Archive for November, 2018


Cantillon: Mamouche (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Still. Thin dash of white rather than a head. Later pours have an actual head – an inch of white froth.

Nose: Dry white wine. Rose petals. Sour. Elderberry. Wet oak. Horse blankets.

Body: Thin front. Peppery. Charred oak. Acidic back. Light lemon. Dry middle. Watery edges. Mild strawberry. White wine. Dried apricot.

Finish: White wine. Sulphur. Elderflower cordial. Dried lemon. Charred oak. Petals. Vanilla yogurt. Dandelions. Tart grapes. Flour.

Conclusion: There seems to be a trend with Cantillon beers, for me at least, that they start out feeling slightly underwhelming to my expectations, then slowly build up to gain my respect by the end. This is, well, slightly different, but it mostly matches that general trajectory. As always let me explain.

Early on it seemed slightly thin – not something I would ever expect to associate with Cantillon normally. Instead of the mouth puckering dryness what you get is an acidity that hits the back of the throat kind of harshly, an unexpected kick from the lighter front. There is an elderflower cordial taste, watered down a lot to create an experience that lacks lustre.

Time brings out a lot of white wine dryness, in fact this may be he most white wine like I have encountered in a lambic. The elderflower flavour seems to polish off some of the edges you would expect from Cantillion, but adds a bunch of new ones itself.

It adds a lot of petal, dandelions and similar floral notes which go into slightly charred and peppery notes later on. This side of things didn’t really work for me – so while the beer definitely improved on Cantillion’s usual drinking trajectory it doesn’t end up at the usual high. Just ends as a shrug and a “it’s ok.”

It is a white wine, floral and somewhat acidic thing that doesn’t grab me like the other Cantillons do and doesn’t feel like it earns the time to took for it to improve.

A distinctly sub optimal Cantillon.

Background: Shockingly (ok, not shockingly, maybe mildly surprisingly) I did not pick this up at the Moor Taphouses’ Zwanze day. They had sold out. Instead I found it in Independent Spirit a few weeks later. I’m guessing it came across as part of the same batch though. Anyway, this is a lambic made with elderflower in two year old lambic. Another new one on me – Cantillon seem to have more of these unusual experiments than I would have expected. Wasn’t sure what music was appropriate for this, so just went with an old favourite of New Model Army – No Rest For The Wicked. When in doubt go for some punk.

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Buxton: Dugges: Ramberget (England: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Large, mounded white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Lemon. Oats. Wheaty hop character. Clean. Light milk. Light hop bitterness.

Body: Thick. Lemon curd. Passion-fruit. Grapes. Also slightly musky grapes. Fresh lemon juice. Muesli. Vanilla custard. Cream. Dried apricot.

Finish: Palma violets. Greenery. Lemon curd. Hop oils. Some bitterness. Musky grapes. Soft orange.

Conclusion: This is an unusual entry in the IPA category, for all that it may seem a standard entry from the can’s description of it. And by unusual I mean delicious by the way. Also, I still mean unusual. Words can mean multiple things when written down. Like wind for example. Anyway, I digress.

It is thick, kind of creamy but also lemon juice style citrus filled. It is far thicker than your average IPA and that makes every flavour grip so much more and makes it so much more expressive. Lemon notes become thick lemon curd. Milk becomes a chewy oatmeal to muesli milky cereal style.

I will admit it does not have the largest range of flavours – mainly working the citrus fruits – but the thickness gives a depth to each element that makes it extra rewarding in and of itself. It only has a small amount of bitterness, which normally would annoy me in an IPA, but is probably a good call here – the thick texture could have made high bitterness clingy and outstaying of its welcome.

It will never be your go-to, anytime IPA. It doesn’t have that easy drinking, crisp, bitter kick, or a whole other number of other elements you would expect from a standard IPA. However, its thick, slow drinking style is delicious and while an atypical IPA it is still recognisably an IPA. A slower, heavier, bigger IPA for taking your time with.

Buxton bring the IPA goods once again.

Background: I tried this a while back, loved it, so I decided to return one day to do notes. This is that day. So, yeah, I wasn’t unbiased going in – I was very much ready to enjoy this one again. Basically a big IPA made with oats as part of a collaboration between Dugges and Buxton. Simple and to the point. Despite my happy mood going in I put on the melancholy tracks of The Eels – End Times while drinking. Maybe I was afraid of getting too happy. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. yes I have got lax at tried other places. I will keep my eye out more when travelling.

