Category: Beer Tasting Notes

Brewdog No Label

Brewdog: No Label (Scotland: Kolsch: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to lemon juice. Moderate tight bubbled fluffy head. Very small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lots of lemon and fluffy hops. Low but present bitterness. Hop oils. Apricot.

Body: Good medium intensity bitterness. Creamy. Slight bubblegum. Steam beer feel when cool. Slight grittiness when it warms. Lemon cakes. Brown bread.

Finish: Musty. Some hop character. Lime. Fluffy. Lemon. Slight milkyness.

Conclusion: Ok – I’ve put all my issues with this in the background section, so just for this moment I will leave them in the background and just examine the beer itself.

So, well, this is the second beer I have had recently that had a kind of steam beer texture to it. Shouldn’t surprise me – both Californian common and Kolsch straddle the ale/lager line. Californian common doing non refrigerated use of lager yeast, and Kolsch using ale yeast but cool lagered. Kind of mirror opposites of the unusual, so as I say, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was. It is again that kind of fluffy steam texture that fills the mouth.

The hops are present but it is less bitter than I would expect from a Kolsch. this may be because of the mouthfeel, or possibly because it pushes the lemon cake style character which softens the beer a lot.

It actually results in a solid beer, pretty easy to drink, interesting feel, good enough bitterness to keep you interested but not to shock. It doesn’t exemplify the beer style, nor as the different beer it is does it create something special in the interactions of flavour and texture, but it does make for something easy to kick back with. If it wasn’t for the bad taste the whole events surrounding it leave in my mouth I would probably grab more, as the beer its self leaves a pleasant taste there.

A pleasant, softly citrus and moderately bitter beer. A nice take on the Kolsch and a bit different. That was happy enough, now let’s look at the background…

Background: Sigh. Ok This is a long one, So I will put it after the more tag so it doesn’t take up the entire page. This beer has a bit of background.

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Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch Big Blend

Mikkeller: Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch Big Blend (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive dark coffee froth rock solid head.

Nose: Spiced grapes. Bitter chocolate. Strawberry yogurt. Cinnamon. Carrot. Bitter coffee. Vanilla beans. Bourbon. Cherries.

Body: Spicy. Paprika. Cherries. Bitter coffee and cocoa powder. Pepper. Tingling feel – spirity. Bourbon.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Smoke and embers. Peppery. Vanilla beans. Bourbon. Rye crackers. Port.

Conclusion: Not as good as you would hope. Wow, that is a good start isn’t it? yeah, Well, I guess they are right – too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. Now, it still has a lot in its favour. For one it is complex as fuck. A very complex fuck involving pulleys, diagrams and advance planning. I may not be very good at analogies. Anyway, yes, complex – I don’t think it could be anything but that considering its roots, but it ends up pulling itself in far too many ways.

An example? Well, for one the insanely complex coffee I loved in Beer Geek Brunch Weasel is there, but a lot of the subtlety is lost – there is a lot of spicy packed in at the high end of the notes and it covers up a lot of the base character there, while there is a sparkling spirit character at the base doing the same to the more complex chocolate notes. The tingling isn’t so much raw alcohol – it actually feels quite smooth on that front, but more tingling with the barrel ageing notes. So what is at its base a very smooth beer ends up feeling slightly rough as all the other elements clash with each other.

Now the base beer isn’t everything – you have to expect something to be lost as well as gained when barrel ageing is brought in, but it is a bad sign when you lose too much. So what do you gain? Well, one of the best things is that you get some lovely sweet cherries into the mix, which complement the coffee and chocolate perfectly. Fantastic as the ninth doctor would say if he were a pisshead like me. In fact the best is generally the sweet notes added to the midst of the bitter chocolate and coffee. The worst is probably the excess spicy character which hides more than it adds.

Still a solid, frothy, well textured beer at its base, but it tries to do too much at once.

