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Tasting Notes: Lion: Lager

Lion: Lager (Sri Lanka: Pale Lager: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Moderate small bubbled carbonation and a good sized loose white bubbled head.

Nose: White bread hop character. Clear. Flour.

Body: White bread. Slight hop oils. Moderate bitterness. Vanilla. Prickly mouthfeel. Slight dry toffee. Brown bread.

Finish: Bready. Lightly bitter. Lightly chalky. Fluffy hop feel. Sulphur touch to the air. Lightly earthy,

Conclusion: This is a fairly bready, fluffy hopped lager. Nothing too out of the normal but it has a greater than normal hop bitterness. Still fairly gentle, but gives a present bitter character throughout, especially out into the finish which helps it last longer than a lot of the “Wet air” like lagers that exist.

It is not an unusual take on a lager, unlike a lot of the craft beer takes, nor the super polished, lightly oily feel of the polished pilsners but similarly it does not feel like a lot of the more mainstream lagers – and, for Sri Lanka at least this is pretty much their mainstream lager best I can tell so, the fact it rocks a bit higher hop character and bitterness makes it stand out when compared to them. It helps that there are no real evident rough spots and the bitterness work pretty well. It is not stand out but it is more enjoyable than most mainstay lagers.

It is a gentle lager base, with a heavier than expected hop style and feel. Not a must have or even one to hunt out, but if you are in Sri Lanka it will do you reasonably.

Ok, if not special.

Background: Thanks to Mushroom who bright this back from Sri Lanka for me – (Also a can of the Lion Stout, which I have tried before and quite enjoyed). He really does spoil me. Not much more to say, a lager from Sri Lanka. Tidy. I put on Laura Jane Grace: At War With The Silverfish as background tunes. My music choices are having less and less to do with the beer as time goes on.

Vault City: Emperor: From A Gaelic Sea Far, Far Away (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head. Opaque main body.

Nose: Caramel. Clean medicinal air. Clotted cream and strawberry jam. Dry peat. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Vanilla custard slices. Touch of tarry nature.

Body: Oily. Sweet. Jam. Chocolate liqueur. Liquorice touch. Honey. Oily peat. Praline. Lightly medicinal. Salt touch. Riesen chocolate chews. Heather.

Finish: Praline. Pecans. Medicinal mixed with vanilla. Custard. Riesen chocolate chews. Smooth, oily medicinal sheen. Vanilla toffee. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: The thing with heather honey, and with Islay barrel ageing for that matter, is that they can easily utterly dominate a beer. I’ve had so many ash tray and iodine beers, or so sickly sweet that they lost that imperial stout that is meant to be the base.

This beer manages to somehow balance those two very strong flavours and a huge base imperial stout and somehow keep it all balanced, and as a result have turned out something very special.

The base stout is chocolate liqueur like and yet on the aroma you could swear there is clotted cream and jam notes floating around in there. From the ingredients I can guess what causes the cream like notes, but I have no idea where the jam comes from.

The honey is sweet but against a more oily character that gives a more savoury touch so it doesn’t get cloying. Similarly the oily character makes the medicinal and peat note much more flavoursome than harsh and so enhances the beer greatly.

It is sweet still, with marshmallow like fluffiness, toffee around the base and praline high notes, but the Islay character of peat smoke and oil, as well as those medicinal notes just ooze throughout it – everything matches the other elements so well.

A masterpiece of an Imperial Stout – sweet, medicinal, big and yet measured in all the right ways.

Lovely.

Background: I’ve mentioned Emperor brewing a few times here, basically a brewer trying to turn out the best Imperial Stouts they can, and have a huuuuuggeee reputation. I don’t think they ever do solo beers, or at least any I have seen, they always seem to be collaborations. Vault City are another big name, better known for doing odd and experimental sour beers, but they turn out the odd big stout as well, of which this is one. It is made with …. **deep breath** Heather honey, vanilla, lactose, oats and wheat and was aged in an Islay whisky cask. Lot of stuff going on there. Grabbed this from Independent Spirit, I went with History Of Guns: Forever Dying In Your Eyes as backing music. First new HoG album for years and years so was happy to slap on in the background.

