Archive for July, 2021


Chimay: Blue (Belgium: Belgium Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown. Slightly creamy inch of browned head that leaves lace.

Nose: Walnuts. Brown sugar. Crushed coffee granules. Yeastie touch. Puff crisps. Slightly creamy at times, slightly dry at others. Cinnamon touch. Orange skin.

Body: Bitter chocolate to malt chocolate. Bitter, just slightly milky coffee. Yeastie feel. Walnuts. Peppery. Quite savoury. Cashews. Slight mature cheese. Brown sugar. Lightly bitter.

Finish: Cashew nuts. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Lightly bitter. Slight mature cheese. Generally nutty. Peppery. Mild Palma Violets.

Conclusion: This is both smother than I remember, yet also showing the nicer rough edges of the style that come out of my favourite Belgian Trappist beers. It really eschews the sweeter side of the trappist beers, it is not heavily bitter, but much more savoury – nutty, often in a cashew style way.

There is a chocolate character, but it is in a more malt chocolate drink kind of way, which again leans away from the sweetness, this mixes with a milky, lightly bitter coffee style to really emphasise the point. The beer is smooth in feel, slightly funky but not heavily so, slightly peppery, and it has all the rougher Belgian beer edges coming from the flavours rather than any harsh alcohol or imperfections in the brewing.

Any sweetness used is subtle, even the brown sugar notes feel restrained, behind a more prevalent savoury, nutty character. Savoury really does seem to be the word of the say here – from the nuttiness, to the unflavoured puffy crisps, to a very mild amount of mature cheese, it feels restrained in style, but powerful in the weight of character. It underlines this with moderate but well managed peppery character and bitterness.

There is a lovely feel backing this, a gentle yeastie funkiness giving a bit more character to the mouthfeel and a lot to feel, taste and examine.

This was my first Trappist and still great. I have had better since, but I am never going to shun this one. It is high quality, restrained in showiness, but big in flavour. Delicious.

Background: As mentioned in the main notes this was the first Trappist beer I ever tried, found it in York while drinking with a mate. I had been getting into German Weisse beers, and was intrigued to find something different and new to me from Belgium.They had red, white and blue, and with me being young, I went with this, because this was the one with the highest abv. Hey I never claimed young me was smart. Or current me. There are more Trappist breweries around than there were back in those days, when there were only seven recognised Trappist breweries (or maybe six at the time, it may have been during the time when Le Trappe were temporarily not recognised). I once had nearly tried all the Trappist beers that existed. Nowhere near any more. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Laura Jane Grace’s Stay Alive.

Neptune: Lost and Grounded: Lost at Sea (England: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Darkened, slightly cloudy caramel brown. Massive loose bubbled caramel touched head.

Nose: Malt toffee and chocolate. Chocolate lime sweets. Lightly bready. Cake sponge.

Body: Good bitterness. Tart grapefruit touch. Dry pineapple. Charred bitter notes. Greenery. Ovaltine. Dry chocolate orange. Sulphurous and sour dough.

Finish: Grapefruit. Charred bitterness. Pine needles. Vanilla. Malt chocolate to ovaltine. Gunpowder tea. Orange juice hints. Chocolate orange. High hop bitterness.

Conclusion: Ok, this is, at the very least, slightly atypical for a a West Coast style IPA, but in a way I appreciate. Most west style IPAs I encounter are light and bright on the eye, with the malt out of the way, concentrating on a dry body and bitter hop character.

Now this is fairly dry and bitter hop forwards (Which makes me very happy) , but the malt, while not sweet or fully east coat, does show darker ovaltine to malt chocolate and toffee notes. Still dry, but more present that expected. What makes this work is that it seems to give a lot more grip for the tarter hop flavours to work from. On the lighter end you get clean grapefruit and orange, at the low end it mixed with the malt to give slightly sweeter but still dry choc orange and choc lime notes.

