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Cooper’s Choice: Glen Esk: 1984: Limburg Whisky Fair (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 31 Year: 49.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slight yellow gold colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Tingling alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Toffee. Soft lime sorbet. Oak. Water makes cleaner. Lightly grassy. Still notable alcohol.

Body: Strong alcohol. Fatty butter. Vanilla. Peppery. Toffee. Water adds light strawberry. Still an alcohol presence. Pear drops. Polish air.

Finish: Fatty butter. Peppery. Oak. Alcohol tingle. Water adds tinned tropical fruit. A polish air. Flour dusted baps. Soft lemon sorbet.

Conclusion: This is very, well, neutral. At 49.5% abv I was expecting a bit of alcohol, so the alcohol weight is not a problem, but with 30 years in the oak I have to admit I was expecting it to be smoothed just a bit, and made into something more complex than what we have here.

It shows the weight mainly through alcohol and a fatty buttery feel – the cask strength and non chill filtered character means that there is a lot or raw, oily, fatty character there, but unfortunately it seems not much else.

It is a peppery, vanilla and toffee thing at its core. Some of which is expected character from the bourbon ageing, but, again, considering the time in the wood this has had I would expect more to it than that. The raw oak character is there fairly heavily, stomping into the spirit.

Overall it is, adequate I guess, water never really removed the rough character, though it does give more lemon and lime sorbet character over time. The peak in interesting and unusual notes is a strawberry touch that comes out from time to time, but 90% of the time it is generic vanilla, peppery and oak. It is not actively bad, it is just average, and for the cost, age and available abv, it needs and deserves more.

If this sums up the Glen Esk/Hillside experience then I can see why they went under.

Background: So, every now and then I can afford to get one of the dead distilleries I have not tried before. So, this is another one – Glen Esk, a distillery also called Hillside sometimes – that has been closed since 1985. I went with this one as it seemed fairly reasonably priced for a dead distillery, especially considering the age and cask strength, non chill filtered as well which is nice. Also as a bourbon cask aged one, I figured it would show more of the distilleries base character. It was grabbed from The Whisky Exchange a while back, and saved for a special occasion. Then lockdown hit and I though … fuck it. So here we are. This is one of 240 bottles, bottled for the Limburg Whisky Fair – which I know nothing about. Put on IDLES new album while drinking – Ultra Mono. I prefer their second album so far, but still a good album.

Equilibrium: Super Fractal Laboratory Set (USA: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy peach skin to apricot coloured body. Medium sized bubbled white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Cake sponge. Muggy hop bitterness. Pine needles. Custard slice. Mango. Apricot skin. Grapes.

Body: Mango. Pomegranate. Cake sponge. Thick. Peach. Marshmallow but dry. Custard. Honey syrup. Watermelon jolly ranchers. Resinous. Gherkin like sour touch. Hop oils

Finish: Pine needles. Muggy bitterness. Granite touch. Savoury, lettuce like touch at the end. Honey.

Conclusion: This feels heavy. Thick, kind of savoury and with a bready to cake nature. It is kind of sticky as well – the fruity feels dried but in a way that clings to the tongue.

There is sweetness, predominantly expressed as a honey, again sticky notes that hangs around for a long time at the end. However, considering the abv it comes across moderately attenuated in a way that I would not expect. Not dry, but restrained, drier than the malt load would suggest.

The bitterness is, again, moderate. Some resinous character, a good level of bitterness but slightly muggy rather than prickly, and slightly oily but not the main character. It isn’t lacking in bitterness, but it isn’t exactly the front either.

The front is instead an odd, slightly muggy, slightly dry, fruit set of unusual notes; Rocking with pomegranate and mango more than the more common choices. There are hints of sweeter release, but generally it is kind of savoury, slightly soured unusual notes with some dry sweetness.

It gets a bit sweeter over time and feels much more clinging – the flavours and hops last long, long into the finish. It is decent, but a tad too sticky kind of clingy for me. The thick body and dryness keeps every flavour around, but without those notes that pop out to make it feel more welcome and complex over time.

Still, decent – lots of flavour and identity, just not quite expressed to a style of my preference.

