Every now and then, you run across a beer that you purchase purely out of curiosity (and perhaps a slight sense of wonderment). To be fair, those of us who call greater Chicagoland our home would probably jump at the chance to get our hands on anything involving Stone Brewery. But when I found this fairly nondescript 11.2 oz. bottle hiding among the specialty bombers at Binny’s, it wasn’t the telltale gargoyle (or is it a gremlin?) on the front that sucked me in. It was the description: Black Belgian Style Double IPA. What?!
First, I’ll make sure I confirm that this is actually a Brewdog beer that was brewed as a collaborative effort with some of Stone’s brewers. So basically, what you need to know is that some of the world’s craziest brewing minds got together and drummed up this concoction. They’re not really paying homage to any style or flavor here … they’re putting on their lab coats and safety goggles and having some fun. This excerpt from the write-up on the label says it all:
Bashah. What does it mean?…Since meaning is a mere illusion, perhaps we shouldn’t let it have any influence on our destiny. This particular beer has refused to succumb to the illusion of meaning or allow capricious parameters to have any influence on its own fermented fate…
But now the important part. How does this self-proclaimed “meaningless” beer taste? Not half bad … but it actually ends up suffering from its identity crisis.
It pours black (they got that part right), and although the one-finger head disappears in a flash, there’s still some subtle lacing that remains. The nose is great … piney and grassy hops blending with roasted coffee. To be honest, the only thing I don’t pick up are any elements of a Belgian strong dark ale. The malts aren’t near as complex or caramelly, and there’s no fruity/spicy note from the yeast to speak of. So far … pretty good.
If you’re not a regular beer drinker, the closest thing I can equate the taste to is a combination of coffee, unsweetened chocolate, and one of those wheat-grass drinks. And in all fairness, this beer seems to at least have stayed true – for the most part – to a double IPA. The malt and hops are well balanced, but the hops win the race (as they should), the mouthfeel is smooth, and the slight warming sensation at the end tells you it certainly isn’t weak. It’s hard to argue that the dark malt and grassy hops compliment each other all that well, though. And completely lost in the equation are the poor Belgians. It’s like inviting a famous celebrity to a party, but then scratching them from the guest list without telling any of the other guests. The anticipation is high, but it ends in a lot of disappointment. Especially with the $8 per bottle price tag. It’s unfortunate, too, because this beer really would benefit from a sweeter, more complex maltiness.
So what does Bashah mean? In my mind, two things. 1) Craft brewing is breaking new ground, both in the US and internationally. 2) Some stones are still better left unturned.