Archive for February, 2019


Wychwood: Harper’s: Medusa (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark chestnut brown to red clear body. Good sized beige to caramel tight bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Roasted nuts.

Body: Cherry. Earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Slightly creamy. Shortbread. Slight gummed brown envelopes. Lightly sour and tart undertones.

Finish: Creamy. Earthy bitterness. Light menthol. Bitter cocoa. Pepper. Brown gummed envelopes. Dry. Tart apple. Very watered down vinegar tart touch. Soft cherries and cream,

Conclusion: This is… this, this is actually really good. I have to admit that, with it being an Auldi own brand beer kind of thing, I was expecting something fairly middle of the road. Not expecting something bad, just something average. Yes I fell into the beer snob trap, because I am really enjoying this.

Its got a solid malt chocolate base that edges into richer or more bitter cocoa notes at times, alongside that slightly sour and refreshing note that you get in a good, drinkable bitter. Similarly it calls to a bitter in that earthy hop character that comes in the traditional British take on the style. By itself that would result in a generic but satisfying beer, but this goes a step further. Cherry and cream notes make for sweeter high end notes and helping the drinkability is a lightly tart apple undertone.

It is very easy to drink, yet has this soft chocolate middle that seems out from the earthy bitterness and makes it feel soothing, welcoming and very rewarding. So, this is really a very good anytime drinking beer that mixes traditional British bitter notes with sweeter malt ESB character to make a bloody good beer.

Remind me to double check my beer snob assumptions every now and then, so I don’t make mistakes like this again. Well worth a try.

Background: First of all, this is listed as being made by “Harper’s” which is Auldi’s home brand beer. Looking online, that is just a cover name for whoever contract brewed it for them, in this case Wychwood, who are owned by Marston’s. Oh this just gets confusing. Anyway, this was part of a bunch of beers given to me by a colleague at work. Many thanks! The rest I just drank, but I decided to put this one aside to do notes on. Worth noting the Harper’s Wild Bill IPA was solid as well. Put on some Brassick (self titled album and their EP) to listen to while drinking. I’m always glad to see new punk bands still bubbling up after all these years. Solid stuff as well.

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De Molen: Hair Of The Dog: Binkie Claws: Almond Bourbon Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 11.2% ABV)

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

Nose: Bakewell slices. Cherry liqueur. Marzipan and almonds. Raisins and Christmas cake. Cherry bakewell pies. Fig rolls. Vanilla and caramel.

Body: Plums. Creamy and smooth. Vanilla. Peppermint cream. Marzipan. Fig rolls. Almonds.

Finish: Almond liqueur. Toffee Liqueur. Liquorice touch. Blueberry. Charring. Mild coffee. Almonds. Raisins.

Conclusion: This is such a smooth beer, creamy, using the high abv but not beholden to it-and the aroma, oh my! Like many a barrel aged big beer, the aroma that leads into this is just so rich, complex and amazing. It is like mashed up desserts, almond liqueur and dark fruit.

Also, this seems significantly different to the also soooooo good Woodford reserve barrel aged version. While they share the same base notes, the cherry notes here come through even more dessert like and the almond character seems to add both savoury low notes and marzipan like high notes. Oh also, for people confused, yes this is a different beer – I’m not just doing notes on the same one twice (this time…) because I enjoy it that much. Darn similar looking labels.

Anyway, the aroma opens up like cherry bakewells meets marzipan meets a dark fruit barley wine. It is immense. The body behind that is more subtle – still using the dark fruit notes but with a bitter almond character behind it, which then leads into a charred but still dark fruit and savoury almond filled finish.

For the first half of the beer it is freaking amazing – mixing bourbon sweetness, dark fruit backing and sweet marzipan notes – it shows all the barrel ageing and still the smoothed out barley wine comes out to match it.

Over time the almond becomes more prevalent, pushing out that awesome balance between the styles. It is still bloody good – a very marzipan heavy barley wine – but for the first third of the beer this was on the knife edge of perfection for use of barrel ageing.

So, about a third of a beer of nigh perfection, two thirds strongly almond influenced barley wine that is still good. Not perfect, does not have quite as many notes as the aroma promises, still grab it.

