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Lervig: Oud Beersel: Black Acid (Norway: Sour Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small brown head.

Nose: Acidic apple mixed with thick molasses. Madeira. Rum soaked raisins. Dry sherry. Fruitcake. Sultanas.

Body: Tart yet thick. Bready. Sultanas. Chocolate sauce. Pear drops. Dry sherry. Tart black-cherry.

Finish: Charring. Tart pears. Malt chocolate and grated chocolate. Dry sherry. Raisins and sultanas. Madeira. Slight chocolate liqueur. Marzipan.

Conclusion: Whoever first thought of mixing sour beers and stouts – I salute you. Each time I encounter this unusual mix I am reminded that this is the beer style I never knew I needed, yet now I have it, it is brilliant.

For all its large base elements used to make it, this is a very balanced beer between the styles. From approach to aroma you get huge apple, tart and fresh and yet backed with chocolate thickness. It continues that way as you start drinking – fresh, touched with tart apples and pears up front then the sour character just seeps into heavy chocolate liqueur and dark fruits.

In some way it feels like the barrel ageing is what makes it perfect – a bridge built between the two, marrying the styles brilliantly. If you will excuse my mixed metaphors.

It brings dry sherry, dry fruitcake and spirit soaked raisin notes that are familiar to the stout style, but also vinous enough to not seem out of place in a sour beer; It works as matchmaker mid body then as the finish comes in it plays its own game – leading out for a long time with dry sherry like complexities.

Together it takes brilliant elements from each of the three influences and makes it a rich, yet tart and vinous beer with the stout weight giving it a lovely heft.

A brilliant complex mix – definitely worth getting. Go. Get it!

Background: Now this one jumped out at me at Independent Spirit – It is a mix of Oude Lambiek from Oud Beerel, with a Lervig brewed stout. I love the whole sour stout thing that pops up every now and then, and this one has been aged in the Cognac barrels that the Lambic was blended in, and then in Akevitt barrels. I had to google what Akevitt is. Anyway, put on some good old 90s tunes – Garbage 2.0. I slightly prefer the more raw feel of original Garbage album, but both of them are awesome.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Glengoyne 8 Year( Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale clear spirit with a light brackish hue to it.

Viscosity: Medium speed thin streaks.

Nose: Moss. Moderate alcohol. Citrus – fresh lime. Very fresh. Mojitos. Crushed leaves. Light menthol. Gin. Water adds vanilla pods.

Body: Warming. Smooth feel despite the alcohol. Very viscous. Soft toffee. Water makes creamier. Kiwi, grapes and vanilla. Apples. Jelly. Raisins.

Finish: Light charring. Malt drinks. Lots of oak. Greenery. Alcohol air. Water makes creamier. Brown bread. Fudge. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: This really shows the energy of its relative youth. While not burning in its alcohol, it is still that very viscous styling of strong alcohol with a very melting jelly like feel to the centre and very familiar alcohol warmth with it.

Flavour wise it is also very youthful – lots of full on green fruit akin to a young spirit. Neat it is fairly raw, but water soothes that, turning it into a sweeter, creamier version of itself; In this form it seems to call slightly to Speyside character rather than its Highland home However underneath that is the more familiar sweet highland in a fudge and malt drink styled base. It is more gentle that normal, more a backing note than its more mature cousins.

In oddities that it has, there is a slight crushed leaves amongst the citrus notes – which makes if feel slightly mojitos like in its expression top and tail. Which is unexpected. A cocktail experience in a single malt.

It is a raw green fruit thing neat, becoming more recognisably highland sweet the more water you add. While I would say it is too simple neat, water gives an impressive depth for its youth with raisins and dark fruit coming out as a balance to the brighter green fruit. It is a very different experience from neat to water laden, going from super fresh to subtly dried fruit.

Not excellent, but has a decent range with water so I can’t complain.

