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Partizan Saison Mango Black Pepper

Partizan: Saison Mango Black Pepper (England: Saison: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy mango juice. Thin dash of bubbles clumped at the centre instead of a head.

Nose: Mango. Crushed bird seed. Stewed banana. Dried apricot.

Body: Bitter. Pineapple. Dry. mango. Lightly chalky. Wheat flakes. Bitty orange juice. White pepper. vanilla. Lightly spicy.

Finish: Mango. Light white pepper. Bitter. Light fresh apple. Light wheat.

Conclusion: The odd and the wonderful have become almost commonplace in brewing in the UK in the last few years. Nowadays a 3.8% bitter turning up would be more of a shock to the system for me. Not that I am in any way complaining. So, a saison made with pepper and mango? Sure, why not.

This is very mango heavy, from the appearance which looks like cloudy mango juice, to the flavour mid body – you get mango nestling firmly in the arms of a dry rustic saison framework. The saison seems to be working to define the boundaries – it sets a texture, a bitterness to work as a floor, a lightly spiced character to act as a top, all to allow the mango character the room to expand.

As a result the mango, while the main character, is balanced- neither too sweet or forthright, for all it is the predominant element. This beer could very easily have been just fruit juice like, but that framework reins it in, giving it a beer character without detracting from the special ingredients.

There does seem to be pepper there, but what am imagining as it could just be part of the natural element of a rustic saison, so it is definitely a less obvious element. That saison itself isn’t too obvious anyway, as mentioned, well not outside the most base characteristics of it that make up the framework.

I am enjoying it, it isn’t exactly a beer that makes me rave, but it does feel like a carefully crafted cuisine of a beer. What do I mean by that? Well it feels very selective in how it uses its flavours, and as a result feels like one of those small, but expressive, restaurant dishes. Each flavour is carefully picked – it can feel a bit over specific and not quite substantial enough, but still very well crafted. Almost a craft piece to show what they could do more than anything else, but still worth examining.

Background: Yes another beer I bought because it has pretty bottle art. I am shallow. This was found at Independent Spirit. I’ve not tried anything from Partizan before, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was drunk while listening to a bit more of the Guilty Gear XX OST. For people wondering, yes there are more collabfest beers to come. I’m just mixing it up a bit, so it isn’t just two solid weeks of Brewdog collab beers.

Lovibonds Brewdog Purple Rain

Lovibonds: Brewdog: Purple Rain (England: Sour Ale: 5.8%ABV)

Visual: Bright red wine with a black cherry hue. Black cherry coloured thin head.

Nose: Red grapes. Raspberry. Sweet red wine. Cherries. Jelly.

Body: Tart. Blackcurrant. Lightly acidic apple. Red wine. Raspberry. Twigs. Sour character.

Finish: Blackcurrant jam. Raspberries. tart apple. Watermelon.

Conclusion: This basically a really fruity red wine. Those were pretty much the first words that went through my head as I sipped on this. Its a bit fresher in the fruit than most red wine I have tried, and it calls to its sour beer base as well, but the parallels with my (admittedly limited) experience of red wine is amazing.

From the deep rich colour, to the dry finish, to the mass of dark fruit – this has so many different elements that seem wine like. However , possibly due to the amount of different fruit they may have put in it, the range of fruitiness seems much different than you would expect from a wine. You get the feel of a mass of different berries and cherries, which may be the extra fruit, or may be that odd holographic flavour you get with sours.

So, how good is it? Well it is very fruity, and very well defined – It has an almost Berliner weisse base character, but that is quickly lost beneath the weight of the fruit. As of such it is very enjoyable, but admittedly does not benefit much from the beer aspect. Not exactly a huge issue, but worth mentioning.

As of such it has the tartness and sourness to challenge, and the bursting fruit to enjoy. It is a very well defined fruit beer -it lacks that unique element that would make it stand out amongst the greats, but mixes the wine, and the sheer raw fruit with panache.

