Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Senne: Bellwood: Imperial Donkey (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dark brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous white grapes. Yeastie champagne. Liquorice. Subtle cherries. Dry Madeira.

Body: Bready bitterness. Sour cream. Dry white wine. Slightly astringent. Dry Madeira. Dry cherry. Dry spice. Tannins. Light cocoa.

Finish: Sour dough. Dry white wine and white grapes. Champagne. Sultanas. Spicy dry red wine. Subtle bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, my first though was “What type of wine barrel did this spend time in?” On first breaking open the bottle, as I desperately tried to pour it into the glass before it frothed over, I got hit with a distinct, strong dry white wine into champagne character on the nose, with the imperial stout character lost under that due to its intensity.

The stout character comes out more as a bready, earthy kind of thing in the main body. For an imperial stout those flavours come across as fairly restrained.

What makes me question the barrel ageing is then how it changes, becoming spicier with dry red wine character coming out. Initially dry Madeira like notes into full on spicy red wine by the end via a few dry dark fruit hops in-between.

It is very barrel ageing dominated, even if I can’t quite pin down exactly which wine barrel it spent time in. There are slight cocoa to chocolate notes late on, but if you are enjoying this, chances are it is because the barrel ageing brought you there, rather than anything else.

As of such, it is not really for me. I like what the ageing notes bring, but I really need more beer backing it up. The beer just feels lost here. So, very vinous, lots of wine character and range, but so very little beer. May be for you, was not for me.

Background: Been a while since I had a beer from Senne, they have been stonking good in most of their past beers, so this one caught my eye at Independent Spirit – A barrel aged English style Imperial Stout. From googling I confirmed that it was a wine barrel as I thought, but yet to find anything that tells me the type. If you know please drop a comment and fill me in. Don’t know much about Bellwood Brewery apart from the fact they are a Toronto based brewery in Canada and they did a Beavertown collab I tried. For a heavy dark beer like this I put Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin on in the background to match.

Advertisements

To Øl: Cloudwater : CPH – Quick Splash (Denmark: APA: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Large mound of white head.

Nose: Flour. Dry peach. Flour like hop prickle. Slight custard.

Body: Moderate hop character and bitterness. Purple peppers. Dry grapefruit. Pink grapefruit. Flour. Vanilla. Slight custard.

Finish: Purple peppers. Grapefruit. Flour like hop character. Lychee. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ll admit I was wrong. In what way? Well when I looked at this and saw that the New England virus had spread from IPAs to its nephew style, the APA, I was worried. Was this to be the beginning of the end? Were we to see NE Saisons, NE Brown Ales or even NE Stouts. IS? THIS? THE? END? OF? EVERYTHING!?

Ok, I exaggerate, NEIPAs are not that bad, even if they are often not for me, but I was worried that- like how we ended up with every kind of IPA under the sun, we would end up with everything being NE style. I still don’t know if that will happen, but you know what, this is genuinely pretty good.

The drier APA character here is compensated for by the tart fruit character, while the lower bitterness of the NE style gets reinforced slightly as the drier APA character makes what bitterness there is punch harder, but unlike some APAs, due to the freshness the flour like hop character doesn’t get gritty. It feels like a lot of the possible issues I have with some APAs and NEIPAs actually offset each other here by the other style pushing back the other way to create an actual balance between the two.

So, tart matched by a dry, well pushed grapefruit notes that go a touch outside the standard tart grapefruit flavour range for a bit of variety. There is even a touch of soft vanilla from the malt, but general that side of things just gives that New England style extra thickness and mouthfeel.

It is a good APA, and an area where I genuinely think the New England take on things works, adding to rather than detracting from the beer style. I am impressed. Nicely done, I applaud everyone involved.

Background: As you may have guessed from the notes I am generally not taken by the New England IPA style. Still, this is a beer made at To Øl’s brewpub, so is a rare chance to try something from there. Even more than that it is made with Cloudwater, who have a good hand with hop heavy beers, so I was interested to see how it works out. Oddly this is a New England Pale Ale, not an IPA, something I did not even know existed until this moment. Not much else to add – bought at Independent Spirit, put back on Visceral by Getter while drinking for some nicely done backing music.

