Category: Beer Tasting Notes

Brewdog: Ace Of Citra (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Small white head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple and apples. Peach. Mild hop character. Generally quite fresh character. Slightly bready. Shortbread. Low bitterness. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard.

Body: Crisp apples. Light tart gooseberry. Peach syrup. Mild vanilla toffee backbone.

Finish: Tart white grapes. Spritzers. Apples. Fresh. Some hop character and bitterness. Digestives. Slight smoke. Slight cloying hop feel.

Conclusion: After a weak first beer on the Ace of range this …cough.. session IPA range is actually starting to grow on me. The second beer was pretty good, and this one is pretty damn enjoyable.

The body is still slightly thin, however here the hop choice really seems to work with that rather than against it. It is fresh, apply and slightly spritzer styled. The flavour doesn’t seem hurt by the thinner body – instead, due to the fresh character, it becomes a lightly refreshing, mildly bitter drink, using the freshness to fill what the texture lacks. Because of this it manages to avoid being a thin empty drink or a harsh over dry one, so good job so far.

As is expected by this point, the malt doesn’t bring much to the game. A slight vanilla toffee backing is there to work from but very lightly done. Similarly hop bitterness and character is a light dusting over the beer, not a main component. In fact the harshest note is a slight sulphur smoke in the finish. Not the best look, doesn’t match with the other flavours, but it is light enough that it does not ruin what came before.

So, a few nips and tucks needed, but considering my off stated general dislike of session IPA as a style then, yeah, this is a fair solid one.

Background: Third in the Ace of range,a set of single hop session IPAs. I kind of preferred back when they did IPA is Dead as a full IPA single hop range, but this has seemed to improve over time. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was bought straight from the Brewdog website. I had just got back from watching “The Boy With Tape On His Face” comedy gig, so was in a good mood.

Tempest: Drop Kick Me Jesus (Scotland: Sour Ale: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear dried banana yellow. Small white head and moderate carbonation.

Nose: Sweat peaches and musty aubergines. White grapes and grape skins. Passion fruit. Lightly sour. Nutty undertones. Pineapple.

Body: Lightly sour. Lemon juice. Sour white grapes. Sour dough. Sour cream. Lime cordial. Pineapple juice. Stodgy white bread. Bitty orange juice. Coconut.

Finish: Crusty white bread and flour. Lemon curd. Lime cordial. Pineapple juice. Orange slices.

Conclusion: Normally slightly cloying beers are quite closed in the flavours, there are exceptions but they usually take some time to open up. This one has all that cloying sour character but is very open and very fruity. Somehow the cloying character draws your mouth together before releasing you for the flavour to seep in. It feels slightly stodgy, like flour covered white bread, and that flour character matches with the tradition dryness of a pale ale to leave your mouth very dry on the way out.

Now, normally that level of dry pale ale characteristics is an issue for me – it makes beer feels somewhat desiccating and that just is not my thing. The sour note of this beer manages to counterbalance that – lots of tart fruit juice notes throughout. However it does seem to lean on the tart notes for contract, the sweeter peach notes in the aroma never really show in the body. It keeps itself attenuated, dry, but with tropical tartness.

It is unusual and pretty drinkable despite the dry notes – and also despite the sour notes it actually feels pretty gentle with low acidity and hop character. Overall it is refreshing, almost like a pina colada touched beer from all those pineapple and coconut moments. Lots of flavour to it, albeit they are all similar styled – it feels like a beer that has come a bit late in the year. It feels like a right proper summer refresher. So , pretty good, not exceptional, but pretty good.

Background: Yes I bought this solely because it is called “Drop Kick Me Jesus” as always my maturity has not risen with my years. I saw this was an Amarillo hopped pale ale and thought it could be a nice, more normal, entry to my beer notes. Turns out it is a sour pale ale. Ah well, I tried for normal, I don’t complain when I get odd. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, This was drunk while listening to Hate In The Box: Under The Ice. Think they are a fairly small band, check them out – I recommand “Electric Dolls” to start with.

