Thursday, December 1, 2011

BrewDog Dogma

This blog appears to be catching up with me. It's about 11pm on November 30th. Rarely do I let a blog post go this late. And at a time of year when there are an abundance of special and seasonal releases, choosing what to drink and review is almost as daunting a task as getting this post done before the clock strikes midnight. While I aspire to randomly select what I drink and when, it's not beyond me to gravitate towards beers that others may not have heard of or tried. I enjoy hunting down rare brews and limited editions. Not only do I get to feel all special and unique amongst the beer-loving community, but I get to sample a product that was more likely a labor of love from the brewer than a labor of...well...labor. And, yet, with all that said, this month I consciously sought out to drink and evaluate something from the Scottish brewery known as BrewDog. Why? Because I'm a part-owner of it! Don't believe me? Read on.
The Beer:
As an owner of an emerging and respected brewery, I had to remind myself to remain partial to my evaluation and review process. In selecting a beer to drink, I looked past BrewDog's flagship beer, Punk IPA and instead delved into one of their slightly more niche offerings, Dogma. Similar to last month's entry, this beer is also classified as a spiced ale. Also similarly, the list of ingredients added to this brew are truly unique: guarana, California poppy, kola nut, & Scottish heather honey are not your average additions to any beer --- even one in the spiced ale category. When reading the label at the store (no, being a part-owner does not get me free beer. I pay just like everyone else does) I immediately thought that there was no way that I'd actually enjoy this one. Sure, it may different than much of what is on the shelf. It would probably be tolerable. It might even be tasty. But in no way did I think that it'd be something I'd buy again and again. And after the first 500mL bottle, I was fairly certain that my initial instincts would hold up. Dogma was a very sweet beer with a large hop aroma but little in bitterness laced in. The spice kick that I was able to note and enjoy in last month's beer was less present here despite equally compelling componenets and a significantly higher concentration. This wasn't a bad beer. Nowhere nearly as off-putting as I had expected it to be. But it wasn't something that I had to put down and take note of. I wasn't surprised in any way. And yet, by the time I was through the second bottle, I came to apprecaite Dogma for what it was - a non-traditional spiced ale with interesting ingredients reigned in to represent a serious take on a rising type of beer. Knowing what I know of BrewDog's brewing philosophy and marketing strategies, it was actually refreshing to see them attempt something more nuanced and subtle. It was also refreshing to know that my money is in a company that knows what it's doing!
The Buzz:
Whereas Dogma teetered around the Mendoza Line in terms of taste, it actually fell onto the right side of the curve when it came to a buzz. The two 500mL bottles packed a 7.8% abv and allowed me to maintain a respectable feel-good vibe. And again, without reffering to the label beforehand, I had preconceived notions of what exactly I was going to encounter in the realm of alcoholic content. You see, BrewDog is perhaps most notorious for pushing the limits of alcohol contained in what is technically considered a beer. They first released Tactical Nuclear Penguin with 32% abv. At the time it was the strongest beer ever produced on record. Shortly thereafter, they followed it up with Sink the Bismark, a 41% abv beer that was created solely to reclaim the title of most potent beer from Shorschbrau Brewery (hence the play on the title, with Bismark referrencing the famed warship from the country of which they were attempting to dethrone). Finally, in one last shot to again reclaim the title of strongest beer ever, BrewDog made a beer called The End of History. A 55% abv freeze-distilled beer that was packaged in the stuffed dead bodies of small animals. That is correct. Bottles of beer packed into the taxidermied corpses of small animals. Only 12 bottles were ever made, but THAT, is the definition of bad ass if you ask me! And yet another reason as to why I put my money into this company.

The Hangover:
After a night of drinking two bottles of a beer that was perfectly average in every regard, I sort of anticipated a hangover that would match. The sort of hangover that starts out a little rough upon first waking. Headache, stomachache, fatigue, dehydration. But one that disappears shortly after a coffee, some breakfast, a good shower, and some fresh air. And wouldn't you know it --- that is exactly what I got. Even though the quantity of beer consumed was on the lower end of my required limit, the combination of nearly 8% abv and what was likely a high sugar concentration in the beer resulted in what was a very average (although tolerable) hangover. While this wasn't my first taste or sample of a BrewDog beer, it was my first occasion of testing their beers on my physiology. Based on the results, I would (and likely will) attempt further experiments with some of their other offerings. Perhaps I should try out the aforementioned Punk IPA since it's readily available and comes in convenient (for this blog's purposes anyway) 4-packs. Whatever I choose, it will most certainly not be one of their extreme brews as both the abv AND price point would kill me. And I've already put enough money into BrewDog as is.

The Verdict:
BrewDog's Dogma was not quite what I had hoped it would be. But then again, I had mixed feelings on what I was expecting to experience in the first place. On the one hand, I wanted this beer to be perfect if only because I so strongly believe in BrewDog's philosphy and strategy in branding their beers. They take risks and don't apologize for their direction. They push limits and embrace collaboration. They're very similar to Stone Brewing here in the US and there is a reason that brewery is still a favorite of mine despite not producing any beers that I'd hold up as personal favorites (yet, that's not to say that I don't enjoy many of them immensely). If nothing else though, one must truly respect BrewDog for their beer-naming prowess. Where else would you find a beer just hovering above non-alcoholic content (1.1% abv) called Nanny State that was brewed in direct response to the criticism they received for the high strength of their beers. Yep, I'm pretty happy to be an investor in BrewDog. Can't you tell?

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