Archive for January, 2017


theakston-old-peculier

Theakston: Old Peculier (England: Old Ale: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Inch of creamy brown froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Lightly nutty. Earthy bitterness.

Body: Cherries. Light earthiness. Malt chocolate drinks. Slight sour back. Vinous red grapes.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Light vinous grapes. Lightly earthy. Cocoa dust. Peppery.

Conclusion:Another beer in the “earthy hops doesn’t have to mean dull” category. We have very specific categories these days. Anyway, here we have a fruity, lightly sour, old ale touched with vinous notes and then stamped with a good chunk of earthy hoppiness.

It is a good mix – used well the earthy notes grounds (no pun intended) the beer. It takes what could be a very heavy beer, an enjoy one then leave it be beer, and turns it into a soothing beer you can have a couple of. Still not a session abv beer, but one that is that mid point between session and heavy duty. Now, this does mean that it isn’t as deep and rich as a lot of old ales. Then again, as referenced, it also has a lower abv that most of those, so it really isn’t fighting for that niche anyway.

It feels like the child of an earthy bitter and an old ale – both share that slight sourness, but the old ale gives the fruitiness and more vinous character that makes this really enjoyable. It straddles the two styles – concentrates on the middle ground rather than aiming to challenge too much – but out of mainstreams ales this is one of my old reliables.

Possible it is because it is a mainstream beer not afraid to push that light sourness and old ale character. Posisbly it is because it matches those tart vinous notes while still keeping the solid British earthy ale influence that makes it refreshing rather than heavy duty. Any which way it may not rock the stars, but for what it aims to do and the market it aims at it is something very nice. It is a beer that is easy to find and does it solid and I very much enjoy it for that.

Background: Last of the beers I was given for Christmas by a college at work – many thanks! After a quick google I find out that is this not a misspelling in the name – a “Peculier” is an “ecclesiastical district, parish, chapel or church outside the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which it is situated.” Who says beer doesn’t help you learn? Anyway, I have been drinking Old Peculier for a while – it was one of those beers I enjoyed even before becoming a beer nut. Common opinion thinks that it used to be a heavier abv, thicker beer – which sounds about tight to me, though I have never been able to find anything to officially confirm or deny it. Possibly I just remembering as being bigger compared to everything else I drank at the time.

buxton-omnipollo-original-rocky-road-ice-cream
Buxton: Omnipollo: Original Rocky Road Ice Cream (England: Imperial Porter: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Slight head on pour which quickly vanishes.

Nose: Praline chocolate. Peanut butter. Marshmallow. Grated bitter chocolate. Vanilla ice cream. Condensed cream

Body: Silken chocolate. Peanut butter. Fudge. Chocolate fondue. Praline. Light rum and raisin ice cream. Madeira. Lightly chalky. Marshmallow. Vinous red grapes undertones.

Finish: Vanilla ice cream. Peanut butter. Marshmallow. Chocolate ice cream. Salted peanuts. Cocoa dust.

Conclusion: Ok, the marshmallow style is utterly nailed here. Seriously, it lands large with a fluffy mouthfeel and sweet taste. The whole Rocky Road imagery is shown with creamy notes layered over a solid praline to cocoa dust base. It is a solid, sweet – yet with a bitter cocoa backbone Imperial Porter. A very good start.

So, image wise, for its Rocky Road ice cream inspiration it does it brilliantly in a lot of ways. When chilled down the mouthfeel and flavour give a lot of vanilla ice cream style, without the low temperature hurting the vast range the beer brings.

The biggest departure from the theme is in how it deals with the nuttiness. This is massively peanut styled nutty, Early on it feels like a pure peanut butter stout. Now, yes, nuts are used in rocky road, but in my experience they are never this dominant. The other elements do earn their place though, balancing it better as time goes on. Even with the heavy peanut butter early on, as a beer in itself this is excellent – in fact better than most intended peanut butter stouts that I have tried – and over time the marshmallow and ice cream complexities rise around that. Even at the end of the beer the peanut butter dominates a bit much to be called a perfectly accurate rocky road beer, but it is a good enough call, and that does nothing to stop it being an excellent beer.

