Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

5 A.M. Saint

United Kingdom

Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

In college, I was notorious for waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment. As a History major, that typically involved a very detailed, lengthy research paper on a very specific topic that was to be completed over the course of a number of weeks. For me, that meant a very detailed, lengthy research paper on a very specific topic completed over the course of a short weekend. If you think you can’t write 25 pages on the expansion of the Russian Empire in the late 17th Century while watching college hoops and drinking beer on a Saturday and Sunday, I beg to differ.

I bring this up because as I write this, it’s the evening of February 28th. After a quick glance at the calendar proved once and for all that this is NOT a leap year, I have but a few meager hours left in the 2014 version of the annual International Beer Month. I don’t want to let down our sponsors for this splendid annual event, which this year include Malt-O-Meal, the WaxVac, and those creepy mice from the Kia commercials. So I will do my best to pull off the unprecedented doubleheader and review TWO beers in one night before the calendar turns to March 1.

While I look forward to International Month every year, unfortunately for the past few years February has become the month in which I’m able to drink the least amount of beer due to other commitments. This is ironic, since February is the absolute WORST month of the calendar year in my opinion, and thus would be a viable candidate for “Most Beer Consumed in One Month” award were it not for those other commitments. To prove just how difficult it is for Nigel to not only consume but to review beer in February, tonight’s first review is for BrewDog’s 5 A.M. Saint, which I consumed with the idea of reviewing back on February 4.

I chose BrewDog for a few reasons, one of which Eddie covered in his recent article about their Esquire Network show “Brew Dogs” (way to name it, guys). Not much more to say on that other than I agree with Eddie’s assessment of not only the entertainment value of that program, but also the homage it pays to the roots of brewing. Before “Brew Dogs,” BrewDog was making headlines with their attempts to hold the record for world’s strongest beer. When I last reviewed BrewDog a few years back, they held the title of “World’s Strongest Beer” with their 32 percent ABV Tactical Nuclear Penguin. According to RateBeer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin is now the 13th strongest beer in the world. After Tactical was passed up, BrewDog did make one more attempt at the title with the 40 percent ABV Sink the Bismarck, but the title has now become nothing more than a joke, with number of European brewers such as fellow Scottish brewer Brewmeister concocting “brews” that are in excess of 60 percent ABV. Kudos to BrewDog for pulling out of this now ridiculous “race.”

With their unofficial withdrawal from the race to create the world’s strongest beer and the popularity of “Brew Dogs,” we can focus more on BrewDog’s skill at crafting fine beer. While they are still “punk rock brewers” that like to push the envelope and create some unique and uber-powerful ales, BrewDog has done more than enough to prove that they know how to make damn fine beer, regardless of how strong it is. They’ve also taken to collaborating with some of the best regarded brewers in the world to create fine ales, including European giants Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø and American brewers Flying Dog, Oskar Blues, Stone, and Three Floyds, among others. 5 A.M. Saint is a perfect example of BrewDog creating a respectable beer without the need to go over the top.

5 A.M. Saint is considered an Amber ale in most circles, though it’s a hoppy one to say the least. Some may consider it a “Red IPA,” although many don’t consider that an actual category and the 5 percent ABV in 5 A.M. Saint would be pretty tame for any type of IPA. So let’s throw category classification out the window and just take this for what it is: a tasty, sessionable ale from one of Europe’s finest “new school” brewers.

5 A.M. Saint pours with the expected deep, coppery amber hue topped with about an inch of frothy head that slowly dissipates, leaving a creamy lace throughout. The translucent cloudiness and frothy lace make this a fine looking ale in the glass. Aromas are also exceptional, with sweet, caramel malt balanced with grassy notes and piney, floral hops. If all of the aromas pull together in the flavor, this will be an outstanding beer. Few “amber ales” have an aroma that can match this.

As for that flavor, 5 A.M. Saint does indeed pull the presentation elements together, and it’s definitely an “amber ale” only if one really stretches the definitions of the category. I have the utmost respect for any brewer who is willing to brew outside of the pre-defined standards of a specific style … throw the rule book out the window, and create something that tastes good and a variety of beer drinkers will enjoy. That’s exactly what 5 A.M. Saint is. For the Hophead, there are plenty of zesty, piney, floral notes present, most of which hit the tongue at the very outset. For the dark beer lover, the sweet, sugary caramel maltiness is present throughout, providing a nice but far from overwhelming sweetness to cancel out the bittering aspects of the hops. An underlying earthiness is present as well. The numerous flavors are all perfectly balanced, and when you factor in the mild ABV, this is about as approachable of a craft beer as one can find.

5 A.M. Saint proves once and for all that Scotland’s BrewDog is not just a gimmicky, publicity-seeking operation. While they do hit the hype button on occassion, BrewDog clearly has the ability to create tasty, balanced, approachable beer that a wide variety of beer lovers can enjoy. Pick up a sixer of 5 A.M. Saint before you binge watch “Brew Dogs” on the DVR … you’ll surely be satisfied.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on March 3, 2014.
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