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Wild Beer Co Toccalmatto Indigo Child

Wild Beer Co: Toccalmatto: Indigo Child ( England: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy pale purple, or, ok indigo if you insist. A thin greyed head.

Nose: Floral. Pepper. Tart yet musky. Petals.

Body: Tart blackberry and black cherry. Sherbety yet acidic. tart cider apples. Oatmeal biscuits middle. Lemon touched. Palma violets. Floral.

Finish: Shortbread. Dried berries. Tart apples. Lemon curd.

Conclusion: Purple beer. Sure, why not? This is a tart, refreshing beer, using what seems to be wild beers speciality – A call to lambic lemon freshness, tart cider apples, infused with odd ingredients, and made just slightly rustic in a not quite saison way.

In this case the odd ingredients bring a mix of floral and dark berries. Very odd considering it seems gooseberries were what they actually used, but bear with me here. It is almost like drinking a black berry infused potpourri.

You know, I have to stop doing descriptions of decent drinks that make them sound horrid. This isn’t horrid. It is actually very nice.

It also possibly the oddest drink I have had in the last, well to be totally honest last two days. I drink a lot of odd beers, ok? It is still very odd. It really does taste quite lambic like, like a really reigned in cassis lambic. The weirder part is that floral touch floating around, it is hard to pin down, I get the imagery of petals floating on the tongue – but that isn’t really what it taste like. Thankfully. It is quite acidic on the way out, which makes it a bit too harsh on swallow, but generally it is very easy going for an 8% beer.

I like it -ok, the floweriness is not what I would call a traditional quality beer styling, but there is something with how it manages to deliver a quality base sour beer that makes it a familiar enough expression that you are fascinated rather than repelled by the oddities. It is a tad harsh at points, and there is a lot that is hard to place, but apart from that it is a lovely black cherry tasting, apparently made with gooseberry, beer.

Background: The Rainbow Collaboration – seven UK brewers, teamed up with seven world brewers – each assigned a colour for their beer. In this case Indigo. Apparently Indigo Child is a term for children with indigo auras who have special powers. Or as I call it – complete bullshit. Still a nice term for a beer. Anyway, this is a gooseberry sour made with flowers and Somerset yeast. This was picked up from Independent Spirit, my local purveyor of booze in exchange for goods and or services.

Brewdog Russian Doll Double IPA

Brewdog: Russian Doll: Double IPA (Scotland: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Browned gold. Moderate off white head and some carbonation mid body.

Nose: Pine cones, resin and bitterness. Crushed digestives. Hop oils and pineapple.

Body: Resin. Pine cones. Pineapples. Kiwi. Brown bread and cake sponge. Vanilla and toffee malt mix. Bark. Barley. Kumquat. Burnt rice.

Finish: Resin. Bitterness. Brown bread. Hops.

Conclusion: Back to malt school. Damn, if actual school had been like this…well I probably still would have hated it, but for different reasons.

This is notably more chewy than the previous beers – the flavours are similar but more intense. There is a much more oily feel, and more hop oils in general – which is intriguing considering the hop levels haven’t actually increased in this beer. The malt influence means it is sweeter as well, the attenuation issue that has bugged the series so far doesn’t seem to be a problem here. However, that doesn’t mean it is not a noticeable aspect. There is a kind of brown bread base character that is kind of drying. It segues into a lighter cake sponge like notes, but the sweetness is still far away from the intensity of many an IIPA.

(As a slight digression – I am now wondering, is this the difference between IIPA and DIPA? People keep telling me they are different styles, but I have a difficulty seeing it. Are IIPA’s sweeter and DIPA’s drier? I don’t know, but I shall keep an eye out)

It is a very resinous beer, and a bitter take on the style. The hops give some fruit flavour, but not so much that they feel like a major aspect here. The hops are all about the oil and bitterness it seems – as of such it as (again) a solid beer, but not exceptional as a beer in itself. It is tasty, but there are many better IIPAs (or DIPAs). This also seems less uprising as an educational beer, but that could be due to the number of this style I have had. Still, interesting to see, so, ok as an education, ok as a beer.

