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Boundry: Zapato: You’re Not Getting Any (Ireland: Imperial Stout: 9.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Blueberry. Grated chocolate. Milky chocolate. Slight sulphur eggs and brown bread.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. Blueberry. Toffee. Chewy mouthfeel. Bitter chocolate.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Blueberry pie with sugar dusting. Light dust. Bitter cocoa and bitter coffee. Nutty. Muesli.

Conclusion: I’m a lot further through this bottle than I thought I would be before I started with this conclusion. Thus, at 750ml and a hearty 10% abv I expect that my writing is likely to be nearer to the incoherent level that normal. Enjoy! I’ll try and tidy up on upload.

Part of that is that this is easy drinking for the abv – it has none of that “Boozy” character that normally comes with it. It does have a chewy mouthfeel , but not a heavy one – robust but nowhere near the thickness that a lot of stouts bring – let alone oatmeal ones, especially in this abv range.

Another reason that I am further through the bottle than I expected is that I am taking my time to see if a bit more is going to come out. The beer comes in with the base chocolate and coffee you expect of a stout, and the base blueberry you would expect considering that it used used with the beer. This all comes in smoothly delivered, but even giving time and warmth little else comes out. It is hard to complain that it is doing the job that it set itself, but I kind of expect beers, especially big beers like this, to have a bit more than that these days.

It is … ok.. I mean it feels like quality brewing in that it is very smooth for the abv, keeping good mouthfeel and the blueberry use is very well done to allow it to come through without dominating the beer. The whole abv to weight ratio shows a good understanding of texture and how to get the most out of a high abv beer in feel – it just has very little flavour range to go with that.

Enjoyable, does the job, but nothing spectacular for the style – especially for such a strong beer. It you want a stout with blueberry – this is a stout with blueberry and does it well – it just doesn’t stand out.

Background: Ratebeer lists this at 8.6% ABV, and since there is a label on the bottle giving the new abv and covering the old I’m guessing previous batches were at the lower abv. They also list it as a sweet stout, which I couldn’t justify at the abv, so I’m listing it as imperial stout. Anyway a collaboration imperial milk stout made with oats and blueberry. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the madcap metal that is Evil Scarecrow.

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Oud Beersel: Oude Geuze Vieille Vandervelden 135 Years (Belgium: Gueuze Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy yellow and pale. Small bubbled carbonation with a small white head rim.

Nose: Oats. Clean and tart. Dry white wine. Light white grapes. Muesli.

Body: Fizzy. Champagne. Slight cheesy yeast that rises. Dry sherry. Black cherry. Chalk touch. Madeira. Dried apricot. Apple cider. Moderate funky character.

Finish: Dry sherry. Sultanas. Slight chalk. Light tart apples and grapes. Plums. Tart cider. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: Been trying a few of these darker barrel contents aged lambics recently – I quite enjoy them – they add a nice depth to what is traditionally a more sharp flavour dominated style. This one lets the wine foeder ageing show through more obviously than the others I have encountered. Lots of raisins, through into plums and black-cherry rising up out of the fresh beer.

It feels like a traditional lambic mixed up with tons of Christmas fruitcake imagery – It still shows the cider notes and white wine influence that I associate with lambics and delivers them it a dry style – however that imagery is easy matched, if not exceeded, by the red wine notes that come through.

The main lambic style is not too harsh – the traditional horse blankets aroma is muted and the main body is dry rather than sharp. It feels very dry white wine like as I’ve mentioned and it is a solid base, but here is mainly just setting a lambic sandbox for the darker red wine notes to play in.

Together it is rich and rewarding, tasting much more red wine like than it looks and all nestled within a well done lambic character. It may show more of the foeder ageing than it does the base lambic, but it is nice to see the “wine of beers” showing something a bit more red wine and sherry styled to keep fans of that happy, while still not betraying the more white wine lambic base.

A very nice experience.

Background: Another beer I picked up as part of Independent Spirit’s big influx of unusual sours. This one is a mix of one year old lambic aged in foeders that had held red Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany wine and three year old lambic from Oud Beersel foeders. I’m presuming the 135 relates to the 135th anniversary of the brewery being set up (1882).

Brewdog: Prototype: Blond Ale (Scotland: Blond Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to blond. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Moderate whiteish head.

