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Private Landbrauerei Scheuerer: Moosbacher: Weissbier (Germany: Hefeweizen: 5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy ripe banana yellow colour. Massive white bubbled head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Overripe banana. Wheat. Peppery. Orange skin. Grapes. Palma violets.

Body: Tart grapes. Slightly sour. Peppery. Palma violets. Bitter. Banana sweets. Slightly dry.

Finish: Banana sweets. Peppery. Greenery. Some bitterness. Bitty hop bits. Dry. Cut apple.

Conclusion: Well this is interesting. The aroma initially seemed quite standard, if good quality, hefeweizen. You know the routine – banana, peppery, an odd but not unheard of extremity of orange skin showing some innovation, but not so much to mess with the base style.

And then….

Palma violets notes come into it, that call more to the pilsner noble hop style than I would expect, and after that a much more odd tart grapes touch in the aroma which only gets heavier and really gets going when you sip the main body. It is fruity and lightly sour in a way that I really was not ready for.

It then becomes a tad more familiar again with the peppery, wheaty character of a weisse, just tarter and with those green grape notes mixed in, now with sweeter grape touches as well.

Does it work?

Kind of. It is refreshing, which is good for this summer heat. It is different, so not what I came to the beer for, but it is reasonable. The fresh, slightly sour grape against the pepper and bitter character actually calls to mind the lighter side of the gose – the Goslar made version where it is mainly a salted wheat beer rather than the heavily sour monster some interpretations are.

There is a cut apple freshness later on which really reinforces the green fruit imagery, and little of the banana backing that the aroma hints at – a choice I respect but I kind of miss the expected banana notes.

Not one I will return to much but a refreshing yet gripping wheat beer.

Background: Independent Spirit got a new batch of German beers in, including some breweries I had not seen before, so I grabbed a bunch, including this one – of which I had to look up what that first letter of the “Moosbacher” was as I was not 100% sure with the typeface. I went with their hefeweizen as it was one of the first beers that got me into finding out that there was more to beer than I thought. Also this also has a pop cap, which is something I always like. They are just fun. Not much else to add, went with Metallica: 72 Season as backing music – a pretty darn good Metallica album, glad to see they still have them in them.

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Waterford: Peated Ballybannon 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 3 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Barbecued pork. Menthol to mint. Crushed charcoal. Alcohol tingle. Gooseberries. Smoked dried beef. Figs. Water adds more charcoal, red grapes and cherry pocked biscuits.

Body: Smooth initially, then drying if held on the tongue. Dried beef slices. Dry peat smoke. White chocolate. Honey touch. Nutty. Red cherries. Green grapes. Water adds vanilla toffee, crusts of bread. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Finish: Charcoal dust. Dried beef. Dry smoke. Vanilla. Dry coconut. Spicy red wine. Water adds vanilla toffee. Vanilla yogurt. Green grapes. Dry charring. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: On the surface level this is a fairly simple whisky – dry peat smoke and dry meat over a light green fruit touched base. At least that is what I got from it the first few times I poured this out just to enjoy for fun. Now I am taking my time to examine this for doing notes I am finding a lot more going on.

Neat it starts off fairly similar – a more fatty cooked meat note on the aroma compared to the drier meat smoke in the body, but still with a slight gooseberry aroma. Also a bit of the bourbon ageing showing through in white chocolate and coconut notes. The peat is an easy going style similar to the highland take on peat and the body mainly a clean bourbon influence.

Then time and some air changed it, with more red fruit and red wine subtle notes showing through for a richer experience along with more notable sweetness. Now it is subtly complex and rewarding – the dry peat still leading, but with a lot to examine behind.

Water weakens it in my opinion. More bourbon styling come out in a very vanilla toffee way, and more obvious red fruit is there, so not all bad, and it is easier to drink, but it feels less vibrant on the tongue. It is a more mellow and merged experience. Good, but without the shine it has neat.

Overall a really good balance of peat and Waterford complexity and letting the barley shine. Needs time and examination as on surface level it is only ok, but let it open up and it will reward you.

