Archive for May, 2018


Left Hand Giant: Heretic: Monuments (England: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon yellow with a gold hint. Large white mound of a head.

Nose: Raspberry. Wheaty. Light cloves. Light dried banana. Flour. Soft bitter red wine.

Body: Pomegranate. Cherry picked digestives. Wheaty. Peppery. Light lemon. Slight sour red wine. Apircot. Funk. Raisins. Plums. Moderate, earthy, low level bitterness.

Finish: Rum. Pomegranate. Raisins. Turmeric. Dry red wine. Dry plum notes. Milk. Port notes. Lightly earthy with a yeast funk.

Conclusion: I’ve had to take quite a while with this one, as it isn’t a beer that instantly jumps up and punches you in the face with what it is all about.

It is a gentle rustic style saison rather than the highly hopped take on the style – slightly milky, oaty mix with the rustic and wheaty notes that makes a soothing background that the pomegranate notes can come out from in a natural feeling and not too heavy way.

There is an earthy bitterness that becomes, well, present over time if not overly evident. The barrel ageing starts off light in raisin and plum backing notes, but becomes fully fledged with sour and bitter red wine notes coming out by the end after flirting with sweeter red wine notes for a moment before. It is never heavy, more a robust body that is a competent part of the beer, but doesn’t feel overly dominant.

It is both blessed and cursed in its balance – it is definitely barrel aged, but not so much as to make you go “wow” but also not to lose the base beer. It is definitely showing its fruit, but I would not call it a fruit beer for better and worse. It has a good rustic base, but the other elements of ageing and fruit mean that you don’t really get to see it at its best.

So, it is balanced, super easy to drink but… also 8% abv at that. At a low abv this would be a fairly awesome beer that you could drink forever. As it is is a master-work of balance that uses that balance to deny itself the large moments that would justify the 8% abv.

So it is very good and very impressive, but can’t quite earn the high abv, nor work as a session beer, so it struggles for a spot in the drinking line up.

Background: This came on my radar for a couple of reasons – one, I dig saisons and they don’t seem to pop up as often as I would like, so new ones tend to catch my eyes. Two, this is made with pomegranate puree, which was unexpected – saisons also seem to be a beer style where people don’t try the odd experimentations as much as some other styles. Finally – burgundy barrel aged, another bit of experimentation that often is overlook with saisons. So I grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit to give a go. Put on Television Villain again while drinking – so proud of those guys for their awesome music.

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Wander Beyond: Paddle Raspberry Gose (England: Gose: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Reddened apricot. Moderate creamy off white head.

Nose; Tart, fresh raspberry. Very clean. Light grapes and twigs. Raspberry yogurt underneath. Soft apricot.

Body: Soft raspberry. Slight salt to white bread. Slightly thick body. Chalk touch. Vanilla. Slight rocks. Apricot. Wet socks. Vanilla yogurt.

Finish: Light raspberry. Light strawberry. Light chalk dryness. Stale white bread. Lightly creamy.

Conclusion: Well, the aroma on this sure sells the raspberry gose gimmick. It is frankly just plain, fresh raspberry cleanly done in a raspberry cooler kind of way backed by slightly creamier raspberry yogurt notes. Very simple, very fresh – maybe a few apricot hints in there, but it lead me to expect the body would be similar – a very raspberry kind of beer.

So, well, it wasn’t that.

The body does have a nice touch of raspberry that heads out into join strawberry notes in the finish but it is built around a core of, well, fairly vanilla yogurt with slight salt and touches of what people tend to call the “sweaty sock” gose taste.

It is thick textured – especially for a gose, thick in a way that I would call creamy except it lacks the accompanying flavour you would expect from such a descriptor. The thickness does not manage to banish the very neutral flavour of this beer though, waiting until the finish where it finally moves out of the way and lets the tarter notes play again.

