Archive for May, 2021


Big Oyster: Hammerhead IPA (USA: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Clear, darkened yellow body. Large white mound of a head that leaves suds. A small amount of small bubbles for carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla fudge. Pine cones and needles. Slightly oily, resinous character and bitterness. Lime cordial. Cake sponge. Apricot. Flour. Grapes.

Body: Good bitterness. Oily hops. Prickly. Kiwi. Light charring and gunpowder tea. Tart grapefruit. Tart white grapes.

Finish: Greenery. Hop oils. Oily charring and good bitterness. Good hop punch. Light grapes and grapefruit. Flour. Kiwi.

Conclusion: While I have been on a right West Coast IPA kick recently, this is the first USA made one I have had for a while – so as the originators of the style, are they still the masters of it?

Well, first impressions are what you would expect. Clear on the eye, simple but effective on the nose.

The aroma opens up with sweet vanilla, though that definitely diminishes over time; In return more oily, pine cone hop character comes out backed by a light freshness.

The body delivers on that promise of the aroma. It is mainly straightforward hop bitterness, light charring and a slightly dry kick, but with resinous edges. The bitterness goes hard, into occasionally harsh with gunpowder tea like notes, but with just enough grapefruit release for it to work

There are sweeter notes, with apricot and kiwi, but fruit wise the tarter grape and grapefruit notes are doing the heavy lifting. Even that is never the main course of the beer, but they are evident enough to freshen it up and keep it from being too harsh.

As time passes the bitterness, greenery and hops rise to dominate the beer, and it is the main thrust at the end. Which admittedly is exactly what I wanted from a west coast.

Not unusual, or fancy, but as I say, damn this does exactly what I want from a west coast. Bitter, resinous and just enough release from the harshness.

I have missed this.

Background: It is getting hard to get American craft beer over here in the UK, outside of a couple of regulars that have become commonplace, so when I saw that there was a website called “Beer Bruvs” that was importing and selling some lesser seen craft beer from over there I thought I would give them a go, see how they do. Even if Beer Bruvs as a name is like nails on a blackboard for me. I will not judge them on that. Mostly. While I am not cult like in my need for freshness, I will be posting canned dates where relevant, as a new importer am am interested in what sort of turn around they have on beers, especially the hoppy ones. Now, these are cans which will help, and frankly with COVID, Brexit and the like hitting the entire infrastructure right now I am more than happy giving them leeway, but is is still useful info for you all to know when I am doing notes. This one is dated as 16/03/21 (Yes I changed to UK style dates), so pretty good – probably the freshest of the IPAs they sent. A few different IPAs were back from Sept last year, which isn’t the worst, but may put off people who want them super fresh. Anyway, I don’t know much about the brewery, but was excited to try a proper old USA made West Coast IPA (Even if the brewery is, I think, based on the east coast) – been a while and I adore the style. I went with Mclusky: Mcluskyism as backing music for this for some random energy.

Trappistes Rochefort: Tripel Extra (Belgium: Tripel: 8.1% ABV)


Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Evident sediment in the body and a moderate sized white tight bubbled head.

Nose: Slight lemon. Bready hop bitterness. Dry. White pepper.

Body: Sherbety mouthfeel initially. Dry attenuated character later. Naan bread. Lemon sherbet. Cheese puff crisps. White pepper. Slight mature cheddar. Lemon juice.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Moderate yeastie funk. Wotsits crisps. Slight mature Cheddar. White pepper. Dry lemon. Slight sulphur.

Conclusion: Now this is definitely an interesting one. A lot of Tripels go for the sweeter route, with either evident residual sugar, or a smoother malt sweet style.

This says “Fuck that noise”

This is dry, very well attenuated, with lots of flavours that would normally be expressed in a sweeter way instead being so dryly done that they come across almost savoury here.

Yet it also defies the smooth American take on the Abbey Tripel style – it has good levels of bitterness, which is very unexpected, a savoury yeast funk that calls to the rougher edges of some of the best Belgian takes. It has all the polished brewing skilled mixed with a touch of rough gem style you would expect of a Belgian Tripel, just drier.

This slightly different take allows it to play with more unusual flavours. The dry lemon matched with an unleavened bready bitterness for a refreshing yet savoury base – then with white pepper spiciness and subtle mature cheddar notes that give the complexity and challenge. There is a lot more savoury style than you would expect.

So how good is it? Well it may not win a place as a favourite, return to often beer for me, but it 100% got my attention, and with that I enjoyed it more than most other Tripels I have had recently.

It is a challenging one, and doesn’t declare itself as a must have for me as there are just some aspects that don’t quite click – but those are more personal things than signs of its quality, I still dig it, and would still recommend it in general.

A more bitter, more attenuated, more different Tripel. Brilliantly made, just not for everyone nor one for every time.

Still worth trying.

