Thursday, February 10, 2011

8 Beers to Make Any Drinker's Bucket List

I'm not dying, nor have I ever been, to the best of my knowledge and at the ripe old age of 27 I'd hope not to for some time yet. But in recent months, as the diverse world of beer consumes me at a greater rate than I could consume it, I found myself starting to compile a list of beers that, given an unlimited budget, I hope to consume before I die. Sadly, and perhaps rather ironically, after much addition and consideration, any actually attempt to consume all beers on the list in any reasonably terminal period would probably result in death anyway, as well as death to anyone else who was out on the road between my house and a suitable kebab shop at the time.

So here is a somewhat shortened version of my beer-bucket list, both as a personal note and a recommendation to anyone who has started writing their own but couldn't get past Carlton Black when trying to think exotic... It should also probably be mentioned that this isn't so much about taste... I've actually only tried two beers on this list, both were pretty amazing as it happens, but this is more about trying something interesting, bizarre and once in a lifetime. So to get proceedings under ways, he's a friend of mine, he's a friend of yours, IT'S.......

8. Brewdog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin ($130 - 160)

The Brewdog brewery was always going to feature heavily in any list that involved beers being drunk before you die, but more often as the cause of death. Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at a hostile 32% alcohol, is a beer that demands respect in the same way a dictator would with clinical brutality and the military. Probably also quite likely to end up silhouetted on a t-shirt wearing a beret, worn by hip young idiots in a display of ignorant irony.

I once had a gentleman liquor dispenser (bottle shop dude) describe it to me as being similar to crushing up a block of sketching charcoal, soaking it over night in a cup of methylated spirits before waking up bright and early to take it all in through the nostril. But he described it with such glowing adoration, like that of a old lady remembering her first romance, that it made me lament the fact I had never in my life woken up to a nose full of charcoalated spirits. Given the relatively widespread availability of this one, it should be quite a realistic target, cost aside.

7. Samuel Adams' Utopias Beer ($500-550)

Non-carbonated and rolling at an unrelenting 24% alcohol, this one-off special brew by one of the United States' widely distributed craft breweries is more of a grainy, vanilla tasting liqueur than a beer. But the reason that this beer makes the bucket list is its copper-finished, brew kettle decanter which is meant to replicate the old brew kettles that have been utilized by brewmasters for centuries.

What would be the point of drinking a beer just for the bottle if its on your bucket list and you won't get long to enjoy it? Well I can think of far worse containers for my ashes to be kept in. But with only 8000 of these ever produced back in 1999, and initially retailing at $100USD, you're already paying collectors prices, five times that of the original.

6. Orkney Brewery Dark Island Reserve. ($45-50)

For me, 2011 started in the perfect fashion. I'd spent the final moments of 2010 drinking an amazing selection of ales with two of the finest gents a man could drink beer with. It had been over 10 months since I had first laid eyes on this Aphrodite of beers and had made a deal with myself, loudly in the shop, that one day, I would make this beer mine. We sat on the hill by Elwood Beach as the new year began and we drank this amazing oak aged dark ale, watching the city explode with fireworks. In a moment of clarity possibly as a result of being caught up with emotions, I declared this beer to be the finest made in history, as I heaped praise upon its brewers and their ancestors.

Dave described this beer to me in his epic three-part review (via paperback) as; "complex to taste, yet an alcoholic behemoth. It looks like a dream to pour, and smells like all your favourite memories liquefied." He also used the word savoury on more occasions that acceptable outside of being behind the counter at a deli, yet this beer is exactly that. Its also the kind of beer you'd imagine sharing with your old man after returning from a long voyage of exploration across raging seas. Not sure why entirely... I also felt thankful for having a beard.

5. BrewDog's Sink the Bismark ($180-200)

Guess who's back, back again, BrewDog's back, tell a friend (at the responsible drinking board of UK)

You know, when trying to explain my passion for craft brewing to people outside of the know, I desperately try to portray the world of brewing as a sophisticated art form produced by some of the greatest visionaries of our time, but for some reason, when I picture the brewdog boys doing their thing, I always seem to conjure up two men in a trashed flat, smashing plates over each others heads and taking it in turns to scream "YOU NUTTER" at each other like some sort of glitch in that Naughty Bear game on X-Box.

When Tactical Nuclear Penguin was first released it set a record for the strongest distributed beer, The record was short-lived however with German brewer, Schorschbrau, recently reclaiming the mantle releasing the 40% strength Schorschbock. Not to be outdone, on alcohol content or tongue-in-cheek European domination, Brewdog were quick to knock out this 41% IPA, and a cheeky name, to boot. After which they presumably went back to their plate-smashing, nutter-calling game.

4. Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Golden Elixir ($20-25)

Ok, this is the cheapest and most widely available beer on this Bucket List, but it has a fairly intriguing back story. This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine & mead (coming in at a pleasant 9% alcohol) it is said to be a particularly dry ale that will please Chardonnay and beer drinkers alike.

I really like the idea that science and archaeology are finally teaming up to bring us something that we can enjoy (apologies to Time Team, Tony, Mick and Phil will always have a place in my heart). Now if only we could use the same technology to work out what sort of pizza ol' Midas would have after a couple of brews, we could open up a series of franchise gastro-pubs, giving us the ability to one day afford all the beers in my bucket list and live forever happy.

Until that day, I'm stuck with Domino's and Boddingtons.

3. Antarctic Nail Ale ($800-1200)

It has become glaringly obvious to me of late that I'm never going to get to feel the comfort of a leather jacket made with the hide of a white rhino, or mosey around the trendier parts of Melbourne showing off my yeti-skinned leggings and live poodle moccasins, but the Nail Brewing Company has finally given me another outlet to consume mother nature in ways she never intended and would be horrified if she ever found out.

Introducing the Antarctic Nail Ale, made by chiselling ice from caps in Antarctica, melting down to the purest water possible and making quality beer from it. Only a handful of bottles were made, many of which were donated to raise money for whales. Rumour has it that they were gonna call it Nailed Whale Ale, but had to pull the name after demand in Japan sky-rocketed. Marketing thought this would send the wrong sort of message.

2. Tutankhamun's Ale ($50-60)

Same concept as the Midas Touch, except exchanging Egypt instead of Turkey and Tutankhamun instead of Midas. Why is this one higher in the list? Its got its own m*therf*cking sarcophagus. I'm actually willing to concede here for a moment that the beer could taste like Tooheys New blended with Hahn Ice, and I'd still think it was pretty awesome, but given this is brewed in a Cambridge Laboratory from a recipe found in a temple which housed a brewery believed to have been built by King Akenhaten, Tut’s predecessor and likely father, makes the likelihood of this brew being anything similar to the aforementioned pigswill highly unlikely. Also, how insignificant would you feel if you were an ordinary beer at a bottle shop next to this Adonis of liquid container-age... It'd be like nipping to the bathroom and finding yourself at the urinal during the interval of the Men With Large Member's Convention 2011.... motherf*cking sarcophagus...

Though limited, it is said to be available with not a great deal of hunting... No sightings in Melbourne yet.

and finally... if it was ever in doubt.

1. BrewDog's The End Of History ($750-800)

This is proof that brewing is art. Anarchic and nihilistic whilst remaining beautiful, even in death. Possibly the worlds first Apocalypse themed beer, only 12 were made, with each bottle having a squirrel or vole taxidermied around it, presumably for the "LOL's," and containing a beer of 51% alcohol, stronger than the majority of spirits on the market.

Some have suggested the idea of having taxidermied animals wrapped around beers is severe overkill, barbaric and typical of humanities desire to destroy all that stands around like some sort of planet-sweeping virus, but these are the sort of people who live in tents attached to Kombi vans.

I personally think its adorable, and if I ever spawn offspring that upon their ultimate demise, get taxidermied around a brewdog creation, I'll be the proudest father you'll ever see. I mean look at them, they're wearing top hats... they think they're people! People with bottles in them... obviously, but... nawww...

To think that this is the final word in the extreme beers chapter from BrewDog seems a little sad, like they may have peaked too soon, gone out too hard too early. Although, they've not really left a great deal of elbow room for muscling any more craziness into a beer. And what could top this? I'm hoping that BrewDog has a White Album up it's sleeve after this Sgt Peppers of a beer.

To be honest, I can't fathom the idea of what a 51% beer would be like, nor would I want to, it'd be like trying to guess what being hit by a train is like, moments before impact. Best to just sit back and embrace the surprise (and the bodily trauma).


  1. Penguin 35 quid in the UK. Heading there in June. Aussie dollar's never been stronger against the pound. Hmmm...

  2. Haha yeah, we've looked at ordering both that and the bismark in from the brewdog website. only catch is the 40 quid capped postage, so I think we're going to buy every piece of merchandise we can and split the postage about 6 ways.

    Otherwise, I'll be waiting until early next year before I commence my Beer and Loathing in old Blighty Trip.