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Barrier: Money (USA: IPA: 7.3% ABV)

Visual: Hazy, cloudy lemon curd colour with large yellowed white mounded head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Apricot skin. Nicely bitter hop character. Jiff lemon. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Sweet pineapple. Grapefruit touch. Tart grapes. Resinous style. Light chalk touch. Light strawberry.

Finish: Oily hop bitterness. Growling bitter character, but of medium intensity. Caramel touch. Peach. Gritty hop grip. Light strawberry. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok short version – This is a good IPA, the Double Dry Hopped variant is better. This is good, that is great. Got that? Cool now for people who want more, here is the long version.

This is more instantly cloudy, on first pour it already had the NEIPA cloudy look that only came late pour for the DDH version. Thankfully, like DDH it still holds the hops – still resinous and oily. Less so, but still rocking a full variety of the hop range.

It is more evidently pineapple led, in quite a sweet but fresh take with some tarter grapefruit notes behind. This is bigger on the citrus pop, but has less range to go with it. When you combine the bigger emphasis on the citrus with the more subtle hop style it makes for a more general drinking, fresh, IPA but at the cost of some complexity in exchange for that lovely drinkability.

It still has that backing malt sweetness, more evident in the caramel touches in the finish, present but unobtrusive in the main body – giving just enough sweetness and weight for the hops to work against.

It is a lovely IPA – fresh, just enough East coast style sweetness, but very restrained against a sweet, tart citrus feel that reminds me of New Zealand beers, matched with a good range of hop expression.

Don't mistake not being as good as the DDH version and not being worth trying. This is still a joy.

Background: Last month I tried Money DDH edition, and found it very much to my taste. I was tempted to just grab another can of it, but decided to grab the baseline Money to see how it works, and what it was they built off. Hope that doesn't turn out to be a big mistake. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, same place I grabbed the DDH version. Went with Ghost: Prequelle as backing music. Looking at the internet Ghost seems to be either the greatest thing ever, or a crime against metal and I should be ashamed to listen to it. This is my first Ghost album and … it’s fun, reminds me of 80’s stadium metal and Sigh’s Gallows Gallery. Lighter than my usual metal, but full of energy.

Williams Bros: Birds and Bees (Scotland: Golden Ale: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Large mounded frothy white head.

Nose: Lemon cakes. Lime sorbet. Crisp hop character. Clean. Cake sponge.

Body: Lime zest. Bread dough. Slight sulphur. Lemony. Peppery.

Finish: Dough. Light sulphur. Lime. Lightly earthy and peppery. Decent hop character and bitterness.

Conclusion: This is what I would call a simple beer, but done well. It had a few points I initially took as flaws, that I am now enjoying as I come into the tail end of the beer.

So, to take the basics first, this is a gentle lemon and lime filled golden ale with crisp hop feel. Gentle up front, saving the bitterness for a hoppy and bitter finish. Tidy. Simple, but refreshing and pops the bright notes.

The flaw? Or the initially flaw seeming element, is that it is slightly sulphurous, especially in the finish. It felt kind of like it is backed by partially cooked dough amongst that and early on it felt a bit stuffy, which got in the way of the gentle sipping golden ale character.

So, yeah, early on I disliked it, but as time went on it altered, adding an odd steam beer like feel to the experience. A kind of fluffy feel that I oddly associated with direct gas heated whisky. Long story. Anyway, it is a rougher edge but now goes well with the hop punch at the end of the beer to give a nice underline to the thing.

For me anyway, your mileage may vary.

Nowt too showy, but a drinkable hoppy golden ale that slips down nicely.

Background: Back to Flavourly again, where my parents kindly bought me a box of beer to be sent to me. As always many thanks. A few I had done notes on before, and a few I just drank in general, but I made an effort to keep a few for doing tasting notes. Of which this is one. See, backstory is easy! William Bros first came to my attention years ago, back when they seemed to concentrate on brewing with older traditional ingredients. They have widened their range a lot since those days. Anyway, went with New Model Army: Impurity for backing music while drinking. Remember seeing them live a few years back, epic show, man I miss live music shows.