Elusive: Pomona Island: Rippin’ Rick (England: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow, with just a slight bitty haze. Thin white bubbled head.

Nose: Musty malt drinks. Pineapple. Grated choc lime sweets. Chocolate eclair sweets. Granted choc orange to orange zest. Crushed nettles.

Body: Orange zest. Lemon cakes. Sugared lemons. Nettles. Earthy touch to the core. Slight bready character. Thick mouthfeel. Pineapple.

Finish: Malt drinks. Sugared orange. Good bitterness to greenery. Turmeric. Pineapple. Lightly fresh. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: This is a very satisfying beer. The double IPA malt load gives it a lot of weight despite how dry the flavours are for that west coast style. The malt is much more evident than normal, in a way that gives a malt drink choc orange/lemon/whatever set of notes that show up semi regularly behind the hops. The notes may make it seem that they are a bigger deal than they really are though. They are a competitively subtle set of notes, but it alters and informs a lot of citrus flavours in the beer so it is worth noting. It is never heavy, just a slight chocolate malt drink, kind of dry ovaltine like note that shows in the malt character, which heads into a more bready weight.

The bitterness is solid, not an assault – but I may be a bit blasé about bitterness levels these days, so keep that in mind if you are not a hop head. Still, solid bitterness is good. It had enough pop to it to give a nice hop punch.

The citrus character from the hops is lightly tart, mainly showing as orange and lemon notes which gives a lovely freshness to the whole thing, but with sweeter pineapple and tarter grapefruit doing some work at the edges.

It is nothing new, but it is a solid west coast IPA given bit more weight from the thicker mouthfeel that the extra abv a double IPA gives it, and with that a touch more evident malt.

What I am saying is I am enjoying.

Background: Elusive and Pomena are breweries I’ve had a few from recently, they haven’t managed to get into my fave brewery category but both are good enough that I’ve returned to them a bunch of times – so when they collaborated to make one of my preferred IPA styles – West Coast IPA, BUT DOUBLE – I decided to grab it and give it a go. I am always charmed by Elusive’s 8 bit style can images anyway and I am that easy to sell to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit (yes I know, you are shocked) this loads up on Simcoe (an old fave), Columbus and Amarillo hops – leaning more old school in the USA hops which sounds good to me. Or older school. I’m old now I lose track of what is considered “old” in beer terms. Get off my lawn. Music wise I went with Kill Mirror Image’s new EP KLL MRR IMG. Bias warning, I know one of the band members, but also it rocks.

Not A Tasting Note: Old Keg

Old Keg (Sri Lanka: Whisky?: 38% ABV)

First of all, this is not a a tasting note.

I was visiting my friend Mark who had brought this back from Sri Lanka and offered to let me try some – Many thanks! I had eaten some spicy food earlier so was not really in tasting note form, but thought it worth commenting on as it is a tad unusual.

First of all – it is called Old Keg, which is odd in itself. Whisky is generally aged in wooden casks, not kegs. Hopefully just a translation error, if not this is doubly strange! Though considering Sri Lanka doesn’t follow the rules for whisky that Scotland, Ireland, etc follows who knows? How can I be so sure they don’t follow those rules, when I have no idea what rules they follow? Simple, this is 38% abv – not legally whisky in the UK as it is below 40% abv, so I am fairly sure they differ in at least that one fact.

So, an example of those whiskies I keep hearing about from other countries that don’t match UK whisky rules – so, do we have a delicious different whisky?

Eh, not really – They call it Old Keg but this tastes very young – it is hard to say exactly as warmer climes age very differently (depending on where in Sri Lanka this aged of course) – but it tastes very raw and spirity, quite viscous in its alcohol character and quite raw – I’m guessing a lot of grain whisky in here as well.