Background: Ok, so I adored the Woodford Reserve aged version of this beer. I adore Hair of The Dog beers. This is a collaboration between them and De Molen, this time aged in Almond liqueur bourbon barrels. Seriously I was going to buy this. In fact I also have a second bottle ageing to see what happens to it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I was fairly certain I ws going to like this, so put on some IDLES while drinking. Freaking love IDLES new album – so intense yet so emotionally open. So good.

O/O: 50/50 Enigma- Nelson Sauvin (Sweden: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot. Large mounded yellowed head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheat. Apricot. Lightly tart. Grapefruit. Melon. Light hop bitterness. Flour.

Body: Lightly creamy meets oily feel. Hop oils. Bitterness. Soft peach. Light custard. Moderate thickness to the mouthfeel. Grapefruit. Light tart grapes. Flour.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Good hop oils. Light resin. Grapefruit. Palma violets. Soft peach. Gherkin. Malt toffee.

Conclusion: This is a much more balanced beer than I expected. With it being 50% Nelson Sauvin hopped I was expecting a level of tart grapefruit hop punch that would rock the house down.

Maybe I was underestimating the Enigma hop.

Anyway, instead, as much as this does use, and indeed rock, those grapefruit Nelson Sauvin notes, this is a much more complex and with it rewarding IPA than if it just threw the tart fruit notes at you alone. It has a cloudy look and a slightly creamy thick feel that calls to New England IPAs, but much to my delight flavour-wise it leans heavily into the hop character giving thick, hop oil led, slightly resinous, and solidly if net excessively used bitterness. My kind of IPA. The base shouts out the IPA character in just a mildly … *sigh * I’ll say it.. dank style.

There is solid sweet fruitiness as well, expressed as peach and apricot, which, when paired with hints of the malt influence showing custard sweetness, manages to balance the flavour out nicely. So, they have managed to balance the hops pretty much 50/50 as they promised, and make them the lead for the beer. The malt flavours are gentle backing vanilla toffee and such, but its main effect is to give enough mouthfeel – and in that it more than does its job.

A beer that gives a very solid showing to both hops, uses malt well, and generally manages to use hop character, resin and hop oils well without them being overwhelming, which makes it all a very solid IPA indeed.

Background: O/O … I have no idea about that name. A quick google shows nothing. So, erm, anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit. Looked nice – simple but striking colour scheme, I love Nelson Sauvin as a hop and Enigma is pretty solid, Sweden has a darn good craft beer scene, so,yeah, seemed a solid choice to pick. Not much else to add, put on varied Gogol Bordello tracks while drinking for some high energy tracks to add to the mood.

Lagavulin: Feis Ile 2018: 18 Year ( Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 53.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Peat. Soft champagne. White grapes. Beef broth. Cherry pocked digestives. Dry black liquorice smoke. Burnt rubber. Salt touch. Menthol liqueur. Sulphur. Water adds very light aniseed. Slightly more evident alcohol. Dry white grapes.

Body: Smooth. Dry. White wine. Light white chocolate. Oaken. Water adds cake sponge. Smoke. Soft lime. Dried beef and beef crisp dusting. More white chocolate. Toffee. Soft cherry.

Finish: Dry oak. Smoke. Alcohol air. Dried beef. Champagne. White grapes. Water adds pepper. Vanilla. Thai seven spice. Malt toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Beef crisp dust. White chocolate. More water adds vanilla and soft apricot.

Conclusion: Ok, let us start with how this is different to my usual Lagavulin expectation, via what those expectations are. So, my expectations for Lagavulin are that it will be big, meaty, peaty, weighty and complex.

This is drier, but does not feel lighter with that. Instead it emphasises what taste more like white wine, clean notes. Instead of heavy peat it feels more the dry smoke side of things, similarly dried meat instead of chewy slabs. There is room for subtle fruit notes to come out. It is still Lagavulin but restrained in how it punches out the notes. Still Islay, still big, but the heavier Islay meaty, medicinal, peat and salt notes feel calmed compared to the younger 16 year. It is a take that took me a short while to get used to.

Without water it suffers from being too much on the dry side, which alongside the ..ok, not lighter …brighter? Cleaner? Any which way, the different flavours seem to suffer in the higher alcohol environment. Ok, but overly oaken and the dryness makes it seem harsh.

