Archive for November, 2017


Haand: Brewdog: Stone: Inferno IPA (Norway: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown to ruddy red body under an inch of caramel brown touched head.

Nose: Kiwi, grapes and hops. Shreddies. Ovaltine malt drinks. Brown bread. Dried apricot.

Body: Thick, prickling hops. Nettles. Good bitterness. Hop oils. Toffee. Thick texture. Low hop burn. Sticky apricots. Cream. Kiwi yogurt. Sticky mouthfeel.

Finish: Caramel. Dry hop bitterness. Low hop burn. Brown bread. Good hop character in general and good level of bitterness. Sticky hop oils and resinous. Palma violets.

Conclusion: This is fairly “dank” in its hop use. Yes I am putting quotes around that, I still find the current meaning of the word “dank” to be odd. Anyway, this is sticky, resinous with lots of hop oils and a pretty solid level of hop bitterness. That really seems to be the core of this beer – Thick, sticky and hoppy.

To back that up the malt load is heavy, thick and sweet – almost fondue impression giving thick feel that gives what would be a big sweet character to back up the hop oils. Not too sweet in reality though despite that, with the hop character coming through it ends up as a big bready to shreddies malt style – very stodgy, thick and quite savoury when everything comes together.

Hop flavour wise is a more subtle deal – there is creamy fruit with some kiwi and some apricot that are present but mainly as backing notes. There is a touch of hop burn with it that adds a mild acrid note, but it is low enough to only add a prickle below this heavy beer rather than damaging it.

It doesn’t have a huge flavour range – the sticky hop side of things really dominates. I would by lying if I said I didn’t enjoy thus, more for the feel than anything else, that sticky hop resinous feel makes a very pleasant sensation as it goes down.

However it could do with more to it than just feel. It has a good mouthfeel, but needs to do more with the hop flavours. Still, a sticky hop experience is an enjoyable one. With work this could be the basis of an awesome beer, it just isn’t there yet.

Background: So, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers, best get that out there first as they are a collaborator for this beer. I am an unbiased actor on Stone beers, unless you considerer thinking them an awesome brewery for the quality of their beers, especially their hop forward beers, is bias. Don’t know much about Haand, but always happy to try more beers from Norway. It just feels more metal. So, with metal on my mind I drank this while listening to … No Doubt again. Listen, I only thought up the metal link later on, ok? Anyway this was grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection.

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Kilchoman: Sanaig (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Rich deep gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey and peaty. Wet rocks. Salt touch. Big aroma. Brown bread. Kippers. Water adds vanilla and light apples.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel with caramel, fudge and vanilla. Warming. Beefy. Peaty. Stew character. Salt. Water adds apples with cinnamon. Sherried raisins. Nutmeg. Dried apricot. Oily.

Finish: Medicinal. Salt. Brown bread. Paprika spice. Dried raisins. Dry cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Light peat. Dry in general. Water adds cherries, sherry and now juicy raisins. Creamy coffee. Menthol. Caramel.

Conclusion: There is a nice mix to this – I’m going to break it down into its layers and examine each individually as there is a lot going on here.

On first pour you get a big booming aroma that you can’t mistake for anything but Islay, and it is recognisable from metaphorical miles away from the glass. Classic Islay peat, smoke, salt and rocks all delivered thick and oily.

Drinking a sip keeps the thick character, but now with that peat expressed in a beefy style – layered over thick caramel and fudge notes. It is a dry sweetness, very chewy, very big and a great backing and contrast for the big Islay flavours.

The finish finally shows the story of the sherry influence – coming in as dry spice and raisins over the, still showing but now medicinal, Islay character. All of the levels has alcohol warmth, but the texture is luxury level smooth.

So, what can water do with this then? Quite a bit actually – soft green fruit and sweeter spice notes while the sherry influence ramps up nicely giving cherry and sherry notes into dry nutty finish. Well the finish was always quite dry – I forgot to mention that before. Forgive me please there is a lot to get through here. Anyway, compared to the chewy main body the finish is a nicely done dry underlying, drawing a line under the experience.

So, yeah, the fact I’m forgetting stuff while trying to get the notes done is showing how much this has going on – huge peat, big Islay, big sherry, yet with enough room to show the lighter notes. Big, but not so big that it becomes simple from overpowering notes.