Background: Third in the “Russian Doll” set. Four beers, with the same recipe except for a changing amount of malt and so higher abv for each beer. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Even if i sometimes forget to type that it is still true. So far the series has been interesting, but not exceptional, with the Pale Ale being particularly weak. This was drunk with music on random again, statring off with Gallows – In The Belly Of A Shark

Dieu Du Ciel Alchemist Moralité
Dieu Du Ciel: Alchemist: Moralité (Canada: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy orange gold. Hash of a white head.

Nose: Grapefruit. Tart apple. Apricot. Slightly overripe fruit. Slightly sherbety. Zesty orange.

Body: Tart apple. Pink grapefruit. Pineapple. Sour. Dried apricot. Vanilla pods. Sugared apple pie and pastry. Custard and toffee malt notes.

Finish: Salt touch. Musky bitterness. Pineapple and pink grapefruit. Vanilla. Lightly dusty. Tart apples.

Conclusion: Collaborators, a term that use to call to mind the, often rightfully, looked down upon groups that aided the invaders in a war for personal benefit. Now calls to mind the awesome people who bring us these beers. I call that progress.

This, while being an IPA, seems very unusual to me. The mass of tart hops actually manages to give it an almost sour yeast,highly hopped, pale ale taste to me, That sounds like a bad thing. It is not, it is, in fact, a good thing. The malt doesn’t seem heavily present, it has more of a malt feel than a taste – it is slightly dry, which is what calls to mind the pale ale over the IPA, but the tartness means it rapidly goes from that to refreshing as hell.

It just shimmers with flavour, while you can feel the malt base, the bitterness from the hops is more an outline, a prickle which marks the lines within which the mass of flavour will be coloured in. This entire base outline gives the impression of one kind of beer, the flavour is an entire different thing – I don’t know if it is the hops, the yeast, or what, but it just packs in tart apples, apricot, pineapple, grapefruit. The flavours are ones you can get from hops, but with a tartness that, well , sparkles (and not in a shitty vampire style), and calls to mind the more wild yeast beers.

I’m guessing that there is something done with a funky yeast character, as something is giving just that bit of grip to the tartness, all together becoming just a sublime beer – and one I wish I could drink without collapsing from that 7% abv weight. Yep, pretty much its flaw is I can’t session it. That is all.

Background: Yes that photo is of a beer partially drunk. The bar was busy so I didn’t think I would find a place to set down and review up, but moments later a table opened up – so I quickly got on the job. This was drunk at the Dieu Du Ciel: Meet the Brewers event, while waiting for the brewers to turn up. A great event and a great time.
Meet The Brewers Dieu Du Ciel

Tomatin Legacy

Tomatin: Legacy (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Moderate speed thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Mellow. Pencil shavings. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Light alcohol heat. Shredded wheat and barley husks. Cinnamon. Water smoothes to white chocolate and toffee.

Body: White chocolate. Noticeable alcohol. Oak. Smooth malt chocolate. Cinnamon. Bready. Waters smoothes, gives white chocolate much more heavily and adds light orange crème.

Finish: Charred oak. White chocolate. Nuttiness. Coriander spice. Waters makes more oak, yet still has touch of alcohol.

Conclusion: For once my terrible memory has actually come in useful here. You see, if I had remembered that this had been partially aged in virgin oak then I would have been convinced that the bourbon imagery, not to mention the smooth white chocolate notes, were psychosomatic. However, I did forget until after the review, so here it is.