Nose: Cheese puff crisps to cheddar slices. Slight yeast funk. White pepper. Light lemon. Slight dry champagne.

Body: Vanilla and soft lemon. Crusty white bread. Dry. Light bitterness and hop character. Milky. Light orange. Light grapes. Dry champagne.

Finish: White bread. Lemon and lime cordial. Popcorn. Orange zest. Light hop character. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This both feels like a good base to work from, and something that definitely needs some hard work to reach its potential.

So, let’s go with the good first – the feel of this beer is spot on. It is slightly dry and refreshing, with just a hint of yeast funk calling very mildly to Belgian blond ales, or good quality, slightly dry champagne. It lets out the light cheese funk into the aroma and backs it with a popcorn hop feel. As a feel this beer has range and delivers a very distinctive blond ale, making the most of the variety of what you can do with that. It leans towards dry, easy drinking lager influenced beer but with that milky blond ale middle.

So, let’s move onto the bad – flavour wise it adds little to that base – some light citrus, but it feels like you get a lot of setup for something bigger to happen and then get no pay off. It doesn’t need huge flavour, just something to feel like a capstone for the beer, and some subtleties to tease out over time.

It probably has the most promise of the four prototypes that came out this year, but also will need a lot of work to get it to be worth a regular release. The Double IPA prototype is significantly better as a beer in itself and would be a great regular beer release, however if they could add some better favour to this it could end up a very good beer in a style that Brewdog have not yet done a stand out beer in.

So, well worth giving a kick and if they do release a reworked version I will have my eye on it.

Background: So, the final prototype that came out from Brewdog this year, the one that came out too late to be in the original batch as they felt their first take on the beer wasn’t up to it. Grabbed from the Brewdog shop as part of a different batch pickup. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This is a blond ale. Erm, that’s it. Not a style Brewdog does often, so interesting to see what they do with it. Drunk while listening to some Louise Distras – love the kind of folk punk mix of it.

Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.

Omnipollo: Buxton: Texas Pecan Ice Cream (Sweden: Imperial Porter: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Froths up a head that vanishes nigh instantly.

Nose: Pecan. Cashew. Coffee cake. Cocoa dust. Light charcoal ash. Caramel. Creamy.

Body: Blackcurrant and liquorice. Slight sherbety feel. Chocolate liqueur. Slightly bready. Crushed pecan. Lactose feeling, yet slightly light mouthfeel. Light chalky feel. Caramel.

Finish: Chocolate bourbon biscuits. Crushed peanuts. Blackcurrant liquorice sweets. Milky. Leaves sheen on tongue. Dry fudge. Pecan pie.

Conclusion: I’m fairly sure Texas Pecan Ice Cream isn’t made with blackcurrant and liquorice. I mean, I could be wrong – ya know, not being from Texas and all that, but I’m still fairly sure.

You may be wondering why I am saying that, it is an odd way to open up the notes. Well, I say it as, while the nuts definitely dominate the aroma – on taking the first sip this came in big with those old blackcurrant and liquorice sweet character. Nice, but completely unexpected given the beer’s concept.

The nuttiness instead rises in the body as the beer warms – so don’t worry about that. There is a similar progression in the texture – while it does have a lactose, creamy mouthfeel, early on it feels deceptively light. I do wonder if this difference in texture is part of what makes an Imperial porter stand out from an imperial stout – they are such close linked styles. The weight does grow over time, but even late on it doesn’t have the fullness you would expect of a lactose infused, 10% abv beer. Even feels slightly sherbety against some chalk feel, and still slightly light. Unusual.

So – it is different to what I expected from the description – early on it is very enjoyable in the blackcurrant and liquorice it brings, and that always plays as a backing to the main beer. The nuttiness becomes quite present over time mixing with creamy caramel and fudge sweetness – it isn’t quite pecan ice cream to my mind, probably would need just a bit more body to sell that imagery – it isn’t bad at all, but it really feels like a bit more work, a bit more body and this could be a huge beer and much better.

Pretty good, a mix of the core concept with a radically different imperial porter base, but not 100% on point.

