Archive for March, 2018


Wild Beer Co: Dr Todd (England: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Thin off white head.

Nose: Thick honey. Peat. Smoke. Salt. Ginger. Chilli air. Marmalade. Wet rocks.

Body: Heavy. Honey. Salt. Chalk. Treacle. Smoke. Dry back. Ginger. Medicinal. Crunchy medicine tablets. Brown bread.

Finish: Honey. Dry beef slices. Medicinal. Salt. Crunchy tablets.

Conclusion: Ok, I can definitely see why the drink this is based on is called Penicillin if this beer is anything to go by. Under everything is a dry note, like crunched up medicine tablets, chalk backed by a medicinal Islay note. It it wasn’t such a terrible idea to take painkillers with booze I would imagine this is what it would taste like.

Probably. I, of course, have never tested that. That would be silly. Don’t mix booze and painkillers everyone!

The other element that stands out in this beer how how strong the special ingredients used show through; There is a ton of honey, and as indicated before the Islay ageing is really obvious -from the salt to the peat smoke, to the medicinal character, it is all there. Then there is the definite ginger influence that comes though into an almost mild chilli air at some times. Subtle this thing ain’t.

So you get a real honey sweet Islay whisky poured over the corpse of a thoroughly crushed paracetamol, into a beer and you end up with this. It is definitely interesting, and actually – for all the taste goes to the harsher end of the spectrum – it is also enjoyable. Not one to have often though. It feels like it is deliberately challenging you and daring you to still enjoy it.

Now you can step up to that dare and enjoy it, and it is worth it, but it is not a general drinking beer in any shape or form. In fact this calls to the feel of an actual complex cocktail more than any other beer I have encountered – if that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

Hard to get used to, but ultimately enjoyable – however the crunched medical feel and taste is for very specific occasions only and for very specific people only.

Background: Ok, so this was inspired by the “Penicillin Cocktail”. Something I have never tried so cannot really compare it to. To give you an idea, this is made with lactose, honey, lemon, ginger and then aged in Islay whisky barrels. This sounded like the type of experimentation in beer I could get behind, so grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit. Put on Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac – Repent, Replenish, Repeat while drinking – a nicely dark edged spoken word to hip hop styled set of tunes that I though deserved returning to.

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West Berkshire: Renegade: Snake Oil (England: IIPA: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to apricot. Thin off white head. Clear and mostly still body.

Nose: Peach. Popcorn hop character. Pumpkin touch. Slightly dry.

Body: Good bitterness. Slight granite grittiness. Slight sour peach to peach stones. Pumpkin. Light vanilla. Dry touch. Light turmeric.

Finish: Slightly rocky. Good bitterness. Pumpkin. Flour. Slight sour tang. Pumpkin. Some earthiness. Gooseberries. Flour.

Conclusion: This seems like it is aiming to match the prototypical take on the American IPA, or double IPA in this case, probably west coast influenced if I remember rightly. Well mostly anyway, but we will get to the differences later – one thing at a time.

It is the dry backed, fairly neutral in flavour malt body that makes me think of the American take on the IPA, along with the emphasis on the brighter fruit – the peach, apricot, and mildly oddly, pumpkin notes – the stuff you would expect from the old school USA hop favourites – albeit in a slightly more sour, fresh off the stone kind of way. Something that gives it a bit more tang than is traditional with its American cousins.

It is a good look – accentuated by tart gooseberry notes at the end. Now, it does deviate from the template a touch, as alluded to earlier. There is a turmeric to earthy bitterness late on and into the finish that is more of a call to the traditional British style IPA. It is a mixed blessing – when done well it adds some weight, but occasionally it gets a bit granite rough which is a tad overly harsh in an overly dry APA kind of way. Similarly it has a flour touch which adds weight, but also can get wearing over time.

So, a generally good IIPA, with big flavour and a lightly soured take on the American IIPA style. It has room for polish and improvement, but is very solidly done. Also, as was pointed out to me, it is comparatively cheaper for an IIPA, especially at UK tax rates for high abv beers, which never hurts. So, pretty good, not perfect, but has a lot of promise if they take their time and give it a polish.

Background: I think my mind linked this with the awesome Snake Fear IPA, so with that it mind it was inevitable that I would get around to grabbing it eventually. Another Independent Spirit bought one in case you were wondering. On googling it looks like Renegade is a craft beer arm of the West Berkshire Brewery. Not all brewers make the jump to craft beer successfully when they are used to the more traditional style – some are downright embarrassing. Hopefully this lot can make that jump. Once again listening to some of Television Villain‘s new album when drinking this – it definitely it a good one in my mind. Though as mentioned I know them, so I am biased.


