Archive for April, 2018


La Trappe: Quadrupel (Netherlands: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany polished red touch in a clear fizzy body that has a small grey, evenly spread head.

Nose: Sawdust. Honey. Fresh toffee. Fresh fudge. Fresh crusty white bread. Lightly creamy. Shaved red wood.

Body: Cherries and shortbread. Fizzy mouthfeel. Honey to golden syrup. Liquorice touch. Sherbet lemon. Hop oils to generally oily. Gummy sap. Frothy. Nutty.

Finish: Clean, bitter oils. Palma violets. Light greenery. Sap. Oily. Licking varnished wood. Resin.

Conclusion: This starts out a fairly standard Quad – big hit of cherries, honey and fudge notes. Basically the big sweetness you expect to come with the big abv and big malt bill. However it soon moves on from there.

It starts the change with the more oily character coming out – some of it is hop oil notes, but generally it is just a more oily, into thick sap feeling character that gives a chewiness and stickiness to the beer along with light resinous notes. Already with just this extra element it feels different to the big sweet quads out there.

Then it gains more range – a palma violets to noble hop feel and taste, light greenery that starts seeping into an oily nutty character. The nutty character sticks around, going into a more nutty weight as the sweetness behind it bleeds away just leaving a soft vanilla and creamy backing.

This feels like what would happen if a biere de garde met a quad – big and oily with slow sweeping flavours. Considering the comparison I am now wondering what ageing would do to this? On one side the fizzy sherbet notes help offset the heavier notes and I feel they would be lost with age, but I can imagine this becoming a smooth still bodied beast with time.

Creamy backed, oily fronted – nutty with sparks of the fruity quad style. A very different quad and worthwhile as that, if not quite as fine as St Bernardus or Westvleteren at their best.

Background: Having the USA Spencer Trappist beer recently reminded me that while I had tried a lot of beers from the first non Belgian Trappist brewery – La Trappe, I had never actually done notes on any of them. So I grabbed this quad from Independent Spirit – from my memory it was my favourite of their beers when I first encountered it, so thought it was a good one to return to and see how it held up to memory. Had been to a Propagandhi gig the night before so put on Potemkin City Limits to listen to – in my opinion still their best album.

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Wild Beer Co: Rhubarber (England: Fruit Beer : 6% ABV)

Visual: Dark, cloudy apricot with large white fluffy head.

Nose: Tart rhubarb in an unsweetened fashion. Ground ginger. Ground almonds. Light sulphur. Brown bread.

Body: Stem ginger. Smooth. Custard and vanilla toffee touch. Cream. Lightly tart. Rhubarb. Bitter nuts. Tart grapes. Lactose. Apples. Nutmeg. Salt.

Finish: Rhubarb. Ginger. Solid custard to egg custard tarts – Surprisingly not sweet in that. Salt touch. Lightly earthy. Peppery.

Conclusion: Well, this is a lot less sweet that I expected. Now, I did expect the rhubarb to be unsweetened rather than in a dessert pie fashion – and I got that right – it is tart and very robust. I was impressed with the amount of rhubarb character – previous rhubarb beers I tried had very light to no rhubarb influence while this just booms with its tart, dry, earthy and peppery character.

Anyway, back to the lack of sweetness. There are custard like notes, as mentioned on the bottle in fact, kind of in a solid egg custard tart kind of way, but kind of dry in that – like the custard has been under sugared or something. I don’t know of any actual custard that exists that tastes hat exact way, but that is the imagery the beer creates.

Instead of custard sweetness this emphasizes the earthiness along with the ginger spice to give a real spicy, peppery, ginger, earthy kick – warming and robust over the smooth, slightly creamy textured body. Late on and into the finish it gains a light salt touch that calls to the gose style and which works well at reinforcing these spicier elements.

This character dominates most of the beer, until it finally starts to let up slightly at the end where it relaxes and some soft green fruit comes out. It is a final salty sweet final release from the heavier notes.

