13 November 2008


It was the middle of December during my soujourn in Aberdeen that I discovered I could never live there. It wasn't the coldness of the winter, nor the damp pall that would waft in from the North Sea on slightly warmer days. No, it was the darkness. Those days when the sun would climb wheezily over the horizon, only to disappear back to bed after only a couple of hours' work, just freaked me out. Aberdeen in mid-winter doesn't do afternoons: you go straight from grey dawn to grey twilight with nothing in between.

Even here, several degrees south of the Granite City, I find the short days and long nights leave me permanently exhausted. Yesterday evening, as a tonic, I picked out a bottle of drug-laden beer formulated by people who work even further north than Aberdeen: Fraserburgh's BrewDog, and their Speed Ball strong ale.

At 7.8% ABV, it's relatively light for a BrewDog beer, but the alcohol isn't the most important ingredient. There's kola nuts in here, and guarana, and California poppy, plus a measure of heather honey as well. Quite a mix. The almost-headless dark amber beer is quite thin of body, as British strong ales often are, but there are certainly some interesting flavours. A bitter, herby pungency is the dominant one, reminiscent of aniseed or similar semi-medicinal botanicals. Underneath it, the vaguely metallic, presumably English, hops make themselves felt by adding a dryness, and then the whole thing is buoyed up on a cushion of alcoholic warmth.

It's interesting, it's potent, and yet it's deceptively easy to drink. There's none of the big sticky malt of English strong ales I know. In fact, it's hard to believe that something so complicated, made from such way-out ingredients, could come together in such a balanced way. But that's BrewDog for you.

The picture above is the first of hopefully many taken in the room in which is now, officially, my study. I've had it painted a bright, stimulating yellow, to keep the darkness away.


  1. Another one for the Portman Group - if they know what a "Speedball" is.

  2. Well, this bottle was brought to Ireland through Denmark, so that lot can keep their noses out, thankyouver'much.

  3. Congrats on getting your study up and running. I agree with you about the dark evenings; they are hard going, but did the beer deliver a lift to your mood?

  4. I recall you being horrified at the notion of stimulants in beer when I bought this.

    Ehm... no I don't think it lifted my mood any more than any other decent beer would have. It certainly didn't leave me bouncing off the walls. Anyone looking for major novelty effects will be disappointed by what's merely a solid, tasty, beery beer.

  5. Yeah, I like to avoid them where possible. Too much caffeine, for example, makes my heart palpitate and leaves me with that nervous feeling you have when you're expecting bad news. Hardly surprising really, it is a potent central nervous stimulant.

    I just feared that the Brewdog boys had added the stimulants as liberally as they add hops.

  6. The Portman Goup has already been at them for this. An up and coming brewery could not ask for better publicity than that!