Category: Beer Tasting Notes

Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA

Firestone Walker: Easy Jack IPA (USA: Session IPA: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow. Moderate white head. Some carbonation to the body.

Nose: Resin. Lemon. Popcorn. Hop bitterness. Passion fruit.

Body: Good bitterness. Crisp and dry. A lot of hop character. Dried fruit and trail mix. Grapes. Some vanilla toffee as it warms.

Finish: Bitter and hoppy. Dried passion fruit. Flour air.

Conclusion: You know, people are going to think I don’t like session IPAs- that isn’t true. Beavertown’s Neck Oil for example is bloody fantastic and I can drink it for ages. However, that is not the beer I am talking about now. I am talking about this, a session IPA from the highly reputed Firestone Walker, and I find it, like many others, leave me slightly cold.

I think it is something in the drier body that comes with the lower abv – a similar impression I get from the American Pale Ales – The body seems to give the hop bitterness grip – no problem – but it really seems to find it hard to use the texture to give grip to the fruity flavours that the hops should showcase.

It is all a bit dry, it almost feels like someone dusted flour over it. I was hoping the legends that are Firestone Walker could do something with the style to overcome the oft found shortcomings but, while it feels competently put together – crisp and well textured – it feels like it has the same flaws and merits as the majority of the style I have encountered. Unique to it is how much the bitterness clings so it doesn’t even feel that sessionable in flavour. Without the contrasting sweetness the roughness builds up too quickly – it is interesting to drink as a single beer, but not as one of many.

Ah well, back to Neck Oil I should review that one day.

Background: Firestone Walker are awesome, and make brilliant IPAs – so when I saw that they were doing canned beers – found at Independent Spirit, I had to grab one for a try. Drunk whilst listening to some Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Alleujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! to be exact.

Rochefort 6

Rochefort: 6 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Light cloudy brown with overripe banana skin touches. About a centimetre of white tight bubbled froth for a head.

Nose: Raisins. Wheat. Quite crisp. Brown bread and brown sugar. Fruitcake.

Body: Raisins. Brown bread. Restrained bitterness. Frothy feel. Very smooth. Peppery. Dry and wheat. Malt drinks.

Finish: Some bitterness. Nan bread. Dry feel. light pepper. Slight funky yeast effects.

Conclusion: The restrained Rochefort, welcome back, how are you? Ok, it is only kind of restrained – it is a Rochefort after all. Actually, no, it is pretty restrained all things considered. The heavy intense fruity notes that are so telling of Rochefort have been reined in here – pushing forwards but never really pushing past the background of the beer.

It is instead marked by a quite dry, bready front with a bit of an orval feel to it, albeit with much less funky yeast effects. It is the most sessionable a totally unsessional 7.5% abv beer will get.

Now it is not as strong or as intricate as the eight or ten, but there is something very much moreish about it. The malt base is solid, but restrained, as is the bitterness. There is a lovely frothy front to the mouth feel, smooth, but soon becomes contradictory and drying towards the end into a pepperyness that is by far the longest lasting element. It really does invite another sip.

Quite a few people seen to find this a let down compared to the other two, but for a long while it was actually my favourite Rochefort. Lots of fun, very easy to drink without the boozy alcohol notes of the others. In recent years I will admit I have been taken by the weight of the aged versions of eight and ten, but even now returning to this reminds me what a charmer it is.

If you go in expecting a heavy duty Trappist ale you will be disappointed, but I think this is worth giving a try for something high quality but a bit different from the monks.

Background: You know, I have never done a note on Rochefort 8. I was convinced I had. I thought picking up the six for notes would compete the set, but no. Turns out for all the times I have drunk the eight, I never got around to noting it. Huh. Anyway, Rochefort is my second favourite of the Trappist ales, after Westvleteren. I had found this at Corks of Cotham a while back so grabbed it.

Wild Beer Co Sourbeest

Wild Beer Co: Sourbeest (England: Sour Ale: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to black. Small off white head.

Nose: Chocolate. Sour cherries. Bourbon. Vanilla. Tart fresh cut apples. Sticky toffee pudding.

