Brewdog: Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)
Visual: Very dark black cherry red. Moderate inch of creamy brown froth.
Nose: Cherries and cherry liqueur. Vanilla and caramel. Chocolate liqueur. Jelly babies. Rye crackers. Tequila.
Body: Big amounts of jelly babies. Chocolate. Fudge. Bitter core. Sour pineapple juice. Malt chocolate. Pink grapefruit. Vanilla.
Finish: Sour pineapple juice. Rye. Toffee. Jelly babies. Grapefruit. Tequila. Coconut.
Conclusion: Some beers just seem frickin’ weird when barrel aged. Note that that is not in any way commenting on the quality of said beer, for good or bad, just noting that they do not go in the ways that you would expect.
Take this for example, a hopped up amber rye ale – now, after time in the barrel – it shoves a mix of vanilla (expected from the barrel ageing), tequila and jelly babies notes (only seen before in tequila barrel ageing, which is not used here), sour pineapple and grapefruit juice (kind of expected from the hop style, but far more sour), and sweet cherry liqueur notes (oh I give up). In no way is this how I thought the barrel ageing would affect the brown rye IPA tasting, kind of malt led, base beer that it originated from.
That sourness of the hop flavours, while note hugely powerful, is one of the bigger twists on the hop character that I didn’t see coming. However the coconut notes the base retains helps sooth it out, and together makes an oddly, well, not balanced, but managed beer.
It is an unrestrained mash up – soothing malt and coconut notes. Big sweet notes. Earthy spicy rye notes. I don’t think you could deliberately design this beer. It just wouldn’t work if you tried to put it together on purpose. However, here, somehow the mix does work. It is far sweeter and more dessert like that this beer should be, more bitter cored than that sweetness should allow, and more sour than that balance should handle. And, early on, it doesn’t work. It is a car wreck. However somehow it manages to build up, and somehow it ends up actually very good.
This kind of madcap foolery is where Brewdog shines, and is why they are still so appealing to me despite the fact I disagree with some of their stunts. A genuinely unexpected mix that has pulled off well. Well worth a try.
Background: A rye IPA that has now spent time in rye whiskey barrels, six months to be exact. I quite enjoyed standard Albino Squid Assassin, though this one seems to have had its abv punched up a few notches as well – so, either a hell of a wet wood to age in, or I’m guessing they have tweaked the recipe a bit so it survives ageing better. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.