Initially I noticed the bourbon imagery in the aroma – there was a kind of barley husk or shredded wheat layer, mixed with sweet elements, which seemed a similar style to a few of the bourbons I had encountered. What followed that was a sweet main body with the same kind of expectations. What I hadn’t seen before is that light white chocolate character that is layered throughout the entire whisky. Initially it brought to mind images of white wood, mainly as it mixed very satisfyingly with the oak elements – later however it actually reminded me of those Cadbury’s Dream white chocolate eggs. Though that may only be because I was utterly addicted to them many years ago when I was working bar in Edinburgh.

Anyway, this whisky has a touch of rye bourbon in that it is just slightly spiced – that hard to pin down whisky character in feel and flow, and it all goes together very well. It is maybe a bit hard to get rid of that alcohol burn, but for a smooth whisky it is far from dull.

Its flaw is in the tail end to finish – for a whisky that trades heavily on a set of lighter notes the rough charring of the ending is a detriment. It still leaves an interesting whisky, but it does mark it down, and means it is having a harder time finding a niche. So, a bit of a rough end, and a bit hard to ditch the alcohol burn, but a very interesting lighter whisky with unusual notes.

Background: Tomatin! I’ve found this distillery a few times in pubs, but never got around to reviewing any expression. As you may have guessed if you read this regularly, I found this at Independent Spirit. This expression has been aged in a mix of Bourbon and virgin oak. I had music on Random while drinking this, resulting in a mix of Bad Religion. Doctor Who, Republica band the like. Nowt too embarrassing.

Coming Soon-Dieu Du Ciel

Coming Soon….

There was an excellent tap takeover at Brewdog Bristol for the Dieu Du Ciel brewery, and a chance to meet the brewers – who put up with my badgering and questions. I got one review in on the night, which should be up in the next few days. They will be heading around a few more Brewdog pubs the next two days, so if you get a chance take a look.

Kormoran Weizenbock
Kormoran: Weizenbock (Poland: Weizen Bock: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Caramel to dark brown. Hazy and with a moderate beiged head.

Nose: Chocolate dust. Raisins. Crushed custard cream biscuits.

Body: Fruitcake. Sour grapes. Malt chocolate. Madeira. Vinous. Raisins and banana. Walnut oil. Sour red wine.

Finish: Madeira. Raisins. Light banana. Glacier cherries. Malt chocolate. Sour red wine. Nut oil.

Conclusion: Ok, true but unfair comparison time. This really is no Aventinus. Ok, we have got that out of the way. I mean I only bring it up as, while it is not in the same league, it does play with a similar style of notes, and at a reasonably lower abv. This is no bad thing.

It plays with lovely raisins and lots of sour vinous flavour against a restrained, grounding, chocolate character. The wheat is present, but very smooth, with none of the evident almost prickle pushed to the front feel of many Weizen and Weizen Bocks. Now I like a big wheat character, but here it works quite well to be rolled around the mouth, leading to a slight nut oil sheen on the way out.

It is too easy to drink for the abv, which is both great and a bit of a curse, and it gives you a good degree of complexity with it. The malt chocolate base is maybe a bit too bit an element of the character – if it was pulled back just a bit to let the banana, raisins and cherries get more play then I think this beer would go from good to excellent.

It really does feel like a smaller Aventinus. Smaller in abv, smaller in complexity, however to be able to be compared to Aventinus, and not collapse under weight of expectations, is no mean feat. In fact it is pretty good going.

The easy to drink Weizen Bock choice, needs a bit of tweaking to reach the big times, but I’m not complaining about the existence of another quality Weizen Bock.

Background: Last of the Polish craft beers I picked up from Independent Spirit, and I saved the one I was most excited about for last. I am a huge fan of Weizen Bocks. Mainly due to Aventinus, which is one of the beers that blew my mind back in my early days. So much so, it is in fact one of the beers I picked when Independent Spirit asked my to contribute to their beer bucket list. Anyway, this was drunk while listening to some “Feed The Rhino ” – “The Sorrow and the Sound” to be exact. Thanks To Dylan Ransom for the heads up on that band.

Brewdog Russian Doll IPA

Brewdog: Russian Doll: IPA (Scotland: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Half an inch of tight bubbled white froth.