Background: Grabbed at Independent Spirit, this is a mix of (deep breath) bourbon, brandy, cherry wine, cognac, tequila and whisky aged imperial stout. Think it may also be a mix of Beer Geek Breakfast and Beer Geek Brunch Weasel as well, but that is a guess based on the name. The abv is closer to Breakfast, but the imagery on the bottle makes me think they may haves used the same coffee as Brunch Weasel. Google hasn’t helped out much, so much of this is guessing. I deliberately didn’t refresh my memory on what barrel ageing had been used before doing the tasting note so to keep psychosomatic influences to a minimum. I adore Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, so have been grabbing many variants over the years. Drunk whilst listening to more ocremix stuff.

Firestone Walker Pale 31
Firestone Walker: Pale 31 ( USA: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded froth yellowed head. Small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lemon meringue and creamy hops. Apricot. Key lime pie. Crushed digestives.

Body: Steam feel. Crushed digestives. Milk. Moderate bitterness. Earthy notes. Key lime pie.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Steam feel. Soft lemon. Slight rustic earthy touch. key lime. Rye crackers. Pepper.

Conclusion: I may be coming to this a bit late for it to be at its best, but I’ll give it a shot. I find it interesting that they call this a Californian Pale Ale, mainly because my first sip of this brought to mind the mouthfeel of a steam beer, a beer style also known as the Californian Common. Wonder if that is just a coincidence or an aimed for stylistic choice. Anyway, yes this has the unusual mouthfeel of a steam beer, but with the hops pushed up a bit.

By the time I had got to that sip I already had high hopes for it, the aroma had been promising as well – the mix of fruit desserts, creaminess and hops that had put me in mind of the Union Jack IPA. That is seriously good – so the idea of a steam beer styled APA with Union Jack quality hop character was having me excited. The body fulfils some of that promise, but not quite the full shining, wondrous, vision. It keeps things a bit lower key, a bit more earthy and rustic alongside the steam character. However you can see the more playful notes at the edges, before it finally goes into the dry and pepper spiced finish.

It isn’t bad, and I have feeling it would be even better fresh. It is a nice mix, if suffering slightly from the over attenuated dryness I associate with APAs. Despite that though, I am enjoying the experience – they do add a lot to what can be a dull style for me.

So, not perfect, definitely so, but I have a soft spot for what it is going for. If I see this fresh in the USA on any of my travels I will definitely try it again.

Background: Another beer break – This one took a while to get across form the USA – it was bottled 20/03/2015, so I thought I had best drink it as soon as possible. I am a big fan of Firestone Walker, their IPAs especially. This, described as a Californian Pale Ale, was picked up from Corks of Cotham. I grabbed a few beers while I was there, they are a bit out of my way but well worth visiting. Drink with a bit of Iron Maiden in the background, because I am still a fan of the old Irons.

Almanac Farm To Barrel Farmer's Reserve Strawberry

Almanac: Farm To Barrel: Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry (USA: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to apricot and very cloudy. Thin short lived white dash of a head.

Nose: Musty. Slightly stale white bread. Oatmeal or maybe muesli mix. Squeezed lime. Mild gingerbread. Stewed apricot and cake sponge.

Body: Tart. Lemon juice. Oaken. Acidic apple. Faint strawberry that is somewhat more evident as it warms. Cake sponge. White wine. Squeezed lime. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Soft strawberry. Acidic apple. Rustic in a saison like way. Lemon. Light chalk. White wine as it warms, along with lime and vanilla toffee.

Conclusion: Ok, strawberry sour. I had heard of a few, or maybe just one, strawberry lambic before, but never managed to get my hands on it. So this is my first strawberry sour experience. And it is!… not exactly whelming shall we say. Can you just say whelming? Not sure. Anyway. Possibly I started it off too cool, as I have found warming it does help. Let me go into a bit more detail and I shall explain.