This feels like a great mouthfeel that manages to kneecap the flavour the aroma promised, producing an empty weight of a beer that only occasionally has the fruit rising up to pay off the promise it made early on.

A sub optimal beer.

Background: Wader Beyond is a new brewery on me but their bright and colourful illustrated can caught me eye, so I decided to give them a go. They have here tried their hand at a gose – a risky one to use an introduction to a new Brewery as they can vary so much, but I felt like it was gose time again. Gose is a German style that nearly died out – a lightly salted wheat beer that if often just slightly soured. This, like a lot of the new interpretations, is made with fruit, raspberry in this case. I was going to see Machine Head live shortly after this, so slammed on some of their tunes as warm up for the big gig.

Heaven Hill : Rittenhouse: Straight Rye Whisky Bottled-In-Bond (USA: Rye Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronze to amber. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Peppery. Rye crackers. Honey. Orange zest. Light menthol and mint leaves. Orange fruit sugars. Water keeps similar but more water adds apples.

Body: Mead. Thick. Golden syrup. Pepper. Brown bread. Syrup cake. Slight cough syrup. Water makes more menthol. Pears. Soft apricot. Vanilla. Peppercorn.

Finish: Peppery. Vanilla. Brown bread. Vanilla yogurt. Light menthol. Water adds more menthol.

Conclusion: Right, I’m never sure if American whiskey – be it bourbon, rye, corn or whatever – should have water added to it. I know the stereotype is with ice but I’ve never taken to that. What I do know though is that for this one, with and without water is a heck of a different experience.

Neat it feels like the platonic ideal of a rye whiskey in my (admittedly comparatively limited) experience. It is peppery and spicy over a sweet, syrupy base that makes it heavy and thick. Even taking into account the 50% abv this can take a metric wodge of water and still feel thick and syrupy on the tongue. It is a heavy, rustic, thick, peppery and just plain rye biscuit tasting whiskey.

Water, well, first comes out the menthol notes. Initially this is a drawback as combined with the thickness of the texture you get a kind of sickly cough syrup taste. This is but a stepping stone though, keep adding water you get past that, warning, it takes more water than you would think.

With that huge amount of water you finally get green fruit added into the menthol – lighter notes, still against the pepper spice, but hear a more revealing and subtly fruity whiskey rather than the sheer rye assault.

Neat it is the rye beast, water makes slightly too menthol, but with enough water it does have a rewardingly fruity spirit to go with the peppery rye even if it doesn’t 100% work like that. Still, this is a whiskey about the rye and going for that I have to say it does that bloody well.

Background: Since my mind has been expanded recently on the breakdown of American whiskey styles, including exactly what constituents a bourbon and what doesn’t, which I find I have been getting wrong for a while, I wanted to dance back into the American whiskey again, and I decided to go with the rye. Grabbed at Independent Spirit after having sampled a few ryes, this was drunk while listening to Guns and Roses – Appetite for Destruction. It just felt right.

Fyne Ales: Origins Brewing – Kilkerran Wee Heavy (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose; Oily. Figs. Smoke. Raisins and fruitcake. Brown sugar. Fudge. Treacle.

Body: Smooth. Oily. Brown bread. Slightly thin. Medicinal notes. Light salt. Fruitcake and figs. Eccles cake. Malt chocolate. Smokey.

Finish: Brown bread. Oily. Slight charring. Figs and raisins. Malt chocolate. Smoked meat. Hop oils – nutty. Slight rocks. Slightly drying. Greenery. Toffee.

Conclusion: A beer of contradictions. That may be getting to be an overused term for me, but it is true here. It is an oily feeling Scotch ale that still manages to feel slightly thin at the same time. Even odder I am fairly sure that both elements come from the same barrel ageing. Odd again in that despite the thin mouthfeel it manages to pack some big flavours.