Background: If you have been following the blog for a while you know my love for Waterford whisky – they make each release from a single farm’s barley, allowing them to really show off the effect of the environment on the growing and flavour of the barley. I have found it utterly enthralling and thankfully also enjoyable despite the youth of the whisky. They do very long and slow distilling and are very careful with the cut, which seems to reduce the roughness I would normally expect with whisky this young. Anyway at a recent horizontal Waterford whisky tasting they mentioned they were doing their first peated release – something that as a peat fan I was intrigued by, especially seeing how they could showcase the peat without losing that terroir idea of their whisky. Also in comes in a cool black box, and a black logo on the blue bottle which just looks ace. I am shallow. Anyway Independent Spirit got it in for me, and now I have it and I am drinking it. A win all round. I had recently heard Arch Enemy have a new album out, so went back to Arch Enemy: Will To Power for music while drinking.

Vault City:Neon Raptor: DDF M*rs Bar Monumental Imperial Stout (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15.5% ABV)

Visual: Black, fizzy initially then still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Nutty. Tempura batter. Butter. Crushed peanuts. Milk.

Body: Thick and viscous. Chocolate liqueur. Peanuts. Strawberry crème. Buttery. Vanilla cream.

Finish: Oily sheen. Chocolate liqueur. Peanut butter. Buttery. Whipped cream. White sugar. Nougat.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, we have to examine how exactly does this emulate a double deep fried Mars bar? I am asking the big questions here. Don’t lie, we all know that is the part you were wondering about as well.

It mostly seems to work by making it more buttery in feel and flavour, or so it seems to me. This has big buttery energy that feels like it comes through more as lighter tempura batter than the thick batter you would expect, but, you know, close enough, right?

Its also milky, but more importantly very sugary sweet – which isn’t in any batter that I know and yet seems to hang around in the more batter and milk side rather than the more Mars bars side, tying it very close together which is a tad odd so thought best to mention it.

So, apart from that, you have heavy chocolate liqueur notes and lots of nutty character, peanuts especially – slightly oily with a very viscous character that makes it almost sickly sweet – so, yeah Mars bar, but even sweeter if you can imagine that.

So, that is kind of it – it has big flavours but not big range. It does very well in emulate its inspiration in being a terrible idea, and yet one I am glad to have tried, and will never try again. The only unusual element that does not match the theme is a slight strawberry crème mid body, unexpected, not a huge element buts pops out of the sweetness now and again.

The odd mix of buttery notes over the very sweet chocolate and nutty notes make for a cloying mouthfeel and flavour, probably works best as half the can, as after that the thick buttery flavours get sweeter and overpower everything else.

Does exactly what the can describes, for better or worse.

Background: Ok, I admit, I bought this as it is trying to replicate the Scottish “delicacy” of double deep fried Mars bars as an Imperial Stout. That sounds such a terrible idea I just had to try it, despite the fact this was quite the expensive one. The description is quite the item, so to quote directly

“We wanted to create a true representation of Scotland, away from the tired cliches and usual tropes you might see on TV. A bold and unique idea was needed to showcase Scottish culture in all its glory…

Then we thought, screw that, let’s brew a double deep-fried m*rs bar imperial stout and make it 15.5%.

Deep fried m*rs bars are as synonymous with our country as haggis or Iron Brew, and we wanted to bring this dessert to life in a beer. With Neon Raptor’s help we packed it to the brim with chocolate malt, cacao nibs and an authentic deep-fried taste from adding battered m*rs bars right into the mash tun.”

I mean that is an utterly terrible idea, no? So yes here I am drinking it. Another one from Independent Spirit, drunk while listening to the Celeste OST for some chilled tunes to help mellow out the high abv beer.

Waterford: The Cuvee (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 4 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Darkened, slightly browned gold. Moderate speed, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed peanuts. Subtle notes of crushed love hearts sweets. Sugared oranges. Nut oils. Light alcohol tingle. Raspberry yogurt hard chunks. Water adds wet rocks.

Body: Nut oils. Light meaty juiciness. Light strawberry. Slightest charring. Slight dry, white chocolate. Lightly astringent. Dry green grapes. Honey comes out as it warms. Custard. Water adds toffee and caramel. More water adds subtle trifle notes.

Finish: Dry beef slices. Hint of smoke. Slight tinned tropical fruit. Touch of tobacco. Green grapes. Salted caramel and toffee. Water adds wet rocks. Slight sulphur. Unleavened bread. More water. Subtle white wine. Subtle trifle cream. Tiramisu. Lemon cakes.

