Monday, November 30, 2015

The Mad Scientist & the $1000 Bottle of Beer

"It is the most interesting beer in the province right now."

A bold statement from any brewer plying their trade in a province with close to 100 craft breweries, but when it comes from someone as creative, innovative, and yes, as eccentric as Storm Brewing's James Walton, my curiosity is instantly piqued.

Whether Glacial Mammoth Extinction is BC's most interesting beer will cause debate among beer craft beer lovers, but what is not up for debate is that the $1000 price tag for a one-litre bottle makes Glacial Mammoth Extinction BC's most expensive beer! My research shows it is not only the most expensive beer on the BC market now, but that it is the most expensive beer ever sold in Canada.

Have I piqued your interest yet?

This beer is about more than what is inside the bottle, although the beer stands out as one of the most unique beers Walton has ever released from Storm Brewing, and that is saying something, but the hefty price tag has more to do with the packaging than it does the beer inside.

And that is no disrespect meant to the beer which is special.

In fact, Walton was so pleased with how the Glacial Mammoth Extinction turned out that he decided to give this beer special treatment, commissioning two East Vancouver artists to create unique works of art to package a limited release of 10, one-litre bottles from the 400 litres produced.

The Mad Scientist himself  & a $1000 bottle of beer
The beer comes packaged in hand-blown glass bottles created by Terminal City Glass Co-Op's Brad Turner.  These bottles are works of art in their own right but when you consider each bottle is adorned with a one-of-a-kind pendant, made by artist Richard Marcus, from 35,000-year-old mammoth ivory, you begin to understand why these bottles are Canada's most expensive beers.

"(It's) the only beer I have ever thought worthy of being treated that extravagantly," stated Walton when queried as to why he was moved to package his beer in such a unique and expensive manner.

Which brings us to the beer itself.

Walton, Storm's iconic owner-brewer, has earned the nickname of The Mad Scientist in BC craft beer circles and is well known for thinking outside of the box when it comes to brewing beer. From brewing and aging Belgian-style lambics close to 20 years ago, before anyone in BC but the ultimate beer geeks knew what a lambic was, to his current trend of creating weekly weird, wacky and delicious "Brainstorm" kegs for growler fills at the brewery, Walton has not let the restrictions of established beer styles or current brewing trends limit his imagination.

Art meets craft beer

The Glacial Mammoth Extinction is a prime example of how far Walton is prepared to push the limits.

Walton took his formidable Imperial Flanders Red Sour Ale, which is an 11% (a Storm 11%) sour bomb meant for those most adventurous craft beer drinkers, and froze it, in two stages over a month, to -30 Celsius. The high-octane, boozy liquid which remained was then placed into French oak barrels and aged for two years. What has come out of this intense and complicated process is a 25% ABV (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) nectar that tastes more like fortified wine or Port than beer.

In keeping with my philosophy of not rating beers, I will only say that I liked it when I recently had a wee nip at Storm.

Actually, I liked it a lot and yes, I would not hesitate to order and drink it again.

For those who tasted this beer last year, when Walton released a keg as a sneak preview of what was coming, the extra year in the oak barrels has treated this beer well, mellowing it out and allowing the more subtle flavours to come to the fore. It is highly drinkable even at 25%.

That is as close to a review as you will get from me.

The official description I received from Storm Brewing states that the Glacial Mammoth Extinction is, "a sweet, rich, viscous 100% malt beverage that resembles Port more than beer".

Glacial Mammoth Extinction tasting notes (from Storm):
  • Colour
    • dark brown
  • Nose 
    • raisins
    •  prunes
    •  black cherries,
    • Sherry notes
  • Taste
    •  initial sweetness
    • tang of acidity on the front
    • umami
    • prunes
    • muscat grape
    • soy sauce
    • tannins from the base beer as well as tannins from in the barrel combine together to balance the sweetness
  • Mouthfeel
    •  thick with nice legs from the alcohol
For the majority who cannot afford $1000, Glacial Mammoth Extinction will be available for growler fills at Storm Dec 5th at a still-pricey-but-far-more-reasonable price of $40 for 0.5 litre or $80 for a litre.

Walton told me the Glacial Mammoth Extinction is "bullet proof" and "likely infinitely stable" in regards to cellaring, stating that the beer may go flat in the flip-top bottles but that it will not go off so if you can afford it, it might be worth the risk to put some of this away to see if and how it ages.