While smoothed out at the base we still have the familiar Scotch ale – the whole raisins, fruitcake, malt chocolate and such, though fairly restrained in delivery. What comes out more is an oily, slightly salty, smokey and lightly medicinal character. Having drunk Kilkerran I am surprised how barrel ageing in their casks seem to bring similar notes to what I would expect from Islay ageing. You do get more familiar campbeltown grassiness come out over time which is quite interesting to observe. By the end of the beer the notes become slightly dusty, and the salt becomes rockier but it manages to keep the more pleasant smoked meat notes

Chilled it is definitely too light a beer, but the flavours work well despite that. As it warms the body doesn’t gain much thickness but the rougher notes seem to gain more presence which results in a harsher experience. It is definitely interesting, and when chilled the whisky influence is fascinating, but it really needs a bigger body to work with it.

A tad too light for the rough edged notes it carries. A noble experiment, but needs beefing up a few percent abv, or similar thickness adding methods, to work right I feel.

Background: As always, I will not lie and claim that an opportunity to break out the thistle glass again was not part of why I grabbed this scotch ale, however it wasn’t the only reason. One of the big reasons was that this has been aged in Kilkerran casks. I’m a big fan of the Campbeltwon distilleries, few in number though they may be, and you don’t see them used with beer much, so this sounded like a nice experiment to try. This was again grabbed at Independent Spirit, and was drink while listening to Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast album, always a blinder of an album.

Toppling Goliath: Golden Nugget (USA: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy darkened apricot skin and a large yellowed loose bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Creamy. Apricot yogurt. Crisp hops. Light bitterness. Banana custard. Light prickly hops.

Body: Custard. Popping candy. Light candyfloss. Raspberry hard sweets. Hop oils. Grapes. Peach. Light bitterness. Banana. Lemon sherbet.

Finish: Banana custard. Solid bitterness. Light greenery. Dried apricot. Light sulphur. Hop oils. Pineapple. “Dank” hop notes. Light charring. Pear drops.

Conclusion: Ok, now I can never say what exactly holds the number one slot, but I can say for sure this instantly entered in my top five IPA list.

It all starts out innocently enough – cloudy body, but the recent New England style surge in beers has made that nothing unusual – it is still pretty to the eye though – thick, dark coloured for an IPA and creamy looking.

Similarly the aroma is good, but not unusual – light prickly hop use over creamy apricot notes. It is a bit creamier than normal , giving yogurt to custard imagery, but not that unexpected. What is the first hint of something else is the banana notes that come out – now this is not unheard of, but is a tad unusual in an IPA.

Then you get the first sip – It feels like it is actually exploding, popping candy style, on your tongue – the texture is creamy but the flavour makes it feel like fizzing sherbet sweet candy notes against hop oils. The banana comes out again making a banana custard style malt base that is the solid core of this beer.

What then comes is the slow development of hop oils, resin and … Sigh ok I’ll say it .. dank hop character. This adds a weight to the sweet beer that is oft ignored in the sweeter IPAs. It just finished the thing off perfectly. Light notes initially then the hop oil character dances across it building to be a secondary, but definitely present counterbalance to the high sweetness.

Different in its feel, prickly and chewy in the fruitiness, sweetness against oily and resinous notes with a dash of bitterness. This is a nigh perfect IPA – utterly drinkable and utterly awesome.

background: You know, Initially I thought this brewery was called “Topping Goliath”. I had so may sub/dom jokes worked out. Then I realised it was Toppling. Life is pain sometimes. Anyway, despite always getting their name wrong, I have been hearing good things about Toppling Goliath for a few years now, but they had a reputation for being hard to get hold of, even in the USA, so when I saw them turn up on the shelves at Independent Spirit I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I then grabbed three cans instantly to try. This is an IPA made with Golden Promise barley and Nugget hops. Because of the Attitude Era podcast I am aware that nugget was a euphemism for shit when used to insult Owen Hart (The late and great). Thus this beer’s name made me snigger. As always I can be a tad childish. Put on Garbage 2.0 while drinking this. That bloody album is 20 years old this year. Damn time flies – still one of the albums of my teen years and still great.