Burning Sky: Saison Houblon (England: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to lemon juice. Large mounded bubbled white head with brown clumps.

Nose: Banana custard. Wheaty. White pepper. Mild grapefruit. Moderate cake sponge hop character. Orange zest. Slight sour dough. Apple.

Body: Slight tart grapefruit. White pepper. Tart grapes. Slight sour dough. Fresh cut apple. Earthy middle. Coriander.

Finish: Wheaty bitterness. Tart grapefruit. Peppery. White pepper. Coriander. Muesli and dried raisins.

Conclusion: This is nice, but boy the aroma promised something with far more subtlety and range. It makes the decent body that you actually get feel slightly disappointing on comparison. Ah well, let’s look at what we actually get then.

The body is fairly rustic style saison – peppery, solid earthy saison style but made fresh with gentle tart grapefruit hops so the body refreshes you before pushing out into a solidly bitter and peppery once again finish.

Refreshing, but yet earthy and grounded. A solid beer and one at not too high abv. The thing is, the aroma has so much more range to it – much more in the tart fruits and hints of a sweeter malt touch that calls to the classic that is Saison Dupont. If those notes had carried through into the body then this could have been similarly a classic beer.

Ah well, let’s look at what it is, not what it could have been. It fits bright hop character well into the base earthy saison without compromising either. A fairly solid twist on the saison, not a classic – it needs a few more layers for that – but it is solidly drinkable with solid hop bitterness.

Could do a lot worse for a saison, give it a go if you are in the mood for something refreshing but with weight.

Background: So, houblon just means hop in French. So this is a hoppy saison. Simple. Burning Sky really haven’t got the attention they deserve from me, may have to make an effort to reverse that. This is step one in trying anyway. Not much else to add – I wanted something comparatively easy drinking, with a not too high abv, so I hoped a saison would do the job when I broke it open for the night. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I returned to IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance to listen to while drinking. Still amazing mix of anger and sensitivity. I still should pick up some of their other albums to see if they are all this good.

AB Inbev Belgium – Leffe: Blond 0.0% (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Bright yellow gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large yellow-white mound of a head.

Nose: White sugar. Wheaty. Sweet lemon. Sweet lime. Candyfloss. Dried banana.

Body: Slight sweet tea. Banana. White sugar. Sweet lemon. Syrup. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Lemon syrup. Sugared tea. White sugar. Light pepper. Vanilla to vanilla toffee. Later on banoffee.

Conclusion: This is an odd mix of sweet sugary Belgian beer and sweetened tea style. Yep, the low alcohol tea style notes are here again, in fact here the very sweet tea like base character really stands out.

Now Leffe has always been on the sweeter side of the varied abbey styles, and this tries to lay that on with raw sugar, and sweet lemon, sugary orange and vanilla notes. All very artificially done, sweet as heck and so very much in the character of a standard Leffe blond. Though they are, as is to be expected, much lighter due to the lower abv, and because of that the tannin and tea notes come back again a lot on the tail end.

Oddly, while the mouthfeel is nowhere as thick as a standard Leffe blond, it still is pretty solid for a zero alcohol beer – a bit thicker than most in the range. So, past that, is this any good? Eh, it is pleasant enough, and does call to the original beer’s style. Original Leffe blond was always, simple, sweet and cheerful and this is similarly artificially sweet but fun, so I’ll give it that.

Basically the tea aspect isn’t bad in itself, but it really makes you aware that this is not a standard beer and will ruin any illusion of that. It is nice enough and the first low abv beer of this style that I have encountered, but it definitely needs a lot of polish for it to be a proper stand in for an alcoholic beer.

Still, enjoyable enough as long as you know going in what it is you are getting.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Raided Beercraft‘s low alcohol selection again for this one. Leffe was one the earliest Belgian beers I tried, something which I think is a lot of people’s experience. Now, yeah, it is a bit one note compared to a lot of less mainstream abbey blonds, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for it. Oddly, I checked and this is the first Leffe I have done notes of for the blog. Huh, I used to drink tons of these. Go figure. Anyway, put n a bunch of random Crossfaith for listening to while drinking, on a huge Crossfaith kick at the mo.