Background: I very much enjoyed the Ominpollo and Buxton collaboration Ice Cream themed beers when I first ran into them about a year ago. Seeing that Independent Spirit had one of the ones I had missed back in stock, I decided to grab it and give it a try. Made with vanilla and lactose sugar, along with wheat and oats in the malt bill – though not, it seems, any actual pecans. I could be wrong on that so don’t quote me on that one. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm – Brute Force. Missed seeing them live last year despite having tickets, which was a pity, but great electronic, mathcore style fun to listen to when drinking.

Brewdog: Nine To Five Wizard (Scotland: Weizen Bock: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana to browned body with huge ripe banana coloured mound of a head.

Nose: Dried banana. Light cloves. Moderate hop character. Raisins. Vanilla custard. Orange skin. Fudge.

Body: Vanilla custard. Orange crème. Banana custard. Some hop character. Crushed Blackpool rock. Hop prickle. Light greenery. Quite thick. Some crusty bready character. Hop oils.

Finish: Lime sweets. Vanilla custard. Candy floss. Raspberry hard sweets. Some bitterness. Slight peppermint and pepper. Crusty white bread. Hop bitterness and character grows over time. Tart grapes and bubblegum.

Conclusion: It is amazing how fast things can change with hoppy beers. I had one of these when it first came out and it had quite the fresh, bitter hop kick. Very much felt like an IPA meets hefeweizen beer. I broke this open for doing notes, under a month later and it has really mellowed in that time.

The malt is much more prevalent now, pushing banana and vanilla custard styling at the base, with light pepper and clove notes making its weizen style more evident despite that. It is a beer with a quite thick mouthfeel, and a lot of body brought by the nearly 8% abv – not traditional weizen feeling, but with enough calls to it that the style is not lost.

The hop character is now more in the flavour than in raw kick – there is still a moderate hop bitterness and character, and also some oily noble hop mix late on, but general it mixes smoothly with the malt base.

The flavours are grapes, orange and raspberry delivered from fresh fruit to sweet crème in style, to hard boiled sweets after that. It is quite artificial sweet feeling, giving a candyfloss and bubblegum style to the middle of the beer.

There is a lot thrown into this, a lot of mixed up elements from traditional weizen spice, strong malt load, noble hop stylings and flavours, to mashed up hard candy fruit flavours. It is enjoyable if slightly brash and a tad overwhelming and not completely coherent in how it comes together.

It’s lost a lot of raw power since I first tried it, but has gained a much greater range in those few weeks – so I have no idea where this will go from here. It is fun, but the overly candy sugar sweets notes may get wearing – however in moderation it gives a heck of a lot in a short time.

Background; This came out very close after the prototype beers did, so instead of another Brewdog shop order I just grabbed a pair of these on take-out from Brewdog Bristol. Another one of Brewdog’s canned lines with cool neon style art on the cans. This one a German style weisse beer but with new world hops. I had one shortly after grabbing it, but with all the prototype beers to do notes on, waited a couple of weeks to do notes on it. Let’s face it, if the beer gets notable worse in under a month and doesn’t warn you it is not a good beer choice in the first place. Drunk while listening to Selfish C**t – No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper. Grabbed in my youth where the name alone for a punk style band made me grab it. I was more easily impressed by rude words back then. The mix of stripped down punk, discordant electronic backing and angry lyrics means I do come back to it every now and then, so stood the time better than such a shock named band deserves to.

Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Summer (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed lemon to apricot. Massive white head that settles to a more manageable level quickly.

Nose: Funky. Oats. Horse blankets. Slight floured dough. Lightly acidic. Rose petals.

Body: Tart. Lightly lemony. Flour. Slight wet wood. Vanilla. Acidic pear. Cherry late on, slight burn at back of the throat.

Finish: Wet wood and acidic lemon. Sherbet lemon to traditional lemonade after that. Gently acidic pears to perry. Slight cherry pocked biscuits. Sour black cherry late on,

Conclusion: I wasn’t sure what to expect for this one, and for the first half of the beer I wasn’t sure what I had got – however it kind of came together by the end.

Initially it seems a simple, mildly sour, Belgian yeast style funk-o-tron of a beer. Disclaimer: Funk-o-tron is not a real beer style. Yet. Give it time. Anyway, mixed light lemon to pear notes with a bit of funk to a mildly acidic back and some slight wet wood. It felt pretty generic in the sour category – not much to stand out in a beer that is very unusual in its set of ingredients and brewing process.