So, yes, water play is definitely needed for this one. With water the smoke is still less peaty, and the beef still is dry, but the white wine notes rise to become slightly yeasty Belgian beer influenced and fuller champagne notes. The other elements have more room to roam and softer, with subtle red fruit coming out around the edges.

Grapes and soft fruit, across light salt hints now match the dry, smoke, dried meet and champagne. Still Lagavulin but a fascinating different take. Fascinating thought it is, I will have to admit. Lagavulin 16 and Distillers Edition are both better and cheaper. Then again those two whiskies are masterclasses in how to do a good Islay. This feels like an interesting alternate universe take. So, get the 16 and Distillers Edition first, if they are to your taste, and you have money to spare, this is an interesting one.

I love seeing what can be done with the spirit in this one, but it just makes it different, definitely not better. That is not to say this is bad – I have yet to encounter a bad whisky from this distillery – but it is not up with their usual amazing high quality. Still a fun one to dissect.

Background: I fought with myself so much over if I should get this. I genuinely love Lagavulin. Probably my favourite distillery, and one that has a relevantly restrained number of releases. Thus, a nice 18 year old release, especial a limited release that I would normally have to travel to the Feis Ile Islay festival to get, caught my eye. On the other hand it was just a tad expensive for an 18 year of whisky, mainly due to people having to head to Islay for that festival to grab it. As you can tell I eventually weakened and bought it. Otherwise this set of tasting notes would be admission of stealing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit ,this has been aged in Refill American oak hogsheads, Rejuvenated American Oak hogsheads and Bodega European Oak butts. This is bottle 4199 of 6000 bottles. I put on Akala – Knowledge Is Power 2 while drinking. I freaking love Akala, such a wordsmith and cutting in his political critique in his raps.

Het Uiltje: Wingman (Netherlands: Witbier: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark lemon juice. Thin white head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Fresh watermelon. Paprika dusting. Fresh dough. Fresh strawberry. Thick and just slightly oily. Flour.

Body: Light front. Very light strawberry. Doughnuts. Watermelon. Light pepper. Wheaty. Bready bitterness. Lemon juice. Vanilla.

Finish: Watermelon. Clean. Slight hop oil sheen. Soft lemon sponge. Slightly bready. Slight pepper. Lemon juice.

Conclusion: This is a very easy going beer for 6%. There is a viscous middle to it that does say “beware – alcohol involved” but generally it feels easy going in a session style. So,ya know, be warned.

The flavours come in with soft vanilla, lemon juice and yes, a distinct watermelon character. Though I will admit that , since I know it is made with watermelon, I may be slightly influenced on that last one. While it is pitched as a Wit, this feels closer in flavour to a gentle Hefewiezen for me, though the mouthfeel is closer to the Belgian wit. There is a light pepper character to it, but not as much spice as I would usually associate with a wit. I think that they are deliberately leaving room for the lighter, fresher watermelon flavours to roam.

Without that extra character it feels a tad simple – enjoyable, but simple and as that it doesn’t seem to grab me. The watermelon is a nice touch, but it feels like the rest of the beer had to be moved back to make room for enough.

Nice enough lemon and watermelon tasting wit, but not a must have.

Background: Uiltje! The happy Netherlands owl beers! Always fun, with silly cartoon style antics on the cans and bottles, which is whimsically charming. Tend to be a tad experimental, like in this case, a wit beer, a style I really want to drink more of, but with added watermelon, odd but enough to make me grab a can and see how it goes. Another one found at Independent Spirit. Music choice was .. odd .. for this one. I had recently had a debate with a mate. I held that, despite liking them as a kid, that Limp Bizkit are unmitigated shit. He held that they actually were not that bad. So I put on some Limp Bizkit while drinking to refresh my memory. It is shit. Like, really shit. Songs where they use other peoples music like Faith and the Mission Impossible one are passable. Everything else. Shit. That may have affected my tasting notes. I mean really shit, like tortured orangutan farting into a mic about how hard it is being rich, level bad. Young me had terrible taste. Seriously bad. The Tesco value lager of music.

Brora: Silent Stills: 18 Year (Scotland Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 52.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Very slow puckering forms into thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed rocks. Mild smoke and soot. Planed red wood. Lime hints. Barley. Water adds more rocks and grit. Soft apricot. More water keeps roughly the same.

