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De Molen: Said & Done – Bowmore Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Viscous. Thin brown head.

Nose: Salted caramel. Sour black cherry. Walnut liqueur. Toffee liqueur. Creamy chocolate. Walnut coffee cake. Praline. Mildly vinous. Sour red grapes.

Body: Viscous. Oily smoke. Salted caramel. Medicinal notes. Bitter chocolate cake. Sour black-cherry hints. Charring. More caramel as it warms.

Finish: Toast. Charring. Bitter. Cocoa touches. Walnuts. Bitter chocolate cake. Medicinal. Gunpowder tea. Burnt moss. Choc orange. Caramel. Smoke.

Conclusion:What the fuuuuuucck even is this? It is…it is…erm. Ok, give me a moment. OK, the aroma sells it as a mix of imperial stout and a good chunk of the caramel influence. There is very thick caramel, here in a salted caramel way, which I presume is the influence of the Islay ageing adding the salt. Next to that is a lot of liqueur notes – from toffee, to a nutty style which again is showing the special ingredients through strongly. It is a very thick aroma, very sweet and very complex. The thing that surprised me most is that for a sour stout, this seemed to lean more towards the standard imperial stout in these first impressions.

The body is, well it is half that – the back half of the beer is what you would expect from the aroma. The front half is nothing at all fucking like that. Up front it is a thick oily smoke thing, medicinal notes and charring kicking behind that. The Islay barrel ageing booms, holding onto the front half until it finally lets go so the caramel and nutty notes can come back. It is a heck of a shock to the system after the aroma pulls you in by whispering sweet nothings.

Then, in the finish it pulls another trick. Starting as a sweet sheen before sinking into medicinal notes, smoke, gunpowder tea and in general full on Islay times again. This level of harsh notes is an easy look to do badly, and at times this teeters on the edge of being too harsh, but generally works very well.

On the down side, the sour stout is nearly completely lost in the mix. There are hints of sour black-cherry at times, but generally it is either full of sweet liqueur notes, or the heavy Islay character. When the sour stout does show up that sour black cherry does work as a nice step between two sides, so I wish it was just a touch more present – but I guess you can’t have everything.

As is it is really good, if occasionally a tad overly harsh touched. A touch more of the sour stout and it would have been exceptional. Ah well, still a great and strange beer mash up.

Background: Ok, this is a … Hold on while I look it up … sour stout made with walnut extract, caramel and salt, then barrel aged in a Bowmore whisky cask. So fuck yes I was buying this one, that is incredible. Well in theory anyway, had to wait to see if it held up in practice. Anyway, another on grabbed from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Not much else to add. I should stop playing Dark Souls 3 before my eyes bleed but that is neither here nor there for this beer. I’d got the new Louise Distras EP -Street Revolution recently, so put it on while drinking. Good first impressions so far.

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First Chop: Syl Black IPA (England: Black IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Black-cherry red hints at the edges. Moderate sized brown head. Some evident carbonation.

Nose: Fresh dough. Crushed peanuts. Malt chocolate. Slight flour. Brown bread. Slight peppermint.

Body: Charring. Slightly empty. Brown bread. Crushed walnuts. Chalk touch. Malt chocolate. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Charring. Brown bread. Bitter chocolate. Slight savoury/sour mix at the end. Bitter hops. Peppery. Chalk touch.

Conclusion: You know, I’ve not had a good Black IPA for bloody ages. Having finished drinking this, I’ve still not had a good black IPA for bloody ages.

Yes that is about the limits of my attempts of comedy, why do you ask?

The aroma is fairly generic – leaning towards a more roasted stout like set of notes rather than crisp hoppy notes. Fans of BIPAS will know they tend to go one of two ways – Fresh fruity IPA over darker malts, or stout like but with roasted hoppy notes. This definitely is going for the second of those based on the aroma.

It is roasted, nutty and bready – you can see why I think it is playing to the roasted stout side, right? It isn’t my favourite of the two interpretations – I just love the fruity hop over dark malt style, but this take has its place as well.