It is kind of a drier take on an East Coast malt in feel, if that makes sense, but apart from that has a distinct West Coast attitude, and has a lot of room for hop expression in bitterness, feel and flavours. You may notice I kind of skipped over the aroma here, it isn’t bad, just not showing that much compared to the rest of the beer. A hint of what may be in there, but definitely doesn’t properly represent the weight of flavour you get in the rest of the beer.

I have the feeling I won’t always be up for this particular take on the style, sometimes I will just want a clean West Coast IPA, but it is still a delicious take and I approve – and right now it works fine for me.

Not traditional, not one to always go to, but definitely a great beer that is at least ¾ of its claimed West Coast influence in its final style.

Very nice.

Background: Neptune is a new brewery on me, but Lost and Grounded is a familiar friend over at Bristol. This was one of many West Coast IPAs that came in to Independent Spirit recently. As a west coast fan I was overjoyed. So overjoyed I tried most without remembering to do notes on them. I remembered to do notes on this one. Yay! This lists Citra, Simcoe, Bravo and Columbus as the hops used. I don’t know much about Bravo but the rest are very good go tos for a nicely bitter IPA so I was hopeful. Went back to Garbage: Not Your Kind Of People for backing music, I only picked it up recently but it is already firmly a big hit with me.

Murray McDavid: Safe Haven 2014 – Mystery Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale darkened gold spirit. Generally slow puckering comes from the spirit with some slow, thick streaks coming out as well.

Nose: Beefy peat. Alcohol tingle. Wet moss. Thick. Christmas pudding and sherry cream. Salt. Heavy. Dry smoke. Brandy cream. Dried beef slices. Water adds grass, and sulphur. More water brings out raisins.

Body: Warming and thick. Treacle. Brown bread. Peppery. Beef slices. Peat. Malt chocolate. Christmas pudding. Vanilla toffee. Charring. Water adds cherries. Sulphur. Raisins. Fudge. Smoother peat. More water adds alcohol soaked raspberries. Strawberry. Brandy cream.

Finish: Malt chocolate and brown bread. Thai seven spice. Warming. Smoke. Christmas pudding. Sherry soaked raisins. Water adds fudge and glacier cherries. Peppercorns. More water adds brandy cream.

Conclusion: Ok, short version. This is Christmas Pudding, covered in brandy and sherry cream, peat smoked and pushed out with a good hit of alcohol character. That last bit is not a surprise considering that this is a tidy 50% abv.

Neat this thing is intense, not overly harsh, but visibly wearing its alcohol weight. The youth of the spirit means that the peat is still fresh and full of force and can easily be seen past the strong flavours. It has a mossy, Island character and a touch of salt that similarly calls to the sea, but front and centre is the Christmas pudding style and associated spirity creams. (The brandy cream starts out lighter but becomes very noticeable with water) It is heavy, slightly spicy, and lovely.

Water smooths the alcohol, but never the weight of the peat, or the Christmas pudding character for that matter. The sweetness alters from darker malt chocolate to lighter vanilla fudge, adding in cherries and other brighter fruit notes to work with. These are lovely rounding notes that come out from using water, but that heavy weight is still front and centre to the whisky.

More water makes this a bit sulphurous but also balances that with some more dark fruit, showing that, at 50% abv, this has a lot of room for exploration. This is such a booming whisky, using the unusual cask finish well to to either cover up, or work with the issues you can get with younger spirit, while also taking advantage of said youth to utterly work the peat character to its potential.

This is a lovely, heavy, peaty, spirity, Christmas Pudding dessert of a whisky. I love this one.

Background: When this first turned up in Independent Spirit, it vanished quickly. When it turned up again I decided to grab a bottle as it sounds very nice. I don’t think I’ve tried any Murray McDavid bottlings before, but they seem to be doing some very interesting and different things recently. So worth keeping an eye on. This lists itself as from a “Trade Secret” region. So I am guessing they do not have the rights to label the distillery. However since, most places list this as “Isle Of Mull” whisky it is not hard to guess that it is Tobermory, to be specific the peated Ledaig expression. I’m not sure why they didn’t just list region as “Island” as that would have been vague enough but give an idea of where it was from. At only six years this should be interesting peat wise, and peat can fade quickly as a whisky ages, so this should be pretty big. Also it spent it’s last six month in a Ximenez – Spinola PX casks, which is its big selling point, the rest of time was in a bourbon hogshead. Music wise I had recently seen that youtube musician Jonathan Young had put out a very 80s feeling album called “ Starship Velociraptor” under the band name Galactkraken, it is a wealth of fun so I put that on in the background.

