The Specs: Bad Tattoo Brewing Co. (Penticton, B.C.), Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte 2014
9.2 per cent ABV, 750mL, limited edition
OK, OK, let’s get it out of the way: Today’s beer of choice is not only a strong beer, it’s a damn 9 per center — which is nearly as high as we can go before we enter the murky territory of barley wines.*
So, yeah, I’m not over strong beer after all, but drinking Bad Tattoo’s new limited offering reminded me it’s not so much the alcohol content that counts as how you use it. And Bad Tattoo, I’m coming to realize, really knows what it’s up to.
What’s most surprising about this beer is how sweet and boozy it smells — and how normal it actually tastes.
So many of the strong Belgians I’ve tasted lately have this almost rotten fruit flavour to them, but Dia de Los Muertos Cerveza Fuerte is concerned with other flavours. Dark and dense, it’s another of those hearty bread-style beers, all rye toast and nuts. Despite the smell, I didn’t find it particularly sweet — nary a vanilla or caramel tone here. This is a savoury beer for sure.
According to the bottle copy these bad boys have more than a full pound of malt per 750 mL and two strains of yeast. Of the two, it’s the yeast that stood out most for me, and tipped the beer from good to fascinating.
To call a beer fermented is to state the obvious, but you can taste it here in a way that I’ve not experienced often, similar to the notes of a good sushi-joint soy sauce or a well-crafted kombucha.
While it’s got some fizz to it, this is one heavy beer, best drunk very slowly over the course of the evening while making a slow slide from couch to floor (just because this beer isn’t upfront about its alcohol content, doesn’t mean it’s not there). Or you could share it with friends, I suppose, but since this is an extremely limited 1,200 bottle run you’ve got a built-in excuse to horde it all to yourself.
On a final quick and shallow note, I’ve bagged on Bad Tattoo a bit for its regular series bottle designs, but these black, long-necked, wax-dipped bottles are things of beauty. I’m tempted to stick a candle in the empty and use the light to illuminate a garret as I write gothic novels.
*Riders, do I dare? I considered a bottle at the shop today but I am mad skeptical about anything that is not wine but feels the need to identify itself as such.