I didn’t try with water, may have helped, but I did not try – My bad.

Generally this had fairly standard toffee and vanilla whisky notes behind the rough character but that alcohol character was at the forefront.

So, interesting, but not one I’d recommend for having to savour the flavour of.

Still thanks for letting me try Mark, much appreciated!

Glenfiddich: Orchard Experiment (Experimental Series 5) (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Slow thick puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Apples. Viscous. Cider. Peppery. Vanilla. Honey. Tinned tropical fruit syrup. Water adds menthol and peppermint and some oak.

Body: Apricot syrup. Apple brandy. Oily – a nutty oils style. Alcohol tingle. Oak. Slight drying tannins. Water makes smoother mouthfeel, but still an alcohol tingle. Vanilla custard and toffee comes out along with apples.

Finish: Nutty. Peppery. Tannins. Water adds nettles, oily apple and oily nuts.

Conclusion: Back when I first started drinking whiskey, I was not a fan of Glenfiddich – however I will admit it has massively grown on me over the years. It is a subtle thing with green fruit notes over a restrained spirit and gains well from time in the oak. Something that my more brash whisky enjoying youth did not experience. However, now with a few years in my life I find this, an apple spirit led and finished whisky – that sounds like something that would enhance a green fruit led subtle whisky, right?

So… does it?

Kind of. I feel that either they used comparatively young spirit for this, or the cask finish really layered a rougher spirit touch to the character as this is nowhere near as smooth or polished as the similarly priced and sometime cheaper Glenfiddich 12.

So, if you haven’t guessed yet, this has a fairly rough spirity note- the texture get smoother with water but it still keeps a quite tingly, slightly rough character despite that,

So what does it do right? Lots of apple and apple brandy notes, done in a far less subtle manner than the traditional green fruit of the more standard Glenfiddich but I really can’t claim it doesn’t deliver exactly what is promised on the tin.

However due to that strong influence from the finish a lot of the more subtle green fruit notes are lost, you don’t really get the base Glenfiddich spirit realised much here – instead it feels like the apple brandy influence is layered over a more standard, peppery,tannins touched and nut oils led whisky base. Not bad, but it means that the barrel finish feels less a compliment to Glenfiddich spirit that as a completely separate thing.

Background: So, a whisky finished in Somerset Pomona (A mix of apple juice and cider brandy) Casks. That caught my eye. So far I have had good experiences with the rare apple spirit aged whisky – including an excellent Calvados Highland Park bottling which was one of my earlier set of notes on this site. Anyway, yes, I saw this an Sainsbury‘s and decided to give it a go. With the heat wave recently, I drank this quite late at night when it was faintly cooler – darn the evil day star, Music wise I went with Beast In Black: Dark Connection – My mate Andy recommended them to me (thanks mate) and they are a very over the top, oft sci-fi referencing metal band and a lot of fun so far).

Sureshot: Dunblobbin (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot to yellow. Moderate mounded white head.

Nose: Peach. Green grapes. Fresh fluffy hop notes. Cream. Peach melba.

Body: Lightly oily. Milky. Good bitterness. Greenery. Palma violets. Hop oils. Vanilla. Peppery. Peach. Grapefruit and pineapple.

Finish: Good bitterness. Peach. Light fatty butter. Palma violets. Aubergine.

Conclusion: This is a weird beer. I know, a Mr Blobby themed beer being weird, who would have thought it? But yes, it is weird – if I sit and just sip this beer I am really enjoying it – but if I examine it and try to analyse why I am enjoying it so much it seems quite simple, and I’m finding it hard to pin down what elements actually make it work so well.

Maybe it is my brain trying to reject the fact I seem to be really enjoying a NEIPA style IPA.

Ok, let’s dig into it – the aroma is an obvious plus for it – a huge amount of peach in a mid 2K USA IPA kind of way. There is crisp bitterness there, but not an overpowering amount of hops, which actually calls a lot to east coast style in my mind despite the obvious NEIPA influences.

