07 June 2017

Dark dogs

Thou shalt not judge a beer by its IBUs, thou shalt not judge BrewDog by inches of news.
-- Zak Avery, 2013

As usual I'm skipping past the boring controversial legal and marketing stuff and going straight for the liquid: two new BrewDog stouts, both pitching the strong and sweet angle.

Self-Assembly Pope was the first to hit the shelves, back at the end of last year. This is 7.4% ABV and includes coconut, cocoa and vanilla. It's a proper brown-black and forms a decent head on top of that. Coconut is usually a pleasant and fun addition to stouts but I have a to make an exception here. The beer is dry and rough and quite unpleasantly bitter. On top of a severe ashen roasted quality there's also a sickly-sweet element added by the chocolate and vanilla, and the two sides of its personality clash unpleasantly. It's sharp, harsh and pretty much the opposite of what beers like this usually have going for them.

I was hoping that the more recent Semi-Skimmed Occultist which followed would be an improvement. The coconut has been swapped out for coffee, there's extra lactose, and the ABV has been raised to the full 8%, all of which should have a smoothing effect. Let's see... It seems denser and darker in appearance. There's definitely none of the harshness of its papal predecessor but there's also not as much going on. I'd nearly go so far as to say it's a bit bland. Yes the vanilla, coffee and chocolate all play a part, and this time they're in harmony with each other, but none of them raise the volume very high. As it warms, the alcohol becomes more prominent, eventually talking heatedly over the top of the other elements. Pleasant but not exciting is my verdict. Damning, perhaps, for a drama-craving brewery like BrewDog.

I guess this pair raises the issue of whether something smooth and bland is better than a beer that's interesting but in the wrong ways. I guess it is: if Semi-Skilled Occultist were a strong stout from an anonymous Belgian brewery I'd probably be into it. You'll just have to put up with my pickiness.

No comments:

Post a Comment