Sunday, 24 May 2009

As-Live Tasting: BrewDog How To Disappear Completely

17.10pm. Evening all. It’s been a bloody lovely day here in Kent, I’ve just got back from Whitstable and now I want/need a beer. And it’s a new beer tonight – BrewDog’s How To Disappear Completely. A 3.5% imperial mild-slash-imperial IPA with a theoretical 198 IBUs. Yeah, 198!! This surely renders all hope of balance out of the question!?

17.14pm. It’s poured and the picture’s been taken. It’s darker than expected; a deep caramel colour. Time to get in there and see whether a superheroically bitter beer can work at 3.5%!

17.16pm. Wow, what a nose!! It’s an immense monster; a billowing tower of olfactory pleasure. The hops are properly condensed and turned up to way beyond 11. The first and most startling aroma is fresh tobacco and tea leaves; it’s a musty sweetness, intoxicating. Beyond that it’s grapefruit and tangerines roasted to just before burning point. There’s also caramel too, in a toasted sweet bread kind of way and possibly overcooked vanilla custard. It’s really something to dig your snout into.

17.19pm. Before I dive in, a word on balance. Balance in beer is good. It’s that delicate see-saw between sweet and bitter. Anything that tips the scales at either extremes loses some of its enjoyment, in my opinion. It’s pretty tough to get body into a 3.5% beer, and not that easy to get a heck of a lot of sweetness but it is easy to make it bitter by adding a lot of hops. What the hell will come of this beer?! I’m going in, watch yourselves tastebuds!

17.22pm. Oh my goodness… The words are in there but not coming out… need another mouthful… woah that’s HUGE! Bitter yes, but it’s got such a great mouthfeel (how much crystal malt did you use?!). It’s toasty grain for the smallest fraction of time before your tongue gets beaten into a hop submission. And it’s unabashedly unrelenting. It doesn’t roll in, it smashes in. It’s that super-condensed kind of bitterness, a tangy, clawing, fill your mouth bitterness. But I think it works…

17.26pm. I’m feeling a bit dizzy with that hop-induce fug of calm. This is another intoxicating brew from the furthest reaches of outer Scotland. It’s intoxicating because it flips your head inside out. It feels like 8.5% not 3.5%. It’s as bitter as a beer can go. And it’s got a roll-around-your-tongue thickness. Have you had Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA? It’s like that in the mouth.

17.30pm. I just read the BrewDog blog about this beer and it was mash-hopped and first wort hopped, two virtually unheard of practices. The dry hopping was pretty epic too; 15HL of beer was abused by 20kg of hops! And it really does showcase the raw brutality of the hop in its most condensed form.

17.33pm. I said in a previous post that this is brewed with the same hops as Stone’s Ruination IPA (Columbus and Centennial) but that it’s half the ABV and double the bitterness. It doesn’t taste like Ruination IPA. It doesn’t taste like anything I’ve had before.

17.36pm. My Grandad, my Dad’s Dad, used to smoke a pipe. I remember going to his house and pretending to smoke it as a young boy. It had a very distinct smell. It was him, plus the pipe, plus its leathery case, plus the sweet flecks of tobacco. It’s a surprising olfactory madeleine; a re-enactment of 15 years ago and a memory which I didn’t know I had.

17.41pm. I’m listening to Radiohead’s How To Disappear Completely. It seems only right as that’s what the beer is named after. The combination of beer and song works strangely well in a juxtaposition kind of way; it’s a contemplatively haunting song while the beer is a 1,000 mile per hour hop rocket which makes you dozy. The lyrics have a haunting similarity too. Strobe lights and blown speakers, fireworks and hurricanes, I’m not here, this isn’t happening.

17.48pm. I’m fascinated by this beer. I love bitterness and its potentially innate physiological powers, which I wrote about here. It’s a beer which commands your attention; the fear is that it might just be able to kill you. But I like it (of course I do, it’s a BrewDog for goodness sake). I like how it has got just enough sweetness to make it drinkable and I love how it hovers just below the that’s-too-bitter threshold; it’s an unbalanced balancing act.

17.55pm. I can’t decide if I want another now or not? Half of me does (the pleasure-pain loving Id) and half of me doesn’t (the sensible side, the Ego). I can smell the barbeque from where I sit so I probably won’t; it’s possibly the least food-friendly beer I’ve ever tasted (remember the Hardcore IPA As-Live?). Just don’t bother having it with dinner unless it’s a meal you hate.

17.58pm. As the BBQ is getting nearer I think I’ll open a bottle each of 77 lager and Zeitgeist to eat with it. And if you didn’t read it, check out the latest food and BrewDog stuff that I did here (believe it or not it’s 77 and Zeitgeist with a BBQ!! – what a coincidence!). Oh yeah, you can buy How To Disappear Completely from the brewery here. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Bonus Features... I also shot a video of me opening this beer which I have posted on my youtube channel. I’ll probably start uploading a few videos over there which I don’t put on this blog. There are some pretty cool video beer reviewers out there on youtube and they are worth a look.


  1. I ordered a case of this without having tasted it. Looking forward to it immensely.

  2. First wort hopping is actually not unheard of, although not common either; it's supposed to give a slightly smoother hop flavour and preserve more of the aroma that would instantly dissipate if you threw the hops into the boiling wort. Not sure whether anyone has yet shown mash hopping to actually have any discernible effect... I suppose it certainly can't make the beer less hoppy.

  3. Maybe it's just me that hasn't heard of it yet then :) that's some interesting brew science though.

    Let me know what you think of the beer - the aroma is brilliant. The beer is really out there!

  4. Sounds super hardcore hoppy to me! I would be worried about balance, but I would like to give it a go anyway.

    I had Gadd's Skrimshander for the first time in ages a couple of nights ago with a really hot curry. It was awesome! You reckon it might go with curry perhaps?

    Also, a good choice of tunes, i'm lucky enough to have seen Radiohead twice now, they have been mindblowing both times.

  5. That sounds great. Brewdog strikes again.

  6. It's intriguing being it's only 3.5% abv. What will Avery make of it though?

  7. Pete, Hopdaemon Skrimshander? That's a really good IPA and it's great to find it in all the supermarkets down here. I don't think HTDC would work with a hot curry, I think it'd be a huge collision of spicy and bitter - I don't think very hot foods pair well with very hoppy beer.

    Wurst, where is Avery? He hasn't been around for a while.

  8. I meant Hopdaemon, i'm just slowly losing the plot. On the whole I think IPA and curry is a brilliant combination.

    I need to try some of the HTDC but a large proportion of this month's beer money has gone on buying a bottle of Zephyr! Perhaps, as you say it is just a bit too mental for food.

  9. Great descriptive post, Mark. Excellent writing!

    This is a beer that I need to try. I hope I can find it here in Georgia, otherwise I will try to order it direct, if they'll even ship it here.

  10. Mark, drop James at BrewDog an email, they are decent chaps and they might be able to sort something out for you - drop my name into it too :)

    I wish it was cheaper to ship beers UK-US and US-UK as I'd send some over myself!

  11. Looking at half-a-dozen bottles at the moment - and tried a pint of it on cask last week and found it to be rather a bludgeoning beer. It's the Anti-Mild.

  12. Haddonsman, I need to try the cask version of this now to compare to the bottle. A bludgeoning anti-mild pretty much sums it up exactly! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the bottle.