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.