Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Brewdog Pilot Brew 003

Brewdog: Pilot Brew 003 (Scotland: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Slightly hazy. Off white dash of a head and some carbonation to the body.

Nose: Stewed apricot and pineapple.

Body: Passion fruit. Pineapple. Toffee and caramel. Eggplant. Turmeric. Creamy but bitter – like hop ice cream? Light strawberry.

Finish: Pepper. Rye crackers. Spicy. Just slightly dry. Cumin. Purple peppers. A good level of hop bitterness. Shortbread. Lemon. Touch of candyfloss sweetness.

Conclusion: Rye is an interesting ingredient in beer, to my eyes at least. It can add so much with so little, adding spice and body or it can be used as the main punch of the beer dominating the character.

Here it is used to add a bit of backing to a big IPA. there are (as is expected by this point) a ton of hop fruit flavours, tons of sweet toffee malt character. Despite the rye they haven’t skimped on the base sweetness and it provides big base for the sweet and tart fruit that mix above it, with a growing level of bitterness. The sweetness is less so in the finish, but still it occasionally glows with a kind of candy floss light touch. It definitely uses a standard but high quality IPA as the base but here it is backed with a touch of pepper and warming spice, into a touch of rye crackers’ dryness in the finish.

There is a touch thicker body than usual, a creaminess that mixed with the hop oils to make an almost hop ice cream effect. You really get the grip for the oils and flavours. and I need to get better grip on beer similes.

There is even a vegetable savoury character, one that seems to be a common Simcoe hop element, and here it works as a grounding that works as a stepping stone between the sweet malt and fruit, and the rye spice. It comes between them easing you from one element to the next, without it seeming a too sharp transition.

Overall a complex IPA with a lot of range, without deviating too far from standard IPA expectations. It has a lot of character as it mixes the smooth base with the rye spice – the warmth of which acts as a warning in place of any alcohol burn. It isn’t radically different, which is about the biggest flaw I can pick, but it is a rock solid beer and well worth taking forwards from the pilot batch. Just a touch more to give it a more distinct identity and this is a winner.

Background: Huh, guess I haven’t been to Brewdog Bristol as much as normal – they have got to pilot brew three without me noticing. I’m slacking. This is a rye IPA, made with Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe hops and apparently about 85% malt. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Girardin Gueuze Black Label

Girardin: Gueuze Black Label (Belgium: Lambic Gueuze: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy deep gold. Thin dash of off white head.

Nose: Horse blankets. Lemon. Dried apricots. Nuts.

Body: White wine. A mix of stewed and dried apricot. Sharp. Alpen cereal. Charred oak. Dried banana hints. Grapefruit juice.

Finish: Raisins. Dry white wine. Drying feel. Muesli. Charred oak. grapefruit. Lemon.

Conclusion: I remember not being too partial to the filtered “White Label” version of this. I remember it tasting like a charred oak core and overall a too harsh drying and generally unwelcoming beer. And not in a good way.

Well this still has the charred core, and it is still a bit harsh in that element – for me at least. However here that core is wrapped in a tart fruity blanker, and that makes all the difference.

It still has a drying white wine feel at times, but above that it has this lovely tart grapefruit juice feel that is much more common, and sparks this beer to life. More than that you have stewed and dried apricot mixing that gives a sweet relief from the heavier elements.

That fruit flavour seems almost like the new wave, new world hopped takes on the lambic concept – but here it is backed by a solid traditional lambic with a real almost oaty centre, and that unusual feel you only get with a lambic and that combination is great.

There are still a few rough notes at the core, but in some way that is part of the charm of the style – those uncontrollable edges. Despite the rough edges, and the fact it is such a wide ranging lambic, it is very easy to drink – and comparatively easy to approach for newcomers.

It feels slightly thicker than most lambics as well, most of them don’t grip that much, with close to dry white wine feel – but here there is an actual viscous core despite the dryness. This beer is definitely worth a try for anyone from a seasoned veteran to newcomer, and each will be rewarded in a slightly different way by the experience.

A good beer then.

Background: One of “100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die” – I nearly passed this one by, as the white label (filtered) version of this didn’t appeal to me. however unfiltered beers can make a big difference so I grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit to give it a try. Lambics are odd beers, and it took me a long time to get a handle on them – they are made with ambient yeast in the environment, and create quite sharp and acidic beers. Drunk while listening to more Against Me!. Because they are awesome.

Wild Beer Co Tom Yum Gose

Wild Beer Co: Tom Yum Gose (England: Gose: 4% ABV)

Visual: Reddened to amber. Thin off white dash for a head.

Nose: Ginger. Salted bread. Touch of sulphur.

Body: Dry. Ginger and paprika. Sour dough. Unleavened bread. Warming. Sharp lime behind. Fizzes heavily in the mouth.

Finish: Paprika and pepper. Salt water. Warming. Carrots. Light lime.

Conclusion: Gose experimentation time again. When I say experimentation, well, this is one hell of an experiment. Unfortunately it seems the hypothesis being tested is “Will I enjoy this” and the result is “not overly, no”.

These tests were rigorously conducted. I plucked eyeballs from two people before starting, so it is a double blind test. That is how it works. Science that is. So my findings cannot be disputed. That is also how science works. Wikipedia will agree with me as soon as I get around to editing it.

Anyway, there is a very heavy ginger flavour to this, and accompany spices, and they really dominate the game. I’m sure that there may be more going on in this beer, possible even a lot – I mean the list of ingredients is impressive – but as your mouth recovers from the warmth all you really get is salted water with squeezed lime. So, overall, salted water filled with chilli power and a single squeezed lime then. Not really something I would recommend having as a drink. I’ve not had the soup it is inspired by so I can’t speak for accuracy, but I hope it has something to give it a bit more body, as that is what this feels like it needs, a bit more in the middle for the other elements to add the heat to.

Very oddly this beer feels fizzy, not initially, but held in the mouth I could hear it fizzing against my teeth vigorously. Again interesting, but not really what suited the beer.

Now, I will admit I have been umming and ahhing about the gose style overall in my recent experiments with it, but they all encouraged me to try more – this didn’t. then again this is really not standard for a gose best I can tell.

I’m not taken by it I am afraid – it really feels like spice dumped into a beer not ready to handle it. A rare swing and miss from Wild beer Company.

Background: Gose hunt 2015 continues! Oddly, apparently a USA brewery called Tomoka makes a beer with exactly the same name. Even for the odd style that is the salted sour wheat ale thing that is gose, this is double odd. Made with chilli, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, kaffir lime and lime zest – this is an attempt to make a beer like an old soup recipe. Craft beer, ya have to love it. Drunk while listening to Against Me!, who I may never get bored of.

Brewdog Restorative Beverage For Invalids And Convalescents

Brewdog: Restorative Beverage For Invalids And Convalescents (Scotland: IIPA: 8.7% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to gold. Large white bubbled head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Hops. Resin. Strawberry. Toffee. Peach. Digestives. Lots of hop oils.

Body: Dry. High bitterness. Peach. Digestives. Pineapple. Shortbread. Sugar dusting. Toffee touch. Peach. Lots of hops. Strawberry. Bubblegum. Lemongrass.

Finish: Bitter. Big hops. Apricot. Lager like characteristics in feel. Slightly gritty. Charring. Bubblegum. yeast extract.

Conclusion: Like Ruination IPA, oh so many years ago, this is not as harsh as I expected. This probably says more about me than it does of the beer. The description on the bottle promises something brutal, instead we get?

Well it doesn’t lie when it describes it as “Dry”. This is dry, and I would guess from that, that it is very highly attenuated – and it is that character that gives the bitterness some kick. Some says I, the master of understatement. However for all they say “Screw any semblance of balance”, there is, quite thankfully, balance. It just doesn’t come from the expected place. There is some small malt sweetness, but mainly you get real fruity sweetness from the hops which make it dangerously drinkable.

