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Big Dogs

There's something that I've been wanting to say here, but until today I never had the excuse: I'm bored of BrewDog's marketing gimmicks. That "strongest beer in the world" stuff was just childish and the dead squirrel stunt was downright silly. And I also don't buy all that "Punk" bollocks. James Watts and his associates are no more punk than me or my daughter. They are very smart business people who know very well how to sell their brand, which is no minor thing.

Of course, all this is of very little, in any, relevance. What interests me the most as a consumer is what I have in the glass and it should be said that, marketing bollocks or not, this Scots really know how to make beer. I've drunk many of the products of BrewDog and there hasn't been a single one that I disliked, from the simple stuff like Zeitgeist, to the more complex like the Paradox series. (though, based on some some comments I've heard and read, Tactical Nuclear Pinguin could have been the exception).

And since I've brought up the topic of complex beers. Not long ago, James was kind enough to send me a box with samples of three of their newest products, both versions of Bashah Reserve and two bottles of AB:04.

I really liked the original Bashah, I drank several after I reviewed it and my opinion of it did not change. Back when they announced it in their blog, BrewDog mentioned that they had set a few hl aside to mature for a year in whisky barrels in two versions, one with tayberries and the other with rasperries.
I randomly opened the former (the other one will age for some time) not really knowing what to expect as I had no idea about what those berries would bring to the beer, and what a curious beast I found!. My good friend Velký Al said the other day that balance is one of the elements that makes a beer good, and I couldn't agree more. If there is something that Bashah Tayberry Rererve lacks is balance. There is red wine with a lot of tannins, fruit, chocolate, coffee, spice, tartness, liqueur and wood, everything without much order. I didn't like the first two sips very much, really, but after the third I started seeing the method to this madness and somehow, and please, don't ask me to explain how, the beer ends up working out very well. Even my wife, not a friend of very weird beers, liked it. It is something to sip quietly, preferably, without anything that will distract you. I really enjoyed this monster a lot.

AB:04 is the latest release of the Abstrakt family, a parallel line from BrewDog that consists of one-off, limited edition beers that are said not to fit into any category. The previous three releases of Abstrakt are available in Prague, but I must confess that I never thought of buying any of them. My current financial situation forces me to be very selective in my shopping and to try to get as much from my money as possible, so I prefer to distribute a given amount on several beers, instead of only one. But I was curious about them and, even though AB:04 is very different from the rest, I hoped it would give me at least at little idea of what I was missing.

Somewhere I had read something about this beer, but by the time I had the bottle in front of me I had forgotten about the details, I usually don't pay too much attention to what is said about beers I don't think I will drink (fortunately, with this one in particular, my forecast was wrong). The only thing I was sure was that I was about to drink a very black beer with a whopping 15% ABV. (It turned out to be an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, cocoa and chilli)
AB:04's nose has notes that reminded me of Amontillado Sherry (or was it Oloroso? I've forgotten already what the different types are like) with some roasted nuts. As expected, this is a very complex beer and, fortunately this time, very well balanced. Burnt wood, spice, dried fruit, a touch of wine, Sherry and a mild spiciness by the end the associated more with black pepper than chilly. Just one it seems that it all ends there, leaving you with a slightly sour aftertaste, the real finish walks in and it almost blew my mind. Intense, but smooth, coffee liqueur, which does not so much explodes as it blooms in the mouth and lingers for quite some while. It's wonderful. AB:04 is an outstanding dessert beer, great to share in winter evening.

Thanks once again to James for sending me these beers and the two bottles of Hardcore IPA that escorted them. And since I'm here, I would like to wish everyone at BrewDog and all my readers and friends a very happy Christmas, which I hope can be spent with loved ones and good beer.

Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.


  1. I re-availed myself of BrewDog's Paradox Smokehead this week, on draught no less, and for all the silly shenanigans, James and co do make some very nice beers. Admittedly I rarely drink much of their stuff at the moment, mainly for reasons of getting to grips with US beer, but it was nice to go back to one of my favourite beers they produced.

  2. Dear Pivni Filosof !

    I agree and disagree:

    BrewDog's marketing machine is brutally efficient and gimmicky. And i am a bit tired of them pretending to be underground, cult and punk when all their classics are on sale down at the discount markets here in Copenhagen - right next to the rest of the industrial brew that pretends to be micro. I hope the local and fine dedicated beer shops take them off their shelves. Latley i must say that i find  beers like punk ipa, bashah, zeitgeist, Tokyo and a couple of the new ones really boring. I still really like hardcore ipa and their legendary paradox islay and smokehead. Those beers seem to have more soul and edge to them, though i am not ruling out them aiming to become Big Dogs stuffing borttles down the throats of dead animals clouds my judgement.

    Anyway - thanks for your incredible blog - i still enjoy it very much. 

    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year !!

    Best regards,
    Martin, Allbeer


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