Archive for May, 2018


Evil Twin: Prairie: Bible Belt Even More (USA: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large, small bubbled packed dark coffee froth brown head.

Nose: Cashews. Subtle bitter cocoa. Smooth coffee. Treacle toffee. Figs. Prunes juice. Barbecue ribs.

Body: Complex bitter coffee. Light chalk touch. Frothy chocolate. Walnuts and pecans. Touch of barbecue glaze. Slight treacle and liquorice. Chilli tingle.

Finish: Bitter cocoa dust. Pecan pie. Milky coffee and bitter coffee. Coffee cake. Barbecue glaze. Black liquorice bits. Spicy rum.

Conclusion: This is well textured beer – chewy and frothy with substance that doesn’t become syrupy or clinging – heavy but clean is the best way I could describe it. Despite that the beer is a slightly slow developer flavour wise. Early on it plays the standard Imperial Stout notes – big coffee, albeit rounded complex coffee that gives a lot to the beer – bitter coffee notes against smoother coffee cake richness. Similarly in the expected notes there is a big chunk of cocoa -just bitter enough to add some weight, but still nothing we haven’t seen a million times in the crowded quality Imperial Stout range that comes from living in these halcyon beer drinking days.

Now I will admit that at this point I looked at the can and thought “Chilli was used in making this? I don’t taste any chilli notes” So what I say next may have been influenced by that realisation. Disclaimer over.

I spent some time enjoying the generally nutty, with specific pecan notes, style character that adds some savoury depth to this beer when … oh, look what came out but some kind of meaty, barbecue glaze kind of note waiting at the underside of the beer to warm it up. Am I being very easy to influence or is this the chilli elements kicking in?

It rocks a balance between meaty, chives and barbecue sweetness as an undertone to the cocoa and coffee. It isn’t a must have, even with the extra notes, but it has become a lot more interesting and is undeniably high quality. It uses the elements of the base beer, and the mass of added ingredients to make for a beer with a wide range of notes while still rocking the base imperial stout very clearly.

Now imperial stout is a category that has been spoiled with so many super high quality beers, and this can’t fight the best of those beers, but it is a fine beer it itself with subtle chilli usage and meaty notes that sets this apart from the rest as something different and very good.

Background; Ok, is this “Even More Bible Belt”, just “Bible Belt”, “Bible Belt Even More”? I give up. Googling does not help. Even more Bible Belt makes most sense, but the bottle seems to lay it out as Bible Belt Even More, so despite that sounding silly that is what I am going with. This is a big imperial stout made with coffee, vanilla, chillies and cacao nibs. From the name I guess it is a spin off from Even More Jesus, but that could just be the name fucking with me. Again. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, and drunk while listening to Eels – useless trinkets and B-side. Despite being an Eels fan I never really listened to that one that much, so decided to give it another spin.

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Loka Polly: Citra Double IPA (Wales: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy bruised apricot to lemon. Large bubbled white head.

Nose: Pineapple. Apple. Crisp hops. Light bitterness. Soft vanilla.

Body: Thick. Huge apple. Honey. Custard. Pineapple. Peach. Solid bitterness. Oily. Passion-fruit. Light sour cream. Banana touches. Strawberry comes out over time.

Finish: Peach juice. Pineapple. Vanilla toffee. Hop oils. Greenery and bitterness. Oily passion-fruit. Guava. Sour cream and chives. Good bitterness.

Conclusion: This is an oily, thick beer. A fact that surprised me at the aroma was all tart pineapple and crisp hops, fooling me into thinking this was going to be a light, fresh thing – not the oily flavour bomb that it actually is.

It isn’t full on “dank” as they say, it is more juicy, with the oily character it mixes to make a thick fruit syrup and oily bitterness thing that results in a bursting with flavour, well contrasting beer.

Flavour-wise it leans heavily on the pineapple freshness and fresh cut apple sweetness to get the job done – I didn’t know hops were capable of sapience enough to link naming similarities of pineapple and apple and to use it to give itself a theme, but apparently it does here! There is peach and even banana sweetness behind that – seriously, jokes aside, I didn’t realise that, as a single hop, Citra could deliver this much range. I can definitely see why it has such a reputation as a hop now.

This is wonderfully full flavoured, with lovely thickness and brilliant oiliness. A slow drinking weight of a beer – no alcohol burn, smooth but weight enough that you know every inch of its abv despite that.

This is very impressive – uses Citra better than nearly any IPA I have encountered. I’ve got to check out more beers from this brewery.

