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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 Рbourbon style. Sharpe orange cr̬me 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.

Brewdog Cap - Cap Dog

Brewdog: CAP: Cap Dog (Scotland: BIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Black, with very dark red hints if held to the light. Inch of charcoal dashed brown frothy head.

Nose: Ash. Bitterness and hops. Smoked dried beef and peppercorn. Light kumquat touch.

Body: Good bitterness. Smoked bacon. Peppercorn sauce. Treacle into chocolate syrup. Sour cream twist and chives.

Finish: Peppercorn sauce. Steak. Bitter malt chocolate. Ice cream chocolate syrup. Digestives

Conclusion: You know, I was beginning to get disillusioned with Black IPAs. Ok, that is a lie, or at least disillusioned is the wrong word. Maybe more I was getting worn out by them. While they were generally high quality, the range of takes you got seemed very small compared to IPAs. So many did such similar hop kicks, possibly because fewer hops worked well against the darker malt.

This then, is interesting – the hop bitterness is there, with that prickly hop feel, but the flavour of the beer, the base it works from, is much more towards the malt. It is more meaty, and more a mix of treacle and smoke than it is the hop flavours. It wavers precariously close to the stout styling, which admittedly is a style BIPAs are often not entirely far from, but here it really lets go with the syrup texture, and the sweet touch against the raw hop bitterness.

However, make no mistake, this is definitely a BIPA. Here is that different, drier, mouthfeel, and the bitterness. You can’t mistake it for anything else, but it does seem to trust the hops to be needed primarily as a bittering agent, so to create the spirit of an IPA, then let the malt handle the complexity.

It seems like it should be rough – it has bitter hops, smoked meat, and a slight sour twist. So, it should be rough, but is smooth – the texture may be slightly dry as to be drinkable, but they lace it with touches of syrup sweetness that brings a smooth feel with it. A contradiction? Maybe, but then so is the idea of a Black Pale Ale, so I’ll roll with it. This embraces the contradiction and makes it work for it. It is about how it feels as much as how it tastes – dry up front, prickly as it goes down, seeps onto the tongue and then rises into a smoked air. The flavours are simpler than most, but still the beer manages to have character with those textures.

So, definitely something different and something quality. A very good BIPA.

Background: Yes I’m still listening to the Guilty Gear XX soundtrack while doing beer reviews. That stuff is serious pumped up 80’s style rock. Anyway. Beer. This is a collaboration with CAP. Shocking I know, or Curious Audacious Products, as it goes. CAP was one of the first two Breweries to benefit from the “Brewdog Development Fund” which is cool. This is a black IPA made with Coffee Berry. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Tasting Notes: Fourpure: IPA

Fourpure IPA

Fourpure: IPA (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold, and just very slightly hazy. Some carbonation, large off white sudden head that leaves suds around the glass.

Nose: Pineapple. Lemon curd. Crisp hops. Digestives. Some bitterness.

Body: Frothy mouthfeel and thick texture. Lemon meringue. Toffee. pineapple and juicy peach syrup. Solid bitterness. Digestives. Creamy. Prickly. Slight kumquat.

Finish: Bitter. Dry hop feel. Oatmeal biscuits. Slight sour tang.

Conclusion: The website description promised a “classically American IPA” – not bad thing, but from the aroma I was guessing this was going to be a competent, but very much by the numbers, take on the style. It has that balance of bitter hops to pineapple and lemon fresh. Nothing world shaking, but it promised reasonable IPA backing it at least.

Well, I was surprised…

The texture on this is very frothy and thick for an IPA, and because of that it has far more grip than I expected, especially at 6.5% abv. That grip gives the flavour a creamy touch, without it being overpowering. It turns lemon into lemon meringue, peach into peach syrup, and gives everything a tiny sour tang at the end as a twist.

The feel is kind of like that extra grip you get from adding oatmeal to beer, but, best I know, they did that without actually using oatmeal. Some of the notes, especially the sour tang, remind me of Punk IPA – but it is only some of the notes, this plays very much its own thing, using the bigger texture to create a very different beer.

Even with that thickness it is easy to drink, and the flavours pick a small range of notes then works the hell of them. So, not massively complex, but a solid as hell IPA – not the best, but easily in the top quarter*.

A bit different, but with lots of the classical American IPA calls, very nice.

Background: That is a nice look on the can, very stripped down basic aesthetic. Simple. but striking. yes I bought it because the can was pretty. Leave me alone. Anyway, predictably, this was picked up from Independent Spirit. Doing my bit to support local business. It’s not just because they are awesome, honest. Anyway, drunk while listening to the Guilty Gear XX soundtrack. Because it is awesome. I have no idea if the game is any good. Also I am disappointed it doesn’t have “Keep In Gates”, and I can’t seem to pick it up legally anywhere. You may have noticed the oddities on the photos have stopped – guess I must have got the light sorted out.