Nose; Pineapple. Resin. Pine cones. Moderate hop character. Custard cream biscuits.

Body: Dried apricot. Solid hop bitterness and light prickle. Sour grapes. Soft grapefruit. Vanilla and toffee backing. Shredded wheat.

Finish: Hop oils. Honey. White grapes and grapefruit. Dry malt. Light burnt rice.

Conclusion: This is a bit more like it, It seems that 2% extra abv worth of malt really pulls its weight here, and it shows. There is a thicker, sweeter taste than the pale ale version and so the hops have more room to play. You get better detailed flavour such as sour grapes, pineapple and hop oils – all which makes for a more satisfying and better defined overall beer.

It is odd how the malt load affects the hop character, but right from the moment I popped the cap on this the hop notes were more evident. If nothing else this series is turning out to be educational.

So far I’ve been giving this the faint praise of being better than the Pale Ale, but how does it do as a beer in itself? Not bad actually. The recipe isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind, well unless they are very new to the craft beer scene, but it is a solid IPA. It is still, just slightly, over attenuated, the finish has that slight burnt rice expression, and the main body feels a bit shredded wheat at times which I’m guessing is also to do with a slight lack of residual sweetness. However, unlike in the Pale Ale, here they are not massive flaws, just less pleasing quirks.

So a pretty standard tart fruit IPA – a tad below average, but as part of the set it is interesting for showing the affect of varying malt loads.

Background: The photo may be a tad darker than usual. The light bulb blew while I was setting up the shot so I had to improvise a bit for lighting. Not that my photos tend to be professional anyway…This is the second in the Russian Doll series, a set of beers with the same base recipe, but the amount of malt changed to increase abv and alter the style. The first beer, the pale ale, did not exactly meet with my approval. As always I am not an unbiased actor one Brewdog beers. Went back to a bit of Bratmobile – Pottymouth as music for this one.

Russian Doll Pale Ale

Brewdog: Russian Doll: Pale Ale (Scotland: American Pale Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Moderate tight bubbles white head that rises to a froth. Low carbonation.

Nose: Biscuity. Light resin. Custard cream biscuits. Light pineapple. Crisp hops.

Body: Nettles. Dry cardboard malt. Simple bitterness. Sherbety feel. Dry. Kumquat. Light fruit sugar sweetness. Pineapple.

Finish: Slight charring and bitterness. White wine dryness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Hmm, not a good start for this series. Now, this could just be me and American Pale Ales, they can be a hard sell for me unless well done. However this, like quite a few APAs, feels too heavily attenuated for me. As the lowest malt expression of the Russian Doll series, the sweetness is very reined in, which creates a very dry beer. It causes the hops to come in as feel mainly, rather than flavour – with just a bitter prickle against an almost cardboard dry background. It just doesn’t seem to have the grip to deliver flavour with it.

For me, the American Pale Ale can be done well, but they seem much harder to balance than, say, IPAs, and this has to struggle against a generic recipe that has been designed to scale up and down. As such it seems it couldn’t be tailored to APAs stronger aspects. Here and now, I have to take a large swig of this beer to even get a little of the fruit sugar sweetness and flavour.

Overall it actually feels dull, there is no spark of zest. There are some flavours swimming around mid body but badly defined. Unlike the aroma, which is the strong point of the beer – while it is not wide ranging it is a few notes delivered well. Unfortunately all that lasts into the mid body is a weak call to pineapple tartness, that admittedly does rise over time, but never really becomes what it needs to be. On the bigger mouthfuls you definitely get some, but, again, the beer feels too dry for me. The flavours then come in too flat because of that.

An unfortunately weak effort.

Background: Nice idea here, four beers – same recipe, with the exception that more malt is used in each style, from pale ale, through IPA, IIPA, to Barley Wine – thus showing how the interactions with the other elements change. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait

Boon: Kriek: Mariage Parfait (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 8% ABV)

Visual: Large fizzy bubbles for a black cherry yogurt coloured head. Dark black cherry body.

