beers under the Mikkeller brand, and I suspect the fact that he doesn't actually own a brewery is partly why his beers tend to cost so much. Clearly Mikkeller and BrewDog are a match made in heaven, so when Mikkel heads over to Scottland to collaborate on this beer, titled Devine Rebel, you know the results will at least be interesting. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Devine is spelled with an "e" there (instead of the more traditional "Divine"). Maybe it's one of them alternate British spellings of the same word, or who knows, maybe Mikkel is an amateur astronomer and named his beer after an asteroid. Whatever the case, it's quite an eclectic brew. Partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels* and utilizing both an ale yeast and a champagne yeast, I was expecting a lot out of this beer, and boy did it live up to expectations.

Pours a very nice deep brown color with some amber highlights and a rather small head. Smells of sweet fruit and, in particular, raisins, with some alcohol present in the nose as well. Taste starts off sweet, fruity and rich, with some of those raisins and maybe some of that scotch whisky character as well. Some sticky alcohol in the finish. The real star here is the texture: silky smooth, rich and creamy. Full bodied, but lightly carbonated and very easy to drink. I have to say that I'm impressed. Well balanced but powerful, unique but approachable, amazingly complex and intriguing but not overly weird, this is a really fantastic beer. The best I've had in a while, this one just hit me at the perfect time I guess. A

Beer Nerd Details: 12.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a goblet. Batch 243, bottled on 7/5/09 (so not quite two years in the bottle, but close).

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot - Not quite as storied or intriguing as the Devine Rebel, this local offering certainly has a wonderfully evocative name (put a few of these down in short succession, and you'll probably be living up to the name). Pours a deep reddish brown color (a little lighter than the Devine Rebel) and another small head. Smells sweet and a little spicy. Dark fruit and raisins are there, but not anywhere near as prominently as they are in the Devine Rebel, and there's a distinct yeastiness in the nose as well. Taste is very sweet and fruity, but less complex. Mouthfeel is smooth, but not as much as the Devine Rebel, and the flavors are nowhere near as rich. Carbonation is about the same and it is rather reasy to drink. I've had a few of these before and I do enjoy them, but it's not nearly as well balanced or complex as the Devine Rebel. B

Beer Nerd Details: 11.1% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a tulip glass.

I've got a few more Blithering Idiots in the fridge right now, and given the fact that this style ages well (part of the reason it's called a Barleywine is that it can be aged, like wine) I think I'll let them stay there for a while. In the meantime, I'm going to try and find me some more Mikkeller beers (and BrewDog beers, for that matter). It looks like the 2010 version of Devine Rebel came out a bit stronger (13.8% ABV!), so I'll have to try and find me some of that as well.

* I expect a certain Scotch loving reader will be salivating at this particular detail.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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