Thermo Tactical Nuclear Bismark Schorschbraeu: Enough Already!

So the “biggest beer on the block” arms race continues, and I think it’s getting pornographic, and not in the good bow-chicka-wow-wow kinda way.

I’ve had the good fortune (thanks to Kevin, Dark Lord of the Stout) to try both Sam Adams Utopias and Brew Dog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin.  As you may recall, the Utopias was a wonderful ambrosia of flavors, while the Tactical Nuclear Penguin fell squarely into the category of “stunt beer” – a lopsided brew that sacrificed flavor (why I drink beer) for a PR-worthy ABV.   Things are headed in the wrong direction with the release of the 40% ABV Schorschbraeu and Brew Dog’s 41% ABV response, Sink the Bismark.

Any brewer who will sacrifice flavor for media attention is not one that I want to support.  I have tried a few of Brew Dogs beers and I haven’t been blown away by any of them.  They’d be better off focusing on making better beers rather than bigger ones.  Brew Dog could learn a thing or two from Dogfish Head, who crafts high ABV beers that are as delicious and memorable as everything else they make.  The trick isn’t making a high ABV beer, it’s making one that people actually enjoy drinking.

As a grown up who has access to cash and a motor vehicle, I’ve made many trips to the liquor store, so let me tell you this: If you want something stronger than beer, there’s always whiskey.  It’s plentiful, varied, goes great with many beers, and I’m confident that it tastes better than the crazy concoctions Brew Dog or Schorschbraeu are whipping up.

I’m tired of seeing these brewers pander for attention by creating beers that people might be curious to try, but no one will ever really enjoy drinking. My recommendation instead is to go get yourself a nice bottle of Knob Creek whiskey, pop open a Dragon’s Milk or another barrel-aged goodie, kick back and relax.  Leave the stunt beers for the frat boys.  In summary: enough already.

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25 Comments on “Thermo Tactical Nuclear Bismark Schorschbraeu: Enough Already!”

  1. Don
    February 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    OK dear brother, I can’t believe I’m the one coming down on the side of beer, and you are pimping whiskey, but role reversal is good for the soul now and again. First let me be the first to say I agree it is a great and wondrous thing to back a good beer with a good whiskey. That is truly and inspired combination. But dear brother you cannot ignore great marketing and free trade (My red state roots are showing through now). I know you wish in your democratic heart that you could just regulate the high ABV stunt beers out of existence, but it isn’t to be, nor should it be.

    I say let these guys duke it out. I have heard over the last couple of weeks that there are people out there that actually like the flavor of TNP. Maybe they made it for kicks, but they made it and obviously there is a market for it.

    Secondly, I think that STB (Sink the Bismark) might actually be good. I have read one review on it so far and the guy raved about it. Said it had a big kick, but the hop note on it was amazing. It is basically a quadruple IPA, so it hopped up on hops! It is like DFHs 120 on andro. So it is not up to us, and given all the attention it has generated I’d say it is actually a great thing for craft beers. And I love the way Brew Dog does their oneupsmanship. It’s hilarious.

    So what I hear you saying is we should never have any innovation. That innovation in high ABV is wrong. Maybe you are wrong. If we all thought like you we would be watching the lugers use wooden sleds , and the double axel would be an abomination of the sport of figure skating. Why do we need the giant slolum when we have the regular slolum. The half pipe is wrong, we should all just be happy with the downhill on wooden skis….Hey you kids, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

  2. February 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Whoa, buddy. Slow down there. All I’m saying is that (in MY opinion) these are crappy beers and they are getting crappier as these guys jump through hoops for attention. I’m all for experimentation and pushing the limits, but there have to be standards.

    Dogfish Head makes all kinds of crazy beers, some with very hefty ABV’s. I’m sure there are some that don’t taste right and Dogfish doesn’t want to put their name on the label, so they never leave the brewery. That’s the standard I seek. I love a big ABV beers (now it makes sense that mom gave me “Imperial” as a middle name), but they have to taste good, or at least interesting.

    Why put out a beer that tastes like jet fuel? So you can make silly web videos and gloat about it? No thanks.

    And I don’t mind kids on my lawn, as long as they take a few leaves with them when they go. I hate raking.

    • Don
      February 19, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      OK Jim how can you have an opinion on something you have never tried? You are saying Bismark and shorts brow (Or however the hell you spell it, not sure where the umlaut is on my keyboard) are crappy. Have you ever tried them? they might be the tastiest brews out there. You can’t say something is bad if you haven’t tried it, or you haven’t at least talked to someone who has. How do you know they taste like jet fuel? You like Knob Creek and it is 50% alcohol, is it so difficult to conceive of a very high ABV beer that would also have great flavor? Maybe these guys are actually creating something great that no one has ever conceived of a beer as strong as a whiskey. Without putting it to the test you are guilty of hypocracy. You just don’t like they way they are choosing to market their products. Would it be better if someone quietly came out with a 45% ABV beer, didn’t call attention to themselves and just had it as part of their line up? Because I suspect that many breweries will do so now seeing all the attention that is drawn by these guys. Somehow you think this is damaging beer, and I’m here to say they are expanding the meaning of beer, and making it bigger, and I think we can all agree that is a good thing.