Verhaeghe: Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium: Sour Red: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red. Cloudy. Thin grey head. Still.

Nose: Red wine. Sour. Sour red cherries. Tannins. Vinegar touch. Gummed brown paper.

Body: Sweet cherries and glacier cherry notes. Black cherries. Tart apples. Vinegar. Acidic dryness. Vinous red wine. Madeira.

Finish: Black cherry. Tart sour cherry sweets. Vinegar touch. Envelope gum. Light oak. Dessert wine. Strawberry.

Conclusion: I freaking love this beer. It is like some one took a Rodenbach Grand Cru, mixed it with sour red wine, added a hint of dessert wine to soften the edges just a touch, then filled it with varied cherries. In a way this actually does the concept of Rodenbach Alexander better than Rodenbach Alexander does.

Now, that said, it doesn’t have the almost holographic complexity built up from the layers of imagery that comes with the acidity of Rodenbach Grand Cru, nor the dedication to harsh edges those beers bring – but despite that it isn’t a beer to pull its punches. Under the sweet cherries and huge wodge of vinous notes there are vinegar and gummed brown paper notes that wouldn’t look out of place in the harsher Flemish reds and browns.

It has a lovely range of tart yet sweet fruit flavours with a dry acidity backing that accentuates the vinous feel. Under that is a hint, but only a hint, of oak. It feels like it deserves the term usually given to lambics – the wine of beers – red wine in this case. It balances between wine and beer brilliantly, between acidity and sweetness, fruit and gummy character.

One of the all time classic beers for me – unlike so many others that want to push the edge this one does not get lost in the pushing and remembers to be enjoyable and complex with that.

It you have not tried this one, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Background: I have had this beer many times, introduced family members to it in Belgium who loved it. Frankly I knew that, barring them having utterly messing up the recipe in recent months, that I was going to enjoy this before I started the notes. However, since I had not done notes on it, and I enjoy it so, I thought it would be cool to grab a bottle for tasting from Independent Spirit. This is a Flemish red that, last I checked, is aged on average 12 months. Put on a collection of Madness tunes while drinking this – they were probably the first band I got into many years ago and I still enjoy breaking them out every now and then for a bit of ska fun – much lighter and bouncier than my usual tunes.

And Union: Unfiltered Lager (Germany: Helles Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Moderate white head. Hazy. Some bits visible at the base of the beer. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Wheaty. Light cream. Bready hop bitterness to crusty white bread. Flour.

Body: Lemon. Crusty white bread. Clean hop character. Light hop oils. Lightly fresh, Soft lime. Soft kiwi. Light prickle to the mouthfeel. Vanilla ice cream. Moderate bitterness. Zesty.

Finish: Lightly creamy. Creamy kiwi. White bread hop feel. Light bitterness. Flour. Palma violets.

Conclusion:Lager really should be drunk unfiltered in my opinion. Pretty much always unfiltered, yep. Maybe a few exceptions, but generally unfiltered is the way to go. There. My cards are on the table. Now, with that said, we have a great example here – fresh, lemony, with a wonderful bit of extra mouthfeel over a filtered lager but without losing that very drinkable and thirst quenching character. The body has a crusty white bread weight and a similarly white bread kind of neutral backing character that lets the citrus notes float in a soft and refreshing ways.

For flaws, well it has very few – there is a flour touch to the texture that is a pleasant weight early on, but slightly wears thin by the end. Only slightly though. This is still a beer that stands up to repeated drinks.

This feels like what a lot of the heavily hopped lagers are trying to do and failing – It grains lovely soft citrus hop flavours, but keeps the more gentle hop bitterness along with than larger style mouthfeel all the way through. That lager character especially accentuated by the unfiltered nature.

There is a slight noticeable, noble hop feeling, oily and palma violet set of notes but they are a minor backing showing the more traditional side of its lager roots – the fresher notes are the mainstay.

So, not flawless, but still a hell of a good lager and a comparatively easy unfiltered lager to grab, which is a rarity for me. Well worth keeping a few to hand for easy drinking flavour whenever the mood takes you.

