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And Union: Unfiltered Lager (Germany: Helles Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Moderate white head. Hazy. Some bits visible at the base of the beer. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Wheaty. Light cream. Bready hop bitterness to crusty white bread. Flour.

Body: Lemon. Crusty white bread. Clean hop character. Light hop oils. Lightly fresh, Soft lime. Soft kiwi. Light prickle to the mouthfeel. Vanilla ice cream. Moderate bitterness. Zesty.

Finish: Lightly creamy. Creamy kiwi. White bread hop feel. Light bitterness. Flour. Palma violets.

Conclusion:Lager really should be drunk unfiltered in my opinion. Pretty much always unfiltered, yep. Maybe a few exceptions, but generally unfiltered is the way to go. There. My cards are on the table. Now, with that said, we have a great example here – fresh, lemony, with a wonderful bit of extra mouthfeel over a filtered lager but without losing that very drinkable and thirst quenching character. The body has a crusty white bread weight and a similarly white bread kind of neutral backing character that lets the citrus notes float in a soft and refreshing ways.

For flaws, well it has very few – there is a flour touch to the texture that is a pleasant weight early on, but slightly wears thin by the end. Only slightly though. This is still a beer that stands up to repeated drinks.

This feels like what a lot of the heavily hopped lagers are trying to do and failing – It grains lovely soft citrus hop flavours, but keeps the more gentle hop bitterness along with than larger style mouthfeel all the way through. That lager character especially accentuated by the unfiltered nature.

There is a slight noticeable, noble hop feeling, oily and palma violet set of notes but they are a minor backing showing the more traditional side of its lager roots – the fresher notes are the mainstay.

So, not flawless, but still a hell of a good lager and a comparatively easy unfiltered lager to grab, which is a rarity for me. Well worth keeping a few to hand for easy drinking flavour whenever the mood takes you.

Background: This is one I’ve had a few times before – it came up in conversation when I mentioned how much better I found unfiltered lagers than their filtered siblings, and how they are so comparatively rare. It was pointed out that Waitrose had this in and it was well worth trying. So I did. This was drunk while listening to Television Villain’s new album, having been to the album launch gig a few days before. Now, I am biased as I know a couple of the band members but I think they have some proper great tunes there – Bevvy especially.


Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 25 (Scotland: Barley Wine: 13.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black-cherry red. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Treacle. Fudge. Vanilla. Toasted marshmallow. Liquorice all-sorts.

Body: Treacle. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toffee. Buttery notes. Charred meat ends to charcoal. Chalk touch. Black cherry. Brown sugar.

Finish:Liquorice all-sorts. Butter. Charred notes.

Conclusion: This is … very buttery, very buttery indeed. That is not such a good thing. There is a good base beer apart from that; Solid treacle notes, very smooth body that hides the alcohol and good toffee and vanilla from the bourbon barrel ageing. I mean I even enjoy the liquorice that they manage to use in moderation and have slight liquorice all sorts sweeter notes.

But…. yeah, as you go on that real thick buttery character just grows and grows. Now I don’t know if it from a brewing fault in the base beer, from the barrel ageing, a combination of both or what, but something just doesn’t click here. Generally butter notes are considered off notes in beer, but I have defended them from time to time where they seem to accentuate the high points of the beer they are in, but that doesn’t apply here – they are distinctly off notes.

Now, to look on the bright aside of the beer – it is very good at concealing its high alcohol – I’ve seen beers of roughly half the strength seem far rougher, and the smoothness doesn’t stop it playing with big flavours either, dodging another common flaw in aged beers where the smoothness comes with an associated lightness. This all grinds to a screeching halt sooner or later though as the buttery notes come out again. Now, maybe this is another beer where a bit of ageing may sort it out, but since they are selling it now, I expect it to be good now.

The buttery character is a greenery pocked, thick and fatty thing – so, I guess high quality for butter? But that doesn’t make it a better experience – it keeps hiding the better notes underneath it. Late on black cherry and similar dark fruit notes come out from under that shell, and it would have been nice to see more of them.

At a cheaper price this would be flawed but with a quality of the base against it that makes it worth investigating, At ten quid a pop this cannot be a worthwhile purchase I’m sorry to say. A potentially good beer stomped by its worse elements. So there we go.