Chimay: Grand Reserve 2016: Viellie En Barriques (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate creamy brown coloured small bubbled head.

Nose: Crushed almonds and peanuts. Funky yeast. Popcorn. Dry. Wholemeal bread. Fig rolls. Sour red wine.

Body: Smooth. Carmalised brown sugar. Fig rolls. Plums. Hazelnut liqueur. Vanilla toffee. Lactose. Fizzy and sherbety. Liquorice. Malt chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Raisins and sultanas. Red wine and Madeira.

Finish: Hazelnut liqueur. Cream. Plums. Vanilla toffee. Lightly woody. Gummed brown paper. Slight sulphur and smoke. Brown sugar. Slight funky yeast. Cloves. Cognac.

Conclusion: Chimay blue by itself is a big, rewarding beer. In fact one I really should have done notes for by now. This is bigger, and possibly even more rewarding. At this level of quality it is hard to say.

At its base it is a very familiar, big dark fruit, brown sugar, creamy and malt led drink with obvious Belgian yeast influences. So, at its base still the same dark heavy delight the blue is.

So, what makes this different? Well the ageing has given it smoothness. You still feel the weight that says this is an alcohol heavy drink, but a lot of the rough edges are worn down. Thankfully not completely – it still has enough charming prickly edges to not be mistaken for the (in my opinion) overly smooth American take on the style.

Ageing in the barrels seem to have given it some unusual characteristics to play with. There is a light oaken sour note mixed with malt drinks below that which remind me of a good quality Flemish red. There is also a definite mix of sour red wine and sweet Madeira styling – the second of which I’m guessing may be from the cognac ageing. Maybe. Any which way it works very well backing up the strong dark fruit flavours. The final odd note is a much larger nutty character – generally it stands well, though it is slightly overly dominant in the aroma which gives a weak first impression to what is an excellent beer.

As you can probably guess from the examining above, I am very impressed by this. Very smooth, yet booming in flavour. The only difficulty in detecting new flavours is managing not to get washed away in the flood of what you have already encountered as there is so much going on.

The only real flaw is the nuttiness which can be too present occasionally. Everything else is an excellent Trappist beer carefully nurtured in oak. Slightly less nuttiness would let the other notes roam more, but that is a minor thing.

Suitably subtle Flemish sour ale notes meets Trappist dark ale meets multiple barrel ageing. Not perfect, as said above, but definitely very well done. Wish I had one to age further.

Background: OK, this is a big one, Chimay Blue at the base, aged in a mix of French oak, new chestnut, American oak and new cognac barrels. Fermented in tank, barrel and bottle. It was an expensive one picked up at Independent Spirit, but you don’t see many barrel aged Trappist beers, and I am a huge fan of Chimay – I think the blue was the first Trappist beer I ever had if I remember rightly. There are very few Trappist breweries, and the beer has to me made or overseen by the Trappist monks themselves – so they don’t tend to play with the more new wave brewing tricks, like this. Drunk while listening to a mix of History of Guns tracks on random.

Arbor and Buskers: Lost In Translation (England: Belgian Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy caramel to brown. Massive caramel touched loose bubble head.

Nose: Wheaty. Passion-fruit. Mango. Mixed dry fruit. Caramel. Peach jelly sweets. Flour. Light hop character and bitterness. Cheese.

Body: Funky, cheesy feel – Edam and cheese puffs crisps. Lime hops. Moderate bitterness. Peppery and crackers. Muesli backing. Light vanilla custard. Bubblegum.

Finish: Cheesy- mature cheddar. Pepper. Funky yeast. Slight hop oils, hop feel and bitterness. Dried apricot. Passion-fruit.

Conclusion: Since this was packed with simcoe and mosaic hops I have to admit I was expecting this to be more bitter, and more fruity hop dominated. I should really have learned by now that reality exists purely to shatter my expectations. That is its only purpose. No I am not narcissistic, that would mean I had a flaw.

Anyway, this has some nice hop characteristics – including moderate bitterness, hop character and use of hop oils, but what really dominates it is the funky yeast character that gives a pepper backing and a mass of cheese laden crackers. Instead of a big Belgian style fruit hop bomb this thing delivers a savoury plate to sup and chew upon.

