Archive for August, 2017


Beavertown: Stillwater Artisanal: Skullwater (England: Belgian Ale: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Moderate white loose bubbled head.

Nose: Apricot and grapefruit. Hop bitterness and character. Soft lemon. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Custard malt character. Apples. Dried apricot. Nettles. Good hop character. Tart grapes. Lemon juice to lemon sherbet. Peppery.

Finish: Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Solid bitterness. Slight palma violets. Kiwi. Tart grapes. Custard cream biscuits. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Peppery and cheese puffs.

Conclusion: I’m split. Half of me wants to dig into examining the depths of this. Half of me wants to rant about how nearly every unusual beer style seems to be hijacked by high hopped releases that are done in such a way to make them lose their distinct stylistic oddities that make them so interesting in the first place.

Ok, let’s go for the rant first. For the most part this doesn’t feel like a Belgian ale. The huge hopping instead takes front, with just some funky esters and Belgian smooth custard malt notes tipped the hat to the base style. I would like a few more beers that take full advantage of their base style

Rant over. With that done, there is a lot to enjoy in this beer. The closest call stylistic is actually probably a Belgian IPA due to the intense hopping, and boy does it use the hops well. Lots of lemon and apples notes throughout, with tart grapefruit floating over the aroma and dried apricot sweetness seeping into the body. All of that backed by big hop feel and solid hop bitterness makes this an intense flavour experience.

Despite my rant there is some slight Belgian influence and it does enhance the hops – it keeps a peppery grounding that helps give a solid layer that stops it just being a hop fest, and funky fruit esters help the hop fruit flavours to create more complex range. That is why, despite my rant, I still find it a damn good beer.

Style wise it even feels slightly Belgian wit influenced – between the lemon, the pepper and the akin to wheaty feel it actually seems closer to that than its claimed Belgian pale style. As time goes on though the funkier notes rise, easing some of my prior complaints as distinct cheese puff yeast feel gives real grip and Belgian style to the beer.

So, the beer has gone from making me rant, to impressing me. It is all hops early on, Belgian style late on. Ok, rant aside , this is bloody good.

Background: This is a dry hopped Belgian Pale – so I’m guessing either a pale ale made with Belgian yeast, or a Belgian blond ale. Any which way, the advice on the can is to drink fresh, so I broke it open the day I grabbed it. Think the cans had been available for less than a month, so still fairly darn fresh when I had it. Speaking of the can – as is usual with Beavertown the can design is awesome, and has raised areas giving a cool feel in the hand as well. This was picked up from independent spirit and drunk while listening to Crossfaith- New Age Warriors and Zion. On a right Crossfaith kick at the mo – the whole metal, electronic mash up style is very heavy and fun.

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Oude Geuze Boon: A L’ancienne Vat 109 Mono Blend (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Apricot skin coloured body. Large solid white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh brown bread. Oats. Dry. Horse blankets.

Body: Sherbet lemon. Tart lime. Frothy mouthfeel. Brown bread. Dry sultanas and dry sherry. Oats. White wine. Marmalade.

Finish: Dry sherry. Raisins. Madeira. Slight liquorice. Marzipan. Tannins. Plums. Slight marmalade.

Conclusion: This is a strange one, in that it has a fairly condensed set of tasting notes, as you can see above, yet feels complex as hell. A lot of that comes down to mouthfeel, which I find hard to describe in as florid detail as taste seems to lend itself to. Still, I’ll give it a shot.

This is dry, like, white wine dry – yet it froths up in a sherbety fashion up front which gives a completely different first impression before it sinks into that dry main body. After that it finally leads out into a similarly dry, but red wine and tannins touched dark fruit and sherry finish. A lot of the variation is expressed in terms of feel – the tannins especially are as much feel as taste and the varied acidic, dry, sweet and fresh areas give layers to the comparatively simple flavours in a way that I still feel I have not quite explained.