Body: Tart apples. Vinegar touch. Sour cherries. Chocolate liqueur notes. Vanilla.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Sour apples. Tart. Bitter chocolate. Bourbon.

Conclusion: Yayz! Bottled sourbeest. As mentioned in the background I’ve had this on keg a few times already so these notes will be mainly discussing the bottled version, but I will do a few comparisons to the previous keg tries.

The sour stout is one I have not had many of yet, in fact I think it is a fairly new style but a welcome one. The heavier notes of a stout seem to work excellently to back the real mouth tingling freshness of a sour beer. It is a spectacular contrast to the more dry and wine like examples of sour ales.

Here the nose is the thing, it is absolutely excellent – balancing sour acidic freshness, luxury chocolate and soft bourbon vanilla notes. In both bottle and keg the aroma is a thing of beauty.

The body, in bottle at least, as a more simple thing – there is big tart apple and a very fresh front- with the promised notes from the aroma used far lighter and more subtly behind. Here the keg did it better – the chocolate, sour cherries and tart apple all had equal weight that created a superb beer. This definitely plays a similar game, but the balance is off – turning it from to excellent to *ahem* merely good.

The finish balances up better – the tart apple meets rising milk and bitter chocolate and that does a lot to restore my faith in the bottled version. It reinforces the character of the stout notes that had been dislodged in the body.

Over time the faith proves true – the stout notes seem to rise from that finish, reinforcing the body and creating a much more balanced beer as it builds up over time. Sourness, sweetness, fresh and smooth all mixing in unexpected and delightful ways. Keg may be better but this is still a lovely example of the sour stout.

Background: A sour stout – a fascinating style that seems to have popped up recently. This one, picked up from Independent Spirit is made from the second runnings of Wilderbeest then aged in oak barrels for nine months. I have tried this on keg a few times and loved it, so was glad to see it finally bottled. Drunk whilst listening to Some Dead Kennedys having seen them live recently.

Drygate Outaspace Apple Ale

Drygate: Outaspace Apple Ale (Scotland: Fruit Beer : 4% abv)

Visual: Clean gold. Some carbonation. Large sudden mound white head that leaves trails.

Nose: Apple. Vanilla. Bitter and wheaty. Lemon.

Body: Smooth. Golden syrup. Banana syrup. Apples. Hop oils. Syrupy texture. Floral touches. Honey. Dried apricot. Dessert wine.

Finish: Hop oil bitterness. Golden syrup and hops. Apple. Mead. Rising hop feel.

Conclusion: Holy shit this is so bloody sweet. Like, pass me a syringe and some insulin level sweet. This thing is thick, like a mix of honey and golden syrup – then dosed with hop oils, so kind of like a hopped mead.

No it doesn’t really work – with a description like that did you really expect it to? I mean it is odd, and fascinating as all get out. Fresh apples dropped into the mead mix, fresh notes all on top of the thickest, sweetest thing I have run into for a while. Fascinating, but for once fascinating can’t win me over.

It is just too sweet, too one note – the big difference is the hop oils but they seem to flow separately from the sweet mead flavours – so instead of getting one integrated beer you get two disjointed ones.

That said, while pretty much every note was wrong I didn’t, ya know, hate this. Each element was done well – the brewing led to a clear delivery of the elements – nothing is indistinct. It is just, well, none of the well made elements are the ones that should be there. They managed to brew just right all the wrong elements to put together.

Probably the best crafted beer that I just plain don’t get along with. Yes that is damning with faint praise.

Background: Grabbed this from Independent Spirit as it looked interesting, an apple ale made with Calypso, Nelson Sauvin and Citra hops. Was drunk to try and refresh me during the absurdly muggy heat we have had recently. Well absurd for a Yorkshireman anyway .. bloody heat. Drunk while listening to Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces album.

Isle Of Arran Dark

Isle Of Arran: Dark (Scotland: Bitter: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Dark mahogany red. Thin off white head. Clear and still body.

Nose: Chocolate cake. Roasted hazelnuts. Fresh brown bread. Slight sour cherry touch.

Body: Good bitterness and bitter chocolate. Sour dough touch. Light earthy note. Sour tang. Roasted nuts. Light cherries and fruitcake.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Earthy touch. Slight sour dough. Slight refreshing sour note. Light charring.

