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Firestone Walker DBA

Firestone Walker: DBA (USA: ESB: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown. Thin small bubbled browned head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Fruitcake and Madeira. Shortbread. Whipped cream. Slight chalk. Gingerbread,

Body: Lightly chalky. Fruitcake and cherries. Shortbread. Dates. Lemon cakes. Cream. Sour dough.

Finish: Almonds. Fruitcake. Mild liquorice. Chalky. Slight sour cream. Bitter. Raisins and sultanas. Mild prunes.

Conclusion: Hmm, this tastes like a drier take on Fuller’s ESB – it has that full on fruitcake character but with a dry body that reminds me of the attenuation level on your average APA (Albeit that is pretty much the only similarity to an APA). That dryness comes with a slight matching chalkiness – the two elements combine to make the beer more easy drinking, but also trades that off to make the flavours feel slightly more muted. Overall not a bad thing, but just a different thing.

Flavour wise it digs a bit deeper for the notes than your average fruitcake, sultanas and cherries – there are more dates and occasional slight prune notes in the finish, against slightly muted but it works well to give a distinct character to the beer. There are also lightly creamy hints of wine and spirit notes that I am sure would come out at higher abv, but here are little teases that don’t expand out. Still interesting though.

I’d say I actually prefer the Fuller’s ESB – the more robust character leans towards my preference for the style – however this is very enjoyable, and even ever so slightly muted it is still packed with dark fruit.

Nothing really pushes it to the top leagues, there is nothing unexpected or super polished, however as a general drinking dark beer this is very well done. One for a general drinking quality beer session.

Background: Huh, looks like Firestone Walker is part of the Duvel Moorgat group now. That one had gone under my radar. Never mind, as long as the beers are good and they don’t do any horrid immoral act I’m fine with that. Anyway, had to a quick double check before doing notes on this one – it is “Double Barrel Ale” and I remember doing something with a similar name. Turns out that was Double DBA, or Double Double Barrel Ale, because that naming convention makes sense. Anyway drunk while listening to an English language cover of the “One Punch Man” theme, now I just need the anime to get a UK release.

Moor Benny Havens Scotch Whisky Barrel Aged

Moor: Benny Havens: Scotch Whisky Barrel Aged (England: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Deep bruised apricot skin. Coffee froth beige head. Much creamier and larger head on second pour.

Nose: Apples. Pepper and ritz crackers. Gooseberry and grape skin. Brown bread. Dried apricot. Blended whisky. Musky. Very milky coffee. Paprika.

Body: Golden syrup. Cloves and pepper. Aniseed. Pear drops. Fairly smooth texture but spicy. Apricot. Cinnamon. Brown bread. Lightly spirity. Toffee. Blended whisky. Apples. Caramel.

Finish: Light charring. Milky chocolate. Aniseed. Mulled wine. Light gin. Toffee. Greenery. Smoke. Apple. Honey. Hop oils. Dried banana.

Conclusion: Bit of a mixed up wee beast this one. Can’t say I disapprove. This leans towards the good side of disorganised, but because of that it does lack a lot of polish.

So, let us rewind a few moments and let’s try to break this down. Note one is that this is spicy – a fact that I would, at a guess, put at least part as whisky influence, but it is hard to say – depending on the region the whisky is from, a barley wine can push a lot of similar notes to a whisky. This feels half way between a Highland whisky and a European peppery noble hopped beer. I am going out on a limb by saying that as I have no idea if either were used to make this -it is just the flavour impression it leaves. The whisky feels a tad spirity in a blended whisky way, but that could just be the already high abv of the beer.

At the base, under all that, is a heavy honey to golden syrup barley wine – a tad rough but with a smooth mouthfeel. Around the edges you get fruitiness, from apricot to gooseberry, rounding notes and most probably the most subtle part, especially compared to the whisky, hop oil and spice punch. Late on a large apple character does grow out of it though to surprising prominence.

So, yeah, a mix of barely related notes – it isn’t one I’d recommend as high art, but there is something to its eclectic mix that I enjoy. So, not polished, nor near the high end of the barley wine style, but it definitely has charms. Decide from the notes if you think that means it will be one for you.

Background: Been far too long since Moor have graced these pages, so here it is, grabbed from Independent Spirit (I promise drinks form another source will turn up soon!). This is scotch whisky barrel aged – I am unsure if all Benny Havens is barrel aged or not, so I listed it in the name – if anyone knows please comment and let me know. Drunk while listening to a bit of a mash up – Erock’s excellent Mad Word meets metal and Rise Against’s Help Is On The Way being the stand outs. I seriously love the song Mad World – one saw a busker doing it on the London Underground and hung around for the entire song. I may have been mildly drunk at the time, but it was still cool.

