Archive for August, 2018


Kaiju!: Cthulhu On The Moon (Australia: Black IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of a brown head.

Nose: Nutty. Bitter chocolate. Bitter hop character. Lightly earthy. Bitter raw coffee.

Body: Earthy bitterness. Chalk touch. Sour cream twist. Bitter cocoa. Tofu. Light charring. Light toffee/Choc Toffee.

Finish: Earthy. Greenery. Bitter cocoa. Bitter coffee. Pepper. Sour cream. Kiwi.

Conclusion: This is a take on the black IPA style that I was not expecting. Most BIPAS I’ve seen either go the hoppy stout route, or in the fruity smooth way with chocolate backing. This feels like a black IPA take on an earthy English style IPA. Intriguing.

The base is quite stouty and on the harsher end of the stout scale, showing more raw notes from the bitter cocoa and coffee. There’s even a chalk touch and a slight sour cream twist under that, which would act as a grounding notes in most beers, but here just pushes it further into the heavy, slow drinking style.

Onto that heavy base the earthy, bitter hops are another weighty layer – peppery, nutty and earthy. This brings none of the fruity high notes that I usually expect of a black IPA.

So, not a showy beer, instead a slow, heavy beer. There is the slightest touch of toffee sweetness in the mid body, and slight kiwi that rises in the finish. The offsetting notes are used sparingly to make the heavier notes more manageable. There are hints main body of similar green fruit, but it never fully develops, instead keeping to the more earthy bitter notes.

It is not one I would have often, but it is a solid one. It reminds me of a Best Bitter, mixed 50/50 with a British style IPA, the kind of drink you could drink a few slow pints of with in mates in a traditional pub, near a warm fire.

Not a must have, but an interesting take and solid enough.

Background: So, I’m kind of partial to the Kaiju movies, if not a massive dedicated fan – loved the recent Shin Gojira so that was a good start for this. Big Lovecraft nerd, so a Cthulhu reference is my jam. This is from Australia, and I haven’t tried many beers from there, so always a chance to expand. Finally not had a good BIPA for a while – so yeah, out of the Kaiju! Beer stuff that turned up at independent spirit, it was almost inevitable that this would be the one I’d grab. I did miss a trick on music though – just put on some Anti Flag out of generic annoyance at the world today, when I had perfectly good Lovecraft themed rock from Darkest Of Hillside Thickets right there and I didn’t use it. Shame on me.

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Mikkeller: Henry and His Science #1 (Denmark: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Medium white head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Wheaty. Fresh. Lime cordial. Soft milk. Slight hop prickle.

Body: Lucozade. Chalk touch. Strawberry. Lemon curd. Fluffy hop middle. Hop oils. Lime cordial. Malt toffee. Golden syrup.

Finish: Lemon hard sweets. Lucozade. Strawberry. Lemon curd. Vanilla toffee.

Conclusion: This is not 100% beer feeling – it is about 50% glucose energy drink and 50% beer. Which is a bloody odd experience let me tell you.

The lucozade energy drink style elements are the first hit – sweet, slightly syrup tasting, though not in texture, and sugary. The citrus notes that make up the more beer side of things come in after, lemon and lime notes – very fresh and backed by very subtle fluffy hop feel and hop oils that are the most direct beer feeling element but very subtle. There is a slight chalk grounding touch but that again is very mild

Like a lot of low abv beers it seems to find it difficult to create that elusive “Beer” texture and taste – but here it feels like the beer leans into that, creating a distinctly different drink that uses the low abv to create something new in the beer arena rather than trying to replicate what came before.

Soft strawberry notes develop over time, along with a recognisable, if subtle, toffee sweet backing. The hops lean tart and fresh in a NZ hop style which helps quench the sweetness and make the beer easy to drink.

As an attempt to replicate other beer styles in a low abv I would have to call this a failure. As an attempt to use low abv to create a beer influenced experience that stands on its own two feet this is lovely. Lots of flavour, lots of tart notes and sweet notes, and all just about recognisable as beer touched if nothing else.