Background: This is one of those beers where I don’t know much about the beer, or the brewery – they just caught my attention as a new brewery to try. Went for the Citra DIPA – I didn’t really get Citra as a hop when I first encountered it, but running into it again and again over the years has made me see exactly how well it can be used, so this seemed a fairly safe jumping on point for the brewery. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I was in a pretty good mood when I drank this – Was just back from watching Deadpool 2 and put on some Andrew WK to match my party mood!

Elements Of Islay: OC5 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed grain. Slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Chilli pepper. Chipotle chilli notes. Light charcoal dust. Fresh white crusty bread. Water adds dried beef, beetroot and pulled pork along with a salt touch.

Body: Golden syrup. Mass of alcohol. Barbecue glaze. Water adds more barbecue sauce glaze, custard. Salt. Drying. Syrup notes and cherries.

Finish: Barbecued meat. Pear. Smoke. Water makes more oily. Slow cooked stew. More water adds more peat, beef and syrup. Light strawberry. Chipotle sauce.

Conclusion: I’m slightly mixed on my opinion on this, as there is a heck of a lot going on in the near 60% of abv and a hundred whatever levels of peat per million it throws at you. In general I love the Octomore in all the expressions I have encountered, I love the range it brings in, but with this one it feels like there are many different mashed up elements that are great, but do not come together here.

Early on it is mainly showing the intense alcohol, with less peat intensity than you would expect as the sheer strength makes it come across quite closed. Water is definitely needed to bring out the cornucopia of clashing notes I alluded to earlier. There is a glazed barbecue backbone, smoke but still less that you would expect. It is more meaty than anything else, slow cooked, falling apart to touch meat in the stew and pulled pork imagery.

More water clashes with the peat imagery even more as an oddly sweet syrupy core comes out, another element added in that pulls the whisky in yet another different direction. First the glazed barbecue, then the meat and peat, the syrup, red fruit late on – all elements I enjoy,but not a coherent whole.

Enjoyable, and a wild ride, but doesn’t do better than the more focussed, though lower abv, intensity of the standard Octomore – and with that you get a silly shiny bottle as well.

Background: Final of the whiskies from the recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. If you are wondering what happened to the foruth whisky, I already have a bottle of it and will be doing full notes at a a later date. This is an independent Octomore bottling, from the very respectable Elements Of Islay range – Octomore being Bruichladdich’s very highly peated whisky. This is probably the only cask strength bottling of Octomore I have seen, which makes it interesting in itself. I’m a big fan of Octomore even if the super high peat level is more of a marketing gimmick than a huge element of the whisky itself. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again. I was more inebriated by the point I took the photo of the glass, so it is just a tad out of focus, to say the least.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

Clan Denny / Douglas Laing: North British : 1991 (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 46.7% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellowed grain. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Baileys. Orange cream to choc orange. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Water adds tannins, lemon cheesecake and menthol to grapes notes.

Body: Custard. Golden syrup. Apples. Calvados. Water adds icing sugar, lemon cheesecake, has more of a waxy and alcohol feel.

Finish: Apples. Pears. Creamy to baileys. Pear drops. Lightly waxy. Slight dry shortbread. Water adds light oak and white chocolate. More water brings out menthol notes and grapes.

Conclusion: This is a sweet and creamy one. Initially it really pushes a Baileys style – thick and creamy against young spirit style green fruit notes. There is a slight thickness to it, actually a kind of polish to wax feel that actually enhances the creaminess.

Water makes it drier and slightly spicier, but otherwise manages to marry the two sides of the neat whisky. The fruit notes become creamier in a soft lemon style over a sweet cheesecake like base, rather than the brighter green fruits of the neat spirit.

Here, with water, more of the bourbon cask influence shows, more oak, more white chocolate, all emphasising sweeter notes that makes this feel like a bright, dessert style, whisky. Adding just a drop of water does bring out more alcohol roughness, but if you can push through that, adding even more water mellows it down again and lets you enjoy the gentle lemon character.

It always keeps a touch of energy that comes from the grain spirit style, but matches it to a sweeter, gentler, dessert style which means it manages to be relaxing despite that grain energy. It feels like some thing to enjoy post meal and relax with.

A lovely bit of a dessert edged dram.

Background: One of about 300 bottles this is a single cask single grain whisky and the first of five whiskies I tried at the most recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. Single grain gets a lot of shit as the lesser cousin of single malt, but there are some gems hidden in its depths as I have found over the years. Time will tell if this is one of them. This was aged in a refill hogshead cask. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again.

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.

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.

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