Archive for January, 2018

Brewdog: Indie Pale Ale (Scotland: English Pale Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Clear. Large mounded bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Noble hop style hop oils. Light greenery note. Vanilla toffee.

Body: Hard fruit sweets. Creamy hop oils and light bitterness. More hop oils. Clean lager feel. Cardboard. Light chalk. Soft lemon.

Finish: Hop oils and light bitterness. Flour. Clean lager like feel.

Conclusion: What sort of beer is this supposed to be? Indie Pale Ale suggest an IPA – which this sure as fuck is not. It could also be an EPA/APA I guess, which this could be called if you were feeling kind. But, basically, it feels like a lager – or maybe a low bitterness Kölsch if that makes sense – but not as good.

Early on there is some promise – creamy and hard fruit sweet notes, but they soon vanish. You are left instead with a substandard lager mouthfeel and some oily hop character and … that’s it. This is, well, dull. I’ve had shitter Brewdog beers, but they tended to at least be adventurous and experimental. This is just dull and empty. It is almost a slightly chalky mass market lager masquerading as an *PA. I mean, come on, it is some sort of wildcard-PA – that is the style that is right in the centre of Brewdog’s beer set and this is still complete tug.

There is a touch of vanilla, but the chalky touch makes it so you can’t really enjoy this as a lager. In the first few moments it has flavour but soon becomes watery and empty. The oily hop character, while it does have a nice texture touch, is the only thing this beer has going for it.

Tripe. Utter tripe. Avoid.

Background; Ok, As indicated in the main notes I am kind of guessing when I list this as English Pale Ale. I put that as “shit” turns out not to be an accepted style category. Who would have thought? Ratebeer lists it as Session IPA. From the name I would guess IPA but it does not explicitly state that so I can’t use my usual “Go with what they call it” definition. So, kind of close to English Pale Ale I guess. If you squint and presume the brewer didn’t know how to brew. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers – but as this review probably shows I try not to let that alter my tasting notes. This is one of Brewdog’s new core beers and was grabbed directly from their online shop. This was drunk while listening to the Paprika OST – such an awesome surreal anime move and such good music.


Beerbliotek: Du Luktar Lite Som Första Gången Jag Träffade Dig (Sweden: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Some creamy streams in the liquid. Massive white head.

Nose: Crisp hops and light bitterness. Creamy.

Body: Vanilla. Very creamy. Some toffee. Kiwi. Grapes. Peach. Light hop oils. Light sour cream and chives. Dried apricot.

Finish: Tart grapes. Hop oils. Resin. Slight cannabis air. Greenery. Dry bitterness. Milky.

Conclusion: This is very creamy. As in, this IIPA is far more creamy than a New England IPA tends to aim for – like, milky at the end creamy. Thick is what I am trying to communicate. The bitterness is not as low as you would expect given that but still not a huge part of the beer – it is a fairly solid bitterness in the finish, but not exactly intense for the rest of the beer.

The flavour profile seems to go back and forth – sometimes the creaminess dominates, other times it reins it in a bit – still creamy but now backing a wonderful set of peach, grape and kiwi notes. It really is a beer that is of that moment when you drink it, and you cannot use that to extrapolate to the rest of the beer – you have to take it as you view it in that moment.

Behind that varied character is an oily, resinous style which is the best tell of the beer’s IPA toots – showing slight greenery, even cannabis like in the air of the finish (Says a non cannabis smoker – this is all based on second hand experience so take that with a pinch of salt).

Overall its a solid feel but too creamy dominated for me – I’m enjoying it for the most part – it has definite range and use of hops, but at a lot of the time the milky, creamy character takes the front and it feels kind of empty in that, For some of you the creamy element may be a plus – for me it is ok, but not a beer that I would return to.

Background: So, I shoved the name into google translate. Comes back as “You Smell Little As The First Time I Met You”. I think it lost something in translation. Anyway, I did not realise the breweries name is a pub on bibliotech. Because obviously I am a muppet. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – mainly as I had not run into the brewery before and Sweden has a fairly solid beer scene at the moment. Had just random music for this one – felt I possibly could have chilled the beer just a touch more down for best experience – yes this from the person who famously hated chilled beers a bunch of years ago. People change. Don’t think it would have made that much difference, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Robinsons: Old Tom (England: Old Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown to mahogany body that is clear and still. Thick off white head.

Nose: Raisins. Port. Sherry soaked fruitcake to Christmas pudding. Earthy hop character. Slight chalk. Vinous – sour wine.