The first sip taken is- kind of charred, bitter but also kind of empty behind that. There is a vague chocolate backing, but nothing to really get your teeth into. On top of that it is kind of rough around the edges as well – slightly chalky, roasted and yeah, just generally rough.

Time lets it build up a bit of weight behind the hoppy notes and the chocolate character, letting them express themselves a bit better. Because of this you end up with a beer that is mediocre rather than shit. So, an improvement.

It doesn’t have the hop flavour excitement of a good IPA, nor the weight and accompanying flavour of a good stout. It really feels like , at best, a very basic Black IPA.

So, it goes from terrible to only dull,

Not worth grabbing.

Background: I grabbed this as it is a Black IPA. I love the style but there seems to be less of them about these days as NEIPAs and Brut IPAs became the new fad. Ah well. First Chop have yet to release a beer that really excite me, but have not been bad, so I figured it was time to grab another one from them. Looks like they are doing something a bit different with this one though – it is made with jaggery sugar – something I will admit I had to look up on google. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Since it is a Black IPA, I put on Metallica – The Black Album while drinking. Ok, that was just an excuse – I haven’t listened to Enter Sandman in ages and needed to change that.

Garage: J Wakefield: Dark Times and Difficult Places (Spain: Berliner Weisse: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy strawberry yogurt colour. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Lightly tart. Black-cherry yogurt. Strawberry. Tart pears. Tart white grapes. Perry. Light creamy cheese and black fruit bits.

Body: Gently tart. Pear flans with sugar dusting. Light wood shavings. Black-cherry. Blackberries.

Finish: Blackberry tart desserts. Pears. Apple pie. A fresh feeling. Pear juice. Crumbly cheese.

Conclusion: Man the 10th Doctor would have hated this beer. Because it really tastes of pears. Now if you are wondering what the hell I am talking about its from a deleted scene (kind of) so is non cannon, but screw it I’m counting it. If you are still confused, don’t worry, I’ll start talking about the beer in a moment.

Anyway, yes this tastes of tart pears. In fact they come in initially deliciously fresh, and then are backed up by a gentle tart air. It contributes to and complements a wonderfully crisp, but oh so drinkable base for this beer.

Over that base is black-cherry, blackberry, strawberry and other brighter and showier fruit. In fact, that reminds me – I haven’t even mentioned how this looks yet. It is wondrous on the eye – a bright strawberry cocktail looking, showy wee thing. It hits the eye perfectly so the visual first bite taken is a happy one. I think I may be mixing my metaphors again.

Anyway, to back up a bit to the first bite ..i mean sip.. taken by the mouth. There is a soft berliner weisse tartness under everything, a gentle alcohol air that keeps it beer tasting rather than seeming just like a fruit juice mix. Subtle, but welcome.

It’s dry, with light oak and even some crumbly, creamy cheese notes that add savoury edges – but the main show is the brilliantly done, natural fresh fruit. My only issue is that I wish that the abv was a tad lower as this is dangerously easy to drink.

An absolutely lovely fruit berliner weisse with a dry attenuated finish matched to a fresh tart middle that means you can drink it for ages. Very much a yes, drink it.

Background: Ok, is it just me, or does that can image remind anyone else of the end of George Bataille “Story of The Eye”? Just me huh. Content warning for anyone who goes to read it after me mentioned it – Bataille is kind of obsessed with transgression in violence/sex/pretty much everything, so it is one serious messed up book. Anyway that is not why I bought this. I bought because so far Garage have been one hell of a great brewery. This is a Berliner Weisse made with pears and blackberry. Drunk after putting a serious session into Dark Souls 3, so I earned my beer. BTW if you invaded and killed someone in Dark Souls 3 over the past week, it may have been me and I hate you. For music I put Miracle Of Sound – Level 9 on to listen to – was still in a bit of a video game mood. Thanks to craft beer sis for giving me the glass used for this photo – seemed just right for such a bright fruity beer. This beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Yes again.

Jackdaw: Zwarte Draak (Sweden: Belgian Strong Ale: 14% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to moderate sized brown head. Still main body.

Nose: Smoked ham. Smoked blue cheese. Thick. Raisins underneath. Some chocolate character. Faint prunes.

Body: Thick. Brown sugar. Boozy weight. Bacon smoke. Slight alcohol prickle. Creamy chocolate. Black cherry. Brown bread. Charring. Liquorice. Slight toffee.

Finish: Alcohol air. Bitter chocolate. Bready. Charred. Smoke.

Conclusion: Fucking hell this is big. Then again, it is 14% abv so I shouldn’t be surprised. The strange thing is that generally, with one big exception, it doesn’t really show it much beyond a general “boozy” heaviness. We will get that that one exception in a mo.

Before that – this is fairly heavily smoked. I like that, and it being something different and pretty rare (at least in my experience) – a mix of heavy Belgian quad flavours with smoked styling. The smoke is wonderfull – smoked meat, tons of smoked blue cheese notes in the aroma – though disappointingly this second element doesn’t follow through into the body. Still, the body is brilliant as well even without that element. There is brown sugar sweetness as the main push against the meat and smoke, then as that fades away it has underlying chocolate, black-cherry and other dark fruit hints at the base. Above all it is just so chewy that you really feel like you can get your teeth into it to explore it.

So, anyway, back to that one thing. Erm, the finish is a bit rough. It has some of the notes before, but in general the finish has a simple alcohol air that kinds of hangs around. With a better developed and more refined finish this beer would be easily a classic and one of my favourites. The rest of the beer is an amazing liquid bread, smoked meat and chocolate sandwich that everyone should try.

Buuut, yeah the finish is sub par. Still definitely a beer worth getting. I don’t think I have seen a match of Belgian style to smoke done so well, or with this intensity before. Yeah, there are a few flaws at the end but it is still great.

Try it if you can, especially if you like hefty beers.

Background : A few things here, first, from a bit of googling it seems there are versions of this at 12.5% out there. Guess they must have brewed it up a bit in recent batches. Second, when I grabbed this I thought it was from a Brewery in Belgium I hadn’t run into before. It isn’t, it is from Sweden. Fair enough. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Anyway, a big Belgian style beer was what I wanted at the time, and I drank without doing notes. I was so surprised at its smoked character that I grabbed another bottle to do notes on. This, is that bottle. Put on Louise Distras – Dreams From The Factory Floor while drinking – nice acoustic meets punk ethos meets protest song kind of mix. Looking forwards to whenever her new album finally comes out.

Firestone Walker: Luponic Distortion: Vol 11 (USA: IPA: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Light pale yellow. Medium white head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Guava. Crisp hops. Light hop oils. Light bitterness. Soft banana chewy sweets. Soft lemon sherbet. Light grapes.

Body: Bready hop character and gritty bitterness. Lemon hard sweet mixed with lemon sherbet. Light cardboard. Dry. Grapefruit.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. Fluffy hop feel. Grapefruit. Dry pineapple. Lemon sherbet. Dried and salted lemon.

Conclusion: This is a pretty dry IPA – well attenuated with a growling, bitter hop character over that. There is a slightly rough feel at times from the combination – slightly gritty – but generally it just provides a drinkable dry feel that works well as a base.

The aroma promises sweet fruit to go along with that – guava and banana sweet notes that, if present, would offset the dry style. Thus it was a bit of a shock when the main body actually gives tart lemon and grapefruit notes, giving a mildly puckering note to go with the dry body. Initially quite sherbety it soon becomes like dry, salted lemon. Again it complements the dry style, but does nothing to offset the rougher notes that came with that.

It feels like it could do with another flavour string added to the bow. The tart lemon and dry body is a nice base for a beer – good hop character, good tartness, but doesn’t go anywhere from there and keeps running into those rough spots.

Good, but not one I would recommend as there are so many other better IPAs out there. A good base that they should return to and experiment with, but not stand out for us drinkers. Yet.

Background: I’m a big fan of Firestone Walker – they’ve been bought up by Duvel Moortgat but the quality doesn’t seem to have changed. So, good for them. What first attracted me to them was their awesome IPAs, so when I saw this experimental series IPA at Independent Spirit I grabbed it to give it a go. From a quick google it uses Australian, German and USA hops, but I couldn’t find which. Ah well.

Powers: John’s Lane Release- 12 Year (Irish Single Post Still Whiskey: 12 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Medium intensity gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry. General red fruit. Redcurrants. Smooth. Golden syrup touch. Lightly floral. Pencil shavings to heavier oak. Honeyed apricot. Water makes nuttier and adds crushed grains.

Body: Smooth. Honeyed apricot. Light alcohol warmth. Buttery shortbread. Golden Grahams cereal. Slightly rocky notes. Water adds more shortbread. Buttery puff pastry. Slight orange notes. Sherry notes.

Finish: Buttery shortbread. Light alcohol. Viscous sheen. Toffee. Very biscuity. Savoury bready notes. Water adds jelly babies. Dried apricot. Red fruit and sherry trifle.

Conclusion: This is a mix of that Irish whiskey smooth, lighter character combined with a slow building viscosity from the extra abv that gives it a thicker, more gripping sheen over the tongue than would be expected for a lighter whiskey. That extra grip brings some more sturdy expressions of the flavours – which gives a lot to dig into, so let’s examine it and see what we get.

Initially it hits very heavily on the sherry and red fruit notes in the aroma, before settling into a more apricot fruit middle with shortbread to crumbly pasty notes adding to the feel. It is very gentle in feel, very smooth, with a very buttery pastry character that crumbles away to reveal a surprisingly viscous finish that is simple but lasting.

Time lets the viscosity build up and the flavours with it. Water lets the whiskey open and and the notes spread out. In combination that shakes up the experience quite a bit. A simple but smooth whisky now opens to reveal those sherry notes that the aroma promised. Red fruit rounds out the body and finish creating complex pastry dessert imagery.

This is a whiskey that hits a lot of bases. Irish whiskey light and smooth early on that is dangerously easy to drink, it slowly gains mouthfeel over time before becoming viscous and tongue coating by the end that makes it hard to imagine it was ever so light at to almost unnoticeable at the start. The easy going apricot at the start ends up full on shortbread meets sherry trifle by the end, given time and water. This is easy going but ends up very flavoursome, walking the balance between easy going Irish and full on sherry aged fullness.

I am very much impressed.

Background: Think I have tried standard Powers before in a pub, but I’ve not had much experience with it. This is a single pot still whiskey – which if I understand right means it is from a single distillery, and uses a pot still in a similar manner to Scottish malt whisky, but it can use unmalted barley, or even in small amounts other cereal grains in the mash. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and I put on B. Dolan – House Of Bee’s Vol 2 while drinking. I love the track “Which Side Are You On?” and in general it is a great album. Also, this is my first set of notes done in 2019! Woo, happy new year!

Girardin: Faro (Belgium: Lambic – Faro: 5% ABV)

Visual: Reddish brown. Clear. Still. Thin off white dash of a head.

Nose: Sugar dusting to hard sugar casing. Touch of brown sugar. Cherries. Clean. Brown bread. Light apple acidic notes.

Body: Sweet cherries. Subtle marzipan. Light sugar dusting. Brown sugar. Watered down bourbon. Tannins to weak tea.

Finish: Madeira. White grapes. Slightly tart. Apple air. Weak tea. Milk. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: So. My first set of Faro tasting notes has revealed to me that the Faro style is a lot different to a standard lambic, and a lot different to what I ever imagined it would be.

It is softer, gentler on the tongue than most standard lambics. It has light grape notes, even occasionally tart grapes, but this is far from the acidic, sour and sharp assault that comes with, say, a gueuze. In fact, over time the tea notes and associated tannin comes come out in a way that makes me think of Lindeman’s Tea Beer – albeit a much more complex take on the idea. In fact, in general this feels more touched by a more standard beer style, but combined with that lightly tart and clean lambic feel, and a serious wodge of that tea character.

Now, I will admit that I don’t have any other Faros to compare it to, so I don’t know how representative of the style it is, but I am enjoying this one. Subtle dark beer notes such as the cherries and brown sugar give a very different take on the lambic freshness. In fact a soft sweetness over the whole thing makes it feel like an easy drinking entry point for a lambic newcomer. It is still complex, but very much moving away from the harsh, dry and sour edges of the lambic world.

It is enjoyable, though I can’t stop thinking of it as “Tea Beer” since I first noticed that element. So, a tea lambic that doesn’t actually use tea, a lambic without any lambic sharp edges. May not be for everyone, but hopefully you have enough info to decide if you want to try it. It is an experience worth having in my opinion.

Background: So, I had this about a month back, first time I had ever tried a Faro. It was so different that I decided I had to grab a bottle again and do notes this time. Which I just have. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, a Faro is a blended lambic (Sometimes with a non lambic beer by some sources) with additional candi sugar. This was drunk in the last hour of 2018, with Grimes – We Appreciate Power, and her Oblivion album playing in the background. We Appreciate Power is a wonderful mix of pop and industrial, mixed with cyberpunk imagery. Definitely a great tune for the end of the year. I’d just finished reading Gnomon by Nick Harkway before and seriously – check that book out, it is amazing.

De Molen: Juicy Loesie (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12.7% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown with black cherry red hints. Off white to grey thin head. Still main body.

Nose: Cane sugar. Apple. Brown sugar. “Boozy” alcohol aroma. Plums and raisins. Fruitcake.

Body: Cherries. Warming alcohol. Prunes. Rum. Apples in jelly. Raisins and sultanas. Treacle. Malt chocolate. Madeira.

Finish: Molasses. Apples pies. Chocolate liqueur. Rum. Liquorice. Calvados. Light turmeric.

Conclusion: Here we have ourselves a dark, boozy beast, a barley wine on the darker end of the style’s scale, lightened by subtle apple pie to Calvados imagery. It is undeniably a barley wine – the apple used doesn’t dominate, but it does feel like the beer has spent some time in a Calvados barrel smoothing off its edges. Well some of its edges. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The initial aroma is actually quite simple and light. Sugary notes along with fruitcake hints and a general boozy weight. Despite the booze it still actually feels pretty clean and doesn’t give much of an impression of what lies bellow it.

The body instead comes in thick and initially it is all about the dark fruit and malt chocolate notes that speak of the darker barley wine style. Soon however a chewy apple pie jelly centre taste and feel comes out, a gentle sweetness that is bright against the dark boozy, spirity centre that is sucking you in.

The malt chocolate, backed late on by gentle earthy spice, keeps it from being too heavy and boozy, but trust me, the big spirit character keeps leaning back towards that direction whenever it gets the chance. Again the Calvados like apple character is what pulls it back from the brink. When faced with molasses like finish, and the rum and liquorice notes, it really needs the subtle apple notes to keep it steady.

Boozy but very enjoyable for me. It possibly could do with a few years ageing to let the alcohol settle, but right now it is already a weighty but delicious subtle apple barley wine. Well worth trying.

Background: Ok, I will admit I have had this one before, really enjoyed it, so grabbed another to do notes on. In fact I have quite a few De Molen in the cupboard at the moment, after not having had them for a while. They are a very fine brewery. I had forgotten how much I tend to enjoy their beers. Anyway, this is a barley wine made with apple juice. Makes sense. I always wanted to make an apple barley wine in my delusions of ever starting home-brewing so this caught my eye. Another one found at Independent Spirit. I’d just received Evil Scarecrow – Antartarctica for Christmas so put that on. I love the over the top camp horror metal and sci-fi styling of their music. Very funny and great metal stage-shows live. If you get a chance definitely go see them live.

Leeds: Yorkshire Gold (England: Golden Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Bright, clear gold. Mounded off white head.

Nose: Floral hoppy character. Soft lemon to lemon cakes. Soft cake sponge. Light icing sugar.

Body: Orange. Lightly earthy hops. Light dry spice. Brown sugar. Lemon to lemon curd. Palma violets. Light strawberry. Cinder toffee.

Finish: Dry,earthy spice. Peppery. Earthy hop character. Brown sugar. Orange juice. Solid bitterness. Brown bread. Cinder toffee. Charring.

Conclusion: This is quite a sweet golden ale, more so than I would expect from the style. Just for clarity, when I say “sweet” I mean that literally, as in sugary like, not as in mid 90s slang to mean cool. It may or may not also be cool, we will get to that in a moment. And no I don’t mean cool as in cold. This may end up going on forever if I don’t pull my thumb out.

Anyway, there is also a lot of the expected elements from a golden ale – soft lemon and orange notes particularly, initially slightly fresh in style at the front, with a thicker slightly curd like character by the end.

What is unexpected is that behind that lemon freshness is a kind of brown sugar sweetness, even kind of burnt brown sugar at times. That burnt sweetness expands into burnt cinder toffee notes over time and becomes especially prevalent in the finish, mixing with heavier spice, peppery and earthy hop notes. Generally the hops are on the lemon fresh side, but they don’t seem to shy away from the earthy and spicy notes here in the finish, bringing a robust hop bitterness against the sweeter main body.

The earthier, spicier notes become more prevalent in the entire beer over time. For a golden ale I was surprised as the citrus notes became less evident and the heavier notes become more the main show. That spice and earth calls more to a traditional British bitter and results in a heavier beer. Enjoyable, as long as you don’t expect the crisp citrus hops style that is more common.

Feels a tad rough edges in the spice elements, and slightly charred at times, which pushed it out of the comfort zone for the beer. So overall an average beer I would say. There are nice notes in there, drinkable and with a good bit of texture. Not too complex though and rough around the edges, generally not too shabby.

A middle of the road beer, bit different in places, ok overall.

Background: Bean back up North with the family for Christmas, and the parents kindly got some beers in for the period. So I decided to do notes on one of them. Went for Leeds Brewery as 1) I quite like Leeds (the place) and 2) I’d not done anything from the brewery before to the best of my knowledges. Many thanks to Mum and Dad for providing the beers. A Golden Ale – a nice style, tend to be pretty easy drinking so nice for chilling with the family. Not much more to add, so hope you enjoy the notes and had a good Christmas.

Uerige: Doppelsticke Altbier (Germany: Altbier: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown to black. Inch of tight bubbled brownish head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Raisins. Spirit soaked fruitcake. Charcoal dust touch. Thick, hot caramel. Malt chocolate. Dry liquorice. Oily nuttiness. Cola bottles.

Body: Caramel. Oily nuttiness. Oily liquorice. Honey undertones. Fudge. Treacle.

Finish: Oily. Coffee remnants. Oily nuttiness. Liquorice touch. Palma violets. Toasted teacakes. Raisins.

Conclusion: This is another big, thick, beer. Seem to be having a run of them at the moment. This one is chewy and oily, mixing thick caramel and treacle notes with oily nuts and oily liquorice character. This feels pretty much like what would happen if you ditched a gallon of treacle into a standard Altbier. Only, ya know, good.

It is a beer that is thick and treacly head to toe, but there is enough going on under there to keep you interested during the time. You get showing from dark fruit, chocolate, even some slight use of fresh tasting palma violet notes in the finish that help separate each sip from the next. For such an intense beer it does well differentiating the notes and thus breaking up the drinking experience.

Now, with that said, the odd thing is that only applies to part of the beer. This thing rocks the aroma, and has a subtle and complex finish that makes taking a long time between sips worthwhile but … it has only a good not great body. Now note that is still good, but it is the one area with less complexity. In the main body is where it is the most treacle filled, most caramel filled and the other notes get much less of a look in.

If the body matched the complexity and range of the opening and finish of the beer, then this would be an utter classic. As is it is still a very enjoyable, super thick altbier and deviantly worth grabbing for a cold night in front of the fire.

Background: I picked this up my a kind of mistake. Uerige: Altbier is one of the beers listed in Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers and I picked this up thinking that is what this was. This is not that, it is the stronger, higher abv version of a similar beer. Ah well, still should be nice. Found it at Corks Of Cotham. A bit out of the way from my usual route, but has a good selection of beer, so worth checking out when I can. This has that flip cap style that I pretty much only see on German bottles. Very nice, and very easy to use. Put on Bratmobile – Pottymouth while drinking. No reason, I just like it.

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