Still, this is a big and bitter beer – lots of resin, hops and hop oils. The aroma has an almost cannabis touch, such is the influence of the raw hops. The dryness makes it almost lager crisp and clean bodied – there is nothing to get in the way of the hop character – this is especially noticeable in the finish, which comes in just slightly gritty. Thankfully due to the weight of flavour it doesn’t ruin the beer, instead just emphasises a rough edge, without being dominated by it.

The hop flavours are the main game then, since the malt sweetness is restrained, as well as more expected pineapple and peach, there are more unusual notes. A slight strawberry, not huge but there. There is a much bigger character of lemongrass – not what I would expect from the hop choice listed but in blends in excellent with the resin and natural hop character. The whole range works very well together, creating a lively but grounded experience.

So, you have restrained sweetness, good level of fruit, big bitterness and huge hop character and lemongrass. It is possibly an acquired taste, but it is hellishly easy to drink. It is so very dry, but has just enough offset to keep bringing you back. If you think you can deal with the high abv, good level of bitterness, and restrain yourself from drinking it silly, then this is a great beer.

Background: As I type this up, I am down with a cold. How fucking appropriate. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog. Drunk while listening to Crossfire – Mainly their cover of Omen. Which is fucking awesome. I am going to go back and hide under a warm blanket again now.

Carlsberg Sverige Backyard Brew Bee 17
Carlsberg Sverige: Backyard Brew: Bee 17 (Sweden: Premium Lager: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Clear banana skin to gold. Moderate creamy bubbled head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Soft lemon. Soft hops. Coriander spice. Palma violets. Meringue.

Body: Honey touch. Some hop character. Lemon. popcorn feel. Hop oils. Slightly bready. Reasonably thick texture. Light pepper.

Finish: Light bitterness and hop oils. Slightly gritty. Lemony. Pepper.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s deactivate craft beer snobbiness. Hmmm. This beer is ok. No seriously, it’s ok. Fairly soft, lemony feel, light spice, fairly crisp. A honey touch. Now, like their previous beer, the finish is a bit of a let down. It is a bit gritty and rough, though thankfully nowhere near as bad as the Amber Lager had it. It is just a bit of a rough ending – not nice, but no so bad that it is pissing all over the rest of the beer.

The rest of the beer is fairly standard, drinkable though not special. It puts me in mind of a rougher take on This. Is Lager. – it has the same mix of soft body and light spice. If they could work out how to ditch that rough feel, especially in the finish, then I would be able to easily recommend it as a beer for chilling out and easy drinking. Hmm, wonder how long the beer is lagered for? It feels like it is relying more on the hop character than the natural lager character, so I wonder if they are cutting corners on that aspect. I could be completely off base, it just feels like it could have done with more time to smooth and round out.

As is, well it is flawed, but still does a nice job with the soft main body braced by a higher hop and hop oil character than usual, along with a bit of noble hop spice. It is actually pretty drinkable despite its sins.

I can’t say it should be a go to, but it is a pleasant lager with a bit of hops – they just need how to work out how to put a decent finish on their beers.

Background: Again, a disclaimer – knowing this is made by the big Carlsberg group I am torn between worries that I am biased as it is a macro lager, and bias because I am overcompensating for that. hopefully I hit a happy medium. This was donated for review purposes. Drunk while listening to the Super Meat Boy Soundtrack. It has been long enough since I completed that, that I no longer shudder in memory on hearing some of the tunes. That game was hard. Also, random plug. An old friend of mine has a book out, Nemesis by Bec and N.J Pearce. Available in paper back, and super cheap Kindle edition at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com Maybe give it a look please.

Buxton Battle Horse

Buxton: Battle Horse (England: Black IPA: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate loose bubbled beige head.