Body: Christmas pudding. Charring. Bitter chocolate. Sour red wine. Slight chalk. Earthy hops. Cherries. Peppery. Sour grapes.

Finish: Christmas pudding. Sultanas. Bitter chocolate cake. Earthy hops. Peppery bitterness. Sour grapes. Dry.

Conclusion: Whoop! I’m on an old ale roll now after a long time without – this coming fairly shortly after Marble‘s barrel aged old ale. This one is less challenging and less complex as a beer, but also comes in at less than half the price while still being a fairly complex one – which is a reasonable trade off. This is a beer from my early days of experimentation and it seems that it still holds up.

This is less sour than most of the style, with only a light sour note matched with a real Christmas pudding style heaviness as its solid core. Matched with that a similarly solid British style early hop character – with a peppery character as well as the earth, grounding with moderate bitterness.

However amongst that grounded character, against the sour vinous elements with it you get a big fruitiness – a sultana packed fruitcake character that make up a big wodge of the contrast, but even here everything is just slightly savoury with only a few sweeter hints. It is amazing how they can push the Christmas pudding without making it feel overly sweet and also having such low sweetness without the overall character feeling dull. For all the chalk notes, peppery and earthy notes it still feels like it is not pushing the grounding notes overly heavily and because of that it feels like a complex and rewarding beer.

It is not up there with the more experimental old ales that have come since, but looking back it it, it blows my mind that a beer this good and non standard is so easy to buy in the UK. A beer you can buy in the supermarket that is an old ale that gives easy access to a world of flavour that most beers in the same place will not reach. Good as an accessible gateway into something different and good as a beer in itself.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from a colleague – many thanks. Old Tom is a fairly common beer to find in supermarkets, so was one of the earliest of Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers that I tried. So this is a bit of a nostalgia drink here. I saw The Eels were on tour again this year – unfortunately nowhere near me – so put on the Beautiful Freak album – a bit of nostalgia for me again. It matches up, right?

Big Drop: Pale Ale (England: Low Alcohol Pale Ale: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear with a thin off white head and some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Grapefruit. Soft lemon. Fresh. Vanilla. Grapes. Apricot. Cake sponge.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Lemon fresh. Cake sponge. Light chalk. Prickly hop feel. Passionfruit. Dried apricot.

Finish: Light chalk. Lime cordial. Fluffy hop feel. Popcorn. Vanilla. Moderate hop bitterness. Grapes. Cake sponge. Kiwi.

Conclusion: This is described as a pale ale, and it definitely has the level of hop usage you would expect from that style, but for some reason the body brings a character that reminds me more of golden ales.

That body is, incidentally, what makes this beer really stand out. It is a lower than half a percent abv beer but still manages a gentle cake sponge gripping texture which matches well against the prickling hop feel. Most low alcohol beers really have to assault you with the hops to get over the lack of texture that comes with the low abv, but this manages the grip amazingly well.

That body means that this can use the hop flavours in a more nuanced way – with soft fruitiness, a huge range of those fruits coming in from aroma to finish, eschewing the more brutal hop assault.

It is very easy to drink. It uses refreshingly crisp bitter hops rather than bracing hops, continues the refreshing theme with lovely citrus flavour and that aforementioned cake sponge body gives it that natural beery feel – far more than you would imagine it should be capable of.

A great beer for pretty much any time – as a beer in itself it is a solid beer, as a low abv beer it is great. This is up with Mikkeller’s low abv efforts, and that is a high compliment.

Background 1,500 beer notes done! With the number of great beers I had done in the past for special numbers of tastings I was unsure what to break out for this one. So, in a moment of contrary nature I decided to go with this one – a low abv beer from the comparatively new “Big Drop” brewery. I’ve had this a few times over the past six months when I was having a dry day and have been enjoying it – so against expectations of some big booming high abv thing I decide to go the other way and examine what can be done at the low end of the spectrum. Another beer grabbed from independent spirit. This was drunk while listening to some Nine Inch Nails – mainly as I am watching the new Twin Peaks and was surprised to see the band on there – got me in the mood for their tunes again.

Marble: Castle Of Udolpho (England: Old Ale: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate frothy beige head.

Nose: Sour grapes. Sultanas. Sour apple. Vinous. Sour red wine. Oatmeal biscuits. Wheat.

Body: Oily. Malt drink. Nutty. Lightly bitter oils. Slightly chalky. Plums. Slight fizzy feel. Malt chocolate. Sour black cherries. Light charring. Sour wine. Cake sponge.