The Kernel London Sour Raspberry
The Kernel: London Sour: Raspberry (England: Berliner Weisse: 2.9% ABV)

Visual: Beautiful deep hazy strawberry red. Red fizzing head that vanishes quickly. Good level of carbonation in the body.

Nose: Tart raspberry. Light acidic apple. Strawberry yogurt. Twigs. Lemon sherbet.

Body: Sparkling and dry. Dry raspberry. Bitter middle. Tonic water. Light strawberry. White wine. Lemon.

Finish: Dry white wine. Dry raspberry. Tonic water. Lemon slices. Sulphur. Light salt. Mild apple cider.

Conclusion: I’ve given this time to warm up, lest it be the chill that is affecting it, but no, this still tastes kind of empty in the middle.

Good start, eh?

The aroma is great, with softly done acidic and tart fruit – a grace that matches the beauty of the deep red body. That body, when sipped, is like dry white wine with subtle fruit floating within.

Now it actually is sounding really good, right?

It really plies the dryness, tingling in the mouth and giving a clean teeth feel as the acidity strips them down. It has the mouthfeel just right. Problem is that the wine like notes are a backdrop, and the fruit burst is too short and it leaves you with just a middle that feels like tonic water with a slice of lemon in it. Just slightly murky, slightly sharp, but not doing too much in there. When the raspberry is rising it does the job nicely, but that experience is too intermittent to be relied on.

The finish especially ends up feeling just like tonic water,and feeling that way for so very long – normally a long finish is a good thing, but you need positive notes to last out with. The fruit needs more presence, or the base to have more character, or something.

The best bit is probably the start of each sip, when the fruit hits clear and refreshingly – everything after that is downhill. I seem to be going against the trend of opinion on this one it seems – I don’t think it works too well. The end feels slightly salty, like a gose, but without all the character that a gose brings to match that.

To be fair to the beer I did then try it with cheesecake, and the contrast does help, making the lighter notes more evident, but overall I would say avoid; The rest of the internet says they love it. So, take your pick and take your chance I guess.

Background: Apparently this was very popular when it was on tap at Collona and Hunter, me, I just grabbed it at Independent Spirit as I had never tried a sour from The Kernel and wondered how they would do. The Kernel are a solid brewery that I tend to turn to more on tap than in bottles. I am not as big fan of them as many, preferring Wiper and True who I refer to as “The Kernel of west country”, but still a good brewery. According to rate beer this is in their top 50 Berliner Weisses. Huh. Drunk while listening to a random mix of tunes for general chilling.

Hawkshead Wild Beer Oat Wine Cider Brandy Barrel Aged

Hawkshead: Wild Beer: Oat Wine: Cider Brandy Barrel Aged (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Deep hazy dried apricot darkened body. Moderate dark brown bubbled head.

Nose: Oily and apples. Hop oils. Stewed apricot. Alpen – with raisins and sultanas emphasised. Dried banana. Raspberry tart notes. Syrupy.

Body: Raspberry. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Apple syrup. Vanilla custard. Hop oils and accompanied bitterness. Alpen. Peach.

Finish: Apple syrup and hop oils. Malt chocolate and fudge. Dry oats. Vanilla and vanilla pods. Raisins. Spicy rum. Greenery bitterness.

Conclusion: Oat Wine! Apple filled oat wine! Now, the original Oat Wine collaboration didn’t really grab me. This is similar, but the cider brandy ageing has had an interesting effect.

That base muesli style and those apricot fruit notes, are still there. In fact the pre hop styling greenery bitterness is kind of still there as well, but leaning towards a more hop oil evident character here.

What is added is a sweet syrupy character, very apple flavoured – though very artificial tasting due to the sweetness. It made me think of apple ice cream syrup, if there is such a thing. I have never encountered it, but if it does exist I would imagine it tastes like this.

Does the beer work? Hmm. Well, while artificial feeling, the sweetness of the apple adds a strong note that does help the beer early on. It adds an easily identifiable element at a point where the base beer was struggling to find itself – this strong character added to the Alpen like base does help sooth some of the flaws.

Later however it does become kind of wearing – the bitterness and oats mix in a slightly leaden fashion. However, overall I will say it is a slight improvement. It still feels like it doesn’t really do enough to leverage the strength of the oat style, but the early,bright, moments are pleasant.

Still weak, but less weak than before. At 9% abv kind of ironic, no?