Big Drop: Coba Maya Cerveza (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Very light pale yellow body with a moderate sized white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation evident early on.

Nose: Lemon. Wheat flakes. General wet air.

Body: Wheaty. Light bitterness. Sour dough. Slight lemon. Slight pepper.

Finish: Wet cardboard. Muggy bitterness. Soft lime. Slightly peppery. Slight chalk.

Conclusion: Well, this is, erm, a beer. I’m going with a controversial hot take here, I know. I mean, it does describe itself as a “Lawnmower beer” so I wasn’t expecting huge weight or range of flavour, but I was expecting to have something that I could describe with more words than just “Inoffensive”

Yes I know I have already used more words that that, you get the gist though.

Though since it is inoffensive, I can say that it is better than the standard Big Drop Lager, for one thing it tastes like a lager. Which is nice. There isn’t even much in the way of tells giving away that this is low abv – mainly just the lighter mouthfeel, and let’s face it, generally lagers tend not to be that heavy things anyway.

It feels slightly wheaty, slightly peppery and bitter, which gives it a touch of much needed weight, though not much – and then on the lighter end there is a soft lemon and lime to it. Nice enough, so I definitely don’t hate this. It is just, well, kind of just there. Feels like a slightly wheated lager and that is mostly it. Not rewarding, not bad, just there.

It is light, but that wheaty feel does give grip (Note I am aware that wheat is one of the few adjuncts NOT used to make this beer, I am just describing how it feels to me) . Very simple in the flavour profile, but, despite the low abv it tastes like a lager. It does the job.

Nothing really to talk about, as I say it is just there. No complaint. No compliment.

Writing about such average beers is actually harder that writing about bad beer. I have very little to say.

It is a low alcohol lager that exists.

Background: Another Big Drop lager, I’m not a fan of their standard lager, so was hoping that this could take its place. Generally I rate Big Drop, they have done a wonderful range of low alcohol beers. This is described as a “lawnmower-style lager” by Big Drop, and they advise to stick a slice of lime in it “Cerveza-style”. I did not stick a lime in it. However I will not judge you if you do, enjoy beer as you like it. I have no idea if sticking a lime in it even is “Cerveza-style”. People have been lying to me about sticking fruit in hefeweizen being traditional for years and it has left me skeptical. Anyway, another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit– they had got quite the batch of new Big Drop beers in. Went with Sabaton: Heroes as backing music, felt the need for some big metal and Sabaton always provides.

Big Drop: Paria: Tailwind IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Some small bubbled carbonation. Large mounded white head.

Nose: Lemon cakes and lemon grass. Bubblegum. Raspberry yogurt hard chunks. Cake sponge and icing. White crusty bread. Crisp hop character. Low bitterness.

Body: Bready. Moderate bitterness. Biscuity. Crushed digestives. Lemongrass. Lemon cakes. Gentle. Light lime.

Finish: Oats. Medium gritty bitterness. Peppery. Lemongrass. Grapefruit. Iced tea.

Conclusion: Ok, so it seems no Sorachi Ace hops was used in making this. I am very surprised. With the evident lemongrass and bubblegum notes I could have sworn some Sorachi had been used to make this.

Which shows that, even after ten years plus of doing these notes, I can still be completely wrong. Keeps a person humble.

Anyway, this is a gentle and drinkable IPA, easygoing at the start but with but a bit of a prickle and a decent bitterness at the end to make sure you know it is an IPA.

The aroma opens up very gentle, with lemon cakes and cake sponge – gently bready and easy going citrus. Very much lead me to expects something very light.