Northern Monk: Finback: Patron’s Project 3.05: Once, Twice, Three Times a Whale (Mosaic Edition) (England: IIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Custard to apricot coloured body. Very large, loose mounded white head that leaves suds

Nose: Mandarin orange. Very fresh. Crisp hop character. Lightly wheaty bitterness. Tangerine orange. Soft vanilla custard. Light, tart pineapple. Slight flour.

Body: Orange to tangerine. Vanilla custard. Oily hop character. Low bitterness. Slight resin. Slight flour. Light pineapple. Peach. Slight greenery.

Finish: Fresh tangerine. Slight resin. Oily hop character. Low bitterness. Slightly milky and creamy. Grapefruit. Growing hop character and bitterness.

Conclusion:I’m torn. No, wait that is a terrible way to start talking about this. Let’s try a different tack. This is creamy and fruity in a way that reminds me of the NEIPA interpretation, but, despite the low levels of bitterness they use in it, it still features enough oily hop feel and resinous notes to make it feel like an actual damn IPA. I approve.

Ok, so after that, now to get to – I’m torn, but not in a Natalie Imbruglia way. Let me explain. This is tasty, tasty, very ,very tasty, but with that it is a bit simple. There is lots of bright fresh mandarin orange and tangerine notes that make you sit up and smile. Then there is tart pineapple to grapefruit notes under backing a soft, creamy to vanilla custard base. Delicious, so delicious, but for the most part that is your experience for the entire beer.

Ok, it doesn’t 100% stick at that – the hop character gains a touch more resin and bitterness over time, while never quite betraying its NEIPA creamy and fruity style. There is some progression, just not very much.

You know what? I’ve talked myself into it. I am no longer torn. This is ruddy good. Maybe it could do with a tad more complexity but this is a double IPA that calls to NEIPA but doesn’t forget the IPA at its heart, and shows the mosiac fruit flavours in full fresh burst.

So, yeah, not torn any more. This is very good. Get it.

Background: This is a Patron’s Project beer. Yet when you lift up the label there is no additional information hidden underneath. It is like someone just told me Santa does not exist. I am let down. Anyway, the final name in this collaboration is James Butler, a tattoo artist who I presume did the artwork for the label. I’ve loved Northern Monk Patron’s Projects so far, so when this three times hopped with Mosaic IIPA turned up in Independent Spirit it caught my eye. Put on Some Marie Davidson to listen to while drinking – only just discovered her music – haunting electronic gothic feelings stuff. Very moody. She sings a lot in French, which I don’t understand, so if you listen and it turns out it is super obscene please don’t blame me. Unless you enjoy that, in which case you are welcome.

Yonder: Dunstan’s Exile (England: Belgian Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Lemon juice coloured hazy body. Thin white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Orange zest. Lemon. Peppermint and mint leaves. Peppercorn sauce.

Body: Brown bread. Orange. Gentle earthy hops. Gentle lime. Gentle lemon. Peppery. Light bitterness.

Finish: Gentle earthy hops. Orange skin to orange zest. Lightly peppery. Slight greenery.

Conclusion: You know, this much more enjoyable than my comparatively sparse set of notes above may indicate. There isn’t wide range of distinct flavours, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pretty darn drinkable beer.

It feels like it is aiming for an Orval like beer at its base and, while it doesn’t reach that beers heights, you do end up with an earthy, bready and lightly funky character as a base to work from. So, it gains a reasonable base from the attempt, and you could do a lot worse than that.

Then there is the subtle fresh lemon, lime and orange notes that come out. A range that goes from drier orange skin notes, to gentle lemon juice. None of the citrus elements come across as sharp notes, just that very slight acidity that lightens the texture and allow fresher notes through.

There is a kind of Belgian wit spiced character as well. Slightly minty, slightly peppery as well as some harder to place spice notes. It gives an extra layer that goes nicely into the earthy, lightly bitter hop character. As I say, despite the sparse initial notes this work pretty well together.

It is not quite there as a beer – the Orval style doesn’t have the full funk complexity down. The citrus notes also seem to reduce the texture maybe a tad below the ideal thickness. Finally the spice could do with being a tad more prominent (and how rare is it that I say that!?). At its core though it is an easy drinking and pretty rewarding beer.

Could the beer be tweaked? Yes. Is it worth drinking now? Also yes.

