Archive for December, 2016


magic-rock-cigar-city-wayniac-ipa

Magic Rock: Cigar City: Wayniac IPA (England: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy browned apricot. Very large yellowed white head of creamy bubbles. Lots of sediment as you pour the last of the can.

Nose: Fluffy hops. Light bitterness. Peach and apricot. Slight cucumber? Something quite clean in there. Malt drinks.

Body: Good bitterness. Kiwi. Peach and apricot. Caramel and toffee. Peach syrup. Malt drinks. Good hop character. Tart grapes and accompanying fresh feel.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Caramel. Peach. Light charring. Slight gritty touch. Sour cream twist. Toffee. Malt drinks. Light grapes. Light custard.

Conclusion: So, lot of IPA styles around these days, and with the option of big hops and big malt sweetness, they decided to go all out and shove both of them way up. Not a unique take, but a nice easy way to sum up the general feel of this thing. The malt base is a bit more gritty than usual for an IPA, giving a tad odd feel – more heavy duty and less easy drinking than normal.

For that unusual texture you would hope to have some big flavours in return – as grittiness by itself isn’t that appealing. Not a good look, you know?

This does give a lot on exchange for the oddities of texture – while not initially that strongly noticeable, the extra texture does give grip that really pushes up the bitter punch of this beer by the end. The fruitiness is equally pushed up big – the heavy malt influence means that it is less fresh than it would otherwise feel – though there are hints of that left – instead it is thick, slightly dry fruit; There is a huge range of green and peachy styled fruits – heavy and thick flavours.

There is also a metric (not imperial) shitload of sediment in this beer. I only noticed late on, as I kept pouring to refill the glass. It doesn’t hurt the beer at all when you add it in, it tastes just the same, it just looks odd.

So, overall – feels a bit weird, and a heavy one to drink – but very big flavours are given in exchange. A quirky, and with slight off elements, drink – but has a lot to make up for the weaker points.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this collaboration was done with Wayne from Cigar City while he was in the UK. (I presume they mean Wayne Wambles – the brewmaster, but the site only says Wayne). Loved Jai Alai IPA so I presume Cigar City know what they are doing on this style. This was a bit bigger than normal at a 500ml can – so plenty of time to form an opinion. Drink while listening to the album “Visions” from Grimes. Lovely bright indie electro pop stuff. I was tempted to listen to E-rocks cover of “Maniac” and sing along replacing “Manic” with “Wayniac”. But that would be a tad eccentric even for me.

independent-spirit-left-handed-giant-black-angus
Independent Spirit: Left Handed Giant: Black Angus (England: Imperial Stout: 9.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown bubbles at the edges but only a thin grey dash at the centre.

Nose: Peaty. Wet moss. Brown bread. Smoked bacon. Slight medicinal notes. Cake sponge. Oily cooked fish skin.

Body: Bready. Creamy. Smooth chocolate. Light gin notes. Vanilla. Touch of sugared oranges and orange liqueur. Tart and creamy lemon mix. Chocolate strawberry. Milky coffee. Blue cheese. Nougat.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Creamy lemon. Bready. Bitter coffee. Cream. Chocolate strawberry. More cocoa as it warms. Nougat and vanilla ice cream.

Conclusion: Terrible. Utterly Terrible. No, not really. Was just saying that to wind up everyone at Independent Spirit. Because I am evil. Anyway, cruel jokes aside – going into this I wasn’t sure if it was their Arran or their Fettercairn cask that was used to barrel age this. I thought the Fettercairn was more likely, as the Arran had only been bottled recently, but wasn’t 100% sure. So, now having sipped this (then confirming with the shop, but sipping is the important part) I am 100% certain it is the Fettercairn. It is unmistakable.

Anyway, will get to that later – as we have something a bit different to the usual Imperial Stout story here; However first we have the fact that up front is is exactly what you expect – A heavy, smoked Imperial Stout that booms, all peaty, forthright and meaty. Tempting, but no hint of the barrel ageing here.