It is definitely on the sweet end of the dark beer style, it would be sweet even for an Imperial Stout, let alone Imperial Porter – very creamy, very thick – but the mix of bitter cocoa and savoury nuts gives it enough grounding that it doesn’t end up in the sugar shock range.

What really sells this is that the gimmick isn’t all the beer has, good as that is. As it warms subtle spirit and vinous notes come out. They are often still in an ice cream style – say rum and raisin impressions, but they turn what could be a gimmick beer into a genuinely good imperial porter on all levels.

I have a lot of time for this – it really lives the gimmick, with a few concessions which makes it a better beer. Very good as a sweet Imperial Porter up front, with a lot of complexity at the back. I applaud this fantastic beer.

Background: Ok I love rocky road ice cream and all similar desserts. So when trying to decide which of the “ice cream series” to try this one jumped right out at me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit it is made with cocoa nibs and lactose sugar. Also the image on the front looks like a walking green turd. But you can’t have everything, can you?` Drunk while listening to Brassick – Broke and Restless. Just found out they actually have an album out, but I never knew as I just kept track via bandcamp which didn’t list it – I must check it out.

wild-beer-co-breakfast-of-champignons

Wild Beer Co: Breakfast Of Champignons (England: Sour Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot skin colour. Settles to a thin white head a few seconds after pouring. Some dark sediment.

Nose: Sour. Chestnuts. Lemon juice. Dry. White pepper. Slight vinous and raisins undertones and dry Madeira.

Body: Tart – tart apples. Slight chestnut. Light vinegar touch. Tart apricot notes. Slight floral notes. Generally nutty. Aniseed. Madeira. Malt chocolate. Grapes.

Finish: Lemony. Tart. Slight orange juice. Dried mushrooms. Petals.

Conclusion: OK, I am not quite sure what I was expecting from this beer. I mean, mushroom in a beer? I don’t really have much experience to extrapolate from here. No idea how it would alter the beer. Now I have it in my hands, I am still trying to work out what exactly it is I have got.

Well, what we seem to have is a lightly nutty sour ale. From my love of mushrooms in general I am happy to guess that the mushrooms provide the nuttiness. I’m going out on a limb here. Any which way. Not as wild and out there as you may expect from the beers base concept – let’s face it lambics can be slightly nutty in their sourness – so this sour ale isn’t too unusual in bringing more of that.

Generally it is a nice beer – Comes in with reasonable but not heavy sourness – more fresh than anything else for the most part – with occasional harsher vinegar notes. Gives the expected lemon and apple tart notes which become less evident as the nuttiness rises. It does have some unusual depth to it though – both on the nose and the body, just at the edges you may catch some subtle Madeira and vinous notes. Very subtle undertones, but nice to see they are there.

The tartness of the beer get soothed over time, late on you get much more predominance from the nuttiness and even some light malt chocolate merges in to give a very different beer to what you started with – though you never completely lose the tart base. It is a reasonable enough beer, but doesn’t feel too special – or even too unusual all things considered. It was an odd choice going with mushrooms as the extra ingredient, and it had resulted in the neither a terrible, nor an expectational beer – just a subtle influence on a competent sour.

Not raving, not complaining – an oddly standard sour.

Background: OK. Right. Erm. This is a beer made with mushrooms. So, yeah that is a thing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a beer made with Penny Bun to be exact – a wild mushroom that mankind has yet to manage to deliberately cultivate. Which is interesting. Was a tad nervous about it after Wild Beer Co’s lobster beer didn’t work out well – but finally decided to give it a try.

shepherd-neame-sainsburys-taste-the-difference-london-porter
Shepherd Neame: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference: London Porter (England: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of mounded brown froth.