Cool it is a bit musty, empty and mainly acidic apple dominated. Kind of like a sub standard cider, and since I am in west country I have access to a lot of actually good cider. At this point it didn’t do much, it refreshed with its acidity but that was it.

As it warms a kind of cake sponge feel and taste come out, still acidic, but a more robust and stable base and that seems to give some grip to the other flavours. Not so much the strawberry unfortunately, I’ve seen it rise up a few times as it warms but it always seems to vanish again quickly. The strawberry really isn’t a dominant element of this beer, possibly why it is not a common addition to sours. Maybe.

At its base it seems always a sour apple, lemon and lime, well, sour beer – with white wine companionship in some of the oak notes. It has quite a few good side notes – from vanilla toffee to rustic saison style, but none are reliable enough to make this a consistently good beer. It can seem slightly simple and empty in the middle, with the best elements top and tail.

Not that bad, but not on the better end of the sours. It feels a bit of a let down. Ah well, back to Listening to New Model Army – “I Love The World”

Background: A break in the whisky tasting notes so my beer fan readers don’t get bored. Don’t worry, more whisky is coming very soon. I don’t know if “Farm To Barrel” is part of the name, or just a take on their “farm to bottle” slogan. I included it just in case. Anyway a sour ale, packed with strawberries and aged in a wine barrel. Sounded fun. Drunk while listening to one of New Model Army’s live albums. If you get a chance to see them live they are great.

Chimay Doree

Chimay: Doree (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy overripe banana skin. High carbonation and an off white thin head.

Nose: Orange peel. Dry mead. Shortbread and digestives. Funky yeast. Lightly milky. Cinnamon. Fresh cut apples and light lemon character.

Body: Sweet orange. Crisp hop character and moderate bitterness. Bready character. Banana sweets. Blackpool rock. Greenery. Coriander and carrot. Brown sugar.

Finish: Honey. Cinnamon. Banana. Brown bread. Minty.

Conclusion: I’m glad I came to this later in my beer drinking life. Back when I first encountered Trappist ales I was of the mindset that bigger was way better for me. Even the quality Orval seemed a but of a let down compared to its dubbel to quad brethren, I think back then I would not have appreciated this.

This is a very balanced and drinkable brew – with a restrained sweet base that feels like dry honey, speckled with occasional bursts of cane sugar styling. Those bursts allow it to push past the bready crisp hop character that is the mainstay of the beer. It doesn’t taste like a big beer, but neither does if feel the need to hide its light under a bushel. Despite the easier drinking character there is a lot going on, greenery and mint notes and light fruity esters.

It doesn’t feel challenging, it slips down easily. Though if you let it slip down you end up only really experiencing the thirst quenching bitter hop character. If you hold the beer then that is when the sweetness rises. Character wise it actually reminds me of the hoppier end of the saison market.

It is very drinkable, the only real flaws are that the crisp hop character does become slightly leaden by the end of the beer, and that as you get used to the base beer the middle of it can end up feeling slightly empty when compared to the top and tail. A pity as it was otherwise setting up to be the trappist abv equivalent of a session beer. Even with that slight flaw this proves a lovely easy going beer that you can break open with a meal or just for a relax with friends.

Background: Ohh, fun. This is only just available in the UK to my knowledge. For ages this was the beer that was available for drinking to the monks of the abbey. Over the years it has slowly got more available, being served on tap in Belgium, and then bottled, then finally turning up here in the UK. I saw it at Independent Spirit and grabbed it as quick as I could. Drunk while listening to some Propagandhi. No reason. Just like them.

Stone Farking Wheaton W00tstout 2015

Stone Farking Wheaton: W00tstout 2015 (USA: Imperial Stout: 13% ABV)

Visual: Black. Grey dash for a head with brown bubbles at the edges.

Nose: Boozy. Coconut macaroons and pecan pie. Black cherry. Milk chocolate. Vinous red wine. Marshmallow. Bready notes.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Nougat. Vanilla toffee. Cherries. A quite clean high end. Light pepper. coconut. Light pecan. Crumpets. Forthy feel.