Background: Not seen this brewery before, but I saw they were doing a take on a pale Belgian ale, and figured that it would be nice to grab one for an experiment. It is made with “foraged botanicals” which seemed a bit vague, but thankfully their ingredient list laid it all out – Grain of Paradise, Lavender, Orange peel and Juniper berries. Still had to google “ Grain of Paradise” as I had forgotten what it was since last time I encountered it. My memory is buggered. In sad news I broke my Scallywag pen light while doing these notes. It will be missed. Mainly because its light switch that made a dog face turn up in the torch light was great for fiddling with while drinking. I am such a fidget. Anyway, put on Mobina Galore – Cities Away while drinking. Nice bit of energy without getting too heavy. This was another one from Independent Spirit.

Elements Of Islay: LP9 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 54.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed cherry.

Nose: Smoke. Charred dry grass. Gunpowder tea. Moss. Black pepper. Spicy. Tar. Sherry. Light menthol. Water adds dried tea leaves, tannins and sulphur. Smoked bacon.

Body: Cherry. Intense peat. Thai 7 spice. Black cherry. Thick. Water adds orange crème touch. Mulled wine. Cloves and turmeric. Smoked bacon.

Finish: Thai 7 spice. Tarry. Smoke. Intense. Bitter red wine. Plums. Oily charring. Bitter cocoa. Water adds cloves. Mulled wine. Spiced orange skins. Lots of smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, this is intense. I have been spoiled with intense, aged smooth but peaty Laphroaigs recently of which this is the latest wonder.

This one has lost some of the medicinal Laphroaig character , but more than makes up for it by pushing a) A smokey peaty thing – very burnt greenery, burnt moss and general just smoke intensity. It shows a drier, more herbal smoke than is usual with Laphroaig – giving it a peppery and intense kick.

Against that is super spicy mulled wine and bitter red wine character that takes that pepper note and throws handfuls and handfuls of spice in after it. Holding these two heavy sides apart is a thin red line of sweet cherry and black-cherry which just about keeps everything in control.

Water brings out even more smoke, if that can be believed, smoked bacon notes come out as a rewarding extra to the main body in addition to subtle variance in the existing flavours.

Unlike the also awesome Laphroaig XOP 18 year I tried recently, this does not feel like a traditional Laphroaig in all things, just with extra boost from barrel ageing character. This feels like it keeps all the soot, smoke and peat from from Laphroaig – that is true – however the more medicinal elements seem to be lost under the spicy red wine like character. It is equally amazing, but different in how it expresses it. XOP is more traditional, this is more experimental. Both are great.

Another top notch, immense Laphroaig.

Background: Ok, wow, this was not one I expected to get to try. Independent Spirit had it on at a tasting I couldn’t make it to, and all the bottles sold out very rapidly. However they very kindly let me have a small sample to try and holy shit this is one that sounds awesome. Very many thanks! Distilled in 1998 this must be around 19 ish years old Laphroaig , aged in a single Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt and bottled at cask strength. I tried this after getting back from seeing Progress Wrestling in Manchester for one of the best shows I have ever seen from them, so was on a high already. Put on some IDLES to listen to as Jim Smallman from Progress got me into listening to them due to tweeting about them, so they were on my mind. Awesome band.

Mills: Picture Pot (England: Sour Ale: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Solid lemon juice. Inch of white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Tart apple. Crisp. Some bitter hops and fluffy character. Shredded wheat. Yeast funk. Sulphur. Brown bread.

Body: Apples. Gently fizzy. White wine and grapes. Chalky touch. Pears. Vanilla. Slight cream touch in middle. Dried apricot. Lychee. Pineapple.

Finish: Tart grapes. Slight chalk. Champagne. Lychee. Pears. Cider. Yeast funk. Apricot. Twigs.

Conclusion: Who would have thought that beers that taste kind of like cider would have enough entries for me to consider that a sub-genre now. Yep that is definitely a thing now and this is another cider tasting beer, albeit with a good chunk of lambic influence to it.

This is at the smoother end of the cider style in the taste – tart but very easy drinking – especially considering the touch higher than usual abv. It has a just slightly crisp and gently dry take on the style in its influence.

At its base there area lot of tart pear and apple notes – pretty obvious considering all the cider (and ok, yes pear should be perry) references I am making, but I thought I would just make it explicit. However on top of that the hops seem to carry a decent chunk of the work here.

Initially it only shows as a slightly bitter, fluffy hop aroma. However over time a dried apricot, fresh lychee and tart pineapple hop set of notes come out of the body. This gives a much more beery feel to a very cider influenced drink.