Background: Another of Brewdog’s one off speciality beers – this one a Barley Wine that has spent 6 months on a bourbon barrel. That actually doesn’t sound that unusual. Ah well, they can’t all be super odd high concept brews. Let’s just hope it is really good to make up for it. Anyway, another one grabbed directly from their online store. Put on Ritualz –CDR for this. Not listened to it for a while and it is a really out there, moody electronic set of tracks that I felt the need to jump into again.

Lervig: Liquid Sex Robot (Norway: IIPA: 7.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot skin. Medium off white head. Cloudy.

Nose: Peaches and cream. Vanilla. Smooth hop character. Creamy lemon. Custard. Light grapes.

Body: Moderate hop oils. Light cream. Peach melba. Good hop character and bitterness. Light greenery. Apricot. Grapes. Kiwi.

Finish: Good hop character. Fluffy feel. Moderate bitterness. Slightly resinous. Some moss. Creamy. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Ok, this seems to be trying for the New England IPA cloudy style, the Dank IPA resinous and oily style, and the …erm… showy hop style, all in one. Ok, I kind of hit a brick wall on styles at the end there. Run with me on this one.

So, this is pretty creamy in that NEIPA style – it is fairly light on the resinous notes, but brings in a moderate amount of hop oils with it. It creates a creamy and sweet to bitter and oily war of character. The fruit flavours are secondary to that conflict, but they fit in pretty well. It is fairly standard in the flavours – mixing apricot and peach – though admittedly the peach leans into odder peach melba notes which is nice. All the flavours are backed by a mossy hop character and decent bitterness.

For all this beer pushes a range of different style influences, it ends up feeling fairly standard. Good admittedly, but standard. Solidly resinous, solidly bitter, solidly creamy and solidl…ok, moderately fruity. That last aspect may be what lets it down – the New England to … ahem … Dank balance is well done, but it means the fruit feels kind of basic. If they managed to tune that bit up this would be far more exciting.

So not one to avoid, not a must have – a solid take that dances amongst the IPA styles without polishing any element to perfection.

Background: Yes I just grabbed this one as it is called “Liquid Sex Robot”. I am childish. I also did like how the human being on the robot is pretty much gender neutral – a nice touch on an intrinsically sexual image which helps stop it feeling sexist. Anyway, big double IPA made with Mosaic, Citra, Azacca and Ekuano hops. It was getting a tad windy outside as I broke this open so I snuggled up in a blanket and put on some of the 11th Doctor’s Doctor Who music in the background. Spoiling myself rotten that is. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Founders: Green Zebra (USA: Gose: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Slightly dark lemon juice. Some carbonation. Large fluffy white head.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Distinct watermelon.

Body: Golden syrup. Vanilla. Watermelon. Cane sugar. Grapes. Honey. Apples. Salt. Shortbread.

Finish: Golden syrup. Watermelon. Salt and vinegar crisps. Honey. Apples. Crapes. Lime cordial.

Conclusion: This is possibly the sweetest gose I have ever had. It eschews the harshly salty and tart recent craft takes on the style, even goes past the light sweetness of the Goslar breweries’ take in the style, and instead goes into a full on honey beer thing that tastes more like a watermelon mead than anything else.

Now the salt notes come out softly later, so it isn’t abandoning the gose side – but what really sells this beer is the watermelon. I was imaging this would be fresh watermelon over a tart gose- instead I’m getting sweet watermelon doused in syrup and honey. It is a simple joy. It is shockingly sweet for a sub 5% abv beer – I don’t know how the heck they manages that without a higher malt load, then they use an impressively detailed set of watermelon notes, along with apples, grapes and other green fruit to add contrast and complexity to the beer.

The most gose like element is the slightly drier and saltier finish, but even that is fair honey dominated. Time allows you to get used to the sweetness, and then the watermelon and the rest of the fruit can really rock – in fact, at this point I kind of dig it.

Now – this is a simple sweet crowd pleaser of a beer and far from what you would expect from a gose, but frankly I enjoy it. Go in to it with the right expectations (i.e. not expecting heavy tartness or saltiness) and this does the watermelon thing in a really fun fashion. It it a classic? No. Is it a joy to drink? yes. And some days that is all you want.

Background: I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, a watermelon gose just sounded off enough to be fun. Unfortunately other beers kept jumping ahead in the queue. But now, finally I have it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Goses are now far from the nearly dead style they once were – slightly salted wheat beers that vary massively in level of tartness, sweetness and saltiness in the expressions I have encountered. This was drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album again – it is just so damn joyous.