So, onto the main flavours themselves – generally very dry sherry like, mixing dark fruits with vinous notes – yet, again, the first elements up front are fresh lemon and lime notes that are not seen later on. Generally though this takes the lambic base and turns it bone dry, dark and rewarding. There are slight marmalade notes late on as the flavours build up – I presume this is the cognac ageing coming to the fore, rather than expressing in the wine like notes – it really is a slow build and does not overwhelm the base lambic at all. While it may not have a huge range of notes, the way it delivers them slowly over time makes it very rewarding – everything becomes bigger and heavier over time changing in intensity if not in nature.

A lot of the best points come late on in the drink, especially the marmalade notes – this is actually a fairly good thing – they are intense notes that would have become sickly if brought on earlier.

Overall this is a brilliant lambic that is far more than it seems on paper. Well worth it.

Background: This was one of the lambics got in during Independent Spirit‘s very impressive batch of sours. There are still tons I want to get. Anyway I finally settled on this one as a) Boon have been very impressive in my experience and b) it is unusually aged in ex cognac casks. From a quick google it seems that it is 4th fill casks due to the cognac being too dominant in earlier fills which is interesting to know. Anyway, put on some White Zombie for drinking this – no reason, just felt like some retro horror themed metal. Who needs a reason for that?

Brewdog: Prototype: Tangerine Session IPA (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly burnished gold. Clear. Small bubbled carbonation. Medium sized off white head.

Nose: Very clear tangerine. Light hop character. Orange jelly to marmalade.

Body: Brown bread. Moderate hop character. Light greenery. Fresh oranges and tangerines. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Tangerines. Moderate hops and bitterness. Popcorn feel. Orange hard sweets. Blackpool rock. Bitterness grows over time. Brown bread.

Conclusion: A few things stand out here. First, and quite importantly, this manages to successfully avoid the overly dry character that seems to come with a lot of session IPAs. You can still feel the dryness and accompanying well attenuated character – especially in the finish – but due to its core tangerine conceit it bursts with sweetness that hides that aspect well.

Onto the tangerine then – it is very fresh and shows itself in several different ways throughout the beer. In the aroma it is very natural feeling, very fresh and very clean – it utterly dominates the nose. In the body it is now working against moderate bitterness – so not quite as dominant. It is still very present, but not as cleanly delivered – now with some soft orange sweets adding to the sweet character. Finally in the finish the sweetness takes on a more artificial kind of Blackpool rock and hard orange sweets feel against a growing hop bitterness. Not bad, but different and less cleanly done, much more artificial feeling.

While the orange is well done, this is not a varied beer in any way – you get orange flavours and bitter hop flavours laid over a dry attenuated bready base. It is well done but the simplicity means that it doesn’t play in the top ranges of beer. A one trick, fresh fruit, session beer. Probably has a place in the line up if they can add a bit of range to it – it fits a needed niche and is nice enough – however it really is not a beer for contemplation.

Background: Prototype time again! A time when Brewdog put out a bunch of new beers and the one I like least is voted to be the one they keep. Sorry. I may be a bit down on the results of voting these days. Mainly for reasons with nothing to do with beers. Anyway… They only put out three beers this time, they had a blond ale but decided it wasn’t up to snuff. All 3 are IPA variants, generally the darkest, strongest beer wins. Because of course it does. So my guess is the black rye IPA will win this year. It fits the pattern. Anyway, this is the session IPA – a style I have had many issues with over the years as 1) IPAs are by definition strong beers and 2) lots of session IPAs are crap. There have been a few good ones though, so I’ll give this a fair shake. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is 40 IBU, low for the insane scales we have these days, but still a fair decent chunk of hops. Looking at the bottle they use actual tangerine to make this, which may be just what is needed to break the session IPA curse. This was bought from the Brewdog store and drunk while listening to Svalbard – Gone Tomorrow.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Garage Beer Co: Wild Beer Co: Snake Fear (Spain: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very cloudy apricot with an off white heads. Looks bitty on the pour, which dispersers into the haze when settled.

Nose: Dried apricot. Resinous, sticky hops. Mashed banana. Light sulphur. Dried mango. Crusty white bread. Some bitterness. Traditional lemonade. Peach melba.

Body: Thick. Oily hop feel. Kumquat and purple peppers. Quite savoury early on. Dried mango. Mashed banana. Traditional lemonade. Custard. Peach melba. Bitterness rises over time.

