Febrewary: Tokio*


Brewer: BrewDog
Location: Fraserburgh, Scotland
Type: Intergalactic Fantastic Oak Aged Stout
ABV: 18.2%

This is a beer inspired by a 1980s space invaders arcade game played in Japan’s capital.

The irony of existentialism, the parody of being, and the inherent contradictions of post-modernism, all so delicately conveyed by the blocky, pixelated arcade action have all been painstakingly recreated in this bottle’s contents.

This imperial stout is brewed with copious amounts of specialty malts, jasmine, and cranberries. After fermentation, we then dry-hop this killer stout with a bucketload of our favorite hops before carefully aging the beer on French toasted oak chips.

Our approach has the same contempt of the mass beer market that the old-school punks had for pop culture. BrewDog is a modern-day rebellion against soulless corporate bureaucracy and the bland, apathetic beer they industrially produce.

I told you that I had more BrewDogs in the aging queue. This bottle of Tokio* (strangely, this is the only time I have ever seen this beer’s name spelled with an “i”; every other bottle I’ve seen, including the other bottle I have aging, is spelled with a “y”), has been aging for almost three years. It was one of the oldest beers in my collection. Weirdly enough? I’ve never tried this beer fresh, so I have absolutely no frame of comparison for Tokio*. That’s kind of a shame, because I would really like to know if this beer is as abusive a beast fresh as it is aged.

One of the things that I love most about trying different craft beers from different craft breweries is that there is so much daring and creativity going on out there in the beer making universe right now. Case in point are two of my favorite domestic breweries, Flying Dog and Dogfish Head. They both take risks with ingredients, flavor profiles, ABVs, and so forth. Sometimes, they fail…but they are spectacular even in their failures.

I believe that BrewDog exemplifies this daring attitude toward beer making as well. They even state in Tokio*s humorous description that they are fighting against the “soulless corporate bureaucracy and the bland, apathetic beer they industrially produce.” If ever there was a better description of that St. Louis brewery, I’ve never read it.

Still, where do you draw the line for daring? Do you draw a line? I don’t really know the answer. I do, however, know my own personal limits, and I think this bottle of stout far surpassed it. Black as the depths of space and rolling across your senses with the crushing weight of an 18.2-percent ABV, Tokio* is the city that would have made Godzilla nothing more than a smear in the middle of the road.

Inhale and feel it saturating your olfactory senses, burning into your alveoli. It reeks of alcohol like that rarely seen third cousin twice removed who staggers in late to holiday parties, hits on you without realizing you’re related, before passing out face-first into the artichoke dip. Underneath the alcohol, there roils a sweet-and-sour mix of dry fruit, bitter baker’s chocolate, burnt sugar, piercing decadence, shoes and ships and sealing wax…no cabbages or kings.

Drink. No. Sip. You cannot but sip. Even sipping is like being grabbed around the throat and dragged into the dangerous shadows of a back alley where Tokio* pummels your taste buds unmercifully. It is a monstrous beer, inescapable from its presence, its smells, its flavors…too rich, too intense, too…everything. It will boil your kid’s bunny and come at you like a knifed-up spider monkey on speed if you try to ignore it. IT WILL NOT BE IGNORED.

Tokio* is a flavor ravaging. Pick a safe word before you try it, but know that it will disregard whatever word you pick. It just doesn’t care.

I am concerned that I have another one of these beers aging in my collection. I feel as though I am harboring a dangerous criminal. For all my love of daring brews and daring dos, I have to say that Tokio* is more than I prefer. Makes me wonder what my reaction would have been to BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which was a freeze-distilled stout that weighed in at 36-percent ABV. They also did a massive IPA, Sink the Bismarck, which clobbered drinkers with a 41-percent ABV, as well as another freeze-distilled stout they dubbed “The End of History” and packed with a 55-percent ABV. According to what I’ve read, they only made 12 bottles of this beer, which they shipped in small, taxidermist-prepared animals.

And that, denizens, is called overkill.

When they aren’t doing brewing meant just to garner attention, BrewDog actually makes some really good beers as well as some beers that I read about and would really, really love to try. Just for shits and giggles, I went to BrewDog’s site just now and put together a case of some of their brews that I would love to try (both fresh and aged). Sadly, with the conversion rate, I would be paying more than $250 for the joy of total BrewDog immersion. I simply cannot justify that much for beer. So, dear Anchor Brewing, please start importing more BrewDog, STAT. Thank you. Love and kisses, Loba B.