Category: Beer Tasting Notes

Brewdog Hello My Name Is Holy Moose

Brewdog: Hello My Name Is Holy Moose (Scotland: IPA: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Amber to red. Thin reddened head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Prickly. Pineapple. Tart white grapes. Light cherryaid. Vanilla toffee. Light hop character.

Body: Strawberry. Brown bread. Tart cherries. Cider apples. Cherryaid. Lightly spicy. Raspberries. Slight syrupy middle in a fruit syrup style.

Finish: Malt drinks. Light bitterness and greenery. Pineapple. Light cherryaid. Brown bread. Gooseberry. Raspberries.

Conclusion: More berries in IPA action, this one going a little lighter on the IPA base than previously in the series, probably due to the lower abv. You get a light hop character outlining the beer, but very little of the malt base. Instead the fruit takes it over, giving the impression of a lightly hopped sour fruit drink.

So, how is that sour fruit drink? Good enough to make up for the diminished beer character? Well, it is pretty nice – a mix of fruit from gooseberries though to slight sweet cherryaid character at the opposite end of the scale. You can walk a range of sweet, tart and spicy notes, all whilst keeping in the fruit milieu. Ok gratuitous misuse of milieu there, but still…

Anyway, the IPA part is the weak part. The fruit really deserves a bigger backing to help it stand out as an element rather than the whole beer. The lack of a decent malt base keeps it from feeling rounded, and the muggy feeling bitter hop character means that it doesn’t have that IPA tingle.

A pity as the actual fruity flavours that the hops impart seem to merge nicely into the fruit – hard to say where one ends and the other begins so the beer does focus on what it does right – the fruit. It ends up refreshing and fruity, but with a better backing it could have been a lot more

Background: Ok, so I have had my disagreements with Brewdog, but also I do potentially benefit from them doing well. So, erm bias warning both ways I guess. Anyway, another in their “Hello My Name Is” Series. This one made with lower abv and made with cloudberry, lingonberry, blueberry and sea buckthorn. because there is no kill like overkill I guess. Drunk while listening to some Scroobius Pip Distraction Pieces. It is a good standby

Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvee van De Keizer Blue

Anker: Gouden Carolus: Cuvee van De Keizer: Blue (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 11%)

Visual: Dark black cherry to brown. Thin grey-brown head.

Nose: Raisins. Malt chocolate. Sour wine. Light prune juice. Malt loaf. Fresh crusty bread. Glacier cherries.

Body: Big figgy pudding. Brandy cream. Plums. Madeira cake. Christmas pudding. Smooth and creamy. Crusty fresh white bread. Raspberry liqueur. Orange crème centres. White sugar dusting.

Finish: Madeira. Raspberry pavolva. Brandy cream. Raisins. Sugary fruit jelly sweets. Cane sugar.

Conclusion: The big mummy and/or daddy of the Gouden Carolus range. The smooth, creamy, slick granddaddy of deep malt beers. Ok, maybe the family tree is getting a bit inbred there, but you get the point. This is the big one.

This is super smooth and creamy, you can feel an alcohol weight to the flavour, but no burn, no heat, there really is not the tingle you would expect from an 11% abv beer. There is just this vague indication that the beer is far stronger that it seems and you should be taking your time with it.

Flavour wise it is full to bursting with Christmas pudding, plum, dark fruit and brandy cream. Like the ultimate spirit drenched winter dessert. the beer is sweet, but in a very natural feeling way, more fruit sweetness, with only the edges feeling like the more raw, more processed sugars.

While normally beers like this suit aging, I cannot imagine this getting any smoother. Maybe it can benefit from age, I mean I can’t see it ever becoming a bad beer, but this already has most of the elements I would expect to get from an aged beer. The integrated flavours, the smoothness – it is already there. The balance here is exceptional – it even has tiny offsets from the main creaminess – a light fresh bead solidness, a light bitter offset in the nose and finish to package it up nicely.

This is the decadent experience of supreme Belgian beers. It has that smoothness I would associate with American takes, but manages to keep that weight that calls to the rawer Belgian interpretations resulting in flavours big enough to stand out without ever getting sickly.

A masterpiece.

Background: The 2015 bottled edition, drunk in the same year. Gouden Carolus Classic is one of my all time great beers, and I tried this, the brewed up anniversary style of this beer many years ago, but was never able to find it since. I found the, also great, red version of the beer, but kept seeking the blue until it finally turned up in Independent Spirit. Drunk with friends while listening to Against Me!’s 23 Live Sex Acts.