Conclusion: Sometimes, for all I love the big intense new wave craft beers, sometimes the old ways are the best for that moment. This is one of those times. This is a dark, malt led beer with lots of roasted notes, chocolate and coffee that almost call to the lighter end of the porter spectrum in style. Yet for all that it has the light earthiness and refreshing sour tang of a well made rounded bitter to match.

It is soothing in feel, yet with big mouth filling flavours and refreshing sour back. The contrast continues with the sweetness against the earth touch. They really have pulled out all the stops in balancing this one. There are even some fruitcake notes, lighter than you would get in an ESB style beer but still calling to that as well. This isn’t one of those beers that instantly grabs you by the face, but it does not make it any less of a good one. At 4.3% it is not quite session abv in my mind, but in these high abv days it will do in a pinch.

The quintessential soothing beer for kicking back with friends. Well worth having and well worth sharing. A show of the old beer ways done good.

Background: Third of the Arran pack that my parents gave to me as a gift. Many thanks mum and dad. It is great having a beer friendly family! This one was broken open in the vain attempt to get me to stop playing Binding Of Isaac Rebirth for a while. That game is addictive as hell. So much so that alcohol seemed the safer addiction. Go fig.

Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale

Lost Abbey: Carnevale Ale (USA: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear ripe banana yellow. Inch of mounded loose bubbles. Good chunk of carbonation.

Nose: Feed bag. Earthy. Wheaty. Paprika. Pepper. Slight sour dough.

Body: Banana sweets. Blackpool rock. Some bitterness in the midst. Rustic centre and oats. White pepper. Sherbet feel. Lime. Hop oils. Soft apricot.

Finish: Lime sorbet. Good clean bitterness. Lightly earthy. Some hop character. Barley.

Conclusion: A blond ale saison. Ok, when they called this a “Saison-style blond ale” I was kind of expecting them to be calling it that so to make sure it was differentiated from the recent black saisons that have been popping up. But no, it turns out this does have a lot of Belgian blond in there. Probably more influenced by the blond ale style than the saison style, if only just.

I think that what puts blond influence in the lead is that this is a very clean tasting beer. You get the more earthy stuff top and tail, but the middle is very clean and sweet with lots of raw cane sugar notes. The bitterness is similarly quite clean and neutral with only a few notes of the hop character with it. Overall it is a big slab of blond sandwiched between two saison buns. The contrast it brings is fascinating, entering and leaving earthy and rustic, and shining away very bright between that. With banana sweetness and clean bitterness the centre does have calls to the excellent Dupont saison style, while the pepper and rustic rest of the beer calls to other saisons in my mind. The balance does shift over time as the beer gets warmer and you progress through the glass – more rustic fills the whole experience, more oily and heavy. It keeps things interesting.

The American hops don’t seem to have a huge impact, unless it is them that are responsible for the clean bitterness. There is a soft lime and apricot, with lime being more prominent in the beer – but, rightly, the native Belgian style characteristics are given more play.

Overall, no real complaints but also not quite a shining example. Reasonable enough to share, and definitely to enjoy, with interesting stylings. Different and tasty – enough to be worth a try.

Background: Ok, research has made me more confused. Rate beer has two versions of this listed. A 2008 and earlier version without Brett. A 2009 onwards version with brett. But both are 6.5% ABV. This is 8% abv. So is this an even newer version? The date on the bottle is nigh illegible so I’m not sure what year this was made. Feh. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Dubmood: Lost Floppies Version 2. yes I’m still on an 8 bit kick.

Art Brew Aged IPA

Art Brew: Aged IPA (England: IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Orange with amber hints. Some small bubble carbonation. Massive off white mounded head that left lots of lace and suds.

Nose: Ginger. Crisp wheat. Lemon. Brown sugar.

Body: Earthy and bitter. Light orange. Mild brown sugar. Vanilla. Smooth. Toffee. Dill pickle and lime prickle. Ginger.

Finish: Earthy. Paprika. Soil. mango. Pineapple. Zesty orange. Malt chocolate. Bitter. Slight cane sugar.