Background: This is one I’ve had a few times before – it came up in conversation when I mentioned how much better I found unfiltered lagers than their filtered siblings, and how they are so comparatively rare. It was pointed out that Waitrose had this in and it was well worth trying. So I did. This was drunk while listening to Television Villain’s new album, having been to the album launch gig a few days before. Now, I am biased as I know a couple of the band members but I think they have some proper great tunes there – Bevvy especially.

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 25 (Scotland: Barley Wine: 13.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black-cherry red. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Treacle. Fudge. Vanilla. Toasted marshmallow. Liquorice all-sorts.

Body: Treacle. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toffee. Buttery notes. Charred meat ends to charcoal. Chalk touch. Black cherry. Brown sugar.

Finish:Liquorice all-sorts. Butter. Charred notes.

Conclusion: This is … very buttery, very buttery indeed. That is not such a good thing. There is a good base beer apart from that; Solid treacle notes, very smooth body that hides the alcohol and good toffee and vanilla from the bourbon barrel ageing. I mean I even enjoy the liquorice that they manage to use in moderation and have slight liquorice all sorts sweeter notes.

But…. yeah, as you go on that real thick buttery character just grows and grows. Now I don’t know if it from a brewing fault in the base beer, from the barrel ageing, a combination of both or what, but something just doesn’t click here. Generally butter notes are considered off notes in beer, but I have defended them from time to time where they seem to accentuate the high points of the beer they are in, but that doesn’t apply here – they are distinctly off notes.

Now, to look on the bright aside of the beer – it is very good at concealing its high alcohol – I’ve seen beers of roughly half the strength seem far rougher, and the smoothness doesn’t stop it playing with big flavours either, dodging another common flaw in aged beers where the smoothness comes with an associated lightness. This all grinds to a screeching halt sooner or later though as the buttery notes come out again. Now, maybe this is another beer where a bit of ageing may sort it out, but since they are selling it now, I expect it to be good now.

The buttery character is a greenery pocked, thick and fatty thing – so, I guess high quality for butter? But that doesn’t make it a better experience – it keeps hiding the better notes underneath it. Late on black cherry and similar dark fruit notes come out from under that shell, and it would have been nice to see more of them.

At a cheaper price this would be flawed but with a quality of the base against it that makes it worth investigating, At ten quid a pop this cannot be a worthwhile purchase I’m sorry to say. A potentially good beer stomped by its worse elements. So there we go.

Background: Another of Brewdog’s one off speciality beers – this one a Barley Wine that has spent 6 months on a bourbon barrel. That actually doesn’t sound that unusual. Ah well, they can’t all be super odd high concept brews. Let’s just hope it is really good to make up for it. Anyway, another one grabbed directly from their online store. Put on Ritualz –CDR for this. Not listened to it for a while and it is a really out there, moody electronic set of tracks that I felt the need to jump into again.

Lervig: Liquid Sex Robot (Norway: IIPA: 7.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot skin. Medium off white head. Cloudy.

Nose: Peaches and cream. Vanilla. Smooth hop character. Creamy lemon. Custard. Light grapes.

Body: Moderate hop oils. Light cream. Peach melba. Good hop character and bitterness. Light greenery. Apricot. Grapes. Kiwi.

Finish: Good hop character. Fluffy feel. Moderate bitterness. Slightly resinous. Some moss. Creamy. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Ok, this seems to be trying for the New England IPA cloudy style, the Dank IPA resinous and oily style, and the …erm… showy hop style, all in one. Ok, I kind of hit a brick wall on styles at the end there. Run with me on this one.

So, this is pretty creamy in that NEIPA style – it is fairly light on the resinous notes, but brings in a moderate amount of hop oils with it. It creates a creamy and sweet to bitter and oily war of character. The fruit flavours are secondary to that conflict, but they fit in pretty well. It is fairly standard in the flavours – mixing apricot and peach – though admittedly the peach leans into odder peach melba notes which is nice. All the flavours are backed by a mossy hop character and decent bitterness.

For all this beer pushes a range of different style influences, it ends up feeling fairly standard. Good admittedly, but standard. Solidly resinous, solidly bitter, solidly creamy and solidl…ok, moderately fruity. That last aspect may be what lets it down – the New England to … ahem … Dank balance is well done, but it means the fruit feels kind of basic. If they managed to tune that bit up this would be far more exciting.

So not one to avoid, not a must have – a solid take that dances amongst the IPA styles without polishing any element to perfection.

Background: Yes I just grabbed this one as it is called “Liquid Sex Robot”. I am childish. I also did like how the human being on the robot is pretty much gender neutral – a nice touch on an intrinsically sexual image which helps stop it feeling sexist. Anyway, big double IPA made with Mosaic, Citra, Azacca and Ekuano hops. It was getting a tad windy outside as I broke this open so I snuggled up in a blanket and put on some of the 11th Doctor’s Doctor Who music in the background. Spoiling myself rotten that is. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Founders: Green Zebra (USA: Gose: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Slightly dark lemon juice. Some carbonation. Large fluffy white head.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Distinct watermelon.

Body: Golden syrup. Vanilla. Watermelon. Cane sugar. Grapes. Honey. Apples. Salt. Shortbread.

Finish: Golden syrup. Watermelon. Salt and vinegar crisps. Honey. Apples. Crapes. Lime cordial.

Conclusion: This is possibly the sweetest gose I have ever had. It eschews the harshly salty and tart recent craft takes on the style, even goes past the light sweetness of the Goslar breweries’ take in the style, and instead goes into a full on honey beer thing that tastes more like a watermelon mead than anything else.

Now the salt notes come out softly later, so it isn’t abandoning the gose side – but what really sells this beer is the watermelon. I was imaging this would be fresh watermelon over a tart gose- instead I’m getting sweet watermelon doused in syrup and honey. It is a simple joy. It is shockingly sweet for a sub 5% abv beer – I don’t know how the heck they manages that without a higher malt load, then they use an impressively detailed set of watermelon notes, along with apples, grapes and other green fruit to add contrast and complexity to the beer.

The most gose like element is the slightly drier and saltier finish, but even that is fair honey dominated. Time allows you to get used to the sweetness, and then the watermelon and the rest of the fruit can really rock – in fact, at this point I kind of dig it.

Now – this is a simple sweet crowd pleaser of a beer and far from what you would expect from a gose, but frankly I enjoy it. Go in to it with the right expectations (i.e. not expecting heavy tartness or saltiness) and this does the watermelon thing in a really fun fashion. It it a classic? No. Is it a joy to drink? yes. And some days that is all you want.

Background: I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, a watermelon gose just sounded off enough to be fun. Unfortunately other beers kept jumping ahead in the queue. But now, finally I have it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Goses are now far from the nearly dead style they once were – slightly salted wheat beers that vary massively in level of tartness, sweetness and saltiness in the expressions I have encountered. This was drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album again – it is just so damn joyous.

Uiltje: Mind The Gap (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 19.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin grey-brown head.

Nose: Boozy. Orange with orange dried fruit sugars. Treacle. Fudge. Thick. Crumpets. Strong alcohol. Marshmallows.

Body: Very thick. Oily thickness. Treacle. Sugared orange jelly sweets. Thick chocolate fondue and bitter black chocolate. Nut oils. Walnut.

Finish: Oily. Creamy. Light charring. Bitter chocolate. Strong alcohol. Tarry. Walnut. Maple syrup. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Fuck me this is a heavy beer. Oily, thick and tarry. I don’t think I have run into a beer with a mouthfeel this heavy since … well… ever. So, as you may have guessed, the alcohol is strong in this one. It took me a while to discern notes in the aroma as I had to get used to the low level, just straight up boozy character it had. Similarly, in the finish there just floats a rough raw spirit feel over everything else in there.

Now there are also some equally huge, but good quality, flavours in there -a serious level of creamy and bitter chocolate comes out. Also there is what seems to be its main selling point, which is a really big, sugary jelly fruit sweets kind of style. There is a good beer in there, just a beer that should be about 10% lower abv than it actually is.

I mean that thickness is unique, and interesting, – but as a trade off for that you get real rough spirity booze into dry charring notes in the finish that seriously hurt the beer. Now, this isn’t shit – it isn’t, say, Start The Future level rough as a badger’s arse bad, but with the exception of that ultra tarry thickness, there is nothing here that you could not find in an easier to drink and cheaper imperial stout.

So, now to be nice for a moment. It does have lovely calls to crumpets and marshmallows in the aroma which are very appealing. It has good savoury nut notes under the orange sweetness which is a much needed balancing element. Finally, considering the abv, the alcohol is only very present, not utterly brutalising, which is, well, something.

I still cannot recommend it – a good idea ruined by a too heavy abv.