It is both a very good impression of the Belgian style – and a more unusual, less mainstream Belgian style at that – which is awesome – and also a beer, that within that mileau, does not stand out too much from the actual similar Belgian beers. Which is less good. It is a bit hoppier, a bit more bitter, and a bit more intense in that style. That is where it stays though – which is no terrible thing, that might be exactly what you want from the beer. There isn’t exactly a huge range of similarly funky Belgian style ales floating around. It just doesn’t quite have a twist that makes it stand out as a unique entity in itself.

To concentrate on the positives, this really shows what you can do with Belgian yeast, and while moderated in the impact, it does also show the nice character you can get from high alpha acid hops like simcoe. So a decent beer, with nice stylings. Also, one of the all time great bottle labels. Which as we all know is the most important thing.

So, pretty good, just not great. Except the label. Which is great.

Background: Yeah, I bought this because of the label. Come on, Super Mario Bros and beer, you cannot tell me that is not cool and expect me to believe it. From a quick google looks like Buskers is an Italian brewing operation, not run into them before, should be interesting. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s new album Shape Shift With Me. Solid so far, sounds a bit different to their usual sound. Let’s see how it grows on me. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

De Molen: Hel and Verdoemenis: Bruichladdich (Peated) BA: Brett Edition (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown rim around the glass but no real head.

Nose: Bitter chocolate dust. Smoke. Cedar wood. Charring. Bitter coffee. Honey and treacle mix. Pecan nuts. Blueberry. Smoked meat.

Body: Smooth. Big bitter chocolate. Smoke. Big bitter coffee. Charred meat. Thick sour cream mouthfeel. Slightly soured. Beefy. Bitty feeling. Orange juice notes. Blueberry touched.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and bourbon biscuits. Smoke and ash. Sour cream. Bitty feel. Bitter coffee. Slight wet rocks and salt. Nougat.

Conclusion: Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect here with the brett involved. What I got was something big, something full of bitter chocolate, slightly cloyed, thick, and bitty feeling, all backed up by a lot of smoke and beefy flavours.

So how does it compare with the real ale, non brett version of this? Very favourably actually. It seems less harsh, thicker, letting more of the subtle notes come out. There is an odd sour cream kind of twist to it – at a guess I would say that is the brett playing about – thought I couldn’t be sure. It also makes it feel kind of bitty, and it seems to be this character that breaks up the harsh notes from the real ale version.

It really booms out the flavours this time around – still not up there with the Octomore aged Hemel and Aarde that I still kick myself for not doing notes on, but what is? Not as good as the 666 either, but there still feels to be so many odd notes hidden inside this that it has appeal. At times there are subtle hints of orange juice, blueberry and nougat that are just teases at the edge of the beer. I am so tempted to grab one of these to age, just to see what happens.

Still, as it currently is it is a solid set of flavours; Big, surprisingly mellow in the barrel ageing compared to the harsh real ale version – there is a lot of smoke but little harshness. Not a stand out favourite in the Imperial Stout crowd, but utterly rock solid and a bit unusual. That different texture really makes it with that cloying yet bitty mouthfeel. Worth a try as it is, and I am intrigued to see what a bit of brett ageing will do.

Background: Damn that is one long name to type out. Some people may wonder why I am revisiting this, as the Hel and Verdoemenis: Bruichladdich I tried at the Great British Beer Festival didn’t impress me too much. Two main reasons. One, I can find that the real ale delivery can sometimes not suit high abv beers like this. Two, this is a Brett edition, as marked by a tiny label on the side, and I was intrigued by what that would do to this. So, yeah – I tend to return to De Molen for their Imperial Stouts a lot – I really should try more of their other styled beers as they are an excellent brewery. This was grabbed from independent spirit and drunk while listening to Carcass- Surgical Steel. Big beer- big music!

Stewart: Hawkshead: Margarita Gose (Scotland: Gose: 6% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed to lemon juice coloured body. Large off white head. Hazy mid body. Lots of sediment at the base.