Conclusion: What the fuck is that head? I swear I tried to pour carefully. This is a touch of a lively one boys and girls. Also, are they trying to cram every Art Brew beer I have ever tried into this thing? There is a Spanked Monkey IPA ginger notes, and ,well, IPA notes – there is a heap of lovely vanilla like IBeer, sweet notes, earthy feeling hops and subtle American fruit notes.

Lots going on.

Initially it comes across as only a simple earthy bitter IPA – odd considering it was made with four USA based hops, and even as the rest of the beer grows that earthiness remains a stubborn characteristic of the finish – feeling very Brit soil hop IPA style.

But the rest of the beer does grow – the soft main body texture becoming layered with fruit and the robust toffee backbone becomes the mainstay of the beer, with light spice and ginger notes giving a gentle warmth to the whole experience. Oh and a touch of vanilla. Did I mention I love the vanilla heavy IBeer?

It, far all that, feels closest to a Brit styled IPA. For all the American fruit flavour, the ageing seems to have led to a diminishing of the brash hop forward characteristics but kept the soil notes. However in exchange it gains a very smooth character and a very good range, even becoming very sweet by the end as the toffee body takes centre stage.

It isn’t setting the world alight but it has a whole host of elements I love (*cough* vanilla. Ibeer) and all mashed together into a satisfying beer that keeps your attention to the last drop.

Background: Welcome back Art Brew! these guys were one of my regular pints back when I started doing notes, they’ve had their ups and downs over the years, but they are back again now. I had to grab this one, Art Brew back, doing a one year aged IPA (An unusual style to age) and one of only Sixty bottles. Yeah, I grabbed it. from Independent Spirit, to no ones’ surprise. Drank while listening to the Gunflowers EP and some Shadows Fall: Fallout From The War.

Brewdog Beatnik Brewing Collective Bounty Hunter Coconut Milk Stout

Brewdog: Beatnik Brewing Collective: Bounty Hunter Coconut Milk Stout (Scotland: Stout: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Creamy beige cm of a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Coconut. Lightly nutty. Creamy. Lactose. Milky chocolate.

Body: Roasted. Milky. White sugar. Light coconut. Sugared almonds. Light orange and fruit sugars. Very milky coffee. Vanilla. Caramel undertones.

Finish: Lactose. Light fresh and slightly fruity notes – ester like. Cane sugar. Bitter coffee. Coconut. Chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, it is well known that I love coconut. Therefore this is the greatest thing ever. Review over. Natch.

Or is it?

Well it depends, chilled down this is a pretty standard, if well done – milk stout. Ok, I lie, maybe not quite standard but close to it for the most part. The sweetness is high even for the style, with the milky coffee made more flamboyant by sweet sugar and fruity notes that remind me of Belgian yeast ester. The fruit is a very subtle note, but gives a kind of jolly rancher hard candy thing going on there.

Warming it brings out the beloved coconut, not pushed heavily, but there is a coconut macaroon base that the milk stout is sieved through to get to your tastebuds.

So, how does it all come together? Well I know this called a Milk Stout, so calling to the sweet stout style but it is really pushing that – with toffee coming out on the body on top of everything else. An Imperial Stout can manage to soak up all that sweetness, but here it is a big deal, and comes through a bit too heavy.

Yet, somehow, it isn’t bad. It overdoes everything but the coconut (warm it gets it about right, cold the notes are nigh non existent) but those lovely fruit touches, and the combination with milky coffee is actually quite charming – if not on the style guidelines I would expect. Fun, but not one that gets beyond charming.

Background: This was brewed by Brewdog shareholders, after voting and discussion by Brewdog shareholders. It is pretty hard to get if you are not, in fact, a Brewdog shareholder. Sorry. I’m doing a tasting note for posterity anyway. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers as you may have guessed from the above. Drunk while listening to some calming Ulver. Was unsure on picking the style, flavour wise it aims for sweet stout, but abv plops it as a more standard stout.

Incredible Brewing Co Patersbier

Incredible Brewing Co: Patersbier (England: Belgian Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Thin white head. Some sediment and a small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Palma violets. Sugar dusting. Ryvita crackers. Dry malt. Marzipan. Banana. Lemon.