Background: Hip flask sized bottles of whisky, one of my favourite ways of trying a wider range of whisky without having to spend a fortune on full sized bottles. This one, grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a Glengoyne bottling – done without colouring or chill filtering. I’ve actually been to the Glengoyne distillery, back when I did a tour of distilleries in Scotland – very pretty and tucked away near a waterfall. This was drunk while listening to Anthrax – Amongst The Living – no particular reason, just good tunes.

Verdant: Cloudwater: Lost and Grounded – Loral and Ardi (England: Abbey Tripel: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy tropical fruit juice looking with a large, loose, bubbled, white head.

Nose: Peppery. Light hop character. Apricot. Slight smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Apricot. Banana. Light custard. Smoke. Bready bitterness. Yeastie. Puff crisp thickness. Peppery.

Finish: Smoked meat. Some bitterness. Crushed Blackpool rock. Pepper. Slight floral air. Palma violets. Mature cheese and cheese puffs. Dried apricot. Peach.

Conclusion: A very grounded beer for a Tripel this one. Well by the end it is. At the start it seemed like it was going to be another fruity hop explosion beer. Not a bad thing in general, but very overused at the moment and can make a lot of beer styles seem very similar, losing the wonderful range of the beer world. So, glad that it turns out to be something different going on here.

What gave me that impression, that it would be a IPA style hop fest is 1) That the cloudy colour really makes it look like the NEIPA style that is all the rage right now and 2) The fresh burst of apricot hops early on. Thankfully there is a lot more ot this beer than first impressions would suggest.

The peppery, Belgian character is there backed by that cheese puff crisps and mature cheese notes that I associate with the Belgian yeast. It gives a lot of weight to what initially seemed to be a simple beer.

Does it work? Well you get juicy hop fruitiness and some hop bitterness matched with the aforementioned Belgian characteristics laid across a custard sweet malt base. It is nice, but I have to admit, feels less than the sum of its parts. The hops and the yeastie notes kind of work, but also seem to create a slightly muggy centre below that. Not terrible, just the dried fruit and peppery character matched with the yeastie notes combine to make things a bit overly clinging in the middle, just slightly wearing.

So lots of good parts, not bad overall, but doesn’t quite mesh everything together to create something better than the individual elements.

Background: Took a while for me to find the name of this – it is tucked away on the side of the can. An odd promotional choice, maybe they were just really ashamed of the pun? Another beer where I was unsure on beer style to use – it pushes itself as a Tripel, which makes sense with the abv so that is the style I listed – however it is closer to a standard blond Belgian ale in a lot of ways, just heavier hopped. Anyway – this is made with Ardennes yeast and dry hopped with Lorcal, Simcoe and Centennial. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to a bit more of the varied sound that comes from Miracle Of Sound.

Founders: Lizard Of Koz (USA: Imperial Stout: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized frothy brown head.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee vodka. Sugared blueberry pie. Chocolate syrup. Treacle. Light liquorice. Black and red cherries. Coconut macaroons. Nougat.

Body: Sherbety lemon. Tart blueberry. Chocolate fondue. Light aniseed. Glacier cherries and sultanas into fruitcake. Nougat. Liquorice. Slight prickling alcohol. Bourbon.

Finish: Blueberry. Sweet milky chocolate. Vanilla fudge. Fruitcake. Nougat. Slight prickling alcohol air. Light nettles. Light charring. Golden syrup cake.

Conclusion: Whelp, this is a very sweet one and a spirity one at that; A combination that creates an odd but not unpleasant contrast – and definitely tells you that this is a very big beer that you have in your hands.

Right from the off you get the blueberry nestled amongst heavier, syrupy chocolate and treacle flavours – however even against those heavy flavours there is no mistaking the blueberry pie character. A similar thing comes as you take a sip – distinct sweet and lightly tart berries amongst a deep, thick, syrupy sweet imperial stout base. What is unusual is how the bourbon ageing shows itself so roughly – the traditional vanilla does show itself in the aroma, but in a very spirity way; Once you get to the main body it is very much raw bourbon spirit coming through , or even some blended whisky style – rather than being a subtle influence on the beer you can really taste the bourbon itself.