So, thus far I have generally been descriptive – it is an unusual beer so I thought it deserved a bit more of an examination of what it before I dive into how well it worked. It is pretty good actually. There your mind is set at rest now. It is very specific in what it does – with the unsweetened rhubarb and spice it has limited crowd it will appeal to, but the beer is well textured with the cream hint giving some weight, has very big flavour layered over that and reins in the elements just enough that it does not feel harsh despite the big ginger influence.

So, a beer dedicated to the idea very much, like a rhubarb gose meets a general rhubarb sour that has been rinsed through a ginger patch. Very earthy, very robust – a work a try definitely for rhubarb fans, but definitely not an everyday beer.

Background: I bought this because it has rhubarb in it. That simple. I used to try and get most, if not all of the Wild Beer Co brews that come out, as I love their experimentation, even if they don’t always hit the mark. However the glut of high quality beers out recently from many different breweries meant I have had to cut back on that recently. I grabbed this though. Because rhubarb. It is made with **quick glance at the bottle** wheat, oats, brown sugar, forced rhubarb, tonka beans and stem root ginger. Fair chunk of stuff there. A quick google tells me forced rhubarb is rhubarb grown away from light to encourage it to grow. Which I never knew. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to a mix of History Of Guns tracks. Big fan of HOG, from their more electronic really grimy downbeat tracks, to their angrier guitar work, to the just plain weird stuff they turn out.

Spencer: Trappist Ale (USA: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy apricot skin colour, with a cloudy body. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lemon sherbet. Funky yeast character. Popcorn. Wheat. Light earthy, bready bitterness.

Body: Bready – brown bread. Light earthy bitterness. Lemon sherbet. Peppery. Light vanilla milkshake. Milk.

Finish: Lemon sherbet. Lime touch. Earthy hop bitterness. Peppery. Yeast funk. Popcorn. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, first impressions, this definitely seems to be aiming for the Orval style within the wide Trappist Beer theme. It is the lesser walked path for Trappist breweries, or even breweries in general. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Now, I don’t mind Orval – in fact my appreciation for it has grown significantly since I first did notes on it, many a year ago – however I have not been as wild about it as many, so I may not be the best to compare the two, but this USA take seems fairly solid.

It has the yeast funk that really defines Orval, along with the mildest sour twist, slight earthy bitterness and a bready character matched with peppery notes – all that call to Orval. This is a beer that wears its influences openly on its sleeve with pride.

It has a slightly more sweet character with more sweet vanilla undertones, and slightly more fruity in the lemon and lime character that expresses itself in a sherbety fashion, so for all the Orval influence it is not just a cheap clone of that beer.

It is easy drinking, though the extra creaminess gives a weight that means it is less thirst quenching than the style would suggest. It racks in at roughly the same abv as Orval, so is playing in the same field, but has a bit more thickness without needing more booze – which, depending on what you want – easy drinking or weight, may or may not be an advantage to you.

It is decent, maybe needs to be just a tad drier in my opinion, or maybe a tad bigger in flavour if they keep the extra thickness, but it is decent. Hopefully they are still tweaking the recipe as with some work this could be one to watch out for in the future.

Background: So, the …9th I think Trappist brewery and the first American one. I first head about this in Japan, but at the time they had not turned out any beers yet. So, here we are, years later and I have beer from one of the newest Trappist breweries, courtesy of Independent Spirit (a quick google tells me we have had two more since, for a total of eleven – not many but seems a ridiculous amount considering the six I was aware of back in the early 2000s) . Whoop! Been looking forwards to giving this a try and put on a bit of Iron Maiden to go with it. Been reading Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography, which is pretty good, and it put me in the right mood for some of the old irons!

Naylor’s: Martha’s Chocolate Milk Stout (England: Sweet Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black to very dark brown at the edges. Small grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Chalky. Light smoke. Bitter coffee beans. Liquorice touch. Cola bottles.