The quality is high so far this year at collabfest.

Background: Beer four of COLLABFEST! By this time I was joined by friends who assisted with notes and jokes. This is a foraged fruit filled sour, which sounded too fun too miss. Despite its wine like nature, it was a complete coincidence I ended up with it in a wine glass. They had run out of standard third pint glasses. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Twelve beers to go … This was easier last year when there was four less bars.

ilkley brewdog westwood stout

Brewdog: Ilkley: Westwood Stout (England: Stout: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Banana gold. Small white head.

Nose: Tiramisu. Very milky coffee. Fudge. White chocolate. Toffee liquore.

Body: Tiramisu. Slight prickly spirit feel. White chocolate. Milky coffee.

Finish: White chocolate. Toffee liquore. Tiramisu. Light dry crushed digestives. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: You know, people looking at the notes may come to the conclusion that this is a simple and one note beer. That would not be entirely correct. Basically it is very much tiramisu, in all that entails. Chocolate, spirit soaked sponge (well at least in my favourite Tiramisus), coffee, cream. Basically it is all that summed up in one word. Tiramisu. I’ve tried expanding out a bit, with exactly how the coffee is milky, the spirit touch, but frankly it is mainly padding. The one word describes so much.

This is kind of a spiritual successor to AB08 in that it is not a standard stout. For one think it is pale, paler than AB08. However it still has stouty feel, milky instead of bitter coffee, white instead of dark chocolate, tiramisu because, well tiramisu and fuck you if you have a problem with that – it is awesome.

This is just lovely, the spirity touch would normally seem a bit high, but feels perfectly integrated into the dessert styling here. It is thick, but smooth – such that it feels barrel aged in a lot of ways. In fact maybe there should be a barrel aged version, just because.

It is to tiramisu what AB14 was to banoffee pie, to me that is a heavenly beer, to you?- well that is your decision, but I would recommend at least giving it a try.

Background: Should I list this as stout? Erm, erm, ok yeah lets go with that. Anyway, third beer of COLLABFEST 2014! I was going to have this later, but on a recommendation I tried a sample and it instantly became the next review. It is a white chocolate stout. yep, white stout – I’m giving up on beer styles making sense. Again. I’ve forgotten to mention for the past few reviews – I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. I was keeping to thirds as there were 16 new beers to try, and I was going to try and get through them in the weekend (it ended up taking three days)

Brewdog Wild Beer Rosa Canina

Brewdog: Wild Beer Co: Rosa Canina (England: Saison: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot to brown. Medium apricot touched thin head.

Nose: Elderberry. Menthol. Sweet green grapes. Chives. Rose bushes. Dried mint leaves. Vanilla. Rye bread. Dry wood. black pepper.

Body: Dried apricot. Dried mint. Vanilla yogurt. Dry wood. Brown bread. Sherbety froth feel at times. Muesli. pepper. Floral.

Finish: Oatmeal or maybe muesli. Dried fruit. Light lemon sherbet. Turmeric.

Conclusion: I love Brewdog beers. I love Wild beer Co beers. Wild Beer Co do awesome saisons. this is a saison. so…

Actually, this one is more interesting than awesome. Sorry guys. However it s very interesting. Everything is unusual here, even the aroma feels thick, almost muesli like, and rose touched. How does that even work? There is a huge mix of flavours that you would not expect in a beer, yet delivered in a way where it all feels integrated.

It uses a whole ton of grounding notes, so you end up with what feels like a very earthy rustic saison, thick with that muesli and oatmeal imagery going on inside, but it uses that alongside very floral notes and mix of dried fruit and vanilla sweetness. It is like it wants to make sure it is well earthed for all the odd tricks it is going to pull.

It calls to a mix of saison, and also to those pre hops traditional ales. The ones where they had to use other ingredients to provide the bitterness. Odd, as saisons are often very hop dominated – anyway they mix to create a lightly sour, earthy and interesting beer, but not one with any handle for ease of access and enjoyment.

