This 'quadruple IPA', currently the strongest beer by ABV in the world, has been named in response to Schorschbräu's recent 40% bock, which itself - albeit briefly - took the world record from BrewDog's own 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin. All of which screams 'Gotcha!'
The online debate over the choice to name a beer after an event that saw some 2,000 lose their lives has been all too Manichean in character, overly polarised between those who see the name as a total disgrace traducing the memory of the fallen and those who see it as 'a bit of a laugh'. For my part, I think it's dreadfully silly. I'm less offended, to be honest, by the connection to the deaths of drafted sailors than the implication given by the naming of the beer in the here and now that we can still only see rivalry with Germans through the prism of the war. At least, given BrewDog is a Scottish enterprise, we are collectively saved the indignity of MD James Watt screeching 'one World Cup and two World Wars, doo-dah, doo-dah...'
If Stella is 'wife beater', Sink the Bismarck! is evidently 'Sun reader' - and I'm enough of a liberal lefty to wince at that.
'And so to beer,' as Pepys would no doubt have put it. The seventeenth century diarist would have approved of BrewDog's excellent choice of the Rake to launch STB! last Friday, given as he was to drinking in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral himself ('Lo, I spake to Lizzie, how many drames of thee Bismark have I hadde? Is it mee or does the Citee fire still grow?' - 2 September 1666.)
Up we trotted to the first floor of this fine establishment, my wife Claire and I in the first of several groups to get to taste the furore. The session began very well, with the formal unveiling of the tweaked Hardcore IPA, itself lifted in ABV to 9.2% from 9.0%. It is a splendid beer and this reboot surely wins it the accolade of the most delicious US double-IPA-style beer brewed in the UK. The hops remain warming and multi-layered but the malt balance is notably thicker (the beer is darker than its ancestor) and has a solid working relationship with the booze to usher the intense bitterness through without the drinker wishing to give up and swig some water by way of respite.
Tokyo* was up next. I've tweeted about this 18.2% imperial stout before - unflatteringly, I have to say. Claire and I settled on a description of it as 'like burned plastic blended with candy sugar.' 'Nuff said.
STB! It arrived, as one would fully expect - Alcohol
It's an intriguing beer, one that seriously and sensationally tests the boundaries of beer production, but I do not rate it as an out-and-out taste success. I wonder what a few drops of water would do to it (as this can open up a rich malt whisky), but at £40 per bottle, I suspect my first port of call would be a bottle of rich malt whisky. There is one final problem; as Hopdaemon brewer and fellow blogger Pete Brissenden has so succinctly put it: 'one of the main things I struggle with BrewDog's new Sink! beer is that I can't really ever imagine a time or place I would really want to drink it.'
Introducing STB!, James Watt failed to convince even his biggest fans with a faux-naïve ejaculation that '...we weren't expecting such controversy.' This was greeted, rightly, with cynical laughter. It's one thing to go, as Alan Partridge would put it, 'balls out of the bath' to whip up interest, but to knock on the door and run away impresses no-one.
It is difficult to talk about BrewDog without getting sucked into the vortex of their PR agenda, but talk about them we do and the reason for that is the beer. Punk IPA astounded when it hit the market and on cask is one of the very finest beers you will ever taste. BrewDog's brashness grates when it misses the mark but even their efforts here will surely persuade other UK brewers to rethink how they get themselves to market; many make superb concoctions and then issue a pumpclip of a thong-wearing Princess Zelda to flog 'em. Any effort to break out of this ad paradigm can only be welcomed.
Watt says 2010 is 'all about the beer' for BrewDog. Let's hope so - if as much effort goes into a 4-7% ale as went into STB!, craft beer fans up and down the land would have much to cheer.
I'd very much like to thank BrewDog and the Rake for hosting what was a most enjoyable event. The Rake has been my spiritual home of late and should be recognised not only for its splendid beer evangelism but also the strides it has made in recognition of suggestions made by its patrons to offer a more friendly face to the world. Duly noted and appreciated.