You have been warned: BrewDog’s Tokyo* stout is a challenge
At 18.2% alcohol by volume, BrewDog’s Tokyo* imperial stout is a challenge to drink, let alone savor.
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Founded in 2006, BrewDog has garnered a bad boy reputation of pushing boundaries with its high-alcohol beers and racy advertising strategies. With no surprise, this youthful Scottish brewery has drawn both praise and controversy from consumers and critics alike, and perhaps the brand’s Tokyo* imperial stout is the perfect embodiment of such mixed feelings.
At a mind-numbing 18.2% alcohol by volume (A.B.V.), this beer will erase all memories of cheap drinks and bad nights, and should be savored by the sip. That is, if you can bear it. “It was awful,” reviewer Chris Kasprak ’12 said. “Quite simply, it was one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted.”
An oak aged stout, this brew is full of intense and overpoweringly rich flavors. A deep mahogany color, Tokyo* is infused with jasmine and cranberries, which, combined with chocolaty notes and a strong hint of molasses, create a sweet-and-sour effect sure to make you pucker up, wince or follow suit with a glass of water. Simply, this is a beer meant to be appreciated for its subtleties and fine craftsmanship rather than be gulped as a quick avenue toward intoxication—though it may be too overwhelming to do either.
Inspired by a 1980s space invader game, Tokyo* is humorously described by what its label declares as “the irony of existentialism, the parody of being and the inherent contradictions of post-modernism, all so delicately conveyed by the blocky, pixilated arcade action have all been painstakingly recreated in this bottle’s contents.”
The only painstaking thing about this brew is the taste. Perhaps an ode to counter-culture, or maybe a drunken attempt at upping the ante on previous alcohol content records, Tokyo* must be a cruel prank for those who drink this to get drunk. Despite its flowery descriptions, the convoluted label can’t mask the brew’s putrid undertone of alcohol which is apparent from just a whiff. “Just the smell alone was so overwhelmingly disgusting that I refused to even take a sip,” Jenifer Goldman ’12 said.
When released in 2009, Tokyo* drew concerns from the UK’s Portman Group, an alcohol trade group which criticized the stout’s high alcohol content at such a small volume (only 11.2 fl oz).
Standing defiant since it first unveiled Toyko*, BrewDog has released a slew of products that make the stout look like child’s play. In 2010, the brewery released “Tactical Nuclear Penguin,” a freeze-distilled stout, which, at 36% A.B.V., was declared the world’s strongest beer. When rival German brewer Schorschbräu usurped the title with its own obscene-strength beer, BrewDog quickly followed suit with “Sink the Bismarck” a quadruple distilled India Pale Ale at 41% A.B.V. One can only wonder how many livers suffered in the crossfire of publicity.
While this crazed arms race began with Tokyo*, the horrifying climax came in July 2010, when BrewDog released its strongest beer to date, a 55% A.B.V. freeze-distilled stout called “The End of History.” However, this brew boasts more than an ungodly alcohol content: priced at whopping £500 and £700 each, only twelve were made and the bottles came packaged in small, taxidermied animals. It only held the strongest beer title for one week, but “The End of History” still has people talking.
Though they cross the line, BrewDog’s creativity and ingenuity are what sets them apart from the competition. Yet something happened to BrewDog when they came up with Tokyo* and began experimenting with beers with higher alcohol content. In trying to be edgy and youthful, BrewDog left behind its humble, delicious beginnings: the quality went down in favor of bragging rights. Their lower-alcohol products are actually quite good, particularly the “Hardcore IPA,” “The Physics” and the “Paradox Grain.”
Children, you have been warned. Tokyo* may be playing with fire. I suggest you suit up, and, as always, drink responsibly.