Body: Light lactose. Blackcurrant sour sweets. Sour dough. Malt loaf. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Blueberry. Roasted nuts. Cola bottles.

Finish: Blackcurrant sweets. Blueberry. Light charring. Light smoke. Vinegar crisps (minus the salt) Light apples. Lactose. Milky coffee. Roasted.

Conclusion: You know, for a chocolate milk stout, this really runs a lot of sweet dark fruit notes in its flavour mix. There is some chocolate in there – working as a smooth backing to the rest of the beer – but there is far less than its name would suggest.

So, ignoring the expectations that the name brings, is this any good? Well, it is not bad – it has that light sour touch I would associate with a good quality bitter and the roasted nuttiness I would expect of a standard stout. Added to that is the touch of lactose feel that a milk stout brings – so we have the expected notes, the less common but not unusual notes, then the kind of unusual influence of the light sour bitter notes. That light sour character mixes well with the dark fruit that I mentioned before to create a mild sour-sweet set of notes that give refreshing flavours, but also a slightly thinner mouthfeel.

So it is slightly unusual in style, but kind of middle of the road in flavour quality. It is definitely not bad but the unusual elements seem to neither enhance nor detract from the beer – they are just there as a different way of doing things. The light sour touch is refreshing, and the fruit notes are a nice touch, but a lot of the stout notes are just a mild backing until we reach the more roasted finish.

It really doesn’t sell the imagery the name promises and ends up a beer that feels like a mix of a quarter bitter, one quarter stout, half milk stout – interesting but not more than the sum of its parts.

An ok pint, but not really one that I can be too enthusiastic about recommending.

Background: This was the third of three beers that my parents gave to me when they came down to visit. Many thanks! If you have been paying attention, and wonder what happened to notes on the second one. I just drank it. No notes. I am the worst of monsters. It was pretty good. Anyway, been a while since I had a Naylor beer, if I remember rightly I quite enjoyed their barley wine on cask when I was up in Manchester. That was a while back. Anyway, drank this with some Meshuggah – Obzen! I could give some convoluted reason, but I was just feeling a bit shitty and wanted some super heavy music to listen to. It was awesome. For some reason I imagine Superman drinking this beer, comments on it, and suddenly Batman bursts in and goes “MARTHA! Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?” Because I am a geek.

Port Askaig: 8 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with brackish green tinge. Fast thick streaks. Water makes very cloudy.

Nose: Medicinal. Reek of peat. Peppered beef slices. Peppercorn. Light salt. Water brings out more medicinal notes.

Body: Beef slices. Peat smoke. Overdone steaks. Salt. Slightly tarry. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Some alcohol weight and warmth. Water makes smoother. Adds vanilla fudge. Pears. More medicinal notes. Apricot. Light bread. Lime cordial.

Finish: Drying. Salt. Light vanilla. Tarry. Golden syrup. Apple pies. Water makes medicinal. Adds lime jelly and slight zestiness. Apricot.

Conclusion: This is a big ‘un. Yet water makes it oh so mellow. Ok, I am kind of lying my balls off there. It is not mellow, but there is a whole other subtle set of characteristics under the peat assault that only come out when you add water.

So, first of all let’s take a look at this without water. Whoa! This reeks, utterly reeks of peat. In a good way. It has huge intense smoke and smoked beef, mixed with peat, with medicinal notes in there as well. Without water a vanilla and golden syrup sweetness backs it up over time, but the rest of the intensity does not let up.

Now at this point it is not complex, but it does show the advantage of a younger spirit in keeping the peat intensity up. It is heaven for smoke fanatics, while utterly lacking in subtlety.

Then you add water.

It happens slowly – drop by watery drop. First vanilla fudge comes out, then soft lime notes, then finally sweet apricot creeps out from under the peat nest it is birthed in. What the heck even is this? Apart from delicious I mean.