So all that way a very long way around to basically repeat what I said in the opening. More interesting than awesome. Still it is very interesting and very complex. but not one I think I will return to.

Background: Collabfest 2014! The second beer! This one is brewed between my local, Brewdog Bristol, and the ever awesome Wild Beer Co. It is a saison brewed with rosehip, rose petals and rosemary. As ever at these fests I was taking my time, reading a bit of Iain M Bank’s “Against A Dark Background” and drinking some water. Pacing myself basically. The Wild Beer guys turned up later on, and did a bit of a chat, which is always awesome. Thanks guys. Sorry to have to use the photo on an only middling review when you have so many awesome beers.

Wild Beer In The House

Brewdog Brodies Southside Zester

Brewdog: Brodies: Southside Zester (England: Berliner Weisse: 3.7% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Small white head that is mainly clumps around the edges and leaves trails.

Nose: Key lime – tangy. Buttery shortbread. American cheesecake. Kiwi.

Body: Tart. Squeezed lime. Light dry oak. White wine. Apple cider. Passion fruit.

Finish: Squeezed lime. Vanilla. Soft lemon. Pears. twigs. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: Brodies do great sours. Lime makes for a good sour. This rocks. Ok, that is the short review for people with no attention spans. This is like key lime pie, the musical … or more correctly, key lime pie, the beer, but you get my point.

It is tangy but not harsh, sour but soft. It has elements not entirely unlike the drier, less sweet American style cheesecakes, or like buttery shortbread. That is used as a base, then shot full of squeezed lime which just sparkles.

Unusually for a sour, and probably due to the softer nature, the almost holographic range of flavours you get with a lot of sours are not present here. Instead it is more carefully shaped into cider tartness at the height of the intensity – a more mellow but still refreshing high point. The drier points go towards twigs and dry passion fruit, keeping the dry grounding and still quite fruity. It is refreshing, deep and rounded – the lime is the perfect match for the sour.

If you could bottle this it would be basically bottled summer joy, calling to imagery of hot South America days drinking, German Brauhaus, and English bush filled fields. Lovely.

Background: Collabfest! 2014! WOO MOTHERFUCKERS! I like collabfest. Every brewdog bar does a collaboration beer with a local brewery then they are all put on at all the bars. Last year I managed all 12 in one day. This year, with there being 16 now, I had to pace myself. So I will going back to try and grab the ones I missed. Anyway, this one is also called “Livin’ La Vida Lime Juice”. Due to the amount of beers I kept to thirds, for obvious reasons. My later in the day reviews may be slightly incomprehensible…

Mikkeller Three Floyds  Blå Spøgelse

Mikkeller: Three Floyds: Blå Spøgelse (Denmark: Sour Ale: 7.7% ABV0

Visual: Deep black cherry red. Massive cherry yogurt coloured head that leaves lace.

Nose: Oats. Horse blankets. Black cherry yogurt. Blueberry pie and sugar dusting. Rice crackers. Mashed blueberries and pips. Musky.

Body: Sour. Twigs. Charred oak. Tart blue berry. Apple cider. Black cherry yogurt. Acidic at back. Lemon.

Finish: Tart blue berry. Spirit touch, Oak. Drying. White wine. Cider. Dried blue berries.

Conclusion: So, is this a blue berry lambic or not? I mean, it tastes like one, looks like one, even occasionally is referred to as one online – but most places seem to just call it a blueberry sour ale. Which is a bit more varied category. Hmm, it is very lambic like so I will treat it as one, while admitting that it may not in fact be one. That seems a fair compromise.

