A high-strength beer that announces itself in advance and delivers a bourbon-soaked punch to the senses.
‘Never trust a hippy’, the wise old saying goes, and anyone foolish enough to have ignored it will know its truth. And indeed, Weird Beard’s Impy Hating Hippie does not immediately instil a sense of complacent assurance. No beer that comes in at 10.3% should be approached with a devil may care indifference, and this beer is positively laden with suggestions that it will be of the more challenging variety. Bourbon barrel-aged for ten months, and featuring the ‘unique’ flavourings of rose petal, cardamom and cinnamon, this is probably the beer purist’s worst nightmare. We won’t lie – that’s partly why we had to try it. Topped with a faux wax seal that demands a certain commitment to drinking (you can’t just flip this open), the beer positively taunts you before you’ve even opened the damn thing.
The beer pours – carefully, because it is bottle conditioned and you don’t want a mouthful of sediment – an inky black. Not as thick as some stouts, but with a sheen that immediately puts you on notice. Several years ago, I tried an insanely strong ‘novelty’ beer at the Great British Beer Festival that had a similar texture and came with a similar forwarning – as you raise your glass to your mouth, the alcohol fumes hit you at chest level. Some strong beers – I’m thinking of you, Belgian brews – are oddly sweet and quaffable; a deadly trap that tricks you into forgetting that each glass is like three pints of the regular stuff. But Impy Hating Hippie leaves you in no doubt as to what to expect, with its whiskey-styled assault on the nostrils – not the smell of the drink, just the alcohol fumes rising to tickle the nostrils and eyeballs and tell you to strap yourself in.
The afore-mentioned beer festival experience was ghastly. A beer so strong that it essentially stopped being beer at all, yet also didn’t become anything else. Thankfully, the Weird Beard chaps have avoided such excesses. This beer hits hard and definitely has a brutal after kick, but it’s actually very agreeable. Mrs R, who has a nose and palate much more attuned to such things, suggested that it was reminiscent of Campari bitters in beer form – it still tastes like beer, but there’s something else going on too.
This is a sipper, not a swigger – and I doubt that you’ll be making it your drink of choice for an evening session or on regular rotation. It seems to get stronger as it goes on – freed from the confines of the bottle (and do I need to tell you that you really don’t want to be drinking this from the bottle?) it sits in the glass and expands its horizons with a contempt for human decency that we can only admire. After one bottle, I found myself feeling both woozy and inspired, a feeling usually attributed to the finest absinthes. Luckily, we didn’t have a second one to crack open, for there lies madness. But we are not averse to trying it again. There’s a curious, eccentric magnificence here and we rather like that.