Now it isn’t quite Lagavulin 16 level must have, but the range it runs with water – going from sheer assault, to still weighty but with a great range of fruit notes – well, that makes this a steal at the 40 quid ish price it goes for.

Both heavy duty Islay, and complex restrained Islay in one whisky. I advise grabbing a bottle and adding water to your preference. Very impressive.

Background: I had Port Askaig for the first time many a year ago at a whisky show. It was very nice, but I never did get around to grabbing a bottle of it for myself since. That mistake has now been rectified. Port Askig is not a distillery, but a bottling of one of the other existing Islay distilleries under the Port Askaig brand. So far quality has been very high. The most common guess of what distillery it is from is Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I have no idea. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit and broke it open with some Karnivool to listen to – Sound Awake to be exact. Saw them as a warm up band once, and enjoyed them enough to grab the CD there and then. Pretty soothing music for background noise.

Lervig: Toasted Maple Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dash of a grey head.

Nose: Liquorice. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla.

Body: Treacle. Marshmallow. Maple syrup. Very thick. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla. Light butterscotch. Fudge. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Maple syrup. Liquorice and blackcurrant hard sweets. Chocolate liqueur. Vanilla. Molasses. Light charring. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, between this and the Barley Wine I had recently Lervig are really wooing me back into the fold. Why did I ever doubt them?

I have to admit the first impressions weren’t in its favour. While it had lovely toasted notes in the aroma they were matched and quickly overcome by masses of liquorice. As I think has been established over the years, I don’t mind liquorice in moderation, but I think when it is overused it can ruin a beer.

So, I was nervous as I went in to take the first sip aaaandd – this thing is intense! It is thick as heck, frothy and syrupy, but just about manages to not do those elements to excess. There is a toasted teacake breadiness as just a hint under the thick maple syrup and treacle notes that make up the main stay with other, softer, notes coming out over time. The vanilla beans and smoothness makes it feel like a barrel aged beer, but without the loss of intensity and weight that ageing sometimes brings

The finish bring in the heaver contrasting notes. The liquorice comes back, tied now to blackcurrant notes in a hard sweet like fashion that keeps in manageable. There is a light charring and sweeter notes that slowly fade out into bitter cocoa. That bitterness is just what is needed to keep such a heavy sweet beer manageable.

This has a very distinctive feel – half way between toasted marshmallows and toasted teacakes in a super thick beer. It has a distinctive flavour as well with the maple syrup very evident while not being too dominant. It is distinctly rewarding with huge complexity and manages to feel barrel aged but without the drawbacks.

A great beer then.

Background: Grabbed this a while back – basically saw the words “toasted” and “maple syrup”, followed by “Imperial Stout”, and grabbed it. Since I grabbed it I started becoming less enamoured with Lervig, then back totally into them again. I have been very changeable recently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – not sure what is going on with the can image – looks kind of like what would happen if Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four burnt to death. Don’t think that was the intended imagery. Anyway, put on The Germs’ MIA compilation CD. Really stripped down punk that I got into after hearing they were an influence on Bad Religion. Pretty fun, if kind of rough sounding.

Beavertown: KCBC : Unity Makes Strength (England: Belgian Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, hazy peach skin to lemon colour. Moderate white mounded head.

Nose: Funky. Peanuts. Yeastie. Crusty white bread. Soft peach. Peppery. Dried banana.

Body: Peppery. Lightly milky. Good bitterness and prickly feel. Banana. Light apricot. Fluffy bready character.

Finish: Lemon. Wheaty. Peppery. Prickly. Funky yeast feel. Popcorn. Vanilla yogurt.

Conclusion: Table beers are nearly always an odd one for me to do notes on. I enjoy them for the most part, but they are intentionally a lighter beer style – both in abv and flavour ( though at 4.5% abv this actually seems like a fairly standard abv beer to me. Then again I lean old school on my views of beer strengths). Anyway, so while nice, they tend to not have much to do notes on.