Douglas Lain: The Epicurean – Cognac Cask Finish (Scottish Lowland Blended Malt: 48% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened gold, with fast, thick streaks coming from the body.

Nose: Honey. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Stewed apricots. Cognac. Warming. Green grapes. Nasal hair tingling alcohol. Apple. Water adds slight oak. Makes cleaner and lighter. Adds more grapes and apple.

Body: Slick feel but warming. Honey. Custard. Slightly syrupy. Green grapes. Marmalade. Apple pie filling. Vanilla toffee. Light moss. Peach. Water adds more apple. Some pear. Brown sugar and cake sponge.

Finish: Marmalade. Cognac. Apple pie filling. Shaved wood. Quite dry. Gin air. Water adds pear. More evident lowland character. Brown sugar. Teabags and tannins.

Conclusion: This one took a good long while for it to air properly and open up. My first dram poured from this a few weeks back was very cognac dominated, very alcohol touched and the whisky was pretty much lost beneath the finishing wood. You basically got whisky feeling cognac but not much else. Fun, and a laugh to try, but not one I could overly recommend.

Things have changed since then.

Even drunk neat this is smoother than before- the lowland cleanness giving a lighter take to the thickness that the cognac gives. Together they become a smooth but surprisingly weighty dram for a lowland whisky.

It really shows its flavour range as well now. There is very definite cognac, especially those marmalade like sweet notes, and it mixes with the whisky base to show apricot and peach bright notes. However the base lowland style is now easier to notice. It show slightly mossy, clean and green fruit notes and makes it much more easy going that the sweet cognac backing.

Water brings out a lot more of the lowland character. It is still coming out with big, big sweetness, but now the whisky character actually is, just about, in the forefront. There is much more green fruit – especially apples. It is slightly sulphur touched, and kind of tannins touched in a way that doesn’t suit the sweetness in the finish, and that is probably the only weak point of the whisky. Not automatically bad elements but they don’t match, and the finish is a bit of let down with that. Here is where it is a tad more alcohol touched and rough.

Still, a very fun whisky and generally well developed. Probably best neat, or with just a drop of water to open it up. Let’s face it, if you bought this the concept of a cognac whisky is what you wanted, and taken neat or near neat that is what you get, just a bit smoother and more complex than that sounds and far more than the early days of opening.

Open it up, give it some time, and this will reward you in the end. A weak finish, but great cognac meets whisky front and middle.

Background: Another blended malt (or vatted malt as I prefer the term) – a mix of single malts from different distilleries with no grain whisky. In this case all lowland whiskies, which tend to be triple distilled – a common technique in Ireland but uncommon in Scotland. It tends to give a lighter, more easy drinking feel. This is quite an unusual variant on the Epicurean, having been finished in Cognac casks. I mainly grabbed it for that as I was intrigued on what that finish would do. This is one of only 402 bottles and was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went back to At The Drive in: Relationship Of Command to listen to while drinking. Again I think I really should buy at least one more of their albums…

Fourpure: Flavourly: Geyser Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear to just slightly hazy yellowed body with a thin white head and not much carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla. Light fudge. Crisp hop air. Light grapefruit. Fresh cut apple. Fresh in general.

Body: Prickly bitterness. Moderate hop character. Slightly bready. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Good, solid hop bitterness. Greenery. Sulphur. Peppery. Some very light grapefruit.

Conclusion: I’m finding it hard to write a lot about this one. It is solid. Solid is an admirable quality but it makes it hard to write something interesting for people to read.

Sooooo, it’s a session IPA. A style that often gets on my nerves as a lot of brewers seem to just continue throwing in the high IPA hops into an otherwise standard pale ale, without considering how the lower malt with affect how those hops are expressed, resulting in an overly dry and harsh beer. So far Beavertown’s Neck Oil stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the competion for the style by managing not to fall into that mistake.