Conclusion: The first time I had this I was quite disappointed and was ready to say so. It tasted quite similar to the Hooks Head Waterford, with little added to it. Now Hooks Head is a good whiskey, but I would expected more from such a medley of individual distinct whiskies such as this.

Then I started adding water and things changed quickly, not better per se, but each time added water a new layer was exposed different to the one before, like a traffic light layered whiskey of each component within.

Now I do this, my actual tasting notes, about a month later and it seems time in an opened bottle has really allowed this to similarly open up. Then during the time I had this dram in the glass it has also changed again, and on top of that I , of course, added water again for even more change.

Turns out this really needed that bit of time to really show itself, so with that done – let’s go!

Neat it against starts off tasting a lot like the Hook Head expression – nutty and oily, but now more open. Still pretty similar but with white chocolate and tinned tropical fruit notes that show more of the bourbon ageing than that one did, and hints of sweeter and fruitier flavours under that. Not spectacularly different at this point, but Hooks Head already was a good dram, and this shows many signs of promise.

Time though, time brings out sweeter highland like notes, with honey, salted caramel and such, thicker and sweeter notes that I would not have expected from a whisky this young, even taking into account the amount of farms they have access to. It is a big surprise and really adds weight and character to the drink.

So, with a new eye on the base whiskey, I go back to adding water. The water doesn’t seem to cause as big change as it did before, maybe because all the notes already felt better integrated and on show than before. When I had just opened the bottle, adding water made it feel like it was shifting between distinct different levels of the whiskey. Now it just mellows the alcohol and thus makes it easier to enjoy. Oddly this means this is an expression that I initially enjoyed more with water but now I enjoy more neat.

What an odd whiskey.

Water still does change it somewhat, especially with larger amounts where sherry trifle, tiramisu and similar dessert notes coming out in the now lighter body. I’m guessing this is showing some time in sherry casks, but even wih that I prefer the extra weight you get in this neat, or with just a few drops of water to help it.

Overall, give it time and it is an interesting wee one, not quite the master-stroke I had hope for given the quality and range of farm’s whiskey they had available to work from, but a welcome whisky to try.

Just give it time, ok?

Background: I’ve been raving about Waterford for a while now, their whiskey fascinates me. Normally each whiskey is made with barley from but a single farm, showing off the effects of the terroir as they call it with wine. From the ones I have had they are genuinely different and genuinely exciting, even though the whisky tends to be around 3 to 4 years old. This then, goes against that idea, but heads to a new one. Taking each of those expressions of the farm and blending them to create a blend based not on different distilleries but different farms. It was interesting enough that when I saw a bottle in The Whisky Shop, I put one aside and grabbed it when I could. This is that bottle. Music wise I went back to Tom Morello and The Bloody Beetroot’s “The Catastrophists EP”, for something with a bit of energy to back this up. Looking up the code for this whiskey on their website to get more information I saw, despite its seeming similarity to that dram, exactly zero of the whiskies used to make this were from Hooks Head farm. Huh. 73 casks and not one from what I thought it tasted most like.

Elusive Brewing: Midnight Oregon Trail (England: Black IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Black, a half inch of coffee brown creamy head with a mix of tight bubbles within it.

Nose: Dry roasted peanuts and chestnuts. Wholemeal bread. Charred wood. Burnt toast. Sour dough. Grated chocolate.

Body: Dry. Grated black chocolate. Sour dough. Malt chocolate. Slight sulphur. Moderate bitterness. Subtle grapefruit.

Finish: Black chocolate slabs. Bitter cocoa. Moderate hop bitterness. Slight sulphur. As warms grapefruit comes out. Peppery. Pineapple.

Conclusion: I was wondering how a West Coast BIPA would work. As gone into in more detail in the background BIPAs tend to be more malt led, while West Coast tend to have an out of the way malt body. So, you see the conflict, right? I mean they both like the bitterness so hopefully we will see a lot of that, but I was confused.

It is quite dry, so we have that kind of attenuated character a west coast can have. Definitely not as full on attenuated as most west coast IPAs I’ve tried, but it gives a familiar mouthfeel along the Black IPA side and a satisfactory way to deliver the bitterness into the finish.