Nose: Green leaves. Slight sweat. Thin squeezed lime. Crushed sesame seeds. Thin lemon. Bitty orange juice. Malt toffee drinks.

Body: Slightly tart and sour. Sour cream and chives. Greenery. Tart apples. Sharp lime. Sherbety feel and flavour. Blackpool rock. Wheaty. Malt drinks.

Finish: Lemon. Funky character. Sharp lime. Brown bread. Sour pineapple juice air. Lemongrass. Cane sugar. Greenery.

Conclusion: The observant of you may have noticed that I have not used the word “Margarita” at any point in the actual tasting notes above. This can be interpreted in one of two ways 1) That I am a dedicated tasting noter and as such would not take such short cuts. Or 2) That it has been fucking years since I have had a margarita and as such I only have a vague memory of what they taste like. (Hypothetically there is a 3) It tastes nothing like a margarita, but from the notes you can probably guess that is not true)

Anyway, number 2 is true, I admit. From my vague-arse memories this does take pretty margarita like. So…

Well, for a gose they have worked very well on the body. I’ve had a few gose now, and a thin body seems to be the curse of a bad gose resulting in that terrible sweat sock water style that is the bad stereotype of the style. This pulls forwards a decent body and instead just bursts with flavour. It is a sour, tart base, pushed with squeezed fruit sharp flavours and greenery. This , more than anything else puts me in mind of the first description I ever heard of a gose – like a sour salted Belgian wit. The base really has that Belgian wit texture that is not evident in many of the style I have tried.

As it warms more malt drink notes come out – it makes it more beer like and robust, though that does seem to work against the main margarita conceit. So, rambling aside – is it any good? Actually – yeah it is. Based on vague memory I would say it seems to meet its concept well. As a gose it emphasises the positive of the style and hides the negative. As just a beer it is just beer like enough to feel worth doing rather than just having a margarita itself, it is fresh and refreshing and has a good wodge of tart flavour. Another beer that could have been just a gimmick, but ends up working out much better than that.

Background: Been meaning to try this for a while, recommended by Independent Spirit it is a gose made to try and emulate Margaritas. To do so they have used motueka hops, salt and kaffir lime leaves. In preparation for the soon to be released new Against Me! Album, I was listening to 23 Live Sex Acts album while drinking this.

Scuttlebutt: Porter (USA: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dark brown at edges. Thin beige head.

Nose: Roasted. Nutty. Dry roasted peanuts. Creamy yet slightly dry. Praline and bitetr chococlate. Mild coffee. Slight sour cherries.

Body: Slightly chalky. Bitter and slightly soured. Slight sour black-cherries. Slightly light when chilled. Thin malt drinks. Somewhat roasted. Bready.

Finish: Chocolate bread on brown spread. Light chalk. Bitter and charred. Popcorn. Bitter cocoa dust. Sour cream and chives touch. Smoke and burnt wood.

Conclusion: Pretty savoury for a porter this one is. There are nuts, bready character, a sour cream twist touch, slight smoke – It is low on sweetness and quite dry. Chilled it can come through a tad thin as well. It feels pretty attenuated for a porter, definitely a much drier experience than normal, with smokey notes filling the finish, rising up to fill the gap the lightness gives. Also in odd notes, there is even a slight sour character that comes through sour cherry style. All in all an odd take on the porter so far.

At first I thought all this may be because I had it too chilled – but I’ve let it warm over time, and while it no longer feels so thin, it still feels like an odd mash up of notes. The aroma promises a fairly standard, chocolate, roasted and coffee heavy porter – albeit a good one. The closest the body comes to a standard porter is the roasted character and a malt drink presence.

The flavours tend towards the harsher ideas, without being too harsh in the implementation, if that makes sense. Slight sour cherries, slight rough chalk, slight roasted notes – harsh but all slight. The biggest element is the smoke in the finish which is very present and mouth filling.

It all ends up feeling slightly neutral, but the harsher idea flavours means it doesn’t manage for easy drinking either. Too rough to be easy going, but too restrained to boom. It feels like a half way porter with no home to go to. Not repulsive but a very meh porter.