To Øl : CPH – The Boss (Denmark: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Good inch of yellow white loose head.

Nose: Crisp bitter hop character. Bitty pineapple chunks. Grapefruit. Slightly bready hops.

Body: Tart grapefruit. Light flour. Low level bitterness. Vanilla. Mandarin orange develops over time.

Finish: Grapefruit. Pineapple. Low level hop character. Custard cream biscuits. Slight flour. Mandarin orange.

Conclusion: Ok, a short while back I bemoaned the lack of IPAs these days that truly commit to the tart grapefruit heavy IPAs that you got back when Nelson Sauvin hops were first all the rage. Well, sometimes you ask for something and end up getting it is spades!

This is grapefruit dominated all the way baby! Some pineapple backing as well, but mainly grapefruit. However it feels different to the big grapefruit IPAs of old. They were clean and tart, either dry and with the malt out of the way or sweet and tart. This uses the texture of the beer to call to ragged grapefruit and pineapple chunks that are nearly falling apart, leaving bits everywhere on the tongue. It is a style that allows the beer to call back to those previous classic while still innovating nicely.

Very nice, very tart, if kind of one note at the start. It takes a while for the vanilla character from the malt to come out, instead you mainly get a very New England style thicker texture, slightly wheaty or oat thickened mouthfeel to the body. Hops are present in a low level but pricking bitterness way. Enough to definitely be an IPA, but far from heavy.

Finally, late on, tart mandarin orange comes out, a much needed extra note to bring back a bit of interest and zest at the end. It is still a tad too one note to be a classic, but mixes a solid bitterness, a new take on grapefruit tartness, a nice use of New England style mouthfeel without otherwise bowing to the NE style, and puts it together to make a pretty damn nice IPA.

Background:Also listed as being brewed by Brus, this is brewed at To Øl’s brewpub (the aforementioned Brus). Normally To Øl do contract brewing if I remember rightly, so a chance to grab some of their brewpub’s stuff in can was very special. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a double dry hopped IPA made with Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe (no Nelson Sauvin, much to my surprise as you may notice from the notes). I put on Rise Against – “The Suffering and The Witness” while drinking, a pretty good one, even if it can’t quite live up to Endgame for all time great album status.

7Bräu: Han River Ale (South Korea: Belgian Wit: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Slight white head. Some peppery looking sediment.

Nose: Light grapes. Light grapefruit. Orange.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Tart grape touch. Wite pepper. Vanilla. Bready. Light tangerine. Milky.

Finish: White pepper. Tangerine. Lemon. Wheaty.

Conclusion: Ok, trying 7Bräu beers, round 2! aaaand, I’m already sensing a trend. Again this is lightly bready, less so than before. Again there is light orange. Now apparently the orange beer had a wit base, and this is apparently a take on a wit, so dunno if the trend will run to their other beers, but yeah, they have that in common so far.

Thankfully this beer has a bit more going on with it than the Dalseo orange ale. It is lightly milky, kind of wheaty, despite not actually showing much in the way of traditional wit beer characteristics. It does have a more varied citrus range, going between lemon and grapes which makes it moderately fresh. It feels like a bready orval meets a wit meets a bit of new wave citrus hops. Again though, not as great as that sounds.

It is, again, a bit staid, but is definitely more enjoyable than the orange ale. It feels like a moderately sessionable character from the earthy base and gentle flavours, with a bit of pepper from white pepper character which adds a much needed bit of kick to it. That pepper is probably the best aspect, it really stands out as a bit different, and gives life to what is otherwise quite average.

The big problem is that the flavours are generally slightly muted. They need to be a bit crisper and clearer, maybe a touch lower abv to match the session style it seems to be aiming for. If they could make those tweaks then this could end up as quite a pleasant sipping beer.

A good base idea, but one that could do with a lot of work to make it better crafted to bring out its potential.

Background: Take 2! This is a nice treat. My mate, Tony, went over to South Korea a short while back and brought a few of their beers back. He invited me over to his place to try them with him, and was willing to indulge me in me doing tasting notes on two of them (of which this is the second). Very many thanks! It is not often you see Korean beers over here so I did not want to miss the chance. Also if the photo looks like it is in a much fancier place than normal that is the reason.