Wild Beer Co The Blend Summer 2015

Wild Beer Co: The Blend: Summer 2015 (England: Sour Ale: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Lots of small bubble carbonation. A thin white head.

Nose: Horse blankets. Oatmeal. Apples. Vanilla. Dry pear.

Body: Sherbety. Sour lime. Tart apples. Lightly creamy. White grapes. White wine. Light funky yeast feel. Dry. Grapes. Apricot. Dried banana.

Finish: Brown gummed envelopes and vinegar. Cider and white wine. Acid feel at back of throat. Vanilla.

Conclusion: So, the blend. It is here. Wild Beer Co have done an impressive range of sour beers over the years, and now they have enough to mix up this. Something special? Maybe. let’s see how it does.

Well it wears its lambic influence on its sleeves. It should hardly be surprising considering how the mixing of ages of sour beers is very much a lambic tradition. This shares that horse blanket aroma character, it has the same white wine styling on the body as well. Like a lot of Wild Beer Co beers however it does have that slight cider apple side to it that gives it a touch of its own character.

It is nice enough, maybe a bit hard on the more vinegar acidic touches considering the softer flavours, but not bad. It is refreshing, dry and drinkable. However, in emulating the lambic styling it is going head to head with them and, well, compared to those it doesn’t come off as well. It doesn’t match the ease of drinking of the softer end of the scale, nor the complexity of the higher end.

Now, that does not mean it is not pleasant, it is that and it does work better as it warms up a bit, more fruity – with more apricot. When the acidity isn’t too high the softer vanilla works well also. It bodes well on if they can build on that as a solid base, bring up the rest of the beer to match. They intend to keep turning out editions of this as they get more sour stock, and this is an ok start. As long as they treat this as a base to improve on then it could end up with a very nice beer. As of right now it feels like an entry level lambic with some cider touches.

Let’s see what future years brings.

Background: Wow, Wild Beer Co has been going three years? Seems like no time whatsoever. Anyway, now they have enough of a backlog of brewed sour beers that they can blend various aged versions of it into this, “The Blend”. I am a fan of their sour beers, so this looked interesting. Drink while listening to Iron Maiden’s new album – Book of Souls which has been good so far, but no one individual track seems to stand out as much. Still nice metal backing to sour drinking. The wax wasn’t too bad to get off on this one, thankfully. This was bought from Independent Spirits.

Kabinet Citra Pale Ale

Kabinet: Citra Pale Ale (Serbia: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy yellow, with some sediment from the pour. Mounded white froth head.

Nose: Crisp hops. Pears. Dried apricot. Buttery shortbread. Nicely bitter. Kumquat. Chilli seeds. Apples.

Body: Paprika. Dry, but at some points brings a creamy mouthfeel. Spicy. pepper. Soft apples. Solid bitterness. Kiwi. Lightly tart,

Finish: Bitter. Wheaty. Pear drops. Drying. Gritty. Vanilla sweetness. Unleavened bread.

Conclusion: Ok, another pale ale that goes the highly attenuated route. I will admit not my favourite interpretation of the style. This one using the Citra hop as a pick me up to give a flavour burst against the dry backdrop.

So, that is the plan anyway, doesn’t quite work that way. the base is dry, bitter and gritty. By itself that isn’t terrible, but it requires a careful hand at the wheel, and makes it very reliant on the hops for most of the flavour. The hops here are bringing gentle green fruit – apples and pears – and also a resilient hop bitterness. The lightly tart set of fruit flavours is pleasant, but is nowhere near strong enough to work over the gritty base. The flavours are too easily overwhelmed.

So, it either needs to go with stronger flavours to work with the dry bitterness, or rein in the bitterness a bit to give the softer flavours room to roam. So, as is, it is not really one for me. Then again, the American Pale Ale is often like that for me, it takes real skill to pull off one I really like – this does not manage that and ends up too spicy and dry.

Still their IPA is cool.

Background: Grabbed while I was in Belgrade, as I wanted to try more from the Kabinet brewery. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s live album 23 Live Sex Acts. Very cool album. That is all.

The Talabheim Brewery Otto's Last Stand

The Talabheim Brewery: Otto’s Last Stand (England: English Strong Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark and cloudy, a very dark brown to black body and bubbled beige large head.