This is pretty dry, but manages to keep it on the drinkable side of things. It also manages a good bitterness and lightly peppery character that gives the IPA punch of hops despite the low abv not giving much malt to contrast them.

Now the aroma is the most interesting part of this deal, and promises a lot more than I just described above. It gives a lot of malt sweetness hints somehow, despite the abv, and a little touch of tart grapefruit notes that promises some release from the bitter hops.

None of this follows through into the body, which is a pity. The base is, as previously said, solid. Well done bitterness, easily drinnkable, dry but not drying. It just needs some pep adding, some metaphorical spice thrown into the mix. The grapefruit hints out again in the finish, but just doesn’t manage to push through mid body.

It isn’t 100% of nailing the body – occasionally being a tad sulphurous, but generally a really good base that puts it above 80% of session IPAs I have tried. It just needs some experimentation to add some range to it. Hope they give it tweak.

Background: So, my parents kindly got me a box of beer from Flavourly – they were doing one of their many offers and it seemed a very decent price as well for a bunch of beers. Many thanks! Time to see if there is quality for that price. This is listed as a Flavourly collaboration with Fourpure. Now Fourpure already have a session IPA at 4.2% abv. Is this a tweaked version of that recipe? Or possibly just rebranded for Flavourly? I dunno. I Never tried Fourpure’s session IPA so can’t say, but something to keep in mind. Had on varied versions of Faithless’ Insomnia for backing music while drinking. The recent heat made that song seem very relevant at the moment.

Seven Islands: PJB Concoction (Greece: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Caramel brown rim of a head.

Nose: Massive amounts of peanut-butter. Chocolate. Oats. Strawberry. Touch of liquorice.

Body: Strawberry crème to strawberry jam. Thick, milky chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Boozy alcohol. Toffee liqueur. Blended whisky. Peanut butter.

Finish: Liquorice. Danish pastries. Strawberry crème filled bitter black chocolate sweets. Bourbon whiskey. Boozy alcohol. Toffee liqueur. Alcohol air. Bourbon biscuits. Peanut butter.

Conclusion: Holy fuck this really smells of peanut-butter. Also chocolate. It is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of beers. And yes despite being British I have eaten Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They get everywhere.

There is also definitely the strawberry notes, not as heavy but definitely enough that this Is matching its core conceit well. Now it isn’t 100% on, being sometimes more strawberry crème than strawberry jam. Also you tend to get either the Reese’s chocolate peanut butter, or the strawberry crème filled quality chocolate sweets, rarely both at once, for most of the beer. It is only in the latter half that they really merge together, and truly match the idea of the beer, but that is nit picking.

Now, much as it does get the conceit, it isn’t all good news. The alcohol is very boozy – at its best it is like lower end bourbon, at its worst it has some of the rougher end of blended whisky feel and taste. Not 100% terrible, but it really doesn’t suit the feel of the beer.

Still, as a pastry stout it even has sweet pastry notes. Then again does PBJ have pastry? I always thought it was just peanut butter and jam in a sandwich. Is there a genuine pastry dessert PBJ? Is this I thing I never encountered?

Anyway, as an imperial stout it has some rough edges. As a PBJ beer it is fun despite the roughness. It isn’t going to win awards for brewing or style, but ya know what?

I had a laugh with it.

Background: Pastry/Dessert stouts seem to be getting a lot of shit at the moment. I guess I can kind of see why, the market is flipping flooded with them. It is kind of the NEIPA of stouts. However I kind of dig them, as long as it is an occasional treat. I think they have the advantage that they are easy to spot, unlike NEIPAs where often the first clue you get is when you pour from the can. Anyway, this is a Peanut Butter and Jelly/Jam inspired beer. By which I mean it is made with peanut butter, strawberry, Tahitian vanilla (which a quick google tells me is more fancy than normal vanilla apparently) and chocolate. Soo, yeah can see how they are hoping to get the PBJ flavours then. Seven Islands is a new brewery for me, and it is only when I googled that I found out it is from Greece, and not Canada as I first guessed. Interesting – not had much of an examine of their beer scene before. Anyway, another new beer from Independent Spirit. I went with Gogol Bordello: Trans Continental Hustle for background music while drinking. Anti immigration feeling is rinsing in the UK again, so a burst of punk energy against that was welcome.