This bold, booming front then soothes down into a creamy, lemony and orange influenced body – utterly shouting the Fettercain influence over the chocolate and coffee notes that you would expect. It wears the weight of the smoke openly, but ends up creamy and sweet heading out into a very different last note on the finish from the peaty smoke that welcomed you on the nose.

This develops even more with time and heat – the smoke style brings subtle blue cheese as it warms, which adds a well used savoury note to go with the sweeter creamy style.

The more traditional chocolate and coffee notes, while there, and more present when warm, actually feel more like a backbone for the more unusual notes to do their work. The smooth texture the barrel ageing brings has given a lot of room for the interesting notes to float. Often a smoother Imperial Stout can feel too light for me, but here it just seems to give room for the lemon,cream and such like to work.

You have a very competently made and very different beer here. Heavy up front, smooth out back with surprises in-between. Very good indeed, and I’m not just saying that to avoid getting barred from the shop.

Background: Bias warning: Independent Spirit jokingly said they would ban me if I gave this a bad review. I am 90% sure they were joking. Probably. Anyway, grabbed from the aforementioned shop this is their collaboration beer of which only 188 Bottles exist. It is a smoked Imperial Stout that has been aged in the cask that previously held Independent Spirit’s Fettercain whisky release. Drunk while listening to Massive Attack: Mezzanine. It is almost cliché by this point to love the opening track – “Angel” but it rocks, and the entire album is wonderful background atmosphere for drinking music.

tiny-rebel-stay-puft

Tiny Rebel: Stay Puft (Wales: Porter: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Moderate creamy brown head.

Nose: Chocolate milkshake. Creamy. Kind of marshmallow like. Vanilla.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel. Dry roasted nuts. Popcorn. Light bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Quite dry. Gelatine sweets. Sour dough.

Finish: Lactose. Chocolate milkshake. Light roasted character. Unpopped popcorn kernels. Roasted character grows over time. Slight bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Since this is described as a marshmallow porter, I have to admit I was expecting a sweeter beer than this.

My first encounter with this gave an impression of it actually being a bit thin, so very much unlike those fluffy marshmallows. However a bit of time definitely let it gain in body, but with that also seemed to become drier in taste. Despite heavy amounts of vanilla in the flavours, the dryness actually seems to call to the drier Irish stout interpretations in a lot of ways – with that vanilla laid atop that in stark contrast.

There is a softer chocolate and the aforementioned vanilla – in fact there is even what can be interpreted as marshmallow in a pinch – if you are feeling generous. So the needed flavours are there, but I find it off that the base is so grounded – with cereal like feel and an unpopped popcorn kind of character. Which I guess would just be corn. Hopefully you get what I mean.

There is also what feels like a lactose touch to the texture (Though I do not think lactose was used in making this) and that gives it some of the mallow like contrast it needs – but never quite enough to feel like its namesake, So, it does not really meet my impressions of what a marshmallow porter would be. So, is it good as a beer in itself?

It is a solid, quite dry porter, with sweet notes laced through – kind of halfway between a sweet stout and a dry stout – but in a porter. Pretty easy to drink despite the grounded character, but slightly over grounded in that base flavour for me to put it as a special beer. Apparantly there is a nitro version of this, and that may give it that bit bigger texture I think it needs to work – I will keep an eye out for it and let you know if it works out if I find it.

Still, I am sure that such a harmless thing from my childhood could never destroy me.

Apart from the alcohol. That is a mild poison.

A tasty, tasty poison.

Background: Ok, I bought this because of the picture of Stay Puft with the Tiny Rebel mascot’s head. I am very simple to sell to and a huge ghostbusters fan. Drunk at Small Bar, where I discussed with the staff on how exactly does a marshmallow porter work? It is made with marshmallow according to the ingredients. Are they added early on to ferment with? Is it made with actual mallow plant stuff? I have no idea. Anyway, one I loved the idea of.

wychwood-marstons-bah-humbug

Wychwood (Marstons): Bah Humbug (England: English Strong Ale: 5.0%)

Visual: Reddened mahogany brown. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Browned inch of a bubbled head.