The bitterness is lower than expected, satisfying but not intense. Possibly this is due to balance from the malt making it seem restrained rather than any actual lower bitterness, hard to say.

The malt is, as mentioned, dry, but with that still quite chocolate filled, but in a bitter black chocolate to more neutral chocolate malt drinks kind of way, rather than anything sweeter. Along with that it has kind of sulphur touch, mouth filling backing character. It kind of works, not as dry as you would expect, not as sweet as you would expect and not as bitter as you would expect, but trying to walk the difficult balance between all those expectations.

As it warms slightly another familiar west coast style element starts to come out – the grapefruit hop character, which actually comes out clearer here than in standard Oregon Trail, which always seemed more earthy leaning to me. Here it comes out pretty cleanly and gives a nice fresh release from the bitter character.

The main disappointment, apart from not being as bitter as my withered taste-buds would like, is that it does not match the FANTASTIC early aroma. There is a huge dry roasted, nutty and nut oil character that is delectable, but doesn’t even hint at similar in the main body. If this had shown up more I would have been ecstatic.

As is, it is good, not GREAT, but good, and with the dearth of black IPAs right now I will 100% take good.

Background: The existence of this beer first excited and then confused me. Excited as, well Black IPA and West Coast IPA, two of my favourite styles that are being used a lot less these days. Confused as well, how does west coast black IPA work? My understanding of West Coast IPA is high bitterness, citrus notes and more notably out of the way malt base and generally quite attenuated. My understanding of Black IPA is quite dark malt led, high bitterness beer. So, yeah how does those two very different attitudes to malt profile work together? Maybe there is already a set style definition, but I was intrigued to see. While not on the front of the can the back text mentions this was a collaboration with “The West Street Alehouse”, so if I am ever in the area I may have to check them out. I have tried and done notes on the standard Oregon Trail and found it good if not top tier west coast IPA style. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, and drunk while listening to a bunch of Depeche Mode – a friend was telling me about how varied and good some of their lesser known tunes were so I decided to have a little listen to find out and this seemed like a good time.

Electric Bear: Independent Spirit: Shenanigans (England: Dry Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Creamy. Mounded coffee ice cream brown coloured head.

Nose: Bitter. dry coffee cake. Crushed coffee beans. Bitter cocoa. Crushed walnuts. Pecans.

Body: Bitter. Dry coffee cake. Light sour cream and chive twist. Ash. Charring. Soot. Bitter cocoa. Coffee liqueur and Baileys.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Bitter coffee remains. Bitter coffee cake. Subtle tobacco. Ash/Cigarette ash. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, when they say coffee, they are not darn lying. While at the front the aroma is quite dry coffee cake style, as you go on this ends up like licking chocolate off crushed coffee beans.

As a disclaimer, I have never actually licked chocolate off crushed coffee beans. I have definitely not done that then put the beans back in the pack. This is just explaining the imagery that comes to mind.

There isn’t a huge amount of chocolate, contrary to how that may have sounded, but what is there is bitter and a second layer of imagery as someone trying to make a mochachino just as darn bitter as possible. Just to check mochachino is the chocolate coffee one right? Google suggests so, but I’m going to confess, outside of experimenting with the fancy beans you can get in some places to see what unexpected stuff I can find, I don’t actually drink much coffee.

Yes I’m a monster I know.

Under that massive amounts of coffee, and some chocolate character, is a very slight sour cream and chives twist. Just the tiniest amount, a bit savoury, a touch soured, just a tiny offset under such a strong flavoured beer.

As you get used to that there are subtle soot and ash notes underlying that, though that changes more into a peppery style as it warms. By confusing contrast there is also a more coffee liqueur, even just slightly Baileys character coming out. All this is very subtle, and nowhere near as sweet as that sounds, but a welcome release from the very bitter style.

All this dances around the dry stout base, which is clinging as often common with the style, but all these other elements very handily stop it becoming wearing, an issue I have had with some Irish stouts.

Very nicely done, a very dominant base concept core matched with enough around it to round it out. Despite its, well not modest, but certainly not high, abv it is not one to have many of. It is very strong flavoured, so one or two will easily do the job, even if the abv would suggest you can have more.