Late on you start to see the influence of those odd introductions, from rose petal aroma notes, to cherry pocket digestive notes, to more raw wood influence. It isn’t blatant, but there is a soft cherry and floral note to the beer showing what they were aiming for with it.

With beer with odd ingredients it can be hard walking the line – too blatant can overpower a beer with off notes – Of The Sea comes to mind for that flaw, so maybe it is best this takes the gentle touch. However if it is too subtle you might as well not use them at all.

Here, well the ingredients add a nice touch, but neither the base beer nor the odd twists really stand out – as a sour it is pretty meh. The extra notes are nice but don’t make it a must have.

A gentle sour that doesn’t really sell its gimmick, but does give it a bit of subtle extra depth. Ok, ya know, but unexceptional.

Background: Yes I know summer has been and gone. I’m behind the times as always. This is the second of the “rooting around” series of beers made with foraged local elements. In this case a sour beer using branches, buds, leaves and blossom from a cherry tree, then aged in Modus Operandi barrels. Wasn’t 100% sure this would work, but liked the cherry blossom imagery, and I’m a fan of Wild Beer Co in general so grabbed it from Independent Spirit. Noticed I had some Terrorvision on my mp3 player – used to be a big fan back in the 90s so slammed on some of their tracks as background drinking tunes.

Brewdog: Prototype: Black Rye IPA (Scotland: BIPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large creamy browned head.

Nose: Kiwi. Muggy hops. Malt chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts. Slightly dry. Sulphurous eggs.

Body: Milky chocolate. Slight brown bread to wholemeal crackers. Kiwi and grapes. Slightly peppery. Vanilla toffee. Custard.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Black pepper. Moderate hops and bitterness. Milky coffee. Wholemeal crackers.

Conclusion: A lot of rye based beers overuse the rye element, in my opinion. I find it works better used sparingly to add something to the texture, and a bit of spice to the body rather than being something that dominates the beer. This actually uses the rye fairly lightly – it builds up over time to become prominent late on, but very gentle early in the beer.

The main black IPA base is fairly simply done – moderate chocolate, but actually leaning more towards toffee and custard notes than you would expect. Feels like some influence of a traditional IPA than you usually get in a BIPA. Don’t get me wrong, of course the chocolate and coffee notes are more dominant – here in a milky and smooth style, but it isn’t just showing those elements.

For an IPA, black otherwise, the hops seem to be lesser used than normal. You mainly get kiwi on the flavours side, and moderate levels of hop character and kick. This is probably the weakest part of the beer for me – while this manages to use the rye style well, the hop use only seems competent – very minimal in what it has for range, and seems lacking compared to the many other excellent BIPAS.

So, looking at this, the main difference maker in it is the rye. Even by the end it isn’t that harsh, just adding nice peppery weight to the beer. It is a generally competent BIPA, but feels like there could be so much more done with it. Keep the malt and rye as it is, but really fruit up the hops, then they may have something here.

As the beer is now, competent bit only competent in a world of exceptional Black IPAs.

Background: Third, and what was initially the final beer of this year’s Brewdog Prototype vote. I say initially as barely a week or so after releasing the three beers, saying that they would not release the blond ale as it was not up to snuff, well they released the blond ale. Considering bottling, posting, etc time I’m fairly sure they had an idea that the blond ale would be out shortly so I have no idea why they didn’t just wait a few weeks and release the lot at once. Sigh. Ah well. Anyway, this is a Black IPA made with rye. It is pretty much all in the name – oh, also it has a decent 70 IBU. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop, and drunk while listening to some of Jonathan Young’s Disney covers. Because of course.

Rodenbach: Alexander (Belgium: Fruit Sour Brown: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear black cherry red with off white head.

Nose: Red cherries. Tart. Gummed brown paper. Apple cider and pear perry air. Malt chocolate.

Body: Tart. Red cherries. Strawberry ice cream syrup. Cherry-aid. Fizzy. Morello cherries. Slight burn at back of throat.

Finish: Gummed brown paper. Cherry-aid. Strawberry ice cream syrup and raspberry ripple ice cream. Pears.

Conclusion: Ok, a few things off my chest first. This is very smooth for an aged Rodenbach – Maybe it is because I am mentally comparing it to the harsh, acidic, almost vinegar touched thing that is the Grand Cru, but I was expecting something much harsher in that vein, with accompanying complexity as a trade off.