Nose: Lightly roasted. Light nutmeg. Malt drinks.

Body: Caramel. Cinnamon. Light chestnuts. Slight chocolate, grows over time. Quite treacle texture and slight flavour as well. Soft vanilla notes. Nutmeg.

Finish: Cinnamon and nutmeg. Slight vanilla. Slight brown bread. Light oak notes. Soft treacle. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: This feels like your standard, non real ale, bottled ale – but spiced up for Christmas. Ok, went a bit “damning with faint praise” on that opening – but please do not read that too harshly, let me expand.

The base has that smoother feel that I find tends to come with pasteurised beers, with accompanying higher levels of sweetness. It has less evident texture than the real ale version which I have also tried, and a cleaner sweetness. Kind of a clean caramel and light treacle style backed by some vanilla. As is indicated in the opening that is kind of standard for this kind of beer, to my eyes at least. From the colour of the beer I would also admit to expecting it to be closer to the chestnut coloured bitter style of ale, as for that this seems a tad light on the bitterness and hop stylings. However on the malt side it matches exactly to expectations.

Instead of notable bitterness and some earthy work from the flavouring hops, this actually goes to work with the spices in the same space. Moderate but present – they call to Christmas with the nutmeg matched with cinnamon sweetness. It is a pleasant, slightly warming flavour – very gentle in intensity, but despite that the spice is the main flavour here. It is nothing out of the normal, but solid and matches the season it is picked for nicely.

Soothing malt base, moderate spice – no complaints, does what you would expect. Some people dislike the distinct feel and taste of the pasteurised beers, but it matches the spice usage here. As mentioned, I have also tried the lower abv real ale version – It has a better, more gripping texture – the flavours are less distinct, but in that have more subtle meshing between them and with lower evident sweetness. Either way it is a solid enough drink for the season, but not one to actively hunt out.

Background: Not sure if this still counts as English Strong Ale, as it is down from its old 6% abv of years gone by. However I’m not putting it under spiced beer as the cinnamon added to the beer doesn’t dominate that much in intensity and it doesn’t really match any other style cleanly. I had drunk the lower abv, real ale, take on this in a pub the day before, but this, pasteurised bottle version was provided by my family while I was back home for Christmas – many thanks!

york-guzzler

York :Guzzler (England: Golden Ale: 4.0% ABV)

Visual: Clear bright gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large yellowed mound of a head.

Nose: Floral. Wheaty. Moderate hop bitterness. Light vanilla. Orange rind. Cinnamon. Lemon.

Body: Light treacle. Cinnamon. Doughnuts. Smooth. Honey note. Light flour. Orange juice. Vanilla. Toffee.

Finish: Light treacle. Honey. Fluffy hop character. Cinnamon. Slight brown bread. Light earthy hops. Black liquorice.

Conclusion: This has much more subtlety than it seemed at first. Initially it seemed a vanilla sweet, mildly treacle touched, easy drinking ale. Nice enough, easy to drink – gently creamy with a dry flour back to contrast. You can forgive me for not expecting much, nothing more than a gentle session ale, based on that first impression.

It does keep that gentle style throughout, but gains a gentle cinnamon sweetness and light citrus orange notes that develop throughout. It still keeps things gentle, but it builds so that the more sweet and treacle notes drop into the background, letting fresher, subtle but enjoyable fruit notes to the front. Everything is quite restrained, but if you take your time to examine there is actually a bit going on.

It is nicely put together, pretty traditional styled in feel with a slight touch of the British earthy style, but without the connotations of dullness that can often be insinuated by “traditional”. It isn’t a super stand out ale, but a nice, easy drinking ale with a bit more than you would expect.

Background: A tasting note from up north, back with the family over the holiday. Dad had got some beers in, including this one from York. Many thanks. I love York as a place, very beautiful city, lots of good pubs and shops for a beer nut like me, lots of culture. Great place. Not drunk anything from the York brewery yet, so this is another new brewery on me. Have great holidays, whatever you celebrate – enjoy your drink!

brewdog-rye-hammer

Brewdog: Rye Hammer (Scotland: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Light clear yellow. Good sized white bubbled head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Rye crackers. Passion fruit. Moderate hop character. Soft peach. Brown bread. Thick aroma.

