I'm sat here drinking a Bitch Please. It's the second time I've drunk this beer. The first time was after I'd seen some comments about it, including a few complaining that it tasted phenolic. I had not actually realised that it was whisky cask aged, and neither had Ann when she ordered a case from BrewDog. It's a barley wine, and she likes barley wine, she thought she'd like this one. She most certainly does not like Paradox, but I do. I was keen to try it.
On this particular occasion I'd been to the pub already, so my taste buds, and perhaps synapses, were not operating at full potential. Yup it smelled and tasted of phenols, so what? I tweeted the fact to the world in general.
That got a few replies, mostly questioning the sense in making a beer taste so horrible. There is part of me wonders if that was part of the understandable BrewDog backlash that is a current theme around the beer-related social network. But I still maintain that if you put a beer in a cask that previously held a phenolic whisky then the beer is very probably going to be phenolic. It's a bit like complaining that a vindaloo is 'king hot.
And to carry on that food analogy one has to realise that most people don't like over-the-top spicy food. Indeed, I cannot remember the last time I heard anyone order such silly dishes as Vindaloo. Likewise, it is expected that most beer drinkers won't like this beer.
In any case, I've decided to drink another bottle of Bitch Please, to suffer so I can give a more considered view on what is admittedly a stupidly boundary pushing beer.
Smell: strong charcoal, smoke, TCP, typical malt whisky aromas. Dissipates as the glass is swilled around and allowed to breathe. Gives way to barley wine aromas of dried fruit, but only after some time to let the whisky dissipate.
Taste: Overpowering magic marker, solvent, alcoholic. The base barley wine has been beaten to a quiet whimper, those Scots have bloody well nigh on killed any subtlety. Sure, the base beer is still there, fighting its last breath smothered by the big clout of Jura, but I have difficulty discerning anything I can find flavour descriptors for.
So, what's the point? It is just a crazy idea designed to do nothing more than send the beer geeks crazy and raise the profile of an already over-hyped brewery. Isn't it?
And yes, I'd agree, but I still like it for some bizarre reason. But then I like phenols and I like those mad extreme single malts. To be fair, there are plenty of people that don't. Paradox works because the base stout still works in balance and isn't nearly beaten to death in the process. Bitch Please starts to question the sense in spirit cask ageing, and I'm drawn to love it just for that, despite its faults.
What really interests me is not so much how successful the beer is in its execution; there are plenty of reasons to say that there are flaws. What really interests me is how it fits with the developing esoteric beer market.
It is our view that the traditional cask market is becoming somewhat stagnant and saturated. With an ever increasing number of breweries, and with us all fighting for front-bar font space, back-bar fridge space and off-sales shelf space we all have to fight for a part of that market.
Looking at keg, crazy stunts, fun poking, deliberate institution unsettling and the odd bit of stepping-over-the-boundary might well be something we will all have to do more of.
Bitch Please might be over-hyped, but over-hyping is the way to get your brewery noticed and grow up into a success. Furthermore, despite the current backlash, BrewDog continues to grow.
Right, now we've got that out of the way, I'm going to finish the glass..... and as I do, it's growing on me and the barley wine is fighting back.