Nose: Figs and raisins. malt chocolate. Light tart grapes. Vanilla. Vinous.

Body: Big. Figgy pudding. Liquorice underneath. Malt chocolate. Bitter and slight charred underneath. Brown bread. Tart grapes. tingling texture. Vinous. Vanilla. banana.

Finish: Fig rolls. Malt chocolate drink. Dried sultanas. Light charcoal dust. Tannins. Brown sugar. Banana. Cloves.

Conclusion: Homebrew day! This is such a nice one as well. Ok, time for the high concept pitch – it tastes kind of like a brewed up, higher abv Fuller’s ESB. It has that figgy, dark fruity character and malt chocolate baking writ large.

The extra abv allows it a bit more weight, pushing a vinous sour grape backing and thicker body with it to make it a more boozy figgy pudding dessert style joy. Beneath that it manages to work a solid base, bitter and slightly charred to keep it from becoming too sweet.

It ends up being a three way for the style between a well balanced ESB, a vinous English strong ale and the sweet high notes of a barley wine. It is, frankly, a dangerously drinkable brew. At times the mix of raisins and light banana notes makes me think of a UK ale interpretation of the great Aventinus.

And no I am not just saying that because I have it, and because it is a home brew the chances are you do not. It is genuinely impressive.

Ok, to be fair, flaws then. Well, it is very boozy and sweet – if that isn’t your thing then this will not be. It can be a touch overly alcohol tingling, with the sweetness dominating the flavour. I have a feeling a few years in the bottle would really do this nicely to make this a real masterpiece. Hmm, I have none left though. Sad face. Still only a few minor rough edges to this gem of a beer.

This is the best tasting beer that most people will not get to try.

Background: Homebrew tasting notes time! Two bottles were donated to me by a workmate a while back (Many thanks) and I asked if he could check with the home brewer if it was ok to do notes on them. By the time I had got the OK I had already drunk them. Thankfully another workmate had a bottle spare I could have, so I nicked that to do these notes, again many thanks. As you can probably tell the homebrew is Warhammer Fantasy themed. This was drunk while listening to More Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes. I cannot recommend them highly enough as a hardcore punk band, great energy.

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil

Harviestoun: Old Engine Oil (Scotland: Old Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thin grey brown bubbles for a head.

Nose: Light lactose under roasted nuts. Vanilla. Lightly chalky. Chocolate milk shake. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Peanuts. Vanilla toffee. Bourbon. Lightly chalky. Liquorice. Earthy bitterness. Sour dough. Chocolate liqueur. Oily. Treacle. Sour dark fruit and raisins.

Finish: Oily and tarry. Rye bourbon. Charred oak. Bitter earthiness. Cheese puffs. Sour tang. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: You know, I’ve known for years that this beer does, in fact, come in non barrel aged version AKA this beer. Yet only now do I try it and do notes. It actually tastes kind of like it had been aged in rye bourbon barrels. Go figure.

It is mainly that vanilla toffee influence and rye spiciness that makes me think of that, and with all that no wonder it made for such a good base for barrel ageing, it is half way there already.

The non barrel aged tasting parts of this non barrel aged beer seem to float half way between a bitter cocoa infused imperial stout and a well made old ale. That is without needing actual coca or the amount of alcohol and imperial stout would have. There is a sweet chocolate front, but it quickly kicks bitter as hell and then the old ale style comes in with dark tart fruit grounded by a traditional earthy hoppiness that calls to mind the Black IPA style.

Frankly all that means that it is punching way above its weight class, and yet comparatively easy drinking due to the smoothness and lower abv (lower is comparative on something kicking out at 6% abv of course). While the tail end is pretty heavy in the oily characteristics, the next sip taken washes that way with the sweet and smooth chocolate front that comes in before the bite.

This is rounded, robust and right up my alley. Really rocking the range and rewarding revisiting. For such a heavy duty beer it doesn’t weight to heavy but gives so much. Definitely worth your time.

Background: Many thanks to the Independent Spirit of Bath for this, the second bottle given to me for tasting noting. As always I will try to be unbiased, with the only advantage given being that it gets shove do the front of the to be uploaded queue, which only seems polite. I drank Old Dubh 40 Year ages back as one of my first tasting notes and loved it, so it is cool to finally go with the unaged version.

Carlsberg Serbia Lav Pivo

Carlsberg Serbia: Lav Pivo (Serbia: Pale Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Light gold. Some carbonation. Small yellow white head.