      • February 19, 2010 at 10:40 am #

        Keep in the brewery is all I’m saying Don, and these guys didn’t. Go wild, create a beer with 50% ABV, add crazy stuff to it, cask it for 10 years, whatever. Just make sure it’s great before you start beating your chest about it. That’s what Dogfish Head does, and I respect them for it.

        And as far as being a hypocrite, I totally disagree. I’ve had Tactical Nuclear Penguin and it’s not a great beer. It’s maybe an “okay” beer for what it is, but you can taste the compromises they made to make it frat-boy worthy. It makes me believe that if taste and quality aren’t the driving forces at Brew Dog, at least not with these beers. If you extrapolate on that, then I’m pretty confident that Sink the Bismark will also be a beer whose flavor was sacrificed at the altar of ABV. It’s logical, not hypocritical. I’d love to taste Bismark (who wouldn’t – it’s a crazy beer) but I think its mission speaks for itself.

        I’m also not saying that they shouldn’t share these beers with others. Maybe they could have demoed them at festivals to Brew Dog fans, or created a black-label release or something. Rumor could spread that Brew Dog was making wild beers that weren’t ready for market, but were totally off the hook. Sell ’em on eBay, whatever. I’d respect that – giving folks a taste of their R&D while protecting their reputation as quality brewer.

        Instead they chose to put their name on the label and have now purposely defined their very young brewery as a place that will slap their label on anything wild, regardless of quality. I just don’t respect that. Others do, I get that.

        • Don
          February 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

          Extrapolations only work with data! You have an n=1 situation. You can’t extrapolate from a point, you need to have experience beyond one sample. If you want to talk statistics little brother I will excoriate you! I look at it this way. Do you remember the cell phones we had in the 80s? They were about 10 inches high, about 2 inches wide, and about 3.5 inches deep, with a 8 inch antenna sticking off the top! Not to mention all is did was call people and worked pretty crappy at that, but it was a “mobile” phone. These high ABV beers are the equivalent to an 80s cell phone. They will get better, and it seems that they have tapped into a huge market for high ABV brews. we are lucky enough to be witnessing the beginning of a brewing revelation. I believe we have only hit the tip of the brewing of high ABV brews Iceberg. If you give it time it will improve, but someone has to be first.

        • February 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

          I’ve had their basic Imperial stout and it was just okay, not remarkable or worth picking up again. I’ve had their TNP. That’s two points of data and a negative trend 🙂

          And I’m all for big ABV beers. Just don’t sell them before they’re ready for primetime. Motorola didn’t put out a cell phone the size of a phone booth in the 70s, they waited until it was consumer ready.Do you think Motorola would still be making phones today if they had?

          If I brewed these beers, I wouldn’t put my name on the label. But I’d keep at it until I felt it was ready. IMO, TNP wasn’t, and I have no reason to believe Bismark is either.

        • Don
          February 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

          I’m with Nate….I hope they send me some STB too.

        • February 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

          I’m with both of you. I hate the idea, but I’d LOVE to try the beer! Now there’s hypocracy for you!

        • February 19, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

          I’m not ashamed to admit hypocrisy on this one! It is interesting to see you guys disagree…I don’t have a brother, just 3 sisters who have never agreed with me.

        • February 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

          It’s rare that we disagree, but when it happens, Don is usually wrong. It’s really his fatal flaw. 😉

        • Don
          February 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

          You know Jim being the “Baby” of the family, we always just let him win…He’s really very fragile…

  3. February 18, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    I still think its great marketing. Look @ all the buzz this ABV battle is creating. I hadn’t heard of either brewery until 2009 when TNP and Nanny State came out.

    Remember, there can be no ‘best beer’ as everyone has their own opinion on that. But there can only be ONE ‘strongest beer’ and whoever makes it will have the attention of (at least) the blogosphere.

    I say good for them, but still its not something I’ll ever buy.

    • February 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

      I mostly agree with you Scott. My tipping point was getting a taste of Utopias first. It’s a really special creation that set the tone in my head for what these uber ABV beers should be. By comparison TNP was a real letdown, and I’m sure these beers are as well.

      It is good marketing, but it’s also selling out, too. A brewer should be known for the quality of their beer, not their buzz factor. Sam Adams made an incredible beer that lives up to their standards and I respect them for it. These guys are putting out crazy (and bad IMO) beers to win attention. I don’t respect that.

      But still, I’m blogging about it, so they win I guess.

  4. February 19, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    Nate wrote on this topic recently. Essentially, taste is what matter most. Nate posted a response that James from Brew Dog that responded to the allegation that they are responding to the German brewer. Basically, he says that they’ve been brewing it for 5 months, so it’s maybe not like you’ve characterized it (at least in James Watts eyes). Here’s what Nate had to say.

