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Rok Soba: 777 Lucky AF Tripel (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. No evident carbonation. Thin grey white head.

Nose: Brown sugar. Squeezed orange. Golden syrup.

Body: Thinned down golden syrup. White sugar. Iced tea. Bubblegum. Lightly chalky. Brown sugar.

Finish: Iced tea. Brown sugar. Orange juice. Chalk touch. Banana chewy sweets.

Conclusion: I see what this is trying to do. That is always the best opening for a set of notes isn’t it? Really makes you think that the following paragraphs are going to be praising what a top notch beer it is, no?

A lot of tripels tend to have a feeling of high residual sugar, which is present here. I presume from adding sugar or similar directly to the beer to make up from lack of malt? Maybe? The can lists sucralose which I presume is it – I dunno, not a brewer myself but this level of raw sweetness is very unusual in a low alcohol beer.

Any which way this is very sweet, with lots of brown and white sugar notes. On the good side the beer even manages to call to the fruity esters that turn up in a lot of Belgian beers. It is a, slightly artificial admittedly, set of banana and orange notes, and some very artificial bubblegum notes behind that. I don’t think the bubblegum was meant to be part of the theme, but it isn’t actually bad.

The issue comes with this beer, that, even more so that for a lot of low abv beers, this is very iced tea tasting, and even looks kind of iced tea like. So, what you end with when you mix that and the good points is something that tastes like an over sweetened iced tea rather than a tripel beer.

So, while it does have calls to a tripel it really fails to sum up what makes that beer enjoyable, and fails to present a decent alternative with what it does do.

It isn’t actively horrible, if I may damn it with that faint praise, but basically it tastes like very sweet iced tea. Which, if you want that, is fine but I kind of wanted a tripel and this isn’t that, despite those fruity notes which I will praise.

Ah well, a bold experiment at least.

Background: Originally I thought this was just called “Lucky” but everyone online seems to list the 777 from the art as part of the name. Which seems just like confusing label design to me, but what do I know? Rok Soba seems to be a whole thing with festivals, clothes and such, drinks seem to be a side project and from the can it looks like this was contract brewed in Belgium. Anyway, another one grabbed as part of a low alcohol batch from light drinks as the idea of a low abv attempt at a tripel amused me. Went back to the great Svalbard: When I Die Will I Get Better? As music. Top notch album.

Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing: Lager Day Saints (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly yellowed body. Moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white mounded head.

Nose: Flour. Soft vanilla yogurt. Cake sponge. Slight chalk. Vanilla toffee. Dry marshmallow. Slightly dry overall. Slight gherkin note as warms.

Finish: Light sweet pineapple. Flour. Lightly milky. Slight fruit syrup. Vanilla toffee. Light chalk. Popcorn feel. Slight cake sponge.

Conclusion: This is very fluffy, slight dry and slightly tart yet sweet. I will admit that was not what I was expecting from a lager, not even a low abv one, so give me a few moments to realign my assumptions and come back with fresh eyes.

Ok, here goes.

Ok, well this isn’t really refreshing despite the light tartness and dry main body, which is odd. There is a flour touch along with a fluffy feel that makes it slightly mouth clinging to drink so works against any more refreshing notes.

The pineapple combined with the flour and light cake sponge notes actually make me think a bit of pineapple pizza when I drink this. Sans the tomato part natch. I didn’t say it was a perfect match. It is however, not what I was looking for in a beer. It isn’t that this is horrible, more that I drink this and think “Why does this exist?” It doesn’t hit any need I have for beer, or drink in general. Considering how many beer styles, and in fact drink styles that are out there which I enjoy it really should have managed to hit one just by accident, so missing every single one is quite the feat.

As it warms the tartness gains a gherkin touch which is odd and really doesn’t fit. I keep feeling that it isn’t so much that this is badly brewed per se , more that it is assembled from a random bunch of flavours that don’t mesh together. I think they made what they intended to make, I’m just not sure why.