Finish: Purple peppers. Oily, resinous hops. Moderate bitterness. Creamy lemon and lime. Light sour cream.

Conclusion: On first pur of this I sighed – seeing the cloudy pour I realised it was a New England take on the IPA style – so I was fairly sure I knew what I was in for. Another beer of low bitterness, lots of fruit, not bad but so very overused at the moment. That is what I was thought. Nope. Nothing like that at all. Bad pre-judging Alcohol Aphorist.

This is full of thick hop oils and resinous character – “Dank” as the “Hip kids” say these days. Or maybe just people younger than me anyway. Hopefully actual kids aren’t drinking double IPAs. Single IPAs are the way to go until you are over 18, as is well and right. Also I don’t think the hip kids say “Hip kids” any more.

Anyway, apart from my age related breakdown – this starts slightly one note with savoury kumquat styling backing the resinous hops. This develops into a quite the range of dried fruit notes along with lighter citrus touches. Everything still feels heavy though – carries a lot of weight and sticky hop feel.

The thing is, the New England interpretation isn’t entirely absent either – there is a creamy character, the obvious visual aspect and the fruit character becomes recognisable banana and peach over time as they rise from the depths.

To my eyes it is the best thing to come from the New England IPA craze – it is influenced by it, but not beholden to it – takes the heavy, sticky hopped side of IPAs and matches it to the creamy NEIPA character.

An impressive creation of flavour and weight. If can find it, definitely try it.

Background: Now there are two things I tend to grab – Wild Beer Co stuff, and stuff from countries I’ve tried few or no beers from. So a Spanish brewery, Wild Beer collab was a must have. Plus the whole metal duck can pic was cool, if nothing to do with snakes nor fear. Unless you are afraid of ducks. Ducks are vicious shits so I can understand that. The can got a bit dented when being brought home from Independent Spirit – I had put it in with the Rodenbach Alexander and the wire cage around the cork had dented the can. I’m fairly sure the contents were fine, but decided to drink it as quickly as possible- just in case. It’s a hard life. Drunk while listening to Crossfaith – Zion – awesome, but I’m still disappointed I’ve not found a way to buy their Omen cover in the UK.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 1 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Standard whiskey barrel with #3 char)

Visual: Very dark reddened bronze.

Viscosity: Very fast sheet of streaks.

Nose: Thick and full of alcohol. Rye crackers and brown bread. Honey. Aniseed. Treacle. Light prunes.

Body: Honey. Charring. Slightly dry back. Rye crackers. Water makes more honeyed and smooth. Slight dried apricot. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Alcohol. Rye crackers. Honey. Slightly rough. Charring. More honeyed with water. Light mocha. Slight cloying sour cream note. Slight sulphur air.

Conclusion: This is – well – the most pedestrian of the 5 experiments I would say. It matches the more simple description of the process it went through – a more charred standard barrel – by being a very stripped down whiskey/bourbon compared to the complex language and layers of the others. A baseline I guess – the base experience that the other experiments build off.

Neat it is very much rye crackers touched with honey backing – pretty much the base bourbon concept but with none of the frills. At this point it is also a tad alcohol touched which doesn’t help it.

Water does help to a degree – it takes out some of the alcohol and lets the honey notes seeps over the harsher charring; It still has a bit of sulphur and other harsh notes – stuff that work with bigger whiskeys or bourbons, but feel off notes here.

It is … sub optimal shall we say – feels a very basic bourbon, with a few off notes. Not one I would recommend – especially considering the equivalent price you are paying for the set of the experiment bourbons as a whole. There is hints of some good stuff, and some mocha notes in the finish which are nice – but generally it feels very generic, with a few points letting it down.

To give it a more positive spin – this is the base, it lets you see how the other experiments develop in relation to it. As itself, it is not much, especially for the cost, It is only really useful as a benchmark to see how the other experiments differ.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, just more charred – so is probably the most normal of the experiments. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is the largest one, so I could spend a bit more time with it.

Amundsen: Oceans West Coast IPA (Normay: IPA: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Moderate caramel touched head. Clear.