The body slowly builds from that, very biscuity giving it a gently more robust character – it reminds me more of an APA than an IPA in how it expresses the malt, but very drinkable with that. That lemongrass, slight citrus style note is still around, but with a hint of more bitter hops character that will eventually lead out into the aforementioned moderately bitter finish.

It is a mix of summer refresher, bitter IPA and low alcohol. Though I will admit the low alcohol character is very well hidden here with none of the usual iced tea or sports drinks like notes for the most part. Even where there is a hint in the tail end of the beer they tie it well with the rest of the character so it is easy to overlook.

This fits our current burst of hot weather nicely, can be taken as an easy drinking refresher but has enough notes to examine. I’m a fan of this gentle, sessionable IPA.

Background: Another seasonal release from Big Drop, pretty much the current low alcohol masters in my opinion. This one a collaboration with Paria, who I have not heard of before, look to be an American based brewery unless there is more than one Paria brewing. Which is possible. Brewed with Chinook, Cascade and Willamette hops, so looks to be a fairly traditional hop load here. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. A friend had been recommending The Replacements to me recently, so was listening to their “Stink” EP while drinking. Their music style seems to change massively over the years so will have to listen more to see what they are like.

Boon: Oude Geuze (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 7% ABV)

Visual: Pale, clear, just slightly darkened yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large white bubbled head.

Nose: Muesli. Dry. Dry white wine. Fresh cut apples. Slight oats and horse blankets. Slightly nutty. Dried and salted lemons.

Body: Apples. Dried lemon. Tart grapes. Gunpowder tea. Peppery. Oak. Tart orange. Pink grapefruit.

Finish: White wine and gunpowder tea. Oak. White pepper. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Every time I think I have a handle on lambics, especially geuzes, I find out that there is more to them than I ever expected.

It opens as expected – white wine notes, muesli, horse blankets in the aroma. If you have had a geuze lambic before there is a good chance you know the general idea. So, on the aroma, this is pretty much that.

The body also has those elements but also extends a way beyond that and what I expected. The kind of charred character you see in a lot of lambics comes across here as more intense gunpowder tea like notes. It feels slightly acrid, but not unpleasant (Yes I know acrid is unpleasant by definition, it is a kind of taste I would normally call acrid, but somehow works here. Let me have this one please). Similarly the tartness have grapes, lemon and apple, none of which are unexpected, but also develops into a very pink grapefruit style, the delicious tartness of which I think is what makes the harsher notes not unpleasant. If I had to sum it up I would say the whole thing feels more “robust” than you average lambic.

While not my favourite lambic – those gunpowder tea to white pepper bits are a tad harsh for me – it is still a heck of an experience. Still a dry, wine like beer, but weigher than the dry white wine notes would otherwise suggest. The tartness and acidity hits the back of the throat with some impact.

So, the weightier lambic, and I think it is not too much of a guess to say that a lot of this can be attributed to the 7% abv which gives it a different character from the more common 5% and below lambics you tend to see. I mean, there are probably many other influences, but that is one that is immediately obvious up front.

Not a favourite, but I do respect it, and I am interested to see what ageing does to this. So, a complicated one, but hopefully I’ve given you enough information for you to know if this is the lambic for you.

Background: We have lambics in supermarkets now, this is not the world I expected when I was younger. I approve. Ok, it is Waitrose which is the posh as shit supermarket but still. Anyway, so as you may have guessed I grabbed this from Waitrose. One for drinking now and one for ageing. Boon have generally been a good one for me, balancing ease of drinking with complexity, without becoming too harsh or crowd pleasing simplistic. So happy that I can get their beers easier now. I’ve been picking up a lot of Bloodywood singles recently so lined them on repeat as background music. Hope they get an album out some time as I love their Indian street metal style and great emotional openness.

Littlemill: Dunglass 5 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold colour, with quite slow puckering from the spirit.

Nose: Clean vanilla. Ash. Dried beef slices. Alcoholic lime. Broken rocks. Alcohol tingle. Water makes gentle. Light moss and gentle peat.

