It’s funny how much your tastes develop and change as you get older. This can of course span beyond just the realm of beer and alcohol. I grew up a very picky eater. A few of the more normal things I didn’t like eating when I was younger were eggs, chinese food, various vegetables, onions, and plenty of fruit. I may not have been the most healthy child ever. Now, getting older, I enjoy a lot of these different things. I still don’t eat fish, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be capable of doing that.
Anyway, I’ve seen a lot of development in flavors in the realm of beer and alcohol over the years as well. While a lot of it hasn’t been due to a particular dislike for anything, it is instead a lack of exposure to a lot of the more developed and mature options out there. Working in a big city with so many colleges, I have to deal with a lot of kids just coming into their real discovery of alcohol. They no longer need to hide that they drank one of their parents beers or take shots out of cheap plastic bottles their big brother got for them. While they now have the capabilities to try the good stuff, wallets and the lack of knowledge keep them ordering silly or cheap things. I’ve actually had someone come up to my rather classy bar and say, “It’s my friend’s 21st birthday. Do you know how to make a Nazi Death Camp?” I also couldn’t help but laugh when the Marine who had just turned 21 told me he was really into shots right now. I mentioned that he should look at some of the good craft beers out there, and he scoffed that he drank beer when he was 14, he had moved on to shots. I would hope that I didn’t sound as dumb as many of these children who have approached my bar, but I’m sure I did as well. I certainly drank my share of cheap beer and gross vodka growing out of the discovery stage of alcohol. Upon starting at my restaurant nearly three years ago, my knowledge spread from good beers to good scotches and bourbons too. My other area of interest beyond beer.
One thing that I’ve started to learn about is scotch. Particularly I’ve really come to enjoy some of the smokier and peatier versions for sure. That’s ultimately one of the big reasons why I was interested in this bottle. I was at a store in Maryland when I noticed a little sign that told me all BrewDog beers were $2 off. There were a few different bottles to choose from, but I was most interested in this one because of the islay whisky casks it was aged in. Smokehead apparently refers to the company they got the casks from, and islay typically means good smoke, so I was hoping for a nice beer/scotch crossbreed.
This one pours out a super dark black color with the near consistency of oil. There was only the slightest hint of any head on the top of the beer following the pour in the form of an occasional dark bubble. Swirling the glass results in no lacing at all; however, the sticky residue left from the beer lingers quite a while. As expected, the beer was far too dark to really have any clue about the clarity, but the total lack of any head or lacing certainly makes the beer seem rather low in carbonation.
I had my hands a little full when I went to open this bottles, so I was holding it against my chest when I popped it open. It may have been the first time that the aroma hit me that hard when opening a bottle. I did happen to spill a little on myself which may have assisted in the intensity, but it was powerful. The smoke and peat aroma is huge on the nose. The beer smells very strongly of the whisky scotch influence. The overwhelming influence of the casks manages to hide all signs of the imperial stout base. In the end it’s clear this is all malt and no hops.
The flavor profile is basically completely dominated by the cask contributions. There is some big malt backbone that kicks off the beer, and it’s the one place where the peaty scotch influence is the least present. The stout base at the start has a lot of dark chocolate sweetness to it; however, not a whole lot of roasted coffee. The coffee aspect of the stout may be there, but it is completely swallowed up by the smokey peat flavor. Not long into the flavor profile, the big whisky and peaty scotch flavor kicks up. The booziness from the casks comes in huge and is followed up quickly by some very well developed smokey peat flavors. The peat isn’t really big and bold like a laphroaig, but it is more developed and aged tasting. The beer ends with a lot of roasted smokiness and overall sweetness. It’s the somewhat overpowering nature of the sweetness at the end that was my least favorite aspect to this beer.
The mouth here matches a lot of what could be visibly seen in the glass. It looked like oil, and it had a rather thick and syrupy nature to it. There appeared to be no carbonation, and it really didn’t have much carbonation at all. All of the smoke, peat, and scotch add great flavor, but it’s the slight over sweetness to it that kept it from being a perfect beer for me. I will say, I chilled this beer and the bottle instructs you to drink it at room temperature. As it warmed, the sweetness dissipated and the smoke became even more intense. I have a feeling I could have avoided the sweetness if I had just followed directions better.
I realized slightly before doing this tasting that I had somehow found a bottle that may have sat on that shelf for years. The bottle states that it was bottled on 08/08/08. Had I realized this before hand, I would have probably grabbed more than one. While it’s actually not the oldest beer in my collection right now, I was happy all the aging time had been done for me. I have no idea if the brewery held on to these and just recently released them, but you won’t be disappointed if you can kind one of these still on the shelf. Here’s to developing a more mature and developed palate!
Teacher Grade: A