Odyssey: Juice Vibe (England: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Light lemon juice to apricot. Cloudy body with a large white to yellow head.

Nose: Pineapple. Peach. Crisp hops. Light flour. Grapefruit.

Body: Very prickly hops. Chocolate toffee. Juicy peach. Pineapple. Grapefruit. Juicy apricot. Greenery. Dry. Light resin.

Finish: Chocolate toffee. Prickly hops. Light greenery. Hop oils. Vanilla yogurt. Pineapple. Hop bitterness and light hop burn. Light chalk. Hop oils.

Conclusion: Ok, this is not what I expected from the beer I first looked at when pouring it. On the eye it looks like of like the juicy New England fruity style, and with a name like “Juice Vibe” I presumed it would be solidly settling into that area.

Next up the aroma promised something a bit different – a tarter beer, possibly hopped in a west coast style. It felt dry, with pineapple and peach, with touch of grapefruit hinting at a possible mix of New Zealand and USA style hops. This seemed to be concentrating on the now classic fruity hop varieties, rather than the odder new wave of hop flavours – it looked to play an old school mix of tart and sweet notes.

Now we move onto the body that follows through on that with big pineapple as you would expect and a dry body wrapped around … chocolate toffee notes? What is such a sweet and big malt body doing poking its head in here and ruining my attempt to sum up this IPA using beer stereotypes?

So, New England cloudy look, west coast on the nose, a mix of east and west coast on the body. That is about as mixed up as it can get, right? Not quite, there is a heavy prickly hop character on the nose, a touch of greenery as it goes on and even a chalk touch that gives a grounding to this heavily tart beer.

Now, of all the things this does do, what it does not do is heavy bitterness. Oh it does have hop bitterness, probably enough in fact to put off someone who doesn’t like hops, but generally the bitterness is more a backing to the greenery hop character.

For a beer called Juice Vibe, this is nothing like fruit juice – unless you are drinking really fucked up fruit juice. However this East, West, New England, greenery and resin IPA is an intense beer, with slight dank touch, but not intense in a hop assault way – a real mix up of beer.

So mixed up as hell, unpolished, with pretty much everything shoved in – I like it, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who doesn’t.

Background: It is no secret that I bloody love Odyssey beers, especially their hop forwards beers. This is an Odyssey beer that is hop forwards, was I ever going to not buy it? Anyway, yeah another one from Independent Spirit, I should just get my wages put directly into their account and save time. Not much else to say on this one – put on Gogol Bordello – Multi Kontra Culti Vs Irony – been a while since I listened to their earlier stuff.

Omnipollo: Amurga (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy brown head that leaves suds.

Nose: Grated chocolate and chocolate dust. Wholemeal bread. Smooth. Light butter.

Body: Smooth. Wholemeal bread. Treacle. Bitter chocolate. Bitter nutty character. Cashew to walnut notes. Light butter like fatty character. Cherries come over time. White chocolate.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Thick maple syrup. Charring. Charcoal. Light greenery. Salt touch. Cocoa. Bitter nuts. Grapes. Lightly peppery. Cashew shell green flecks. Rough hop character. Butter fatty character. Apple liqueur. Fortified red wine.

Conclusion: Considering the wealth of ingredients that I presume went into this, based on the description anyway, it turns out to be a pretty single minded beer in the imagery it delivers.

It is thick in a fatty, buttery kind of way with solid bitter chocolate into bitter hop character that works as a solid weight on your taste-buds. It pushes through that into heavier charred to charcoal bitter black notes and bready weight. Dark heavy notes are the story here, bitter but on a smooth, if thick, texture all the way.

It is only in the final third of the beer that it starts to push back against that imagery that dominates the first two thirds. White chocolate notes mix into the darker chocolate, and vague hints of cherries escape occasionally, bringing with it light spirity to liqueur sweet notes that work underneath the main notes – an odd mix of apple liqueurs and red wine. This manages to open up the beer in a way that the simpler, heavier front did not.