It lacks only that “je ne sais quoi” to make it an all time great, but it is as good as you can get without that. Bloody nice.

Background: Another chance to dip into Islay’s youngest distillery – not got much info on this one. It’s a no age statement made with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Grabbed in ickle mini form from Independent Spirit so I could give it a try. So lacking in detail on the whisky – I listened to a collection of No Doubt’s single while drinking this. While I didn’t like all of the musical directions they took they were always good – just some of the tracks were not for me. When they were at their best IMHO was when they took on topics akin to the punkier scenes I enjoy so much, but delivered in such a way that it reached a much wider crowd without descending to the saccharine Spice Girls style “Girl Power” delivery. So there you have it.

For All The Beer In China: The Mainland and Hong Kong Beer Scenes.

So, as you have probably guessed from the title, I am splitting my quick look at the beer scene in China (Based on my admittedly limited experiences in one trip) into Mainland and Hong Kong. mainly because they are two very different scenes and two very different places culturally. As always, these are based on a short couple of weeks away, so feel free to chip in with anything I missed or got wrong.

Mainland China:
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3 Fonteinen: Zwet.be (Belgium: Porter: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to middling creamy brown head that leaves suds but has a quite short lifespan.

Nose: Sour red wine. Black cherry. Coca dust. Rum soaked raisins. Chocolate liqueurs.

Body: Tart black cherry. Charring. Black cherry sour sweets. Salt water. Cold stones. Touch of Pocari Sweat drink. Bready. Soft pineapple. Dry raisins. Lightly tart.

Finish: Charring and bitter character. Oats. Bitter cocoa dust. Brown bread. Salt water. Cloying coffee notes. Soft pineapple. Dry Madeira. Tart apple.

Conclusion: The sour stout, or in this case sour porter, is one of the odder styles to have come out of recent years. In fact if anything this is somehow both more odd and more restrained that previous examples I’ve tried. Maybe it is more odd because it is more restrained. Which may need some breaking down to make sense.

The nose provides full on mix of sour wine, fruity experience with chocolate hints – it is something really fresh and bursting with flavour. Unfortunately the rest of the beer is not that.

The body is drier, with charred notes and even a slightly salty character – it is full of the heavier, rougher notes that can come with a porter. The tarter notes are there, but as gentle additions not super sour intrusions – it gives dark fruit early on, but somehow late on lambic like green fruit and pineapple hints give very subtle fresher notes.

Warmth gives it more of what you would expect – tart black cherry and spirit soaked raisins – chilling really hurt this, making it far too pedestrian. Warmth makes this reasonable – still quite dry, but with fruit range of both dark and light fruit. The biggest disappointment is the porter backing to that. The porter character is often relegated to a dank (in the cold wet cave style of the meaning, not the resinous hop style of the meaning) background that seems to bring down the sour notes rather than enhance them.

Overall an ok beer, but one of the weaker sour stouts/porters I have encountered.

Background: So, something more than just a bit unusual here – a beer from 3 Fonteinen, celebrated sour beer makers, but according to a quick google brewed at De Proefbrouweij – a famed contract brewer. I’m guessing they did that to prevent yeast infection issues from the wild yeast. Anyway, this one is a porter brewed with lambic yeast. So, yeah, odd as heck. Drank while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees for appropriate backing to that oddness. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Brewdog: Make Earth Great Again (Scotland: Saison: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale light yellow to grain, very clear. An inch of white froth for a head but still main body.

Nose: Wheaty. Vanilla. Light lemon citrus character. Dried banana. Light cloves. Crusty white bread. Light white chocolate. Cheese puff crisps styled funk.

Body: Bitter. Slight cloying cream character. Cream cheese and chives. Slight chalk and prickly feel mix. Cheese puff crisps. Hop oils. Light lemon. Palma violets. Dried banana.

Finish: Cream cheese and chives. Dried banana. Light yeast funk. Light tart yellow raspberries. Hop oils. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Mature cheese.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Wild Beer Co’s bretted lager “Chronos” – it has that mix of lager like easy drinking character with a yeast funk style.

At its base it feels clean, slightly lemony and very lager styled with noble hop feeling hop oils and a light palma violets touch to it. Layered over that clean base is a kind of cheese puff into cream cheese and then mature cheese notes – a real contrast of feel and taste going on here. It opens with the cheese funk first, then lets the lighter lager drinking feel through, rather than the other way around that you might expect.