Uiltje: Mind The Gap (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 19.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin grey-brown head.

Nose: Boozy. Orange with orange dried fruit sugars. Treacle. Fudge. Thick. Crumpets. Strong alcohol. Marshmallows.

Body: Very thick. Oily thickness. Treacle. Sugared orange jelly sweets. Thick chocolate fondue and bitter black chocolate. Nut oils. Walnut.

Finish: Oily. Creamy. Light charring. Bitter chocolate. Strong alcohol. Tarry. Walnut. Maple syrup. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Fuck me this is a heavy beer. Oily, thick and tarry. I don’t think I have run into a beer with a mouthfeel this heavy since … well… ever. So, as you may have guessed, the alcohol is strong in this one. It took me a while to discern notes in the aroma as I had to get used to the low level, just straight up boozy character it had. Similarly, in the finish there just floats a rough raw spirit feel over everything else in there.

Now there are also some equally huge, but good quality, flavours in there -a serious level of creamy and bitter chocolate comes out. Also there is what seems to be its main selling point, which is a really big, sugary jelly fruit sweets kind of style. There is a good beer in there, just a beer that should be about 10% lower abv than it actually is.

I mean that thickness is unique, and interesting, – but as a trade off for that you get real rough spirity booze into dry charring notes in the finish that seriously hurt the beer. Now, this isn’t shit – it isn’t, say, Start The Future level rough as a badger’s arse bad, but with the exception of that ultra tarry thickness, there is nothing here that you could not find in an easier to drink and cheaper imperial stout.

So, now to be nice for a moment. It does have lovely calls to crumpets and marshmallows in the aroma which are very appealing. It has good savoury nut notes under the orange sweetness which is a much needed balancing element. Finally, considering the abv, the alcohol is only very present, not utterly brutalising, which is, well, something.

I still cannot recommend it – a good idea ruined by a too heavy abv.

Background: Ok, well, Yeah I grabbed this one because it looked ridiculous. 19.8 bloody percent and 330 ml. That is just taking the wank. Also it is made with ..deep breath …. rye, oranges, coffee and maple syrup. Because of course. Also, this is from the Netherlands – so why is it themed after the London tube? Or at least seems to be. I know nothing of Netherlands public transport. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Napalm Death – Scum. It seemed one of the few albums big enough to cope with a nearly 20%s abv beer.

Burnt Mill: Fieldwork: Dank Mode (England: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Gold to apricot. Large, slight brown to yellow touched head.

Nose: Light smoke and hop oils. Light dust. Slight granite. Soft lemon.

Body: Apricot. Heavy oily hops. Sour grapes. Granite bitterness. Soft lemon. Floral.

Finish: Greenery. Granite bitterness. Oily hops. Floral air. Dried apricot. Fluffy feel. Dusty. Resinous.

Conclusion: This is another Burnt Mill beer that shows skill in making, but also really doesn’t grab me. It does have more that appeals to me than my last experience with them though. By which I mean it has oily hops. It was in the name so it was hardly a surprise.

The base behind the oily hops is fairly dry and seems to bring with it somewhat musty, granite and dusty interpretation of the style. When the oil is up that isn’t a problem – you get enough sticky, resinous bitterness to hide it, and mix of grape and apricot fruitiness that clings to your tongue and reward you. However when that hop element goes light then the rougher, drier elements are enough to leave your mouth feeling a tad overly dry and dessicated.

So, it is a beer of ups and downs..oh and oddly floral and greenery touched -which seems to be a Burnt Mill house style based on the whopping two beers of theirs I have drunk.

So, outside of the two main poles of the dry character and the oily hops there isn’t actually a huge amount to shout about. There is some fruit, some greenery, some floral character, but it doesn’t feel like a that well defined experience – showing only the more obvious notes.

Oddly, what with “dank” being cannabis slang, this pushes its greenery in a way that can be best described as what a non cannabis user thinks cannabis feels like. Very green, very oily, very full of the imagery I get when I am around people smoking it. It is interesting, and ok, but doesn’t really sell the beer in that element.

Basically, I figure Burnt Mill, for all their rep, are not for me.