Have one, drink slow, start slightly chilled and most definitely let it warm fully before then end so you can fully enjoy it and you have a very robust and enjoyable beer.

Background: So, you all know Independent Spirit by now right? It is where I get easy 70%+ of my drinks. Well it is 10 years old! Darn time flies. Also I am now old. Anyway, to celebrate they teamed up with Bath local brewery Electric Bear to make this Irish Stout, loaded with coffee and Azacca hops. I have to admit Azacca hops is one I don’t know that well. Could mean anything. Well, something I need to do more tasty research on. Anyway, it is fairly obvious where I bought this right? Morrisons. Of course. With it being an IRISH stout I had to go for appropriately themed music. Rakshak by Bloodywood, natch.

And just in case you did not pick up it was a joke this was not bought at Morrisons. I did however listen to Bloodywood, because they are amazing.

Moor: Mando (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened caramel colour that leaves suds. Large mounded off white head. Small amount of visible sediment, but no real visible carbonation.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Crushed digestives. Ovaltine. Biscuity bitter hop character. Light orange ovaltine. Soft grapefruit.

Body: Bitter, earthy and peppery. Malt chocolate base to ovaltine. Restrained grapefruit.

Finish: Earthy bitterness. Peppery. Light grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I will admit while West Coast IPA is 100% my thing, I have had slightly less experience with West Coast pales. I have enjoyed most of the ones I have tried, but I am less able to say if any new beer in that style meets the style expectations. Or at least my version of the style expectations.

This feels like half way between a UIK earthy bitter and a West Coast IPA – not a bad combo. It is very earthy and peppery, which 100% makes me think of British bitters, and the malt base is less out of the way than I would expect from things of a West Coast style (though that may be my West Coast IPA expectations showing through). You get a quite biscuity meets ovaltine malt base that, while it doesn’t quite match to a UK bitter, feels like the American take on an English Pale Ale style which I always views as kind of how USA views a UK Bitter. That was quite a ramble – it’s not exactly that, but in the vicinity – a pale ale bitter British ale style definitely has its hooks in this somewhere.

Then you get the West Coast style becoming visible, with a higher level of bitterness – not an IPA level but still a good punch. Along with that also comes that tart grapefruit I’d expect from the style, not huge but in a way that just slightly lightens and refreshes from the bitterness.

Overall, it is very solid. Not a must have beer, but as a bitterness delivery system I am here for it. You want a bitter, lightly tart freshened beer with a British earthy, peppery character mixed in? Yeah, well this is that and a real ale influenced take on a west coast pale style and it is a job well done.

This is the way.

Background: So, you may not have noticed, but the beer name and imagery is a subtle nod to The Mandalorian. I know if I had not pointed it out, you never would have noticed. They have to be that subtle to get it past Disney’s lawyers. Anyway, while not the hugest Star Wars geek, I do enjoy it and both Mandalorian and especially Andor have been very enjoyable recently, so between that, the fact I adore West Coast IPAs (Yes I know this is a west coast pale, close enough to catch my attention), and that Moor do a great quality of live ales in cans, this really was one I had to grab. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, I went back to Lesbian Bed Death: Born To Die on VHS as backing music, while horror rather than sci fi, it definitely has the geek movie love quota to match the beer.

Lagavulin: Offerman Edition Batch 3: Charred Oak Cask: Aged 11 Years (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Beef barbecue and ribs smoke. Tarry and oily. White chocolate touch. Toasted teacakes. Charring. Sherry trifle. Drying. Liquorice touch. Toasted burnt marshmallow. Water make smoother. Lightly peppery. Light menthol. Pencil shavings.

Body: Dry. Oaken. Charred. Dried beef slices. Soot. Charcoal. Dry smoke. Burnt brown sugar and caramel. Sweet red wine. Cherries. Cake sponge. Milky chocolate. Water adds vanilla, lots of sherry trifle and overdone steak.

Finish: Tannins, cherries. Red wine. White chocolate. Dry liquorice touch. White wine air. Thai seven spice. Raisins and sultanas soaked in port. Water adds a menthol touch and dried beef slices.