So, the front is ok but far too simple, all basic rough heavy weight notes. The end however has spicy, spirity subtlety that makes the heavier notes dance and uses the fatty, buttery character to give those notes grip.

It is good, in fact by the end it is very good, but it does take a good whole to get there – the rough charcoal and slight salt notes that are rewarding grounding late on are simple and annoying early on.

So, a good beer that takes a tad too long to get going and reward you for your time.

Background: Ok, this is another beer trying to set the record for most odd ingredients used in ak beer. This is described as a black butter vanilla volcano salt mocha maple white chocolate ganche. Presuming they did not put actual ganache in this means I have no idea which of those are ingredients and what is what they were aiming for. Ah well. Anyway, Omnipollo are a bloody good brewery so I grabbed this from Independent Spirit a while back and waited for a good opportunity to try it. Put on Mclusky: Mcluskyism – still love the utter insanity of their tunes.

Uiltje: Imperial Pineapple Weizenbock (Netherlands: Weizenbock: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice to apricot. Thicker streams evident within the body. Large white head.

Nose: Wheaty. Yeast funky. Cheese puffs. Evident pineapple. Tart. Mature cheese.

Body: Pineapple. Honey. Liquorice notes. Creamy. Fizzy mouthfeel. Tart lemon juice. Yeast funk. Tart grapes. Light brown bread. Light raisins.

Finish: Tart pineapple. Lemon juice. Orange rinds. Eel sashimi. Tart grapes. Light raspberry hard sweets. Sherbet. Light peppercorn. Vanilla yogurt. Apricot fruit sugars.

Conclusion: This is lush, but doesn’t look or taste anything like my usual expectations from the style. Now I have tried lighter colours weizenbocks many a time, but this is not just different from the dark heavy things I usually expect from the style, it is also different from the heavy malt sweetness lighter coloured weizenbocks. This feels like a belgian style wit, that has just had the abv shoved way up. And had pineapple added.

It has a lot of yeast funk in it, creating a thick mouthfeel, then adds light peppercorn notes against fruit sugars and a slight hard sweet character as the yeast esters and the high abv mix.

Though I am aware that in talking about the thicker textures, the yeast funk, the sugar notes and the mild spice I am dodging around the mean point. That is that all of that is backing for huge amounts of fruit. Now, obviously there is pineapple done in both tart and sweet ways, with both the fresher and more sweet like notes of the body mixing to create a refreshing yet sweet beer. Against that though are tart grapes and fresh sherbety lemon notes to lemon juice tartness. All that adds to both sides of the equation, keeping it tart enough and juicy enough that the sweetness of the bigger abv doesn’t get wearing.

It is a weizenbock meets a wit freshened up to become what feels like a summer refresher of a beer that would knock you on your arse if you tried drinking it as that due to the abv. Thankfully the higher sweetness of the beer gives an Abbery Tripel style impression which means you are aware of what it is, even if the alcohol isn’t evident, saving you from getting drunk accidentally.

It has not quite got the complexity of a pure weizenbock but is wonderfully fruity, and still has a lot to dig into – a lovely summer beer.

Background: Tjebbe Kuijper of Uiltje Brewing came down to Independent Spirit a short while back while he was doing a collaboration beer over in Bristol. Got a chance to ask him some questions, and also try samples of a bunch of their beers. This was one I had my eye on for a while and was glad to try it. I asked how come they came to make it, as pineapple seems an interesting choice, as I tend to think of dark heavy beers for weizenbock, so a lighter one with pineapples seems an odd one. He explained this was a brewed up version of one of their other beers, so was a beer designed for lighter abv given the abv of a wezienbock. Glad they did, really enjoyed the sample I tried, so went into these notes expecting it to be good. I drank this after coming back from the awesome Avengers: Infinity War, put on some History of Guns – their Acedia rehearsal releases to be exact, and broke this open.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Single Cask: No 2650 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 6 Year: 59.3% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Cherries and black cherries. Rich red wine. Slight darker red wine notes as well. Shortbread. Red grapes. Water makes lightly tarry and oily.