Very easy to drink, tasty, and low abv – I’m happy with that.

Background: Low abv beer time again! Along with Big Drop Brewing, Mikkeller are at the forefront of low abv beers in my opinion. Though I think they have a brewery in the USA now, this is one of their “Gypsy brewing” style ones, still done by contract brewing in other breweries. Anyway, this was a nice one on a night when I didn’t want to kick off anything heavy, but felt like a beer. I’d had it a few times before so had a good idea of what to expect going in. Put on some Mclusky while drinking, love their out there, rough sounding, awesome music. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Buxton: Medusa Bay (England: IPA: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow-apricot. Huge white head, with a good chunk of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Dried mango. Fluffy, bitter hop character. Dried apricot. Light greenery. Prickly character. Mild hop oils. Sweet peach syrup. Palma violets,

Body: Raspberry and yellow raspberries. Tart pineapple. Prickly hop character. Greenery, pepper and hop oils. Kumquat. Kiwi. Palma violets. Pink grapefruit.

Finish: Hop oils. Greenery. Dried apricot and sweet peach. Sour cream twist. Good bitterness and hop character. Pink grapefruit. Yellow raspberry. Tangerine.

Conclusion: An IPA. A genuine IPA. Not a NEIPA, an IPA. Yes I know, I’m a grumpy old man shouting for the NE to get off my lawn. I keep trying not to dump on the New England take on the IPA style, but, after so many NEIPA takes on the style, a rock solid, slightly west coast IPA leaning if not perfectly fitting that style, take on the IPA is exactly what I need. That and long run on sentences it seems.

The base is fairly dry and clean – lightly sweet but mainly out of the way. The hop fruitiness and bitterness does most of the heavy lifting here. It mixes up a few different IPA hop takes in the flavour profile. There’s tart pineapple and pink grapefruit that make up a fresh middle to the beer – feeling a bit NZ hopped style, but there’s notes like a varied raspberry tartness that means it doesn’t fit neatly into that box. There are American style apricot notes, always backed by that slight savoury to vegetable touched bitterness. It feels like a mid 2000’s style IPA remade with access to the modern hop varieties, giving a new spin on an old classic.

The bitterness is present but not harsh – mixing lightly oily but solid bitterness with a peppery present character for weight. It feels like a subtle re-imaging rather than a revolution of an IPA, but it is solid as hell. Big flavour, nice hop choice, and IPA that is exactly what I wanted right now. The classic USA style IPA brought right up to date.

Background: This was a fairly simple choice to grab. I was just looking for a straightforward, no frills IPA and 1) Buxton have been very reliable as a brewer and 2) It is made with a solid dry hop selection of Citra, Mosaic and Ekuanot. Not every beer needs to be something out there – I just wanted a solid IPA and hoped this would be it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went for a similarly solid music choice with straight up Metallica – Master of Puppets. Was bloody humid and sticky, so I had this chilled down a touch more than I normally would.

Loch Fyne: The Living Cask Batch 4 (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear grain. Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Viscous. Sharp lime notes and alcohol. Floral and fresh grain fields. Water adds menthol and crushed rocks.

Body: Smooth. Toffee and vanilla. Creamy lime. Cardboard underneath. Bitter charring. Bitter almonds. Water adds more bitter almonds. More water adds softer lime and creamier notes. Chalk touch. White chocolate.

Finish: Menthol. Lime sorbet. Rocks. Cardboard. Bitter almond. Water adds fudge and crushed peanuts. More water adds marshmallow. Brown bread and chalk.

Conclusion: After the awesome 1745 Living Cask I was very much looking forwards to trying this, less Islay dedicated, Living Cask. I have to admit straight up that it is a bit of a disappointment.

At its heart it seems a softly sweet, floral yet lime touched, heavily Speyside influenced whisky. It is ok, with a soft vanilla fudge base, lime high notes and floral weight – but then this kind of cardboard to harsh bitter almond underlying character roils underneath, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste as everything heads out into the finish.

