Christmas Paradox

Brewdog: Christmas Paradox 2012 (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small just off coffee colour suds for a head. Still main body.

Nose: Raisins. Port. Liquorice. Bitter chocolate. Mulled spice. Roasted character.

Body: Liquorice. Bitter yet creamy chocolate. Fruitcake. Quite bitter. Oatmeal . raisins. Treacle toffee. Black olives.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Liquorice. Mixed spice jar. Red wine. Rum. Coconut. Vanilla. Dry coffee. Dry gin.

Conclusion: Brewdog’s imperial stouts are often sweet, sometimes to a sickly degree. This has been especially true of their 15% abv Paradox range. This then is a surprise as for all its chocolate elements it really is quite bitter in the expression of it. It has a classic unsweetened chocolate style and when you add in dry liquorice, black olives and a mix of spices from the rum you get a really quite dry finishing and harsh edged beer that goes against everything the previous Paradox range taught you to expect.

Initially the difference from expectations was so much that I didn’t really take to the beer. It didn’t help that liquorice in a beer’s flavours is not often my thing and it was coming through pretty heavily here. Then as raisins and fruitcake came out, and with red wine mixed into the rum’s spice I looked at it again.  The beer wasn’t bad, it just didn’t match my expectations. I was faulting it for not being what I thought it would be.

So I examined it again. Dry despite the thick texture, and flavours that I would expect from mulled red wine. The flavours hang in the mouth, seeping spice over time long after you have finished drinking. The dryness calls to spirit, and the spirit elements come through in flavour and sheer punch as well. The abv is smoothed well but it still feels potent.

I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly what this beer reminds me of.  Something towards the dry end of the cocktail range I thing. I’m not much of a cocktail drinker so my memory is hazy, but I’m sure I remember encountering something similar over the years.

Underneath the rum, spice and mulled wine, well yes it is an imperial stout and powerful at that. Mainly you get the bitter chocolate but there is also coffee in the finish. The stout elements feel like a backbone rather than the main event here.

Spicy and wine influence, with liquore and spirits throughout. Even by the end of the bottle I’m not quite sure what I have been playing with but it is a heck of a journey. I’ve overcome my initial reticence to it and, while it could be the abv talking, it has convinced me of its charms.
A beer of distinctive range and a journey through flavour. No regrets for this one.

Background: The Paradox range of Imperial Stouts recently jumped to 15% abv from 10% and has become much sweeter as a result. This particular Christmas expression of it has been aged for a year in rum barrels. Before drinking I had heard a few people say they enjoyed it but felt in needed a few weeks to take the edge off. So I asked my friend Will who I had given a bottle of this at Christmas to have a sip and compare. He commented that it seemed smoother, but the alcohol was slightly more evident as well. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to Garbage’s seminal self titled album.