Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Neither Imperial IPA

Siren: Cigar City: Grassroots: Neither Imperial IPA (England: IIPA: 8.3% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to orange. Large sudded yellow to white head and some sediment in the body.

Nose: Pink grapefruit. Pineapple. Fluffy hops. Custard cream biscuits. Rhubarb. Tangerine.

Body: Grounded bitterness. Slightly earthy. Rhubarb and gooseberry. Light raspberry. Tangerine. Creamy feel. Vanilla and toffee. Grapefruit. Strawberry notes. Honey.

Finish: Earthy hops. Soil. Robust bitterness. Gooseberry. Malt chocolate. Raspberry notes. Light toffee. Honey.

Conclusion: Hmm, odd one this. Reminds me a bit of Shiga Kogen SOBA. It has a similar texture and those rhubarb like notes. It has that slightly thicker creamy texture that makes the earthy bitterness used here a bit more grounded and clinging.

Contrasting that earthy bitterness in the finish the main hop usage is fresh. (No and I don’t mean in a 1980’s slang fashion..ok, ok, well that as well, but that wasn’t my first intent). It has slight tart pink grapefruit and rhubarb. This element comes through clean as a whistle in the aroma, but the more grounded feel of the body calms the hop freshness, turning it into a dessert like mix with creamy and toffee notes. Less sharp, more rounded. The finish then feels old school English IPA in its slight soil character, pushing the tartness to the edges. You also get a discernable honey element that can be discovered early on in the beer, even if it never becomes a front note – more just increasing the sweetness to make up for the reduced malt.

I’m mixed in my opinion, the variety is impressive, the contrast interesting and frankly works better than most beers that try to mix earthy and sharp characters, so in that they have done good. That earthy finish though is just a tad too heavy, it doesn’t leave you appreciating what came before as much as it tramples upon it.

Still, interesting up until that point and so I will not linger too much on it, much as it is a notable flaw. The rest of the beer shows a mix of styles from American IPA aroma, hybrid body and English IPA finish. The hybrid body is where it peaks as the best of both worlds, and so it does earn its place as a beer to enjoy. So despite the flaw it is well made enough and interesting enough to be worth it.

Great aroma and body. Crap finish. It does enough to pull beyond that.

Background: Siren, upcoming UK Brewery, Cigar City, USA Legend. Grassroot. I dunno, I’ll have to look into them. Anyway, put it together and I just had to grab this Imperial IPA. Yes Imperial IPA, it still counts to round off IPA week. This is made with the adjunct corn which is usually avoided by most brewers – here used in a call back to early post prohibition ales. Also honey, because, well, honey. Drunk while listening to “Gold Teeth” by Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac.

Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager

Brooklyn: Silver Anniversary Lager (USA: Dopplebock: 8.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear reddened gold. Large mounded yellowed head. Good level of carbonation.

Nose: Raspberry pavlova. Banana. Light yeastiness. Custard cream biscuits. White grapes. Apricot. Caramel.

Body: Spiced fruit. Bitter hops and malt drinks. Dry. Choc orange note. Raisins. Shortbread. Pavlova sweetness.

Finish: Dry bitterness and malt drinks. Nutmeg. Meringue. Alcohol air. Mixed spices.

Conclusion: I…erm…I know this meant to be a brewed up version of Brooklyn Lager. It it really weird that I find it more like Samuel Adams lager than Brooklyn lager? Even more embarrassing, I kind of prefer the Sam Adams to this. A bit embarrassing for a big celebration beer.

Now that definitely needs some context. This thing is interesting, very interesting, and definitely has more going on than the aforementioned Sam Adams. However I can’t find a point where this would be the beer I choose to be drinking, and I can with SA.

Hmm, needs more explaining I feel. Let’s run from the start, and see where that gets us. The popped cork first impressions were great, as is the aroma. A great discreet but present yeast character, big pavlova sweetness and a fruit element. It is smooth, very different to a lot of dopplebocks and this all bodes well.

The body opens up on a completely different front, spiced but backed by light sweetness and fruit. Initially appatising, if the beer is held for a while it develops a less pleasant gin like air.