Nose: Grated chocolate. Brown bread. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Milky chocolate. Slight chalky texture. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Slightly chalky. Coffee cake. Light vanilla. Peppery.

Conclusion: We have been discussing (well, more correctly I have been monologuing about) earthy bitters recently. While doing so it is easy to overlook that, with the mass of easily available earthy hops in the UK, the earthy beer take has turned up in quite a range of styles over here.

This is a moderately earthy porter, though not dominated by that fact. The standard bitter chocolate and coffee notes you would expect of a porter are also there. However it is a lot more grounded than a lot of porters, with an earthy and peppery finish giving it a very savoury lead out. Also it gives it a bit more of a robust texture, rather than the smooth porter style it has a slight chalky texture and a rougher, but not unpleasant feel.

Over time the earthiness does become more present though – not a bad thing for the most part to my mind, but your mileage may vary. This has a lot of notes that I would associate with a more traditional bitter than a lot of porters, and that may not be up everyone’s alley. Apart from that it pretty much does the standard porter thing. I think if this was a cask real ale I would be giving it more time, the texture feels like it would slip into a cask beer nicely.

So, pretty simple for a porter but not badly done – the earthiness could be better used – early on the balance between it and the normal porter notes make it interesting, they grow and, while working for most of the beer, by the end it still isn’t bad but the earthiness does end up dominating and doesn’t let the porter notes flow well.

So, ok, but I would be interested to see what a more polished earthy porter would end up being like.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my mate Tony – many thanks. Shepherd Neame used to do their own beer called Original Porter which I thought was the same as this one – looking up online though their version seemed to be 4.8% abv or 5.2% abv depending on when it was brewed, so this must have at least a slightly different recipe. Broke out the porter designed craft beer glass for this. Don’t know really if it makes a difference but it is fun.

kees-barrel-project-06-2016

Kees: Barrel Project 06/2016 (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin off white head.

Nose: Creamy vanilla and very evident bourbon. Very smooth. Caramelised brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur notes. Fudge.

Body: Treacle. Cherries. Vanilla. Soft fudge. Massive bourbon. Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Caramel. Soft alcohol presence with a slight tingle. Brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Toffee. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Smooth bourbon. Chocolate liqueur.

Conclusion: Ok, this is both smooth as sod and bourbon backed to buggery. This is nice is what I am saying. Despite the darker colour it does not lean away from the intense sweetness of the traditional barley wine – though it does express it with more chocolate and fudge as well as the more excepted golden syrup style. Still, very recognisable straight out of the gate.

If I had to dig into what exactly is the major sweetness here I would say it has a lot of caramel, backed by huge amounts of vanilla – it is delivered with the slightest amount of alcohol prickling, but in general it slips down like quality liqueur. Or, considering the range of flavours, more like a blend of liqueurs – aged in a bourbon cask of course, you cannot deny that influence at any point. Seriously this is possibly one of the most clearly and evident defined beers for showing the bourbon ageing’s influence. It has all of the vanilla, that rugged sweet undertone and slight sour mash notes – all so very clear.

It is only because the base beer and the ageing are so in line that the ageing doesn’t overwhelm the base beer. While the base beer has a lot of flavour it is not so epically big to overpower the bourbon ageing, instead it relies on the base caramel and chocolate complementing rather than fighting the bourbon notes.

So, I enjoy this massively – thought not quite enough for it to be one of the rare “my favourites”. It is classy as all hell – smooth and with full flavour – the only thing it does not have is that unique element that pushes it to the very top and makes it an all time great. Still, that is possibly the weakest criticism there is. It is still great.

So, genuinely great, even if not an all time best, but there is no way you will regret this if you are a fan of bourbon and barley wines. Full on bourbon. Full on barley wine. Full on beer.