Conclusion:Ok, let’s get this out of the way – this isn’t as good as the Lagavulin 16, nor the Distillers edition. Then again nothing is. Those two whiskies are nigh perfect drams – it is the curse of every other Lagavulin expression that they will end up being compared directly to those two. They are going to end up being compared to nigh perfection being sold at a cheaper price, so, ouch.

So, with that taken as a given, the real question is, does this earn its spot by being a different enough enjoyable Lagavulin expression? And the answer to that is simple, yes.

So, first the disappointments. The thing that makes it not work as well as the 16 for me is its drier, less chewy body – that mouthfeel and weight is a big part of what makes the 16 work so well for me. It is not as slight as the 8 thought, which while I did enjoy, definitely needed more body.

What does it do well? Well it has so much range – from sweeter toasted teacakes and white chocolate light undertones that give a sweeter touch of Lagavulin you don’t see often, to massive red fruit, red wine and red spirit range that makes this richer than most Lagavulin – and combined makes for a bit of a different take, while still being Lagavulin.

Water helps smooth it all out and reduce its dryness, but also kills all the remaining chewiness in the mouthfeel. Generally water improves it though, letting the spirit roam even more – but does also bring a menthol touch that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the spirit.

So, what about that base of a good Lagavulin – the peaty smoke and chewy dried meat vibes? Well, it has a lovely range of smoke, from soot, to charcoal, charring, and just peat smoke in general. Water soothes that which is a pity, but does give a lot in return.

Similarly, while the mouthfeel of this dram is not as heavy as I would like, there is a tasty dried meat character, not as big as the 16, but there – again lessens with water.

Overall, not the 16, nor the Distiller Edition, we have already established nothing is, however it is recognisably Lagavulin and has a delicious range to work with. Well worth it if you already have the 16 on your cupboard and want something different.

Background: I missed the first two Offerman edition Lagavulins, much to my chagrin, especially as one was Guinness Cask finished which sounds epic. So I 100% had to grab this one when I saw it. Nick Offerman played a character in Parks and Recreation that was a huge Lagavulin fan, and I take it the actor is as well, so this little team up happened and I am very happy for it to have done so. This was aged in a mix of American and European oaks casks (so I presume bourbon and red wine casks), but have been heavily re charred before being used to age the whisky. Not as unusual as a Guinness Cask finish I will admit, but still an interesting one, and I do so love Lagavulin and try to sample as many expressions as I can. It is described as a perfect match for a medium rare steak. Something I will have to test at a later date. This was grabbed direct from malts.com which I think may be the only place it is sold. I am not 100% sure of that. I went with Ghost: Meliora as backing music.

Ardnamurchan AD/10:22: Madeira Cask Release (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 58.2% ABV)

Visual: Lovely deep gold colour with medium speed thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Christmas pudding. Brandy cream. Plums. Vanilla fudge. Warming. Lightly salty. Salted fudge. Pencil shavings. Water adds menthol, green grapes and a peppery character.

Body: Fudge. Warming. Dry oak. Madeira cakes. Sugared orange. Lightly waxy. Fatty butter. Peppery. Water makes smoother. Thai 7 spice. Sultanas. Apricot and apricot syrup. Apples.

Finish: Drying. Madeira cakes. Pencil shavings. Port soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light dry, black liquorice. Thai 7 spice. Sweet orange. Menthol. Water adds peach syrup and sultanas. Slight sulphur and smoke.

Conclusion: This is a surprisingly complex dram for something that must be quite young based on how long the distillery has been open. I was expecting it to be very Madeira led and the cask strength combined with youth making it a bit burning before water.

So, basically neat I was expecting some strong flavours but fairly simple. What I got was this initially booming with plum pudding/Christmas pudding notes along with associated spirity cream notes. A delicious start. It is warming but not numbing, it is dryer Madeira cake style in the main body as the alcohol strength does make it pretty drying overall but along with those spirit and vaguely Christmas themed dessert notes there are also a good set of woody notes and peppery spice as grounding. A tad more than what I expected and definitely not as burning, but generally in line with expectations and decent. It feels stewed fruit thick, drying and very heavy. There is a waxy touch and some fatty butter feel giving it some nice play in mouthfeel, but the dryness limits how much it can express that. Then you add water, and this is when things get surprising and very interesting.