Background: Grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection, this was a bit of a random grab – don’t know anything about the brewer – just felt like grabbing a more normal beer than all the weird oddities flying around these days. Sometimes you just want a beer made with malt, hops, water and yeast. Drunk while listening to some 8-bit takes on Bad Religion – because I love punk and I love fun chiptunes.

De Molen and Brew By Numbers: Name and No:01 (Netherlands:American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Massive yellowed to white loose bubbled heads that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Wheaty. Rhubarb. Soft jiff lemon. Coriander. Vanilla ice cream. Orange zest. Vanilla.

Body: Lightly tart. Rhubarb. Tayberry. Lemon juice. Brown bread. Lightly earthy hop character. Banana bread.

Finish: Lemon juice. Wholemeal pancakes. Earthy. Pepper. Light hop bitterness. Unleavened bread. Slight funky yeast character.

Conclusion: This seems surprisingly normal beer, all things considered. A lightly tart beer, but not really all that crazy. I was expecting different considering the use of buckwheat and rhubarb. Anyway, this is a well grounded, slightly brown bread and earthy base that sets up a neutral platform for the tarter flavours to work over. The tartness is a gentle mix of unsweetened fruit – nothing too harsh, nothing more than you would get in some of the tarter fruit pies. The grounding bready feel is much more present than any tart notes. There is a Belgian wit spice character top and tail – pepper and coriander styled, giving a bit of life to it.

As a drink it is on the solid side of satisfying, kind of stodgy, bready feeling – appropriate considering the Dutch pancake inspiration. The rhubarb is subtle but well done and just tart enough to liven up the dry base. Despite that it does have a kind of basic feel to it – in contrast to the oddity of what went into making the beer. Best pitch I could give is like a more leaden hopped and simple Orval that has been spiced up by a touch of tart fruit to get over that flaw.

Still, pretty drinkable, just for all it has it should feel more special. It is an unusual beer, but somehow manages to not feel like one. It feels kind of run of the mill. The odder characters fade into the background – it slips down satisfactory but never sparkles.

More solid that it feels like it should be, but solid enough, which is no bad thing.

Background: Ok, they had me at “Dutch Pancake Pale Ale”. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is made with buckwheat, rhubarb and lemon zest. Interesting set. So far De Molen have been excellent in the beers they turn out, Brew by Numbers have a huge rep – so far most of the stuff had from them has been good but not world shaking. Drunk while listening to Foo Fighter’s eponymous album. Not listened to any of their new stuff as I dropped out back while they were denying HIV caused AIDS, and even though they have recanted that, never really got back into them. Their early stuff is still cool and I slip back into it every now and then. Also, as you may have noticed from the photo, holy shit this pours lively. I was doing a gentle pour and it still needed three attempts before I could get enough room to empty the bottle.

Northern Monks: Real Junk Food Project: Wasted (England: Saison: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Dried apricot coloured. Massive yellowed mounded bubbles for a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty. Buttery shortbread. Pear. Gingerbread. Spiced pumpkin.

Body: Smooth bitterness. Vanilla toffee. Rustic yeastie character. Cheddar. Light hop character. Light pepper. Custard. Apples. Dried apricot. Pumpkin. Malt drinks.

Finish: Pear drops. Puff crisps . Croissants and butter. Light pepper. Light hop bitterness. Custard. Malt drinks.

Conclusion: I love the idea for this beer, love the bottle image, love that they used food destined to be chucked it away to make it. So… Do I love the beer itself?

It it seemly a Saison Dupont inspired beer at its base, with quirks brought on by the special ingredients. That is a pretty high bar to try and clear. The Dupont influence can be seen in the custard to vanilla toffee back, with crisp hops used over it. Very smooth, though nowhere near as well done with the hops as the quintessential Saison Dupont – but the sweet soothing malt base part is very competently done.