Finish: Quality bitter chocolate. Gin or perhaps just juniper. Vodka touch. Rye bread. Light pepper. Vanilla toffee. Pecan pie. Nougat. Crumpets and toasted teacakes. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: Hmm, time to try and work out – is this good, great, or one of the all time greatest? Ok, no bones about it, this is , at the bare minimum, good. The only question is how good?

I wasn’t expecting to open up this enthusiastically, taken from my previous year’s experiences this was solid but didn’t stand out amongst the packed Imperial Stout crowd. It did catch my attention enough to grab this bottle, and I am glad that I did. Now this, part bourbon aged, third edition, this is far above last year’s.

Good opening hints at what is to come with the nose – coconut notes, I always love coconut notes. Entering the main body the bitter chocolate which was stereotypically over emphasised in last years beer is now matched with lots of nougat and a toasted teacake set of notes which gives a sweet, yet frothy and substantial body.

Cool it can feel slightly overly clean- losing the high and low end of the notes, but as it warms more chocolate, toffee, pecan pie and such, come out. Like this it has such a lovely chewy texture, yet not too thick – it is like a mouthful of marshmallows in feel – they resist if you push down, but still crumples easily.

Because of the above elements it manages to have its own identity amongst imperial Stouts. Yes it calls to the bitter chocolate, the bourbon aging ,the coconut touched, and many other mainstays of imperial stouts – and it does take hints from each of these, but it constructs its own interpretation with the texture and with the more unusual added notes.

So, in the end, yes this elevates itself to the quality of high end beers, but also manages to be atypical, and that makes is something special. So it is beyond just good. So, is it great or one of the all time greats?

For now I will say it is part of the all time greats – the texture is very unusual, probably this is a result of the wheat and rye into the mix. The flavour is complex and the bourbon ageing makes it smooth indeed. So, yeah, this is one of the all time great imperial stouts.

Just remember, while I am saying that, this is 13% and a good sized bottle, so I may be a tad merry as I write that, but even with that said …. Damn this is good.

Background: I’d tried last year’s edition of this, mainly because WILL WHEATON! You know, that kid everyone hated in Star Trek the Next Generation, but is now grown up and awesome. Also made with Drew Cutis from Anyway last year I found good, but not exceptional, however this years edition is made with 25% last year’s edition that has been aged in Bourbon barrels, which sounded like it may add just what the beer needed, so I grabbed a bottle. It is also made with wheat, rye, cocoa and pecan. Because of course. I have to admit wheat in an imperial stout did intrigue me. This beer is best know for being one of the answers to “What will always get you laid” in the Cards against humanity episode of Tabletop. Drunk whille listening to some Svalbard, because big music is needed for a big beer.

Brewdog Candy Kaiser

Brewdog: Candy Kaiser (Scotland: Altbier: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany touched brown. Caramel brown head of froth.

Nose: Sugared almonds. Shredded wheat. Walnut cake. Malt chocolate.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Light sour dough. Light granite. Slightly thin. Earthy and spicy hops. Soil touch. Palma violets.

Finish: Sour dough and moderate bitterness. Slightly gritty. Paprika. Soil.

Conclusion: So the reworked Alt Amber shows its face with a colourful new ensemble. It has been nearly a year so I am comparing by memory, give me some leeway here – I’d say it seems more earthy, it definitely seems to have more soil style notes in a way that calls to British hop character. Don’t think they used any Brit hops for this though. I could be wrong. It has some of the spicy notes as well that you would expect from the noble hops, which seem more likely to be used in an Altbier. There is still a nuttiness there, but with less notable presence against the earthy notes.

It still doesn’t have a huge range, and the texture can be slightly thin when cool, but flavour wise it has a bit of umph. It was always robust but this feels like it takes the rougher end of the character and adds to it. There is even a light artificial feeling sweetness to it – kind of palma violet style, which gives an odd contrast.