Now, that funk gives some flavour but there is also a light berry tartness below those heavier funk notes that works as a nice bridge between the lager like notes and the more saison like funk. Good use of hop oils smooth out the remaining rough cracks that may have existed, and a moderate bitterness caps off the finish.

Everything works – it doesn’t declare itself as a must drink – instead concentrating on being very easy to drink, mixing smooth feel and funk. The flavour is gentle but tasty, and the beer feels far too close to a session character for a beer of higher abv. It doesn’t break the world, but once you start drinking it is easy to just keep continuing to drink this in a dangerously drunken way – so it definitely has something for it!

Background: So, Brewdog making a beer to protest USA removing itself from the Paris agreement and gives the profits to a climate change charity – I can get behind that. A few gimmicks to go with that, the saison is made with melted ice cap water and cloudberries which are endangered (A few people have asked if that is a good idea, using endangered berries- I presume using the berries isn’t a prob – it’s the plants environment being in danger that is screwing it – I could be wrong). As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop and drunk while listening to the final CD of Mclusky – Mcluskyism. So you will probably hear me mention it less for a while. Great 3 CD set and great value. Proper loving the insane energy it has.

Art Brew: Anarchist Party Bitter (England: Bitter: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy caramel brown. Large creamy head in coffee froth form. Some suds around the edge as you drink.

Nose: Malt choc orange. Crushed peanuts. Light fresh citrus.

Body: Treacle. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Moderate hop bitterness. Caramel. Thick. Brown bread. Prickling feel. Hop oils. Subtle peach. Creamy.

Finish: Choc orange. Good hop character and bitterness. Charring. Peanuts. Brown bread. Hop oils. Gritty. Golden syrup. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a no nonsense big beer. Big malt, big hops, big mouthfeel. It has a real thick caramel to treacle base with choc orange hints – the mouthfeel is really thick with even some syrupy hints amongst the character.

For the hops side, the aroma hints at more fresh notes than the body gives – it starts with moderate bitterness and builds to a mix of impressive roughness, hop oils and hop flavour. Then, over time, more subtle creamy hop flavours of peach styling comes out with a real grounding nutty character beneath that.

So, with the exception of the creamier end of the hop notes late on, this is fairly full bore all the time! It pretty much uses that higher than normal abv to create a base that can punch your taste-buds repeatedly for a good long time.

So, not subtle at all, and so doesn’t have those extra elements that makes an all time great for me, but it has that enthusiasm of a beer than is going for exuberance over fine detail and gives a full flavour assault with that. Approach with caution and enjoy the intensity.

Background: How to list this beer? It says a bitter, but the abv and hop use is a bit high for that style. Possibly English Strong Ale, as a vague catch all style. Possibly IPA with the hop use, but I am trying to avoid falling into the same trap that those red/brown/black/white IPA listings do by putting everything hoppy under IPA. Ok, sod it, I’ll use my general rule of a thumb, list it as the brewery describes it unless you have good reason to do so. So, bitter it is, with some reservations. Anyway, – Art Brew – a local Brewery and one that I have a soft spot for as it used to be tied with the Royal Oak back in the day – spent many a night drinking there. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to more of Mclusky – Mcluskyisms. You will probably see that a lot in the near future – it is a massive 3 CD thing so I have a lot of tunes to get used to – lovely discordant, angry, almost surreal at times tunes.

Northern Monks: Verdant: Patron’s Project 9.01: Captain North (England: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice with lots of carbonation and a massive white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheat. Lemon. Lightly peppery character. Dried pineapple.

Body: Very bitter. Peppery. Oatmeal. Apples. Slight kiwi fruit and egg plant. Mild toffee. Dried pineapple. Flour. Soft peach. Milky.

Finish: High bitterness and hop character. Peppery. Eggplant. Pineapple. Apples.

Conclusion: This takes some time to get going – early on it is all bitter hops and peppery character; Not something I generally complain about as a hop head, but I like a beer to have a bit more going to round it out. A high hop bitterness can’t do the whole job by itself, much as some beers may try.