Background: Ohh, a new brewery to me from the USA. With the smaller USA craft brewers being pretty rare in the UK these days I was again happy to snap up something to try. There seemed to be a lot of variants of this Super Fractal beer, so being a science fan I grabbed the Laboratory Set variant and thought I would see where it would take me. Yep, a very formal selection method used. This is called Triple IPA, but I have to admit I always thought 10% fell under the high end of a double IPA. Feh, I’m listing it under IIPA anyway for ease, but I am fairly sure 10% abv is not in the triple range. The base beer – Super Fractal is described as having a simple grain bill, the can doesn’t list ingredients so I’m not exactly sure what that entails, to which this adds massive Citra hopping. Cool. Ok, let’s see how that goes. Went with Ulver: Flowers of Evil when drinking – a brighter sounding but still musically complex work from the always great Ulver. Oh I bought this at Independent Spirit.

Seven Islands: Dulce De Banana (Greece: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dash of a brown head.

Nose: Banana syrup. Caramel. Licorice. Crumpets.

Body: Toffee. Chocolate liqueur. Banana syrup. Honey. Boozy core. Cream. Chocolate cake sponge. Toffee liqueur. Tiramisu.

Finish: Cream. Banana syrup. Chocolate liqueur. Chocolate cake sponge. Toffee liqueur. Sweet danish pastry. Hundreds and thousands. Blended whisky. Alcohol soaked sponge.

Conclusion: Ok, even more so that their PBJ dessert stout, this is a stupidly sweet, syrupy, mess. So, any which way, I couldn’t wait to get my lips around it.

Also the can image looks rude.

By far the banana is the stand out element – it just booms cheap banana syrup character. Probably not something that sounds appealing to most people, but I will admit I am enjoying its silly, sweet character.

Like their similar pastry stout PBJ this shows its alcohol in a boozy, kind of whisky like set of notes. Here it shows as a reasonable, if not special, quality blended whisky kind of style. An obvious alcohol character, but not a bad one – just very noticeably boozy. Again, it hasn’t been whisky aged, so is a very odd set of notes to find.

Apart from that there is a lot of toffee, and spirit soaked tiramisu style in a cream meets toffee meets alcohol meets everything else kind of mash of …. stuff.

I mean, you saw the can, maybe read the ingredients list, you kind of already knew what this offers, what you probably want to know is it actually any good? Well it is a sickly sweet, thick blended whisky touched .. thing. It could probably give sugar shock just by looking at it.

But that doesn’t answer the question does it?

So, erm yeah. Well it is chewy, and yet still fairly smooth – a decent mix for a mouthfeel. The alcohol, though whisky styled is not rough. For something that plays as cheaply sweet as this done, it is as polished as you will get for that kind of dessert beer trip.

So, cheap thrills, but well made for that. I enjoyed it. If you don’t automatically hate the dessert beer style, then you may have fun with it too.

Background: Soo, I had this a while back and did not do notes on it back then. I will admit, 90% of the reason I bought another was to do notes so I could share the can image with you. Back when Indie Spirit first got it in they put up photos of this and Boi Juice side by side. Which just goes to show they know how to sell beers to me. Another of the silly dessert stouts, made to try and duplicate an existing dessert. To try and do that this is made with … deep breath .. oats, lactose, banana, condensed milk, vanilla and chocolate. With all that I am surprised there is still room for the beer in there. Have been playing the Guitar Hero games again recently so went with Slayer: Reign In Blood for music. Incidentally – Fuck Raining Blood in Guitar Hero 3. Fuck it to hell.

Maker’s Mark: Makers 46 (USA: Bourbon: 47% ABV)

Visual: Very deep reddened bronze colour. Fast and thick sheet of streak comes from the spirit.

Nose: Warm honey. Vanilla. Shredded wheat. Lightly peppery. Slight stewed apricot. Caramel. Water adds custard slice touch.

Body: Strawberry crème. Warm golden syrup. Vanilla toffee liqueur. Thick. Oaken underneath. Water makes smoother. Some alcohol jelly like touch. More vanilla. Cherry pocked biscuits. Liquorice touch.