Background: This is the third of the Kees Barrel project beers I grabbed, and probably the one I was most looking forwards to. You seem to get less barrel aged Barley Wines over here, so this – aged in Barton Bourbon barrels looked like just the thing for me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, it was drunk listening to the every energetic indie pop electronic tunes of Grimes for a bit of extra fun.

brewski-brewing-persiko-feber-ipa

Brewski Brewing: Persiko Feber IPA (Sweden: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Lemon juice colour. Moderate white head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Peach. Slight musty hop character. Soft pineapple.

Body: Slight musty feel. Pineapple. Dried peach. Good level of bitterness. Slightly chalky. Slight sour dough and sour cream. Dried mango.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Nettles. Good hop feel. Quite dry. Slight granite. Slight sour dough. Dried mango.

Conclusion: I have to admit, I expected something very juicy based on the fact that actual peaches were used to make this beer. The mackoff peach on the label kind of reinforced that impression as well. This is fruity, but in a very dry and clinging bitter fashion. Especially on smaller sips – like that it goes all sour dough and bitterness which really doesn’t let the fruit out.

Larger mouthfuls seems to give more room that you can get more of the fruit. However even with the enhanced fruit there seems a strong cloying sour twist to it – nothing like what I would have anticipated – felt kind of like sucking the peach remains off the stone at its heart.

So, as you may have guessed, I am not overly taken by this. The fruit seems less peach most of the time, and closer to a dried mango flavour. The body feels closer to an APA dryness than the bigger character of an IPA. Finally the aforementioned sour dough notes are very long lasting into the finish, and the bitterness seems rough. It is fruity, aye, but in a way that seems cloying and closed.

So, considering this is a fair popular beer I wonder what I am missing? The bitterness is impressive I will admit, but without a balanced back it just makes it wearing over time. It just feels too closed for me. Used in moderation a sour twist can be a nice break in midst an IPA, but this seems dominated by it. So, not for me I’m afraid.

Background: This brewery was recommended to me as the “Hipster beer” due to the little top hat, monocle and moustached man on the front. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this brewery seem to have a very good rep. This one is an IPA made with Peach. Looking online after I had finished the notes, most people seem to be having a very different experience with this than me. Odd. Bad bottle? Or just me not being in line with the rest of the world yet again? Beats me. This was drunk after coming back from a Chaos Wrestling event which had been great fun, so was in a generally chipper mood.

brewdog-hop-shot

Brewdog: Hop Shot (Scotland: IIPA: 22% ABV)

Visual: Apricot colour, some bubbles. No real head. Mild amounts of carbonation.

Nose: Peach. Musty hops. Kiwi. Apricot. Thick. Solid bitterness and hop oils. Light floral notes.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Golden syrup and honey. Good hop oils and some bitterness. Custard. Kiwi. Big peach. Syrupy alcohol. Pineapple.

Finish: Big kiwi, grapes and pineapple. Big hop bitterness. Thick sheen. Alcohol gin air. Big peach. Drying. Passion fruit. Hop oils.

Conclusion: This is actually a lot better than I expected. After the atrocious misstep that was Watt Dickie I feared that this would be similar.

Instead this actually feels roughly akin to an Imperial IPA, albeit one that has been crossed with golden syrup and had the alcohol feel turned way up. That may not be the most promising sounding description when I put it that way, I will admit, however I’m enjoying it. It has calls to Sink The Bismarck – but while that was was a raw onslaught of a beer, this is smoother and more refined. Now don’t get me wrong – you can totally tell the alcohol – but the very thick, very sweet texture compensates surprisingly well to control it. It feels like slightly thinned golden syrup slowly oozing over your tongue – dispensing varied honey to custard notes as well as its native syrup character. Very, very sweet indeed.

The fruitiness is the second biggest thing this has to offer, layered over the syrupy sweet notes. It is exploding with peach and kiwi notes, amongst a smattering of others. There is nothing subtle, subtlety would not work here. It all has to be big, all the time.

