When my partner, Dr. P, saw that I was reviewing beers, she told me that I had to review Brewdog's Sink the Bismark. Now, my rule has sort of been that I review beers as I drink them, so that I can give you a current impression. I'll make an exception with Sink the Bismark, though, because a) it's an exceptional beverage, b) it made quite a lasting impression, and, most importantly, c) you never, EVER want to cross Dr. P...
(Also, it's International IPA Day, w00t!)
Anyway... Brewdog is a Scottish outfit, known for brewing rather "punk" beers to start with. They made the news a couple of months ago when they forced a public apology out of Diageo, the international brewing conglomerate that owns (among many other things) Guinness, when the latter forced the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) Scotland to give them their Bar Operator of the Year award (Brewdog had actually won it), or they'd pull their sponsorship of future BII events.
Now, I've had the pleasure of knowing quite a few Scottish people over the years, and while I thoroughly enjoy their company, there's something deeply, deeply disturbed about all of them. I mean, after all, their nation began when they took Mel Gibson as their leader, painted themselves blue, and mooned the English king.
And so it was that one night, when Dr. P and I were at our local, the Church Key, flipping through the bottle menu, we stumbled across Sink the Bismark, listed as an IPA with 41% ABV! Not only that, but the 12oz bottle was $110! At first, I thought it must be a typo, but apparently not. They start with their Hardcore imperial IPA, itself a monster at 9.2% ABV and 150 IBUs (the measure of hops bitterness; I've heard it said that the human palate tops out at 100 IBUs). Then, they distill it by freezing the water out of it (the same process used to turn hard cider into apple jack, a potent brandy; unfortunately, this process doesn't separate out the methanol, like vapor distillation, but rather concentrates it, leading frequent apple jack drinkers to nervous system damage called apple palsey).
Naturally, I had to try it :-) Fortunately, the Key had a bottle open and was selling 1 oz. shots for $10. Dr. P (who doesn't normally like hoppy beers, but agreed to share the experience) and I decided to split one (which meant she'd take a sip and I'd finish the rest).
So here was this little cordial glass filled with beautiful, shining bronze liquid that you could almost see the vapors rising from. Raise it to my nose, and it filled me with the fire of a thousand suns, if those suns had been comprised entirely of hops that had condensed from a light-years wide disc of interstellar matter, compressed and ignited by the force of gravity into the mighty Promethean fires of fusion. I sure hope this wasn't a mistake... The sip was pure concentrated distillate of lupulin (the resin that gives hops their flavor and aroma, and the boiling of which makes beer bitter), combined with the sweet, grainy alcohol of raw whiskey. It was at once the most intense hop experience imaginable, and a moment of sheer terror, as though one might burst into flames just from drinking the stuff, or exhaling too close to a lighted flame, electrical device, or someone rubbing a balloon against their hair.
In the end, that one ounce shot was more than enough for me and Dr. P. It was a marvelous, awe-inspiring experience, but I'd never buy a bottle of the stuff, as it'd take me months if not years to go through it. It does, however, make me want to find a shot of their distilled imperial stout, the Tactical Nuclear Penguin...
Brewdog Sink the Bismark distilled imperial IPA. ABV 41%, IBUs holy mother of god find me some woad I must paint my face FREEEEDOOOOM!