The texture is smoother and shows that waxy and fatty better mouthfeel much better. What is the big change is the peach, apricot and associated syrup notes that come out,which I presume is spirit character as it sure isn’t the Madeira. There is still spice, dark fruit and such but now with a real soft, sweet fruit against it. It is an impressive balance and a radical change from what I expected.

It is spirity, fruity, and with a tiny smokey note despite being an unpeated spirit, it may be more a sulphur note, but it is there. Lots of spicy character comes in there, and with that a fatty butter sheen that makes for a very distinct mouthfeel.

This really shows what the spirit can do and I hope for more like this as the years pass as I am very impressed.

Background: Well, this is one that vanished quickly from stock. I’d been told it had been getting some buzz so picked one up quickly. Then took until now to finally do notes on it. I am not lazy honest. My first encounter with Ardnamurchan was interesting but not a must have, but had enough that this Madeira finished release definitely was one I wanted to try. There were 5,781 bottles of this cask strength, unchill-filtered release but they still vanished quickly. It is using their unpeated malt, and a quick google says it spent five years in first fill bourbon then one year in Madeira hogsheads so I’m guessing six years full age unless there are rounding issues at play .This was grabbed from the ever helpful Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the Best Of Mel and Kim album – feeling a bit 80s pop throwback at the moment.

Newton Park: Crater Lake Cold IPA (England: IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light pale straw to yellow colour. Large loose white bubbled head. Some small amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Flour. Fresh lime. Lemon cakes. Dry. Prickly hops. Crushed salty rocks.

Body: Dry. Good bitterness. Lime. Light honey sweetness. Gherkin touch. Light Apricot. Vanilla. Clean mouthfeel.

Finish: Dry. Good bitterness. Gritty hop feel. Light honey sheen. Light gherkin. Lime.

Conclusion: Ok, I’d never run into a Cold IPA before this one, but if, as I think from a bit of googling, this is representative of the general style then they have my interest. If this is also representative of the general quality I could expect them I am 100% on board for this becoming the next big thing – hopefully pushing out the NEIPA craze. If you had not heard of the style either, imagine something between a lager and a west coast IPA – as a West Coast IPA fan that could either be completely for me or heresy, and as you have probably guess I am plopping down on the completely for me side of the line.

Oh, spoiler warning for the rest of the review there.

It is nicely dry, as you would hope from the west coast side of things, but slips down much easier than most of those, with that lager style giving a soothing feel as it goes down.

There is soft lime and lemon citrus notes, and a hint but not more than that of the American apricot hops – not the full intensity or range I would expect from the best West Coast IPAs, but that is a high bar of comparison to clear. It works well as a lovely fresh hop character to give enough fresh fruitiness against the dry character and decent hop bitterness. A nice balance.

There is that note I see in good IPAs that I can only describe as a gherkin touch, kind of a light sour undertone, subtly done – it sounds like a horrible thing when said like that but it really works to give a nice twist to IPAs like this. One day I may work out a better descriptor.

The body is mostly out of the way, (in a West Coast style one might say), though with a lager smooth sheen. The main sight of it is in a dry honey sweetness, but even that is understated. In general between the west coast and lager influence it is a gentle mouthfeel more than a flavour.

Overall, generally one I love. Balanced between bite and easy drinking. It dodges the curse of West Coast IPAs in England not living up to the USA ones by not technically being a west coast IPA, despite wearing their influence obviously. Any which way, this is lovely character and I highly recommend you get your hands on one before it vanishes, even if that means less for me.

Background: Been meaning to do notes on this one for a while now, I’ve not been doing as many notes recently but this one definitely needed a slot. First reason for this is Newton Park is, at least for a while, shutting down – as are many British breweries at the moment so wanted to slot at least one in before they went. Second of all this is a Cold IPA, an unusual style I had not encountered before, using lager yeast but aiming for an IPA style. Sounds like an IPL, but from trying it, this definitely seems to earn a place for a style as itself. Finally, well I enjoyed it, as you may be able to tell and wanted to get the message out a bit so people had a chance to grab it before it vanished. Anyway grabbed a few cans of this from Independent Spirit, of which this is one. Went with Electric Callboy: Tekkno for music while drinking – a mate introduced me to them and it was some fun high energy backing for the booze.

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