Scotland’s BrewDog has garnered many a headline for their incredibly high-octane beers over the past few years; while it might have seemed that they were caught up in the high-gravity-for-the-sake-of-it craze, I am happy to report that their substance more than backs up the style. First off, a little about the beer’s origin – and you have to love a brewery that has a sense of humor about their products (notably their response to the hand-wringing that accompanied the launch of this beer – a 1.1% brew called Nanny State). Tokyo* is described as an ‘intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout‘ – inspired by an old-school video game, it has plenty of dark malts, a little bit of jasmine and some cranberries for good measure, Galena hops and it clocks in at a whopping 18.2% ABV. No one is going to mistake this for any sort of session beer, regardless of who’s crafting the definition.
It’s certainly an ‘occasion’ beer – and even if the occasion happens to be, ‘hey, BrewDog Tokyo* is on tap and available in a reasonably-sized pour!’ well, that’s still an occasion. The beer pours a deep brown, with a thin tan head; there’s no mistaking that there’s more than a little alcohol in store, but the chief aroma still might best be described as ‘malty goodness.’ There is a surprising amount of vanilla in the flavor that pairs very well indeed with the roasty malts; perhaps what is most unusual is how smooth the finish is. I sometimes find wood-aged beers a little too ‘woody’ for their own good, but this never crosses that line. It’s certainly very reminiscent of whisky, but still manages to stay on the ‘beer’ side of the equation. While it would not be accurate to suggest that it disguises its alcohol content, it’s eminently sippable and doesn’t immediately suggest that it’s quite as strong as it actually is. It made an ideal dessert beer.
As a side note, check out some of BrewDog’s ‘normal’ ABV offerings – their 5am Saint, in particular, is as solid and tasty a go-to ale as one could wish for – it quietly speaks for itself while its mega-strong labelmates generate a little (almost-always-welcome) publicity.