Body: Big peach and peach melba. Passion fruit. Good hop character. Custard and toffee malt character. Strawberry hints. Apricot. Brown bread and rye crackers.

Finish: Rye crackers and light spice. Pineapple and kiwi. Moderate hop bitterness. Grapes. Strawberry. Brown bread. Slightly dry. Pepper.

Conclusion: Ok, after being mostly ok on the Jack Hammer variants over the past year – good but not great – I think I have finally found the one that I adore. It is odd that this is the stand out one for me, as generally I am not a huge fan of beers not originally designed for rye having it added. Beers designed for rye tend towards good, but added afterwards it generally seems to result in a weaker beer than the original. This, however, works,

I think part of it is that it doesn’t mess with the base Jack Hammer too much. You still get the massive fruit range, the good hop punch, the sweet but not excessive malt base – all the fond elements that have been carefully honed since the beer’s original release, all on show here.

The rye just adds to that – extra spice and peppery notes to the finish. Extra weight given to the back that gives it more impact from the base as well as the hops. The rye doesn’t seem to take away from anything in the beer, it just gives it a bit more to play with. More flavour, more character, more range.

I already liked Jack Hammer, a bit of a one note assault as it was – it had a good amount of fruit and hops, but it was the same notes the whole way through. This makes the beer much more full, gives more grip, so the flavours have more to examine. There is possibly a tad less raw bitterness – it is hard to say – I have got so blasé to high hop bitterness over the years that I may just not notice it as much.

The most normal of the Jack Hammer variants in that it does not vary as much from the base, but also the best. It keeps all the juicy and fresh fruit character, all the hops – the biggest difference is in the finish – there is some rye shown throughout, but in the finish it is far more with the bready and spicy rye character. The biggest joy from this is that this is a great beer,a great Jack Hammer with that bit extra I never knew it needed. Awesome stuff.

Background: Fourth and final (for this year at least) Jack Hammer variant from Brewdog. This one, as the name suggests, is made with rye. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. The original Jack Hammer was a fun wee hop assault that I enjoyed initially and has grown on me more over the years as they tweak the recipe. This was grabbed from Brewdog Bristol, and drunk while listening to Mobina Galore again.

jura-tastival

Jura: Tastival (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 51% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Honey. Cinnamon rolls. Light tar notes. Thick. Sugared orange. Stewed fruit. Water adds cinnamon pears.

Body: Strong. Alcohol presence. Orange liqueur. Spiced rum. Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Water makes cinnamon pears. Slight charring. More water adds apples, a touch of salt. Vanilla toffee and treacle.

Finish: Malt chocolate and light oak. Spiced wine notes. Cinnamon and pepper. Light charring. Water adds treacle and chocolate liqueur. Light salted rocks.

Conclusion: Jura have been a go to whisky for me for a while now. Their entry level stuff is very nice, and generally not too expensive – while their Prophecy expression stands out as a great, complex peaty whisky. This is different again from those. The higher abv gives it a bigger, thicker character and a lot of room to roam.

This is a dark, rich expression with deep chocolate liqueur notes and light charring – all darker notes which calls to Bowmore Darkest or some of the Dalmore series for inspiration. It has that similar, very luxurious character, albeit with a strong alcohol punch if taken neat, and they are accentuated by a definite cinnamon sweetness and rum to red wine spiciness. It really, even when with the force of being neat, gives a decadent dark dessert feel. Death by chocolate meets cinnamon doughnuts.

Water soothes out the alcohol weight and gives hints of lighter notes hidden below it; Never huge, but there are feelings of subtle cinnamon pears and such like in there. Also water brings out, on the opposite side, subtle more traditional island characteristics – light salted rocks – again very minor, but gives it a grounding so it is not just a sweet, thick whisky.