Body: Creamy. Cherries. Sweet red wine. Water brings apricot, plums and light sulphur. Chewy feel. Fudge.

Finish: Black cherry. Creamy. A mix of rye and bourbon whisky notes. Apricot. Water adds plums, lightly grassy. Light charred notes and greenery.

Conclusion: It is odd, looking at these notes, I am using a lot of the same words that I used to describe the port pipes Chichibu whisky, but when you examine them holistically rather than point by point they are very different whiskies. For example. This leans heavier on the darker fruit, and less on the lighter fruit, which instantly creates a darker, heavier impression on the tongue and in the mind.

It is heavy on the dark red wine notes, sweet but with the harder charred oak notes below. Again most of the base spirit character is lost to the weight of the barrel ageing, but the greenery notes do come out with a lot of water added. It is a lot creamier than the other Chichibu I tried tonight, giving a nice, smooth mouthfeel.

This is a rewarding dark whisky, but does not really stand out from the other similarly sherry aged whiskies around and you can get them a lot cheaper than this. This is a very good whisky, but despite that it is not a stand out one. If you like sherry, then this does sherry ageing very obviously, utterly laden with dark fruit, but from that the base character is overwhelmed.

Glad to have tried it, but there are better examples of sherry you can buy for less.

Background:. One final Chichibu whisky of the tasting – this one a single cask – cask no 2650 to be exact, aged from 2010 to 2016, so, six years aged I guess, ish. This one is a travel exclusive, so I presume only available at certain airports. Again, a bloomin’ hard one to get hold of then. This was aged first in bourbon casks then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Cask Strength Port Pipes 2012 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 59 % ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy red touched gold.

Nose: Red and black cherries. Liquorice. Plums. Raisins. Pencil shavings. Subtle custard. Cherry blossom. Water adds more pencil shavings and more liquorice.

Body: Sweet dessert wine. Cherries. Strawberries. Digestive biscuits. Water brings out oak and brown bread.

Finish: : Strawberries. Oak. Port. Blackberries and blueberries. Alcohol air. Raisins. Water makes lightly grassy. Sweet apples. Apricot. Molasses touch.

Conclusion: Oh this is so nice – an experience like utterly sweet dessert wine mixed in with wodges of sweet red fruit. It is not light, but similarly it is not a fiery one. While I will advise using water to find your right balance for the flavour, that is all your really need the water for as it is not harsh despite the stupendous abv.

While water helps find the sweet spot, your are getting a lot from the whisky from the very first moment. Huge red fruit from the port ageing – strawberries, cherries, lots of red wine, lots of dessert wine and lots of port. The greenery notes that I have come to, over the past hour or so, associate with the Chichibu spirit do come out, but you need a lot of water to do so and it is only a small backing behind the port influence. Is is the benefit and flaw or port ageing that it can punch out over nearly anything.

Now, with that tiny point to keep in mind, this is delightful. Full of sweet fruit, but not sickly – clean feeling but you can get the more greenery and rustic character out of it if you really try. It has the bright red fruit, and darker and heavier fruit notes below, hitting the high and low of that range. An amazing one to try and probably the standout of the five as long as the port dominance does not bother you.

Background:I am a sucker for whisky that is aged in port pipes, it seems to add so much to a whisky. Though it can be very dominant and override the base spirit some times, so a treat best enjoyed in moderation in my experience. If I took my notes correctly (again, alcohol was involved..) this is an exclusive bottling for the Mitsukoshi Isetan department stores in Japan, so I considered myself very lucky to get to try it. This was bottled 2017 so I am estimating it as a 5 year based on that. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

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