Background: Not an auspicious start for this one. I had grabbed it at the same time as the standard Oat Wine, a beer which didn’t really impress me. Then I was warned by one commenter to avoid the Cider Brandy barrel aged version. Which I already had. Fuck. Ah well, I oft go against common consensus on beers so let’s give it a go anyway. Drank while listening to New Model Army: Thunder and Consolation. NMA are such a great band.

Cloudwater DIPA V3

Cloudwater: DIPA V3 (England: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy apricot coloured body. High carbonation. A centimetre of apricot to brown touched head that quickly leaves sud rings.

Nose: Kumquat. Slight egg. Quite musty. Sour gherkin. Lime. Apple.

Body: Lime and kiwi. Sour grapes. Sour dough. Lime sour sweets. Pineapple. Grapefruit chunks. Slightly funky cheese notes. Custard. Slightly acidic. Melon. Apricot and peach.

Finish: Sour white grapes. Lemon sherbet. Kiwi. Apple. Sour dough. Haribo sours. Cheese. Acidic cider. Pepper. Peach.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve just had to google Vemont yeast half way through doing the notes, just to check that it was not a brett variant, or acid malt, or some other weird thing. But, no, my initial thoughts were confirmed, it is in fact just a specifically DIPA aimed yeast. So why does this test Bretted as fuck? Or Bretted as funk if you want a poor pun.

The unusual character meant that it took a while for me to try and work out what the beer was trying to be – and, partially because of that, initial impressions were terrible. The beer’s aroma felt closed with sour gherkin, eggs and acidic notes. The body helped a bit with tart fruit, but the mix of light acidic notes and attenuated style did make me wonder if it had a light yeast infection. After a while I concluded that the acidic, feeling brett touched, style seemed to be intentional, so lets look at it as that.

It is unusual – not really bitter, more acidic and funky with sour dough and yeast characteristics – it reminds me very much of Wild Beer’s Evolver and Brett Brett beers. This becomes fruitier and sweeter over time, much more pleasant, but still interrupted by sour stabs that make the beer feel off.

The funk character of it can be fun, the fruit range is very good, but that base character just keeps intruding – too dry and acidic, and not in a way that complements the beer. There is a lot of good in this beer, but those notes initially up front end up hanging around in the background dragging it down.

Lots of good high points utterly let down by a few flaws in the base character.

Background: Not tried any Cloudwater before this, another brewery with a good reputation. We have a seriously well growing beer scene in the UK at the moment and it is awesome. Anyway, grabbed this at Independent Spirit. Again. Thought I would go for the Double IPA as the heavy hop stuff is always a good start for me. Drank this quite late at night, with music on random.

De Molen Hemel & Aarde

De Molen: Hemel & Aarde (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate brownish creamy head.

Nose: Iodine. Peat bogs. Smoked kippers. Seaweed. Blue cheese. Beef broth.

Body: Smooth textured body. Iodine. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Caramel. Beefy – soft and falling apart beef chunks. Milky coffee. Cane sugar. Smoke. Light blue cheese comes out late on.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Iodine and salt. Coffee. Charred oak. Smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, first things first – this is not as good as the legendary Octomore Barred Aged version of this. How could it be, that thing was liquid heaven; I seriously wish I had done tasting notes on it. This, unfortunately does not manage to quite scale those heights.

The aroma does come close though – big, chewy with blue cheese, seaweed and peat. Beefy, yet medicinal, it is an absolute luxury of big, strong flavours – albeit ones that are learned pleasures – everything is challenging and all mashed up in an aromatic meal.

The body doesn’t quite match that – it still kicks the iodine out, backed by caramel sweetness – still a mix of sweet, bitter and beefy notes, but not overly well integrated. This is where the Octomore barrel ageing in the other version took it to the next level – it took each of these strong elements and mixed it into a coherent whole. Here it is still a mix of big flavours, but you get either the strong medicinal, or the strong sweetness but rarely both at once.

It still has a lot of punch – smoke, cane sugar, coffee – Unfortunately the blue cheese takes a very long time to turn up in the mid body, which is a missed opportunity I feel. I love a good blue cheese filled strong beer. Filled with flavour, not literally blue cheese, of course. Anyway, this is utterly unbalanced – in can be sickly sweet at one moment then drying medicinal the next. I love the flavours it uses but it is very far from polished.

As you have probably worked out already, the octomore aged version rocks on toast. This one is an interesting, but not coherent, experience.