Nose: Shortbread. Soft lemon and caramel. Custard.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Toffee. Light aniseed. Fizzy mouthfeel. Caramel. Custard.

Finish: Aniseed. Toffee malt. Light liquorice. Palma violets.

Conclusion: So, after that tasty Serbian craft beer, I thought it was time to take a swig of the everyday available cans of Belgrade for comparison. When I tried this on tap I found it ok, it gave a much smoother and superior experience, however for now it is the can in my hands so the can version we will discuss.

First comparison I shall do is against everyday canned lager in the UK. So how does it compare? here, fairly favourably, it doesn’t have that soda stream fizziness of a lot of UK lagers – the main base is soft lemon and caramel that isn’t bad. However it is pretty heavily let down by the finish where dry aniseed and liquorice off notes rise up and shit all over the main flavour. It says a lot about the UK canned lager scene that this still compares favourably despite that. Those elements were not present in the tap version, which is why I hold that one as superior. Meanwhile, back at the can the aroma is pretty much a non entity for the most part.

So, how about a second comparison, this time to the beer scene as a whole? Here this really suffers. It has an ok middle, but really weak front and actively bad end – it really isn’t worth grabbing.

So, anyway, on tap – more gentle, not great but much better than on the can and manageable. This canned version? It just doesn’t hold up. Despite having a reputation for getting a lot worse in the past ten years, I would still say Jelen is the better of the two mainstream lagers I encountered.

Anyway, this is called Lav, and tastes a bit piss. Snigger. I am such a child.

Background: Milos kindly put a few cans of beer in the fridge for me to try while I was in Belgrade, so I decided to do notes on one to see what the standard lager scene is like. I decided to go with this one as it is called Lav. Pivo means beer. So this is basically toilet beer to my ruined British mind. I am puerile. I had tried both light and dark version of this on tap in the pub the night before.

Kabinet Supernova

Kabinet: Supernova (Serbia: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Thin ambered head is a dash that leaves suds but doesn’t take up much space.

Nose: Apricot. Pineapple. Lemon and cane sugar. Stewed fruit. Gooseberry.

Body: Pineapple. Stewed apricot. Light chalk touch. Sharp gooseberry. Light backing bitterness. Fruit syrup. Peach.

Finish: Gooseberry. Pineapple. Peach. Good bitterness and hops. Light menthol.

Conclusion: Ok, I have drunk a hell of a lot of IPAs, so I can be a tad blasé at times, and a tad harsh on a new IPA because of that. I mean, I am comparing them to an insanely high quality top few, however, I try to put that behind me and just enjoy the beer as it is. Which is a long winded way of saying, taken as itself, this is a very solid IPA.

This mixes a thick, fruit syrup sweet base with a real tart gooseberry and pineapple hop character. Well, I say hop character, I am sure that the fruitiness comes from the hops, but there isn’t a traditional hop feel, or even that big bitterness for an IPA. It is discernibly an IPA, but unusual in how it delivers it – concentrating on big flavours over big bitterness.

The exception to this is in the finish where a bit more traditional hop bitterness comes out, breaking up the tart main character. Overall it comes together as a refreshing and large feeling beer.

So, not world class no, but that is hardly an insult in this field – trust me. So, what small flaws are against it? Well the main body is a tad too syrupy, as a single beer that works great, but it still gets a tad sickly by the end – I can’t see it holding up great over a session. Apart from that there is a slight menthol bit at the end that doesn’t quite fit the style. That is about it really.

So, a bit over heavy but for that you get a lovely burst of flavour. Not quite a supernova, but definitely a bang!

Background: Belgrade has a craft beer scene! Since I was visiting a few friends over in Belgrade I thought I should at least give it a try. Drunk at Kabinet‘s pub in Belgrade, this is their interpretation of an IPA. Initially i thought this may have NZ hops in, but looking online it looks like it is predominantly USA hopped. Huh, my mistake. This was served in what looked like a large spirit glass, guess there is not much of a scene for people like me who order small measures. Also, I just looked, on ratebeer this is the highest rated Serbian beer. I had no idea at the time of ordering. As mentioned in the photo this has an EBC of 20. I don’t see that listed often…

Gotlands Sitting Bulldog IPA

Gotlands: Sitting Bulldog IPA (Sweden: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana to brown. Good sized toffee touched creamy head. Some bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Thick. Peach. Pine needles. Vanilla custard. Caramel.