Body: Smooth. Lime. Vanilla toffee. Cream. Managed peat. Water adds more ash like notes and heavier smoke.

Finish: Vanilla fudge. Smoke. Slightly dry. Water adds heavier smoke. More water brings out a wet cardboard note.

Conclusion: Now, for all they are prized for collectors, with a lot of dead distilleries I can see why they died. A lot are not particularly stand out in the whisky world. This distillery, and more so than just the distillery, this particular Dunglass style expression – why did this not survive?

As a pretty expensive dram it is fairly simple for what you are paying. It is smooth, very obviously lowland character with smooth vanilla. The peat used is gentle, and while there is a bit of youthful alcohol it is still generally smooth, and the little bump it has can easily be smoothed out with a few drops of water. It would seem to be a very stereotypical smooth lowland if it wasn’t for that gentle peat.

That gentle peat? That is such a pleasure. Not fancy, but it gives a very different character to this easy to drink whisky. A tasty peat character but without any of the harshness that usually comes with peat – in fact this is gentler than most of the unpeated whisky on the market.

If you add more than just a drop of water to this it does become more ash filled, more peaty and heavier. Not bad, but it makes it lose its raison d’etre. There are many better peatier and heavy whiskies than this with some water, but none that are as lowland smooth, sweet and yet peated as it is before you add that water. At least none that have been encountered by me. In fact I was surprised to find out Littlemill was not triple distilling at this time as this very much has that character. A bit more water also adds a less pleasant wet cardboard note, this is definitely just a drop or two of water dram.

As a rare whisky it is too expensive for what it should be – a gentle, easy drinking whisky with that surprising touch of peat weight, but I genuinely want an easier to buy whisky like this. Someone please make and release it. This is simple, satisfying, sweet and peaty and you can’t go wrong with it except for the higher price.

Background: So, another chance to try a dead distillery, thought technically the distillery is not a new one to me. I got to try a Littlemill a long time back at the Rummer Hotel. This however is a rare lightly peated expression they did in the late 1960s, with the actual distillery closing in 1992 (ish? I’ve seen 1994 listed as well, and it had closed previously in 1984 – frankly don’t trust these dates too much, I’ve seen too many different ones) and dismantled 1997. Looks like they also did a heavily peated one called Dumbuck, but I’ve not tried that one. Anyway saw this 5 year old miniature at Old and Rare Whisky. As I have mentioned before they are expensive, even for the whisky they sell, but the chance to try this whisky without needed to buy a full and very expensive bottle was an opportunity I did not want to pass up. As you can tell from the spirit being made in the 60s and this being 5 years old, this bottle has been around a while, and the cap seemed to almost fuse with the bottle. Took some proper effort to get it off and to the whisky inside. There isn’t any abv listed on the bottle, but the listing online said 40% abv so that is what I put here. Wanted some light but haunting music for backing so went with Celeste: Farewell.

Other Half: Ain’t Nothing Nice – Double Dry Hopped (USA: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice body. Large, loose white bubbled head that mounds.

Nose: Lemon curd to lemon meringue. Cream. Clean. Apricot. Zero bitterness. Fried eggs. Thickens as it warms.

Body: Peach. Milky. Hop oils. Slightly resinous. Egg whites. Some bitterness. Slightly gritty. Strawberry hints. Thick. Orange juice.

Finish: Moderate bitterness and hop feel. Passion-fruit. Oily. Kumquat. Orange juice hints.

Conclusion: Ok, so I am surprised a bit by this. Since it is cloudy on the eye, I was initially guessing this as NEIPA with all that goes with that. Ah well, NEIPAs are far from my favourite IPA style but I can live with it.

The aroma confirmed what I was expecting, that being absolutely no bitterness, but quite fruity and creamy. Generally light and gentle. Well done for what it is, but still not my kind of IPA.

The body is thick and surprisingly it is also slightly oily and resinous which I would not have expected from the aroma. It is not hugely bitter, but still more than I expected up to this point. The finish then gives an actual decent amount of bitterness in yet anther twist.