Finish: Honey. Vanilla sheen. Toffee liqueur. Oak. Water gives a grape touch. Jelly. Shredded wheat.

Conclusion: This feels like Maker Mark’s bigger, smoother, more fulfilling brother. What I am saying is it is more bangable basically.

Neat it feels like warm honey and golden syrup drizzled over cereal. It still has that kind of rustic feel I associate with Maker’s Mark, but with the sweetness shoved way up. The extra alcohol strength , as well as upping the thickness of mouthfeel, also seems to have given it room for some odder notes to make themselves known. From strawberry notes, to cherry biscuits hints hanging around in the thick, heavy texture, there is a bit more variety – it doesn’t give release from the sweetness, but adds more depth to the thick, sweet character.

Neat is has a kind of weight that gives away that it has the higher alcohol content; Not a burn, just an unusual thickness. Water takes it into a smoother, more drinkable dram – closer to standard Maker’s Mark but still with more complexity.

Maker’s Mark has always been a go to bourbon for me for general drinking, and this, while still a touch one track minded, is more complex, more satisfying and more weighty without moving outside of the general drinking field. It feels like it pays off all the promise standard Maker’s Mark had.

It isn’t super complex but as a sipping bourbon this is excellent.

Background: Now the question I was asking myself was, why “46”? Especially as it is 47% abv, which was going to be my first guess. Well it is Maker’s Mark, but a version finished with oak staves. The fact that they were only used for finishing means that it still counts as bourbon – I think that for standard ageing they would not be allowed. Anyway I googled it, apparently this was a result of experiments with French toasted oak labelled “Stave Profile No. 46”. So they kept that as a name, because the marketing team was out at lunch or something I guess. Anyway – been a fan of Maker’s Mark for a while, since it got me through America when craft beer was hard to find – so tried this at The Star a while back and enjoyed it – they have a fair decent whisky selection at a decent price. This bottle was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with the new Ulver album for backing music – the wonderful sounds of “Flowers Of Evil”. Amazing as always.

Barrier: Money (USA: IPA: 7.3% ABV)

Visual: Hazy, cloudy lemon curd colour with large yellowed white mounded head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Apricot skin. Nicely bitter hop character. Jiff lemon. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Sweet pineapple. Grapefruit touch. Tart grapes. Resinous style. Light chalk touch. Light strawberry.

Finish: Oily hop bitterness. Growling bitter character, but of medium intensity. Caramel touch. Peach. Gritty hop grip. Light strawberry. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok short version – This is a good IPA, the Double Dry Hopped variant is better. This is good, that is great. Got that? Cool now for people who want more, here is the long version.

This is more instantly cloudy, on first pour it already had the NEIPA cloudy look that only came late pour for the DDH version. Thankfully, like DDH it still holds the hops – still resinous and oily. Less so, but still rocking a full variety of the hop range.

It is more evidently pineapple led, in quite a sweet but fresh take with some tarter grapefruit notes behind. This is bigger on the citrus pop, but has less range to go with it. When you combine the bigger emphasis on the citrus with the more subtle hop style it makes for a more general drinking, fresh, IPA but at the cost of some complexity in exchange for that lovely drinkability.

It still has that backing malt sweetness, more evident in the caramel touches in the finish, present but unobtrusive in the main body – giving just enough sweetness and weight for the hops to work against.

It is a lovely IPA – fresh, just enough East coast style sweetness, but very restrained against a sweet, tart citrus feel that reminds me of New Zealand beers, matched with a good range of hop expression.

Don't mistake not being as good as the DDH version and not being worth trying. This is still a joy.

Background: Last month I tried Money DDH edition, and found it very much to my taste. I was tempted to just grab another can of it, but decided to grab the baseline Money to see how it works, and what it was they built off. Hope that doesn't turn out to be a big mistake. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, same place I grabbed the DDH version. Went with Ghost: Prequelle as backing music. Looking at the internet Ghost seems to be either the greatest thing ever, or a crime against metal and I should be ashamed to listen to it. This is my first Ghost album and … it’s fun, reminds me of 80’s stadium metal and Sigh’s Gallows Gallery. Lighter than my usual metal, but full of energy.