Time lets out some soft green fruit and tart pineapple -often the fruit notes seem to come across in a dried fruit fashion, but there are some fresh and tarter notes that occasionally come out. It results in a soft balance to the peppery bitterness, backed by a solid oatmeal tasting and thickness of character. It is better like this but still feels solid rather than exciting – with the oatmeal like base, pepper, flour touches there is a lot grounding the beer, with the high bitterness being the biggest element and it feels like it doesn’t let the flavour range these hops should have really show. Again, more time can allow some soft peach, in a milky fashion come out- but it is light and feels like you are trying to reach it through porridge.

It is a bit too much grounding, with too little on the showy side for me. Good bitterness, but as I said that can’t make a beer work by itself.

Background: I mainly bought this ‘cos the can looked pretty. A run down Captain America looking dude but with an N for north on his head and a pint in his hand. While comics have not given up a Captain North yet they have given us a Captain Britain, and a Captain Midlands. No I am not making that last one up. Genuine truth mate. Anyway this is an IPA made with Azacca, Ekuanot, Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic hops. I only recognise the last two, but they are some good hops – think I have encountered the others, but couldn’t give any real details on them. Another one from Independent Spirit – I am making up for lost time.

Suntory: Yamazaki Aged Umeshuu (Japan: Umeshuu: 17% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Nose: Sweet plum and figgy pudding. Golden syrup. Marzipan and toasted marshmallow.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Vanilla toffee and golden syrup. Honey. Plums. Mild whisky notes. Treacle. Fig rolls. Toasted teacakes.

Finish: Plums. Toasted teacakes. Golden syrup. Marshmallows and white chocolate. Fig rolls. Raspberry yogurt. Blended whisky air. Cherries to glacier cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m split on how to describe it- as there is not a huge amount of whiskyesque notes about this – but they do definitely influence the proceedings. Best thing I can say, is that if you are looking to grab this for the Yamazaki then I would say look elsewhere- even if actual Yamazaki is stupidly expensive at the moment – however if you are an Umeshuu fan who also happens to like a bit of whisky then the time in the oak, and the addition of a touch of whisky has definitely given this a different twist.

The base comes out as a slightly drier take on an Umeshuu – still quite syrupy and very thick with sweet honey and golden syrup notes but less overwhelming with a drier, toasted teacake backing note that takes this notoriously sickly drink and makes it a bit easier to drink and a touch more complex with the savoury contrast.

The oak ageing does seem to add similar to what I would expect from bourbon cask ageing for whisky – marshmallows, toasted notes, vanilla toffee and white chocolate. Nice, soft, sweet rounding notes that actually soften the more raw artificial sweetness of some umeshuus. Others I have spoken to have noticed a sherry influence, but for me that seems to tie more closely to the base umeshuu – as always I could be wrong.

So, all this way in and I’ve not mentioned the actual plums yet, whatsupwiththat right? That is a fairly big part of a plum liqueur. Well, while it takes a few sips to show mid body, it is instantly there top and tail – lots of plums, figs and other varied dark fruits in general. Then as you get acclimatised to the sweetness it shows mid body as well. The oddest note’s a raspberry yogurt thickness that actually reminds me of Yamzaki 12, but I could just be being easily influenced by knowing the drink’s backstory.

I’m far from a Umeshuu expert, but this sits just on the edge of the right side of too sickly and has a good amount of range to really enjoy, more than I associate with my other experiences with this style of drink. Sweet plums over toasted texture dryness with whisky high notes makes an altogether good experience by me.

Background: This is something brought back from Honk Kong after I saw it in the airport’s duty free. Glad I did – looks like this doesn’t have an official release in the UK and import prices are insane. At the airport it came in at around 35 quid (give or take depending on exchange rate) which was much more reasonable. Anyway, what is it? Something that turns up very rarely on this blog – Umeshuu aka plum liqueur. I only rarely do notes on similar things, but this has a special twist that makes it, maybe, just about applicable for the blog. The drink has been aged in toasted ex Yamazaki whisky casks, and mixed with some Yamazaki that had been aged in Umeshuu casks, to make for a very incestuous drink relationship. Ok, yeah, I don’t normally do whisky liqueurs either- I’m mainly do this one for my own enjoyment. Anyway, I’m guessing this is being made as a gimmick release to let them get as many releases out of their limited stock. Yamazaki is highly in demand and a lot is being held back for aged releases so current releases are very tight. Well, it worked, I bought one.

Odyssey: Fiendish Breakfast (England: Imperial Stout: 9.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large, solid, creamy brown head.