Background: I’ve had a few of these, before doing notes today. This is the first time it poured with the very evident sediment mentioned in the notes. As a huge fan of Rochefort, hearing that they were turning out this – a rare new beer release from them, was very interesting so this was a must grab. So grab it I did, from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Went with Stay Alive by Laura Jane Grace as music while drinking. I’m a big fan of Against Me! So was interested in this solo album. In other thoughts, was nice to have an excuse to break out the Trappist beer glasses again

Elusive Brewing: Oregon Trail – West Coast IPA (England: IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly less than clear, yellowed body. Medium carbonation and a medium sized centimetre of a white foam head.

Nose: Vanilla yogurt. Flour. Popcorn feeling bitterness and hops. Slight lemon sherbet. Generally quite clean. Bready as it warms.

Body: Good bitterness. Bready, doughy character. Peppery. Brown bread. Subtle grapefruit. Lemon sherbet. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Dry. Peppery. Harsh bitterness. Resinous. Sour dough. Dry lemon cakes. Vanilla fudge.

Conclusion: So, since it seems that the classic West Coast IPA is getting a bit of a resurgence, it is only right and proper that, after I have been calling for more of them, I at least drink some of them as well. So I did, and this is one of them. Naturally.

Initially this is very bready, and surprisingly sturdy with that, along with a slightly sulphurous dough like character – however with that said, this still brings the bitterness well, along with a peppery character, giving a recognisable west coast style hop character.

As it warms it becomes slightly drier, which makes it much more evidently West Coast, but it still has more of a bready weight than I would otherwise expect. I am used to a more clean and dry west coast, but this still utterly rocks the bitterness and the resinous character, so gets a lot of the basics right.

The citrus hop character promised is less evident. There is a gentle background of grapefruit notes and a slight sherbet lemon. Nice, but very restrained. It feels like a bit bigger citrus pop over the generally good base would really make this shine. While a bit over weighty in general, this has the attenuated bitterness set, and if a more fresh punch was there as a contrast the two would really set each other off well.

So, a nice bitter kick, not fancy, but it is an IPA that remembers to be resinous, bitter and hop forwards and I will never not respect that!

Background: I have been on a heck of a West Coast IPA kick recently, it is just me being rubbish at actually doing notes recently that explains why this blog hasn’t been awash with them. Thankfully, after a bit of time away during the height of the NEIPA craze, the West Coasters have started showing up again, giving me a lot to pick from. West Coast IPAs tend to be be drier, and more concentrating on bitter hops that their sweeter and more full malt bodied East Coast cousins. Which is fine by me. Elusive are a brewery I have only hit a few times before, generally good if nothing standing out as a must have so far. This was grabbed from the ever reliable Independent Spirit. Shocking I know. Music wise I went with a mix of Prodigy tunes while drinking, mainly from Experience and Music For a Jilted Generation. Classic tunes.

Ardnamurchan: Release 2: AD/01.21.01 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Years: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Light pale gold with quite fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry soaked raisins. Vanilla. Lime cordial air. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust. Water makes sooty and adds crumpets notes.

Body: Honey. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust and charred wood. Raisins to fruitcake. Dry sherry. Vanilla fudge. Water adds Madeira. Pink lemonade and menthol.

Finish: Charring. Burnt meat ends. Dust. Fatty butter. Slightly dry. Sultanas. Water makes more fruity to fruitcake. Light crushed peanuts. More soot. Pink lemonade.

Conclusion: Well, a bit of time to air has really opened this one up. As you can see I’m in the second half of the bottle as I’ve had it a while, and generally I find that a few weeks to let a whisky air can often really help. As mentioned in the background, I’ve been a bit rubbish at this recently.

But! This is not about me, this is about whisky. So, how is it?

When I first tried this the thing I noticed most was that it was kind of fatty butter thick and slightly harsh in its soot character against the vanilla background. It was ok, interesting – especially in the texture, but generally not one I would recommend.

As mentioned, time has really opened it up. From far more raisins coming out in the aroma, to a more balanced level of fatty character in the body, to Madeira notes coming out. This now has a lot more dark fruit balancing out the dry, sooty smoke character that initially made the whisky quite harsh.

The fatty character is still there, especially later on in the body and into the finish. It gives a lot of weight and grip which is good, but the flavour of it is not quite for me. The flavour becomes a lot more evident with water, so bear that in mind if you are of similar mind.

Even odder, but more favourable to me, is that the water adds a kind of lemon and raspberry sweet note that I can best describe as pink lemonade like. Which I think is a new for me in tasting notes. Probably. I have done a LOT of notes by now. Anyway, you end up with smoke and soot, over a fatty thickness, into sweet raisins and citrus sweet pink lemonade over dry sherry. It is a weird mash up.

I think I prefer it neat though. The fatty character is more balanced, the sherry influence pleasant and still a solid vanilla character against the soot. With water is admittedly far more interesting, but also far less balanced.

A good chewy whisky, not a must have at this point as it is either solid or super interesting but never manages to marry the two. It is still a very good start for this distillery.