Big Drop: Poolside DDH IPA (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold body with some small bubbled carbonation. Huge yellow white loose head that leaves suds.

Nose: Peach. Unbuttered popcorn. Kiwi. Soft lime. Lemon drizzled pancakes. Passion-fruit. Cake sponge. Lightly bitter.

Body: Iced tea. Kiwi. Slight teabags. Cake sponge. Moderate bitterness. Lightly peppery. Slight peach. Vanilla. Lime.

Finish: Good hop bitterness. Tannins. Lemony. Light charring. Apple. Good hop character. Lime. Kiwi. Peach.

Conclusion: I’m slightly split in my opinion of this one. It does a lot well, but there is one important point where I feel it is weaker than Big Drop’s Citra IPA and their Pale Ale. Weaker in character that is, they are all 0.5% abv for alcohol, natch.

The aroma is the best part – fresh and subtly layered. Lots of different fruit dancing around in there – you get a good range and a subtle hop character and bitterness working under it.

The bitterness grow in the main body, to become a decent kick by the time you get through to the finish. The fruit is never as complex as the aroma though. Instead of layers of juicy and fresh fruit notes you tend to get bursts of individual notes pushing through. There are still kiwi and lemon notes making the most distinct impression despite the growling bitterness.

The problem then is that it has that kind of iced tea and tannins notes which tend to show up in low alcohol beers, and especially early on they are much more present that in Big Drop’s other hoppy beers. I’m not sure why, but for all the quality hop work used here, it still shouts “low abv” more that most of Big Drop’s range.

It is still decent, good in fact – it is impressive in how it manages to balance the higher bitterness without needing the malt and higher abv to balance it – and it does show what you can do when you put more, and a wider range of, ingredients into a low abv beer.

It just needs a bit of tweaking – so close, just needs that touch more work to really shine.

Background: Second of Big Drop’s summer releases. This being more firmly in their area of strength being a hop led double dry hopped IPA. Looking at the can it is hopped with Azacca, Chinook, Mosaic and Motueka. Again had a few of these before doing the notes. Went with Rage Against The Machine’s self titled album as backing to drinking. Mainly as some people still don’t realise their songs are political apparently. So I need to keep pumping them out until people realise. Anyway, another beer from Independent Spirit.

Ardbeg: Blaaack: Committee 20th Anniversary (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Wet wood. Crushed red grapes. Salt. Black and red liquorice. Medicinal touch. Slight green grapes. Pencil shavings. Salty rocks. Slight charring. Brown sugar. Water adds oily peat notes and a touch of tar.

Body: Blueberry. Salt. Wet rocks. Warming alcohol. Cake sponge. Charring. Earthy wine character. Water adds caramel. Soot. Fig rolls. More blueberry. Some subtle cherries.

Finish: Smoke. Soot. Bitter chocolate dust. Plums. Earthy. Fig rolls. Water adds dust balls. Blueberry. Charring. More bitter chocolate and a medicinal touch.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m a known Ardbeg fan, and with that taken as fact, this is still, in fact, something special.

For one it is a good quality Ardbeg – peaty, sooty, heavy, lightly medicinal and slightly dry. The Pinot Noir ageing hasn’t overwhelmed or replaced any of the distinctive Ardbeg qualities. The alcohol is present but never intrusive, even taken without water.

Neat it has an interesting look at the Pinot Noir influence. There are some red grape notes, but it has a kind of earthy wine character that reminds me of the European takes rather than the fruitier NZ Pinot Noir that they used for ageing. It adds a fruity but heavy note to the dram.

Water brings out a completely different interpretation of the wine notes. It is sweeter, with blue fruit, figs and most notably blueberry. It is subtle in how it works – the front is all Ardbeg but it has these dark fruit rounding notes that just take it to another level.