    • February 19, 2010 at 10:03 am #

      Mr. Watt also stated that they knew the Germans were cooking up something big, so Sink the Bismark wasn’t conceived in a vacuum. They probably just timed the announcement to steal back the “crown.” Anyway, I agree with Nate – taste is what matters.

      I also agree with what Peter at Simply Beer said in the comment section of the post you linked to above, which was that these guys should go nuts, explore and let’s see where it leads. I’m sure this is happening every day. Many brewers (homebrewers included) have probably figured out ways to make uber high ABV beers, but these unbalanced brews just don’t meet their quality standards (taste, drinkability, etc.) so they aren’t shared. The good ones do come to market – I again point to Dogfish Head and Utopias.

      All I’m trying to say is that if Brew Dog wants to put their name on the label and share it with the public, then it’s their reputation that’s at stake. I’ve had TNP, and while it was drinkable, it wasn’t a very good beer. I can’t see Bismark as being any better. With each step, I find myself losing respect for them as brewers and losing interest in their entire line of beers.

      • Don
        February 19, 2010 at 11:49 am #

        There you go again Jim. Making gross generalizations. How can you loose interest in their entire line of beers when you haven’t tasted them? I have heard great things about their Tokyo Stout and some of their IPAs I think they have about 6 different ones now. Did the Flying Dog episode teach you nothing? You basically wrote them off as a brewery after having a couple of their beers too. Now you like them very much. Keep it up this is fun pointing out the error of your ways…

        • February 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

          Well when you have one beer (TNP) and it’s not great, and them have another one which cost $10 (Rip Tide) and was just okay, you tend to stop investing in a brewery’s beers. The fact that they continue to pursue style over substance gives me no reason to spend another dime on their beer.

          I don’t mean to make a gross generalization, I’m just saying I’ve had underwhelming experiences with the beers I’ve had, and STB shows me a brewery with their priorities outta whack. There are plenty of other beer lines to explore (looking at you Weyerbacher) so why continue with these guys?

          I still have a Paradox in the garage, so there’s a chance I’ll change my tune here, but these guys have me totally turned off to their beers.

    • Don
      February 19, 2010 at 11:20 am #

      I’ll bet this though, and this point I will concede Jim. I am thinking that Bismark was going to be a 40% ABV beer, and when shortz brow came out with their 40% ABV beer they put another 1% in theirs just to out do them. That is my guess on that.

  5. February 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    The comment jim left on my post gave me the chills…he said, “Not sure that’s what they set out to do, but it is where they’re headed.”

    I think we all could agree that they are great brewers. I mean, If Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, told these guys their stuff was so good they had to start brewing it professionally, then hell…they are good. In reading Jim’s post and re reading mine, I think we both think they may not be all track, but they could go off track.

    Now as far as marketing goes, good marketing doesn’t verify a brewery. I thought the budweiser commercials with the penguin that said “dooby dooby doo,” was golden and I crank the radio when I hear “real men of genius come one.” But, that doesn’t mean that Budweiser puts flavor above dollars, nor does it garnish any respect other than in the area of marketing.

    And yes, beer is subjective (not entirely…if is mash my grains with urine instead of spring water there is not a soul on the planet that will be able to pick the better beer) and ABV strength is not. BUT, and this is a HUGE BUT, if the abv wars are merely marketing, one HAS to keep in mind that marketing is probably more subjective than beer. Which means in an abstract sense, the ABV is subjective. This is why Brew Dog has so polarized the craft beer community. Polarization almost always results in sink or swim…no floating, and most the time, having just read a great book on the subject, results in sinking.

    Having said that, I’m not going to toss in the towel and say that BrewDog completely caved to publicity. I know the guys have a passion for good beer. I just think they’re gambling. Oh, and I hope they send me a bottle of STB, but I know that’s wishful thinking.

    • February 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

      Well said, Nate. It’s obvious these guys are passionate about brewing and are willing to take chances, two things I really respect. But when marketing buzz outweighs quality, you have to question their priorities, especially as a young brewery without a long track record. Right now, they are what they do, and these beers could define them. If so, the Bismark might not be the only thing sinking.

  6. Kevin M
    February 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Arms race? THIS IS AN ACTUAL “COLD” WAR!

    It’s like U-boats and convoys in WWII… shots being fired across the bow… depth charges being dropped…

    But, with all the Ice-brewing, it’s a cold war… watch out for those REDS!

    • February 19, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      Love it Kevin – you’re right, it is a Cold War. Maybe ICEHOUSE can get in on the action!

      • Kevin M
        February 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

        If Icehouse is coming back for that, then I’m going to nominate Keystone Ice in the 24 oz can!

      • February 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

        @ Kevin M – Mmmm…a Keystone Ice tall boy…yuck!! I actually liked Molson Ice back in the day…but I lived in Michigan, which is next to Canada, so it’s cool, eh…


  1. A Letter to Brew Dog: You Win. | Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - September 7, 2011

    […] Nuclear Penguin struck me wrong (especially after tasting it), Sink the Bismark only made me more angry, and End of History almost gave me a stroke.  I think Ghost Deer has now […]

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