Not for me, not actively bad, just I cannot see any reason to go to it at all.

Background: Didn’t know much about this one going in, had just seen a new brewery to me doing a low alcohol beer when I grabbed a batch from light drinks so decided to give it a go. The can says they are aiming for the Munich Helles lager style using a “unique yeast” and Hallertauer mittelfrueh hops. I really hope I spelled that right. I’d recently picked up Unleash The Archer’s album “Apex” and put it on as backing music, it is a wonderfully over the top concept album telling a sci-fi tale, so totally up my alley. Not much else to say here this time.

Untitled Art: Non Alcoholic: Chocolate Milk Stout (USA: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin off white to grey head.

Nose: Crushed bourbon biscuits in chocolate milkshake. Cocoa dust. Milky coffee.

Body: Milky chocolate. Chalk touch. Slight cold tea hints. Creamy mouthfeel.

Finish: Crushed bourbon biscuits. Milky chocolate to chocolate milkshake. Chalk touch. Slight iced tea. Coffee beans. Lactose.

Conclusion: This is probably the best alcohol free/ low alcohol stout I have had. Mainly for one big reason. It utterly nails the mouthfeel, which seems to be a stumbling block for so many low alcohol beers. It is slightly creamy, nicely slick on the tongue, and with just the lightest chalkiness so it isn’t pure creaminess and has some contrast, but not so much it feels off. It is thick enough, not super thick, but definitely replicates the grip of your average milk stout.

Impressive.

Flavour-wise it leans very heavily on the chocolate for the character, going from sweet but dusty cocoa dust, to a smoother chocolate milkshake sweetness, to a heavier crushed bourbon biscuit style. So, as you may have guess, not the hugest range – but a pleasant one. There is some milky coffee backing, which is another nice traditional stout note, and a mild coffee bitterness with that, but the milky chocolate is the main game.

There are some low alcohol hints but very well hidden indeed – the aforementioned chalkiness is one hint normally but here is made very much part of the stout character so I don’t even know if that counts. There are some iced tea notes, but they are only just noticeable if you specifically look for them as they are way below the chocolate notes that cover it.

If I had tried this blind I am fairly sure I could have mistaken it for a standard abv milk stout, and a good one at that. Not super complex, but super impressive for what it pulls off.

I recommend it highly for filling your alcohol free stout needs.

Background: I grabbed a can of this in my last Light Drinks batch, it was quite expensive for an alcohol free drink so I only grabbed one, and didn’t do notes when I broke it open. Which I instantly regretted as I loved it. So when I put in another order I grabbed another can specifically to do notes on. This is that can. It is made with cocoa nibs which explains a lot. Went with the light and poppy Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee for backing music. I heard them mentioned a few times so checked them out and they are some nice, more chilled music than I normally get.

St George’s: The English – Rum Cask (English Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)


Visual: Pale greened grain. Slow, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Raspberry. Caramel. Strawberry pocked digestives. Honeycomb. Mild rum. Water adds sweet red wine. Lightly spicy. Light wisp of sulphur and smoke.

Body: Light front. Marshmallow. Raspberry. Alcohol builds up over time. Dry rice. Dry fudge. Caramel. Water makes slightly oily, but smooth and generally slick. Lightly spicy. Strawberry. Sweet wine.

Finish: Dry. Raspberry. Strawberry pocked biscuits. Dry red wine, spicy red wine after a while. Water adds glacier cherry. Slightly oily. Strawberry jelly. Toffee.

Conclusion: This takes some time to build up and get going, but while you are waiting for that it brings a lightly tart raspberry front in from the first moment to keep you interested. That tides things over while the lighter spirit gets a chance to build up some layers on your tongue so it can start delivering the rest of the flavour.

I’m guessing it is the rum influence that brings those raspberry notes, though that is an unusual one for a rum cask, but its the best explanation I can come up with. The more traditional, and spicier rum notes seem to wait until you add some water to show themselves.