Unlike some of the committee releases – one that I still adore – this really plays to traditional Ardbeg strengths and just enhances it. A bit deeper, a bit more rounded, but not such a surprise as , say, Drum was.

If you know Ardbeg, it is that, but earthier, sweeter and slightly smoother. Utterly amazing. I could talk more, but I would probably just end up repeating myself. Flaws? Well it isn’t as good as the XOP Ardbeg 1992, but what is? And this isn’t stupid money to buy.

Are you an Ardbeg fan? If you see it, try it if you can.

Background: Another year, another Committee release, and Ardbeg have gone with something very interesting for their 20th anniversary. Pinot Noir aged Ardbeg. Now they don’t say Pinot Noir finished, so I presume at least some of the whisky is completely aged in Pinor Noir casks, but I could be wrong. Also I didn’t managed to try the cask strength version to compare like I did with Ardbeg Drum a while back. A pity, would have been cool to compare. Anyway, I love Ardbeg – Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can recognise easily, so grabbing this from Independent Spirit was a certainty for me. Of note, the bottle is as black as its name – you have to hold it up to direct light and look carefully to be able to tell how much whisky you have left in there. A minor annoyance. Went with heavy music to back this – the hardcore punk of Gallows: Orchestra of Wolves.

Thin Man: Jar Of Green (USA: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to cloudy peach skin coloured main body. Massive yellow white loose bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Clean. Good fluffy hop feel and some hop bitterness. Peach. Pineapple. Vanilla custard.

Body: Thick. Oily bitterness. Greenery. Just below acrid level hop character. Soft charring. Brown bread. Heavy feeling. Smoke and sulphur.

Finish: Lots of greenery. Smoke. High hop bitterness. Sulphur. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, this does what it says on the tin. This is very green, be it in actual greenery notes, or smoke and sulphur notes. By smoke and sulphur notes, I am assuming from the name and nature of this beer that this is made with fresh, wet green hops, which gives it a vegetable character and those aforementioned sulphur characteristics. It makes it quite a brutal beer for drinking.

Oddly, on doing a google search I found this beer listed as a NEIPA multiple times, which led to me asking two questions. 1) How the fuck do I find a non NEIPA IPA these days? And 2) What does NEIPA even mean now? Does it just mean hazy? As it matches exactly zero other expected characteristics for a NEIPA for me. I’m enjoying it for one.

However, while I am enjoying it – it is very one note. The aroma possesses some fruit notes, yes, but that ain’t what you get once you start sipping. It is all heavy, dark, dank hops – all charring, greenery, smoke and bitterness all the time. As a burst of a beer I like it, but it could get old very fast.

The malt does try to show some sweetness, but it rarely comes up, instead showing itself mainly in the very thick mouthfeel.

Not one I would recommend as a general drinking beer, but it is an utter blunt burst of green hops. As I say, it does what it says on the tun.

I’m fairly sure you know from that if you will enjoy it or not.

Background: Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit’s new batch of USA beers from breweries I had not tried before. Another one that unexpectedly turned out to be hazy. There seriously needs to be a law that this stuff needs to be listed on the can! Ok not that seriously. Also I am fairly sure when it says pint it means tiny USA pint. I miss my extra 95ml. Anyway, went with The Germs: MIA The Complete Germs as backing music. Early smart punk which I have a soft spot for but hadn’t revisited for a while. Not much else to add. Too warm. Fuck Covid-19.

Big Drop: Kodama IPL (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened gold colour clear body. Very small bubbled carbonation. Medium sized crisp bubbled off white head.

Nose: Choc toffee. Choc lime. Lemongrass. Bubblegum. Lemon sherbet. Lightly prickly hops. Bourbon biscuits.

Body: Clean. Bourbon biscuits. Choc toffee. Lemongrass. Prickly hop character.

Finish: Lemongrass. Good hop character and bitterness. Choc toffee. Mild gherkin touch. Bubblegum. Bitterness grows over time. Fresh touch – slight grapefruit.

