Welcome to our second attempt to drink our way through a series of the most epic beers out there. This time we’d gone full Yankee Power, collecting some of the most expensive and infamous brews made in or in collaboration with someone in the US. It’s safe to say the evening was a bit of an overkill, but nevertheless a glorious and messy tasting session.

This is what the menu looked like:

AleSmith – IPA
Southern Tier – Gemini
Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head / Sierra Nevada – Life and Limb
Mikkeller / Three Floyds – Boogoop
BrewDog – Lost Abbey
Stone Brewing Co – Old Guardian Barley Wine

If that list doesn’t make you full of envy, you’re either a beer novice (which is fine, you’ve got a lot of delicious discoveries to make and I envy you) or an extremely lucky bastard (and I hate you).

We started by breaking open three of the most famous American IPAs money can buy, just to see which one we liked the most.

AleSmith – IPA – IPA 7.25%
Southern Tier – Gemini – Imperial IPA 10.5%
Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA – Imperial IPA 9%

This happens to me all the time – after a glass or nine of deliciously strong beer my bank account becomes just an abstract idea that can support all of my desires. Which is how I ended up with a really expensive bottle of AleSmith IPA after a drunken evening at Craft Beer Co (yes, you can buy bottles there, it’s very dangerous). This almost mythical IPA had my expectations revving at full throttle. Although it was a seriously smooth and sexy IPA I can’t help feeling I was expecting more. Maybe I’ve become spoiled by living so near The Kernel Brewery with easy access to their wide range of exceptional IPAs.

I’d also heard rumours about the tastiness of the Gemini. So again, high expectations. One sip in and I know I’ve fallen in love. I can see the start of a beautiful relationship. Me and the Gemini, our paths crossing in various boozy locations throughout my life. A couple of weeks ago I saw David Walker, from Firestone Walker, standing on a table in a pub telling people that their imperial IPA was more balanced than their regular IPA. It has something to do with malts I think. Maybe that’s why the Gemini is so cursedly smooth. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be happy to give more than a few of my hard earned shekels to Southern Tier in the future.

Last of this trio of IPAs to be scrutinised was the 90 Minute IPA by the batty beer pilgrims at Dogfish Head. If you’re a beer geek you probably already know that this is brewed using a technique called ‘continuous hopping’. Although it sounds like a skill you would need for a fierce and competitive rabbit deathmatch, it just means that they keep adding hops at short intervals throughout the boiling of the wort. They feed that sucker a blinding amount of hops. The result is a very tasty beer, but a little too harsh for my taste. It just didn’t perform as well in the flavour department as the other two. So much for continuous hopping.

Comparing these iconoclasts of the craft beer world against each other is like tasting three different types of exquisite Russian caviar, going ‘I think that one is a micron less tasty than that one’. This is the 1% of beer. They’re all miles ahead of most of the stuff being brewed around the world.

With this epic opening we were already well on our way to Merryland. Full steam ahead.

Dogfish Head / Sierra Nevada – Life and Limb – American Strong Ale 10.2%

This collaboration beer by Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada looks fancy. The bottle is fancy, the label is fancy and the cork is one of those fancy corks secured with wire. It even has its own website. It’s all very fancy. It’s made with a mix of the house yeast strains from both Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. I don’t know if mixing yeasts instantly makes a better beer. It also has a mix of maple sirup and birch syrup, which manifests itself mainly in the form of a crazy hit of sweetness. The rest of the flavour is pretty subdued somehow. If this was a flavour riot it would consist of a gang of fairly well behaved toddlers armed with really soft cushions. I guess it’s what some people would describe as a round flavour. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to enjoy the subtlety of it, but I thought the story behind the brewing, and the fanciness of the presentation, was more intriguing than the beer itself.

Moving swiftly on we had another collaboration brew waiting for us:

Mikkeller / Three Floyds – Boogoop – Buckwheat Wine 10.4%

If you’ve read a couple of our posts in the past you might have noticed that we’re deeply in love with Mikkeller, which is why we were giddy with excitement when this baby came out of the fridge. This joint effort between Mikkeller and the nefarious wizards at Three Floyds is a strange and mysterious concoction, classified as a buckwheat wine. To my knowledge this means that it’s brewed like a barley wine, but using an abundance of malted buckwheat. Hey presto, buckwheat wine. The label might make you think you’re about to drink something brewed by Alice Cooper at the height of his career, but all of that disappears once you take a sip. A lot of other concerns disappears as well, because this is one hefty tipple. It’s boozy, like a lot of barley wine, but still somehow refreshing and not dissimilar to an imperial IPA. This is good stuff. If you come across it waste no time in getting some inside you..

This is where the tasting should’ve stopped, but unfortunately we were way too drunk to realise.

BrewDog / Lost Abbey – Lost Dog – Imperial Porter 11.5%

Bring on the darkness, and yet another collaboration brew. This time joining forces are the punks at BrewDog, representing Scotland, and the sinners at Lost Abbey, from San Marcos, California. Why every other brewery brands themselves in the punk / heavy metal / rock n roll / headbanging genre remains a mystery to me. Might be the first idea that pops into the drunken mind of a beer drinker when he wants to brand his company. This evil liquid has been made with seven types of malts and aged in rum barrels for a year, which I have to admit is pretty kick-ass. My memory is a bit hazy when it comes to the flavour of it. I remember thinking things like ‘complex’ and ‘delicious’ and ‘hey, this is fresher than I thought it would be’, although the latter comment might be due to the state I was in. I’m pretty sure battery acid would’ve tasted fresher than i thought at that point.

Stone Brewing Co – Old Guardian – Barley Wine 11%

I have to be honest and say I don’t remember drinking this. We really should’ve taken the advice from the Stone Brewing website where it says that it can be kept in a cellar for a good few years. I just remember drinking it and liking it. Stone makes this every year, making small tweaks to the recipe every time they make it. I like that kind of thinking. I’ve promised myself that I will try this again, mainly because I’m a big fan of both Stone and barley wines.

This is where the party ended. Two of us fell asleep on the sofa, mid-conversation, and another on his bathroom floor. I woke up at 4 in the morning wondering where the hell I was, with a vague memory of something delicious playing on my mind. That’s what too much goodness does to you.

Until next time, keep drinking the good shit.

Gemini photo by Edwin Bautista
Lost Dog photo by Bernt Roastad