Just to add, as both these notes have been very middle of the road, I also tried their Gangseo Mild Ale which was a very pleasant blond mild. That one is worth checking out – if I had known before I totally would have done notes on that one instead. Ah well.

7Bräu: Dalseo Orange Ale (South Korea: Fruit: 4.2% abv)

Visual: Lightly hazy apple to lemon juice. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Orange juice. Rose petals. Brown bread to bready hop character. Slight sulphur.

Body: Brown bread. Savoury orange juice. Bready hops. Lemon. Vanilla. Sweeter orange juice later on.

Finish: Brown bread. Light hop bitterness. Crumpets. Petals. Slight lemon. Grows in earthy bitterness over time.

Conclusion: This is a, erm, gentle, kind of bready beer at the base. Imagine the kind of bready, yeasty character of Orval, but imagine it is nowhere near as complex, just in the same ballpark to give kind of an idea.

The orange character feels fairly savoury at the start, a gentle backing that develops a light sweetness over time. While the bready character is generally dominant it feels like a nice balance for a not too fruit dominated beer – it always feels beer first but never loses the fruit character,

However, with that said, the flavours, while balanced are also quite pedestrian. There is early bitterness, simple orange with a touch of vanilla – it isn’t bad but is overly savoury and doesn’t use much of the wit character which I think is there at the base.

It is ok, kind of dull but drinkable. Without the orange character it would have been an exceptionally dull beer, as it seems to very much lean on that extra ingredient for character. With it, it passes the time nicely but really doesn’t stand out.

Drinkable but not much more than that.

Background: This is a nice treat. My mate, Tony, went over to South Korea a short while back and brought a few of their beers back. He invited me over to his place to try them with him, and was willing to indulge me in me doing tasting notes on two of them. Very many thanks! It is not often you see Korean beers over here so I did not want to miss the chance. Also if the photo looks like it is in a much fancier place than normal that is the reason. This one is, I think, a wit made with orange. I have no skills at reading Korean so I am relying on google or this.

Alvinne: Oak Aged Cuvee Sofie Kweepeer Quince ( Belgium: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale apricot. Thin white bubbly head.

Nose: Mashed apricots. Sour. Dry white wine. Grapes. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Sharp lemon.

Body: Very sharp. Yellow raspberry. Vanilla. Sour jelly sweets. Tart lemon curd.

Finish: Tart. Sharp lemon. Quince Rakia. Dried apricot. Yellow raspberry. Sour jelly sweets. White wine. Marmalade. Sour lemon curd.

Conclusion: Fuck me, this is sharp. Ok, after a few sips I acclimatised to it, and it became a pleasant tart and sour thing, but that first mouthfeel was a heck of a shock to the system.

I’ve only had quince in quince rakia, so I probably don’t have the best yardstick for comparison here (delicious though that rakia may be) to say if this tastes much like the fruit used. The fruitiness in this tastes like yellow raspberries meets mashed apricots meets tart lemon curd. So, possibly that is actually what quince tastes like and if I had tried it I could have saved myself a heck of a lot of words there. Any which way it is very fresh, very citrus and very enjoyable.

Super tart, super sour, this is carefully smoothed out at the edges by vanilla notes and a slight white wine dry character, into light, sweeter marmalade notes in the finish. It stops it from being just a flat out sour assault, and, considering my response to that first tart mouthful, for that I am very welcome. With those rounding notes it is still mouth puckering, but very enjoyable, if slightly single minded as a sour ale. It doesn’t change too much once you get over the initial shock, but the beer is fairly different from most others on the market, so I kind of welcome that for once.

So, initially a shock and may seem overwhelming for those who aren’t super into their sours, it does soften a touch into tart and rewarding fruity sour character (which may or may not be predominantly quince).

I would easily recommend this to any sour fan who are not shy of the tarter end of the spectrum and want something a bit different from the usual fruit experimentation. I very much enjoyed this.