That is why I find it odd that of all things, it is the bitterness that is comparatively restrained. There is a lot of hop character, and definitely a lot of hop oils feel, but the bitterness? Well, with the exception of the finish, it is always restrained. Even in the finish the bitterness gets overwhelmed by the indomitable momentum of the sweetness over time.

So, it is a party piece rather than one to have often. Too insanely thick and strong to have several of. Despite its huge flavour everything is up front so it is not one to contemplate either. It is very fun though. So a sugar shock, fruit hop heavy, golden syrup thick thing of an Imperial IPA. You will either have great fun with it, or hate it. Either way you will only ever probably have a couple then go back to more balanced drinking fare. Still – fun!

Background: Grabbed from Brewdog Bristol, this tiny bottle is Brewdog’s latest attempt at freeze fortifying beer. Generally they have been pretty good, but the last attempt – Watt Dickie was freaking terrible. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. I grabbed the smallest glass I had for this one – a third pint glass from the Great British Beer Festival – at 110 ml the bottle still barely made a dent in the glass. Still, plenty of room for the aroma to roam. Drunk while listening to the hauntingly wonderful Alver album – atgclvlsscap

wadworth-6x

Wadworth: 6X (England: Bitter: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruby brown. Creamy inch of slightly browned froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel. Lemony hops. Creamy. Light turmeric and orange peel.

Body: Earthy. Caramel. Slight liquorice. Thick. Popcorn hop styling. Corn Pops cereal. Malt chocolate. Chalky over time.

Finish: Corn pops cereal. Vanilla. Earthy character. Caramel. Orange.

Conclusion: I talked recently about earthy bitters and the value thereof – this is the other way an earthy bitter can go. It doesn’t have the slight sourness I associate with a good sessionable bitter; Instead it goes for a much sweeter malt base. It goes bigger and more malty, and with that it seems it brings out more flavour from the hops as well. Some fruity lemon and orange float out from amongst the earthiness.

It is easier to get into than the Black Sheep Bitter as it has that immediate sweet hook – but without the light sourness I found that the earthiness got wearing more quickly.

It is a fairly standard beer, gets chalky over time, which can be used well, but here is again slightly wearing. So, it starts off pretty good with the sweetness and the nice fruitiness with balanced earthiness – but that earthiness and chalkiness gets a bit one note by the end.

It feels like it needs something to make the good qualities last, something normally provided by the light sourness. It doesn’t have a bad opening for a sweeter styled bitter, but can’t keep the game up. Ok, but by the end is just doing the minimum I would expect from a beer of this type.

So, not a great ale. Ok to start, even slightly good, but a rough end.

Background: Quite a quick set of notes this one – This was a beer given to me by a colleague at work – many thanks. This used to a be a regular pint in my early twenties at our local, so some fond memories. Also people keep punning its name as sick sex. Because of course they do. That is all.

ailsa-bay-eponymous-bottling

Ailsa Bay – Eponymous bottling (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 48.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big smoke. Chinese stir fry vegetables. Moss. Salted rocks. Vanilla. Peppermint. Water cleans out the vegetable notes.

Body: Vanilla. Smoke. Light fudge. Salt. Slightly medicinal. Water smooths. More vanilla. Slight lime. Slight bready character. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Peat. Malt chocolate. Light salt. Vanilla. Slight greenery. Water adds honey sweetness. More malt chocolate to choc orange. Quite drying. Slight Chinese stir fry vegetables.

Conclusion: This is another whisky that I am glad I gave a while to open up before doing notes. When I first broke this open about a week ago, it seemed very dominated by a stir fry vegetable character behind the smoke. A very bad look for nearly any whisky. Anyway, these days where I can I give the whisky a week or so before I do notes, time for the vapours to roam the now less than full bottle. It often helps, so, we now try the whisky in that state.