Now, me being a man of the (whisky) world I figured some water would deal with that nicely – and I wasn’t exactly 100% wrong. It just took much more water than I expected. A little water makes it rough as fuck – but a lot of water and the lime notes and softer sweet notes come out, but now against a general weak low end grain whisky like character that really is not showing the whole thing at its best.

So, it is sub optimal – slightly rough spirit notes with water, slightly rough bitter notes, used with Speyside like notes that while good don’t feel special. I guess a living cask will have its up and downs, and this one is on the down side for me.

Background: So, I tried Living Cask 1745 and it was bloody lovely. A peaty Islay take on the core concept of the living cask – a cask of blended whisky that was never allowed to empty, just topped up every time it reached half way so it was an ever changing expression. So I dropped back to The Whisky Shop in Bath to grab this, the fourth batch of their non Islay ever changing Living Cask, hoping it would hold up. Put on Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes’ Modern Ruin while drinking- I’m still mixed on the album, it is nowhere near as intense as the first album, but feels like there is still more to tease out of it.

To Øl: Põhjala: Graff Gadient – Rye and Apple Gose (Estonia: Gose: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Light clear brown to apricot. Short lived off white head.

Nose: Cloying sweet apricot. Crushed palma violets. Stewed peaches. Apple. Thick syrup character. Apple pie fillings. Cough syrup.

Body: Apple pie filling. Oak. Apple juice. Tart. Rye bread. Acidic front. Oats.

Finish: Tart cider. Dry fudge. Acidic pear. Varnish air. Fresh cut apples. Menthol cough sweets. White wine.

Conclusion: I’ve come to accept that the goses I encountered in Germany, and the goses I encounter in the rest of the world are going to be totally different things. That’s cool, styles cross pollinate and pick up local character. Even with that said, this, this is unusual.

It is tart, kind of gose meets lambic or berliner weisse – that bit sharper and tarter than most gose are, and with lots of the apple on show. It is a mix of tart cider like notes, matched with thick apple pie filling sweetness, all over dry rye bread notes.

Now that is odd, not not that odd, definitely not odd enough to trip my WTF? radar. So what is unusual, ok, but unusual is this menthol cough sweets to cough syrup set of notes that come across in a medicinal but very syrupy way. That was unexpected. It matches with the stewed apricot and peach notes, so is not as out of place as you might expect – but is still a strange feel and taste based on 1) My expectations of a gose 2) My expectations based on the special ingredients and 3) my expectations of any beer ever.

It isn’t bad, but it feels weird – you can be enjoying those tart apple notes, and general acidic character – when suddenly you are hit with the cough syrup notes and it just takes out out of it. It breaks up the experience in a way that ruins the flow of the beer.

Interesting but the medicinal cough syrup notes just make it one I can’t get into properly.

Background: This is described as both a rye and apple gose, and half beer half cider. Made with spontaneous fermented cider, Estonian apple juice and three varieties of thyme, this sounded odd enough to be worth a try. Not tried anything from Põhjala before, but To Øl tend to be pretty good. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Put on a mix of Jonathan Young stuff while drinking, mainly his excellent track “Bait”- an original track rather than the covers he tends to do. Well worth checking out.

Neon Raptor: Island Party DDH Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale:4.3% ABV)

Visual: On first pour clear lager yellow colour with huge yellow-whitehead. Tons of small bubbled carbonation. Later pours are cloudy and opaque.

Nose: Dry bitter hops. Soft pineapple. Floral. Chalk touch. Flour.

Body: Dry, hoppy bitterness. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft apricot. Prickly. Light gherkin. Mango. Strawberry touch.

Finish: Strawberry. Flour. Soft pineapple. Vanilla yogurt. Crushed love heart sweets. Solid bitterness. Kumquat.

Conclusion: This pours oddly. The first pour was utterly clear and lager like, with a massive head. However it seems I should have given the can more of a shake before pouring as later pours were cloudy in a NEIPA style. (or maybe not – again, massive head already – but you get the gist).