Overall these just balance out an already very good experience – it gives hints of the more familiar expressions of Jura, but matched with that luxurious chocolate and cinnamon – making it like an island character backed dessert expression. Just enough added edge to make it unusual.

Very nice indeed, and probably now my tied favourite Jura with Prophecy.

Background: The 14 year is from a quick google that says the youngest spirit in this is 14 years. Anyway – this was my first tasting note done at The Hideout – a new whisky bar in Bath. Damn they have a nice selection – will try and take advantage of them to get some more unusual whisky tasting notes up on here. It is always nice to be able to try the more unusual stuff by the dram. This one is the Jura whisky done for the 2016 festival and has been aged in Palomino Fino, Amoroso and Apostoles sherry casks. Which actually goes beyond my knowledge of Sherry, so I will assume that is good.

p1050465

st-austell-proper-black

St Austell: Proper Black (England: Black IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large browned creamy head. Still.

Nose: Milky coffee. Kiwi. Slight roasted air. Slight bitter chocolate. Key lime pie.

Body: Slight sour dough. Prickly hops. Key lime. Milky chocolate. Slight liquorice notes. Creamy. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Cocoa dust. Moderate bitterness. Light charring. Slight liquorice. Slight sour dough and milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ya know, I mentioned during my notes on “It’s All Propaganda” that it didn’t feel like a black IPA, despite being a good beer. This has similar issues with not feeling like the style, but in a different way. The base has the smoothness and feel of BIPA down pat, which is where IAP failed – it has the base coffee and chocolate, with slightly roasted bitterness in as well. Those base flavours are present but not dominating, leaving room for the hops to do their work. So it succeeds at that where IAP had its issues.

Unfortunately this beer, unlike IAP, doesn’t do enough with the hops to fill that space. It has the bitterness, but ends up feeling like a hoppier or more roasted stout. It doesn’t take full advantage of the flavour possibilities of a Black IPA. There are some green fruit notes, but far less than it deserves.

So, as a beer it is not bad – in fact if this was pitched as a hoppy stout I would probably find it pretty decent – so let’s look at it as that and ignore the whole Black IPA thing.

As that it has a solid chocolate base, subtly enhanced by a few green fruit notes that round it out and a slightly higher hop character than normal. Despite fairly heavy flavour and a 6% abv it is pretty easy to drink – albeit with a hop level that builds up over time.

It is a solid, fairly stout like, beer. The extra hops add some nice flavour, but not enough to make it special. I feel the need to damn it with faint praise, but every time I try it ends up sounding so bloody hipster. “A good try for a mainstream brewery” kind of thing. Bleh. Solid, no real bad points, but in doing so it takes no risks that would let it soar.

Background: Man, I haven’t done notes on St Austell beers for years – not since back when I relied on my cheap main camera and crappy phone camera. Now I have a far better camera, and the same lack of skill at using it. Anyway, this was part of a set of beer given to me as a Christmas present by a work colleague. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to History Of Guns: Mirror Pond – they used to have it up for free download, but I can’t find a link at the moment. Pity – they do lovely, unusual electronic meets gloom meets guitar work.

spencerfield-spirit-co-pigs-nose

Spencerfield Spirit Co: Pig’s Nose (Blended Scottish Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Hint of smoke. Honey. Apricots. Water does little to change.

Body: Light. Honey and vanilla custard. Stewed apricot. Sweet lime. Light alcohol influence. Water adds more apricot and some peach. Slight salt. Slight dried beef.

Finish: Slight peat smoke and dried beef taste. Honey. Dry oak. Similar with water.

Conclusion: How does water make a whisky taste thicker? I’ve run into a few like that recently. I mean, I know practically that if the water is a thicker liquid than the whisky then mixing the two will result in a thicker liquid than just the whisky alone – well barring the two not mixing. I’m fairly sure that is not the case here. Whisky is more viscous than water in all cases that I am aware of, yet somehow it feels thicker with it. Go figure. Anyway…

So, yes, neat this feels very light- a simple apricot style fruity thing. A tad more smoke than usual in your standard blended whisky, but not an extreme amount. Just an extra bit of spice in the dish, metaphorically speaking. Still, despite that very simple when taken without water.

