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Brew Dog - Tactical Nuclear Penguin

    In an effort for full disclosure, this beer, along with a sampling of other Brew Dog beers was sent to me by the “punks” at Brew Dog. A special thanks to them for allowing me to have an amazingly unique drinking experience.    

    Tactical Nuclear Penguin is created through a very unique process of oak aging and is then frozen three times. Even if the motivation in making this beer was just to create an insanely strong beer (it was the world’s strongest beer at the first brewing) nothing was sacrificed in terms of flavor or ingredients. All the ingredients are completely natural and the end result is wonderful.

    “The Penguin” is an incredibly strong beer, coming in at 32% ABV, the alcohol content is approaching many liquors. You can smell the alcohol as soon as you pour the beer, another striking factor is the lovely ruby red color. Due to the high alcohol content I advice only having a very small portion, think of it in terms of having a single or double shot of your favorite poison. There is no head to this beer and just the slightest feeling of carbonation. That could also just be the alcohol tingling your tongue. With the first sip there is a strong malted barley flavor, the closet I could equate it to is a stout in terms of beer, but it’s so much more than that. The strong alcohol taste hits you at the end as a slight reminder that even though the flavor is perfect, don’t go too fast with this brew. 

    After a few more sips, again this is a beer for tasting not chugging, flavors of rich hops and smokiness begin to come through and you really get a sense for the feel of this beer. It very much drinks like a whiskey, it is incredibly smooth, clinging to the glass and your mouth.

    There is absolutely nothing like this that I’ve tried, it’s about as far from Coors Light as you can get, something I strive for in my drinking. Tasting Tactical Nuclear Penguin is really an experience and one I very much enjoyed (and plan on enjoying again, thanks to small portions, I’ve got more left). (32% ABV)


Xingu Black Beer

    I was drawn to this beer for two reasons, first, I had never heard of a black beer, and second, I had never heard of a Brazilian beer. Whether this was just my own ignorance or whether these were actually rare qualities in a beer, I was intrigued.

    I was expecting a stout with a Guinness like flavor. However, the results were so far from the perfection of a pint of Guinness that I would almost rather not recall the flavor.

    Starting with the pour, there was no surprise that Xingu (pronounced “shin-goo”) was incredibly dark and appeared black. I noticed the smell right as I went to take a sip, it’s incredibly sweet smelling, so sweet it almost makes you cringe. Next came the tasting, the first sip was incredibly light and smooth, almost completely flavorless; then came the aftertaste. It hits you as a complete afterthought and overwhelms you with the intense taste of molasses and raisins. 

    Brazilians are famous for a liquor called cachaca that is similar to rum but distilled from straight sugar cane as opposed to molasses. Cachaca is the primary ingredient in Caipirinhas, which is made of cachaca, lime, sugar and crushed ice, and is considered the national drink of Brazil. I generally have no objection to lime filled cocktails, however, sweet raisin tasting beer is not on my list of Brazilian things to try and something I’ll be staying away from.

    After just a few sips of Xingu I couldn’t try another sip, this molasses tasting beer was just not my preference and it will be too soon if I ever have it again. (4.6% ABV)


The Guinness Experience

I can honestly say, without a doubt in my mind, that the tours of the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Distillery are worth the trips to Dublin. Dublin is a beautiful and exciting city with incredibly friendly and welcoming people and the addition of these two attractions make this city close to perfect.

    I’ve never been the biggest fan of parades and so on St. Patrick’s Day, instead of trying to grab a glimpse of passing floats through the shoulders of people, we made the wise decision of heading to Guinness. It’s a bit of a walk from the center of town but it is made easier as the smell of roasting barley and fermenting beer draws you in; it’s a smell I hated when my father made beer once when I was much younger, it was gorgeously sweet smell in Dublin, however. After weaving through what feels like a city in itself, you finally arrive at the start of the tour, I felt like, well like a Guinness lover in the heart of it all, practically skipping with joy and excitement. 

    The first floor of the self guided tour (in a building shaped like a pint glass) takes you through the ingredients and the brewing process of Guinness. Everything is beautifully laid out and there is no detail overlooked. Ingredients are set out on a massive scale in order to show how the raw ingredients look, then as the process continues, you see the changes. For instance, you are able to see, touch and smell barley before and after the roasting process. There are quotes from various brewmasters and a history of Guinness on the next level and advertising a few floors up. This was of particular interest to me coming from a marketing education, the advertising of Guinness is flawless today and looked as if it always had been that way. There have been changes in their message, they’re 250 years old, changes were necessary, but they have created and maintained an incredibly strong and well known brand message, something I may be looking at from a different angle than most people, but it’s fascinating, none the less. 