* I have checked on rate beer, they disagree and claim it is barely in the top 50%. We shall agree to differ.

Wild Beer Co Yankee Sandwich

Wild Beer Co: Yankee Sandwich (England: Sweet Stout: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown black. Minimal toffee coloured suds around the edge of the glass.

Nose: Roasted – both standard and dry roasted peanuts style. Lactose. treacle.

Body: Nutty. Peanut butter. Milk and lactose. Sugared almonds. Brittle nut toffee. Slight sour dough. Light milky chocolate.

Finish: Peanuts and peanut butter. Lactose. Light bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: There is only so much a beer can live up to hype. Odd words after my last review, but roll with it, ok. Please. This is more a hype of the moment – my local store went batshit for this. Sold out in two days. That creates a certain level of expectations. Cracking open the bottle felt like opening the ark of the covenant. Or so it should be by crowd reaction.

So, how is it?

Well, it is very much a milk stout that taste of peanut butter. That may seem to be stating the obvious, but it is amazing how may beers mess up their raison d’etre. This lives up to its claims at the very minimum.

The main flavour seems to be, ach, I’m struggling for a word here – you know that brittle nut infused toffee. You smack it with a hammer to break it up. then eat it. This taste a lot like that, it has that mix of sweet and nutty, and that hard to place fragile texture. Around that is the milk stout backing, it shows itself more in feel and general impression than many specific flavours – the chocolate bitterness and lactose are there, yes, but it feels like it is more pushing out and making space for the peanut and toffee main character.

The main actual contrast flavour wise is a sour dough touch – huh, sour dough, peanut butter – guess they did make a sandwich, no?

So, yes it is very peanut butter, and it is tasty – but not really up to the fan reaction levels as a beer. It does it’s job well, tastes peanut butter, feels peanut butter, backed by milk stout – but not massively doing much beyond that.

Still, it is a fun wee one, but more that – fun – than anything else. Worse things to be though.

Background: This was a popular one, I barely managed to get a bottle from – Independent Spirit! I do like the Wild Beer co, not everything works, but they are more constantly innovative than any other brewery in England at the moment. This is a comparatively simple twist, a milk stout made with peanuts – but it seems to have caught the public’s imagination. As a thanks to Chris of Independence Spirit, today’s *ahem* oddity of the light in the photo is chosen as I think it is one he will appreciate.

Lost Abbey Cuvee De Tomme

Lost Abbey: Cuvee De Tomme (USA: Sour Ale: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown with hints of black cherry red. Browned bubbles at edges but basically no head. Still of main body.

Nose: Gummed brown paper. Vanilla and white chocolate. Sour cherries mixed with strawberry jelly. Sour red wine. Wet twigs. Flavoured vodka. Cheesecake.

Body: Tart. Cider apples. Tart raspberries and sour cherry sweets. Apple crumble. Toffee. Vinegar and brown gummed paper. Notable alcohol. Sour red wine soaked raisins. Cheesecake. White grapes. Madeira cake.

Finish: Acidic apple. vanilla toffee. Strawberry jam. Sour cherries. Raspberries. Gummy. Palma violets. Twigs. Drying into charred oak.

Conclusion: Well. Holy shit. Sometimes beers do live up to the hype. You know how I have been on the fence about Rodenbach Grand Cru – half enticed – half wondering how vinegar touched beer works? And how I enjoyed the Caractere Rouge, but it lost some of the intensity? Well, this is Grand Cru intensity, but with the big sour fruit and just amazing complexity.

Warning: This is pretty hardcore – it is Flemish brown like with all the gummed brown envelopes and vinegar touches that you get with the most challenging of the style, and has the full sour cherry effect – and with it, it goes from sour cherry sweets to the full almost holographic range brought on by the acidity, including cider apple and raspberry. This is not a baby’s first beer.

There is so much from the barrel ageing as well, a white chocolate note to the aroma, and vanilla and toffee elements throughout, even some cheesecake maybe. They are softening elements, not heavily so, but just enough that you start getting more restrained fruit notes below – sour wine soaked raisins and such like beneath the acidity.

This is intense, but does come with a kick – the alcohol feel, be it from the 11% , or the spirit of the barrel ageing, is just a tad too noticeable – it comes from the beer pushing the envelope on pretty much every scale, and at this one point it slips a bit too far. However it hardly breaks the beer, it is just that craftsman flaw to show they are still human.

Overall it is just wonderful, wine like, beer definitely, sour and sweet, fruit and spirity – it is something very special indeed.