Finish Sour red and green grapes. Plums. Sour red wine. Madeira. Cloying notes. Sultanas. Gooseberry. Sour blueberry.

Conclusion: Oh old ale, I have miss you as a style. Not many people seem to make them these days. Or maybe I just miss them. That kind of cloying, sour, dark fruit beer that emphasises heavy character and class. They don’t tend to hit easy reward receptors, but take your time and they are lovely. Admittedly an acquired taste, but one I consider worth acquiring.

What I like here is that it has those thick, cloying sour notes all the way through – not acidic fresh like a lambic but heavy sour grapes and sultanas. The best, high concept description I can give of this is like red wine soaked plums and sultanas mashed into an oatmeal biscuit then blended and drunk. Yes, exactly like that.

There are sweeter notes, but they are light releases, short lived bursts – usually Madeira notes or slight sweeter fruit – but generally it is thicker charactered. There are some darker grounding notes, such as slight charring or slight chalk -but not heavily so. It seems the brewer knows that too many of those notes would break the balance on this which already demands a lot from the drinker. Instead they push savoury nutty and oily notes that seep in along the sour notes – grounding them but still letting the important dark fruit elements free to do their work.

The vinous notes from the barrel ageing are so closely intertwined with the base beer I find it hard to say where one ends and the other begins. They definitely bring more fruitiness, but the booming character of Pinot Noir now ties its wagons to the more sour characteristics of the old ale. It expands the range of flavour but does not alter the base character. A definite example of barrel ageing done well. A great return to the old ale style here.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a few months now – as a big beer I felt it would last. This one is a beer named in reference to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho – not a book I’ve read, but as a fan of the Gothic tales I should possibly check it out some time. More importantly this beer is an old ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which sounds good by me- Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can usually identify by taste. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Genitorturers -Flesh Is The Law. I’ve been meaning to check them out more since I was first introduced to the band by the Vampire: Bloodlines video game, and later by Diamanda Hagan’s reviews (Hail Hagan!), but only just got around to grabbing some music for myself. S&M themed heavy industrial tunes may not be to everyone’s taste, but if that sounds good to you – check them out.

Uiltje: Analogue Recording (Netherlands: American Strong Ale: 13% abv)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. Floating sediment. Large browned tight bubbles head.

Nose: Pepper and crackers. Make spirit. Lime cordial. Vanilla. Sultanas.

Body: Smooth. Brandy cream. Fruitcake and cherries. Dry red wine. Port soaked raisins. Bready notes. Rye crackers. Light make spirit notes. Peppery.

Finish: Cake sponge. Glacier cherries. Sultanas. Madeira. Almond rounds. Light bitter and oily hop character. Orange zest. Light charring. Peppery. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Imperial Red? Ok, that makes sense, from the flavour I would have guessed a Rye Wine (A barley wine with rye), but yeah Imperial Red makes sense as a description for this.

As you may have guessed from the above, the initial elements are barley wine like – fruitcake and cherry notes, extra sultanas – a mix of sweet notes and dried fruit characteristics. Considering the whisky barrel ageing it instead seems to have a lot of vinous notes and other spirit characteristics – dry red wine and brandy cream character being the most evident. It is a mix of sweet, dry and just lightly cloying sour touches, matching the base well.

The actual whisky ageing influence seems more subtle – it is shown in the extreme smoothness of character and in a light make spirit yet smooth character in the background of the entire beer. As time goes on the final element comes out – the peppery, rye cracker notes that makes me think of a rye wine – savoury, spicy notes that ground the beer hard.

As time goes on it almost rye bourbon styled with peppery and rye notes matched with orange zest hints. This is initially appealing, but it can get a bit too much by the end as the peppery notes dominate – however the journey to that point is very enjoyable. So, very good for the most part – starts well, ends slightly weakly. Still you enjoy getting there – a beer that is about the journey, not the destination.

Background: This was the last bottle on the shelf when Chris from Independent Spirit asked my if I had tried it – when I answered no he encouraged me to grab it before it was gone. The entire staff of IS seemed impressed by it, so I decided to give it a go. The bottle calls it an Imperial Red – to keep some standardisation in my tagging I have gone with ratebeer’s label of “American Strong Ale”, but Imperial Red definitely describes it better. This has been barrel aged in Carsebridge whisky barrels – a now deceased grain distillery. Never tried the whisky, I think, so not 100% sure what to expect from the ageing. Drunk while listening to the new Propagandhi album – Victory Lap -a good album, that seems almost more resigned than their previous albums, or possible just more introspective – another one that I feel I need a few more listens to get to grips with. Enjoying on the surface level though.