Still not a radically different beer. Maybe it has lost some of the side subtle notes under the heavier base earthiness. I’d say pretty much the same as I said about the first one – not the most fancy, not quite as easy drinking, but still robust.

Background: This is the beer based on the prototype Alt Amber. Now when I say based, I have no idea how much they have altered it – the abv is the same, but I have been assured some tweaking has gone on. It has been a long time since I tried the prototype so please don’t take this as a direct comparison – though I will do my best to compare after consulting my prior Alt Amber notes. As always I am not an unbaised actor one Brewdog beers. I wasn’t sure if I should do notes on this, but I skipped the official release of Brixton Porter and have since heard it was a lot better than the prototype- so I thought I would give it shot. Drunk while listening is Ihsahn: After. Not listened to that for a while.

De Struise Ypres

De Struise: Ypres (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large fizzy bubbled brown head.

Nose: Port soaked raisins. Black cherry. Red wine. Vanilla. Madeira. Golden syrup and treacle. Liquorice. Sour dough.

Body: Black cherry. Blackcurrant jam. Tart berries. Acidic apple. Liquorice. Smooth. Bready – brown bread. Madeira and toffee.

Finish: Blueberry. Apples. Malt chocolate and vanilla toffee. Blackpool rock. Liquorice.

Conclusion: This is a lot smoother than I expected, guess I have become used to the tarter end of the Flemish Brown and red ales. So to find something smooth and sweet like this did give me a kick to the preconceptions.

The golden syrup like sweetness to the nose made me think of barley wines, but it was mixed in with vinous and berry notes that promised something more than that. I wasn’t sure which way the beer was going to go but I was very interested to find out.

Dropping down into the main body I found the expected sourness never really comes – instead, smoothed by oak, you find a vanilla sweetness. There are tart berries, but they are mixed with jammy sweetness so never seem too intense. They give an extra tingle to the beer but no more than that – it is instead fruity and slightly vinous. There is a sweet toffee base below, but the main work for the beer is done with the huge amounts of jammy dark fruit. It keeps just enough tartness and charred oak feel to make sure you know it is a Flemish brown, all the rest of the effort is put into the flourishes.

It is very soothing and makes fully use of the berry flavours without losing the base beer. In fact, as the beer warms the base makes itself felt more and showing more of the Flemish character – it helps accentuate the sweetness by giving contrast. Easier to drink cool, and more soothing, but warmer feels more complex.

Maybe a tad easy going to be a true classic of the style, it mutes its potential just slightly – but a very nice beer to chill out with and appreciate.

Background: This is the 2010 Double Barrel Aged FOB (Flemish Old Brown) as the bottled says. De Struise are one of the growing unusual side of Belgian brewing, and they tend to turn out tasty beers. Looking online the double barrel ageing is apparently Bourgogne and Wild Turkey barrels, or at least 2009 was, I can’t find exact details for 2010. Drunk while listening to Shadows Fall: Fallout From The War. It was only when I came to write these notes up I realised that was an odd pick considering the beer is named after a city that was the centre of a sustained battle during world war 1. A complete coincidence I assure you. Picked up from Independent Spirit – the convenience of grabbing stuff from them is dangerous to my bank balance.

Wild Beer Co Brett Brett Double IPA

Wild Beer Co: Brett Brett Double IPA (England: IIPA: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Moderate whitish froth.

Nose: Lemon on pancakes. Light acidic fruit. Fresh cut apples. Shortbread. Apricot and peach. Light cream.

Body: Passion fruit. Pineapple. Tart. Thick feeling but dry body. Lemon curd. Pink grapefruit. Tart apples.

Finish: Cheese puffs feel. Lemon curd. Light bitterness. Tart pineapple. Pink grapefruit. Sour dough.

