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A Short Break

Just a heads up eveyone – I’m going to be off the internet for three odd weeks, so will be no updates during that time. Will be back though! Don’t worry everything is good, and I will have lots of new notes when I return.

Until next time

Enjoy your drink!

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Wild Beer Co: Jambo! (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black with an impressively large and solid coffee froth coloured head.

Nose: Raspberry and cherries. Wheat. Cocoa dust. Fresh tart notes. Orange peel. Light cloves. Strawberry crème chocolate – Belgian chocolate style.

Body: Frothy. Tart black cherry and raspberry. Tart grapes. Bitter black chocolate and smooth Belgian chocolate mix. Bready backing. Rhubarb. Gooseberries. Milk.

Finish: Raspberry coolers. Milky and bitter chocolate mix. Gooseberry. Brown bread. Malt chocolate. Rhubarb. Black cherry.

Conclusion: You know, Imperial Stouts are big, big beers, that will not be news to most of you. It is a rare thing however for their flavours to get shoved to the back of a beer. Prepare your shocked faces. Here, it has been. The base, the chocolate you expect from an IS is there, and the bitter chocolate specially show top and tail. The heart of the beer though? The heart belongs to the tart fruit.

There is definite tart raspberry, delivered in raspberry cooler style – fresh and mouth refreshing, but that is far from the full story. There is distinct cherries – initially red and then into black cherry – there are even rhubarb hints. This beer uses the chocolate stout base as weight to allow it to go hog wild with the tart fruit.

The tartness leverages a contrasting milky character in the finish to balance the fresh air -a satisfying, if odd, mix. This isn’t a beer accentuated by fruit, this is a beer about the fruit – using the beer as a delivery method.

So, is it good? Yeah, pretty good. Not many beers like this are around, and less so ones this dedicated to the concept. Like many unusual beers, it is not super polished, so I would judge iy by how much you like the idea. Do you want a tart fruit led stout? One that can pushes tart grapes and gooseberry notes at the edges of a red fruit beer? Then this is for you. Otherwise, if you want a more standard Imperial Stout then this is not for you.

It’s that simple.

Background: While I used to rave about Wild Beer Co, these days I’m more split – they still turn out some excellent beers, but their experiments have been a bit hit or miss lately. Still, there are many brewers going with the standard styles – doesn’t hurt to have a few experimenters in there as well. This one is one of their more standard sounding beers – an Imperial Stout made with raspberries and cocoa nibs. Jambo is apparently a Swahili greeting. It has a very different meaning in some parts of Scotland. I won’t go into that here. Anyway, went for some Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to listen to – the heavier darker notes of it make it still my favourite of their works.

Odyssey: Spottieottiehopaliscious Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Very cloudy lemon juice look with a yellow to white head of good size. Some small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Dried mango. Apricot. Lemon. Creamy. Light hop character. Cake sponge.

Body: Lemon. Gritty hop feel. Tangerine. Good hop character. Peach. Gritty bitterness. Cheese puff touch. Vanilla and light custard. Light syrup feel.

Finish: Lemon. Low level bitter hop feel and hop oils. Shortbread. Apricot. Cheese puff touch. Syrup.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve had a fair few lemony and slightly creamy pales ales and IPAs recently, which were refreshing but kind of simplistic for the most part. I will admit on pour I thought this was going to be one of them, and it does share some characteristics. However it ends up very different. So, why does this lemony, creamy pale ale appeal to me so much when the others did not impress me that much?

Well, for one it has range – initially the lemon is the main characteristic, but after that you get full on apricot and peach taking over – so, over time you get progression in the beer and you can keep appreciating new nuances each time. The weight of the beer helps as well – the beer starts off quite clean, then a syrup thickness pitted against moderate, gripping, gritty hop character which really helps you get a handle on each flavour. Finally it has a slight funky cheese puff styling, giving just the slightest savoury offset. It all comes together to make a beer a world apart from all the other light, fruity, lemon dominated beers.

Overall it is a very juicy, lemon backed beer, that develops a wealth of fruit in the middle, a beer that uses hop bitterness but is not dominated by it. Easy to drink, but flavoursome and weighty. Again Odyssey manage to knock it out of the park with their hoppy beers. The only reason this is not in the “My favourites” section is because it is competing against other Odyssey beers.

A beer with too high abv to be technically sessionable, yet I still want to session it as it is a delicious beer.