Background: I wasn’t too impressed with my first encounter with Burnt Mill, but since they a good reputation I decided to give them another shot – This, calling to Sticky and oily “Dank” hops in its name, and showcasing the awesome Mosaic and Enigma hops seemed like a good one to go to to give them another chance. If they can’t land this one then I just have to accept they are not for me. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. For some dank heavy beer I put on Godspeed You! Black Emperors’ wonderful and moody “’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” as a background.

Oakham: Inferno (England: Golden Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale and light yellow. Clear. Still. Small white head.

Nose: Thick, muggy passion fruit. Vanilla hop character. Doughnut. Pineapple.

Body: Grapes. Moderate bitterness. Soft golden syrup and vanilla. Soft kiwi. Good hop character and prickle. Soft fudge. Light strawberry. Soft lemon.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop oils. Pineapple. Good hop character. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: Ah, Oakham, the experts of getting the best bits of traditional British ales and matching them with the craft hop style with subtle mastery. Always good to see these beers again.

This has the traditional, kind of Real Ale in a bottle feeling base (of note, it doesn’t say on the bottle that it is real ale, best I can see, it just has that feel). It has a nice thickness and slight call to, but not heavy, sulphur touched weight – hope that makes sense. It hints at the characteristic rather than having overt flavours. Behind that the base is soft vanilla and lemon notes, with occasional stronger but not overly heavy golden syrup notes.

The front is taken by excellent hop usage- tart grapes and pineapple – used in moderation for a balanced, flavoursome but easy to drink beer. The flavours are clean as can be – adding freshness, but holding back from being a full on hop assault.

Big juicy flavour over well set golden ale base, dry enough to be drinkable, juicy flavoured with just slight oily hope bitterness. At a touch lower abv that would be an utterly awesome session beer – as is it is a solid one to have one or two of with mates, or at pretty much any drinking occasion.

Excellent work again form Oakham.

Background: Oakham! How long has it been since I went back to Oakham? These lot balance the real ale and craft tricks perfectly – used to love finding them on cask at random pubs. Anyway, Tony, in his great taste, gave this as the final of his birthday presents for me. Much appreciate mate. Went with Nightwish – Dark passion Play again for this one – been really enjoying them since my mate Andy introduced me to them.

Brewdog: Native Sun (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Moderate sized off white head.

Nose: Peach, kumquat and musty hops. Thick feeling aroma. Resinous. Dried apricot. Light tart pineapple. Flour.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Oily hops. Moderate bitterness. Kiwi. Apricot. Mandarin orange. Greenery. Apples. Peach. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy lemon. Good hop character and bitterness. Creamy lime. Mandarin orange. Popcorn. Greenery. Dry. Ashes.

Conclusion: What we have here is another example for the fact that you can actually have heavily hopped beers too fresh. I had a can of this when it first arrived and, back then, it felt rough and kind of dull. Now, a few weeks later, I break it open to do notes, and I find something much more pleasant.

It still has solid, prickly and musty bitterness with a rough ash tasting hop character on the way out – but now it also lets the fruit really play in the mid body. When it bursts with fruit it pushes out peach, Mandarin orange and lemon – it is dry based, but just slightly creamy in the fruit flavours.

Now it still isn’t perfect. For example, you may have seen the words “rough ash tasting” earlier and thought “Now, that doesn’t sound pleasant”. And you would be right. It isn’t. The finish still goes into rough and charred notes making the oily bitter character now feel burnt. When the rest of the beer is playing well it isn’t ruinous, but when there is a lull it comes out and is an unfortunate end to each sip.

It is a pity as the dry body that keeps out of the way and lets a mix of fruit and oily bitterness do the job is moreish – but those last moments stomp over that. Nearly very good, but not. Considering how much it has improved in the last two odd weeks I do wonder if it will become a proper working beer with a few more. However, let’s face it – the beer should work now. Good front, but unpleasant end – close, but not quite good.

Background: This would normally go in the IPA glass, but I, erm broke that – so I wondered how it would work in the wheat glass. Didn’t really suit it visually but worked ok. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This is their new west coast style IPA – big fan of a good west coast so thought I’d give it a try/. Grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store, and drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album – You Are Not Alone. For a guy who loves partying so much it is a pretty heartfelt album – cheesy but I won’t claim not to enjoy the hell out of it. It is just crazy fun and feel good.