The body is creamy, showing more of the NEIPA influence but with an oily hop character that makes me smile. It is not quite “Dank”, as is probably no longer the cool term but fuck it, I’m old, but it is a nice call in that direction. Along with the slightly aubergine like savoury notes it really does remind me of mid 2K IPAs, but not as bitter hop heavy as those used to be.

There are hints of fresher grapefruit and pineapple notes that give it some pep, and below that is a gentle east coast style sweetness – no one element says “Banger” but combined together I am really enjoying this.

Without the scary pink blob can images, this would still be a good beer, and one I will probably revisit and enjoy once more if I can.

Background: Ok, if you are not British then those weird pink abominations on the can may confuse you. That is fine. Keep your innocence. You deserve it. It is a cursed image. Anyway, yes I grabbed a can of this because it had Mr Blobby on it. Yes I am easy to sell to. Yes I bought it because of that despite just insulting its existence. I am a complex and confusing entity. Anyway, turned out it was actually pretty good so I grabbed another can from Independent Spirit to do notes on. It is a hazy IPA, which, ok, not my favourite style so bias warning there. Music wise I went back to some Rage Against The Machine – the self titled album. Current world status is making me listen to them more at the mo. Oh, the brewery and beer? You want to know about that? Looks like Sureshot was started by an ex head brewer and founder of Cloudwtaer – so that is a heck of a good heritage for your new Brewery. The beer is double dry hopped with one of my favourite hops – simcoe – so I had high hopes at the start for it.

Lochlea: First Release (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick, stewed fruit. Toffee apple to apple crumble. Plums. Pencil shavings. Sherry trifle. Custard slices. Water adds green grapes, chocolate dust and crushed walnuts.

Body: Thick. Booming oak. Vanilla. Fudge. Raisins. Tannins. Water makes very smooth with a slightly nutty oiliness. Fruitcake. Tinned tropical fruit.

Finish: Light charring. Light bitter chocolate. Peppery. Dry and bitter red wine. Water adds fruitcake and glacier cherries. Milk chocolate, a touch of white chocolate and a nutty character. Some tinned topical fruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I know this must be fairly young spirit – the distillery hasn’t been around that long, only being licensed in 2018, and this was the first release, as the name indicates. Despite knowing all that this has some nice polish to it for its age.

Neat it is slightly closed in the main body, but utterly booming in the aroma, with very little harshness despite its youth and a slightly higher abv that the default.

I am guessing the PX barrel ageing may be doing some of the heavy lifting here, especially in the aroma, but when you hit the body there is a surprising amount of weight from the bourbon as well. There are plenty of vanilla and tinned tropical fruit notes, especially if you use a touch of water to open it up.

However, as mentioned before,the PX brings a lot to the game here – Lots of stewed fruit notes as the thicker aroma of a young whisky meets the dark fruit from the barrel, and yet is smooth enough to make an enjoyable and viscous peak.

Water really helps the slightly closed body start to match that joy of the aroma though. It brings a savoury, oily nuttiness which I’m guessing hints more at the character of the base spirit – I could be wrong, we will see as other expressions come out. Any which way it blends nicely with the shiny, fruity high notes.

Overall it is a very good first release and introduction to the distillery. Lots of promise here and generally worth enjoying just for the whisky it is. Not a must have, especially as this release is starting to get a tad expensive with rarity, but a very nice and polished first release.

Background: Ok, Independent Spirit were bigging this up before it came out, and so I had to grab a bottle. The first release from Lochlea, who kept very quiet up until just before they were ready to release a whisky. As well as coming from the land of Robert Burns, a fact they make a big deal about, they have picked up quite a range of talented people in the whisky industry to work there. I would give names and where from but I lost my notes on that. So, erm, important people. The best. I remember John Campbell was previously at Laphroaig as Distillery manager so that is a heck of a good start. This release was aged in first fill Bourbon cask and Pedro Ximenez casks, natural colour and no chill filtration. Went with some X-Rey Spexs as background music while drinking. No reason, just wanted to listen to again.

