That, my friends, is a pot of beer. No less a beer than the product of a collaboration between Norway’s Nøgne ø and Australia’s own Bridge Road. Ah yes, Nøgne ø, my arch nemesis, we meet again (refer #15).
In the blue corner, you have your correspondent. He weighs in at 160 pounds and one schooner (Feral’s Karma Citra if you wanted to know) with absolutely no ability to uppercut.
In the red corner, an incredibly strong ale. He weighs in at 1 pound, most of which is ethanol, and 150 millimetres. Borealis packs a formidable package, boasting a solid hook and a nasty jab, capable of taking down the most energetic of opponents.
It’s a dreary, by Brisbane standards (i.e. very humid, warm but no sun), Sunday afternoon. The conditions should favour the defending champion, which I guess using this already strained metaphor is the beer, since #15 floored my ass last time. For some reason, I just can’t resist a challenge, so I take on the Aurora Borealis, hoping to tame his knockout blows and snatch the belt from his grasp.
Let’s get the fact out of the way: it weighs in at 14.9%. I don’t recall ever even contemplating buying beer at that strength and this stratospheric territory is usually only occupied by one-off efforts, usually aimed less at making a palatable beer and more at pumping as much alcohol into a liquid as the poor yeast can tolerate.
Neither the Nøgne ø nor the Bridge Road websites have a description for the beer. Craft Pint, as ever, saves the day:
While undeniably boozy on the nose, the peaty character imparted from the whisky barrels sits nicely with the deeply rich, fruity, slightly sweet base beer. If anything, it’s akin to a smoky, after dinner fortified wine, suggesting the Borealis should be pulled out next time you and your nearest and dearest are in the mood for an digestif.
Boozy on the nose is absolutely bang on the money. While the ale is opaque, black and brown-headed, you can’t go past the paint-stripping aroma. Varnishy and acetonetic are two made-up words that spring to mind. In fact, for some of the younger people out there, breathing in the fumes of this bad boy is not unlike getting that whiff of tequila spilled on the bar as you drunkenly order eight shots, hoping to take your night out up another level. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the same feeling you get when you wake up on your couch the next morning, smelling the Red Bull soaked into your shirt.
In most bantamweight drinkers, this smell signals pain is in the offing. I wish I could tell you the taste was magical and redeeming. It is not. The brewers may be playing a joke on us. Clearly, they’ve taken a bottle of Sierra and poured into a barrel of Quadrupel that failed quality assurance tests. To be sure, I am in no way exaggerating when I say that it reeks and smacks of tequila. There are other flavours: it begins bitter, slightly malty but certainly not sweet, and finishes smoky, taking its cues from the barrel aging process of shipping the brew halfway around the world.
Compared to its cousin #100, the Aurora Borealis is a more interesting fighter. He has better footwork, shows more intelligence and tactical nous. He also packs a much bigger, harder punch. I like him better than his cousin but he is rough as guts. You can’t sit there and enjoy a quiet evening with Borealis. You get one and that’s your night well on its way. It doesn’t matter how slowly you sip it. It’s a touch under three standard drinks in a pot glass and that’s only because the Archive wouldn’t sell it in anything larger.
- Regionality: Beechworth, VIC via Grimstad, Norway
- Genre: Belgo
- Strength: 14.9%
- Rating: 2 / 3 taste + 1 / 2 ancillaries = 3 / 5
- Plus: Interesting mix of three flavours: bitter, tequila and smoke.
- Minus: It burns on the way down.