So, once I had let the head settle a bit I found that this was pretty subtle in the aroma. Soft pineapple and dry, bitter notes. While it never hits that super dry, super harsh take that some APAs do, this still leans into the drier take throughout the rest of the beer.

It has a fairly creamy mouthfeel, but very dry around that. Kind of a flour dryness that seems to be a common APA shtick. There is some soft apricot and pineapple notes packed around that which freshens it up a touch, along with some savoury vegetable notes and sour gherkin notes rounding out the range.

Altogether it is ok, but gets wearing as times goes on and the drier notes take over, leaving more flour notes on your tongue as a desiccating experience. It is a just slightly too far into the harsh dryness in style, rather than the super drinkable dry style.

So, it had good first impressions, before the flour notes got too heavy, as the soft fruit is appealing, but it just gets bogged down over time. Ok at the start, but definitely sub-optimal and gets worse as time goes on.

Background: Neon Raptor. Neon. Raptor. There was no way I wasn’t going to try something from this brewery. Decided to go for the APA as been trying a lot of IPAs recently. Also the IPAs were New England style. I’m trying to not hate on NEIPAs too much, but the way they are saturating the market at the mo is not exactly my scene shall we say. Anyway, not much else to add – picked this up from Independent Spirit and put on B. Dolan’s House Of Bees Vol 2 while drinking. Should be seeing the Epic Beard men live soon, so gets me in the mood for cool socially conscious rap.

Stillwater Artisanal: Casita Cerveceria: On Fleek (USA: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Black. Pours thick. Small brown head.

Nose: Caramel. Milky chocolate. Cream. Marshmallows. Praline. Nougat. Smooth. Rich milky coffee. Brown sugar.

Body: Thick. Fudge and chocolate fondue. Rich creamy coffee. Very smooth. Toffee liqueur. Nougat. Bitter cocoa. Chalk touch as it warms.

Finish: Toffee liqueur. Chocolate liqueur. Easter egg chocolate. Milky coffee. Cocoa.

Conclusion: This is a very sweet Imperial Stout. Very creamy, using the malt load for a thick character but with the barest hint of its 13% abv. Well, my current pissed squiggly handwriting is probably a dead giveaway, but thankfully by the time these notes are typed up that will be hidden from you.

Whew.

Anyway this is a very well balanced imperial stout – showing a lot of the usual coffee notes, expressed here richly and creamily. It also shows the expected chocolate notes, expressed creamy and and as bitter cocoa dust. It manages big flavours without becoming sickly sweet or harshly bitter.

The sweet high notes come in liqueur like with chocolate and toffee elements, laid over a chewy, thick nougat and creamy mouthfeel and taste. Bitter cocoa and more savoury notes ground it, making for a rewarding imperial stout experience. As it warms a light chalk note adds itself to the grounding – very subtle but underlining the beer along with slightly more bitter, but still milky coffee notes – all making it very robust and keeping the sweeter notes under control.

For the first half this beer is perfectly done, but as you go into the second half you hit the only real flaw – a lack of any real progression in the beer. It is always the same creamy and coffee, bitter and sweet notes. It is still, very good in fact, but there are no surprises as it goes on.

That is a very minor nitpick though – it keeps it from being one of the world’s greatest imperial stouts – but that is just because there are so many great imperial stouts out there. It is still super well crafted and well worth grabbing.

Background: Ok, I only own this beer as my mate hates the idea of it. Long story shot – my mate had to explain to me what “On Fleek” means as he saw this thing’s name and the can design and hated the “Hipster” idea of it. So, anyway that stuck in my mind, so when I saw it on Beer Hawk I had to give it a try. Odd how these things happen. So if I hate it, it is indirectly his fault for hating it for different reasons. Anyway this is an imperial stout made with … dark sugar and molasses if a quick google is to be believed. Which possibly it shouldn’t. Anyway, put on Arch Enemy: Will To Power for this – big metal for big imperial stouts.

Douglas Laing’s XOP Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 18 year: 56.8% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Peat. Charcoal. Strong alcohol. Salt. Sultanas. Moss and seaweed. Medicinal. Dry cake sponge. Kippers. Brown sugar. Water adds smoke and oily notes.