Douglas Laing: Independent Spirit: Old Particular: Port Dundas 13 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 13 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Brackish water to pale yellow. Fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous alcohol. Apples. Menthol. Water makes creamy and adds light peppermint.

Body: Baileys. Green apple. Strong alcohol. Water makes more creamy. Light peppermint. Toffee. Pears. More baileys. Viscous jelly alcohol feel.

Finish: Alcohol air. Menthol. Baileys. Pear. Water adds white chocolate. Tinned tropical fruit. Creamier and with peppermint notes.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unexpected. I had tried this in the shop before buying and I have general memories of being impressed by it. Hence why I bought it, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, right?

On first open of this bottle this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t work out why it had jumped out at me before. It had green fruit that spoke of a younger spirit matched with a thicker, viscous body – warming with a jelly like alcohol feel, but not burning like a young spirit would be. Good, but hardly stand out.

Which is why, these days, I do notes about a week after breaking open a bottle. It really seems to make all the difference.

Now, a week on, it has a lightly creamy liqueur like set of notes which becomes distinctly Baileys like with water. It is a completely unexpected blast that mixes with the green fruit to crate a thicker and heavier single grain experience. It is still that thick, viscous alcohol character in the body that you often get of grain, but with the creamier flavours heading out into a fresh peppermint and menthol endgame.

Usually I expect single grain to show more of the cask influence, but here the whisky is very much its own thing. There is white chocolate, toffee and tinned tropical fruit notes, that say bourbon ageing to me – but they take time to come out and take the stage.

This is very good – it does have some rough alcohol edges and slight overly heavy jelly alcohol character at times which are not the best, but generally it is very enjoyable. A touch of water helps but never quite removes the alcohol character – a flaw but not one that ruins this interesting experience.

Background: Another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this time in collaboration with Douglas Laing. This is one of 126 bottles and was aged from 2004 to 2017. Port Dundas was a single grain distillery that stopped production in 2011. I’ve tried a 20 year bottling of it before, but is my sole experience of this distillery and not quite to my tastes. This was drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy CD for the 2nd time– seems more varied than prior albums, taking a bit of time to get used to it.

Tempest: Attack Of The Killer Crab (Scotland: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear body with many bits evident floating in it. Medium sized white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Thick hop character. Musty and slightly resinous hops. Lightly bready.

Body: Creamy mouthfeel. Cake sponge. Grapes. Good hop bitterness and hop oils. Peach. Dried apricot. Mango. Light hop prickle. Thick hop feel. Resinous. Caramel.

Finish: Kiwi. Good hop oils. Dried apricot. High bitterness. Lightly bready. White grapes. Resinous. Fudge.

Conclusion: Ooohh, a nice, bitter, oily, resinous double IPA matched with sweet fruit flavours. Sign me up! This is right in my wheelhouse. There is sweetness from the malt, but it is offered up twisted and spanked by the oily hops to create a bittersweet sensation. The malt provides more a creaminess and thick mouthfeel than anything else, so everything else in this beer really grips.

To go back a moment, this is visually an odd one – not cloudy like the New England IPA style, and it definitely doesn’t taste like that style, but it has lots of floating bits in it that gives it a very odd look to the eye. As you drink the bits swirl around the glass, catching and reflecting the light. I was temporarily worried I had grabbed a bad bottle until I sipped it and found out that – nope – it still tastes great.

When I say tastes great, I mean genuinely great – I like the … sigh ok I’ll call it “dank” hop character. I love the oily and resinous style with big bitterness, but it uses the creamy mouthfeel and sweet peach, kiwi and grapes to punch through making for great contrast. This is a beer that loves balance – everything is intense, but it doing that it creates a fragile true between the elements that lets everything work without having to compromise either side.

We are early in 2018 and we already have the first truly great beer. An old school fruity, USA style double IPA with extra resin and hop oils. Just what you need when you are beginning to think you are getting blasé to the style.

Background: Been a while since I had a tempest beer, and this one’s name and art caught my attention – so it seemed like one to grab. It was only after I bought it that I worried that it may actually contain crab. Thankfully the “Vegan Friendly” label on the side made me fairly sure there is no crab in this. Unless crab got redefined as a vegetable recently and no-one told me. Which is fairly unlikely. I think. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy album – “Will To Power” – which I’m presuming is a reference to the original Nietzsche not the dickhead Nazis who appropriated and misused it.

Vibrant Forest: Necropolis (England: BIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Massive brown froth head with large bubbles.

Nose: Milky coffee. Crisp hop character. Pine needles. Wet wood. Kiwi and grapes.

Body: Walnuts and cashews. Slight sour cream twist. Kiwi. Lightly creamy. Creamy chococlate. Grapes. Pineapple. Toffee.

Finish: Sour cream and chives. Malt chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts. Slight hop oils. Praline. Grapes. Pineapple and custard. Bitter cocoa and hops. Chocolate cake

Conclusion: This is fairly low bitterness for an “India” prefixed beer – well low in hop bitterness anyway, it has a decent level of bitter chocolate character, especially in the finish, which makes up for the lack of hops kick.

However, for the most part we have a fairly sweet chocolate body, matched with a sour cream like twist contrast – in an old school Punk IPA style – backed up by light use of sweet green fruit and light tarter fruit notes.

The hops seem to all be working on the fruit flavour rather than bitterness, hop oils, resin or any of that stuff. It feels like the New England take of the Black IPA world, just with a lot more body than that would suggest.

That body is what makes the beer work – a good malt sweetness, with moderate range in those sweet flavours; More importantly than that it gives the fruitier notes grip with a solid mouthfeel. The light sour cream twist makes it feel different from the BIPA range and gives contrast to keep the sweeter notes from getting dull.

The beer doesn’t quite feel like a Black IPA – the fact it calls itself an India Black Ale seems a very good call to me as it balances the malt and the hop much more than the IPA style oft suggests. It is also worth mentioning that this is dangerously easy drink at the abv it comes in at – the smoothness makes you feel like you could session it. But you can’t. Just don’t. Please.

I’m very impressed – the easy drinking BIPA of great flavour.

Background: Independent Spirit have had Vibrant Forest beers in for a while now, and I keep promising to get around to trying something from this brewery. Also I haven’t had any Black IPAs for a while, so this looked like a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Incidentally the beer calls itself an India Black Ale, which seems like better naming convention than Black IPA, but I think the fight for getting general acceptance for that naming has long since sailed. Drunk while listening to more Nightwish – the album is bloody long so I’m giving it a few listens over to get a feel for it – seems to have quite a range of styles within it.

Amundsen: Dessert In A Can: Chocolate Marshmallow (Norway: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Viscous pour. Thin white dash over the body instead of a head.

Nose: Marshmallow. Condensed cream. Fudge. Milky chocolate. Praline. Pecan. Nut oils. Oily in general.

Body: Bitter chocolate and sweet cocoa dust. Cream. Walnuts. Praline. Marshmallow. Chocolate ice cream.

Finish: Cocoa dust. Marshmallow. Chocolate cream cake. Chocolate ice cream.

Conclusion: Ok, I both love and hate the fact this beer sums itself up so perfectly – it basically tastes like chocolate ice cream covered in marshmallow. It is useful that it does so, but it does leave me little left to do.

However, I am a professional (Ok, an enthusiastic amateur with delusions of competency), so I will try to describe it more than that.

The chocolate elements are well done – chocolate ice cream is dominant by the end, as I indicated before. – but there is a hint of bitter chocolate notes at the front, and a more substantial, and while sweet, less sickly sweet cocoa dust character. The marshmallow is there in the thickness as well as the taste, so it definitely fully delves into its gimmick.

More than that it has a nuttiness – mixing pecan and walnut along with an oily nut character; Elements that add a savoury to bitter undercurrent to this otherwise very sweet beer.

Generally it does its one gimmick, and adds a few founding notes – doing it well. You know what you are looking for in this beer and you get it. Not a world shaking super beer, but it definitely does the job it sets out to do, and just a touch more.

Background: I’ve seen some backlash against the so called “Dessert beers” online, and while I can kind of see why, I am still a fan. Some people dislike them as they are moving away from making a beer a beer, and instead trying to copy other things. Some people just dislike them due their seeming omnipresence at the moment, which I can kind of see, but like all the others, it is just a thing in fashion at the moment. I saw it with hoppy IPAs, sours, gose, barrel aged beers, and now dessert beers – whatever is popular seems played out – but there are still tons of other beers, and this fad too will pass. Taken as an occasional treat, I enjoy the concept. This one is another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally the label on the can gets rubbed off pretty easily – as I found when I took it home in a bag with other beers – hence the worn down quality of the can in the photo. Is it just me or does the white line up to the “A” make it look like someone has etched a cock on the can? This was drunk while listening to Nightwish – Dark Passion Play. A mate introduced to to Nightwish over Christmas so been giving them a listen.

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