Overall the feel is thick and slightly oily, which can become an egg yolk like thick and slimy character sometimes, if that makes sense? It also shows that slightly vegetable bitterness of simcoe very nicely -its always been odd that works, but it does and continues to do so here.

The other hops used here seem to show their influence more subtly, with orange hints and passion fruit touches. The general milkiness of the beer seems to make defining the actual flavours more difficult than they would normally be.

It is well brewed, just well brewed in an IPA style that I am not a huge fan of. The thicker feel seems odd to me here, but even with that I can’t deny an intrigued pleasure at the bitter, yet milky and eggy thick feel.

Very odd, too thick fried egg yolk feel for me to get on board with, but well made for what it is.

Background: Apparently Other Half are a super hype brewery. My finger must no longer be on the pulse of the craft beer community. I’ve run into them once as a collaborator on a Beavertown beer, and that is it. I am old. I have lost it. Anyway…

This turned up as part of a large batch of Other Half in Independent Spirit, so I grabbed it and a Nelson Sauvin hopped IIPA from them (Which was pretty darn nice). I’m not often one for listening canned dates, but since this is a USA IPA, and I recently did so with some from an online supplier, it seems only fair. This one I grabbed about two weeks back and was canned 29/04/2021 and the Nelson Sauvin one was fresher, so pretty nice – about as fast as you can expect to come across from USA without super special measures. Of course Independent Spirit have the advantage that I visit them regularly so can grab stuff as it comes in. Anyway, this is hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic and Simcoe, then dry hopped again with Galaxy pellets and Mosaic Lupin powder . Which is some serious hype hops for me, so is pretty much why I grabbed it. Went with Noctule – Wretched Abyss for music again for this. Nice big, Skyrim inspired black metal. As you do.

Mash Gang: Northern Monk: Spiritual Journey (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, cloudy lemon juice body that leaves lace. Massive white, loose bubbled head.

Nose: Bitter hops. Cheese puff crisps yeast funk. Lemon on pancakes. Wheaty.

Body: Dry. Very bitter. Black pepper. Charred. Oats. Slightly funky, fluffy mouthfeel. Mild vanilla. Fluffy pastry.

Finish: Milky oats. Mildly oily noble hops. Very bitter. Pepper. Charring. Dried passion-fruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I love the west coast style, stripped down malt backbone, dry and bitter as heck IPAs. My recent notes on USA beers has well established that. So, you would think I would like the very dry, very bitter low alcohol IPAs and pales that exist. That would make sense.

Yet somehow I rarely do, they fit in the same space as most session IPAs where often the lack of malt just makes the high bitterness feel rough.

There are so many hop types in here, some of which I adore in general, but the lack of malt used to make the body and dry character seems to mean that you really have to dig past that dry, charred, peppery bitterness to even try and find their fruitier influence.

It’s most interesting character is a fluffy, oat filled and slightly funky mouthfeel. It is a weird element there as it feels like the beer has little grip for subtle flavours, but the body itself is gripping and sticky, just using that mainly for peppery and slightly harsh bitterness.

If you really dig down, there is stuff under that – kind of crumbly pastry notes, some passion fruit, all still very dry. However it feels like too much effort for too little flavour.

I’m starting to think that less is more with low alcohol beers as every time I see a beer with a huge hop list it ends up just feeling rough, while ones with select choice of hops seem to show a lot more.

This just feels one note. It does the bitterness super bitter, but with none of the more rounded hop character around it and with that I cannot recommend it.

Background: This had quite a pretty can design, caught my eye, is brewed at Northern Monk, who do great beers, and is low abv, which is what I was looking for at the time. So an easy buy then. This was found at Beercraft who continue to be both generally expensive but also well stocked in their low alcohol range. It has quite a varied hop bill, listing Kviek, Magnum, Citra Cryo, Amarillo, Mosaic and Idaho 7 as the included hop types for the double dry hopped pale. Went with Garbage: Not Your Kind Of People as backing music, been on a Garbage kick since their new album dropped.

%d bloggers like this: