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Brewdog Arcade Nation

Brewdog: Arcade Nation (Scotland: Black IPA: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive brown mounded froth.

Nose: Kiwi. Fluffy hop character. White grapes. Pineapple. Malt chocolate. Cloying note. Light bitterness. Barley. Strawberry.

Body: Bitter hop kick. Bitter chocolate. Cloying touch. Light, clean, fresh character – Grapes maybe? Roasted character. Nuts.

Finish: Bitter cocoa dust and hops. Sour dough. Grapes. Pineapple. Cashew nuts.

Conclusion: So, the revisited Black IPA, prototype no more. Well, I say revisited, it has been barely two months since the original came out. So, they obviously had plans for this, is it an improvement?

Meh. If anything it seems even more simple than the original – less sweet, more bitter and roasted. So, closer to the prototypical Black IPA style, with even less twists to it than before. Before things get too negative, I will look at what has improved. The aroma is now exceptional. It is very fruity and hints at a much more complex beer than we end up with, tart and kiwi heavy. This really had me expecting something very good after it.

The base loses that for a simple roasted and bitter backed BIPA – nutty in its roasted character but it feels like a base to build on, not the destination of the beer. A pity considering that this is the second iteration. It is odd as Brewdog have turned out some utterly excellent Black IPAs, yet this feels distinctly lacklustre. It could be the lower abv. I am happy for lower abv beers, but the IPA range pretty much demand a bit more weight if the hops are going to have a grip for flavour as well as bitterness. This seems to be aimed at the craft ale session range of an abv ( i.e. at way above what I would call a session abv, but lower than a lot of craft beers). Like session IPAs it seems to be drier and suffer badly for the lower abvs.

So very mediocre and barely above base expectations for a Black IPA. A rare swing and miss on beer quality from Brewdog.

Background; Ok, I did deliberately pour this quickly in an attempt to get a pretty big head for the photo. Mostly worked as well. This is a tweaked version of their prototype Black IPA – though based on how long it takes to get a beer made, I’m guessing this was being brewed before we had even tried the prototype, which seems to go against the whole point of the prototype release, no? Anyway, decided to give it a shot to see how it had changed. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Provenance Craigellachie Single Cask 10 Year

Provenance: Craigellachie Single Cask: 10 Year (Scotland Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, almost make spirit colour.

Viscosity: Many very thin, slow streaks.

Nose: Crushed peppermints. Vanilla. Make spirit. Gritty. Water makes more floral.

Body: Chocolate limes. Warming to burning. Vanilla toffee. Broth. Water adds some peat and beef slices along with honey and lime. More water brings out big toffee, honey. Smoother, with vanilla custard and apples.

Finish: Alcohol air. Chocolate limes. Wood. Dusty. Water brings out beef broth and dumplings. Lime and chocolate separate now. Sweeter with more water, light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Craigellachie can be an awesome wee dram – a fact I was reminded of by the recent Wemyss Barrista’s Dram which I tried at a recent whisky tasting. I was having a chilled night so didn’t do notes of that one – instead I later grabbed this hip flask sized bottle to try a different and younger expression.

Well, this is very definitely younger -almost make spirit in colour. Neat it has more of a feel than a taste for the most part; In fact it us a quite simple dram, though thankfully without that vodka jelly feel that some strong, young, spirits have. Anyway, not much to write home about. However at 46% abv there is plenty of room for water, so let’s see how that goes.

It helps. Brings out a light peat and the associated broth kind of notes, but the main help is that it really smooths out the sweetness that is the mainstay of the whisky. Vanilla custard sweetness and honey being the most noticeable it brings to the fore.

It is far smoother and more enjoyable here. Oddly at ten years it still plays with the fresh apple notes that I would associate with a far younger spirit. It, however, gains a more noticeable, kind of malt chocolate, traditional whisky character. Albeit less noticeable than in most whisky.

So, in the end we have a very fresh and vibrant whisky, with hints at rather than shows the full range of Craigellachie’s depths. It is nice enough with water, however it feels younger than it is and I know Craigellachie can do more.

So, ok, but not the best show of what the distillery can do.

Background: Think this is the first time I’ve done notes for a Craigellachie – it is a fine whisky, so I decided to grab this independent bottling from Independent Spirit. Nice hip flask size, always a favourite for sampling new whisky. On eye it looks a heck of a lot lighter than most Craigellachie whisky I have seen. Should be an interesting dram. Dunk while listening to the Paranoia Agent OST – that anime is mind blowing.

Wild Beer Co The Blend Winter 2015 Beyond Modus II

Wild Beer Co: The Blend: Winter 2015 : Beyond Modus II (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy red. Off white bubbles.

Nose: Dry. White wine. Soft raisins. Madeira cake. Tart. Apples. Light oak.

Body: Acidic apple. Raisins. Sherbety lemon. Fresh. Plums. Sweet red wine. Cherries. White tart grapes. Spiced rum.

Finish: Lemon sherbet. Vinegar touch. Oak. Raisins. Sticky brown paper. Cider.

Conclusion: These beers seem to be getting closer and closet to a Flemish bruin / Belgian lambic mix with each iteration. Not a bad mix to go for – the two styles are quite similar in tartness, just differ in what tart elements they emphasise. This is very tart, mixing cider apple with white wine on the more lambic styled side. On the Flemish brown influenced side it runs to raisins, vinegar and sticky brown paper. Together that packs quite a punch.

However, things are starting to get a tad familiar with the Wild Beer sours. The cider like touch seems to be their speciality, and while Modus is a quality beer, it is very familiar in the characteristics here. What makes this seem different is that it is much more acidic and tart than the standard Modus.

While nice, I am slightly disappointed that it doesn’t really break the mould or offer anything radically new or even of notably superior quality. This is very much at the expensive end of their range, and yet it isn’t significantly different or better than the cheaper mainstays of their range.

The increased acidity is refreshing but does make it hard to get a feel for the darker fruits within the beer – it feels like it is hiding some of the complexity the beer could show if it was reined in just a touch. A pity as the deeper notes hinted at within the beer could make for an excellent beer, but they really don’t get time to express themselves. So, with the acidity you get a trade off against the more complex notes, rather than adding to and improving. As always, maybe a few years in the bottle will settle it. However at the cost I will admit that I am not going to grab another one to lay down, for that money I expect top quality at first touch.

Also, a hint, if you do grab this, share it. Had by yourself, as I did in an anti social moment, it gets far weaker over the glasses – feeling rougher edged by the end.

So, nice enough but needs a shake up to stand out. I’d say just grab standard Modus Operandi.

Background: Wild Beer Co has been a favourite of mine for a few years now – experimental, pushing sour beers, which are getting more common now, but were rare as hen’s teeth for a while. So, I grab as many of theirs as I can. This one coming from the similar old favourite Independent Spirit. It is their second of “The Blend” series that takes advantage of their three years worth of sour beer stocks. This one uses Modeus Operandi as its base beer to work from. Mainly listened to Napalm Death while drinking, as I am on a bit of thrash metal kick. However while trying to get the bloody waxed top open the song “Die Motherfucker Die” by Dope may have featured prominently. Because god damn it did not want to open.

Purity Pure Ubu

Purity: Pure Ubu (England:Amber Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear reddened brown. Moderate froth brown head that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Cream and milky. Light cinnamon. Shortbread. Sugar dusting. Very, very milky coffee.

Body: Light hop prickle. Milky texture. Light cream. Light toffee. Malt drinks. Slight pepper. Light lime. Very milky coffee. Flour.

Finish: Light hop character and bitterness. Milky. Pepper. Crackers. Flour. Chutney.

Conclusion: This is quite a gentle beer in some ways. For one I have used the word “light” about a billion times during the notes. It has a nice thickness of texture for a bitter/amber ale (I’m not 100% where it lies between the two styles). There is also some hop bitterness, but the main body is quite soft and milky behind that. Kind of like hopped milk. Ok, that sounds horrid. Let me try again.

It has a mild malt backing that comes across like the milkiest of milky coffees, only a smattering of bitterness to back it, but with hints of that flavour. It balances, for the most part, between milk and flour dusted white bead. That is hopped. Ok, that sounds terrible again. I’m not doing very well.

It is ok, it feels set up to be an easy drinking beer, though the hop prickle and peppery character are clues against that. I feel like I am not the target audience for this beer, it has an uncommon mix of light spice, hops and smooth main body. In fact it feels like a beer to accompany a mild curry – that is the best way I can describe it.

So, it has that style, backed by an even lighter set of citrus notes, yet despite all the times I use the word light, it does not feel weak or watery mid body. It hangs around and lasts, just the flavours are easygoing.

So, the mild curry and milk side of the beer world. Not my thing, but so carefully crafted I feel it is for a group of people who will love lit.

Just not me.

Background: Third and final beer that was a gift from a colleague at Christmas. Many thanks. I’d heard about Purity through “Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar” where the two were condescending dicks to the people there. So, I have sympathy for them if nothing else. Drunk shortly after the JD Single Barrel review with a bit of water taken to freshen the mouth. I was listening to some rage against the machine, mainly because it was alphabetically after what I had been listening to during the JD review. I am lazy.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel

Jack Daniels: Single Barrel (USA Tennessee Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Burnished red to bronze.

Viscosity: A few thick steaks but mainly slow and thin.

Nose: Smooth, but hints of alcohol. Rye crackers. Subtle orange liqueurs. Honey. With water becomes more caramel like.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Charcoal touch. Orange crème. Oak. White chocolate. Shreddies. Caramel. Liquorice. Water makes more smooth and enhances white chocolate, brings out coca dust and vanilla toffee.

Finish: Slick feel. Wholemeal flakes. Oatmeal biscuits. Orange crème. Slight alcohol at the back of the throat. Water adds milk chocolate and white chocolate mixed with cocoa dust.

Conclusion: It is interesting coming to this after Gentleman Jack. Like the gentleman it is smooth – very much so with even a little water. Unlike gentleman it never feels light. In fact the extra abv lets it define its characteristics so much better.

I’m not sure that the whisky is significantly more complex, or if it just seems so because each element is better defined. Either way it is definitely the top of the three easy to get hold of Jack Daniels products. It has been years since I tried one of the Master’s series, so I can’t do any real comparison to that.

The standard JD notes are there – oak, orange crème, toffee and charcoal. The extra abv doesn’t seem to increase the burn, it just seems to give more grip – so comes in caramel like and the better defined sweetness comes across as white chocolate alongside the expected vanilla.

It definitely is still identifiably JD, but feels much more satisfying. The more base notes such as the rye crackers style, are lessened; It becomes more like oatmeal biscuits drizzled in honey. Smoother. Still a good texture but sweeter. Warning – it is much sweeter, not sickly, but if you don’t like sweet bourbon (ok,ok ,Tennessee whiskey) this is not for you.

So, a genuinely solid JD. One that is not an all time great, but still one I can recommend.

Or at least this barrel is. I can’t speak for any other.

Background: This may be my most pointless set of notes ever. A single barrel bourbon/ Tennessee Whiskey, with no batch number listed. So it may be completely different from whatever you encounter if you buy the same product. Ah well. Anyway. Grabbed this from Independent Spirit to continue my rampage of trying miniatures. Drunk while listing to Radiohead: Ok Computer. An old album but a good ‘un.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB 19

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 19 (Scotland: Saison: 13.1% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous. Rum soaked raisins. Brandy cream. Creamy. Honey snaps. Dry white wine. Very mild coffee.

Body: Very smooth. Sponge cake. Raisins and figs. Slightly dry mouthfeel. Dry white wine. Cherries. Slight noticable alcohol character. Malt chocolate. Vanilla.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Dry alcohol air. Sultanas. Tart white grapes and dry white wine.

Conclusion: A very big beer this one, feeling like the offspring of a brewed up ESB and a dry white wine. An unexpected pairing to say the least, but it could be an interesting one, though frankly the declared beer style – the saison – barely gets a look in.

The ESB side of the family brings raisins, brandy cream, figs and chocolate. Robust, heavy and hearty notes. Beer that puts hairs on your chest. The white wine like side is tart and drying – white grapes filling out the air along with a slight alcohol air that comes behind it. They create odd sensations in their combination. Despite the heavy spirit touched character the body feels dry, which creates a cake sponge like feel where the two mix. Slight dry but sweet at the same time.

It aims for the almost spirit touched strong beer style that is almost a genre in itself – though it manages to avoid the worse excesses of harshness and rough as a badger’s arse character that some of the badly brewed beers out there have. The wine like characteristics are the most interesting, but are also when the most obvious alcohol elements come out to play.

It is nicely complex, but lacks the panache or utter decadence of the top end of these kind of beers. Maybe in a few bottle years it will integrate better. In fact I would bet on it. However right now it feels a bit young. Nice, but young. There is a lot to it, but I think it needs a while to let the heavy alcohol out of its system

Background: Brewdog call this a mix of two saisons, one black – one red, that have then beer aged in rum barrels. At a guess that would be Everyday Anarchy and Black Jacques then. Neither of them were massively like what I would call a saison, but the style is a varied one, and I tend to go with the Brewers choice when listing style, unless it is blatantly wrong. So, saison it is. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while waiting for Windows 10 to update and hoping it did not break the start menu again. Windows 10 is terrible is what I am saying. Thankfully it is not on my main machine. Also was listening to Sigh: Gallows Gallery – a very odd metal album – very experimental – Best description would be almost vaudeville metal, but that may be just my odd associations.

Brewdog Albino Squid Assassin

Brewdog: Albino Squid Assassin (Scotland: Speciality Grain: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy brown. Large coffee froth beige head.

Nose: Dried pineapple. Grapefruit. Understated. Pine needles.

Body: Peach. Cinnamon. Chocolate malt drinks. Coconut. Rye crackers. Sweet liquorice touch. Creamy. Moderate to low bitterness. Orange crème and caramel. Marshmallows. Apple.

Finish: Chocolate toffee. Slight spice. Shreddies. Black liquorice bits. Marshmallow. Charring. Higher bitterness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Took me a few cans of this over a few weeks for me to get a coherent take on it. The first few cans were nice enough but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it.

The rye hit of the beer seemed to vary a bit depending on what time of the day I drank it and what I had been eating before, as is to be expected. For these notes I had not had food for a while before and had it early evening and here the rye seemed restrained and really let the rest of the beer open up.

Early on it still didn’t make it easy to get a handle on the beer as the aroma is pretty restrained. It doesn’t give much information and leaves everything up to the main body.

Thankfully the body rocks it well. I hate using the varied wildcard IPA names for the most part but this tastes (Deep breath) kind of like a brown IPA, but with extra rye spice. The malt base is caramel sweet, the rye spicy, and the hops give a very good range of sweet and fruity flavour. It isn’t that bitter for an IPA, and the sweet toffee very much tastes below its 7% plus abv. Dangerously easy drinking.

The finish following that is ok, but does let the side down a bit. There are occasional liquorice notes that are not well integrated and it is a bit spice heavy here. Not terrible though but not up to the excellent body.

Thankfully the mainstay of the beer is the body, so it manages to ride over those few weak final notes. It definitely doesn’t feel much like a traditional IPA, red, rye, or otherwise. It is more malt heavy with more hop flavour than bitterness. A general easy drinking and fun beer with a tad too high abv for the notes it brings.

Background: Love the artwork on this can, the name is pretty cool as well, if somewhat nonsensical. As opposed to all those other beer names which are actually short aphorisms on the nature of reality. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is described as a *grimace* red rye IPA. Red IPA, of course. I’d probably call it a rye amber ale myself, but rate beer goes with just speciality grain, which seems fair enough for this one. Anyway drunk while listening to some OCRemix stuff from Dynamite Headdy and Gunstar Heroes. I am a geek.

Electric Bear Cherry Blackout

Electric Bear: Cherry Blackout (England: Imperial Stout: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown head.

Nose: Black forest gateaux and chocolate liqueur. Tart cherries. Sweet chocolate fondue.

Body: Cherry liqueur. Brown sugar. Chocolate cake. Slick and smooth. Light milky coffee. Bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Black forest gateaux.

Finish: Chocolate cake. Low level bitterness. Bitter chocolate. Black forest gateaux.

Conclusion: Man, if only everything could live up to the nose on this one, a nigh perfect expression of fresh tart cherries and Black forest gateaux. It smells like a dessert drizzled in thick fruit liqueur. Stouty, fruity, sweet and stand out – it is excellent. Now, if only everything was as good as those first few moment…

A tad ominous sentence there, maybe a foreboding of bad sentences to come?

Actually, the main body is actually ok – solid chocolate cake with bitter cocoa and chocolate backing. A few rough edges are there with the brown sugar not quite integrated, but the main disappointment is how much the cherries fade out. They are still there as a backing tart liqueur style but it is the chocolate cake that blacks out most of the other notes. Larger mouthfuls do make more of that tart cherries but at 8% abv big mouthfuls are a bad plan for health. The bitter cocoa really leads the beer, still it isn’t all bad, as the beer warms the cherry does gain more foothold, but it never sparkles like it does in the aroma.

It results in a solid and yet still underwhelming beer. It is a solid chocolate cake stout, but it promised so much more and really needs to deliver on that promise to be worth the abv. Still, it is early days for the brewery and there is a darn good base idea for this, so if they can tweak it around the elements that work it could end up something very decent.