Body: Sherry. Strong alcohol. Charring and soot. Medicinal. Salt. Charred nougat. Salt. Water adds cherries. Dry red wine. Huge peat. Tannins. Raisins. Slight peach. Grapes. Plums.

Finish: Soot. Dried beef. Numbing alcohol. Malt chocolate. Iodine. Water adds tannins. More malt chocolate. Nut oils. Tofu. Vanilla toffee and chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: Usually Laphroaig loses some of the peat and medicinal intensity as it ages, losing some of those elements that make the younger spirit so very identifiable. For what it loses there it however gains greater subtlety, smoothness and complexity.

This does not lose the intensity in any way, shape or form. It is sooty, peaty, dried beef, salt, seaweed and medicinal all in one, all punching out at the brutal cask strength. The sherry ageing, usually so dominant in whisky, tries to push to the fore. It brings, oddly enough, dry sherry notes as well as the more expected red wine notes, but they are backing the intense Laphroaig character, not leading it or controlling it.

Neat it is a brutally intense experience – there is sweetness coming like nougat that has been quickly charred somehow – harsh, with oiliness coming in from kippers to nut oils seeping under that. It feels as much as it tastes, with hard to place savoury notes weighing in heavily to ground it.

Now, if that kick is too much there is always water to play with, and the high abv gives a lot of room to do so. It still keeps the medicinal and sooty character, but brings out layers of dry red wine, sultanas, cherries and even odd fruit notes, before heading back into a dry and medicinal finish.

Now, I tend to wait a week or so after opening a bottle to do notes these days, seems to clear out some rough notes, so I’ve had this a few times now. Caught at the wrong moment this can be quite closed as a whisky. The intense alcohol, charring and smoke can close off access to everything else, and sometimes is seems even water play can’t open it up. Other times, caught at the right moment it has all the goodness of a young Laphroaig, some quarter cask notes, matched with rich red fruit and a mix of red wine notes that makes it utterly exceptional.

I love it – it is a super intense ride of Laphroaig and more. However, even loving it, it is a ride of high points and low points depending on how it is reacting today. For the high points I am happy with it, as when it is on it us bloody amazing and I have not seen such a mix of intensity, Laphroaig character and wood character work so well before. However at the cost, something that may be not super reliable on the high may not be worth it for you.

So, look at the cost, look at the info here, make up your mind. You call.

Background: Ok, this is very expensive even for an 18 year old Laphroaig, and those are not exactly common. I was allowed to try the tiniest of sips of a sample at Independent Spirit and it blew me away, but there was no way I could get it at the time. Then I received a cheque saying an audit had revealed I was owed money and well, so now I own a bottle. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did then it definitely wanted me to have this whisky. Anyway, cask strength, in a stupidly over the top box which is so wasteful, but I would be lying if I said I did not find cool. I am a hypocrite, grr, down with wasteful packaging! Anyway, I was nervous breaking this open, hoping it would hold up to my memory – especially after buying the darn thing! Anyway put on some old, more goth era Lacuna Coil while drinking. Still like their more metal newer stuff, but it seems to waste the vocal range that the singers have – old school is where it is at.

Jameson: Caskmates Stout Edition (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Moderate gold colour with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Creamy. Menthol. Noticeable alcohol. Soft lime. Coffee notes. Dried apricot. Brown sugar. Aniseed. Water adds dry honey.

Body: Creamy. Lime jelly. Milky chocolate. Alcohol tingle. Baileys. Aniseed. Water adds vanilla custard. Apricot. More chocolate and baileys. More creamy.

Finish: Milky chocolate and milky coffee. Lime jelly. Shortbread. Light oak. Water adds slight cardboard. Bitter cocoa. Chocolate bourbons. Menthol.

Conclusion: Stout aged whiskey? It had to happen eventually. Stout just makes sense for giving complementary flavours – much more sense in my opinion than the hoppier beers that have already been tried. So how well does it work in this case?

