Category: Beer Tasting Notes


ReAle Extra

Birra Del Borgo: Re Ale Extra (Italy: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow. Moderate carbonation. Small white head. Leaves a lot of suds around the glass.

Nose: Crisp lemon and hops. Passion fruit and cheesecake.

Body: Custard. Shortbread. Lemon. Kiwi fruit. Lemon filled hops. Cheesecake. Sherbety. Light crisp bitterness. Green apples. Apricot and melon.

Finish: Kiwi cheesecake. Hop bitterness. Passion fruit. Lemon. Sprite. Jammy. Melon. Jolly ranchers.

Conclusion: Why is this 6.2% darn you? I could session this until I fall over. Which at 6.2% and my rubbish alcohol capacity would not be very long. This is a lovely fresh crisp beer, it mixes custard sweet, lemon fresh and lovely crisp hop bitterneess. It opens up so easily and welcomes you in, but keeps notes back, such as the green apples and kiwi that you only get rolling around underneath when you have had enough time to get used to the beer.

The light sweet notes are the ones put all up front, all cheesecake and sherbet – that is then backed up with that understated bitterness. There is a huge range of flavours, but no matter how many I find it always hints that there may be more underneath. Even after I found the kiwi and passion fruit I kept digging, trying to put words to the hints of elements that I could taste, their description just out of reach.

It is smooth of main body, ridden over by a light hop grit feel. As with taste, the texture hints that there may be more to be found.

But, I return again, why, darn you why is it 6.2%. I know, it is what they needed to make it taste as it does, and I know that some people consider 6.2% sessionable. For me though, I’m old school, and for me 6% and up is a big beer, I wish I could easily drink more of this.

A wonderful, balanced, bitter and easier to drink than its abv should be, beer. Feels like a Belgian IPA with its lovely texture. I don’t know if they used Belgian yeast, but that is how it feels. It has the excellent texture combined with remarkable hop use. So, yes, I am impressed.

Background: Huh, ratebeer says 6.4%, wonder if the keg version is slightly lower abv. It’s about time I returned to Birra Del Borgo, but they are so damn hard to find in the UK. This was found at The Beer Emporium, and as I settled down to review, some Willy Mason came on the sound system. Good tunes were following me that day I tell you, Also, just as I finished my review, some friends arrived, making for good chat as well. A very delightful day of coincidental joy. I approve.

Rubaeus

Founders:Rübæus (USA: Fruit Beer: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Deep cherry red. Dash of an off white head.

Nose: Tangy and musky mix. Raspberry. Strawberry undertones. Brambles.

Body: Sweet strawberry ice cream syrup. Tart raspberries. Slight cheeseboard character. Twigs. Raspberry ripple ice cream, Grapes behind.

Finish: Sweet raspberry syrup. Oak. Malt chocolate note. Raspberry ripple ice cream. Cheese cake.

Conclusion: Hmm. You know I really should stop starting conclusions with “Hmm”. Hmm, you know, syrupy sweet fruit beers tend to have a rep as being a bit crap. Bit sugary sweet, inoffensive, that kind of thing.

The thing is, this is quite syrupy sweet, but actually pretty good.

Its sweetness is not a million miles away from New Glarus’ Raspberry Tart, and has a similar very full raspberry character, with tons of genuine fruitiness. Where it differs is in an almost ice cream and ice cream syrup styling that is streaked throughout. Despite that though, you really get the raw fruitiness and a good light tartness. There is even unexpected notes, some strawberry in particular – I have no idea where that come from.

It also shows similarity with New Glarus in that it has that twig and cheeseboard character for complexity, though here the increased sweetness moves it more into cheesecake territory. Even with all the fruitiness the base texture is readily identifiable as beer, if perhaps beer that has had syrup squirted in it. It seems half way between a Fruli and New Glarus, with a call to the flavours of both.

The syrupyness does occasionally work against it, but with that exception it is a very tasty fruity beer, like a raspberry ripple beer.

You know, I think that is the second time I have used that description for a beer.

Tasty, easy to drink, very good fruit character but just a tad too syrup filled. Still pretty good.

Background: Yes I copy pasted the name to save looking up all the special characters. This is a raspberry beer, and the first time I have seen Founders on tap outside of the USA. So I decided to do a review. While I was drinking away The Eels, White Stripes, the Radiohead came on the sound system. It was like a flashback to my late teen years. Not entirely a bad thing. Anyway, it was sunny. Again. My attempts to extinguish the sun with pure hate are yet to be successful.

Timmermans Oude Geueze

Timmermans: Oude Gueuze (Belgium: Lambic Gueuze: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Dash of a white head.

Nose: Crushed nuts. Apricot. Light lemon.

Body: Very tart. Apples and cider. Lemon meringue. Fluffy feel behind initial sharpness. Vinegar touch. Some nuts. Jiff lemon.

Finish: Dust balls. lemon curd. Acidic. Vinegar note. Jiff lemon.

Conclusion: Lemony. Very lemony. Very very lemony. Generally I have found lemon is not an uncommon element of gueuze beers, but this is damn near lemon juice. With jiff lemon squirted into it. and then blended with lemon meringue. With lemons.

It is a bit much really. I can live with a sharp beer, hell, done right I love them. I can ever live with a beer with vinegar notes, a la Rodenbach, even if they confuse the hell out of me they can be good. This is just too one note. Ok, maybe not quite one note, but someone is letting the drummer of the band have an extended solo on the middle of the song.

Metaphorically speaking.

There are some of the other traditional lambic notes here, some nuttiness, a nice Belgian texture behind the sharpness. There is nothing that makes it really stand out though. It has a lot of the challenging notes of the style, but I don’t feel it gives you enough in trade off for that. It just rocks that one lemon filled element far too long.

Now it isn’t terrible. It is very refreshing, especially when chilled down, and the initial sharp feel giving way to that fluffy grip is interesting. However, I can’t see myself returning to the beer. If I want a sharp beer Cantillon is better in nearly every way, giving you more for the challenge, and if I want a more easy going been then this is not it.

It needs a few more notes, or maybe just to cut the metaphorical drummer’s hands off.

Background: Found this at “Independent Spirit” of Bath. I’ve been on a bit of a Belgium kick recently and thought I would give this a try, lambics are always intriguing to me, though I don’t always get them. When I find one I like though they are amazing. Anyway this was drunk while listening to some OCR Remixes of Streets Of Rage tunes, because that game had awesome music.

Rugbrod

The Bruery: Rugbrød (USA: Speciality Grain: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to black. Large brown bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. All bran. Wheat. Earthy.

Body: Vinous. Sour grapes. Cherries and raisins. Port. Raspberries. Chocolate milkshake. Sugared shortbread. Fruitcake.

Finish: Madeira cake. Sour red wine. Glacier cherries. Malt chocolate. Choc orange. White grapes. Black cherries.

Conclusion: So I took a few sniffs of the beer after I had just poured it. Not unpleasant I thought to myself. Bit earthy. Bit light malt chocolate. Doesn’t say very much though, which is a bad sign for 8%. So I put on my “Prepared to be disappointed face” and took my first sip.

Holy Buttesticles. Where the hell did that come from? Like, what? Where? How. What? There is a very vinous beer that they hid in here. Malt chocolate and choc orange as a solid base, but that is just a launch pad for sour wine and grapes mixed against port and Madeira, then all mashed up with fruitcake and raisins.

It is just slightly soured, with an almost wine sediment feel at times. The mouth tingling sour grapes style is brought to heel by the solid robust malt when it looks like it is going to get too heavy. All together it is delivered with a very smooth character. The malt base is so easygoing that it almost decries the abv, while the vinous elements happily declare it.

It is kind of ESB styled, but both bigger and smoother. it is a bigger jump from Vintage Ale as Vintage Ale is from ESB, if that makes sense, and even if it doesn’t.

So, of the full package for an excellent beer, all it lacks is the aroma. The rest is delicious, with vinous, malty beery goodness. It is not the very best of the best, but it comes in just a shade below. It lacks the perfect package yes, but seriously, do not let that put you off. One small flaw does not a beer ruin. If you like big vintage ales then this is that and more. Enjoy it.

Background: I googled Rugbrød, apparently it is the name of Danish rye bread. That is my new fact of the day learned. This is my first The Bruery beer, I’ve heard their name come up a few times, and never with negative connotations, so I thought it worth giving them a try. Apparently this can be aged a few years. I can’t see a bottled on date so I have no idea how old it is. That is all.

Blitz Redcurrant

Brewdog: Blitz Redcurrant (Scotland: Berliner Weisse: 2.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Half inch of white tight bubbled head that leaves suds. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Ribena and earth. Lemon.

Body: Sharp. Red berries. Sour tang. Lime cordial. Cake sponge. Sour apples. Light funky yeast or cheese puffs character. Late on some cheesecake.

Finish: Lime cordial. Red berries. Tart. Apples. Sour lemon. Sour grapes.

Conclusion: I’m hiding from summer and its accompanying sun, but at least I can take advantage of the summer beers. Let’s find out if it is worth the trade off.

This has a nice balance in its use of refreshing sharpness, it isn’t mouth puckering, but simply enlivening. I was unsure of how well the redcurrent would be shown, due to the colour of the beer, but it is there, pocked amongst lemon and lime cordial and tart apples. So, not the dominant force, but they combine to make a refreshing base.

There is a bit of fun with the texture, a kind of cheese puff or Belgian yeastie character that gives a bit more grip and lets the beer have a bit of grounding to counter the sharpness.

While you get a very ribena like aroma, the red fruit mid body is definitely just an element, not the defining element, so I couldn’t recommend the beer if it is the redcurrant that made it appeal to you. Of all the blitzes, this is the one that seems to show the most of the raw beer’s character.

However if you just want a refreshing summer drink, that happens to have some tasty bit of red fruit to it. then this is very nice. The base calls more to an easy going lambic than a harsher berliner weisse, it reminds me a bit of Mikkellers spontanale. As you go along the beer expresses a different range of soft fruit and at the end even some cheesecake notes.

Very refreshing, enough notes to be interesting, balanced, and very low abv as well. This doesn’t quite justify summer’s existence, but it does a lot to help it go by.

Background: I am currently campaigning for the sun to be banned. On account of it being evil. Enforcement and the survival of the entire species may be an issue of I succeed, but I still think it is a worthy goal. Which is my way of saying it was a warm day in Bristol when I tried this. This is the latest of Brewdog’s varied berliner weisse with fruit beers, which have generally been enjoyable so far.

Sainsbury Low Alcohol Czech Lager

Staropramen: Sainsbury’s Czech Low Alcohol Pilsner Lager (Czech Republic: Low Alcohol Pilsner: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow grain. Moderate carbonation. Had a white head, but by the time I had finished kicking my errant camera it had nearly vanished.

Nose: Wet cardboard.

Body: Moderate malt. Slightly chalky. Soft vanilla and palma violets. Light bitterness. Cereal grain. Soft lemon and fruit very late on in the beer.

Finish: Vanilla. Dry. Dried banana touch. Palma violets. Soft lemon on pancakes.

Conclusion: A low alcohol beer night. Because obviously I know how to par-tay! After having been to Prague I figured the best way to recreate that feeling was with a low abv beer from a supermarket brand*.

*warning, some unnecessary sarcasm may be in use.

It is kind of an empty beer. Thankfully not chemically, not an abomination against all things good and proper. Just…empty. There is just about enough to identify it as that elusive pilsner character. Just about. There is a soft palma violet vibe, and an ease of drinking to it. The bitterness is way below the expected level, but on mouthfeel it isn’t terribly done.

I am damning with faint praise aren’t I? It’s intentional.

There just isn’t a huge amount to it. A light kind of grain cereal flavour, some vanilla sweetness to round off the edges. At least it is better than the aroma, which is basically wet cardboard.

It is effectively inoffensive, nowhere near as bad as say Tesco Value Lager or as chemically as Becks Alcohol Free. Also not huge and flavoursome like Drink in the Sun/Snow. It is just, well, there. Beer feeling and lager tasting, but not much more than that.

Late on it does manage some soft fruit, so manages to touch base with enough elements to say it is a Czech Pilsner, but they are so lightly done that it is nowhere near a well crafted one. At 0.5% abv I would think I was being picky, if I had not tried so much better examples.

I guess it keeps your hand off stronger beers if you are driving, and it just about calls to Czech Pilsners so you don’t hate drinking it.

So, ok, not terrible, but far from any form of excitement that a beer should bring.

Background: looking at rate beer apparently this is identical to, or very close to Staropramen Nealko. Never tried it, couldn’t say. Anyway, after coming back from Prague and their excellent Bohemian Pilsners, I saw this. and because I obviously wanted to shit all over my memories I bought a few bottles. Well, it was more that I like to keep an eye out for low abv beers that don’t actually suck. Some of them actually do exist. So I thought I would give this a try. Drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, which may give an impression of my expectations for this beer.

Sugar Lumps

Elixir: Sugar Lumps (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 7.7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Browned dash of suds.

Nose: Roasted and boozy. Chocolate treacle. Dry roasted peanuts. Brown sugar. Bitter. Orange sherbet.

Body: Treacle. Milky chocolate. Lactose. Chocolate liquore. Fruit sugars and sugar cane in a Brighton rock stylee. Rhubarb and custard hard sweets (but nothing like actual rhubarb). Orange sherbet.

Finish: Brown sugar. Cashew nuts. Candyfloss. Raspberry hard sweets (but nothing like actual raspberry). Orange sherbet.