The finish.. ah well this is the first sign something is wrong. Dry, with a gin like air and heavy malt drinks. The finish just doesn’t work, especially not in conjunction with the rest of the beer. Worse than that, it brings into relief the flaws of the body that could previously have been overlooked. The gin air becomes heavier on second sip, and having been made very obvious in the finish the dry maltiness seems intrusive now in the body. It is a kind of malt heaviness that needs a good hop opposition rather than the light fruit you find here.

The beer is still interesting, and it is a nicely different take on the dopplebock, but the elements wander a path from aroma greatness to the let down of the finish and leaves you disappointed. Worse still it a journey you take again and again over the lifetime of the beer.

So, that is why I prefer basic Sam Adams, not as complex a beer, but one you can happily drink easily, it has its time and place This doesn’t have one for me.

An interesting beer, and not without elements that charm but…no, not a beer I would recommend.

Background: I mainly picked this up because of the odd art on the front of the bottle. Yes I am easily influenced. This was found at the always excellent Independent Spirit This is apparently a brewed up version of Brooklyn lager, and was done for their 25th anniversary. So, happy birthday Brooklyn Brewing. Drunk while listening to a bit of Anti Nowhere League who I’m hoping to see lie later this year.

Old World Russian Imperial Stout 2013

Brewdog: Old World Russian Imperial Stout (2013) (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 9.5%)

Visual: Black. Larger charcoal touched head than expected.

Nose: Roasted hazelnut. Milky chocolate. Some roasted hop character.

Body: Sour cherry tang. Milky chocolate. Cloying cream. Roasted nuts. Twigs. Slight pepper character.

Finish: Roasted nuts. Cloying cream. Bitter earthy hop touch. Slight cherry notes. Pepper.

Conclusion: Hmm, not bad. Wow, again I damn with faint praise huh? Ok, here’s the thing – in my youth this would have blown my little brain. Smooth chocolate, small tart notes, roasted character and that cloying cream back than I now associate with Bristol Beer Factories’ stouts. There are touches from so many stout styles all shoved into this one beer. Shown to a young me this would have a been a bowling ball of new experiences crushing my brain.

Nowadays? Well it is an above average Imperial Stout. I am so blasé. It is well made and I like that they have taken the cloying cream element and pushed it against the fruit like tartness. It pushes that element a bit further than most and gives it that bit more effect, which is cool. However despite that the base beer doesn’t quite rise to the occasion, it seems to be clamping down on those interesting elements rather than letting them shine.

I think it is partly because they are going for something closer to the more traditional Russian Stout style, which I will admit it does well. There’s earthy rough hops, that sour elements, and, while I’m guessing the smoother chocolate is more new Imperial Stout style (I guess – not a beer historian) it doers mostly trend towards the older elements. While I don’t complain about the more roasted and traditional elements I do dislike when they hide the cool tricks brought to the game.

Then again, I’m a blasé beer snob and alcohol aphorist. This is a good mix of old traditional and new tweaks, it just is far from the best. I am however glad to say that it would have blown a less blasé me’s mind. I’m just getting old it seems.

Background: This is not the original Old World Russian Imperial Stout, the original version was basically just riptide in a cooler bottle. This is a whole new beer, in a cool bottle. I had tried this on tap a while back and it didn’t really grab me, so the bottle languished in my cupboard for a while. However bottle and tap can vary so I dug it out for a try and a quick review. This was drunk while listening to Moonlight Sonata (1st Movement) Meets Metal, which was kinda cool. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers, or someone who can use a camera well.

Hello My Name Is Vladimir

Brewdog: Hello my name is Vladimir (Scotland: IIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear apricot. Slightly toffee touched half inch of head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Lemon. White grapes. Moderate hop character. Pink grapefruit. Pineapple. Orange zest.

Body: Shortbread. Tart. Gooseberry. Lemon sherbet and jiff lemon mix. Light resin. Solid bitterness.

Finish: Tart gooseberry. Light dry malt back. Lemon curd. Bitter hops rise over time.

Conclusion: So, another “Hello my name is” and this time a topical “Fuck You” to old Vlad Putin. I’m tempted to say the beer is great just for that.

But no! I must be an unbiased beer writer (Or at least vaguely unbiased for me – I do try you know) This tart number reminds me of Hello My Name Is Mette Marit with its very sharp character. However the influence of the berries don’t seem quite as out there as that one, so they merely challenge and refresh rather than overwhelm, which overall results in a superior beer.

There is still a good chunk of fruit in here, calling to strange mix of gooseberries and lemon curd. Maybe that’s what limmonik berries taste like, I couldn’t tell you. It all gives a tart, slightly lambic freshness to the beer , but over time the base hop bitterness rises slowly to contrast and establish its IIPA roots.

These beers are all about the hop to fruit balance and that is where they live and die. This tips back and forth between the two over its life cycle, refreshing tastebuds with tartness and waking them, then soothing with malt before bringing out that moderate hop prickle.

It is a challenging beer, but rewarding in equal measure and sense awakening. Near the end the berries do become too prevalent, so that, even more than the abv means it is not a beer for sessioning. On the whole though it is a very enjoyable and wide ranging beer.

Oh and fuck you Putin.

Background: I wasn’t entirely sure on this thing’s ad campaign initially. For those who don’t know, this thing has been poking fun at Vladimir Putin’s anti gay legislation. Now I’m cool with that, but the mockery included jokingly using the NotForGays hashtag. Which I feared might end up with what I call Al Murray syndrome, that of something mocking a mindset becoming celebrated unironically by the people it mocks and ending up perpetuating that worldview. Then I realised that this meant that anyone non ironically using this hashtag would run headfirst into a bunch of homoerotic writing lampooning their bigoted bullshit. So I’m on board now. The fact 50% of profits are donated to LGBT causes didn’t exactly hurt either. Anyway, this is a beer in the “Hello my name is series” this one made with limmonik berries. I have no idea what those are. Berries I would guess. A quick google search indicates that it is a Russian berry. This was drunk in Brewdog Bristol while reading “A Clash Of Kings” As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Schieder and Sohn Tap X cuvee

Schneider & Sohn: Schneider Weisse: Tap X: Mein Cuvee Barrique (Germany: Weizen Bock: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark reddened brown. Dark head froths up but doesn’t hold for long.

Nose: Liquorice. Banana. Raisins. Rich red wine. Blackcurrants. Blueberry. Dry malt.

Body: Blueberry and black current. Raisins and cloves. Rich red wine. Smooth liquore feel. Blueberry pie. Rich red grapes. Strawberry and banana hints. Molasses. Cherries.

Finish: Red berries. Raisins. Cloves. Blueberries. Slight wheat. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This one comes in as a well timed counterpoint to Wild Beer Co’s Raconteur Barley Wine. They are both beers that tell tales of massive wine ageing influence, however this beer has more of a tale to tell after that chapter is done. The base elements of the weizen bock still comes through strong, reinforcing and contrasting the wine flavours.

The base bock reminds me of my old favourite Aventinus, but the beer here is richer and more vinous with fruitiness rising up from the depths. It is very rich with a wide range of flavours that mix blueberry, cherry, wine and grapes. These are complimented by the raisins and cloves which create and edge and spice that define the limits of the beer and the wine so the individual elements remain well sketched.

It is very smooth, sweet but with a bitter back and uses the alcohol to be warming but not burning, a fact much complimented by the spices. Then comes underneath the thick chocolate notes underneath that give extra grip and character.

This is, in its own ways, both better and worse than Aventinus. Aventinus has more subtle complexities, but this is much more vibrant and feels the bigger beer. It is a testament to the base beer used in this that it is not overpowered by such a rich and big wine.

A great beer, rich in every element from the banana and cloves to the raisins and other fruit. Lovely to drink and lovely to share.

Background: Oh yes. I was in a good mood already when I broke this open, and decided to have something a bit special. This fitted the bill nicely. Picked up from Independent Spirit, this is a mix of two beers that have then been aged for 8 months in Pinot Noir barrels. Frankly, I love Scheider Weisse beers, and have recently been introduced to Pinot Noir, so excitement started high. This was shared with my friend Will who said “Yummy!” Thanks for that insightful review Will.

Raconteur

Wild Beer Co: Raconteur (England: Barley Wine: 9.9% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy red. Some sediment and an off white hash of a head.

Nose: Sherried raisins and vanilla. Pinot Noir. Glacier cherries and black forest gateaux.

Body: Smooth. Liquorice. Musky red wine. Red grapes. Tart and vinous. Tart apples. Raisins and sultanas. Vanilla. Toffee. Black forest gateaux.

Finish: Vinous. Fruitcake and raisins. Madeira. Musty red wine. Black cherry. Tart apples. Brown bread. Bitter wine.

Conclusion: Vinous. Definitely vinous. The problem isn’t deciding that it is wine like, but what type of wine it is like. That is the question that is burning my brain.

There’s the musky red wine mid body, the full and fruity wine for the aroma, tart and sour wine late body and bitter red wine in the finish. It’s all the wines. At once. Ok, it’s all the wines I know, but I’m hardly an expert on that one. So does that make this beer great or just confused?

Well it does lean heavily on the vinous notes to define it, so much so that a lot of the expected base barley wine elements are somewhat muted. There’s vanilla and toffee in such a way as I would expect from more bourbon oak ageing, but of the expected barley wine elements only the fruitcake really comes through.

This really is both its biggest benefit and flaw. The vinous elements are very wide ranging, but because of that they become the baseline for the beer rather than a high point. It feels like it needs some contrast to bring the effect into full relief. The smooth character from ageing is again a great characteristic, but one that takes out the highs and lows of a beer, creating consistent quality at the cost of the individual perks that make up a masterpiece.

If I felt like being harsh I would point out the occasional liquorice flavour that comes out isn’t my favourite, however I feel like I am being hard enough on it for its over reliance on wine flavours. It is a beer that I am very happy drinking, but not one I would probably return to. It is a wine beer experience that really needs a stronger base beer to work from.

So a wine beer that really needs more of the beer.

Background: Raconteur, a storyteller who tells tales with skill and wit. Nice name. This is the second of the Trinity of Barrel aged beers Wild Beer Co released for Christmas. The other two are based on pre existing beers, but this is an entirely new one, a barley wine aged in Marc de Bourgogne barrels. Wild beer co were probably the stand out brewer of 2013 for me so I am getting excited for any of their new beers.

Moa Tripel

Moa: St Joseph’s Tripel (New Zealand: Abbey Tripel: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Utterly still despite my best attempts on pouring. Grain yellow.

Nose: Candyfloss. Tangerine. Fruit sugars. Brown sugar. Blackpool rock. Strawberry yogurt touch at times.

Body: Smooth. Banana and custard. Blackpool rock. Passion fruit. Kiwi. Tangerine. Candyfloss. Almost raspberry pavlova and light pineapple. Golden syrup.

Finish: Raspberry sweets. Barley. Brown sugar. Some bitterness. Brown bread. Passion fruit. Light spice touch.

Conclusion: This tastes like an aged beer, possibly it may be. I really don’t know, these beers can take a long time to reach the UK. All I know is it has been in my hands under a month. Despite that the beer is so smooth to the extent of night feeling light on the tongue, and is utterly still of body. Both elements I associate with aged beers.

Anyway, despite the very light feel in texture, the flavours delivered by this are huge and fruity. The strength of flavour definitely belies the weight of the texture touch. The flavours are very NZ hop fruity, and the main Tripel elements seem to be used more as a base for this. For the Tripel traditional elements you have banana like sweetness, candy floss and brown sugar, with just some hints of Belgian yeastiness, however these are definitely secondary.

What booms instead are fruit sugars, pineapple, tangerine and passion fruit. You get other fruit at the edges, but frankly that is still a massive amount to have up front. In this it feels very similar to the highly hopped barley wines, with nods to the Tripel style distinguishing it.

