Good Chemistry: Hurly Burly (England: Belgian Ale: 4.4% ABV)
Visual: Dark brown. Mostly opaque. Caramel brown moderate mounded coffee head looking froth.
Nose: Crushed peanuts. Treacle toffee. Gritty hop character and bitterness. Crushed granite. Sugar comes out as it warms – Blackpool rock and caramel.
Body: Lime. Mild bitter black coffee. Liquorice. Moderate bitterness. Slightly thin chocolate notes. Dried apple. Candy floss. Orange sweets. Brown sugar and cane sugar mix.
Finish: Slightly earthy and some bitterness/hop character. Mint leaf. Thin feeling chocolate liqueur. Dried apple. Watermelon Jolly Ranchers.
Conclusion: Ok, this feels either like a surprisingly sweet and fruity British bitter, or a similarly surprisingly earthy yet restrained Belgian Dubbel. Not a comparison I have to make often.
First impressions tend towards the British bitter side of things, slightly chilled as I first encountered it, it was slightly nutty, slightly bitter and slightly coffee, fairly generic, but there were these feelings that it was hinting at something else going on below so I gave it some time.
Warmed, or at least less chilled, it brought out those hints and developed them. It brings out an artificial fruit flavoured hard sweets set of characteristics. It very much calls to the less attenuated core and brown sugar notes of a Belgian Dubbel, but without any of the accompanying weight. It is very sugary tasting, but as you reach the finish you find it descending back into a more traditional British bitter character on the way out.
The sweetness of the beer, and raw unattenuated sugar character, feels heavier than you would expect for the abv, but the texture of the beer itself feels lighter, actually probably slightly less thick that I would expect for 4.4% and a touch thinner than the beer really needs. It has good flavour characteristics but feels like it needs more grounding weight behind it.
Overall it is a funky idea, and one that definitely works better at room temperature where it cleaves closer to the Belgian side of its heritage, and where the artificial sweetness is mellowed by a more natural feeling caramel backing to the base body. I still think it needs a tad more weight to bulk up the base feel and reign in more of the artificial feel, but it has a good base conceit. Not recommended as is, but has potential.
Background: I’ve been meaning to try these lot for a while – their unusual bottles caught my eye at Independent Spirit, but there have always been other beers I wanted to try first. UNTIL NOW! Out of the selection available I went for this one as it listed that it was brewed with Belgian yeast, which always gets a thumbs up from me. Drunk while listening to more of Garbage’s new album, not as good as their first two albums so far, but it is enjoyable, and, let’s face it those albums were utterly excellent.