Background; There area lot of words on this label, and I will admit I am unsure of which are the name and which are descriptors. Looking online there seem to be a lot of different versions of Cuvee Sofie, so I’ve played it safe and listed as many as I could here. So, this is a sour beer, foeder aged and made with quince. It mainly caught my eye as I tried a quince rakia in Belgrade and very much enjoyed it. So a sour beer made with the fruit sounded right up my street. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, and I put on Genitorturers – Flesh is The Law to listen to while drinking. S&M themed industrial metal turned out to go very appropriately with the very sour and tart beer!

Big Drop: Citra Four Hop Special Edition Pale Ale (England: Low alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Thin off white bubbled head.

Nose: Peach. Fresh cut apple. Cake sponge. Lime. Lemon sorbet. Very fresh. Light raspberry pavlova.

Body: Soft lime. Grapes. Slight chalk. Low to moderate hop character and bitterness. Slight peach. Tannins.

Finish: Chalk touch. Good hop bitterness and character. Soft lime. Cake sponge. Lemon cake. Apple. Dried banana. Tannins.

Conclusion: First up, the aroma on this is great. Lots of soft, fruity hop action. It is gentle, but lively in flavour. Here the beer is significantly different from the original Big Drop Pale Ale and all the better for it.

The body is more similar to its parent brew, still showing cake sponge, still a good use of hop character and soft lime notes. If you have been looking at the notes above you would probably expect me to say there is more difference than there actually is. The thing is there definitely are a range of different notes, it is just that they are not consistent, just occasional , pleasant, hiccups of flavour that pop in and out throughout the beer.

Now, the base, standard Big Drop Pale ale is one of my favourite ever low alcohol beers – this has a far better aroma, and a just slightly better body. So, of course, I love it. Again it feels like a very good beer, not just a good low alcohol beer – only some light tannin notes give away the low abv character.

So, yeah, if you get a chance to grab it this is an awesome low abv beer of character. If you can’t find it, the standard Big Drop Pale Ale is still flipping great and this isn’t so big a difference that you must hunt it out for this.

Still a nice twist on a a still awesome beer.

Background: I adore Big Drop’s Pale Ale. It is still possibly my favourite low alcohol beer, which has been getting to be an actual hard fought category over the past year, which I admit is something I never thought I would say. This is a limited version of the beer which I spotted at Beercraft. I don’t use them that much as they can be a tad expensive, but their low alcohol selection at the moment is fantastic. I put on Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues while drinking- still an utterly fantastic album.

Infinite Session: IPA (England: Low alcohol IPA: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light gold. A few small carbonation bubbles. Thin white head.

Nose: Light grapefruit. Wheaty hop character. Middling bitterness. Water adds fresh dough to cake sponge.

Body: Clean, lager like base. Bready hop character. Good bitterness. Slight chalk. Lightly watery. Vanilla. Very light grapefruit.

Finish: Slightly chalky. Bready bitterness and hop character. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is very, well …clean. Good hop character and bitterness but the base underneath feels like a clean lager rather than any of the many and varied things that count as IPA malt bases. So, I would say this feels more like an India Pale Lager than an IPA – for me at least. Because of that I’m going to evaluate it as an IPL as that seems fairer than treating it as the IPA it says it is.

It is a tad watery but not hugely so – generally it is a good lager like base, slightly dry and drinkable – not special but does the job. The hops are very simple – the bitterness is good and the aroma hints at grapefruit, but the body is pretty much just the hop character and bitterness, into a lightly peppery finish, with very little to add anything to that.

It’s ok, the hop feel is good, but there is no defining feel to it. I guess it does mean that none of the flavours become wearing, meaning it is sessionable, but the lack of heavy flavours also means that there is nothing to get your teeth into.

In the old days I would have rated this as a solid low alcohol beer compared to all the chemical tasting crap. These days the bar has been risen a lot, and this no longer makes the grade.

Background: Not much to say on this one, saw a four pack of it in Sainsbury‘s, thought I needed more variety in low alcohol beers for the dry days, so I grabbed a pack to give a chance. That is all. Stocking up on more low abv beers as the weather gets hotter as it is nice to have some chilled and ready just for refreshing. I put Crossfaith – Ex_machina back on for drinking this – another instance of heavy music for light beer.

%d bloggers like this: