Tag Archive: 16-20% ABV

Brewdog Dog D

Brewdog: Dog D (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 16.1% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Fizzing up brown head. A viscous sheen left on the glass. After a few moments the head becomes just a chocolate brown froth at the rim of the glass.

Nose: Rye. Thick caramel. Habanero chilli. Black cherry. Bitter chocolate. Riesen chocolate chew. Chilli seeds. Nougat.

Body: Smooth. Bitter cocoa. Light chilli tingle. Coconut. Chocolate liqueur. Caramel. Grapes. Black cherry. Nougat. Choc orange. Cadbury’s creme egg centres.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Coconut. Black cherry. Chocolate chews. Bitter coffee with a touch of milk. Light greenery.

Conclusion: 8 years, 4 dog *s. one AB04, and – for me at least – they seem to have finally hit the balance just right for this beer. AB04 was lovely but sweet as hell – Dog A-C were more towards the Speedway Stout end of the spectrum, a tad too heavy on the bitter chocolate and coffee while still being a very good imperial stout. All good beers, but the Imperial Stout category is a hard fought one.

Here in this beer the bitter chocolate and coffee base is still there, but the barrel ageing has brought back a big chunk of the sweetness, which allows it to merge and bring out a lot of the classic dark fruit flavours – while not letting either side get too dominant.

The chilli does take a back seat because of this, and let’s face it, it was never the strongest element in this beer. Now it is but a soft tingle and a bit of greenery notes but not much more. The heat was never really a strong point. For me generally that is fine, as I find a little chilli goes a long way, though even I think this could handle a touch more.

As you get used to the beer so many elements rise up out of the depths – a nougat thickness, touches of my beloved coconut – what initially seems a delicious but comparatively simple beer grows in stature until it goes head to head with the greats.

As a side note, I wonder what they used to age this. Smart money would guess some kind of lighter end of the scale Scottish whisky, however from the flavours I could swear they used bourbon. There is a huge heap of those toffee and vanilla notes brought out that associate with that ageing. Though, as I say, smart money is on Scottish Whisky – with Brewdog being in Scotland it would seem the obvious pick.

Overall – oh come on, you’ve guessed it by this point – it is excellent. Boozy enough for my tastes, but smooth enough for those who hate tasting the abv, bitter enough to give character, but sweet enough to be so easy to drink. This beer finally see one of the Dog *s as one of the best in the style.

Background: The … erm, 8th anniversary imperial stout from Brewdog. Initially Based on AB 04, it has shifted a bit over the years. Made with cocoa, coffee and chillies, this version has added to that some barrel ageing as well. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to B Dolan’s Kill The Wolf. Pretty solid album.

Mikkeller Black Speyside tequilla

Mikkeller: Tequilla and Speyside Aged Black 黑 (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 18.8% ABV)

Visual: Black (No surprise there). Thick browned froth head.

Nose: Strong spirit. Vodka and jelly babies. Toasted teacakes. Milky coffee. Cocoa. Light cherries.

Body: Tingling. Sweet chocolate fondue. Jelly babies. Bitter chocolate hints. Orange liqueur. Noticeable alcohol. Toffee notes. Burn on swallowing. Pear notes and strawberry late on.

Finish: Spirity. Very bitter chocolate. Tongue numbing. Smoke. Brown bread. Crème brulee.

Conclusion: How big is too big? And no innuendo please. Mikkeller black was always an intense one, utterly bitter black chocolate with no compromises. Always single minded. This? Well it is different, but even bigger and more intense.

Initially it seemed too spirity – there is a definite alcohol harshness and prickle, which, along with the immensely bitter chocolate finish, makes for a very harsh way out for this beer.

What I find interesting is how the barrel ageing has altered the main body – previously the chocolate was bitter as hell – now it comes in sweet and with an almost chocolate fondue style – this makes for a much needed contrast to the very spirit heavy influence, especially the harsh tequila alcohol air and slight smoke.

It is an odd mix, once you get used to the harshness there is reasonable depth to the main body, with the varied ageing adding different spirit, sweet and fruity notes to the chocolate body.

The finish however is a clumsy mess of harshness, where the main body has quirks – rough edges but in a charming way – the finish doesn’t work. A pity as it lets down the rest of the beer massively – especially as the finish lasts so long so it will be what you are experiencing about half the time.

So, I think they went a bit too big here, all the elements are trying to shout all the time and that means half the time you can’t hear anything but the loudest voice. So, it still has the impressive base of black, but there is too much clashing here. Not bad, but not really a refined beer, nor worth the price tag, So, especially at the insane abv, it doesn’t give you a better beer for it

Background: For anyone wondering, yes 黑 is the kanji for black. If it wasn’t obvious. Anyway, I have had black a few times, but never got around to reviewing it, it is a very bitter chocolate and coffee beer. So when I saw a double barrelled aged version at independent spirit I grabbed one. Well technically I grabbed two, one as a present for a friend. So that may introduce some bias into this review. Drunk while listening to Against Me! White Crosses which continues to grow on me. In fact the beer took so long to drink at the abv that I also listened to the Guilty Gear soundtrack as well. yes I took my time with this one.

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB09 (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 17.1% ABV)

Visual: Black, coffee froth head comes up easily with a fizz but never stays.

Nose: Roasted coffee beans. Cashew nuts. Porridge and a slight sourness. The sourness develops into a fruit tartness over time. Maybe raspberries, Mild fudge notes. Smoke.

Body: Very smooth. Oatmeal flakes. Bitter chocolate and milky chocolate interspersed.  Some alcohol feel at the back.  Bitter coffee. Quite bitter overall. Toffee. Lightly medicinal. Slowly raspberry influence builds, but is never really forthright.

Finish: Bitter chocolate very heavily. Quite a fresh air over it. Alcohol that hangs at the back of the throat.  Very light raspberries in the air. Cashew nuts back again. Brown bread. Salt touches.

Conclusion: This one weighs pretty heavy on you. The thickness of the body means that you get ladles full of bitter chocolate coming through. In fact it is possibly a touch too heavy for its own good. Considering all the unusual ingredients that went into making it, it still seems primarily a heavy chocolate and coffee stout.

It does have other elements. The alcohol it high in its influence and burn, but it does also have a distinctive sweetness to the burn that hints at its whisky ageing.  Top and tail has a slight tartness which seems to have a raspberry influence. All these elements are understated though, leaving booze and chocolate to come through.  The biggest difference comes from the oats which gives a much thicker texture and that usually telling flavour that comes with all good oatmeal stouts.

The most unusual twist this beer has is the aroma. Left still it had dry fudge sweetness, but when swirl it seems much more roasted in character. An intriguing element.

It’s solid and wonderfully thick, but for all its show its inability to make use of its ingredients means that it is a slight disappointment. Oddly I think it needed a slightly lighter beer to let them show through. Not a statement I will say often.  It is left then as a tasty, but expensive for what it is, Imperial Stout.

Background: As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.  This beer was made in response to a competition to design a beer for Brewdog. So they got this the “Cranachan” Imperial Stout based on a Scottish dessert. The beer is made with heather honey, raspberries and oats then aged in a grain cask.  Notably the abv is a lot higher than was originally pitched for it.  Drunk while listening to Paradise Lost’s “Tragic Idol” album.

Brewdog Mikkeller Nøgne Ø: Black Tokyo* Horizon (Scotland: Imperial Stout:17.2% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Quite a fizzy pour but no head results from it.  Leaves a brown sheen around the glass but the beer does not seem quite as viscous as you would imagine.

Nose:  Roasted walnuts, liquorice. Alcohol but not burning. Slight coffee beans. Wood fire. Blueberry jam and brambles. Gin. Lots of candy floss sweetness or possible even toasted marshmallows.  Toasted teacakes.

Body: Very sweet. Blueberry. Very distinct alcohol. Red cherries and sugar cane.  Chocolate fondue. Light coffee at the back, very smooth.  Lots and lots of cocoa. Oddly toasted crumpets.

Finish: red cherries and milk chocolate. Still distinct gin styled alcohol. Marshmallows and strawberry jam. Dry malt drinks. Toasted teacakes again.

Conclusion: It is a pity that the term sweet stout has already been taken for a particular variety of low alcohol stout because if it had not then it would have been the perfect descriptor for this imperial stout.  This is damn sweet, a mix of sugar shock and evident alcohol that comes with fruitiness and force.

Even on the nose there is alcohol on show, though without the burning sensation that comes from low quality examples of “extreme beers” (“Start the Future” I’m looking at you, you foul tasting piece of.. anyway) Throughout the rest of the beer though there is a significant alcohol punch, probably a tad too much, and I got the feeling very quickly that it is one that would benefit from a while in the cellar to smooth it off a tad.

However we are not talking about a hypothetical future beer, we are looking at the one in the glass in front of us. Even with the fire, there is a lot going on. Rich chocolate, some light coffee notes at the back and a huge range of sweet and fruit notes that frankly dominate the character.  With the chocolate and coffee it feels like good quality examples of the items as well, reminding me somewhat of the highly expressive range of coffee flavours in Mikkeller’s  Beer Geek Brunch Weasel in quality.

If it wasn’t for the over evident alcohol then this would easily be a showstopper, and I have a bottle ageing for a future retrospective to see if it lives up to its promise.  For now it is an insane sweet sugar sledgehammer of flavour that is very highly complex and sweet. Frankly it shouldn’t be possible to have this much subtlety behind so much force.  The especially odd toasted flavours (be it marshmallow, teacakes or crumpets) are welcome and completely unexpected.  A fine drink for slow inspection, in fact it would be an insult to try it any other way.

Well worth a bottle to cellar, and if you are impatient and have it sooner rather than later, well it’s still an impressive beer.

Background: Mikkeller Brewdog and Nøgne Ø are pretty much the big three of craft brewers from their respective areas and this is a collaboration beer based on their three respective massive stouts. When finished the stout has then been aged in whisky casks and on pure cacao.  Finally it gets put in a little cardboard box for some reason.  Maybe to allow the bottle privacy, I’m not 100% sure.  As a fan of the respective stouts this was one I was looking forwards to and gave a lot of time to enjoy.

Dogfish Head: Worldwide Stout (USA: Imperial Stout: 18% ABV)

(2009 bottling, drunk 2010)

Visual: Opaque dark brown black, shimmers of red if you hold a thin layer to the light. Despite my best attempts I could not tease a head out of the beer on the pour, getting merely a wet brown fizz for my troubles.  However a good swirl could raise a coffee brown froth of short life.  The swirl leaves a thin brown film across the glass

Nose: Huge liquorice, bitter coffee and chalk. Dry roasted peanuts and nuts roasting on an open fire. Sharp yet strangely musty. Sour under ripe cherries. Tiny milk chocolate and laden with raw coffee powder. Some light vanilla fudge. Predominant barley. Quite dusty.

Body: So very smooth, chocolate and black cherry, surprisingly sweet as can be. Red cherries come out as well.  Brandy liquors, sweetened porridge oats, toffee, roasted barley and oatmeal biscuits. Bourbon sweetness, chocolate gateaux. There is definitely a feel that the alcohol is not quite hidden.  Grapes.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and milk, followed by chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough. Milky coffee, raisins and whipped chocolate cream. Sour black cherries, finally dry coffee remains as the other flavours evaporate.

Conclusion:   I really thought Dogfish Head had finally let me down with this one.  The initial aroma, whilst powerful, hints at a very middle of the road bitter charred stout. I imagined disappointment awaited me ahead.

Imagine my surprise then on first tentative sip as a massive sweet chocolate and oakcake body of immense weight came through – writhing with bitter chocolate, cookie dough sweetness and blasting my expectations to smithereens.

The sour touch at the end mixes with the bitterness and sweetness, again twisting the expectations brought on by the super sweet body.

A twisty turny complex Imperial Stout that surprises at every step.  Very nice.

Dogfish Head: 120 Minute IPA (USA: IIPA/Barley Wine: 18% ABV)

(Bottled 2009, drunk 2010)

Visual: Intense ruddy red with a surprising sturdy head of bubbles considering the ABV. Clear and bright. Washing up suds look to the bubbles left on the glass after a swirl.

Nose: Lime, mass of dry hops and wheat, lots of wheat. Light floral aroma. Wood shavings. Tiny hint of jiff lemon. As it warms in you hand you get barley and syrup sweetness, slight musty mothballs, then into cloying cream. It really plays with the range as it warms.

Body: Strawberries, insane sweetness, jam tarts. Thick textured. Grapefruit and hops. Lots of cloying cream, passion fruit, custard. Light lemon meringue. Toffee.

Finish: Hops and light bitterness mixed with hardboiled fruit sweet residue. Resin and lemon.

Conclusion: Calls itself an IPA, listed on ratebeer as a Barley Wine, and feels very much a mix of the two. Massively sweet, strawberry jam in huge doses mixes with wonderful grapefruit touches. It is a brilliant range, with a great but not overpowering hop character. This is an odd mix of intense flavours and yet together it works as a relaxing beer that sooths you to rest.

I have an amazing amount of time for this, its not your standard IPA – the balance between sweet and hops makes it eminently drinkable for a long time ,where each element by itself would have worn out its welcome. In fact only the high ABV holds you back on this.

Feels like the refinement and explosion of the varied American IPA styles that are then all condensed into one bottle.


Brewdog: Abstrakt AB02 (Scotland: American Strong Ale/Imperial Red: 18% ABV)

Visual: Small bubbles, fizzy dark cherry red that shimmers in a slightly hazy fashion. A frothy brown bubbled head appears on the pour but the high alcohol kills it before the bottle has even been emptied.

Nose: Strawberry, grapefruit, hops lemon and a rich malty character. Passion fruit and planed wood. Sharp sour hoppiness.

Body: Gingerbread and hops, grapefruit. These initial light flavours are then swamped by massive charring and bitter hops. Maybe a touch of cherry wins out before the onslaught, Bitter chocolate and as you acclimatise a huge malt body comes out. If you hold the beer at the front of your mouth sour grapes, caramel, strawberry and toffee are evident.

Finish: Full impact bitter hops, dry and full of charcoaled wood. Very evident alcohol, gin? , at this point. Bitter chocolate and treacle lightly.

Conclusion: A light fruit nose, a body that shows grapefruit and light sourness for as long as you can keep it at the front, then the back, oh the back.

It’s like some bastard just nail gunned hops directly into my tongue and jammed it into a barrel full of them. An immense assault of bitterness at the end and evident alcohol kick to match.

So a subtle beer it is not, well not in the latter half at least, it’s almost a challenge seeing how long you can roll the lighter fruity front along the tip of your tongue before you succumb to swallowing and letting yourself in for everything that follows.

It’s a 5 AM Saint with everything turned up to 11, and hops to 12 falling into a Hardcore IPA V2 Back.

It is remarkable how much they can pack into the front to contrast the back, and as you acclimatise a remarkable complexity can be found in the secondary assault.

Very much a Brewdog ale, fruit, especially grapefruit, hops and an ABV that makes you gasp. Initially seeming unsubtle but revealing itself over time. Even then it’s not a refined gem, but a sledgehammer of flavour. Worth it if you can keep up.

Boston Beer: Samuel Adams: Triple Bock (USA: Barley Wine: 17.5/18% ABV (sources vary on exact number)

Visual: Pours thick like baileys, black, no head. More of a liquor than a beer in texture.

Nose: Brandy, thick chocolate, ice cream and raisins. Cloying thick. Dried fruit, figs. More chocolate. Powerful and sweet. Prunes. Cherry chocolate and coconut.

Body: Very sweet cherries and bitter chocolate. Strawberries. Malt chocolate on the back. Syrup, glazed apricots. Evident alcohol. Oily texture – fish oil? Slight peanuts.

Finish: Fiery. Bitter cocoa. Figs again. Port. Dry cocoa powder.

Conclusion: Powerful. A chocolate fruit liquor. The nose, oh the nose – it is wonderful and expressive – almost reminds me of Good King Henry Special Reserve.

The body however is distinctly less subtle and smooth. It’s very fiery initially which overpowers the flavour, after a while smooth chocolate is expressed, but then the beer becomes sickly and overpowering. In works best in spirit like measures, as anything more becomes slightly unpleasant.

It’s still decent, chocolaty and rich with fruit, in flavour it faces Tokyo* head to head and is found wanting.

As an early experiment in extreme beer this was the forbearer of things to come, and is still decent in small doses – it’s now a bit of an old granddad of a beer, watching its descendent surpassing it due to the ground it lay.

Not the best, but still has a nose to fight with the best. This granddad still has heart, if a bit rough around the edges.

(Note: This beer was shared between two drinkers due to its immense weight, and small servings are recommended if you find this beer. Ratebeer alleges this is a retired beer now – if anyone knows different if they could let me know)

Brewdog Tokyo* (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 18.2% ABV)

Visual: Deep impenetrable black which shines rum red in the light. A small brown fizz of a head vanishes soon.

Nose: Coffee, sweet liquor. Strong alcohol punch. Red wine/port. Coffee cake, sweet and creamy. Dark grapes and just a hint of cranberry.

Body: Sweet, both red and black cherry. Burnt sugar and brown sugar. Very fruity. Sweet cream and icing sugar. Raspberry. Slight sour touch at the back of the throat. Black treacle and a wonderful burnt wood with a traditional stout depth.

Finish: Chocolate, alcohol dryness – gin? Dry wood and bitter touches.

Conclusion: Dangerously drinkable. A Cherry fruit beer stout with an alcohol threat hidden under waves of sweet flavour.

Tastes more fruity and sweet than expected, insanely easy to drink and appreciate – rich and flowing.

A fine harsh back to round it off makes this a stout that defies expectation.

Yes it is that damn good.

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