So, what do we have with this one? Well, what we are looking at mainly is the yeastiness that seems to make up a good chunk of the character. It has a funky aroma, a fluffy feel in the body into the prickly hop character. It adds a level of interest to what is a comparatively Milquetoast milky middle that is the core of the beer. The yeast influence is further evident as it warm, bringing peppery flavours and light banana notes.

The rest of the flavour is much lighter – soft apricot, vanilla yogurt – quite neutral – the beer definitely relies on yeast feel and notes to rock it through. The hop prickle isn’t as light as you would imagine given all that, so the beer isn’t quite as mild as you would think – but it is far from a hop assault – more the hops’ way of keeping your taste-buds awake.

Considering the gentle main flavour this is still enjoyable. Easy going and doesn’t add any extra weight to the beer. Not a must have, keeps to the table beer style well, but is interesting enough in how it uses the yeast.

Background: After a quick google I find that KCBC is King’s County Brewer’s Collective. So now you know – a Brooklyn based brewing group. Anyway, I misread this beer’s name as Make Strength Belgian Style Table Beer on first glance, and wondered how strong it was going to be of it was “make strength”. Anyway, no, just a Belgian style table beer – though the 4.2% abv is a bit higher than I would expect of a table beer. Put on some Taiko Drumming music in the background while drinking this – haven’t seen Taiko for years – I loved the way the beats just wash over you. The CD can only capture a tiny amount of a live performance but is still good backing to drinking. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales: Stallion Amber (England: Bitter: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut to gold. Clear. Moderate off white bubbled head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla. Nutty. Musty sour dough.

Body: Light earthy bitterness. Fluffy mouthfeel. Lightly creamy. Palma violets. Light marmalade zestiness. Toffee. Marshmallow.

Finish: Fresh sour dough. Chives. Light earthy bitterness, that grows to moderate bitterness. Light marmalade. Very milky coffee. Marshmallow. Lightly prickly.

Conclusion: Ok, the beer I had in my hand when I first stared drinking this, and the beer I am supping on now are very different things to each other. Usually I would blame such a shift on me getting drunk while doing the notes, but since this is a moderate 4.2% ABV I think that is unlikely to be the case here.

Early on it is fairly earthy, with sour dough like notes amongst the earthiness – so a fairly standard earthy hopped British bitter dressed up in light calls to amber ale style clothing then. Then, over time it gets … creamier .. or maybe fluffier, then light marmalade notes and toffee sweetness comes out while still being nestled in the earthy bitter heart.

It feels marshmallow like in fluffiness, but without the sweetness you would associate with that. It has all the elements that make an earthy bitter work, but then a bit of extra, more unusual note such as palma violet like notes which call to more noble hop styling, and marmalade notes that give it a bit of extra pep late on.

It is definitely not a must have, but it is more than it first appears. Ok, nice progression definitely, but far from a world shaker.

Background: Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales – man it has been a while since I drank one of these – anyway, my family were visiting from Yorkshire so they brought down some good old northern beers for me to try. This being the first. Many thanks! I am a tad biased towards the North, but not so much as it should affect the notes. Not much to say – put on Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape to listen to, which had been on my mind since Scroobius Pip mentioned them in his podcast.

Lervig: Barley Wine 2017 (Norway: Barley Wine: 12.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small grey-brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vanilla, liquorice and fudge. Caramelised brown sugar. Treacle. Almonds. Light strawberry.

Body: Light charring. Chocolate liqueur. Heat at the back of the throat. Chocolate toffee. Brown sugar. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallow. Vanilla fudge. Light strawberry. Black cherry. Quality bourbon undertones. Sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Sticky toffee pudding and treacle. Fudge. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallows. Charred touch. Bourbon.

Conclusion: Ok this smooth. Has big flavour. Has evident but not overpowering bourbon ageing influence. Huge and rewarding range if you hold the beer on your tongue. We have here an entry for the fuck-yes-this-is-how-you-make-a-barley-wine contest. They were only allowed one word for the name of the contest so they cheated by using hyphens.

