The founders of Scotland brewing startup BrewDog paid a visit to Portland this week and made an appearance at Belmont Station's "Meet the Brewer" event. Now, most of you know that I've got an unhealthy obsession with all things Scottish: Movies, history, accents, whisky, and beer. Tonight's event gave me a special reason to celebrate as I was able to check off 3 out of 5: accents, whisky, and beer.

BrewDog came together not to long ago and founders James Watt and Martin Dickie crafted their first batch in April 2007. Most often, it takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, and more sweat to make it from startup to success--but BrewDog seems to have found a shortcut: make a great product, stick to your principles, and push forward. Though that formula doesn't work for everyone, BrewDog's dedication to it's beer has put them on the world beer map. Of course, blood, sweat, and tears were involved, but James and Martin assure me that those are not actual ingredients in their beer.

I first came across BrewDog at Beaumont Market where several different beers in their Paradox series sat in an unassuming cardboard box on the floor in the cooler. If the black and gold labels weren't enough to get my attention, the small sign on the box was: $11.99 for a 12oz. bottle. I passed it up the first time. But there was always a voice in the back of my head: "go back and buy it" and "it might disappear before you try it" and "don't forget to pick up milk from the store". Actually, now that I think about it, that last one was my girlfriend's voice--the voices in my head are far less responsible.

BrewDog Tasting at Belmont Station
BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie.
So, I grabbed the beer (Batch 003, 1970 Glen Grant Cask), put down my 12 bucks, brought it home and stared at it. Well, the logical thing is to drink it, but this was a tougher consideration at $1 an ounce. Should I age it? Pair it with food? Drink it before my girlfriend gets home? All important questions. The thought that this might last in my fridge more than a day or two crossed aging out of the equation. I then decided that I wanted to drink it on a clean palette with no other food or beverage contamination. Lastly, I decided I'd better drink it before my girlfriend got home so that I didn't have to split it with her. Unfortunately, it took me longer than expected to reach those decisions and she was already standing behind me wondering why I was on the kitchen floor staring blankly into the open refrigerator. Too late--now I'm splitting this tiny, little bottle.

Now my mind is telling me that the price just doubled since I've now paid $12 to drink only 6 ounces: "This better be freakin' incredible." And it was. We both agreed that it was a fantastic beer, and very complex: coffee, chocolate, vanilla, roasted grain, scotch. All of these flavors blended in warmly with the 10% alcohol backbone. $12 for 12 ounces? Yeah, pricey. But this is a very small batch beer using some very unique barrels for aging. They only use these hard to find barrels once, so if you miss one in this series, it ain't coming back. I will definitely keep a few on hand for very special occasions (and don't come knocking on my door thinking that you are that very special occasion).

BrewDog Tasting at Belmont Station
The sample table.
Because of this experience with the Paradox series, I was definitely excited to find out that James and Martin were going to be in Portland to talk about there beer and let us sample a large portion of their lineup: The Physics Amber, Punk IPA, Hardcore IPA, Rip Tide Imperial Stout, Paradox Port Dundas Imperial Stout, Paradox Speyside Imperial Stout, and Paradox Islay Imperial Stout. I was definitely there for the Paradox series, but was very pleasantly surprised by the rest of the styles. I especially enjoyed the Rip Tide Imperial Stout. The other three--the amber and two IPAs--were a bit lighter in color, carbonation, and hoppiness than I'm used to in Northwest interpretations of these styles, but they're not from the Northwest. It was really hard to get a good feel for these beers as the free samples weren't quite enough to get your mouth around. I will pick up some of these in bottles soon and give them their due diligence. As we moved forward through the tasting, we finally made it to the Paradox series.

The Paradox imperial stouts are aged in former whisky barrels. These barrels are specifically chosen for the qualities of the specific scotch whisky that once resided in them. The idea is that great whisky makes great barrels, so you'll often see specific labeling like "1965 Invergordon Cask". Having only tried the 1970 Glen Grant batch before, I was eager to sample three other varieties. All were exceptional with one big surprise: the Islay (Batch ?) packed a wallop of scotch peat and smoke. This was by far the most aggressive of the three and probably not meant for those without an appreciation for the qualities of scotch. If you haven't tried any of these yet, you may want to ease in with the Glen Grant or the Port Dundas, which were my favorites. But, that may change once I open the Macallan that calls to me from my fridge. In fact, I hear it now.