This walks a different path, tending towards a cherry laden interpretation of the standard Rodenbach release – sweet, but slightly tart – with that very familiar gummed brown paper kind of note to it.

The beer is still slightly burning at the back of the throat in a call to the Grand Cru style, still slightly cider touched in acidity, though here with some perry notes as well. So, slightly sour and acidic but generally comparatively mellow in how it deals with those acidic notes.

The cherries are delivered in a harder to explain way. Initial impressions are of an artificial feeling mixing glacier cherries, ice cream syrup, raspberry ripple and cherry-aid. It is not unpleasant but isn’t what I expected – pretty sweet, in a dessert style but kind of cheap artificial feeling dessert. Thankfully it develops far from that – gaining a distinct juicy, kind of morello tart cherry depth. That is what helps make the beer – it makes it feel much more natural, and much more complex. It gives and juicy and sweet core that really cuts through the more artificial notes.

So, smoother than expected, just using just a little backing of that burn and weight familiar to Grand Cru fans. More artificial than expected but with a genuine quality core. Not what I expected then, more gentle, more fruity, and more easy drinking – Well vaguely more easy drinking, still not for people who aren’t looking for acidity or sourness. Ends up a very well done fruit ale with more depth than the short set of notes would suggest.

So very glad I managed to hunt this down.

Background: I have been waiting to get my hands on this one for oh so long! It is one of Michael Jackson’s listed 500 great beers, and has not been made for many a year now, until, finally it popped up again roughly a year ago. This was the first time I managed to find it in person, at my ever reliable booze supplier Independent Spirit. I broke it open while listening a bunch of tunes Warren Ellis curated together many a year ago to match the amount of time I have been waiting to try this. Makes sense to me.

Odyssey: Deya: Beautiful Blueberry (England: IPA: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Deep red brown. Raspberry yogurt looking small bubbled head. Cloudy to opaque main body.

Nose: Green hops. Resinous character. Greenery. Blueberry. Fresh cut apples. Raspberries.

Body: Creamy. Hop oils. Blueberry yogurt. Moderate bready bitterness. Greenery.

Finish: Good hop character. Some bitterness but not heavily so. Greenery. Brown bread. Blueberry. Slight gherkin sour note. Resinous.

Conclusion: This is a very different mix to what I expected for this beer – in that the balance between the fruit and the base IPA character works very different to what is usually done. Now it has a heavy use of blueberry flavour, that bit I expected, what I didn’t expect is how it interacts with the hop use against it. I was expecting something creamy smooth, something that emphasised the fruit flavour over the hop bitterness – mainly I was expecting that due to the NE IPA craze at the moment. Nope. Nothing like that.

This dives straight into the IPA side of things – Hop oils, resinous notes, greenery lead and with brown bread touched bitterness. It has a dedication to the bitterness and hops that a lot of fruit IPAs avoid. It results in a clash of two big contrasting flavours in the beer.

Does it work? Not so much early on, more so over time. It isn’t the most complex Odyssey beer, instead it just seems to concentrate on its two big pillars of flavour – the berries and the hop character. Early on it is a bit resinous – a style I usually like but doesn’t work brilliantly with the blueberry character – it feels clashing rather that complementing and contrasting. Time helps, letting the fruit rise and lets the bitter hop notes meld better with them – it feels less prickly resulting in a still harsh, bitter but fruity beer. I’ve seen this described as a milkshake IPA and I would have to disagree with that. It does have some creamy notes, but it is a much more raw IPA than that – especially compared to the current trends in super smooth IPAs currently.

So, a little rough early on, but settles into a super fruity, super hoppy IPA as it goes – not perfect, and not Odysseys best, but neither of those are huge criticisms. Solid, and shows that a fruit beer doesn’t mean you have to go light on the hop character.

Background: Ok, by now everyone knows I love the Odyssey hopped beers, especially their IPAs – not run into Deya before so no opinion on them. However this blueberry infused IPA was one I grabbed quickly – in part as Independent Spirit only had a few bottles so I had to decide fast, and leant towards the grab a beer from Odyssey side of the spectrum. It rarely lets me down. Anyway, I put some Warrenpeace while drinking – probably my favourite find from Scroobius Pip putting up a bunch of free stuff on speech development records.

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