So, this is deeply sweet with sticky toffee pudding, treacle and chocolate liqueur at the base. It somehow has those very sweet flavours restrained so as not to become sickly – as would be very easy to occur with a barley wine of this type and strength.

I think that some of that restraint is due to toasted teacake undertones – bready but still slightly sweet matching but also grounding the flavours. Similarly a toasted marshmallow character gives some sweetness against light burnt notes that segue nicely into the light charred character into the finish.

All of this delicious character and I’ve not even touched on the bourbon influence yet. Early on it just shows in how damn smooth the beer is, then comes out in vanilla and fudge notes, then finally it shows in its rawest form in smooth but present actual bourbon spirit flavours – coming out as subtle elements beneath the rest of the beer.

So what downsides does it have? Well, I’m not a huge fan of liquorice notes in beer, and this does use it heavily early on , but a) it actually isn’t used half bad here and b) the liquorice notes left before they started to wear on me. Shockingly they were actually used to add to, not detract from the beer.

So, that is the worst I have to say, this is a great beer. Buy it. Drink it.

Background: I’ve had a few Lervig beers over the past year – some have been awesome, some have been ok but not stand out. I was beginning to think I was mainly grabbing them for the odd names and labels. However enough have been good that I don’t regret grabbing them. Decided to grab this to see how they do with the non hoppy beer styles – especially as this one has spent 12 months in bourbon oak. Put on Jack Off Jill – Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers – a mix of melodic, screaming, anger and sorrow in a gothic punk style. Such an awesome album.

Wiper and True: Amber Ale: Red Orange (England: Amber Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Treacle to dark brown. Only amber hints at the edges. Large browned mound of forth head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Bright oranges. Pine needles. Passion-fruit. Grape touch,

Body: Good bitterness. Palma violets. Vanilla toffee. Mandarin orange. Prickly hops. Gooseberry. Greenery. Light resin. Pine. General oranges. White bread.

Finish: Rye crackers. Vanilla toffee. Orange crème. Menthol notes. Mint leaves. Tangerine. Chocolate dust. Pepper.

Conclusion: You know, for a beer called an Amber Ale, this is murky brown as hell on the eye. I’ve seen bike and trolley filled ponds that were easier to see through than this. Still, I can live with that as the beer tastes bloody great.

There is an odd mix of a grounded hop character, pine and resinous hops which are used as a prickly, grounded base – which then put against a real bright burst of mandarin, tangerine, and just, well, orange notes.

On taste I would say it doesn’t fit quite under what I would expect of an Amber Ale either – for all that the style definition is loose in the first place. It has IPA style hop flavour in places, and a real ale ESB style use of malts. However, whatever the hell it is, it does well. The more down to earth malt usage brings out almost rye beer style dry spice and pepper – it pushes both the bright and the grounded characteristic out as far as it can without feeling overdone for a general drinking beer – and it manages to define them very well.

Really malty, really orange hopped with mild, but solid bitterness and prickly hop character. Just a tiny touch away from being a favourite, but genuinely a beer worth a try. You don’t get something that push the grounded and the bright so well without compromising either done so well often.

Wiper and True pull out yet another really good beer.

Background: Been a while since I have done notes on Wiper and True beers -still grab them regularly on tap when out and about, just never done notes. So decided to grab one of their Amber Ales again from Independent Spirit – W&T really seem to have the nack of the Amber Ales down pat. Wiper and True are one of those great quality breweries that use kind of generic labels so it is really hard to tell at a glance if you have tried the beer before or not. Ah well, it works for The Kernel, so should work for Wiper and True. Which reminds me, not done notes of Kernel beers for ages either. Anyway, put on the electronic mathcore oddity that is “The Algorithm” while drinking this. Not to everyone’s taste but weird intricate, computer sounding music that works for me.

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