Background: I think I spelt that right. I mean seriously, that beer name was written just to fuck with me. This is an oat infused APA made with Ekuanot, Simcoe, Columbus and Citra hops, then dry hopped with mosaic and simcoe. I knew none of this when doing notes on the beer – I looked it up after. That is a big set of hops. I very much trust Odyssey when it comes to hopped beers, so this was a nigh instant grab when it turned up at Independent Spirit. Decided to go for some big moody classic tunes for this as Odyssey beer deserve it – Mezzanine from Massive Attack.

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 23 (Scotland: Barley Wine: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale varnish red. Thin off white head.

Nose: Red cherries. Boozy. Brandy snaps. Treacle. Rum Soaked Raisins. Hop oils.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel, yet with boozy notes. Vanilla. Flapjacks. Fudge. Hop oils. Sesame seeds. Bready. Cherries.

Finish: White bread and oat slices. Light oily sheen. Oily hop character. Peppermint. Milky. Raisins.

Conclusion: Not bad, but, somehow, sometimes overly smooth, yet with boozy notes? How does it managed that?

Ok, with that quick overview for the TL/DR crowd done, let’s get down to the details. This is both an impressive base, and seeming to lack much to build on that. At that base it is smooth (Generally – see the comment on boozy notes above) with a bready and oaty character that generally keeps it from feeling light as barrel aged, or just generally aged beers can be (Again generally – as mentioned it does run to overly smooth at times) . It has a good hop oil character as it warms, giving needed extra thickness and you can see the bourbon ageing in full swing on top of that – bringing lots of vanilla, some fudge and lots of smoothness (yeah, that smoothness is something that keeps coming to mind while drinking).

Beneath that base there is … not that much. It is kind of milky, mixed with bready character to give a bread pudding sort of imagery. Which is odd as the aroma booms with hints of things to come – You are enticed in with brandy snaps, raisins, cherries and rum – all of which are very muted to non existent in the body when you get there. The hints you do get are more in the cherry direction than the others – and even there they feel light compared to the vanilla that dominates the base.

The quality of that base in ease of drinking despite the abv and occasional boozy notes is what keeps me at this, but at ten quid a pop it desperately needs more than that to be worth it. Maybe a bigger brewed base so that more survives the ageing, maybe a different, more character filled barrel for ageing, maybe a bit more done with hops. Just something. It feels supremely crafted as a base and it is begging for something more to be done with it.

Not bad, but definitely a disappointment.

Background: The latest in Brewdog’s one off special beer releases – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This one is a bourbon barrel aged barley wine. That actually seems fairly ordinary for an Abstrakt release – hope it brings more than that into play on drinking. This was grabbed directly from the Brewdog store and drunk while listening to some Bikini Kill. Still an awesome angry punk band.

Moor: All Dayer Deadpunk Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy yellow with middling off white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Quite fresh. Floral and lemon.

Body: Fresh lemon sorbet. Creamy vanilla ice cream. Pineapple. Brown bread. Prickly nettles. Slight dried apricot.

Finish: Brown bread. Mild lemon curd. Nettles. Mild guava. Vanilla. Peppery. Wheaty. Moderate hoppy bitterness.

Conclusion: A session IPA that is, for once, actually delivered at a session ABV. I haven’t brought this up too much, but most so called session IPAs are not really session abv for me – lower than a standard IPA yeah, but for me you need to be 4% abv or below to be genuinely a session beer. I will admit that very few beers keep to that these days, as abvs have ballooned a bit. This, at 3.5% abv, is nicely in the session bracket for me. So, with that discussion aside, how does it for flavour in this hard to master style?

Average. Which, compared to a lot of its contemporaries in the session IPA range, isn’t that bad. It is quite bready, which seems to be a common theme in session IPAs, but it avoids the excessive dryness that makes many of them wearing.

It also has a general lemon character to it – straying occasionally into fresher pineapple or more peppery finish at times. Not a huge range, but it does the job. Similarly the body is present in feel, and in malt flavour, but not exactly heavy. I guess it helps with the session characteristics but means it is much more average when you are having just the one.

As a session beer it isn’t stand out and it feels more like a lower abv APA than any kind of IPA. However it does do the job – The flavour works over several drinks and it has the abv to carry it.

Not a must have but does what it sets out to do, and is far from the worst session IPA I have had.