Conclusion: I can see why they called this Sugar Lumps, you can almost feel two cubes of sugar dropped into this beer. It is like an oversweet cup of tea. If that tea was an imperial stout. That sentence made sense in some universe I am sure… It’s because it has that same feel on the mouth, despite the smoothness of the body you can imagine sugar granules wearing away at the upper roof of your mouth and teeth enamel as they pass by.

Oddly enough for that it starts off tasting quite like a traditional imperial stout, delivering roasted nuts, treacle, chocolate and lactose. Together it does give a milk stout touch, but mainly standard strong stout. and then the sugar rises.

Lots of elements float up, half way between fruity Belgian esters and the artificial flavours of hard sweets. These grow to an almost orange sherbet presence that becomes as present as the stout itself.

I found myself licking my teeth as if trying to dislodge an errant sugar grain, the sweetness matches the name that much, with the more bitter stout darkness submerged below. It is tasty but I will admit I kept expecting that if you put a spoon in it, that it would point straight up and not move an inch. For me that is a tad too sugary. Yes, that is the beer’s unique element, and the candy cane/hard sweets elements are nice, just a tad overdone.

Great idea, but pushed a tad past its welcome. The first half a bottle is very welcome, the second half less so. Make of that what you will.

Background: Apparently this was brewed in collaboration with Ben Hislop. A quick google brought up a mercenary from Mass Effect. I presume it is not that Ben Hislop. Unless fictional characters have started brewing now. Which would be kind of cool. I call dibs on reviewing Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad’s home brew. That is pretty much all I have to say on background this time. Picked up from the ever awesome Independent Spirit of Bath.

Everyday Anarchy

Brewdog: Everyday Anarchy (Scotland: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished red. Short lived off white dust of a head that quickly drops to islands over the liquid. Still with no evident carbonation.

Nose: Stewed apples and dates. Raisins. Burnt marshmallow. Brandy cream. Madeira cake. Brandy snaps. Wine.

Body: Raspberry pavlova. Apple slices. Spotted dick. Fudge. Very smooth and light. Stewed apricot. Syrup. Vanilla. Wine grapes. Red berries. Croissants.

Finish: Apples. Cinnamon. Meringue. White wine. Fudge. Brown bread. Stewed apricot. Malt chocolate. Shortbread Cranberry.

Conclusion: A beer that is, somehow, simultaneously thick feeling and yet too thin to hold. Huh. To the eye you can see a viscous haze in the midst of the body, and the aroma is full in promised stewed fruit and brandy cream. Here as you let the different elements waft it is intense, with dark fruit and spirit mixing.

The first sip then is a bit of a surprise and disappointment as it felt almost empty. There was no alcohol burn, which is good, but also no weight, it felt viscous as you ran your tongue through it, but it came with no real discernable elements.

So, nervous, I took another sip. This time giving it a good roll around the mouth. Slowly apple and pavlova flavours came out, along with a syrup sweetness. The flavours somehow feeling thick on the tongue despite the lightness of the beer delivering it.

While the flavours do built up over time, they don’t come to you. You really have to dive into it and investigate, if you don’t give the beer a good roll around then virtually nothing seems to show itself. Because of this, at no point did the beer feel over 10% ABV.

Similarly the beer never felt particularly saison like, with flavours that mix spotted dick, apple and syrup, it feels more like a very smooth barley wine. Probably it is coming through too smooth, while there are complexities to the beer you really have to work very hard to get them. When you do it does taste nice, wine touched in a very light influence, very graceful, but it never feels overly special. This is odd as it has an impressive range of flavours to find , it just delivers them too lightly. When it is at its best you do get intricate elements that are worth examination, as long as you are willing to put the effort in to find them.

I think the problem is that it feels like an over aged beer, there is the benefit of the smoothness and subtlety of character, but the flavour seems to be atrophying away so they are not as notable as they once hypothetically may have been.

The evil twin of Black Jacques, and inversed in its issues. Where that overly heavy and unbalanced this is over smooth. So, very complex, very smooth, but a bit to light to be great.

Background: Brewdog call this an Imperial Saison that has been aged in a white wine barrel. The art on the bottle reminds me slightly of Flex Mentallo or the Invisibles, both of which are Grant Morrison comics that I hold in high regard. I was in quite good mood as a discussion with Hit Box had resulted in me finally getting the Double S achievement for Dustforce after the game had originally not recognised I had completed Giga Difficult. This was drunk while listening to Unknown Music From Dream Quest of Kadath, for some haunting and unreal sounding background music. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Fantome Pritemp Saison

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

Visual: Hazy reddened orange. Off white head that soon diminishes. The head has a sud like nature.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Ginger. Orange zest. Washing up liquid.