Siren: Fred In London (England: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Thin yellowed head. A small amount of small bubbled carbonation. Some suds left by the head.

Nose: Golden syrup and brown sugar. Brown bread. Crushed hard sweets. Dried apricot. Fresh dough.

Body: Fresh bread. Sulphur smoke touch. Brown sugar. Raspberry hard sweets. Dried apricot. Golden syrup. Oily hop bitterness. Brown bread. Honey.

Finish: Golden syrup to treacle. Earthy bitterness. Sour cream note. Oily hop character. Kiwi. Nutty

Conclusion: There are three explanations I can think of my my views on, and reactions to this beer compared to Hair Of The Dog’s original. 1) My previous experiences with Hair of The Dog’s Fred have been with aged examples due to how long it took me to get and drink them, while this is a relatively fresh beer. 2) My memory has exaggerated how great that beer was compared to my experience now. 3) This beer is, in fact, not as good as Hair Of The Dog: Fred.

This is very golden syrup and brown sugar sweet. Very much using the malt needed for the high abv to make it a sugar shock of a hit. By comparison the hop character seems a lot simpler – giving slight kiwi and dried apricot notes, then an odd British real ale feeling touch of sulfur smoke and light earthy hop notes in the finish.

So, based on an ever fallible memory, this is not as good as the Hair Of The God classic. So, does it hold up as a beer in itself instead then?

Well, it has simple, but joy bringing notes. Big golden syrup, big brown sugar and hop oils, wth light but oily bitterness. The smoke, small as it is, adds extra depth – but for all that it feels like a middle of the road barley wine.

In the good news, it does hide the alcohol well. There is a hint in the flavor, but no burn with that – very smooth overall without going so far as to make it seem not beer like – however it seems fairly standard rather than a stand out experience.

Unless my memory is lying to me this is not a patch on the original Fred. Ok, but not up to its heritage.

Background: I freaking love Hair Of The Dog beers, and Fred is one of the first few I ever tried of them. Siren have had a good run with remaking other peoples’ beers in collaboration – most notably their take on Even More Jesus – so when I heard they were doing a collaborative remake of Fred, I decided it was a must grab. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s online store and drunk while listening to Akala: Knowledge Is Power – Vol 2. Still blows me away how good Akala is.

Northern Monk: Glory: Triple IPA (England: IIPA: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apricot. Huge yellow white head.

Nose: Big hops. Solid bitterness. Slight granite. Lightly floral. Light gherkin. Oily hops. Apricot.

Body: Peach syrup. Oily hops. Good bitterness. Crushed Blackpool rock. Custard slices. Slight rock character. Pineapple. Smoke. Prickly hops. Gherkin. Kiwi. Apples. Greenery. Apricot.

Finish: Crushed raspberry hard sweets. Hop oils. Gherkin. Custard. Kiwi. Dried apricot. Peat.

Conclusion: This a thick and oily (Triple? Double? However many 10.5% really is) IPA. The malt character is thick with lots of mouthfeel heaviness and with that some custard sweetness. However, unusually for a 10% and up IPA, for roughly half the time the sweetness is actually beaten into the background.

The front flavours are the oily hops and bitterness – showing greenery and very … damnit I have to use the term… very dank as they say. That oily hop character is the dominant element – almost smokey, oily heavy hops. It can be almost peaty at times, though not as intense in that aspect – it is in feel as much as flavour in a lot of ways.

There is sweetness though – dried fruit and peach syrup which either hits on the front, or comes out again if the beer is held. The malt even brings out some big, intensely sweet Blackpool rock like notes at time – however often these notes will slip back down leaving the hop oil character to take precedent.

Over time there are releasing moments from the oily hops – you get green fruit – kiwi, apple mixed with pineapple and apricot, though still matched by greenery hop notes. For such a big beer this feels like most of what it gets from the malt is feel not flavour.

This is intense, swinging between the two poles of dark and fruity. The only real flaw is that it never reaches a nice balance between the two, instead showcasing one or the other at a time. If you are happy with swinging, intense flavour then this is lovely stuff.

Background: OK, I love IPAs,but the term triple IPA always confused me – this is just over 10%, is a standard IPA meant to be under 4% then? Naming conventions, huh? Anyway, Northern Monk has been a good go to, so this seemed like a nice chance to try a big beer and have a fair chance of it working out well. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while chatting with friends on Skype.

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