This is still very peat forward, drying and smokey with slightly medicinal and salted notes – though it is not overly tied to those last two concepts. Instead the main backing to the peat is a gentle, smooth toffee sweetness. Neat it still has a bit of the stir fry in the aroma, but that goes with water. With a lot of water that stir fry returns to linger in the finish- so it is a balancing act to find the sweet spot on this one.

Still, in the middle, with just enough water you get a nice balance of both worlds. You get the sweetness, the peat – a good intensity backed by a good sweetness. Despite the texture it is never easy drinking, but it is not due to any fire or harsh spirit notes – in fact it plays very smooth, and even enhances itself with some chocolate notes as the water comes in.

So, with water, does it have any problems? Well, a couple – a big one is the cost. For all the peat and sweetness it brings, and the impressive texture, it is still a young whisky. It lacks a certain complexity – I find the Ardmore does sweet and peat better and with more subtlety – or if you want the intense side, for this cost you can get Laphroaig Quarter Cask – which is a legend that shows how to really get the most out of small cask ageing.

This is a good show for a first release, though marred by those stir fry notes mentioned – but it does not match the complexity or quality you would expect for the price. There are much better, similar whiskies. I anticipate good things from this distillery, but unless you really must try the first release, I would hold out for a later, richer, expression.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my parents – many thanks! This is a no age statement bottling, but the Ailsa Bay Distillery has been part of the Girvan distillery since 2007, so it with this being released in 2016 it would probably have a max age of about 8 years, and probably less. This highly peated whisky has been “Micro matured” by which I presume they mean aged in a smaller cask so there is more contact with the wood. The label lists this as having a pppm of 21 (peat raing) and sppm of 11 (google tells me this is the sweetness rating -not seen that before). Drunk while listening to Ulver – atgclvlsscap, a weird experimental mash up that gave a lovely haunting backdrop to the drinking.

berliner-kindl-weisse

Berliner Kindl: Weisse (Germany: Berliner Weisse: 3.0% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Large white head.

Nose: Musty and oats, yet tart feeling. Slight lemon.

Body: Tart. Light chalk. Oaks. Lemon. Slight syrupy lemon core. Slight milk to cream. Slight bitter greenery. Light mint leaves.

Finish: Oats and muesli. Thick sheen on tongue. Lemon syrup. Vanilla. Light greenery. Light salt. Slight grapes.

Conclusion: This is a lot less sour than I remember. Then again I have drunk a lot of sours in the intervening years. Also I don’t have a fucking tooth cavity this time. Which may explain things.

Anyway, this is fresh, with a tart lemon in a kind of traditional lemon juice style and feel – what I don’t remember from last time it it having a kind of oat and muesli roughness to it. Nor do I remember the greenery touched gritty bitterness it the back. It feels quite nature touched, with a pre hops bittering agent style to the taste. Though all this is background to the main lemon freshness. By itself fit is refreshing, but slightly empty. I can see why most new beers in the style add fruit, or most drinkers add syrup to the traditional base. This feels like a very good start to a beer, but not an ,and nowhere near an, end point.

Still, taken as it is it still works the refreshing side well and delivers a good texture while waking up the taste-buds. In fact, to concentrate on that aspect for a moment – it really is an interesting texture progression. It feels kind of light when it firsts touches your lips, gains tart but gritty as you hold it, until it finally finds a slightly thicker syrup touch at the centre. It may be a base that needs something extra, but I can see why it is so popular as a base.

Not one I will return to often, but it has given me a new respect for the base of the style.

Background: Years ago, back when I was first trying sours, it turns out I had a cavity – It was around that time I was trying Cantillons, and this – the Kindl Berliner Weisse. I cannot remember which exactly it was that caused me to realise I had a cavity, but let us just say it was painful. So, with that in mind I returned to this beer, grabbed from Independent Spirit, for a hopefully less painful experience. To psyche myself up I broke out a mix of Iron Maiden tunes. Often Berliner Weisse is drunk with syrup such as raspberry or woodruff for added sweetness, but for this tasting I took it au naturel.

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