Conclusion: This is much more malt led than I expected from an IPL. There is lots of choc toffee notes that call to an East Cost IPA inspiration for this IPL. It isn’t thick in mouthfeel – actually quite clean textured and easy drinking in fact – until the hops come out to play at least.

The hops prickle – starting with low bitterness, but in the finish it keeps growing until it gives a decent punch whilst still allowing the main body to keep its easy drinking character.

The interesting this, for me at least as a fan of Sorachi Ace hops, is how those hops interplay with all this. (And there are also Nelson Sauvin hops, of which I am also a huge fan, but one thing at a time)

It gives those bubblegum and lemongrass filled notes that make this very different to to you usual low alcohol beer, lager or even IPL. I wonder if the more choc lime notes we get are the mix of the odd hop influence with the sweeter malt. Any which way it feels like an experiment in beer, rather than just an attempt to make a low alcohol version of an existing beer and that makes it very interesting indeed.

It’s prickly, kind of savoury with light freshness over that sweet base, and while you are trying to work out what each flavour actually is, that bitter finish comes it to make everything nice and simple in the end.

One of the better IPLs I’ve had, so as a low abv IPL it is great. The only flaw is an odd one for a low abv beer – the heavier malt flavour makes it less easy drinking over time, so it isn’t as sessionable as it could be.

Still, in general I love it.

Background: A summer release from the masters of the low abv beer – Big Drop! I’ve had a few of these already, but being low abv beers I tend to drink them so easily I never get around to do notes on them, so I made a distinct effort here to finally do some. This is an IPL made with Nelson Sauvin and Sorachi Ace hops – a combination of two of my favourite hops that need more show these days now they are no longer the new hotness. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with Heavens To Betsy: Calculated for background music. No real reason, was just in the mood.

Inbev Belgium Budweiser: Zero (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow brown clear body. A small off white head, and surprisingly low carbonation in the main body.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Sugar dusting. Vanilla. Soft lime. Caramel.

Body: Wet rocks. Charred note. Dry. Granite. Salt touch. Muggy. Off feeling bitterness. Some dry caramel.

Finish: Granite. Slight bitterness. Generally gritty. Gritty hop character. Wet air. Lime touch.

Conclusion: Ok, is this as bad as Tesco Value Lager? Notice I am not asking if it is good, that option flew a long time ago.

Actually, it did have one moment. One moment where it may have been something more. In the aroma, slightly muggy that it was, it did have a soft sweetness and lime touch that made me think this had the potential to be inoffensive.

High praise eh?

The body’s core is empty feeling, which, ya know, is Budweiser, but all around this are these rough granite, gritty notes. It feels like they made no attempt when brewing to compensate for the lack of malt backbone to offset the off notes and it just leaves everything dry and harsh.

There are vaguest hints that this could have been more – a touch of lime here, a whiff of caramel there, but in general it manages to be both offensively dull and empty and yet rough. If they had made it that bad deliberately that would have taken skill.

So is it worse than Tesco Value lager? Maybe, maybe not. Value Lager tastes worse, but does it in a more interesting way that I can tear into. This is crap in a very dull way. I’m not even enjoying insulting it that much.

Make of that what you will. Tesco Value is probably worse, yet I regret drinking this more.

This is the king of beers only in that I am an utter anti monarchist.

Background; Yep, Belgium. This was brewed in Belgium. Shocked me as well – we don’t even get the real USA piss water. We get the contract brewed version. I once drank standard Bud in New York. While not good, I remember it felt more easy drinking than the one we get here, but emptier in flavour. Though that was many a year ago. Wonder what differences there are here between this and the *ahem* real deal. Anyway, saw this is Co-op and thought “Fuck it, not done a beer I expect to be terrible for joke for a while, let’s give it a go, amuse the readers” So yes I went in with high expectations, honest, but seriously, I was willing to give it a chance – I have been surprised before by beers I expected to be terrible. Though I did put on Slipknot self titled album as backing music as I expected a need for rage and shouting, so I may have been tipping my hand there.

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