Nose: Salted bacon. Dry malt chocolate. Peanuts. Light smoke. Cocoa dust. Kippers.

Body: Thick textured, with creamy milky chocolate. Slight bitter cocoa and hop prickle. Light tart black cherries. Salted. Bitter coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy coffee. Very bitter cocoa kick. Smoke. Mildly salty. Brown bread and slight sour cream. Slight chives. Dry roasted peanuts. Some dry treacle notes.

Conclusion: This feels heavy – a very thick, creamy body packed with deep bitter notes- most emphasised in the usual imperial stout notes of coffee and cocoa being delivered in a more bitter fashion than normal. Then a salted character shows through, backed by whispers of smoke that give slight Islay whisky styling.

What I find interesting from this is that some of the special ingredients really show through, while other seem but subtle hints. We have already seen the salt doing its thing, and the smoked malt having a subtle influence – The treacle thought? Not really there that much – a few dry notes coating the tongue in the finish, and I’m guessing it contributes to the sweeter notes of the main body, but not immediately evident as itself. The more evident sweetness is instead given when you get sweeter takes on the coffee and chocolate that acts as release from the more bitter cocoa and coffee that dominates it.

As mentioned the salted aspect does not hide itself, but what I found odd is how the smoked character that is so closely linked doesn’t have the huge bacon stylings that the beer’s name suggests – the aroma does show bacon, but the body and finish is more an inhaled ash kind of light dusting over the beer.

There are light off sets to the heavier notes – hints of tart berries, and yes, that treacle in finish – but generally this is big and grounded in bitter and savoury notes making a weighty imperial stout that goes against the showy sweet trend of the moment.

It is a slow drinking thing, definitely enjoyable, doesn’t wow me like Odyssey’s hop master-works do, but I can’t doubt its quality. It feels like a beer to drink, and the just slip down through the floor with. It just drags you down with its weight. Not one I will rave about, but it is a beer that fills its every moment with heavy set character. Intriguing, if not must have.

Background: I’m more familiar with Odyssey for their hop forwards beers, which are bloody amazing, but this Imperial Stout made with oats, salt, smoked malt, roasted coffee beans and treacle did catch my eye, and money from my wallet. Grabbed from … yes, Independent Spirit again … they have tons of good beer, leave me alone. Went a bit unusual with music for this one – put my player to list tunes by least played and check out some tracks I hadn’t listen to for a while.

Brewdog: Slot Machine (Scotland: Speciality Grain :5.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red. Clear with an inch of browned bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Choc orange. Lights nuts. Lightly creamy.

Body: Spicy, nutty and with malt chocolate. Peppery. Roasted nuts. Soft kiwi fruit. Vanilla. Toffee.

Finish: Cinnamon and dry ground spice. Coriander. Nutty. Rye crackers. Orange skin. Slight grapes and vanilla yogurt.

Conclusion: Hmm, giving this beer some time and with that some heat so it can develop, as chilled down this is really letting me down – however it has hints that makes me think it can do better – so let us see what some heat can do.

Initially this seems simple – nutty and spicy with a malt chocolate centre – a very middle of the road beer, with the grounding base but nothing done with this. I’m hoping that the fact I chilled this beer before I drank it just means it has been hiding the good stuff from me up to now.

So, how is it changing? Well it is more creamy, with some green fruit – also a touch more peppery, but the increased cream character easily balances that. Still doesn’t quite work – the sweetness comes with a vanilla character that starts as a pleasant vanilla toffee, but ends up a cloying vanilla yogurt style by the end – which is another savoury note that seems dull against the rest of the background.

It feels like it is overemphasising the grounding notes – the pepper, the yogurt, the roasted nuts – but with no high points against that. It has the roasted and bitter hop character, but few hop flavours to go with the IPA name it used. Instead it feels like a more bitter hopped Irish red. Not my thing – it feels leaden and so is not a beer I can recommend.

Background: Ok, usually disclaimer – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer and this was grabbed directly from the Brewdog online store. This is one of their new seasonal releases – they call it a red rye IPA – which is a whole mess of ideas. Basically a highly hopped amber ale made with rye to my eye. I really dislike how * IPA gets so overused these days – it seems to try and shove a wide variety of styles under one hat just due to them being well hopped. Drunk while listening to Praxis – Transmutation for some weird as hell backing music.

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