Conclusion: Ohh, tart, tart. This is a very tart and slightly sour IPA – dry and somewhat acidic. It feels pretty funky and yeastie at the end, yet, despite brettloads of brett, the acidic main character finds itself on a comparatively clean base in the main body. I say comparatively as there is still a thick feel to the body, and a yeastie character, but the tartness carries the main body so much that it isn’t a main influence.

The feel doesn’t really shout IPA, double or otherwise. While there is obviously a buttload of hops contributing to the tart, tropical character – the bitterness, or in fact hop oils or hop feel, are all low. If I had to do a high concept description I would say it tastes kind of like a tarter, tropical hoped Orval. Kind of. It is hard to do a direct comparison. It tastes kind of like what I expected “You Taste Better When You Are Scared” to, but is much better done than that one.

Right now it feels like an interesting mash up, lots of fun elements – the tartness, the funky yeast and the big tropical flavours – all packed together but without much coherence. Still very enjoyable, but I wonder if time will let it settle into a more thematically consistent beer. Only time will tell.

As is it is a fluffy shot of tart flavour, very welcome, very refreshing and a bit different. A bit more enthusiastic than refined but that is no bad thing.

Background: This sounds like Evolver IPA ramped up for Double IPA stakes. Basically an IIPA spiked with Brett so you can actually age it without losing the hops. I have a second bottled tucked a way to test this theory. Sounds like it is playing in the same area as Stone’s Enjoy After IPA, which I have also tucked away and ageing. I’m a big fan of Wild Beer co and grab them whenever a new one pops up in Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to Pottymouth – Bratmobile for a bit of energy music. Any Brat/Brett puns are completely coincidental.

Mikkeller Crooked Moon Tattoo Stockholm Stout

Mikkeller: Crooked Moon Tattoo Stockholm Stout (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown froth.

Nose: Crushed peanuts. Mashed figs and raisins. Malt chocolate drink. Black olives.

Body: Black olives. Bitter. Cloying. Sour dough and cream cheese. Very bitter black chocolate and bitter black coffee.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Brown bread and black olives.

Conclusion: Well, I often muse, (or perhaps mildly complain is more accurate) about the fact that a lot of recent imperial stouts feel like they are trying to be similar to what is popular at the time rather than carving their own identity. This is a beer that does not suffer from that. This is a beer that is odd. This is a beer that is very distinctive, not quite unique, but definitely taken the less walked road.

Now, with figs in this I was expecting this to lean towards the sweeter end of the stout scale. I was wrong. Damn wrong. This is bitter. bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Without contrasting sweetness when cool I actually find this more punishing that a lot of high alpha acid IPAs.

Bitter chocolate and coffee may not sound that unusual, in fact it may sound like every other Imperial Stout out there – however while chocolate and coffee may not be unusual the level of intensity is. What makes this odd is a cloying kind of feel and big black olives flavour – it makes it feel like the beer equivalent of that bread, oil and olives starter you get in some Italian restaurants. But in a stout. Go on, tell me that is a common thing. No, right? An odd one this. I have run into olive notes before, but never so intensely.

The actual expected odd element – the figs – well that only comes out when the beer warms, and not even that heavily then. However, boy is it needed. Without it the beer is too intense on the single, bitter, end of the scale. With it, it is still punishing but now more manageable.

It still feels a bit too lob sided for me, a bit over cloying and heavily olive dominated – but with the slight mashed fig sweetness I can respect it, if not overly enjoy it. Not one for me, but it is well made and I think it will be for many of you. If my notes have not put you off and you want something different then you may want to check it out.

Background: Made with figs, which is the main reason I grabbed it. That and the fact Mikkeller tend to be awesome with Imperial Stouts. Crooked tattoo look to be a bunch of guys who run a tattoo convention and they asked Mikkeller to make this beer for them for that. Bought from the ever reliable Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to a bit of Within Temptation, which seemed to suit the mood for this.


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