Nose: Lightly tart. Wet oak. Tart apples. Sour cherries. Musky. Lemon cleaner air.

Body: Black cherry yogurt. Sour cherries. Sulphur. Fizzing texture. Charring. Tart apples. Wet oak. banana yogurt under notes. Cheese boards.

Finish: Drying. Wet oak and sour cherries. Malt biscuits. Oats. Tannins. Slight peanuts.

Conclusion: This is an interesting mix, or marriage if it will, and it seems they will. This really pushes a proper sour cherries and wet oak character, something that feels like it should be very deep and still, and yet it is played over an invigorating, fizzing lively main body.

The flavours and textures are remarkably complex in the body, it uses tartness, but the main character has such a solid weight that keeps it a much more restrained beer. There is oak and nuttiness that grounds it, so the tartness is used more to create refreshing edge into that drying lambic feel. Yet for all that it still sparkles and shimmers, it manages to mix dark depths and decadent dances of style, contrasting each other then diving into each other.

It is nowhere near the sweetness over those syrupy fruit lambics, nor that sheer mouth breaking sharpness of the hardcore lambic crowd. It is almost yogurty fruit in how it uses that lovely thick flavour that contains multitudes.

This, for me, ranks up with the greats of the fruit lambics. There isn’t any twist, trick, or gimmick to its quality they have just worked out to take the style to its natural apex, emphasising each characteristic without making any one the overwhelming focal point.

This is a beer that needs time and dedication, it never hits the easy pleasing buttons, but instead creates an overall experience of an excellent beer.

Background: Regular readers will know that Michael Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide” is one of the few beer ticker books I have time for. This is one of the beers from it, found at Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. So I was excited. This is the 20111 bottling, drunk 2014. This is, according to that book, a mix of fresh young lambic, and a large proportion of older lambic, which is then aged in the bottle. Drunk while listening to Rise Against: Endgame. Holy shit that is a good album – I seriously don’t think there is a bad track on there.

Brewdog - U Boat

Victory: Brewdog: U-Boat (Scotland: Smoked Porter: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small browned head that diminishes to islands. Still main body.

Nose: Smoke. Cured ham. Dry roasted peanuts. Beef brisket.

Body: Slight medicinal. Smoke. Dried beef. Light vanilla and caramel. Salt rocks. Dusty touch. Malt chocolate and coffee. Slight sour cream. Soft lemon underneath?

Finish: Bitter chocolate and smoke. Smoked beef. Light salt. Pulled pork. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, high concept review. This is Alice Porter, but smoked. Boom! Job done. You are welcome.

What? You haven’t drunk Alice Porter?

Fuck.

Guess I’d best do a proper review then.

Up front the smoked character is evident, lots of smoked meat, with even a slight salt rock character, reminiscent of Islay whisky style, but lighter. However under that is a solid porter, though the chocolate and coffee notes are actually quite at the back – informing the character without being the character. Instead there is that kind of sour cream character that Alice Porter had, backed by caramel sweetness which combines in a soft of salted caramel way with the main notes, a nice kind of swing to the beer.

So, we have here a smoked, salted caramel, porter chocolate and coffee, contrasted by sour cream kind of beer. Try saying that three times fast.

It is good. Surprisingly moreish for the high abv and the weight of flavour, that slightly cloying sour cream manages to make it very drinkable by taking off the edge of the harsher characteristics . The salt elements give it a nice tingle of harshness, but not too heavy – just enough to dry the mouth and make you want to indulge more.

An evolution, not a revolution of the style, but a very good one.

Background: You can ferment a porter with lager yeast? Apparently so. At least if you use smoked malt as well. This is the latest in a long line of Brewdog collaborations – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to Rise Against’s Endgame. Yes Rise Against are definitely growing on me.

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