Background: I have tried this beer before! Well, not this exact beer, the octomore barrel aged version. It was heavenly (no pun intended, as the beer name translates as “Heaven and Earth”), an absolute legend of a beer. Unfortunately I did not have my review kit to hand, so now, I try this, the standard version grabbed from Independent Spirit. This imperial stout is made with the most heavily peated malt from the Bruichladdich distillery, so is right up my alley. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force – originally on their youtube channel, but have since bought my own copy of it as I enjoyed it.

House Of Commons 12 Year

House Of Commons: 12 Year (Scottish Blended Whisky: 12 year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold.

Viscosity: Thin fast streaks.

Nose: Cinnamon and cinder toffee. Chalk dust. Oak. Water adds honey and a slight eggy sulphur note.

Body: Smooth. Toffee. Black liquorice. Dry rice. Slightly rough edged. Quite oaken. Cinnamon. Water adds more toffee and cinder toffee.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Steamed rice. Dry. Slight oak. Water adds cinnamon and cinder toffee. Treacle. Stir fry.

Conclusion: I had a measure of this on the night it was given to me, and it was a tad rough and seemed poor quality. However, over the years I have found that a bottle of whisky may take a few days of breathing after breaking a bottle open to settle. So, now, I take another measure for doing notes on.

So, still a tad rough edged. That fiery like note that I associate with cheaper blends is there, but generally the whisky seems to have settled down somewhat. It is basally a sweet toffee and cinnamon whisky. Not bad on the base, especially with the nice cinder toffee notes but still with a few off rough edges. A lot of the rough off notes are familiar to whisky veterans – dry rice, stir fry – not notes that are automatically bad, Nearly everything has a place somewhere, but generally not a good sign. Here? Not a good element.

It actually is a whisky that does better without water – the alcohol touch is stronger, but the sweetness is stronger too so the off notes are less evident.

It is not the worst whisky I have had, but it does show the cut corners quite obviously. There is a decent base, but with too much rough character for me to recommend.

Let us say it is a sub-optimal whisky.

Background: So, many thanks to Paul from work for this. He won it back in the mid 80s in a raffle, but he isn’t a whisky fan, so kept hold of it until now, when he gave to to me for doing notes on. Not much info on this from google – looks like it is discontinued these days, but according to the label is whisky bottled, shocking, for the house of commons – probably for sale as a gift shop style thing I would guess, but who knows maybe everyone in the house of commons in the 80s drank this. Would explain a lot of the shit that went on in the 80s. Anyway, put my music on random, poured a dram and saw how it went.

Wild Beer Co Sleeping Lemons Export

Wild Beer Co: Sleeping Lemons Export (England: Gose: 6% ABV)

Visual: Clear apple juice with short lived white fizzy head.

Nose: Cider apples. Salted lemon. Musky grapes. Vinegar touch. Sweaty socks. Slightly sharp. Jiff lemon.

Body: Tart lemon. Mild golden syrup. Salty. Pocari sweat drink. Chalk touch. Tart apples. Light brown bread. Caramelised brown sugar. Lime notes.

Finish: Lemon juice. Strawberries. Salt. Vanilla. Pocari sweat. Tart apples. Light chilli warmth.

Conclusion: Looks like Sleeping Lemons just needed a bit more weight to make it work. Which may note have been the opening line you expected from a tasting note with the words “Sweaty socks” in it. Don’t worry, that is a very mild note, and in it’s place is pretty inoffensive. Really.

Anyway, with the extra strength the lemon now really comes across. First like sharp lemons, then like dried salted lemons, then a mix of both. It has a bigger sweet body that the original as well – the tart character is the the main part – front and centre, but now it doesn’t feel light behind. It has something to push forwards when the citrus fades.

I think, by my poor memory, the hibernating lemons keg version was slightly better – probably the slight extra keg carbonation actually helped there – it made it feel like a fresher and more lovely drink. One of the flaws here is that it feels slightly still so it doesn’t liven up the mouth as you would expect. Therefore over time it can become a tad heavy on the tongue.

However, despite that, In general this is a big improvement. The traditional Wild Beer apple character meets a beefed up lime gose with hints of the Japanese Pocari Sweat energy drink in there as well, because of course!

Not perfect, but a big improvement.

Background: I am fairly sure this is the same as, or very similar to, “Hibernating Lemons” which I ran into on keg a while back and very much enjoyed. They have the same abv and are both beefed up versions of Sleeping Lemons. Sleeping Lemons didn’t do much for me, so I was surprised by how much I liked Hibernating Lemons, so when I grabbed this from Independent Spirit I hoped it was as good. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force. Very strange mathcore and electronic mash up music. Very fun.