The base spirit still shows some of that youthful edge that I have associated with the main “The English” releases – not too harsh, just a kind of neutral to rice touched alcohol character.

Time brings out more toffee, and some spicy rum character as it builds up the layers, but to get the motor really running on this whisky you need to add a drop of water.

With water the character smooths right out, with a slightly oily touch. There is still a kind of grain spirit to rice character in flavour, but the texture is lovely and smooth now. The rum really comes out here as well, with that previous tart raspberry character now overwhelmed by dark rum, red wine and spice.

I mean, even now it isn’t a huge, heavy flavour, but before the flavours were kind of fragile – so it didn’t take much to crush them. Now there is sweet strawberry notes, and more evident toffee that makes it a tad more robust.

Now it is a gentle, sweet thing – I think the barrel ageing is doing the heavy lifting but despite that the smooth red fruit notes are pleasant.

Not a must have, not polished, but relaxed and tasty.

Background: The final of three miniatures got that cover “The English” main range of whisky releases and the most unusual being aged in rum casks. It has been a long road to get here, with the St George Distillery turning out preview bottlings of their spirit over the years, and now we have their main core line releases. Since I sometimes try to theme music by the country of origin, but rarely do that for England as, well I live here, I decided to go with some English music and put on Pulp: Different Class. That was the reason honest, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to put it on again. Anyway, another one from Independent Spirit as the entire set was.

St James’s Gate: Guinness: Draught 0.0 (Ireland: Low Alcohol: 0% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black and still. A creamy inch of a head.

Nose: Roasted. Nutty. Bitter cocoa. Milky coffee. Thick. Milky to milk bottle sweets.

Body: Creamy. Milk bottle sweets. Milky chocolate. Caramelised brown sugar. Very milky coffee. Slight savoury bread dough.

Finish: Milky. Light bitterness. Mild gingerbread. Slight charring. White sugar and brown sugar. Milky chocolate and cocoa. Toffee.

Conclusion: Ok, it has been a while since I last had draught Guinness, or to be honest any Guinness, so take this with a pinch of salt but … this isn’t a million miles away from tasting like draught Guinness.

It is fairly thick, in fact thick enough to make me think that this was initially brewed at normal strength and then the alcohol artificially removed as beers naturally brewed at low abv tend to be a lot thinner. I could, of course, be wrong. It is very creamy, and I would say sweeter than I remember Guinness being though. Not quite the savoury liquid bread that I remember Guinness being. Of course, these are old memories, so again, take with a pinch of salt.

There is some milky coffee and chocolate in there, not unusual for a stout but again slightly sweeter than I would expect with a kind of white and brown sugar backing, as if dissolved into the beer. While not as blatant it reminds me of when I try standard American bread which is far sweeter than the stuff I am used to here. This is similarly sweeter but I can still recognisable for what it is.

So, to summarise. Creamy as heck and sweeter than you would expect – the milk chocolate and coffee show the stout style, and there is a recognisable, liquid bread (Even slightly savoury dough at the back) style recognisable Guinness character.

It isn’t bad actually. Guinness is far from my favourite stout in general but this does the job well, and works a lot better than I ever expected it to. It also works very nicely if you half and half it with Nanny State. Which I expect is an experiment that will lead to many death threats and hate mail from purists.

So, a nice low alcohol surprise for me today

Background: So, I saw a pack of 4 cans of alcohol free Guinness at Sainsbury’s and I couldn’t help but wonder. How? This notoriously thick and stodgy Irish stout, how were they going to make an alcohol free version of it? So I grabbed a pack to try. I am easy to sell to. As mentioned in the notes I had before tried making a half and half with Nanny State with this to see what happened. It was nice. So by the time I got to this I was on my final can, so I decided to pull my thumb out and actually do notes. I didn’t bother doing the proper Guinness full slow pour, leave, come back and finish the pour for this. I just couldn’t be arsed. I did take my time over the pour in general though, just couldn’t be bothered with the full ceremony. Put Public Image Ltd: Compact Disk on as backing music. I was tempted to do something from Ireland to keep some thematic link going on, but eventually plumped for PIL as I was just in the mood for it. Not much else to say, I’m guessing we all know what Guinness is, right?