It isn’t like a blue berry lambic is unheard of – fairly uncommon, and definitely not one of the standard fruit for it, but not unheard of. Anyway, the base of this tastes like a very typical, competent, if not exactly to my style, dry lambic base. It is quite dry, with some sort of dry charred oak harshness. Not my favourite style – it reminds me a bit of Girardin which I never quite took to, however it is more mellow here. It is generally a mix of the harsher elements – all the dryness, tartness and oak, but delivered in a softer manner that takes off the edge. While not exactly my style, it is very competent and I find myself unable to complain too much. I’m not quite sure it works, but it doesn’t exactly hurt – it delivers what you expect, a drying lambic. So, we get to the more important question. How well does it handle the fruit?

While it is loaded with blueberries, it actually has quite a black cherry yogurt thing going on, the influence of the base lambic seems to make the darker elements of the fruit come out, and the less sweet notes, but there is no denying that the fruit has a massive presence. You very rarely get high or light notes, though when you do they come as a welcome relief, you get more the drying and dark, until you swallow. Then, in the finish, you finally get the distinct blueberry character – more like dried blue berries that you get in cereal, much more concentrated and intense. that dry, fruity finish lasts long after the last sip.

Overall it is very interesting, you get a lot of depth, but the slight harsh dryness of the base keeps it as only an interesting beer. It never quite lets you just relax and enjoy it freely, there is always a note of discord for me. A pity as the use of fruit is very well done indeed.

So, not bad overall, very different, but it is an expensive one for such a mixed review. So I can’t recommend it in general, despite the interesting characteristics.

Background: I’m a big fan of Mikkeller, and of Three Floyds – so this collaboration blue berry and oak aged sour ale was a must grab when it turned up in Brewdog’s Guest beer section. Drunk after getting back from a weekend at Alton Towers, with a battered, tired and happy body. I put on some Offspring, Smash to be exact, during this. Not my favourite band anymore but still fun.

Dieu Du Ciel Bourbon Aged Peche Mortel

Dieu Du Ciel: Peche Mortel: Reserve Speciale 2013: Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon (Canada: Imperial Stout: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Brown medium sized head, similar to the colour of chocolate milkshake.

Nose: Bitter coffee. Fudge. Bitter cocoa dust. Very rounded in all elements. Chocolate cake and sponge. Roasted nuts.

Body: Oatmeal flapjack. Massive rounded coffee. Raisins. Vanilla toffee. Frothy texture. Rye bourbon. Shredded wheat. Sharp orange liquore.

Finish: Bitter Belgian chocolate and chocolate sponge. Bitter coffee beans. Vanilla fudge. Vanilla spirit air – bourbon style. Sharpe orange crème centres.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a beer balanced on a knife edge. I very much enjoyed Peche Mortel, but this, oh this just adds that little edge to it. It still has that booming bitter coffee, but more rounded and refined. The time in the oak gives it much more complexity in both chocolate and coffee, giving additional layers of sweetness and bitterness to both. It is that accentuation of the pre existing characteristics that pushes that part up there with Beer Geek Brunch Weasel for massive complexity to coffee expression. You can take your time even with just the aroma, feeling the fudge come out, and the coffee progressing through the aromas.

The body is buoyed by the spirit elements, an almost shredded wheat bourbon roughness, combined with vanilla sweet spirit rises up, prickling through the strong main body. This is the knife edge, the element the beer balances on. At times the perfect balancing of flavours makes it one of the all time greats, at others it rises just a tad too spirity. In both it merges all those elements before with what is an almost sharp orange liquore sub note that adds another layer of intrigue. The mix of spirit is seen even in the texture, a mix of frothy smooth and spirit needle prickles.

So, it varies, at its best it is truly up there with the best – bringing everything Peche Mortel did, but more rounded, backed by subtle extra notes and showing the full complexity of the coffee. At its worst, and this is comparative worst, not absolute – it is still very good – it is very bourbon heavy, almost like the stout is backing the bourbon rather than the other way around. Not a bad thing, but not a patch on the other way around.