Clonakilty: Single Batch (Irish Blended Whiskey: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain colour, with fairly slow puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Crumpets and butter. Light wholemeal bread. Lime in a zesty fashion. Light menthol. Water makes a tad more neutral and a touch of grain spirit style.

Body: Smooth and light. Strawberry. Vanilla fudge. Orange crème sheen. Lightly oily. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallows. Light cooked grains. Light lime. Water makes cleaner, more citrus notes and more buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Cream. Cooked rice. Toasted marshmallow. Water makes for a similar experience, with a touch more gentle menthol.

Conclusion: This is a very easy going, very smooth, take as is and don’t add water whiskey. Trust me, there is no need for water here, all it does is make the flavours kind of lighter. I mean even with water it isn’t bad, it is still very drinkable, but it is a better whiskey neat.

Neat it is just thick enough, it is smooth, very smooth and quite light and easy going but managing to avoid coming across as empty feeling.

It has got a gentle sweetness of toffee and vanilla, with some citrus notes laid over, but they are matched with a kind of toasted bready and toasted marshmallow character that managed to make it feel, well not heavy, but more substantial that the deliciously smooth character would otherwise.

Nicely complementing the bready notes is a light buttery character, subtle neat and works well – but it becomes more evident with water to a degree that I feel it hurts it slightly. I much prefer the subtle character it adds neat.

Overall this is a lovely, easy drinking, Irish whisky. Nothing quite makes it a top end must have, but it is very satisfying to drink as is and a nice one to relax with.

Background: Independent Spirit did a Clonakilty tasting a while back, and very nice it was too. I was a bit burnt out at the time so didn’t do any notes at the event, but they did also give us a mini to take home. Which is what this is for me. So I decided to do notes on it, so I had a least some record of the event. So here it is. I have to admit I can’t remember much of the info picked up at the tasting, mainly that is was tasty, so not much to put here. This is listed as double oak so most likely aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. Was still listening to the same UK Subs album as in the last tasting – there were a lot of tracks to appreciate on that album so I had to give it a good few spins.

Lost and Grounded: Brave Noise Lager (England: American Pale Lager: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear, lightly yellowed colour. Good sized mounded white head. Moderate to a lot of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh crusty white bread. Light sulphur touch. Light lime cordial touch.

Body: Sweet. Light honey sheen. Vanilla. Slight liquorice like backing. Slightly oily hop oil sheen. Crusty white bread. Mild mead.

Finish: Light chalk and flour touch. Mild bitterness and hop character. Vanilla. Hop oils and lightly resinous notes. Honey. Dried apricot. Mead.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected from my first impressions up front. On the eye it looked a pretty darn pale lager, and on the nose nothing really stood out beyond the usual lager character. So I have to admit I was expecting something kind of dull.

On first sip it was thicker than I expected from the pale, light and clear body – though admittedly by now I should know than to make assumptions based on that. It had more grip than I expected with a good level of hop oiliness and even a light amount of resinous notes in the finish. Very light, but there.

It is not heavily bitter, and the bitterness that is there is oily not prickly, but it is a nice gentle weight and shows a bit of a different style of hope usage than often comes from fancy takes on lagers.

Behind that is a fairly sweet base, from a honey sheen up front, through vanilla into dried apricot in the after effects. Combined with the oiliness it gives the lightest mead like imagery to the whole thing.

Now, before I put people off by making them think this is nothing like what they want, while it is a tad thicker, sweeter and oilier than the norm, this is still a lager. While it gets a tad more sickly as it warms up in this current absurd heat, when it is chilled down it is pretty easy drinking despite that extra weight, so still gives a freshening lager style.

Overall it is not bad, it seems much more a set of feels than flavours for the most part, but it has a lot of interesting character there. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t feel like one I want to have too often, more an interesting, quirky lager to occasionally indulge in than a mainstay.

