Illawarra Brewers Union

Drinking two big Brew Dogs

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The two big Brew Dogs beers – Penguin on the left and Bismarck on the right – and the sign-up sheets for tastings.

There are a few beers I’ve largely written off any chance of trying.
One of them is that beer that’s called Westy 11 or something, because surely one of the rules about trying a beer is to know its real name.
Crown Ambassador is another I’m not holding my breath for. At about $90 a pop, I’m disinclined to spend that much on a beer and I doubt the mega brewery behind it is going to send a sample my way given my propensity to ridicule its little brother, Crown Lager.
Then there’s that infamous Brew Dog pairing of Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck!. For me, those two have always been pipe dreams. I mean one of them sells at Dan Murphy’s for $200 a 375ml bottle. Now, I’m not paying that much for a beer, unless it’s brewed by Victoria’s Secret lingerie models. And they wear lingerie while they brew. And I get to visit the brewery that day.wa
But I digress (and also hope my wife isn’t reading this). So the Brew Dog two – out of the question. Or so I thought.
See yesterday, I went to my first get-together for the Illawarra Brewers Union (aka IBU – see what they did there?). One of the members had apparently brought a bottle of each back from Scotland (where presumably it’s not stupidly expensive) and graciously offered people a taste – for $5 each (which was fine by me because, if you’ve been paying attention, this stuff aint cheap). So, realising a chance when I see it, I put my name down for a sample of both. And I mean I literally put my name down – there was a printed list with 13 spaces for those who wanted to try some. I got in with three spaces to spare.
When tasting time came, there was a small huddle around the table with each person wishing everyone else would hurry the hell up so it would be their turn. But that could have been just me.
First up was the Penguin at 30-something per cent. I’d brought a notepad with the plan to take notes of the tasting but that tends to take a lot of the fun out of things. And I was never going to try these beers again so I wanted to enjoy the experience.
The Penguin smelled heavily of whiskey, which was bad for me as I had one of those “get drunk, throw up heaps and never drink it again” moments with whiskey. But thankfully it doesn’t taste like it. Instead, I got the flavour of piney hops – as well as a bit less alcohol than I expected. All-up it was a bit like a port or cognac. But with hops.
It was a different story with the Bismarck!. I took a whiff of that and it felt like I’d singed my nasal hairs. The flavour was strong on alcohol and not a lot else for me. It left me with the impression that Penguin was an attempt to make a high-alcohol beer, but one that also had some taste but the idea behind the Bismarck was nothing more than to rachet up the alcohol to a level that would wrest the title of “most ridiculously alcoholic beer” from the Germans who took the title from Penguin.
As for the rest of the IBU afternoon, it was tops. Unlike other homebrew groups, this is a loose affiliation of brewers – there’s no executive, no membership and no voting. Just every now and then someone hosts an IBU day at their place and everyone brings beer and food.
So I rocked up and there was a fridge with four taps, three ice buckets, each with another keg in it and three cubes running hoses into hand pumps. And that’s on top of those entry-level souls like myself who brought along a few beers.
It was a relaxed, fun afternoon. And you can bet I’ll be there for the next one.
Would I drink them again?: Given the insane retail pricing of the two Brew Dog beers I think drinking then again just ain’t going to happen. But I would really like to drink the dunkel weizen one IBU member had on tap again. That was beyond delicious.

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