Body: Very milky coffee. Peach. Creamy. Light earthy hops. Strawberry crème. Lightly gritty. Light tart apples.

Finish: Milky coffee. Strawberry crème and bitter Belgian chocolate. Lightly earthy. Light pineapple. Light grapes. Earthiness rises over time.

Conclusion: This is odd timing – I only just posted up the Amnesiac tasting notes a few moments before breaking this open. Thus those notes were very much on my mind as I broke this open, and I could not help but draw comparisons between the two.

Again this is very malt heavy for an IPA, it pushes the sweet base, which again comes across with milky coffee, with lightly earthy bitterness behind it. The coffee is much more obvious in this one though.

The similarity surprised me as the nose was a real thick peach hop character – however when you get into the main body they play second fiddle to the very sweet base.

Now, this one does hang together a bit better. It is smoother, easier to drink and with more pronounced elements – but is seems to end up too dry and earthy, which creates a disconnect between body and finish.

So, great aroma, excellent and balanced to a “T” – far too heavy on the sweetness for the malt driven body, and far too earthy finish. For all the criticism I am giving here, the beer isn’t far off being all right. They have done interesting things with the malt – sweetness calling to strawberry tones for example. but those elements feel out of place.

I would think they either need to rework the beer to aim for a more malt driven style so they can emphasises their strengths, or start really building up the hop characteristics to make the rest of the beer match the nose.

As it stands it is a halfway between the two beer and doesn’t quite work as either. Drinkable, but confused.

Background: Disclaimer: This beer was donated to me for doing tasting notes by Chris from Independent Spirit as he had received some samples. Many thanks! As always I will attempt to be unbiased despite that. The only advantage I give to review bottles is I try to get them up on the site quickly, as is only polite. This time that was hampered by my fridge going out just after getting the bottle. Thankfully I have a working fridge now and cool IPAs. Drink while listening to Against Me! 23 Live Sex Acts. Against Me! are awesome live, and the CD caught some of that energy.

Phillips Amnesiac Double IPA

Phillips: Amnesiac Double IPA (Canada: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded yellow froth head.

Nose: Stewed apricot. Pineapple. Fresh crisp hops. Thick and lightly bitter. Fruit syrup and peach. Toffee, fudge, and crushed biscuits. Ginger bread. Light mint greenery.

Body: Greenery. Sour touch. Resin and hops. Malty toffee backbone. Lime. Apricot. Vanilla. Light coffee. Cream.

Finish: Bitter. Slight cardboard touch. Vanilla. Malt biscuits. Sour dough. Slightly cloying. Light frothy coffee. Light earthy.

Conclusion: A bottled bit of Canada brought back with me. How does it do? Well it is quite unusual for a Double IPA I will say that. For one thing there is a very thick texture and slightly sour tang to it that makes it come in heavier than most of the style. It plays an odd balance therefore – it pushes the malt sweetness heavily, and the greenery and hop feel are high, but it doesn’t seem to use any of the hop flavours that a double IPA can really boost up.

In fact, when you combine all the elements together it brings a slight milky coffee taste the whole thing. Not really what I expect from an IPA, ok, ok coffee IPAs exist but they are doing it more in tune with the whole beer. The slightly earthy feel of this reminds me of the UK traditional take on the style, but without the advantage of the real earth texture that helps ground them.

While an interesting set of items, overall it makes for a quite bland beer. Ok, there are big flavours, but no real quality well defined flavours – just strongly pushed dull bitterness and malt sweetness. Normally I would think that the beer was a tad old and so the hops were muted, but I drank this less than a week after buying, and the hops don’t feel muggy – just leaden.

So, I’m not sure if it is just trying to carve out its own niche as a bit of a different double IPA, or if it just fails at the style it aims for, but any which way it is an underwhelming Double IPA. Oh well.

Background: The last of the Canada beers, for real this time! The final bottle I brought back with me to do a tasting note of. Ok, I brought back another beer, but that was a USA beer for ageing. this is the last Canadian beer. Drunk very shortly after getting back, so to try as fresh as possible, something I don’t usually get with Canadian beers. This was actually drunk early morning after midnight due to jet lag having effectively inverted my perception of time. Drink while listening to B. Dolan’s new album – Feed The Wolf. This was found in a random bottle shop I happened to find whilst walking in Vancouver.


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