Not bad actually. It is pretty creamy, though with a few rougher alcohol elements, especially when taken neat. While the stout elements, especially chocolate, come through clearly, it dominates the whiskey less than you might expect. You get the chocolate, some small amount of coffee and a big dose of creamy Baileys like character. There is a tingle of fruity Jameson’s spirit character below, but the main kick of that is waiting for water to be added to it can come out better. Instead at this point it has a light aniseed like character that prickles around the edges in a spicy way.

Water changes things around quite a bit. It soothes the alcohol, though at the cost of bringing out some cardboard like grain spirit notes at the very back. However as a trade off for that it does bring up the notes from the base Jamesons. Now the cream chocolate notes come out around soft lime, vanilla custard and apricot that create a much more rewarding and complex experience. The apricot especially booms. Then soothes into a chocolate and shortbread finish.

So, stout ageing works well, very will in fact. The base spirit has some rough notes, even with water, and some of the more off notes of blended whisky comes through with water. But those are small elements and generally I was impressed by it. As time goes on a menthol freshness comes out around the whole thing, unexpected, mouth tingling and refreshes from the heavier chocolate notes.

Not super refined, but very good flavour for a very good price and definitely shows that stout ageing whiskey is something worth investing time in.

Background: This sample was a gift from a friend from work – thanks Matt! He also did the photo of his bottle so I had something to go here, so double thanks. Anyway, the naming is pretty self explanatory. Jameson’s gave whiskey casks to the Franciscan Well brewery which stored stout in it. This cask was then given back to Jamerson who aged whiskey in it. Makes sense right? I’ve run into IPA aged whiskey before but this is my first encounter with stout aged ones. Put on some Miracle Of Sound while drinking this. I would claim it is because both of them are from Ireland, but really I just love his music. It’s awesome.

Lost and Grounded: Moor: Left Hand Giant: Berry Lush (England: Fruit Witbier: 4% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Huge strawberry red head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Blackcurrant cheesecake. Blackcurrant jam. Twigs. Strawberry. Thick. Tart grapes.

Body: Wheaty. Sharp lemon. Blueberry. White pepper. Tart blackcurrant. Charring. Tart grapes. Gooseberry.

Finish: Tart blueberries. Noble hop oils. Subtle blackcurrant. White pepper. Charred bitterness.

Conclusion: There is a massive disconnect between the aroma and the taste in this one. The aroma is hugely jammy, packed with fruit flavoured jelly notes (aka Jello for our American friends). It is sweet and thick. I was kind of worried that the sweetness was going to dominate the body too much and end up with a simple, one notes, sweet thing.

That definitely did not turn out to be the case.

The first hit of the main body is a sharp lemon note that seems fairly much like your standard expectations of a good wit, which was encouraging. It was good to see signs of the base beer evident through the berries. There also was a strong white pepper character that called to the spice use in a traditional wit. However that element isn’t too well used, combining with charred notes that make the beer feel unnecessarily harsh.

At this point the fruit is pretty much non existent, and the beer was feeling really lacklustre due to the harsher notes, the lack of fruit and the base beer being overwhelmed by the charring and spice. So, massively flawed, but not in the way I expected it to be.

This however turns out to be a beer that works better when warmer and with a bit of time to air. The rougher notes subside, though do not totally vanish. The berries rise without taking over and the base wit feels like it has some room to roam.

It is still not great, but is far more drinkable than it was before. Showing evident traditional dry, lemony wit character with subtle berries backing it up. There is still too evident pepper and charring which hurt it – however if they managed to turn that down a bit then this would be a heck of a better beer.

Bad start, reasonable end, but definitely needs work.

Background: This seems to a collaboration of some of the great breweries we have in the west country – Moor is an old fave of mine, while LHG and LAG are comparatively new kids on the block, but with some tasty beers already out from each. I’ve been feeling like a Belgian style wit for while, so when I saw this one – made with blackcurrant puree, at Independent Spirit, I figured it was worth a try. Put on a bunch of White Zombie for some retro b-movie style metal fun.

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