And, that ain’t a bad thing at all to be.

Background: :Not done a lager for a while, or in fact many notes for a while. Trying to pull my thumb out. Anyway I saw this in Independent Spirit – a collaboration with brave noise beer, who are dedicated to a safe and inclusive environment in the beer industry without discrimination – something I can definitely get behind. Also it was waaaaaay to hot that week so a lager looked nice, but I’m going to claim the anti discrimination was the main cause. Had seen UK Subs warm up for Bad Religion in a gig recently so was listening to their “Before You Were Punk” compilation while drinking.

Cooper’s Choice: Inchdairnie Distillery – Finglassie Lowland Smoke Madeira Finish (Scottish Single Cask Lowland Whisky: 53% abv)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened grain colour. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Tarry. Oily. Peat smoke. Cinder toffee. Salty. Fudge. Water adds moss. More salt. Slight crushed rocks.

Body: Thick and oily. Slightly tarry. Sweet red dessert wine. Sweet raspberry yogurt. Slightly drying. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry jelly. Water makes smooth. Sherry trifle touched. Chocolate toffee and chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Tannins. Shortbread. Cake sponge. Peat smoke. Dried beef slices. Madeira soaked raisins to fruitcake. Strawberry jam. Water adds melted toffee to chocolate and vanilla toffee. Oily peat. Tarry.

Conclusion: Ok, after encountering some dead distilleries’ take on a peated lowland and absolutely loving it, I’ve been searching for a modern day, more easily available, peated lowland.

This may not be super easy to get, being from a new distillery with, so far, very few releases, but it is both from the lowland area and fairly heavily peated. So, does it fit the bill?

Well it isn’t a traditional lowland. Instead of that smooth triple distilled light style it is slightly salty and with a thickness that calls more towards Island or Highland than to Lowland, so it didn’t fit that niche I was hunting out. However …

This is still great.

It’s oily, almost tarry in a way that reminds me of some of the heavier Mortlach expressions I have encountered, mixed with those slightly salty, rocky Islay like notes. It is still smooth though, which calls to the lowland origins – and is impressive considering the over 50% abv.

So, I’m guessing even without the unusual cask finishing this would still be a solid whisky, but boy does that Madeira finish make it stand out. There is a vanilla sweetness at the start, but as you get deeper into the whisky it mutates into a sweet raspberry, almost jelly or jam like notes which somehow work so well with that oily peat. The sweetness is understated and yet so rounded and well developed in the character it delivers. It makes for an odd, peaty, oily, trifle like feel – which works better than that sounds.

Neat it is still slightly alcohol touched, which again, this is 50% abv and up that is not a surprise, but water turns that into a very slick drink. It is still peaty and oily, don’t worry on that note, but now the red fruit notes are clearer and the base becomes sweeter and smoother, with choc toffee notes that make it more peaty dessert feel, a heavier sweet note that again works brilliantly with the peat.

It’s genuinely good, the base oily peat spirit is very well expressed and matches well with the almost dessert wine feeling Madeira influence to make an enthralling experience. Not the peated lowland I was looking for, but one I’m glad I encountered instead.

Background: As referenced in the notes, I deeply enjoyed some peated lowland whisky I had tried, that are not defunct, so when I saw this – a new distillery, doing a peated lowland it caught my eye. Looking on their website they seem to be doing a wide range of experimental whisky so it may be one to watch in the future. Doesn’t seem to be many official bottlings yet so was happy to get my hands on this Cooper’s Choice independent bottling. Finglassie or also KinGlassie seems to be the distilleries name for their heavily peated expressions. They also seem to have a rye release which is very unusual for a Scottish distillery. This is cask 409, one of 270 bottles, and was finished in a Madeira cask. Bought from the always great Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Cancer Bats: Psychotic Jailbreak – I’d seen them live a few times and really enjoyed the energy of their live performances but had not bought an actual album of their until now.

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