Category: Beer Tasting Notes

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.

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.

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.

Heretic Hazlenut Chocolate Porter

Heretic: Chocolate Hazelnut Porter (USA: Porter: 7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Medium sized milky coffee coloured head.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Praline. Hazelnuts. Marathon chocolate bar (Or Snickers for young ‘uns). Nougat.

Body: Very smooth texture. Milky coffee and bitter chocolate. Praline. Light hop prickle. Peanuts. Milk chocolate. Oatmeal. Toffee. Creamy, with chocolate liquore late on. Coffee.

Finish: Praline and nuts. Solid bitterness. Toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is one smooth beer, like luxury chocolate pralines and ground up nuts smooth. It declares itself straight away in the aroma, which is half hot chocolate drink with praline, and half a melted marathon chocolate bar. It is big, thick, and absolutely makes you want to drink it.

The body then, is both awesomely smooth, and also not quite what you expect. From the aroma I expected a somewhat thicker body, almost nougat chewy style or thick hot chocolate, instead it is lighter – with massive flavour but it slips down very easily.

So, technically smooth is good, but it does clash with expectations, I anticipated something else. Lighter as it is, it feels almost weightless. Still, it is wonderful to drink, and with just a touch of bitter prickle to give it an edge over its very dessert like main imagery.

Bigger mouthfuls also give a bit more weight and a bit of toffee and cream flavour, amongst the nuts and high quality chocolate – however big mouthfuls are dangerous at 7% abv.

So, overall, very nice, with great rounded and luxurious flavours and great creaminess. While the lighter nature works against it initially, it does mean that it builds up over time and gains more grip – improving throughout the glass. By the end it is creamier again, and has quality coffee to match the chocolate, with nuts always present as a smooth mid note.

It is a hair breadth from being one of the top of the game – There is still something not quite there with the texture, but it is a very slight matter. Overall it is very high quality – well worth a drink even if it is just off the top few.

Background: Picked up from Independent Spirit. Seriously I say that so much it is becoming cliché. Anyway, oddly after picking up this bottle I found another Heretic Porter on tap at the Bath Brew House, and it was lovely. So I was looking forwards to this. The label describes how it won third place in a beer competition when it was first entered, then later beer of the show. So, I’m guessing they are proud of this beer. This was drunk with friends, and had a strange conversation on how praline is pronounced, which involved comparisons to Stalin…e at one point. We may have strange conversations when drinking.

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.


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