Around that set of big notes there goes manage to be a good chunk of more subtle notes – coconut to nougat notes float in the aroma delicately – though only a thicker, chewy nougat survives through into the heavy body. Similarly a mix of cherries becomes heavier, stodgy fruitcake flavour when it reaches the body. The aroma works the subtle notes, the body brings the force.

Together? Well it is a tad raw – lots of sweetness, lots of tells to the alcohol weight, lots of spirity character; Enjoyable as hell, but refined it aint. Maybe some time ageing will sooth that out. Right now it is fun but very rough around the edges. It definitely uses the blueberries well, but the use of oak ageing feels too overt. Still good, but unbalanced as fuck and stupidly sweet. Make of that what you will.

Background: I nearly grabbed this in Germany – I had seen it there and thought that the odder Founder’s beers don’t turn up very often so it may be worth grabbing. I decided against it and instead grabbed some more local beers that I just could not get in the UK. Good thing as well – The week I returned to the UK Independent Spirit got it in. The amount of times I grab beers abroad only for them to turn up for the first time in the UK weeks later, I was glad to dodge that curse this time. Anyway this is a blueberry, chocolate and vanilla infused Imperial Stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels. Which sounds awesome I have to admit. A big beer like this needed big music, so I shoved on some Meshuggah! Oh yeah!

Brewdog Vs Cloudwater: New England IPA V2 (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot with a large white head. No evident carbonation.

Nose: Slightly milky hops. Mango juice and white grapes. Nectarines. Buttery shortbread.

Nose; Nectarine. Peach. Slight cloying cream. Low level bitterness and hop character. Light peppermint and greenery. Banana milkshake.

Finish: Milkshake. Grapes. Nectarines. Slight bitterness. Very light greenery. Slight cloying cream. Mandarin orange. Sour dough. Bready.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve had two bottles of this – the first one was had the day I received it and was kind of average. This one was had a week later, so just over a week old and it is much more impressive. Another entry for the “It is possible to have an IPA too fresh” hypothesis.

This has low present bitterness, but still more than the average NEIPA – which is good by me. It still keeps the massive fruit burst I associate with the New England style though – kind of smoothie to milkshake style which seems to be the common trend in these cloudy IPAs. There is a lot of orange variety going on and some slightly tart white grapes as well. This part works perfectly – slightly creamy but not excessively so. I think the bit extra bitterness gives a punch to the flavours not seen in a lot of the style.

For flaws in the beer? Well it has a few minor ones – there is a cloying, slightly sour cream note in the middle – kid of akin to what happens with Punk IPA occasionally as a refreshing twist; Here it is present throughout the beer where it gets a tad wearing rather than refreshing. Apart from that – well there is a slight greenery that seems out of place – minor notes really.

Despite that this is another NEIPA that I can approve of. Again I think it is the slight extra bitterness that makes it work for me – it is small but does stand out. Another one that makes me respect the style more than I did before.

Background: While I wasn’t massively enthused about the first Cloudwater vs Brewdog New England IPA, the buzz around this one was big enough that I grabbed a few bottles from their online store – it has been whirlpool hopped with Mosaic hops, and dry-hopped with Citra, Mandarina Bavaria and Mosaic. Sounded a very tidy hop set to me. This one is an IIPA rather than just a standard IPA so I was hoping the extra weight could work to compensate for the slightly lighter character of V1. Drunk while listening to a random selection of my most played tunes, so guaranteed to have some stuff to put me in a good mood on.

Brekeriet: Berliner Spazz (Sweden: Berliner Weisse: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Large yellowed white head. No evident carbonation.

Nose: Fresh pineapple and guava juice. Soft creamy lemon. Mashed white grapes. Pencil shavings. Bitty orange juice.