Body: Light front. Lemon and vanilla. Subtle smoke. Slight salted rocks. Alcohol warms over time. Lemon cakes and lemon curd. Brown sugar. Honey. Water adds more honey. Apricot. More noticeable alcohol. Thick American pancakes. More water. Buttered crumpets. Raisins and plums.

Finish: Honey. Crushed rocks. Soot. Lime touch. Maple syrup touch. Brown sugar. Lemon cakes. Vanilla. Water adds American pancakes and malt chocolate. More water – crumpets. Raisins. Red wine.

Conclusion: Very different first impression on this to anything I expected. Gentle, definitely not showing the cask strength level alcohol, but with crushed rocks and smoke. The aroma especially seemed full of those wood and rock notes that made me a tad worried this would be a rough tasting experience. However first sip was very smooth, with light sweet notes and that rocky character a backing solid character as it should be.

Now I know Brora is generally peated, so was expecting a heavier influence from that than what I found here. Instead I get just a smoke wisp, present but gentle wafting though the sweeter main character of lemon cakes and vanilla. It very much shows the sweet Highland home here with honey and brown sugar weight to the spirit. It is well aged though, even neat the 50% abv is smoother than it has any right to be, only becoming noticeable if held on the tongue for a while. In fact it is so well balanced in alcohol weight that I was hesitant to add water to it for a while lest I ruin it.

I was then unsure again just after adding the water. The aroma became even grittier, and the body had a bit more alcohol evident. However with that it did open up to bring brighter fruit notes and an American style pancake feel. So, after a moment of examination I decided, maybe it had just started its journey of change? Maybe a touch more water was needed?

More water did settle the alcohol down again, and have a thick, bready, crumpet and thick pancake kind of feel, all backed by that understated smoke. Here I can wholeheartedly say that it is very good. Highland weight and sweetness, subtle smoke, slight citrus notes and so incredibly smooth for the abv. That is some aged cask strength spirit used well. No fancy unusual barrel ageing used here – it just lets the spirit itself show itself at the best with the oak adding everything it needs.

In fact, here in its final moments I find more sherry barrel like ageing notes coming out – dark fruit and red wine adding yet another layer to this. It really made wish I had a bit more of this so I could explore where it was going – hints of much more dark fruit to come. Unfortunately I cannot afford more, even if I could find it.

So, on that, is it worth the high very cost? Probably not. Probably nothing is worth the cost that super rare whisky like Brora goes for now. However it is very good indeed. Wonderful in fact. If this went for the kind of cost a premium 18 year old whisky would go for from a living distillery, even the high end of that, I would recommend it without hesitation. One of the best Highland whiskies I have had – so smooth, so complex and the smoke wisp just adds that extra touch.

Downsides? The aroma really does not show it at its best. Everything else is so very good. Just, ya know, damn, that steep cost.

Background: Two thousand tasting notes! WOO! I made it with my liver vaguely intact! I had been keeping this one back for a while, knowing that full bottles of Brora – a distillery that has been dead since 1983 – go for insane amounts of money – part rarity, part the 30 year plus age any new releases are now. So, when I found a miniature at The Whisky Exchange at 18 years, and so vaguely within my price range, I grabbed it and held on for the right moment. This seemed just right for a big two thousand celebration. Previously called Clynelish, the distillery was renamed to Brora when the newly referred to Clynelish distillery came online in 1968. As far as I am aware it is a lightly peated whisky. It is worth noting there is talk of reopening Brora – I don’t know how much of the original stills are still intact so have no idea if the new spirit will be similar, or just cashing in on the name. This mini is bottle 33 of 294, and was distilled n 1983 and bottled in 2001 so I consider it very lucky that it was still around to be grabbed. Wanted some beautiful music to go with the big 2K tasting note so went with the Ulver: Shadow Of The Sun album. Still a haunting masterpiece.

Northern Monk: Evil Twin: Even More Death (England: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive brown creamy head.

Nose: Coconut macaroons. Milky chocolate. Chocolate toffee. Smooth. Creamy.

Body: Creamy. Coconut. Chocolate ice cream. Brown bread. Cocoa dust. Chocolate cake. Slight sour dough.

Finish: Chocolate ice cream. Coconut. Bitter cocoa and chocolate cake. Moderate bitterness.

Conclusion: Flavour wise this is fairly straightforward, smooth and very dessert and especially chocolate influenced. There you go – the short version.