Background: So, I had nearly completed my attempt to try whisky from every active malt whisky distillery in Scotland (and a fair chunk of silent ones). Anyway, a whole bunch of new ones have opened up and a reasonable amount of them are actually putting bottled whisky out now. My task is never done. This is one of them, Ardnamurchan’s second release which I managed to snag from Independent Spirit before their stock vanished. As you can probably tell from the bottle I have had this a while. My taste note taking skills are dropping with ever month of this darn virus outbreak, but I am trying to keep lethargy from setting in. In good news, had my first shot now, half way to full vaccination! There is no age statement on the bottle, but a bit of googling gave the five years listed here. Similarly it told me this is aged in 65% bourbon wood and 35% a mix of PX and Oloroso sherry casks, which is nice information to know. Went with the ever haunting David Bowie: Black Star as background music when drinking.

Beavertown: Lazer Crush Alcohol Free IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Lightly hazy, pale and clear lemon juice colour. A very thin white head.

Nose: Flour. Light lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Kiwi touch. Dried banana.

Body: Iced tea. Lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Light prickly hop character. Vanilla. Dried banana.

Finish: Squeezed lime. Flour. Some wheaty bitterness. Dried banana. Moderate hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, this concentrates heavily on the fruit juice side of things it seems. It is basically a big burst of lemon juice and lime as a base, with some banana and kiwi notes at the side.

So, as you may have guessed, the first impressions are not overly beer like. This is heavily because of that fruit juice character, but is also backed by that common low alcohol beer character of an iced tea kind of feel to the whole thing. The only really beer like counterpoint is a vanilla touch to the base that hints at a malt character, and a wheaty hop bitterness that can prickle away. Nothing too heavy, but that moderate prickle does say “beer”, and does grow heavier in the finish.

So, in general not very beer like, it reminds me of a low bitterness New England IPA, but minus the more hazy look, and with all those noticeable low alcohol characteristics. So, with that established, is it any good?

It is, eh, not bad. The fruitiness is well expressed but the base lemon and lime is a bit generic. Though I will say the odder side notes do bring some interest out.

Overall it is a light bit of fluff, with a dash of beer style, but generally just a fluffy citrus burst. So, not really beery, not terrible, but just doesn’t really grab me as being more satisfying that just having a juice drink. It feels just like a hopped juice drink and not really special as that.

So, kind of average, does the job, but average.

Background: Saw that Sainsbury’s had another batch of new low alcohol beers when I was in there so decided to give a few a try. Beavertown tend to be pretty decent and are much easier to get hold of these days so grabbed this one for a quick go. Not much else to add, no music as backing this time, was doing notes as I chatted with friends. Hope you are all holding up ok in these still odd times.

Pilot: Barrel Aged Double Mochaccino Stout (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.3% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still and opaque. Brown rim of bubbles around the glass and a grey dash over the centre.

Nose: Full bitter coffee to coffee cake with walnuts. Vanilla. Rye whisky undertones. Peppery. Carrot cake. Some low level rum notes. Whisky air.

Body: Smooth. Cherries. Palma violets. Black cherries. Milky chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Very light liquorice. Rum. Fruity whisky notes. Orange jelly sweets. Peppery. Coffee cake.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Coffee cake. Light liquorice. Apple clean spirity notes. Cocoa. Seville orange. Pear drops.

Conclusion: You know, if they haven’t had stated that this was Speyside whisky barrel aged I would have sworn that it had spent some time in rum wood as it has some light rum spiciness in under there.

Anyway, there is a noticeable alcohol character to this, which is to be expected given the high abv and barrel ageing, but despite that it isn’t a “boozy” feeling drink. Instead it is very smooth, and dangerously easy to drink from that. In a way it is a good thing that it is in a tiny 250 ml bottle at this abv or a could quaff a lot of it, with bad results for my health.

It starts off very cake driven, with coffee cake, carrot cake, a whole cake kind of thing going on giving a very thick and often coffee led aroma. Which is part of what makes that smoothness of body such a surprise.

The body therefore starts smooth and sweet with a lot of cherries and black cherries giving a very fruity front. It is easy drinking and delicious here. As time goes on the rum like spiciness and more rye like spicy character rises to make it a slightly more savoury and complex beast that the fruity burst at the front.

The whisky ageing shows itself more late on as a subtly fruity whisky character that floats in the background. It is a clean, slightly spirity and fruity sheen that clings to everything but never dominates.

So this is a beer with a great start, lovely progress and is smooth as silk but with so much progression.

I would say, if you see it, grab it, but I don’t want more competition for getting hold of the remaining bottles!

Background: I’ve had this a few times and kept meaning to do notes, so finally I have. In a tiny 25 cl bottle, this is taken from four speyside whisky casks that were filed with Double Mochaccino Stout. So pretty much exactly what it says in the name. Grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with IDLES: Brutalism again as drinking music. Still listening to them a lot, and looking forwards to when I finally get to see them live again.

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