Background: Electric Bear are a reasonably new Brewery in Bath, and so I thought it was about time I should pull my thumb out and do tasting notes on one of their beers. I decided to go with this one, picked up from Independent Spirit, an Imperial Stout made with cocoa, brown sugar,vanilla and morello cherries. Drunk while listing to the band “Heck”. I saw that they were touring soon so checked out their free album Knockout Machine.

Sharp Wolf Rock

Sharp: Wolf Rock (England: Amber Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to brown. Large chocolate dust coloured froth head that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel and cinnamon. Sweet nuts – sugared almonds? Malt drinks.

Body: Cinnamon. Nutty. Malt drinks. Slightly thin when chilled. Prickling character. Some hop character. Cashews. Slightly earthy. Toffee. Sour cream tang.

Finish: Peanuts. Sugar icing. Cashews. Light greenery. Acrid notes – gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: This feels like a bit of a stylistic mash-up, a red ales remix shall we say. Right at the bottom of it all it feels like the dry Irish red take on the style – slightly sour, quite dry and kind of harsh at the edges.

At the top end it is toffee sweet and caramel touched, more towards the big malt base you get in the craft beer interpretation of the amber ale, admittedly with less hop influence than those beers have. The middle, managing the two, is a menagerie of nutty notes notes from sweet almonds to green touched cashew notes. It runs the gamut of those but relies on top and tail for other notes.

It is a nice conceit, but never becomes more than its parts. It can feel light at times, especially cool, and as the beer goes on the acrid and heavier notes soon outstay all but the most sickly sweet and unpleasant of the balancing sweetness.

So, a beer that opens well but can’t keep the momentum up. By half way through it is getting leaden and the earthy backing that is nigh imperceptible at the start becomes centre stage.

It has its moments but ends far weaker than it starts.

Background: The second of three beers gifted to my by a colleague at work. Many thanks. Anyway, just found out this is MolsonCoors owned. Wonder when that happened? (A quick googles says 2011 – I have my finger on the pulse of big brewery buyouts it seems). Anyway drunk while listening to Erock’s cover of the One Punch Man theme, been reading the manga – it is quite amusing and I’m hoping the anime hits these shores soon.

Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack

Jack Daniels: Gentleman Jack (USA: Tennessee Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and a mix of rye crackers and shredded wheat. Thick but smooth. Water changes it very little.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla. Warming alcohol. Wholemeal crackers. Slightly light at times. Fudge. Orange crème. Water lets existing notes booms but dims alcohol warmth.

Finish: Vanilla. Clean. Light rye crackers. Toffee. Feels oddly more viscous and with an oily sheen if you add water. Sulphur and smoke.

Conclusion: You know, for years people referred to bourbon as smooth, and as toffee and vanilla tasting, and I never got it. And yes I know this is “Tennessee Whiskey”, but it is close enough for this story to be relevant. Anyway… For me bourbon always seemed rough and kind of rustic. All those years back, this was the whiskey that is pretty much bourbon that helped the idea finally click with me

Basically this is very much like Jack Daniels but smoother. The alcohol kick is less, the harsh edges are less, and with that weight removed it becomes very easy to see toffee, vanilla and fudge notes come out plain as day. Once I had seen the notes here I suddenly could spot them all over the bourbon range. Those sweet notes are layered over a kind of crackers and smoke base.

Neat it still has a little alcohol warmth, but water smooths even that. It never loses the thickness of texture, it even seems to increase the oily character with water. What is odd is that despite the thick feel, the flavours can seem slightly light at times.

So, education aside, is it any good? Well it is smoother Jack Daniel – and as someone who grew up with that stuff it has a kind of retro kick going on. It’s not complex, but is very easy drinking. I have a soft spot for it for memory’s sake, and it is a good educational tool, but I will say it isn’t anything special as itself. Its main problem is that it can feel so smooth as to be a tad light, depsite the viscous mouthfeel – especially with water. It you like JD this is better than jack Daniels, otherwise it is ok but that are far better out there.

Still have a soft spot for it from my youth.

Background: So, the whole, is it bourbon? Is it Tennessee whisky? Argument. No idea. They call it whiskey so I will go with that. Screw it. Discussed this one for far too long over the years. Anyway, this is a bit of a retro kick again. Pretty much grew up in my mid teen years on JD. Anyway, grabbed a bottle of Gentleman Jack years ago and I remember quite enjoying it and it being very smooth. Then again, back then I thought Jack Daniels was the mutts nuts. I was stupid is what I am saying. I may still be stupid, nut now in different ways. Anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit to see how it holds up


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