Elusive: Emperor: Imperial Morrisman – Double Chocolate Dry Imperial Stout (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black, still and opaque. Thin brown head.

Nose: Cocoa dust. Dry roasted peanuts. Sour cream. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Brown bread.

Body: Smooth. Chocolate cream to chocolate ice cream. Dry roasted peanuts. Light strawberry. Quite thick texture. Light alcohol presence. Choc peanut butter. Sour cream.

Finish: Chocolate ice cream. Dry roasted peanuts. Choc peanut butter. Strawberry crème. Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, a few things first – all linked to the abv. For such a high abv this sticks to a surprisingly simple set of notes and flavours. A lot of high abv beers really pile on the layers, showing off what the extra abv can do with complex flavours – which this does not. Similarly, for the abv there is remarkable little boozy presence or alcohol burn. It has a smooth, dry thickness and some subtle alcohol tells in the weight and air, but in general is very good at hiding the abv.

So, with that dryness of character the sweetness from the mass of chocolate used to make it is actually very restrained – dry one might say. Though despite the restrained sweetness the chocolate is still very evident in a bitter cocoa character, and occasionally a sweeter chocolate ice cream flavour comes out to play for a while. There is a kind of sour cream backing, generally savoury but with that just slight sour twist. So overall the beer is heavy with flavour, and despite the chocolate, never really that sweet.

This then merges with the dry roasted peanut character to slowly transform into a choco-peanut butter big imperial stout. A simple note, well delivered for a consistent quality, very well made beer. Even now it is slightly dry in how the flavours come out, but smooth with it.

Now, early on there were some sweeter notes, even if they were never the most present items, and with it there was an unusual strawberry touch. None of these sweeter notes survive as that peanut butter choco character builds up a head of steam and just takes over the beer.

While comparatively simple for an imperial stout this big, it is brewed to perfection. The style is packed with utter classics, which is the only reason this isn’t getting a “My favourites” entry. It doesn’t quite match the current top set, but it is undeniably great.

Background: Emperor’s Brewery – a brewery I only know by reputation from people mentioning it at Independent Spirit – apparently very hard to get, and they concentrate on making amazing stouts and porters. Which explains why they collaborated with Elusive Brewing to make this. Since I am unlikely to find any of their own beers, this may be the closest I get to trying their stuff for a while. This is a brewed up version of a previous Elusive beer Morrisman, now made with even more chocolate. Or to go by the can, cocoa, chocolate, oats, wheat and vanilla. I went back to Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing for backing music, something big to go with a big beer.

Abbeydale: Wanderer West Coast IPA (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice at the edges to apricot skin main body colour. Thin, loose bubbled white head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Flour. Apples. Some prickly hop character and bitterness. Apricot.

Body: Peach. Good bitterness. Peach syrup. Apricot skin. Green feeling hop character. Slightly dry. Apples. Slightly resinous. Fudge.

Finish: Greenery. Good hop character and bitterness. Apples. Quite dry. Apricot skin. Slightly resinous. Kiwi. Crushed custard cream biscuits and a dry general custard touch.

Conclusion: I was surprised how cloudy this west coast style IPA was on the eye. Thankfully though there is no New England style IPA shenanigans going on here. It isn’t 100% in my preferred interpretation of of a west coast style, but it knows to make it bitter and kick a bit.

It is just slightly dry, not as much as you would expect from the style – there is a chewy fudge backing that shows the malt a bit more than usual, but still dry enough and it gives a base for a reasonably bitter and resinous character. Nothing too hardcore but, you know, bitter and resinous. That is what I am here for and they are doing the job right as long as they get that bit sorted, in my opinion anyway.