Background: Oh me, oh my. I first heard about this in the world section of “100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die“, and it sounded awesome, didn’t think I would find it in the UK – but Brewdog’s guest beers proved me wrong. Uses malted barley, raisins candy sugar and sugar from sour cherries – Brett yeast, and aged in a mix of bourbon and French oak. This was drunk to celebrate hearing that Twin Peaks will be back on our screen! Drunk with a background of Garbage’s self titled album. I still hold that as one of the great albums of the 90’s and even prefer it over the more successful follow up album. I’m beginning to think it isn’t the new led light that is making the photos look a bit different, maybe shutter speed? Something is definitely different in the photos.

Fantome Hiver

Fantome: Hiver (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy reddened orange, with a large yellowed head.

Nose: Dry. Carrot and coriander. Mild ginger bread. Bready and wheaty. Ripe banana and stewed banana. Yeastie.

Body: Funky yeast. Carrot and coriander. Brown sugar. Wheat and bitterness. Banana sweets. Bready. Toffee malt drinks. Greenery and mint. peppermint. Kiwi. Sour dough touch.

Finish: Lemon. wheat. light bitterness. Coriander. Bready. Peppermint and pepper.

Conclusion: Fantome! Saison! Let the party begin! Another very different version of the saison style from Fantome here. Rougher and heavier spice than before, there is a mix of grounded coriander and an odd peppermint that comes in almost as a sour twist. It creates contrast, half way between a earthy grounded saison and their zesty fresh Printemps Saison.

As it is a Fantome Saison I am not surprised at all that it is high quality. It is very grounded, with lots of wheat and bread characteristics, and yet has this understated brown sugar sweetness that, after the sour peppermint, creates a second unexpected twist. Of the three Fantome saisons I’ve tried so far this is probably the weakest – the quality is no less high, but the expression leans more towards the fascinating that the more easily enjoyed others. It is just in how the elements interact, there are so many odd elements that they almost shouldn’t work but do.

The beer does grow in sweetens as it goes, the banana elements and toffee malt drinks rise to creating a more soothing backdrop for the harsher elements, and here it is at it best. For the most part however it still isn’t one for easy going drinking – it is all about the examination, this doesn’t work so well as a casual chatting drink – the rough elements are the first impressions, and the fun comes from taking time to get to know it.

Different, like a hard to get to know possible friend with hidden depths. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but well worth the effort. A high quality saison.

Background: Fantome. After never finding any for years, they seem to slowly be getting easier to find in the UK. This one was picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Again, eagle eyed viewers may notice something odd with the photo – I’m still getting used to the new light source. This was shared with friends, at 8% and 750ml it would not be wise to do otherwise. Had a bit of Erock’s Meet Metal on in the background, always fun.

Brewdog Russian Doll Barley Wine

Brewdog: Russian Doll: Barley Wine (Scotland: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Thin off white dash of a head. Still main body.

Nose: Shortbread. Custard and pineapple. Prickle of hops. Musty bitterness. Glacier cherries. Apricot and peach.

Body: Slightly syrupy. Bitterness and hops. Light treacle. Toffee. Chocolate chews. Resin. Light pineapple and grapes. Fruitcake.

Finish: Moderate bitterness mixed with malt drinks. Shortbread. Slightly dusty. Light resin. Hop oils.

Conclusion: Dryness seems to be the theme of these “Russian Doll” beers – and, for a barley wine, this still has a very dry taste and feel to it, with very little residual sweetness showing.

This is weird as they somehow manage to make the treacle notes not actually taste that sweet. I’m now quite sure how that is possible. Instead of the sweetness I would normally expect in a barley wine the beer concentrates instead on the resin and hop oils that were already evident in the DIPA, and bring them out along with the accompanying bitterness.

What I find interesting is that while the hop bitterness and oils are there, the hop fruit flavours are all but subsumed under the malt flavours. There is still a slight presence, but a very muted one – instead leaving chocolate chews and glacier cherries. Again somehow how that sweet. How? How?

So, it is smooth of texture, and shows brewing skill and class, however flavour wise, it is not particularly fascinating barley wine. It does have some sweetness, but it is way tamped down from expectations under the hop oils and resin. Feels more like a barley base than a barley wine … if that makes sense. Nice enough though.

As part of the series -well, it really shows how the hop flavour has to fight to be seen at this level of abv, and here you really do get a showcase of fruitcake and cherry malt flavours.

Overall the series has been ok, generally good quality – if we ignore the pale ale – but none great beers, interesting as a learning exercise, but not as much so as the single hop or differing yeast series. Possibly as you see malt variation in similar beers more often in the wild. So, ok as beers, ok as a series. so, erm, ok.

Background: We have reached the smallest doll! Or the largest doll. In which case reaching it would make no sense, we would have had to go past it to reach the smaller dolls. Anyway. This is the highest malt content and thus highest abv take of the “Russian Doll” beers – four beers with the exact same recipe with the exception of the size of the malt load that changes between beers. The eagle eyed of you may notice something different about the photo. I’ve been using brighter led bulbs recently, so that probably explains it.

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