The unusual ingredients are mixed in the quality of their influence. You can see the pear influence top and tail, but it is pretty absent mid body – it is more of a subtle influence on everything else than a stand out element by itself. For the croissant, well, I’m not sure if it is the base beer and I am just mistakenly attributing it, but there is a fresh croissant kind of character – half way between a wheat beer and buttery shortbread is the best was I can describe it. Any which way it feels spot on for the croissant influence.

It has a very smooth, very drinkable character – nothing hard edged here – the hops and bitterness are very restrained. The character manages to to not be too clean though due to a funky, kind of cheesy, character – odd as on the bottle they list they use champagne yeast which I would not associate with this character, but whatever they did gives the Belgian character well.

So, on the good side – it is smooth, easy drinking, catches the farmhouse ale style, but due to its quirk sit is a bit different. For flaws – well despite the quite varied notes I’ve listed, most of them are just at the edge of the beer sensations – at its core it is actually kind of simple. It isn’t a massively rewarding beer experience to examine and dissect. So overall, good idea, nice easy drinking beer, not much more than that – nowt special but no complaints.

Background: OK, this one just fascinated me, a beer made to minimise waste – made with pears, croissants and brioche that were going to be thrown away, spent hops and malt donated, yeast reused and glass recycled. It is a neat idea, so I grabbed it from Independent Spirit for drinking and examining (and from my side the bottle will be recycled once more!) Drunk while listening to Clonic Earth – the almost white noise mixed with discordant and ambient sounds made for a nice unusual background for this unusual ale.

Thornbridge: Love Amongst The Ruins (England: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown to red. Hazy thin rim of off white bubbles.

Nose: Sour cherries and sour black-cherries. Mature cheese. Red wine. Blackcurrants. Peach. Wet wood. Slight perry. Vanilla. Strawberry yogurt

Body: Brown envelopes and gum. Slight vinegar touch. Chocolate undertones. Tart raspberry. Strawberry crème and bitter chocolate. Dried banana. Pears. Soft cherries. Cake sponge. Slight tart cherries as well.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Acidic. Toffee. Cider. Strawberry crème. Cherry-aid and cherries. Perry. Muscatel cherries. Marmalade. Red wine.

Conclusion: Ok, I kind of expected more cherries in this. This being the one with cherries used to make it and all. That didn’t seem too wild a guess. Still, subtly of cherries aside, this is very similar to its sister beer before it, a fruity and sour red ale – just dealing a very different set of notes to what I expected.

It really is very similar a beer at its base (Ok that is admittedly probably because it is the same base beer, but roll with me here). It is lightly tart with that brown gummed envelope character, and very mild vinegar calls – backed by the sweet vanilla, toffee and chocolate subtle notes below the freshness.

The fruit character is the very surprising difference. The is some tart dark fruit, but there is also a real kind of pear to perry styled soft easygoing fruit character to this. The exact opposite of what I expected going in.

The more red fruit comes out later on as it warms, and, similar to its sister beer, you also get some orange fruit mixed in. A lot of the same compliments I gave Day’s Of Creation also apply here – the same refreshing acidic but smooth character. Same good use of sweet notes. Same feel of what seems like American hop character (despite the fact this is, apparently, an unhopped beer so I have been told) and the same natural fruitiness. I think I prefer Day’s Of Creation – the raspberry seemed to give the fruit a bit of a better defined character. This is softer and more soothing, with a lot going on but less immediately evident. Still a very good beer, and the softness here makes it an usual one – I’m just not quite sure why the cherries didn’t have more impact.

Any which way – Very good, but for my mind the silver award winner of Day’s of Creation takes the gold medal of my appreciation over this.

Background: I’ve had a few questions about if I would do this one since I did notes for its sister beer Day’s Of Creation. Well, here it is! Grabbed from Independent Spirit at the same time as its sister beer, this is the gold medal winner of the two! I have previously mentioned my slight distrust of such things though. To keep this distrust in its place, this was drunk while listening to the excellent album from Carcass – Surgical Steel. Songs about rotting flesh and death should help with my cynicism. This is nigh exactly the same as Day’s Of Creation – A sour red ale aged in red Burgundy Barrels, but this time with cherries instead of raspberries.

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