Body: Fruitcake and port. Marzipan and sugar dusting. Orange zest. Candy floss and banana.

Finish: Sultanas. Dried dates. Fruit sugars. Dried orange. Palma violets. Port.

Conclusion: Patersbier! Been a while since I’ve had one of these. Don’t think I have ever had one in the tasting notes queue. Turns out this, more real ale, take on the style is still sweet as hell. Who would have thunk it?

The thing is, this is real mixed up sweet beer. On one hand it is all sugar dusting, lemon fresh and banana sweetness – Lots of bright orange and yellow notes with a bit of Belgian yeastiness and sugar shock sweetness. Something of a sweetened up Belgian blond basically.

Then there is the other hand, the hand that holds what is hidden underneath but pushes through if held on the tongue. This hand holds sultana fruit cake, port and feels more like a thicker ESB in how it carries on.

These are both the same beer. It is basically the Two Face of beers, minus the coin toss gimmick. Yet somehow they become one beer – sometimes with one side showing in the body, and a different one in the finish – sometimes one style shows the whole way through.

Overall, while, yes it is a tad over sweet it does manage to temper that with the slightly dry malt, and the robust real ale texture, and the influence of funky yeast tricks. Still sweet, but manageable. Refreshing but with depth. Not quite “Incredible” but I am taken with this beer and its charm. An unusual take on an uncommon style and well worth a try. Will have to check out more from the brewery.

Background; Another brewery from Bristol. This one doesn’t seem to have much web presence, especially not for this beer -a Belgian style brew. I had picked it up from Corks Of Cotham on a whim to try something new. Both in brewery and in that I have tried very few patersbiers. This frothed up quickly after I popped the lid so I had to pour it quickly to save the precious liquid. Drunk while listening to some Alanis Morissette – used to love the Jagged Little Pill album when I was younger.

Het Uiltje Flaming Ass Owl

Het Uiltje: Flaming Ass Owl (Netherlands: Imperial Porter: 9.7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Half inch of milky chocolate froth.

Nose: Dried chilli. Milky chocolate. Roasted nuts. Spiced orange skin. Smoked bacon. Vanilla.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Initially little warmth, but it grows if held on tongue. Blood orange. Grassy touch. Smoked chipotle. Slight fruit sugars and bubble gum.

Finish: Green peppers and chilli seeds. Light charring and wood smoke. Dried beef.

Conclusion: Ok, it’s called “flaming ass owl”. I may give it a point just for that. I am easily amused. Of course, I am kind of hoping I wont regret this come the ‘morrow. With a name like that it does have a negative on the boding well score.

Anyway, even without the introduction of the chilli this seems to be a slightly odd one – with the milky chocolate character, that is not so abnormal for a porter, infused with notes of blood orange and bubblegum. Also, considering the strength, the body feels just marginally slight. While I think that hurts the feel a tad, possibly it is that which I can thank for the fact that it takes a moment for the chilli to come through and when it does it is warming rather than lava like.

The lower thickness also means that it is a beer that can build up over time, and along with the beers progression to reveal more grassy notes and fruit sugars the heat gains a chipotle smoke character and light meatiness which is welcome.

I am both relived and slightly disappointed that this seems not to live up to its, erm, vivid bottle imagery. They seem to have balanced this on the pleasant end of the heat scale. Despite the slightly thin texture this has come to impress me more than I had expected. I have to admit due to the name and the weaker start I was expecting a badly delivered gimmick beer. There may be a tale about the chilli beer that scarred me for life hidden in my past. It may have been vile.

This however is warm, meaty, chocolate packed and yet fruity. I think it is that fruit that helps it, it sooths the heat and adds a bright note to an otherwise dark beer. It is like that slice of fruit garnish on a meat dish. A good beer, best experienced at room temperature. Not flaming great, but not arse tearingly terrible. An interesting and fun beer with a bit of heat.

Background: It is called Flaming Ass Owl. I am childish. How could I not end up buying it? Anyway I picked up this Imperial Porter made with Trinidad Scorpion peppers from Independent Spirit. I am actually a bit of a wuss when it comes to chilli beers, so this may have been a mistake…


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