Having heard good things about this one, my friend Tully and I decided to invest in a AU$35 bottle of ‘Terrible’, a Canadian uber-dark ale. (I have found it for ~$22, but as we were at a bar at the time, we suffered the markup.)
Pouring devilishly thick and dark, it was looking good from the beginning. Despite a fruity nose (fruity beer has thus-far led me to be very cautious), Terrible brings a vast array of flavours to the palette: primary fruity and sour, but also full, with caramel, chocolate, molasses and well-roasted malt. Not the hoppiest beer you’ll find but this is no issue. While I don’t want to rule fruity beers out, I have to admit I’ve not been a fan. This does fruity perfectly in my mind, matching the tartness with exactly the right amount of malt.
Clocking in at 10.5%abv, it packs an obvious punch, but not overpoweringly so. I’m glad I shared the bottle, as consuming the full 750mL of this beauty would not have been the best idea. It has a quality which I adore in dark ales, which is the ability to bring serious potency while maintaining refreshingly light mouthfeel. I have heard others disapprovingly mark this as being ‘watery’ but I wholeheartedly disagree. Easy-drinking but strong.
Comparatively, I was also recommended the St Bernardus Abt 12. I picked it up for $19 and was told it rivalled the Terrible. With that in mind, I was left disappointed. Too tart, not in the least bit hearty nor spicy, and felt like a far more generic dark ale. Pegged by St Bernardus’ website as “The absolute top quality in the hierarchy of the St. Bernardus beers” and “The show piece of the brewery”, I’m hoping that my bottle was just a little old.
While I’m on the topic of strong, dark beers I have to quickly mention BrewDog’s Tokyo. This beer comes from the brewery that holds that title of Worlds Most Alcoholic Beer (the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at 42%abv). There is a fair bit of hype about the affair, and as soon as I saw the unmistakable font of their logo designs, I knew I had to try this. (Not the TNP, as it sells for $150 a bottle. Yes, you read correctly.)
The Tokyo is simply sensational. You have to try it. It manages to fit an 18%abv content into a dark ale, and it doesn’t actually taste that alcoholic. It does taste incredibly rich, guiltily indulgent, and perfectly balanced, but the main achievement is that you cannot pick the super-high alcohol content.
I’ve had it twice now, the first involving my consumption being applauded by the bar-staff, and the second being a more private indulgence tucked away in the country with hearty food and family. This is something you want to share. One very small glass lasts half an hour, and you feel so, so satisfied with just that. I’d ordered the Tokyo and been delivered a 330mL bottle, and by the end of it was wishing it had been half that. The Terrible however, allows you to taste the alcohol (you definitely know it’s there), but the malts, flavours, and (briefly) hops are so well-balanced that you could fool yourself into drinking it all night. One day I might.
Terrible: yes. St Bernardus: no. BrewDog Tokyo: hell yes.