Body: Tart lemon. Soft vanilla. White grapes. Tart pineapple. Lightly acidic. Slight cider. Orange juice.

Finish: Stewed banana. Passion fruit. White grapes – both juicy and tart. Pineapple. Dried mango. Wheat. Vanilla. Salted water. Rhubarb. White wine.

Conclusion: The first thing that hit me here is that the berliner weisse is really just providing a backbone for the rest of the elements to influence. The main flavour instead is all juicy tart fruit as all heck. The passion-fruit is massive and juicy top and tail – oddly in the middle it is a lesser element, with the tarter character giving more pineapple and lemon. The body seems to push the tarter flavours over the sweeter passion-fruit.

The berliner weisse is there – giving slight cider like tartness and a slight extra roughness of feel that shows the base ingredients. Generally though it just pushes the tart, sour body and lets everything else work up form there.

While this is not heavily sour – more tart and fresh – it comes in with the huge range of flavour that I associate with the heavier duty sour beers – from orange juice, to a drier, tarter rhubarb character. Lots of fruit notes is what I am saying, with just a slight dryness. There is a lot to enjoy.

Feels like an awesome, refreshing, summer sun beer. The only real drawback is that the abv is a bit high to do that perfectly; It feels so fruit juice like and so refreshing that it could be dangerous to drink in the sun as you could easily go through them without realising how much you are drinking.

Apart from that , this is a brilliant summer sun bit of fruit drinking – it may not show the base beer style too much, but it is still something that could only be done in an alcoholic drink and benefits from that to make a distinct experience. Very nice.

Background: I sure hope this beer’s name has a different meaning in Sweden. In the UK it is an offensive slang term for someone with cerebral palsy. So, erm, yeah, the oddities that happen in differences between languages. Did a bit of googling but couldn’t find what the meaning or reference would be in Sweden – if anyone knows please let me know. Anyway this is a berliner weisse made with passion fruit. And vanilla beans. Which is a new take on the style for me. Drunk while listening to some awesome Against Me!

Odyssey: Left Handed Giant: Left Handed Zombie (England: Amber Ale: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronze to amber. Large loose bubbled beiged head.

Nose: Peach. Pineapple. Grapefruit. Sweet fruit syrup and fresh fruit tartness. White grapes. Peach Melba.

Body: Lightly brown bread. Peach Melba. Good bitterness and hop character. Pineapple. Slight sour dough and chives. Light charring. Rye crackers.

Finish: Brown bread. Solid hops and bitterness. Light black pepper that grows over time. Sulphur and smoke. Peppermint.

Conclusion: Ok first up – no this is not as good as the showstopper that is the big brother of this – Imperial Hop Zombie Blood. Then again, what is? This is a less clean feeling beer – it has more notes that call towards the heavier real ale style, with bready notes making it a solid drink, with sulphurous notes mid to late on. It feels like a mild concession to make a more sessionable, more standard drinking ale style out of an intense beer, without losing what made that enjoyable.

Now, where it is most like its big bro is in the big bitterness it brings,and the big flavours with that. It bring sweet peach and tart pineapple, mixed with white grapes which makes this a right mouthwatering mix. That is set against that very robust, grounded, bready and slightly sulphurous base. It is an interesting contrast and works better than you would imagine. A very traditional feeling base with the fruit punching right out of the gaps.

It is heavy, almost rye tasting in style with some peppery character, but the fresh notes manages to keep it from getting wearing.

It isn’t a shining wonder like its big brother, but it also doesn’t feel like it is aiming for that. Instead it feels like a new world hopped, rye best bitter that is also an amber ale. Solid, tasty and one to have regularly- rather than a lot of similar beers that are great one offs but not one to have regularly. Not exceptional, but it hits its spots brilliantly.