It’s easy to drink, mouth freshening and the mix between sour beer and fruity hops creates a welcome experience that never feels simple. In fact the moderately higher abv is actually quite dangerous considering how easy this is to drink.

Mixing lambic, cider and hops ain’t an easy task, but this does it very well. Well worth grabbing.

Background: Mills seem to very much about their sour beers, and have been pretty interesting so far. This one is a mix of three brews, dry hopped with whole leaf hops. Had fairly young so to experience the hop character influence more predominately. Only had a month or two, and decided to break it open as part of the recent cornucopia of sour beer and lambics picked up. This was one from Independent Spirit. I put on the Roadrunner United album to listen to while drinking -a lovely range of metal tracks from collaborations from many of Roadrunner’s finest.

Siris: Voreia Stout (Greece: Stout: 6% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Inch of creamy coffee coloured head with smaller bubbles in darker pools around the head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Walnuts. Lactose notes. Bitter coffee. Fresh brown bread. Slight greenery.

Body: Bitter cocoa. Light liquorice. Bitter chocolate cake. Light chalk touch. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Slight charring. Earthy bitterness. Light peppery character. Bitter chocolate cake.

Conclusion: This is leaning on the more bitter end of the stout style. Smooth in texture, even slightly light at times in mouthfeel, but just creamy enough to give a good grip to some kicking bitter flavours.

Initially I was not too sold on this. It seemed to work a simple one-two punch of bitter cocoa and bitter coffee. Now, admittedly those are two very good strings to have in your beer bow, but it is a pretty basic set – you need more to flesh it out.

Now, I am changing that opinion over time. The beer is still sticking to those two main strings, but is is layering a lot of character within those two poles of flavour. The flavours are all about the bitter – the chocolate however is really selling the depth of a good block of unsweetened chocolate, and similarly the coffee is selling the bitter layers of subtlety a cup can bring.

It still doesn’t rock the top end of the stout set, but as a bitter drink it does reward your time. All this is underlined by an earthy, slightly peppery, bitterness in the finish; It preserves the purely bitter stout gimmick but adds flavours that are different enough that it is a satisfactory end to a sip.

So a beer without a huge range, but what it does have it works well. Could do with a slightly thicker mouthfeel but works as a solid, bitter stout that brings subtlety from what would often be straightforward bitter notes.

Not bad.

Background: A quick copy and paste from the last time I did this – I was gifted a free month subscription to Beer 52 recently by a mate – Many thanks! – so here it is. They sent a Balkans themed case of beer, of which this was one. Only had a few beers from that area – mainly when I was visiting Belgrade, so was an interesting box to go with. Would I recommend them? Well beer selection seems nice, they include a guide to the beer with some cool articles, so not bad. Warning however – they are an utter fucking dick to cancel. Yes I cancelled after the free box. My cupboard is scary packed at the moment. First world problems. The issue with cancelling the subscription is you sign up online, pause subscription online, but if you try to cancel – after several attempts to make you stay – they inform you that you cannot cancel online via their site. You have to call them, and be put on hold for ages with a painfully scratchy line that genuinely hurt my ears. I was ready to tell them to fuck right off, but I noticed that in smaller text they mention you can cancel by e-mail. Which I did. The person handling that was great, so cool. Did a lot to restore them to my good graces, so may use them in the future for a short while if they have similar interesting region based boxes. Still a crappy set-up though – if you have to make unsubscribing a hassle, then your service isn’t good enough to stand on its own two legs. Rant over. Put on Worriers – Survival Pop while drinking. Had seen them as a warm up for Anti-Flag recently and had grabbed the CD then. Poppier than my normal stuff in sound but with great lyrical work.

3 Fonteinen: Framboos: Oogst 2017 (Belgium: Fruit lambic: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Deep black-cherry red. Still.

Nose: Fresh, tart raspberry. Sweet cherry notes. Sweet black cherry notes. Clean and fresh. Light wet twigs. Rounded red wine – Pinot Noir.

Body: Dry. Dry white wine notes. Tomatoes. Pinot noir. Tart raspberry. Light wet wood. Very clean. Tart cherries. Strawberry. Blackcurrant.

Finish: Tomatoes. Yellow raspberry. Fresh raspberries. Slight tannins. Dry white wine. Plums. Blackcurrant.