Nose: Peach. Fresh fruit. Tinned tropical fruit. Lime cream.

Body: Kiwi. Prickling hops. Fudge. Tart grapes. Slight lime tang. Moderate fluffy hop character. Peach.

Finish: Lime cordial. Moderate bitterness. Toffee. Kiwi. Watermelon jolly ranchers. Prickling hops. Tart grapes. Malt toffee chocolate. Malt biscuits. Blackpool rock.

Conclusion:An interesting mix of IPA interpretations here – the hops are fresh fruit mixed with artificial fruit hard sweets, mixed together in a tart way – lots of green fruit, backed by a hint of peach. This kind of fruitiness usually matched to a quite clean base in my experience. However here it goes instead to the darker and sweeter fudge to chocolate base giving extra layers of sweetness. Even in that it feels off – thinner mouthfeel than a base that sweet often gives, but not as light as a drier base would be.

Then you have the hop character – a solid, fluffy mouthfeel, robust bitter core. Not overly resinous or sticky, just solidly bitter and present. All together it nearly works – nearly – but all the slightly different takes result in a bit of a mixed up beer. The more artificial sweet notes become cloying next to the bitterness and as a result the main base also feels slightly too sweet, but without the grip a solid core needs.

You end up with a beer of big flavours pulling it in every direction and as a result going nowhere. It is not that bad, but just can’t tie everything together. A bunch of experiences with no coherent theme.

Background: This is another one of those cans with a top that comes completely off – and since the can is very full it nearly resulted in some spillage. Avoided thankfully. Have to be careful with these cans. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – I was attracted to the brewery range by their insanely brightly coloured cans – and Chris who works there mentioned he enjoyed this one, so this one it was. Drunk while listening to Against Me! 23 Live Sex Acts because you can never go wrong with more Against Me! In your lives.

Nomad: Outland Whisky (Scottish/Spanish Whisky: 41.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and spirity. Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Raspberry yogurt chunks. Raisins. Light burning notes, but mostly smooth. Oak.

Body: Very smooth. Brandy cream. Custard. Vanilla toffee. Sultanas. Sweet red wine. Honey. Very slightly light, but warming if held. Sulphur if held. Raspberry yogurt. Condensed cream. Water makes smoother, and fuller with more raisins.

Finish: Rum soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light wood. Light waxy character. Dry sherry. Water makes trifle like.

Conclusion: This is both definitely a young whisky, and also a very smooth one. One of those odd contradictions that I don’t expect but enjoy when I find them. It has a spirity thickness, but even neat it has a restrained burn and water soon turns it into a very easy drinking thing.

It doesn’t seem to get a lot of the flavour from the base spirit – it feels like this is all coming from the barrel ageing, all the way. Lots of brandy cream notes, very creamy in general with sherry, sweet red wine and raisins all showing from the barrel ageing. It is a sweet and dark fruit laden thing with a slightly waxy feel when neat, but becomes just clean smoothness with water.

A tad simple isn’t the right words for it – there is a lot going on here, with honey and vanilla toffee sweetness backing the fruit – however there really isn’t any sign of where it came from outside of the barrel. So if you are into whisky for all the odd quirks that come from different makes of the spirit then you will not get that here. However taken for what it is it is very enjoyable. Very smooth with water, very trifle like, very sweet – it gives a lot to enjoy from the short, unusual, ageing.

So a whisky for general enjoying, fun and, with water, is amazing at not showing any rough edges from its youth. At a higher price point I would want more odd quirks from the base spirit, but as is it gives a lot for your money. In fact it reminds me slightly of the Irish style whiskey in its smooth, sweet and easy drinking style. So a Scotch touched, Irish feeling, Spain finished whisky. A true nomad – very good value easy drinking whisky.

Background: Odd ageing done with this one -it is made up of a mix of 5 to 8 year old whisky that has been aged in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, then sent to Jerez where it is finished in Pedro Ximenez casks for a year. I first tried a sample of this at Wine Rack in Leeds, just before going to see NXT wrestling. We had been aiming for the excellent North Bar and just nipped into the Wine Rack as it was right next to it – unfortunately I was a tad skint at the time, so couldn’t grab a bottle then – instead grabbing it months later from Independent Spirit. Its a good shop though, so thought I would give them a mention. Drunk while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees – never really listened to them before, but has seen an excellent tribute band to them, so was giving them a try.

