Brewdog: Ballast Point: San Diego Scotch Ale (Scotland: Scotch Ale:11.9% ABV)

Visual: Dark red block with a decent sized but thin textured brown head.

Nose: Milky chocolate gateaux and raisins. Sort of dusty chocolate. Thick red wine. Dry oak. Passion fruit. Brandy.

Body: Smooth. Biscuits and treacle. Fruitcake Madeira. Vanilla fudge. Passion fruit and custard float over the other elements. Apricot. Sweet strawberry and a slight nuttiness.

Finish: Biscuit. Raisins and figs. Bitter chocolate. Madeira again. Dried apricot. Heather.

Conclusion:  This is a scotch ale? Huh, I keep getting surprised these days by a style I used to consider boring. There is a whole wealth of fruitiness to this, a lot of which are fruit that I wouldn’t tend to connect with the style. The raisins and dark fruit are, of course, no brainers, but the heavy apricot mid body? The strawberry sweetness early on in a sip? Passion fruit? These things are not what I would expect, and I would guess is a sign of some heavy duty and cleverly done hop action which really works well over the sweet thick base.

That aforementioned body is treacle thick and sweet, with the whisky ageing present but not showing heavily, more an environment that the beer works in.  There is some fudge sweetness which seems to be from the time in the cask, and there are many spirit like elements, but as a whole the beer seems strong enough to actually keep the whisky in the background for the most part.  Let’s face it, with over 10% abv, even without whisky cask ageing, you would be surprised if there weren’t some spirit like elements in this thing.  The whisky does get stronger over time, building up very slowly throughout the beer.

A very rich, fruity, wine influenced beer, with plenty of extra flavours from the fruity hops. Silken in texture, while heavy in flavour and with that tingling feel of potency that never gets burning but always keeps you aware of what you are drinking.

Frankly a very good beer, and one that feels refined as you swirl it around the glass like an oversized dark brandy. A strange balance between spirit feeling mixed with a huge chunk of fruit to create a delicious alchemy.

If I had to bring flaws, it would be that even at 330 ml it feels like a sharing beer, taken alone it can become slightly overly spirity by the end, losing some of its beer character.  However it is a beer that is much more than the sum of its parts, the elements mix together to create shimmering illusions of so many more spirit influences than are actually within. Very powerfully, but very nice.

Background: A collaboration beer from Brewdog and Ballast point. This one has been made with Ballast Point rum soaked raisins and then aged in a whisky casks.  Brewdog seem to seriously love their whisky cask ageing.  As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.  I’m not entirely sold on the packaging for the bottle, while they add a bit of pizzazz to the event of drinking the beer I tend to feel they are a bit wasteful, which should be avoided.  I broke this beer out to celebrate the fact I’d just completed Dust Force, a brutally hard platform game (and for those wondering by completing I mean a S/S run of Giga Difficult, I don’t count the free DLC extra levels they have released since as I like to keep my sanity at least slightly intact).