The bitter base is then a launch pad for a dry, apple character along with some dry apricot skin notes – a fruity but restrained experience. That said, there is a fruit syrup core to the whole thing that is sweeter and thicker than I would expect for the style, but despite that works pretty well here. It results in a sticky, fruity kind of hoppiness. Clinging but not so much that it gets harsh of dull.

While not a show stopper of an IPA this is a solid mix of bitterness, resinous character and fruitiness and does the job. It is just about dry enough for what I want, and gives a lot of flavour. Very solid indeed.

Background: Abbeydale used to be a brewery I knew for turning out more traditional ales. They seem to be experimenting a lot more these days. Their Wanderer series is bunch of different beers taking inspiration from things around the world – in this case the West Coast IPA which is a favoured style of mine. Single hopped with Citra, which is a classic of USA IPAs this was one I was hoping to enjoy a lot. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, I went back to the Animatrix album for backing music – I think I enjoyed the music from that even more than Animatrix itself.

St George Distillery: The English: Smokey (England: Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed to grain hue. Thin, slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Dry. Dusty. Smoke. Crushed rocks. Pear drops. Water adds a brown sugar backing.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Oily. Dried beef slices. Crushed rocks. Sweet lime. Water adds fudge. Slightly more chewy texture. Apples. Raisins. Buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Ash. Smoke. Malt chocolate. Light praline. Lightly nutty. Water makes for slight sulphur and fatty butter.

Conclusion: Ok, this is much more enjoyable than the unpeated version. Mainly because, well, peat. Peat solves 76.3% of the world’s problems. As long as the problem is lack of peat.

(and the other 23.7% can be solved by more peat)

The base whisky under the peat feels just slightly more chewy than the unpeated version, especially with a drop of water. There is still some green fruit evident, a good chunk of vanilla toffee to fudge sweetness backing. Nothing stand out but a solid core to work from. The peat on top of that comes in a generally ashes, smokey and slightly dry way with a crushed rock quality to it. It feels like a lighter peat touch to an easy drinking dram rather than the more meaty, beefy and broth like of the heavier peated island and Islay whiskies.

Initially it seems ok but a bit simple, kind of like the bare minimum you would expect of a decent peated whisky. Nothing unpleasant but also nothing that really grabbed my attention. Even like this is is nicely smooth, with present peat use and a what feels like a lowland influenced base in its style.

Water make for an interesting change to that though. On the down side it adds a bit of a muggy set of sulphurous notes that don’t really fit with the smooth character but in exchange it brings in subtle notes of dark fruit that add a decent bit of complexity into the equation. It also adds a slightly fatty butter touch, if feels like that touch of water unlocks some of the advantages from this being non chilled filtered.

Water isn’t 100% a benefit to the whisky, but it does make it more interesting. This isn’t a must grab for me, but it is a huge jump up in quality from the unpeated version, and leaves me hoping that the final mini in the collection will be even better yet.

Background: Second of the three miniatures in this box set of new releases from the St George Distillery that I’m guessing will make up their main line up. This one is their peated expression, which made it instantly more interesting to me as a big peat fan. I made my “hate The English” joke last time, so that is my joke routine already wasted and depleted. Again no age statement here. After enjoying her new release recently, I went back to Laura Jane Grace’s previous solo album as music to back this – Still Alive. As before this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Sainsbury’s Pilsner Zero Alcohol (France: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Medium amounts of small bubbled carbonation. A large mounded white head.

Nose: Soft lemon cakes. Slight sulphur. Jiff lemon on pancakes. Slight lime. Dry rice. Muggy hop character. Brown bread. Wort mash.

Body: Clean. Light chemically feel. Soft lime. Vanilla. Light toffee. Some hop feel.