Basically, 90% of this is chocolate bing expressed in various different ways. 5% of it is coconut, wonderful, lovely coconut. I love coconut in beer in case you hadn’t noticed. The other 5% is a nice set of general rounding notes.

The solid core of that is chocolate cake, quite basically done – dusted with cocoa but without any icing or cream, mainly just the sponge. Oddly, despite this dryness there are creamy notes to the beer, though mainly in the aroma and the early part of a sip. Those creamy notes soon move out of the way for heavier, drier chocolate sponge notes though. Around the edges there are sweeter chocolate ice cream notes – though I may be slightly influenced in how I view it as it is bloody nippy at the moment, so ice and the like may be on my brain.

The coconut matches that drier character -sweeter coconut macaroons up front, but then into drier coconut flakes in the middle. For such a high abv beer it does seem very restrained in how it uses its sweetness; The bitter cocoa has much more free rein, using the softer, sweeter notes mainly to keep it from becoming too harsh.

It is good, but there isn’t a huge amount of variety to it – what is interesting and fun in the first sip seems slightly staid by the time you get the same notes at the end. A solid tasty beer, but Even More Jesus does it better. Though frankly, Even More Jesus is amazing so that is comparatively mild criticism.

Background: Even more Jesus is one of my favourite Imperial Stouts of all time. Northern Monk have been skyrocketing up my respected brewery list , and their collaborations have been awesome. This, a collaboration, involving Northern Monk to make a mix of their Death imperial stout, and Even More Jesus. Well, there is no way I could not try it, is there? So, it is a 12% abv Imperial Stout made with coca nibs, toasted coconut and vanilla pods. Drank this during an utter flurry of snow outside, so was happy to be sitting in with something heavy, dark and boozy. Music wise and went simple and back to my youth with a mix of Madness tunes again for some simple upbeat fun with a few heavier themed tunes in-between.

Yeastie Boys: Cigar City: Brewing With Wayne (New Zealand: Lichtenhainer : 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice to apricot. Large white to off white head.

Nose: Bready. Sulphur. Slightly sour. Dried lemon. Peppercorn.

Body:Lemon. Smoked meat touch. Tart grapes. Wheaty. Salt touch. Juniper.

Finish: Salted lemon. Barbecue ribs touch. Lemongrass. Lemon juice. Salt. Slight sage. Juniper.

Conclusion: This is a pretty thick, sticky, weighty mouthfeel of a beer. Which is completely not what I expected from the moderate abv, less so did I expect that, despite the sticky weight, it is actually easy to drink. Oh what a world we live in that has such things in it.

What makes it work is that it is tart – with lemon notes,slightly salted, something that should, by themselves, make an easy going summer refresher; here they are matched with a smoke character that is akin to scraping a thin layer of the top of a rack of barbecued spare ribs and dropping it straight into the mix. Flavour wise it is a light note, but it makes the whole beer feel more mouth clinging, before expanding into subtle peppercorn and sage notes that make me think of a good steak dish.

So, lightly tart and sour, smoked gently with savoury herb notes. Quite the mix. If kind of feels like the less sour goses that I tried in Goslar – the wheat beer character is more evident than most of the sour wheat beers, and it seems to have extra ingredient flavours packed into every place they could, with juniper notes coming out later on.

It has a strange weight, but the tart flavours let it slip down easily. Sticky, yet never outstays its welcome. Not exactly a session beer – just a tad too high abv for that. It feels like a gose meets smoke meets herbs meets an attempt at a session … thing with wheat beer influence meets the reflection on the concept of Plato’s cave. Ok, I lied about that last one. Just making sure you are still paying attention.

A nice easy drinking, big flavour unusual beer.

Background: This caught my eye as it is a darn unusual one – a lichtenhainer – a style I have not tried before. Looking online it seems it is a traditional German style, similar to the gose, but made with some use of smoked malt. So, a sour, smoked wheat ale. Of course! This one seems unusual even for one that falls in this style – it is made with lemongrass,BBQ charred lemons and juniper, along with several different types of smoked malt. Oddly for a collaboration between a USA and an NZ brewery, it looks like it was actually brewed in England. Again, of course! This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and,feeling a bit old school, I put a variety of Madness tunes to listen to. One of the first bands I ever got into in my youth and I still have a soft spot for them.

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