As often happens with non Belgian takes on Belgian styles I find myself having to fight expectations. This has little of the yeastiness or that rough cut gem feel that you get with a lot of Belgian takes on the style, instead leaning more towards a smoothness of character that I expect of USA interpretations, and that does make it feel even more barley wine like.

As a beer in itself it is dangerously drinkable for the abv, it has but a light shimmer of the strength that is actually present within. It isn’t my favourite Tripel, I would say Rulles does the fruity style better without losing the base nature, but it is still a delicious and different take – dangerously light but full fo flavour. I do prefer more hard edges to my Tripels, but it would be churlish to deny that this is a fine drink.

Background: I had to put off drinking and reviewing this one for a while. I had got a few Moa beers for my sis and her husband for Christmas, and while I was at it I got one for myself. Reviewing them would kind of give the game away. Anyway, Christmas has passed and so the beer is broken open. Picked up from Independent Spirit. Yes, again.

Vertical Epic

Stone: Vertical Epic 12.12.12 (USA: Belgian Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Islands of caramel froth.

Nose: Lots of Christmas spice. Cinnamon sticks. Cloves. Ginger. Dry shortbread and honey.

Body: Cherries. Raisins in a rum soaked style. Cloves. Ginger. Cinnamon. Treacle toffee. Roasted nuts. Vanilla.

Finish: Gingerbread. Cloves. Charring. Greenery. Raisins. Light hop character.

Conclusion: Perfectly timed, I drank this just before Christmas and it is so a Christmas beer. Tons of Christmas spices all the way through the beer. Now, I’m often not a fan of overly spiced beers, and this one definitely doesn’t skimp on the spice. I’m often not a fan mainly because they can often quickly become samey and one note due to the spice becoming the only element.

Possibly solely due to only being served in thirds this manages to avoid that fate. Just. If you have a big bottle then I highly recommend sharing it. Still, even with the high level of spices it doesn’t hide the Stone Brewing high quality craftsmanship meaning it isn’t solely spice. There is, unusually for Stone Brewing, a very remarkable restraint in its use of hops. Yes, I thought that would shock you.

There is instead rum soaked raisins and cherries behind the spice, especially main body. Still very Christmas styled but soothing and winter warming, with some dark treacle and toffee sweetness besides. The sweet and fruit elements are by far not the focus, the emphasis is on providing Christmas in a glass.

It is a good beer, and surprisingly complex for the spiced beer range, but compared to other Belgian ales it is still very one note comparatively. It is still one of the better Christmas spiced beers, and if you like spice you will love it, but you really have to want the spice.

A beer of selective audience and range, but enjoyable enough within that.

Background: Something a bit festive, for this Christmas Day Review (Oh and a merry new Doctor Who day to you all). This was drunk at Brewdog Bristol after their Stone Brewing tap takeover, the last of the Vertical Epics, which came over a year ago so I thought I had best grab it while I still could. A Belgian ale made with cinnamon, ginger, allspice, orange peel, clove and rosehip. I am a big fan of Stone, and love their often hugely hopped beers.

Peche Mortel

Dieu Du Ciel: Péché Mortel (Canada: Imperial Stout: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown froth head.

Nose: Bitter coffee granules. Bitter chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Rich coffee. Sweet chocolate front; bitter chocolate back. Fudge. Apricot. Frothy. A custard touch.

Finish: Oatmeal. Bitter coffee beans. Slight condensed cream. Rich and rounded. Kiwi touch. Very roasted character with lots of bitterness.

Conclusion: How to get across the character of this beer? From the notes above it looks pretty much like a standard new age Imperial Stout doesn’t it? That is because it very hard in those notes to get across how immense the level of coffee is. Like Beer Geek Brunch Weasel the coffee has numerous layers to its character which I had to resort to pitifully summing up above as “Rich coffee” and “Bitter coffee beans”. I need to learn to be a better wordsmith.

The coffee is very bitter, however the beer uses smooth chocolate and fudge at the sides to keep the intensity in a manageable range. It also uses the texture to similar effect, the frothy nature a good contrast to allow the coffee to have its moments of power without making the overall beer too one note to drink happily.