Background: Ok, well, Yeah I grabbed this one because it looked ridiculous. 19.8 bloody percent and 330 ml. That is just taking the wank. Also it is made with ..deep breath …. rye, oranges, coffee and maple syrup. Because of course. Also, this is from the Netherlands – so why is it themed after the London tube? Or at least seems to be. I know nothing of Netherlands public transport. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Napalm Death – Scum. It seemed one of the few albums big enough to cope with a nearly 20%s abv beer.

Burnt Mill: Fieldwork: Dank Mode (England: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Gold to apricot. Large, slight brown to yellow touched head.

Nose: Light smoke and hop oils. Light dust. Slight granite. Soft lemon.

Body: Apricot. Heavy oily hops. Sour grapes. Granite bitterness. Soft lemon. Floral.

Finish: Greenery. Granite bitterness. Oily hops. Floral air. Dried apricot. Fluffy feel. Dusty. Resinous.

Conclusion: This is another Burnt Mill beer that shows skill in making, but also really doesn’t grab me. It does have more that appeals to me than my last experience with them though. By which I mean it has oily hops. It was in the name so it was hardly a surprise.

The base behind the oily hops is fairly dry and seems to bring with it somewhat musty, granite and dusty interpretation of the style. When the oil is up that isn’t a problem – you get enough sticky, resinous bitterness to hide it, and mix of grape and apricot fruitiness that clings to your tongue and reward you. However when that hop element goes light then the rougher, drier elements are enough to leave your mouth feeling a tad overly dry and dessicated.

So, it is a beer of ups and downs..oh and oddly floral and greenery touched -which seems to be a Burnt Mill house style based on the whopping two beers of theirs I have drunk.

So, outside of the two main poles of the dry character and the oily hops there isn’t actually a huge amount to shout about. There is some fruit, some greenery, some floral character, but it doesn’t feel like a that well defined experience – showing only the more obvious notes.

Oddly, what with “dank” being cannabis slang, this pushes its greenery in a way that can be best described as what a non cannabis user thinks cannabis feels like. Very green, very oily, very full of the imagery I get when I am around people smoking it. It is interesting, and ok, but doesn’t really sell the beer in that element.

Basically, I figure Burnt Mill, for all their rep, are not for me.

Background: I wasn’t too impressed with my first encounter with Burnt Mill, but since they a good reputation I decided to give them another shot – This, calling to Sticky and oily “Dank” hops in its name, and showcasing the awesome Mosaic and Enigma hops seemed like a good one to go to to give them another chance. If they can’t land this one then I just have to accept they are not for me. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. For some dank heavy beer I put on Godspeed You! Black Emperors’ wonderful and moody “’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” as a background.

Oakham: Inferno (England: Golden Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale and light yellow. Clear. Still. Small white head.

Nose: Thick, muggy passion fruit. Vanilla hop character. Doughnut. Pineapple.

Body: Grapes. Moderate bitterness. Soft golden syrup and vanilla. Soft kiwi. Good hop character and prickle. Soft fudge. Light strawberry. Soft lemon.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop oils. Pineapple. Good hop character. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: Ah, Oakham, the experts of getting the best bits of traditional British ales and matching them with the craft hop style with subtle mastery. Always good to see these beers again.

This has the traditional, kind of Real Ale in a bottle feeling base (of note, it doesn’t say on the bottle that it is real ale, best I can see, it just has that feel). It has a nice thickness and slight call to, but not heavy, sulphur touched weight – hope that makes sense. It hints at the characteristic rather than having overt flavours. Behind that the base is soft vanilla and lemon notes, with occasional stronger but not overly heavy golden syrup notes.

The front is taken by excellent hop usage- tart grapes and pineapple – used in moderation for a balanced, flavoursome but easy to drink beer. The flavours are clean as can be – adding freshness, but holding back from being a full on hop assault.

Big juicy flavour over well set golden ale base, dry enough to be drinkable, juicy flavoured with just slight oily hope bitterness. At a touch lower abv that would be an utterly awesome session beer – as is it is a solid one to have one or two of with mates, or at pretty much any drinking occasion.

Excellent work again form Oakham.

Background: Oakham! How long has it been since I went back to Oakham? These lot balance the real ale and craft tricks perfectly – used to love finding them on cask at random pubs. Anyway, Tony, in his great taste, gave this as the final of his birthday presents for me. Much appreciate mate. Went with Nightwish – Dark passion Play again for this one – been really enjoying them since my mate Andy introduced me to them.

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