Finish: Soft lime. Light chalk. Low to medium bitterness and light hop prickle. Slight charring. Slightly bready.

Conclusion: This is a reasonable low alcohol lager, with a few flaws, a few quirks that help offset the flaws and one big advantage.

Let’s look at the nice quirks first. Unusually for a pilsner it has a soft citrus style, with lemon and lime notes that make up a good chunk of the character. It is subtly done in execution but it gives it a fresh zestiness that I’ve rarely seen in this kind of beer.

The flaws are mostly those common to a low alcohol lager. There is a slight chemically touch to it (Yes, I know how crap that description is, but all of you know exactly what I mean), a generally artificial note and a light touch of chalkiness that doesn’t suit the easy drinking character. It’s hardly the worst I have seen of this kind of thing, and it manages to dodge the iced tea and dry teabag tannins like notes nigh completely so it is just a touch rough and artificial edged.

The rest of the beer around those two poles is a moderately bitter and slightly evident hop character lager. Reasonable, not fancy but does the job.

So with that we have covered the good, the bad and the generic. An ok beer, some flaws but not horrible and that citrus zest helps perk it up through its troubles.

So, what is its big advantage? Basically that it is easy to get and inexpensive. While not the best this is reasonable, and actually better than a bunch of the “craft” low abv lagers I’ve tried which leaned on hops too much and ended up very rough. As such, since it is very easy to get it is an easy one to slip alongside a meal or such instead of an alcoholic beer. Not one to examine, or dig into, but does the job well enough for what it is.

Background: So, this says it is bottled in France. Dunno what brewery, heck I don’t even know if it is brewed in France or just bottled there. So, with that wealth of information I can say that this is an alcohol free beer from Sainsbury‘s that I decided to grab and do notes on. It is fairly cheap and I always need some low to no alcohol stuff to enjoy. Or at least try. So that is that. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation as backing music.

Black Sheep: Riggwelter (England: English Strong Ale: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut brown coloured body with reddened hues. Middling sized brown froth head. Still.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Crushed peanuts. Light caramel. Raisins.

Body: Liquorice. Lightly earthy. Cake sponge. Milk texture. Light ginger bread. Light prickling. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Light charring.

Finish: Gingerbread. Earthy bitterness. Greenery. Nutty. Bitter chocolate dust. Light milk. Bitter coffee remains. Peppery. Dry treacle.

Conclusion:This shows how earthy hop flavours, and even liquorice notes, both of which are so often a weakness in badly made beers, can be used in satisfying and robust ways.

I think a lot of it comes from the balance of the weight of the beer to its drinkability. This is weighty with a slight milky, creamy grip and thickness at the core but around that is a dry general bitter like feel. The slight dryness is what makes it easy to drink, the thickness adds enough to make the earthier bitter notes more manageable and less wearing that they can be in lighter beers.

There is a gingerbread and peppery spice throughout it – a savoury tingling set of flavours that complement the solid earthy bitterness well without contradicting them too much. It is a very traditional set of bitter notes but behind that the extra malt weight gives hints of dark fruit, raisins, and even manages to make that hint of liquorice feel like a welcome release rather than an off note. It makes for very much the heavier take on the traditional earthy British bitter.

If that earthy bitterness, even a strong ale take on such, does not appeal to you then this will probably not be one you find to your tastes. If, however it does not put you off then you may find, like I do, that this stands on the ideal point between a weightier ale, and a drinkable bitter. Old school but done right.

Background: When the parents came down to visit, as well as the beer from Christmas I mentioned in some previous notes, they also brought a box of Black Sheep beers for me. Many thanks again! Black Sheep are good brewery up north, named after the creator who was the black sheep that left the Theakston brewery to set up his own. Which makes sense. Anyway, this is one I had many times back in the old days, but had not revisited recently, so was looking forwards to trying it again. Went with Jack Off Jill again as backing music, Sexless Demons and Scars this time.

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