One Sip: BrewDog Sink the Bismarck! | Bleader

One Sip: BrewDog Sink the Bismarck!

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BrewDog is the largest independently owned brewery in Scotland, and its most popular beers are ubiquitous on multiple continents. It's best known, though, for a widely hyped series of audacious and extremely hard-to-find freeze-distilled brews, each of which briefly held the title of world's strongest beer: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a barrel-aged imperial stout concentrated to 32 percent alcohol by three partial freezings; Sink the Bismarck!, an alleged quadruple IPA iced four times to reach 41 percent; and the End of History, a blond Belgian ale infused with juniper berries and nettles that reigned for less than a month this summer despite an astonishing 55 percent alcohol content.

BrewDog only made a dozen bottles of the End of History, each encased in the taxidermied body of a roadkill stoat or squirrel, with the neck of the bottle protruding from the animal's mouth. They sold out fast, even at more than $700 apiece, but Sink the Bismarck! can still be had—it was released in February 2010, and in December a few bottles finally made it to Chicago. I stumbled across it at the Lush Wine & Spirits in West Town and wrestled with my good sense and dignity for almost an hour before coughing up $125 for the privilege of tasting one of the most ridiculous beers ever brewed.

Sink the Bismarck! retains a whisper of carbonation in the bottle, but the gauzy layer of amber bubbles kicked up by a rough pour disappears swiftly—within a minute it's as flat as whiskey. It even looks like a dark, ruby-colored bourbon, right down to the "legs" it leaves on the inside of the glass. The smell, though, is nothing like whiskey—except for the boozy burn. It's more like a crazily intense English IPA or American barleywine—rich malty aromas of caramel, toffee, and stewed dark fruits like figs and plums, followed by an impressive hop wallop that's mostly pine resin and candied orange peel. There are a few peculiar notes too: sourdough, molasses, fresh green onion, baked pineapple.

Reviews of Sink the Bismarck! have been sharply divided, and I didn't expect it to taste remotely like beer. It's startlingly silky and viscous, with a flicker of honeylike sweetness up front. An instant later a mind-boggling detonation of hop bitterness arrives—cedar, white grapefruit, more pine—and almost completely masks the alcohol heat. The complex malt profile and pineapple flavor both return in the long, buttery finish, along with a lick of jasmine. If you nip at it, it's not as harsh as most neat whiskeys, but the flavor is so insanely intense that you'll want to take it slow anyway—I called it quits after less than two ounces. Each bottle comes with a reusable airtight stopper, and the beer should keep for at least a year after it's opened. You can also try it at Twisted Spoke, where it's $35 a shot, $300 for the bottle.

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