Conclusion: I had a bit of a worry on first sip of this. It has some of the tomato notes I had found hurt the 3 Fonteinen Hommage when I had it a while back. When I tried it back then I had thought that the set of notes were down to the sour cherry used in that beer, but I’m having to rethink that now. Anyway, when I encountered them again I was worried, was I going to have another bad experience with a very expensive beer?

Thankfully, no. Though that savoury tomato like element is there, the other flavours, including a mass of tart raspberry, play a much larger part. The bigger fruit character brings an almost pinot noir, heavy, fruity richness and booming character.

So, with that said, let’s take a step back and look at the beer as a whole. It is very clean feeling on the lambic side – tart and fresh but with no funk yeast character and low amounts of tannins – with only a little showing in the finish.

The body is tart, but with a heavier red wine weight, along with lighter and drier crisp white wine notes around the edges. It results in something that plays with sour and tart character, but without getting bracing or mouth puckering as a lot of the classier lambics can.

It shows a lot of the vinous and red fruit notes – now obviously there are raspberries, but also sweeter cherry and even some strawberry notes at times, going into richer plum notes in the finish. In the finish is also where the tomato notes tend to hang around. Not my favourite thing, but the more vinous notes makes everything a bit more balanced here.

Th extra fruit gives some some extra thickness over the dry lambic character – again giving more booming red wine character to the beer. Over time the tannin character does rise, especially in the finish, but now with a slight note to the body. The mouthfeel and flavour both getting more rounded and rewarding as time and heat do their thing.

So a very good beer, albeit with occasional tomato notes. Those few off notes means that I wouldn’t drop the money on it again for myself, but there is enough going on that I think that for people who don’t get the same imagery I get from that then it will definitely reward them even more.

Smooth and fruity up front, hearty, oaken and tannin touched red wine by the end. If only I didn’t get those tomato notes then this would be awesome.

Background: Been looking for this one for a while – it has a very good reputation and is bloody hard to find. So, it turned up in Independent Spirit and I grabbed it, despite it being quite hefty cost to buy. In case you are wondering Oogst 2017 basically means it is the 2017 vintage. Makes sense, right?

Had just finished watching series 2 off Castlevania on Netflix, so put on a compilation of different versions of “Bloody Tears” to listen to while drinking. Again, makes sense, right?

Westerham: Helles Belles (England: Helles: 4% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow to grain. Moderate white head. Moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Lightly creamy. Lime. Hop oils. Smooth. Light nutty character.

Body: Very soft, but lightly chalky. Vanilla. Tiny marshmallows. Soft honey. Palma violets. Dried apricot. Soft lychee.

Finish: Moderate bitter hop character. Light chalk. Vanilla. Dried apricot. Soft lychee. Honey.

Conclusion: I’m trying to work out how to describe the very soft feel of this beer’s texture without referring to kittens. Apparently mentioning kittens in tasting notes is mock-worthy and not allowed. Which is a pity, as when I hold this on my tongue it feels like soft fruit just falling apart on my tongue and – no word a lie, makes me think of fluffy kittens. No I don’t know why. My mind is a strange place. I already knew that.

Anyway … this has a very nice, soft texture – maybe like mini marshmallow bits in a dry lager? Does that work as a better description? I dunno. Anyway (again) it is underlined by a slight chalkiness that then goes into a crisp hoppy bitterness in the finish. A nice note that means the soft character doesn’t end up feeling like drinking wet air.

Flavour-wise is fairly simple – vanilla, slight honey, that noble hop style palma violet character. It has a crisp lager base that gets just slightly tart as time goes on, and gains a higher bitterness than is expected for a helles as the beer progresses adding a nice bite to things. A soft lychee flavour joins in as it goes, another light backing note but welcome. It is solid, if not super exciting, but it is satisfying to drink.

It comes in gentle as hell(es) up front, crisp and dry in the middle, into a hoppy end with just enough flavour in-between that it does the job. Ok at the start, with subtle extra flavours by the end – pretty decent all said.

Background: Ok, I grabbed this one for two reasons. 1) You don’t see many new Helles these days, so it is always nice to try non IPA/stout beers. 2) Helles Belles. Heh. It is a pun. Heh. Puns. I am a fully mature adult. Honest.

Not much else to say. Put on Andrew WK’s first album – “I Get Wet” while drinking. Great, silly party fun music. Back at university metal nights (in the dim and distant past) people hated Andrew WK as they felt it wasn’t proper metal. Don’t care, it is glorious fun.

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