The intensity has reinforcing elements as well, with a rough roasted character backing it up. That and the coffee are the two elements that last, and you find them still present long after each sip. These enduring elements allow an unbroken continuity of beer consciousness throughout the whole experience. From the first moment you start drinking you will not find a second that you are not aware of the beers complexities until long after you have finished the last drop.

Outside of the coffee it has few divergent notes from your expectations, it is more stripped down and focused on coffee than most beers at this level of quality, however it makes up for that by really pushing the coffee quality through the roof. It does better than Speedway Stout in the bitter coffee stout stakes, but the crown still goes to Beer Geek Brunch Weasel. However to lose to that beer is no great flaw, this, much more intense beer, is the harsh edge of the complex coffee Imperial Stout range and a lovely beer.

Background: This is a big one, Dieu Du Ciel have been impressing me since I first got my hands on some of their beer earlier this year, and this is probably their highest reputation beer, being their entry into Rate Beers top 50 beers in the world. Even more than that, just as I was about to drink it I had a quick twitter conversation with Independent Spirit, who also raved about it. Expectations were high. This beer, the name of which means “Mortal Sin” was made with fair trade coffee and drunk while listening to a bit of Dethklok.

Ninkasi Premier Cru

Wild Beer Co: Ninkasi Premier Cru (England: Saison: 10% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy yellow with a large white bubbled head.

Nose: Cider. Belgian yeast. Lots of sour apples. Barley. Light banana sweets. Buttery shortbread. Toffee. Spirit air. Apple pie and sugar. Custard slices.

Body: Toffee. Apple. Toffee apple. Cider. Shortbread. Funky yeast, tartness and acidity. Lemon sherbet. Banana sweets. Apple brandy. Apple crumble.

Finish: Champagne. Tart apples. Cider brandy. Fudge. Vanilla. Drying and yeasty. Lemon. Cake sponge.

Conclusion: Barrel aged Ninkasi. This may be a problematic one to review. Why? Because if it does anything less than make my head spontaneously explode with pleasure, mop up the remains, then reconstruct my skull while apologising for the inconvenience then there is no way it can live up to expectations. It’s pretty much an impossible bar to clear.

So, attempting to ignore that, how high does it get? Well tons of apple, starting with an apple brandy aroma as soon as you pop the top open, and this continues throughout. There is extra layers of spirit touched fruitiness laced throughout every aspect of the beer.

The beers feel is much less sparkling than that of the original, but despite that loss you still get as much enjoyment from the feel of the beer as you do the flavour. There’s a sherbety feel, and funky Belgian yeast on the tongue ,a drying champagne like style on the way out. The elements are smoothed out with age to be less distinctive, but it still retains a lot of its charm. The changes make it more dessert like, much smoother and sweeter.

An example of this is that the time in the oak seems to have given vanilla and toffee flavour as well as the more expected apple brandy. Nice elements, if slightly out of place with the rest of the character of the beer. Not so much as to hurt the character, just enough to seem odd. Mainly however the change comes in the fruit flavours ramped all the way up. There are all sorts of apple elements, lemon sherbet, big and mouth filling, with apple crumble like dessert touches amongst the sweetness.

In downsides, well the extra alcohol is not unnoticeable, and gives a bit more spirit character than the beer needs, so that is an element it could do without. So not quite as unique as Ninkasi was. So, not perfect, but retains enough of that yeasty, fresh style and offers a huge weight of new flavours to make it a worthwhile experience.

Doesn’t clear the bar of expectations, but still puts on a hell of a show for the crowd.

Background: Ok, maybe not a saision, but that is what the base beer was so that is how I listed it. Ratebeer puts it under the kind of generic “Belgian Strong Ale”. Anyway, I loved Ninkasi. Loved it. This is part of Wild Beers barrel aged Christmas Trinity. In this case Ninkasi aged in Somerset cider brandy casks, which sounds cool. Base Ninkasi was an odd and great enough beer by itself so I was really looking forwards to this one.

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