Because it has that variance, even in a single bottle, it is not quite an all time great, but it has those moments where it does reach it with mad genius. This is an excellent beer. Give it a try – the standard Peche Mortel is more consistant, but this has occasional moments of absolute greatness.

Background: It has a gold band! Yay! Yep, that is the only difference is a gold label indicating it is Viellie 12 mois en fut De Bourbon – or as I put it, 12 months in Bourbon oak. I picked this up from Brewdog Bristol after the Dieu Du Ciel meet the brewers event. I had also had standard Peche Mortel on tap then, very nice.

St Bernardus Wit

St Bernardus: Wit (Belgium: Belgian Wit Bier: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Medium white bubbled head.

Nose: Wheaty. Lemon and grapefruit juice. Dry spices, with a pepper touch. Funky yeast. Milk. Acidic apple.

Body: Lemon curd and meringue. Sparkling feel and fizzy. Elderberry and sour grapes. Grapefruit. White wine. Turmeric.

Finish: Elderberry. Dry finish. Muesli. Sour white grapes. Wet oak.

Conclusion: I remember trying this one many a year ago and not being much of a fan of it. Odd how time changes things. This is a very drying wit beer, much more so than most takes I have encountered – there is a lot of tart, refreshing, fruit notes, but sharply done so they head out leaving you drier than when they came in. The beer’s obsession with grapefruit and sour grape notes make me think of NZ hops, though I doubt they were used here, probably a case of parallel evolution and all that.

Despite being so drying it does make for a very refreshing wit, it is the sparkling, sometime slightly over fizzy character – it dries but leaves that sheen in the mouth that makes it feel awoken. Oddly for a wit the beer doesn’t seem to reply on the spices too much – they are there, creating a grounded dry effect, but they aren’t a huge part of it.

It makes for an almost grapefruit wit, and as of such it is something I appreciate for its mentioned refreshing character. It is still more a beer I appreciate than adore, for all I have come to enjoy it more over the years. It could be the dryness, dry beers have to work a bit harder for my affection – but it is very interesting, both as a call to the less sweet, traditional, wit and as progression in the style of its own.

As such, it is still not a favourite beer , but it is worth checking out. Most of my disagreements with it are matters of personal preference, and I’m sure there are a lot of people that this would work perfectly for.

Background: St Bernardus are pretty awesome in general, as mentioned in the review I have tried this before and wasn’t too big a fan, but decided to give it another go. I picked this up from The Beer Emporium which has very nice bottle selection and is a great bar as well. That’s about it at the moment.

Ichiros Malt MWR

Ichiro’s: Malt MWR (Japanese Blended Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 46% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold.

Viscosity: Quick fast streaks.

Nose: Thick. Toffee. Husked barley. Golden syrup cakes. Vanilla. Pears and apples. Light oak. Water lightens and adds a shredded wheat grounding.

Body: Very smooth. Stewed apples and pears. Honey. Slightly fiery. Apricot. Water makes richer and smoother. Fudge. Custard, and brings out more of the existing fruits. Raspberry Pavlova.

Finish: Barley husks. Viscous sheen. Toffee. Drying. Pears. Water makes golden syrup, more pears and adds apricot.

Conclusion: Sometimes I wonder if it is psychosomatic or serendipity. This has in its main body exactly what the Bunnahabhain 25 promised in its aroma. So I go from disappointed in one, to very happy realisation of what I wanted in the other. There is stewed fruit, honey and apricot all delivered with a very smooth feel, albeit with a bit of an alcohol touch. So, what exactly is the odds of that?

Now, neat there is a bit of a sharpness to the high end of the aroma, kind of like freshly cut green fruit. It is a pity that water removes this, as it is a nice refreshing note to an otherwise quite thick whisky. However for removing that alcohol touch the water is overall a welcome addition.

The body is interesting, with all the delicate pears and apples that I would expect of, say, Hakushu but with none of the other delicate sensibilities. Instead here you get thick honey and golden syrup that basks around the whisky like a lazy lizard in the sun. It makes for a very rich, very sweet whisky that still manages to make room for the lighter elements. Even with the bit of extra fire neat you can still see those elements, and it doesn’t take much water to tamp it down.