Background: I learned something with this one. Mainly relating to the word dank. People have started referring to great dank hops a lot recently. Which confused me – as well, dank is “Unpleasantly damp and cold” which is not really something I want from hops. However after hearing a few uses it seemed to relate to those thick, oily, sticky hops. Which makes sense now after a bit of googling as it seems it probably comes from cannabis references – good sticky and oily cannabis being called dank in relation to the original usage. Also explains why everyone calls good memes “Danke memes” as a joke these days. Though it does not explain why and when meme changed so much from its original meaning. Then again that is kind of appropriate giving its original definition. Was completely out of the loop on Danke. Probably cos I’m an old fart now. Also I use muggy hops for a similar, though different style so I can’t really get on my high horse about using imperfect words to try and communicate an experience. Anyway, loved Imperial Hop Zombie Blood – so since this seems to be linked to that I grabbed this as fast as a could when I saw it in Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to a bit of At The Drive in – seems they are making a bit of a comeback now which is cool.

Belching Beaver: Orange Vanilla IPA (USA:IPA: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow with a large white mounded sud head.

Nose: Bready hop character. Vanilla. Light orange juice. Slight pineapple. Slight tropical fruit smoothie.

Body: Orange juice. Caramel. Fudge. Vanilla toffee. Tart pineapple. Slight syrupy centre. Moderate hop character. Slightly creamy. Dried apricot.

Finish: Orange juice. Some cream. Good hops and bitterness. Tart pineapple. Slight grapefruit. Vanilla yogurt. Some greenery. Bitterness rises over time.

Conclusion: This very much does what it says on the tin (Or says on the bottle in this case). Lots of orange juice – a kind of bitty fresh orange juice take in fact – then flavoured with a matching big vanilla sweetness that becomes slightly creamy, or even slightly syrupy over time. These notes are matched to a crisp hopped IPA that becomes deeper, oilier and more bitter over time. So, you definitely get what you came for.

On the good side – It does have depth beyond just that with a solid caramel to fudge base that comes out in the gapes in the fruitiness. It also has tarter notes from pineapple to full on tropical fruit smoothies adding more depth and range to what could have been a one note beer.

On the bad side – it does have a slightly artificial and syrupy sweetness to the core. The vanilla can come across akin to the cheaper and more syrupy sweet beers. It doesn’t ruin the beer, but is an unwelcome addition at its heart.

Generally – pretty good and it does the idea very well. It does have a few artificial notes that keeps it only as pretty good. Not a world shaker then, but you can’t fault it for working its gimmick.

Background: A new brewery on me, this caught my eye at Independent Spirit as I wanted something IPAish but this being made “Natural flavours” to bring out the vanilla and orange, whatever that means, made it sounds bit different. They are more open about the hops – mosaic and citra – which is a nice combo to open up with. This was drunk just after finding out that I needed to replace all my photobucket links as they don’t allow linking any-more – so needed a pick me up. Drunk while listening to Against Me! – Black Crosses.

Brewdog: Abstrakt AB22 (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown inch of froth.

Nose: Smooth chocolate fondue. Rich, complex coffee. Light salt. Lightly medicinal and spirity. Slight subtle green fruit. Slight bready character. Bitter cocoa.

Body: Slight medicinal and salt. Cocoa. Very smooth. Rich creamy coffee. Slightly light at the front. Light blended whisky background. Bready.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Clean whisky character. Toffee. Chocolate bourbon biscuits. Chocolate fondue. Clean alcohol feel. Slight tequila. Bready. Bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Hmm, it seems we are back in for very competent Imperial Stout time again. A very competent imperial stout that doesn’t really stand out from the glut of IS time again. A very competent barrel aged Imperial Stout that doesn’t stand out from the crowd time again. I need to think of new things to say on a well worn topic it seems.

Ok, the base beer is the very competently done coffee and chocolate stuffed imperial stout; So, as you can probably guess it is a mix of bitter cocoa and rich coffee. It is generally well done – though it does feel slightly light up front, probably due to the time ageing in the oak which tends to sooth bigger beers. Still at 12.5% it really should not feel light at times- that is just a let down. Apart from that point the coffee is complex, the cocoa well delivered – it is just that that look is really overdone at the moment. Brewdog alone have done metric shit-ton of beers in this style – so this doesn’t seem unusual enough or stand out enough to be worth the high cost an Abstrakt beer demands.