Body: Honey. Lime and lemon sherbet. Barley cakes. Fresh orange juice. Cinnamon. Lemon sponge. Key lime pie. Strawberry in the middle.

Finish: Fresh lime. Golden syrup. Light aniseed. Kiwi

Conclusion: Wow, ok, this is nothing like what I expected. I had been somewhat primed to expect a similar beer to their normal Saison but with a spring twist. Nope. This is an as fresh as can be beer full of lemon cakes and cinnamon spice. It is like a mashed up batch of Mr Kipling’s Lemon slices that have been mixed up with key lime pie and shoved in a beer. It is intense, and can come in too strong. The aroma is so fresh that it reminds me of the artificial citrus notes you can get in washing up liquid at times.

This is combined with very Easter styled sweetness with notes of honey and golden syrup. This is in no way a subtle beer. The citrus is huge and the sweetness sugar shock. It is very fruity, with all those aforementioned flavors and even occasionally strawberry coming out. Slightly sharp and utterly refreshing, while being insulin requiring levels of sweet at the same time.

It does feel a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut though. The flavours would probably be just as interesting if they were more subtle, and may even be better. This would also have the benefit of letting the base saison show a bit more. Here it does not seem to have much of the rustic base character at all.

It is astonishing fun though, fresh from the moment of popping the cork, to the last moments of the finish. A rare beer that seems too big and brash. It reminds me of what I said about the recent Dupont beer. They have already made a nigh perfect saison, and they can’t just turn out that again and say “jobs done” so they turn out this. Not just different, but radically different, and I can’t blame them for that and, in fact, respect the risk taking.

It has resulted in a beer that is so enthusiastic that it is putting forth all the notes all the time. Reigning it back a bit could have made it another classic saison, but it still very fun and enjoyable for all that.

Background: After the exceptional Fantome Saison I have been keeping my eye open for their beers. So when I found this, their seasonal spring saison, I had to grab it. This was found, again, at Brewdog Bristol. This was drunk while listening to ” another cold cup of coffee from the Clash” to nick a phrase.

Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux

Dupont: Avec Les Bons Voeux (Belgium: Abbey Tripel: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Large mounded bubbled white head. Some sediment.

Nose: Crisp. Bitter and wheaty. Apricot and cinnamon. Jiff lemon. Brown bread.

Body: Bitter. Cinnamon. Earthy spice. Sour dough. Slight honeyed barley. Steam beer. Light lemon sherbet. Soft apricot and dried banana.

Finish: Bitter. Liquorice. Lime hops. Cumin. Treacle notes. Dried apricot. Slight chocolate chews.

Conclusion: I have the horrid urge to have the entirety of this conclusion be “Not as good as Saison Dupont”, but I think that would be slightly unfair. For one thing, despite the house style similarities, this is not a saison.

Spoiler warning, this is not as good as saison dupont.

Then again, Dupont Saison is one of my favourite beers. This takes a similar approach to hops, very crisp and bitter styled, and it adds a large amount of spice into the mix, from heavy grounding spices with a turmeric style to sweeter cinnamon notes. There’s even a cloying liquorice stick like finish. It is very flavoursome and complex, but, for me at least, the spice feels like it is a set of heavy boots stomping over the interesting elements below.

Underneath is soft lemon and apricot notes, into dried apricot and lime on the send off. There’s even an interesting texture. The best was I can describe it is like the Californian common/steam beer. That almost hazy feel that is almost evanescent on the tongue. It reminds me a bit of Saison De Pipaix in feel, but with a better base. Despite these interesting notes the cumin and liquorice elements weigh in so heavy that it still feels over spiced. I don’t even know if this beer is made with spices, It’s just the flavours I get, however I would not be surprised.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Dupont couldn’t just turn out their Saison again and say “Hey, a new beer”. There just would be no point. Even with all the spice and higher abv, it does have some saison like notes, and some notes in common with that legendry beer, while still being a very distinct beer itself. It brings so many elements even with the spice, there’s great dried banana and apricot notes

It’s just…well I can’t see a reason to go with this one. What it does well is what it has in common with their saison, and the spice notes don’t enhance it and at times actually hurt it, making it slightly closed.

Not bad, and with a very complex base, but suffers due to the spice.

Background: Saison Dupont is easily one of the best saisons in the world, and has given Dupont a very high reputation with me. This is their seasonal beer, with Bons Voeux translating as “good wishes”. This was drunk while listening to The Eel’s live album “Oh what a beautiful morning”, which I , of course, listened to in the evening. This was picked up from “The Beer Emporium” while I was on a big of a Belgian beer kick. Which admittedly is 90% of the time. Belgian beer is awesome.

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