The idea, apparently, was “to get as much beer in a burger as we possibly could.”
“Ah, well, I like to chuck a bottle of beer into my burger mix,” I smile.
It smells wonderful, complete in a way I’ve never thought about in relation to a burger before. It’s all about balance, with sweet and sour, umame and caramel, strong yet surprisingly graceful.
The bacon on its own is so phenomenal you could be forgiven for forgetting the burger and asking for a bacon buttie instead. If it were possible for a flavour to transport you to a high ridge at a flaming Montana sunset to watch cowboys herd steers across the prairie, only you’re sitting on the balcony of a Parisian Michelin starred restaurant at the top of that ridge, then this bacon would do it.
Onto the main event, and the burger is simply the best one I can remember tasting. You can taste the beef, and I realise how rarely beef tastes of beef, and that good beef tastes of a happy life.
When I get to the middle of the burger, all these elements finally come together – the onions and the bacon and the barbecue sauce – and suddenly the hype doesn’t sound like hype any more. There’s definitely booze here, spiritous and risky. Am I just imagining I can taste the barrel ageing of the Paradox through all those layers of barbecue sauce in the middle of everything else that’s going on? I’m not sure.
If that’s not enough alcoholic complexity, the burger has been paired with a fourth BrewDog beer, the newly released Bourbon Baby. It’s been aged in Bourbon barrels – something that conventional craft brewing wisdom says only works for strong, dark porters and stouts, not a 5.8%ABV Scotch ale like this.
I tried this beer fresh off the bottling line just yesterday, 500 miles north of here in BrewDog’s new brewery. Those bottles were then couriered down here and crash-chilled. This beer cannot possibly be on its best form.
And initially, the beer is less than the sum of its parts. It’s doing what a beer does, being all cold and refreshing and helping out with a bit of palate cleansing action. Despite the temperature there’s a big hit of chocolate and bourbon, but it becomes less interesting in the face of the onslaught of flavour the #BrewBurger is packing. And then, the retronasal action kicks in. Despite the trauma it’s endured over the last day or so, the beer comes out punching, sneaks around the back of the palate and pulls in that boozy spiritousness, completing a whole chain of flavour elements and making them sing harmonies. Bourbon Baby is a very good beer, even this cold, even this agitated, even up against this burger. And there you are: dirty food and dirty beer together playing magic on your palate like an idiot savant virtuoso pianist made out of chopped beef and malted barley. Yet another BrewDog idea that sounds like it might be trying a bit too hard on paper, but makes perfect, stunning sense when delivered.
Last time I ate at McDonalds – which was more recently than I care to admit – I remember using the last of the fries to scrape up the dregs of salt and sauce. Even as the compacted aggregate of the food slumped heavily in my stomach, my palate was unsatisfied, overstimulated and seeking closure. With #BrewBurger the fries, nice as they are, are superfluous. The burger and beer together a complete meal without anything else, battering your palate into delighted submission.
I always feel guilty about eating burgers. They are not good for you. This meal is not a healthy meal, and doesn’t pretend to be. I resolve that from now on a burger has to be this good for it to be worth the damage.