The whisky ageing on this is Speyside, but it I had to call it blind then the light medicinal notes in it would have called me to Island or Islay areas. It doesn’t have much of the fruitiness or extra sweetness I associate with Speyside, instead having mainly a generic kind of cheap blended whisky style. Not the good stuff either, just some vanilla and a generic whisky feel. I think more than anything this is what lets the beer down. It isn’t bad, but compared to the many better barrel aged beers, the ageing here seems very simple in what it adds to the experience.

It is worth noting that as time goes on it also loses some of the subtlety – becoming more dominated by the bitter coffee flavour. By the end there is not much else being done there. The coffee is still great but it feels kind of one note.

So despite being a very competent beer, and it does add something from the ageing – it ends up feeling a fairly standard Imperial Stout these days in the style -not something special that is worth dropping ten quid on, or worth treating as a one off release. A good enough beer, but nowhere near worth the cost.

Background: Been a long time waiting for Abstrakt 22 – originally it was to be a spiced brown ale I think, but that didn’t work out how they wanted so instead we get this – A speyside barrel aged coffee and chocolate stout. This was grabbed direct from the Brewdog store and was broken out to drink after coming back from an awesome Gogol Bordello gig. If you ever get the chance to see them live I recommand it, they have wonderful energy to their sets. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Wild Beer Co: Tepache (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold with a small white head. No evident carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. Dried banana. Slight funky yeast. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry. Cinnamon. Fresh white bread.

Body: Tart and fresh. Pineapple. Lactose. Nan bread. Cinnamon. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Quite thick mouthfeel. Orange zest.

Finish: Slight smoke. Flour. Pineapple – in a juicy and a tart fashion. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Dried banana. Fresh white bread. Funky yeast. Slight cane sugar. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This is both very unlike most beers, even most wild yeast beers, and also a good show of why I am glad that Wild Beer keep doing their weird experiments – even if they don’t all pay off.

This is very fruit juice led, tart pineapple and grapefruit just bursting out; The texture though is much thicker than that tartness would make you expect. It has a much more traditional beery mouthfeel than most wild yeast beers, and it leads to a beery feel to a not very beery tasting beer. There is a very lactose thickness and it mixes with the sweeter flavours to make a yogurt dessert style second string of flavour. Sweet strawberry to cinnamon notes come out, with light, yeastie banana notes in there as well. These extra notes match the more beer like notes and held bridge the gape between them and the tarter flavours – in doing so it manages to avoid any dissidence between the two halves of the experience.

It builds up the more beer like notes over time – lots of funky yeast notes rising that take a heady yogurt and tart experience and turns it into a very good beer experience. It takes banana like hefeweizen characteristics, cane sugar like Belgian blond high notes, fruit that is too tart to even call to NZ hops, but instead fruit juice like pure flavour, all matched with Belgian Wit style spice use and a milk stout like mouthfeel. This is pretty much the most beer influenced non standard beer that a beer can be. At this point I am just seeing how many times I can say “beer” in a set of notes. A very unusual drink, a very good drink and one well worth trying.

Background: OK, this is another odd Wild Beer Co experiment- a beer made in the style of a Mexican drink that is fermented, but at very low alcohol – So they thought they would try a full on beer version of it. The original version is made from peel and rind of pineapples, piloncillo sugar and cinnamon. This is a beer that uses Mexican maize, wild yeast, cinnamon and cloves along with pineapple and lactose. While not all of their experiments work, I love that they do this weird stuff. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit again and drunk while listening to some excellent punk meets acoustic style tunes from Louise Distras. By the way, she is currently kickstarting to make a new album – so a signal boost – please check her out as I really want more music from her.

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