    On the same floor as the advertising there is a bar dedicated to teaching visitors how to properly pour a Guinness, and there is a lot more to it than you may assume. A clean, clear, room temperature glass (Guinness logo please) is your first step. That glass is placed at a 45º angle, then you can let the Guinness flow straightening out the glass ever so slowly until the beer reaches the bottom of the harp (about 2/3 full). Now this is where the magic happens, wait until your Guinness completely settles, take a look at how gorgeous it is while your waiting. After completely settling you can top it off, and this should be done by pushing the tap backwards so as to cut off the gas, there is enough in the pint and we just want pure Guinness now, let the head go above the rim of the glass and you have a perfect pint of Guinness. 

    The only thing left to see was the top floor bar which has floor to ceiling windows and offers a panoramic view of the lovely little city that is Dublin. Go there and see for yourself, it’s well worth it.

    And, if you need a travel buddy, sign me up!


Asahi - Super Dry

    It’s no secret that since coming back from China I’m slightly obsessed with anything from Asia. I’ve tried a few Chinese beers, but I hadn’t moved into Japanese beers yet, that changed after I saw Asahi at Tesco. Asahi (pronounced Ah-Sah-Hee) means rising sun in Japanese and is the number one beer in Japan. 

    Asahi is very light in color with a fairly thick, foamy head. Initially, the flavor is very smooth and light, like many familiar lagers, the finish was dry as expected from the name. There is the slightest taste of hops at the finish and almost no bitterness. This is a barley based beer, there is a taste that distinguishes Asahi from other lagers, however. I suspected this unique flavor was rice and after doing a little research found that this was true. Rice is used in many beers originating in Asia and gives a distinct and very enjoyable flavor. 

    Though this is not the most exciting beer out there, it’s an incredibly nice tasting beer that is enjoyable to drink. Asahi really made me crave a hot summer day with the sun shining on my face or an incredibly spicy meal, both would be perfect with this drink in hand. (5% ABV)


Erdinger - Weisbier

    I’ve been able to try some really great beers since I’ve been in England, beers I would never find in the states and beers that I just haven’t tried in the states. If there is one thing I can complain about, it’s the fact that after having a really great beer, it makes any other beer of the same variety seem dull and boring. This was my problem with Erdinger, a German White Beer. One unique aspect of this beer is that it is bottle fermented, aside from this point, there’s not much to fascinate you with. 

    Erdinger was golden in color and lacked the extreme cloudiness that generally characterizes white beer. This beer was easy to drink with generally pleasant flavors but it was not complex or at all full bodied. I really missed the strong wheat and yeast flavors that I was expecting. Erdinger was also especially carbonated which I’ve never been a huge fan of. There was a slight citrus taste but there was nothing that distinguished this beer from any other mass marketing beer, it was just nothing special. Overall, it was just a plain version of a white beer. (5.3% ABV)


Robinsons - Old Tom Strong Ale

    This beer came highly recommended by world renowned beer groups as well as trusted friends. It is described as a “strong ale” that was awarded the title of “World’s Best Ale” in 2009 from Beers of the World, along with World’s Best Dark Ale, Barley Wine and Strong Dark Ale from the same competition. These points and the very appealing cat on the bottle made this a beer that needed to be tried. 

    My first sip left me wondering if I loved or hated this beer. This is an incredibly dark beer that has a spicy flavor filled with complex notes of carmel and cloves. After reading the reverse of the bottle I noticed this beer was described as having a “port wine finish” which is the best way to describe it. Old Tom’s has a very high alcohol content of 8.5% and a dry fruity finish that does fall into a wine like category. 

    After getting a bit further into this drink I noticed that the initial spiciness had settled into a strong barley flavor with the wine like tendency really coming through. This is the perfect beer for a cold, winter day, it would never work in the summer, it’s just too heavy for warmer weather. I also wouldn’t recommend this if you prefer lighter beers, I’m not even sure I would have liked it just a few months ago, as of now though, it will be a repeat purchase. (8.5% ABV)


Brew Dog - 77 Lager

    77 Lager is the most full bodied lager I’ve had the privilege of tasting. It’s a dark golden color that is bursting with flavor. There are no additives or preservatives which puts this beer in a class of it’s own. It has an incredibly hoppy flavor thanks to the whole leaf hops and 100% malt that 77 Lager is brewed with. Though it does have an incredibly strong flavor compared to most lagers, it’s not overwhelming. There is almost a soft, flowery taste that lingers behind the stronger hops that jump out at the first sip. Brew Dog has successfully done the next to impossible task of creating a full flavored and refreshing lager.      

    And, even better, they’ve done it with a sense of humor and nonchalance. 

The brewery is located in Scotland and run by rebel brewers, Martin and James, who were bored of the commercialization of the beer industry. They made the move to start their own brewery that would use only natural ingredients. 

    Currently, Brew Dog has nine beers in production, including the strongest beer in the world, Tactical Nuclear Penguin. These beers have won many awards, among them a Gold Award in the World Beer Cup for 77 Lager. 

    In a perfect world, I’d have a keg of their 77 Lager in my kitchen and  brewers Martin and James bringing samples of their latest concoctions to my front door.