Magic Rock Un-Human Cannonball

Magic Rock: Un-Human Cannonball (England: IIPA: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep hazy yellow over ripe banana to bruised peach. Thin white bubbled head and some carbonation.

Nose: Mango. Dry. Dried apricot. Dried banana.

Body: Hugely juicy, yet with dry undertones. Banana. Lychee. Peach in syrup. Hop oils. Thick. Low level hop oil bitterness. Toffee.

Finish: Very full of lychee. Resinous. Peach. Key lime. Tart white grapes. Pineapple. Hop oil bitterness slowly builds. Very long lasting.

Conclusion: Wow, the aroma on this in no way hints at how booming it is going to be. The aroma is quite muted, with some dry fruit – not bad, but very restrained. There is no hop bitterness or even, in general, any hop feel, just subtle fruitiness.

Then you take the first sip and – boom! There is still no real bitterness, or much traditional hop character, but the fruit level just explodes. At this point there isn’t even much evident from the malt base, just a slight hint of a drier character under the massive amount of fruit, but that is about it.

However, the fruit, wow. Lychee, lots of lychee. Peach. Key lime. Sweet syrup and tart notes mixing in delicious ways – the sweeter mid body leading out into the tarter notes that last long into the finish. And oh does that finish last, I can take an age between sips and still those fruit juice notes cling.

Warmth does let a slight toffee base show itself, but it isn’t really the thing this beer is about. The body feels attenuated just enough to let it slip out of the way, but still have just enough base to really let the fruity hops explode. The more traditional character builds up over time and it both gives the body a bit more grip and makes the finish last even longer – it builds up more in a hop oil fashion than a crisp hop character, and gives an oily bitter character.

With the thickness of texture and flavour it often feels like a stewed fruit IPA, yet it still has that aforementioned dryness, especially in the finish, so it doesn’t get sickly and cloying.

Frankly an excellent IPA – juicy yet dry backed – well made with big flavours without needed to be a bitter hop bomb. Excellent and distinctive. I am always nervous approaching massively hyped beers like this, as you can find an average beer buoyed up by its rep, or a good beer that feels like a let down compared to its reputation. This, however, is great and well worth trying to find.

Background: I nearly didn’t get to try this. I missed out on a chance to sample it last year, and this year the shops sold out before I could grab a bottle. Thankfully someone mentioned that Colonna and Hunter had it on tap. So I grabbed my review kit and ran over to grab it. Apparently the most expensive beer C&H have had on, and they had special 1/6th glasses for it. I went for a half, because if you have the chance, you might as well. I don’t do many “In the field” tasting notes these days, when I am out with friends I try to be more social, as the more extended notes I do these days take a while to do. This, however, was a special occasion.

unhuman cannonball notes

Wemyss Spice King 12 Year
Wemyss: Spice King 12 Year (Scottish Blended Malt: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Medium speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Honey and menthol. Greenery. Vegetable samosas. Danish pastry. Water adds heather notes.

Body: Very smooth. Honey. Alcohol touched body. Oak. Turmeric. Water makes much bigger honey and less alcohol. Vegetable samosas. Curry paste. Cinnamon.

Finish: Paprika and honey. Dry oak. Alcohol drying feel. Water adds green peppers.

Conclusion: Honey and lightly spiced vegetable samosas is what is coming to mind here. Not something I expected going in, but I am getting used to being surprised these days.

Initial impressions was that this is a very bright, simple, alcohol warmed whisky with heavy emphasis on the honey. It was slightly oaked, slightly light but generally enjoyable, if not earning its “Spice King” name.

Water initially pushed up the sweetness and dimmed the alcohol, but quickly the eponymous spice came out. Here is where we find that samosas character I mentioned earlier. Kind of a mix of vegetables, especially peas, mixed with a mild curry paste character. It is a gentle, vegetable spice, that is not harsh but becomes more and more to the fore as the amount of water increases. The thickness of the spice seems to fill the slightly thin cracks that existed in the whisky before, making it overall much more balanced.

It is full of that gentle spice, now only slightly sweet and actually quite rustic feeling – relaxing to drink despite the spice. For me it does what it says on the tin – spice, delivered smooth and gentle, but it does feel a tad one dimensional. I can’t complain that it doesn’t do what it sets out to do, but I feel it could do with a bit more depth and variety for it to appeal to me.

Ok, but more inoffensive than exciting.

Background: Keeping up the run of whisky miniatures with this blended malt from Wymyss. Grabbed from Independent Spirit who get mentioned a lot around here. Not much to say, Wymyss have done pretty good in their independent bottling so far. I think there is also an eight year version of this whisky going around but haven’t tried it.

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