Background:Ok, I will admit it – I mainly grabbed this due to the whole “Brewdog trademark the word Punk in beer” controversy. Because I have listened to their arguments, and them pointing out some errors in reporting, and it still sounds bullshit to me to try and stop people using the word “punk” in beer. Seriously – limiting use of “Punk IPA” sure, just punk? Nah, sod off. So this beer, so named for, and made for, the Deadpunk festival amuses me. Also Moor make good beer, so that helps. So, I listened to some punk music when drinking it, right? Nah – still on a metal kick, so went with some Evil Scarecrow. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, yes again.


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Autumn (England: Brown Ale: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Moderate sized, short lasting brown to grey head.

Nose: Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Aniseed. Cinnamon. Slight wet twigs.

Body: Very lightly tart. Malt chocolate. Hazelnuts. Milky coffee. Figs. Praline. Slight plums as it warms. Tobacco.

Finish: Walnut cake. Malt chocolate. Coffee cake. Sultanas. Slight wet twigs. Figs. Port. Apples. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Once again Wild Beer Co’s seasonal range seems to get going as we hit the darker months, and with it the darker beers.

Despite the special twist of this beer being the foraged figs added, it is not hugely fig dominant – but they do their part. Instead the base brown ale does most of the heavy lifting here. The usual malt chocolate character is there, but here it is delivered in a nuttier fashion resulting in praline like flavours dominating the beer. It does feel slightly light in mouthfeel though – there is a slight tartness to the beer, probably brought in by the foraged ingredients, which seems to also slightly thin the beer. It isn’t a terrible trade off – you do get light apple notes beneath the darker figs and plum fruits, which balances out the flavour – but it is a slight minor off point.

The balance show in the mediating between the heavier tobacco notes up front, and the smoother barrel ageing influenced vanilla notes at the back, all resulting in a very comprehensive ranged brown ale. Frankly this is a beer that puts all that “Boring brown ale” stuff in its place.

If it managed to take the light tartness without the hit to the texture then this would have been perfect. As is it is a solidly complex brown ale that uses the special ingredients subtly and well. You can do a lot worse than that.

Background: Now this, the third release of Wild Beer Co which is made using locally foraged items, really caught my attention. For one thing its base beer is a brown ale, a nice style, oft accused of being boring, and not used enough these days. Next up is the special elements foraged – figs, fig leaves and fig branches. I’m a big figs fan, so that sounded right up my street. Finally, this has been aged in bourbon casks, which should give a bit extra smoothness and flavour. Overall something I was looking forwards to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah. Still just basically going on a metal kick for drinking times.

Warpigs: Lervig: Socks ‘N’ Sandals (Norway: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very hazy lemon juice looking body with a moderate sized crisp white head.

Nose: Lemon – fresh to lemon meringue in style. Slightly wheaty. Becomes dry, salted lemon over time.

Body: Fresh lemon. Brown bread. Light milk. Light kiwi and lime. Light chalk. Salted lemon. Dried pineapple. Sweet vanilla to vanilla toffee.

Finish: Nan bread. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Lemon. Drying. Slightly peppery. Slight chalk.

Conclusion: Flavour-wise this is simple and refreshing – it is another beer where the complexity comes with how it feels. Frankly, it declares everything about its flavour to the eye. It looks like lemon juice; It tastes like a range of lemon based substances backed up by a dry APA character, moderate hops and bready backing.

Anyway – about that feel – it is slightly wheaty feeling against the traditional APA breadiness, against a slight fresh feel from the lemon side of things, into slightly chalky texture on the way out. Not a world shaking set but it is an ever changing range that keeps the simple flavour from getting samey. It also helps that, as time and warmth affects the beer you do get some variety late on. Some toffee sweetness gets added to the body in the middle and a peppery outro helps draw a line under each sip to break things up.

It is both solid and satisfying – a mix of fresh lemon and dry bready APA that balances both elements resulting in something that is not too heavy a drink. The flavour does expand slightly as I indicated before – even the fruit range expands with some pineapple and such joining in – not much and not for long, each time doing just enough to keep you interested. It never reaches the level where you go “wow” but each time you think you are going to get bored, it throws out a little bit more to bring you back in.

One you are never going to complain about, not a must have but solid craftsmanship.

Background: This is listed as a mixed fermentation double dry-hopped APA. Which sounded interesting, also the can looked interesting, and I don’t see why people rant about socks and sandals so much. If they look stupid, but you like them, then who cares? Anyway, so this was a beer for me it seemed. Another beer grabbed from good old Independent Spirit, drunk while listening to a bit of Carcass – on a general metal kick currently.

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.

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.

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