Williams Bros: Birds and Bees (Scotland: Golden Ale: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Large mounded frothy white head.

Nose: Lemon cakes. Lime sorbet. Crisp hop character. Clean. Cake sponge.

Body: Lime zest. Bread dough. Slight sulphur. Lemony. Peppery.

Finish: Dough. Light sulphur. Lime. Lightly earthy and peppery. Decent hop character and bitterness.

Conclusion: This is what I would call a simple beer, but done well. It had a few points I initially took as flaws, that I am now enjoying as I come into the tail end of the beer.

So, to take the basics first, this is a gentle lemon and lime filled golden ale with crisp hop feel. Gentle up front, saving the bitterness for a hoppy and bitter finish. Tidy. Simple, but refreshing and pops the bright notes.

The flaw? Or the initially flaw seeming element, is that it is slightly sulphurous, especially in the finish. It felt kind of like it is backed by partially cooked dough amongst that and early on it felt a bit stuffy, which got in the way of the gentle sipping golden ale character.

So, yeah, early on I disliked it, but as time went on it altered, adding an odd steam beer like feel to the experience. A kind of fluffy feel that I oddly associated with direct gas heated whisky. Long story. Anyway, it is a rougher edge but now goes well with the hop punch at the end of the beer to give a nice underline to the thing.

For me anyway, your mileage may vary.

Nowt too showy, but a drinkable hoppy golden ale that slips down nicely.

Background: Back to Flavourly again, where my parents kindly bought me a box of beer to be sent to me. As always many thanks. A few I had done notes on before, and a few I just drank in general, but I made an effort to keep a few for doing tasting notes. Of which this is one. See, backstory is easy! William Bros first came to my attention years ago, back when they seemed to concentrate on brewing with older traditional ingredients. They have widened their range a lot since those days. Anyway, went with New Model Army: Impurity for backing music while drinking. Remember seeing them live a few years back, epic show, man I miss live music shows.

Douglas Lain: The Epicurean – Cognac Cask Finish (Scottish Lowland Blended Malt: 48% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened gold, with fast, thick streaks coming from the body.

Nose: Honey. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Stewed apricots. Cognac. Warming. Green grapes. Nasal hair tingling alcohol. Apple. Water adds slight oak. Makes cleaner and lighter. Adds more grapes and apple.

Body: Slick feel but warming. Honey. Custard. Slightly syrupy. Green grapes. Marmalade. Apple pie filling. Vanilla toffee. Light moss. Peach. Water adds more apple. Some pear. Brown sugar and cake sponge.

Finish: Marmalade. Cognac. Apple pie filling. Shaved wood. Quite dry. Gin air. Water adds pear. More evident lowland character. Brown sugar. Teabags and tannins.

Conclusion: This one took a good long while for it to air properly and open up. My first dram poured from this a few weeks back was very cognac dominated, very alcohol touched and the whisky was pretty much lost beneath the finishing wood. You basically got whisky feeling cognac but not much else. Fun, and a laugh to try, but not one I could overly recommend.

Things have changed since then.

Even drunk neat this is smoother than before- the lowland cleanness giving a lighter take to the thickness that the cognac gives. Together they become a smooth but surprisingly weighty dram for a lowland whisky.

It really shows its flavour range as well now. There is very definite cognac, especially those marmalade like sweet notes, and it mixes with the whisky base to show apricot and peach bright notes. However the base lowland style is now easier to notice. It show slightly mossy, clean and green fruit notes and makes it much more easy going that the sweet cognac backing.

Water brings out a lot more of the lowland character. It is still coming out with big, big sweetness, but now the whisky character actually is, just about, in the forefront. There is much more green fruit – especially apples. It is slightly sulphur touched, and kind of tannins touched in a way that doesn’t suit the sweetness in the finish, and that is probably the only weak point of the whisky. Not automatically bad elements but they don’t match, and the finish is a bit of let down with that. Here is where it is a tad more alcohol touched and rough.

Still, a very fun whisky and generally well developed. Probably best neat, or with just a drop of water to open it up. Let’s face it, if you bought this the concept of a cognac whisky is what you wanted, and taken neat or near neat that is what you get, just a bit smoother and more complex than that sounds and far more than the early days of opening.

Open it up, give it some time, and this will reward you in the end. A weak finish, but great cognac meets whisky front and middle.

Background: Another blended malt (or vatted malt as I prefer the term) – a mix of single malts from different distilleries with no grain whisky. In this case all lowland whiskies, which tend to be triple distilled – a common technique in Ireland but uncommon in Scotland. It tends to give a lighter, more easy drinking feel. This is quite an unusual variant on the Epicurean, having been finished in Cognac casks. I mainly grabbed it for that as I was intrigued on what that finish would do. This is one of only 402 bottles and was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went back to At The Drive in: Relationship Of Command to listen to while drinking. Again I think I really should buy at least one more of their albums…

Fourpure: Flavourly: Geyser Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear to just slightly hazy yellowed body with a thin white head and not much carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla. Light fudge. Crisp hop air. Light grapefruit. Fresh cut apple. Fresh in general.

Body: Prickly bitterness. Moderate hop character. Slightly bready. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Good, solid hop bitterness. Greenery. Sulphur. Peppery. Some very light grapefruit.

Conclusion: I’m finding it hard to write a lot about this one. It is solid. Solid is an admirable quality but it makes it hard to write something interesting for people to read.

Sooooo, it’s a session IPA. A style that often gets on my nerves as a lot of brewers seem to just continue throwing in the high IPA hops into an otherwise standard pale ale, without considering how the lower malt with affect how those hops are expressed, resulting in an overly dry and harsh beer. So far Beavertown’s Neck Oil stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the competion for the style by managing not to fall into that mistake.

This is pretty dry, but manages to keep it on the drinkable side of things. It also manages a good bitterness and lightly peppery character that gives the IPA punch of hops despite the low abv not giving much malt to contrast them.

Now the aroma is the most interesting part of this deal, and promises a lot more than I just described above. It gives a lot of malt sweetness hints somehow, despite the abv, and a little touch of tart grapefruit notes that promises some release from the bitter hops.

None of this follows through into the body, which is a pity. The base is, as previously said, solid. Well done bitterness, easily drinnkable, dry but not drying. It just needs some pep adding, some metaphorical spice thrown into the mix. The grapefruit hints out again in the finish, but just doesn’t manage to push through mid body.

It isn’t 100% of nailing the body – occasionally being a tad sulphurous, but generally a really good base that puts it above 80% of session IPAs I have tried. It just needs some experimentation to add some range to it. Hope they give it tweak.

Background: So, my parents kindly got me a box of beer from Flavourly – they were doing one of their many offers and it seemed a very decent price as well for a bunch of beers. Many thanks! Time to see if there is quality for that price. This is listed as a Flavourly collaboration with Fourpure. Now Fourpure already have a session IPA at 4.2% abv. Is this a tweaked version of that recipe? Or possibly just rebranded for Flavourly? I dunno. I Never tried Fourpure’s session IPA so can’t say, but something to keep in mind. Had on varied versions of Faithless’ Insomnia for backing music while drinking. The recent heat made that song seem very relevant at the moment.

Seven Islands: PJB Concoction (Greece: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Caramel brown rim of a head.

Nose: Massive amounts of peanut-butter. Chocolate. Oats. Strawberry. Touch of liquorice.

Body: Strawberry crème to strawberry jam. Thick, milky chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Boozy alcohol. Toffee liqueur. Blended whisky. Peanut butter.

Finish: Liquorice. Danish pastries. Strawberry crème filled bitter black chocolate sweets. Bourbon whiskey. Boozy alcohol. Toffee liqueur. Alcohol air. Bourbon biscuits. Peanut butter.

Conclusion: Holy fuck this really smells of peanut-butter. Also chocolate. It is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of beers. And yes despite being British I have eaten Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They get everywhere.

There is also definitely the strawberry notes, not as heavy but definitely enough that this Is matching its core conceit well. Now it isn’t 100% on, being sometimes more strawberry crème than strawberry jam. Also you tend to get either the Reese’s chocolate peanut butter, or the strawberry crème filled quality chocolate sweets, rarely both at once, for most of the beer. It is only in the latter half that they really merge together, and truly match the idea of the beer, but that is nit picking.

Now, much as it does get the conceit, it isn’t all good news. The alcohol is very boozy – at its best it is like lower end bourbon, at its worst it has some of the rougher end of blended whisky feel and taste. Not 100% terrible, but it really doesn’t suit the feel of the beer.

Still, as a pastry stout it even has sweet pastry notes. Then again does PBJ have pastry? I always thought it was just peanut butter and jam in a sandwich. Is there a genuine pastry dessert PBJ? Is this I thing I never encountered?

Anyway, as an imperial stout it has some rough edges. As a PBJ beer it is fun despite the roughness. It isn’t going to win awards for brewing or style, but ya know what?

I had a laugh with it.

Background: Pastry/Dessert stouts seem to be getting a lot of shit at the moment. I guess I can kind of see why, the market is flipping flooded with them. It is kind of the NEIPA of stouts. However I kind of dig them, as long as it is an occasional treat. I think they have the advantage that they are easy to spot, unlike NEIPAs where often the first clue you get is when you pour from the can. Anyway, this is a Peanut Butter and Jelly/Jam inspired beer. By which I mean it is made with peanut butter, strawberry, Tahitian vanilla (which a quick google tells me is more fancy than normal vanilla apparently) and chocolate. Soo, yeah can see how they are hoping to get the PBJ flavours then. Seven Islands is a new brewery for me, and it is only when I googled that I found out it is from Greece, and not Canada as I first guessed. Interesting – not had much of an examine of their beer scene before. Anyway, another new beer from Independent Spirit. I went with Gogol Bordello: Trans Continental Hustle for background music while drinking. Anti immigration feeling is rinsing in the UK again, so a burst of punk energy against that was welcome.

Big Drop: Poolside DDH IPA (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold body with some small bubbled carbonation. Huge yellow white loose head that leaves suds.

Nose: Peach. Unbuttered popcorn. Kiwi. Soft lime. Lemon drizzled pancakes. Passion-fruit. Cake sponge. Lightly bitter.

Body: Iced tea. Kiwi. Slight teabags. Cake sponge. Moderate bitterness. Lightly peppery. Slight peach. Vanilla. Lime.

Finish: Good hop bitterness. Tannins. Lemony. Light charring. Apple. Good hop character. Lime. Kiwi. Peach.

Conclusion: I’m slightly split in my opinion of this one. It does a lot well, but there is one important point where I feel it is weaker than Big Drop’s Citra IPA and their Pale Ale. Weaker in character that is, they are all 0.5% abv for alcohol, natch.

The aroma is the best part – fresh and subtly layered. Lots of different fruit dancing around in there – you get a good range and a subtle hop character and bitterness working under it.

The bitterness grow in the main body, to become a decent kick by the time you get through to the finish. The fruit is never as complex as the aroma though. Instead of layers of juicy and fresh fruit notes you tend to get bursts of individual notes pushing through. There are still kiwi and lemon notes making the most distinct impression despite the growling bitterness.

The problem then is that it has that kind of iced tea and tannins notes which tend to show up in low alcohol beers, and especially early on they are much more present that in Big Drop’s other hoppy beers. I’m not sure why, but for all the quality hop work used here, it still shouts “low abv” more that most of Big Drop’s range.

It is still decent, good in fact – it is impressive in how it manages to balance the higher bitterness without needing the malt and higher abv to balance it – and it does show what you can do when you put more, and a wider range of, ingredients into a low abv beer.

It just needs a bit of tweaking – so close, just needs that touch more work to really shine.

Background: Second of Big Drop’s summer releases. This being more firmly in their area of strength being a hop led double dry hopped IPA. Looking at the can it is hopped with Azacca, Chinook, Mosaic and Motueka. Again had a few of these before doing the notes. Went with Rage Against The Machine’s self titled album as backing to drinking. Mainly as some people still don’t realise their songs are political apparently. So I need to keep pumping them out until people realise. Anyway, another beer from Independent Spirit.

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