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Tactical Nuclear Penguin - A review of a high alcohol beer by BrewDog


Blog by Neil Bester


World’s strongest beer (well, it was)
At the beginning of this year I stumbled upon a website claiming to have the world’s strongest beer. That website belonged to Scottish brewers BrewDog. I was immediately excited and began begging friends and family to buy me a bottle of this incredibly pricey 32% beer, appropriately named ‘Tactical Nuclear Penguin’ due to its strength and brewing methods.

Of course, no one was willing to gift me this beer, and, being a student, I thought I’d have to wait years before I was able to afford to travel to the UK again and purchase a bottle of this black gold. That was, until one of my favourite restaurants, Banana Jam, announced they were introducing the BrewDog range at the end of November. And they had acquired the only bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin in South Africa!

To run or to drink?
I saw the announcement on the day of the release and the tough decision between my evening jog and the opportunity to consume copious amounts of carbs and alcohol was made. And boy was it a good choice! The beer was sold as a single tot costing a rather hefty R65, but this did not stop me.

Disclaimer: Since I am no expert beer taster, I will not refer to terms related to hops, malt, etc.

A beer with ‘legs’
The first thing I noticed was that this dark brown liquid created no head whatsoever. Swirling it around in the glass, it left residue much like that of a good wine.  The beer is substantially thicker and more syrupy than your average brew due to the brewing process (you can read more about this on their website). It has a very fruit aroma, with quite a strong kick to it – that alcohol content is noticeable!

I braced myself for my first sip, fully expecting a strong taste of medicine that a non- spirit drinker like me is used to (call me unrefined). I was pleasantly surprised. It is an incredibly smooth beer and went down easily. The initial flavour is akin to a sherry (specifically that South African favourite Old Brown Sherry); sweet and fruity tasting, albeit with a stronger taste of alcohol. It quickly develops what I call a Marmite-flavour – yeasty, and by no means a bad thing; many a strong dark ale has this taste and I do like my dark beers. This is a very strong beer, and you can definitely feel the heat of the alcohol as it flows down your throat.

No flashbacks!
All-in-all, the experience was flavour-filled and left me feeling cosy and warm afterwards. This was the first time I was able to enjoy a high-alcohol beverage without having flashbacks of consuming medicine as a child. But Tactical Nuclear Penguin is definitely not for everyone. Some beer drinkers will not like it since it is far from your typical refreshing day-end drink. Though saying that, I’d recommend it to anyone willing to taste something new and unique (and willing to fork out the cash!).

TNP is EXPENSIVE. It sells for £35 in the UK, but according to the staff at Banana Jam, it ends up around R900 for a 330ml bottle after import costs and taxes.

Also, TNP is no longer the strongest beer in the world. It has in recent months been ousted, first by a 40% German beer, then once again by BrewDog with their 41% ‘Sink the Bismarck!’ IPA, and most recently by another Scottish brewery (Brewmeister), who now holds the record for their 65% ‘Armageddon’ beer!


 [Beer images compliments of BrewDog]

Neil takes a hit of the aroma of the Tactical Nuclear Penguin at Banana Jam


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