Thursday, 1 April 2010

In Some Ways It Is And It Is Not

This was a surprise — I got home and there was a box waiting for me. Inside was a note and a couple of bottles of beer. I haven't written about BrewDog for a while, but this is because there are plenty of good breweries I want to write about but haven't got around to. Maybe this is their way of attracting my attention again.

What's in the box is a new beer called, wait for it, In Some Ways It Is And It Is Not, "a metanarrative stout".

The label announces "This beer proposes the need for a political act or revolution – one that will alter the conditions of possibility of postmodernity and so give birth to a new type of Symbolic Order in which a new breed of subject can exist!" I'm not sure if that even sounds appealing, or where the fish fit in, but it's another BrewDog stunner. Fish? Well, you've heard of oyster stout? Well, James and Martin have exploited the history of British brewing, and James's part-time job on a fishing trawler, to come up with the world's first mackerel stout. Yes, mackerel. And as the label says, "ideology — from the viewpoint of a mackerel — is not, and never has been, simply a matter of consciousness, of subject positions, but is the very stuff of everyday praxis itself."

It's a tasty fish, but will it really work in beer? According to the note James sent, it's actually been taken out on the trawler to do its primary fermentation at sea, and their first tastings suggest the sea air has had a definite effect.

What does it taste like? To be honest, you don't get much of a fishy character, although there may be a certain maritime quality to it, but I think that's the salt and seaweed rather than the fish itself. It's actually pretty unique. What you first of all get is massive roastiness, almost burnt-toasty and I'm not sure if it's even pleasant. The huge hops (Centennial?) that the brew-pooches have made their trademark overshadow everything else. But there is a certain something there, and the more you drink the more this kind of saline quality gets to your palate, making it surprisingly moreish. And there's a smokey character too, but do I dare speculate, is it from smoked malt or from smoked fish?

I'm left in two minds, I'm not sure I like this beer, but it's certainly interesting. And the weird thing is that it's not the fish that makes me uncertain, but the massive, unbalanced hops and roasted malt. I am open to argument and if I see this on cask I'll definitely try it again.