It’s the end of the year, a time when people can’t resist the urge to look back and review the last 12 months while anticipating the year to come. This is something I’ve done on this blog a couple of times, but given how infrequently I’ve posted here in 2009, combined with my piss-poor memory, trying a put together a comprehensive round-up of my year in beer would be a relatively hopeless endeavour.

There was my trip to Mondial de la Bière in Montreal, of course, half of which I managed to document. I also drank way too much in Buffalo; went to cask ale festivals at The Victory Cafe (which I wrote about) and Volo (which I didn’t); went to beer dinners featuring beers from Nørrebro Bryghus & Mikkeller (which I wrote about), Allagash (which I didn’t), and Innis & Gunn (which I sort of did); and I’m pretty sure I did lots of other stuff as well, some beer-related, some not so much.

One thing that I do remember quite vividly, however – if only because it occurred quite recently – is a very exclusive little tasting session hosted at beerbistro by Vlado and Liliana of import agents Roland + Russell, featuring perhaps the most infamous and coveted beer on the planet today: Tactical Nuclear Penguin from Scotland’s BrewDog Brewery.

I’m guessing that anyone reading this blog is familiar with TNP and the story behind it, given the flurry of blog posts and news articles that spewed forth when it was released a month or so back. But in case not, this amusing video will explain it all:

Given the beer’s price (£35 per 330 ml bottle if ordered directly, more on the secondary market) and scarcity (500 bottles, apparently), I had little expectation that I’d ever have a chance to try it. But as BrewDog’s representatives in Canada, Vlado and Liliana were able to score a few bottles, and last Tuesday they were kind enough to share some with a small group that included a several beer writers/bloggers and a few beerbistro staff members.

Like any big show, there were a couple of opening acts: Mikkeller It’s Alive! and Meantime London Porter, both from the R+R import portfolio, and both very fine beers that would be the highlights of any other tasting. But with TNP on the bill, they simply had to be relegated to the support slots.

As for the headliner… well, here’s what I wrote:

Deep brown-black colour with ruby highlights and a very still body. Aroma is outstanding – smoky, peaty, salty, soy sauce, toffee, and some alcohol heat, but not nearly as much as expected. Mouthfeel is smooth and supple, very nice! Flavour is deep and complex with notes of peat, salt, vanilla, licorice, burnt wood, whisky, smoke… and yes, of course, some boozy heat, but as with the aroma, not nearly as much as I anticipated from 32%. A truly unique and absolutely delicious beer that totally lives up to the hype. I would have no problem consuming a whole bottle of this over the course of a long winter’s evening, although it would be rude not to share…

Much respect to BrewDog, then, for creating something that is a whole lot more than just the gimmick it might appear to be. (If you don’t believe me, have a look at what Troy had to say.) And many thanks to Vlado and Liliana for their extreme generosity in sharing their very limited stash of this gem – in a business full of many wonderful people, they’re really a step above the rest.

To them, and everyone else, here’s to a great 2010. Cheers!