Overall it is a massive stewed fruit mash up of a whisky. It is like an experimental punch bowl drizzled in syrup and spirit. Like a lot of Japanese whisky it feels very polished and smooth, more so because of its blended malt nature – it really has that rounded off edge style. Now for some people that level of polish can feel like a flaw, oddly enough. It can be seen as removing the interesting quirks. For me, if it is encountered too often, it can get dull, but as long as it is encountered rarely it can lead to interesting experiences like the one here. It creates a dessert wine of a whisky, one for a bit of a special occasion, it is too rich to have often, but is great to try as a well crafted one off.

Background; MWR is Mizunara Wood Reserve, or so google tells me. Google also tells me this is probably a blend of Hanyu and Chichibu whisky. Anyway, after my two hundredth whisky was a bit of a let down, but also free, I decided to go for a measure of something else – so I grabbed this. Again drunk at The Rummer hotel.

Bunnahabhain 25 Year

Bunnahabhain: 25 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Rich custard gold.

Viscosity: Hard to tell in the glass, but slow progression.

Nose; Sweet honey and stewed apricot. Tiniest touch of smoke. Cured bacon. Custard touch. Very smooth.

Body: Very smooth and slightly light. Pears. Gentle smoke. Cod steaks and oils. Tannins.

Finish: Stewed pears. Cinnamon. Dry oak. Cod and oils. Light honey.

Conclusion: Bunnahabhain has always been on the light end of the Islay range, avoiding most of the peat and harsh character that comes from the better known names. Even so the lightness of touch of this one surprised me. It has a different range of notes that may hint at the Islay home, but it is far from harsh. maybe too far the other way. You get a touch of the island saltiness, but here more with an almost grilled fish character, and a dryness that calls more to tannins than peat.

The odd thing is that the nose is actually pretty big, not Islay style big, but still powerful. The first notes you get are thick stewed fruit, honeyed and with an almost bacon meat character which is the closest thing to standard Islay you will get all whisky. This was nice, exactly what I was looking for, different, big, and complex. The main body could do with more of that in my opinion.

When I got to the body, it was much softer – there is a very soft pear characteristic, which can get lost amongst the odder characteristics. There is smoothness, an almost cod light main body, smooth and just slightly oily. It gives an interesting main body, but it is so light that I didn’t even add water for fear of cracking it further. Maybe it is me, I know from aged expression I have tried they often get lighter and more subtle with age, but not usually to this degree. The finish leads out with that light fruit and a sweet cinnamon touch, regaining a touch of the honey promised by the aroma but so lost in the body.

It is an interesting expression, but not a very special one for that. It really needs more of the notes promised by the aroma as it has become too delicate for me – not something I imagined saying of the distillery. I would say, for this, keep to the younger expression. None are massive or harsh, but they have more weight to what they give. the years don’t seem to benefit this one much, especially not for the cost. Ah well.

Background: 200 Whisky Reviews! Yes, I know I’ve done over a thousand reviews total, but it is a lot slower getting through a bottle of whisky than a bottle of beer. Anyway, I decided to grab something special. The Rummer Hotel have some very nice whiskys by the measure, so I went for Bunnahabhain 25 Year. Unfortunately, it was nearly all gone. They had but half a measure left. The bartender very kindly said I could just have it as he couldn’t sell it. Many thanks. I am wondering, since it was near the end of the and I know current bottlings have a higher abv, if the whisky had been open for a while and oxidised a bit, which was why it was so lackluster. I do not know. Usually Rummer are great for their Whisky though so I’m guessing not. Anyway, since it was free I could get a second dram of a different whisky to celebrate. The review will be up shortly. As this was a very light whisky I didn’t add water as I couldn’t see it helping.

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