De Cam: Wilde Bosbessen (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Very deep, cloudy black-cherry red. Moderate burgundy fizzy head.

Nose: Massive horse blankets. Some sulphur. Brown bread. Pungent dark berries. Oats. Black-cherry. Smoked cheese. Smoked meat.

Body: Acidic. Smoked salami. Blueberry. Apples to cider. Smoked cheese. Brown bread.

Finish: Black-cherry. Cider. White wine. Red cherries. Slight yogurt. Smoke. Gooseberry.

Conclusion: Where to start on this one? From the first moment you could sense the aroma sloughing off from the body and seeping over the edge of the glass. From the first moment I smelled this, I knew it was going to be something different.

A lot of fruit lambics seem to trade off some of the base lambic character when giving the fruit full rein – but this one overflows with huge horse-blankets character, sulphur and smoked cheese. The last one is what really made me pay attention. The beer really ramps up the funk and throughout the whole beer it delivered smoked meat and cheese notes amongst the more the common tarter cider apples like notes. It pushed this big wet hair meets brown bread aroma. Which again is something I say as a good thing despite how horrid those words may seem.

So, yeah that base brings funk and depth, but what about the berries? You may think that since I am concentrating on the smoke, meat and cheese that the funky character brings, that the berries are taking a back seat? Nope. There is a real deep, muggy, thick dark berry character here -working from sweeter blueberry, heavy black-cherry to slightly soured berry notes.

You end up with such a complex lambic as the two sides combine – so muggy, thick and musty – yet in a good way. It takes a mix of flavours that normally clash and mix them together for a complex beer, underlined with white wine like notes and dryness that make it all just that touch easier to drink and makes for a genius drink.

Great. Just amazing.

Background: A mildly odd, but not unheard of fruit for a lambic time this time – wild blueberries. After De Cam’s last different fruit choice worked out pretty well I decided it was worth giving this a go as well. 40KG of fruit is added per 100 litres of young lambic. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – their new beer selection is going from strength to strength – I keep seeing beers I mean to pick up later, but by the next week there are more news arrivals I want. Drunk while listening to a mix of Mclusky and their spin off band Future Of The Left, after they were recommended to me – odd, energetic cool stuff. Will have to listen more.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 11 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Original Barrel: Inserts for used wine barrels. High mocha)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Lightly milky coffee. Tiramisu. Some alcohol. Toffee. Salted lemons. Water adds menthol.

Body: Orange cream. Peppery. Peppermint. Some alcohol. Shredded wheat. Slight sour tang. Orange jelly sweets. Water adds honey and menthol.

Finish: Alcohol. Peppermint. Orange cream. Lime tang. Water adds menthol and mint. Slight milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, like the no 5 whiskey/bourbon I tried before this, this leans towards a more traditional bourbon but with one unusual element that comes out.

What you have here at the base is a sweeter, slightly orange cream touched bourbon – fairly normal, albeit with more alcohol feel than normal.

What comes out, especially with water, is a slightly peppermint to menthol character – a much fresher set of notes than usual. If you need a comparison I would say it comes in kind of similar to Johnnie Walker Green, to my hazy recollection of last time I tried that – however the menthol notes don’t seem to mesh quite as well to the bourbon style as they did to that blended whisky take.

It is odd that that peppermint style freshness is what stands out, as the aroma was quite coffee touched, which made me think that this was going to be similar to experiment 10 – while, admittedly the coffee does come out in the finish, for the most part the coffee really doesn’t seem to have much influence here. A pity.

It’s not terrible, but the twist and the main bourbon don’t mesh in a way that enhances either side. So, interesting, but one of the weaker experiments.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, with wine barrel wood staves put in for extra oak influence, and charred for mocha styling. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the larger ones, so I could spend a bit more time with it. Drunk while (still) listening to Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks – yes, I did this one immediately after doing notes on experiment 5.

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