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Brewdog, Dogma

As BrewDog's beers go, Dogma is one of its most notorious. Or rather, it was. In a manner befitting a superhero, this beer has reinvented itself with the passing of time (and the intervention of regulatory organisations).

The original Dogma was made using a number of legal stimulants and depressants (guarana, Californian poppy, kola nut) and Scottish heather honey, and was wrapped in contentious label copy ("class A strong ale") under its original name: "Speedball". It might seem childish now, but BrewDog had a point to make.

Speedball was released in 2008, as a protest against the overzealous attentions of the alcohol industry's self-regulator the Portman Group. BrewDog launched the beer with the intention of giving the Portman Group "something worth banning us for". Unsurprisingly, the Portman Group promptly did ban the beer, but not before over a thousand bottles were sold. But like any good comic book superhero, the beer itself could never really die.

The beer was renamed Dogma, BrewDog’s sly reference to the inflexible ideology of the Portman Group, and it eventually had its recipe amended. It was reborn as a heather honey-infused strong Scotch ale – a 'revamped wee heavy' – and is now part of the brewery's rebranded Amplified range alongside Jackhammer, Cocoa Psycho, Hardcore IPA, Tokyo* and Libertine. Like BrewDog itself, Dogma is a more easy-going and mature character these days than in its hell-raising youth, but just as impressive.

Using honey in a beer, especially a dark beer, can be a tricky thing to pull off. You want to use enough to make a difference to the flavour, but not so much as to make the beer cloying, particularly when the beer style is malt-forward. To say Dogma is malt-forward is a bit of an understatement, given that it's made using ten different malt varieties, but the robust flavour of heather honey is actually a perfect counterpoint to the sweet and roasty depths to this beer.

It's best enjoyed at somewhere between 12-15C, when the opulent fullness of those unfermented sugars can be truly appreciated. Only when held to the light will any colour be visible in this moonless night of a beer, and even then only the bloodiest of reds. The head is like cappuccino foam, feisty, tight and persistent, and the aroma is decadently sweet with figs, honey, Christmas cake and the smell of gently simmering apricot jam. It’s a beer that warms your bones before you even get to sip it.

When you do, it's just as luscious. Gooey golden syrup, liquorice and chocolate-coated raisins coat the palate, which is refreshed by a gentle prickle of carbonation and the sharp interplay between roast coffee and an almost floral, Turkish Delight-esque quality from the heather honey. Each taste evokes a new and different selection from a tin of Quality Street. It’s delicious enough to drink quickly, but you won’t want to. You’ll want to savour this.

If you live in a city with its own BrewDog bar (an increasingly likely and welcome prospect these days), you can now get Mulled Dogma, made using cinnamon, star anise, cloves, nutmeg, honey, orange and Kraken rum. Better yet, they're planning to sell the spice blend through their online shop soon, so you can even make it at home yourself. Winter suddenly looks a lot warmer.

This week's write up was provided by our friend Chris Hall, a beer writer based in London and a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. Aside from his blog at chrishallbeer.com, Chris is also the co-author of two issues of 'Craft Beer': '365 Best Beers in The World' and '100 Best Breweries in the World'. He and the other writers are currently working on the follow-up, due out next year.

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