Water – well it is interesting. For one, as indicated it feels thicker than before. How? Why? I do not know why whiskies keep doing this. Anyway, it makes for a better texture and brings out light smoke and salt in the mid body. Still sweet dominated, but with a tad heavier backing.

Even like that it feels, well, like a basic level single malt. Both a complement and a criticism when I say that. It doesn’t have the rough edge of some blended whiskies – and with water it is done well enough and mixes enough elements that it reminds me of the charm of a single malt, with the sweet character of a blend. There is not much more to it than that – it has the very basic level feel of a single malt but none of the character that would make it stand out. Basically it has the feel and the basic flavour set, but no wow to it.

So, a competent blended whisky, but no more than that. No point that makes it stand out.

Background: Grabbed as part of two pack from Independent Spirit (The other is a blended malt which I saved for later). It was fairly cheap, so I thought worth a shot – I have run into very good
cheaper whiskies before, and terrible expensive ones – so always worth checking these out. Drunk while listening to The Eels: Electro Shock Blues – some good happy music for enhancing drinking. That is a lie, it is in no way a happy album – the first song is about the lead singer’s sister’s suicide for example. But it is a very good album.

aged-aventinus

Schneider and Sohn: Aventinus: 2013 Vintage Release (Germany: Weizen Bock: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Deep brown, with overripe banana colour at the edges. Creamy browned head. Lots of carbonation.

Nose: Madeira. Raisins. Cloves. Liquorice. Spiced red wine. Fruitcake. Vanilla caramel. Smooth. Cream.

Body: Massive raisins, brandy cream, bananas and Madeira. Smooth. Lemon sherbet. Orange zest. Cloves. Glacier cherries. Caramel.

Finish: Brandy cream. Orange liqueur. Baileys touch. Port.

Conclusion: An excuse to drink Aventinus again! Like I need an excuse. Still, despite not needing one it is still nice to have one. So – since I’m guessing most of you are aware I have already done notes on the standard, young, Aventinus, then I might as well concentrate on the changes that have happened with age.

So – the first and most obvious difference is the mouthfeel. This is much smoother, feels less carbonated, and a touch lighter. This is a mixed blessing for me – it makes it super easy to drink, especially for an over 8% abv beer, but with that it loses some of the cool, rough, wheaty texture of a young Aventinus.

Then again, I am a fan of my rough edges – which the most of the world seems to disagree with me on – so that may be an issue only for me. However, the increase in intensity and clarity of the flavours and aroma is by far worth it. They are so much clearer and more evident – every one defined perfectly now. The various spirit and wine notes that were always there are now expanded and refined. The banana, raisins and spice that is the core of the beer is added to with slight lemon and sherbet notes. The sweetness has been heightened with vanilla and caramel now used subtly against the forceful front flavours. Everything that existed before has been polished up by the years.

So – flaws? Well, as referenced before it has a lighter body – which can be a touch thin by my tastes at times. From my experience with ageing beers this is nigh always the case with older beers and part of the trade off. They get smoother, but lighter feeling in general. Is it worth it? Well, I wouldn’t want to lose the younger Aventinus for this permanently, but, since I can have both – yes it is well worth either trying to age one yourself, or grabbing one of these as long as it isn’t on a silly mark up over the younger version. Definitely recognisably Aventinus in flavour, but with a different feel and a different experience.

Still the classic. Bulletproof to the years quality wise – different but still awesome.

Background: Yes, I have done notes on Aventinus before. Yes, technically this is just an aged Aventinus so should be under the “Old Beer, Good Beer?” section. However, this is an official release, deliberately held back for three years, then released in paper wrapping. Paper wrapping! Surely that deserves a second set of notes. Anyway, drunk 2016 this is a three year aged bottle of one of my favourite beers of all time. It was grabbed from Corks of Cotham. I was mildly disappointed that under the wrapping it was not the old school purple Aventinus label underneath, but I guess you can’t have everything.

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