Nose: Pine cones. Resin and grapefruit. Apple pie. Hops. Malt drinks and roasted character. Light coffee.

Body: Sweet into bitter chocolate. Milky back. Apples. Charring. Shortbread. Light medicinal touch and slight smoked bacon back. Big hop bitterness. Grapes and peach undertones. Thick. Resinous.

Finish: Bitter, big hop character and roasted nuts. Toffee chocolate malt drink. Hop oils. Light apples and apricot. Grapes. Light smokes. Light medicinal and smoke.

Conclusion: Ah, the huge abv black IPA, the ever reliable beer style to go to when you want a beer to kick your teeth in and make you like it.

This one doesn’t push any of the core elements of a black IPA ahead of any of the other, instead it just lounges happily across the various opportunities of the style.

If you can dig down deep enough then at its base it has stout like bitter chocolate that leads out into sweeter notes, soothed over by toffee malt drinks. Combined with the creamy and thick texture I have the feeling that it would be fairly solid even as just a beer in itself without the other elements.

But you do have to dig deep to get that base beer – moving through a standard (Well, high quality, but within the standard range of a BIPA) mix of big resin and hop oils bitter introduction – which calls to the root IPA style much more clearly than most BIPAs. The use of the initially light, but quickly growing fruit hop flavours are sharp and clear.

There are alcohol influenced harsher elements – a touch of medicinal and salt – along which a peaty whisky feeling smoky bacon thickness to the body. Somehow despite the intensity of those flavours they quickly fall behind the creamy body and the big fruit hops. Even more so than that the rougher roasted notes seem to soon fall by the wayside, only resurging to add texture to the finish to underline the beer experience.

So, this beer is genuinely good – starts ok, like a good Black IPA but without a stand out quirk. Then the beer builds up layer by layer – the hop flavour comes out as it warms, it is such a contrast to the base malt and the combination of the two show how a Black IPA can be the best of both worlds.

Intensely sweet, fruity yet roasted and bitter – it is a BIPA up there with Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. It takes longer to show its greatness than that beer, but hits the high notes in a fresher, more call to standard IPA way. get this beer.

Background: Buxton’s 100th brew, a double black IPA. Buxton have a great reputation, I’ve only had a couple of their beers though. not sure why, just never really got around to having more. Picked up from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to some Sabaton, mainly Coat Of Arms.

Carlsberg Sverige Backyard Brew The Lawn Mower Amber Lager

Carlsberg Sverige: Backyard Brew: The Lawn Mower Amber Lager (Sweden: Vienna Lager: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Browned gold, moderate mounded head that leaves suds. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Flour. Palma violets. Fluffy hops. Cake sponge.

Body: Brown sugar and golden syrup cake. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Toffee. Cardboard.

Finish: Slick remaining feel. Slight gritty hops. Honey. Some bitterness. Caramel. Greenery. Cardboard.

Conclusion: First thoughts on writing this conclusion: Huh, not bad. I have to admit I was kind of expecting the worst, despite some previous good history with Carlsberg in Denmark itself – but, while this has its rough spots – initial impressions are that it is hardly hideous.

Let’s go to the worst aspect first – the back end. The finish, which should really be a rounding off of what came before, and a refreshing smooth out is, well, a bit rough.

It’s a bit grit, a bit rough greenery, bit cardboard – and for that I pretty much can’t recommend the beer. However, with that said let us work back from that point and find as it becomes progressively more pleasant.

The body still has underlying elements that have the same weakness as the finish, but layers over that a thick yet slick sweetness that makes a good impression up front. There is a Palma violet hint in the hops that reminds me of the noble hops, and a very brown sugar and golden syrup sweetness that dominates. Surprisingly it is pretty smooth despite the heavy emphasis on the sweeter flavours.

Now let’s lead the experience back once more to the aroma. While pretty unobtrusive this is actually well done, gentle but with crisp hops that seem to call to noble hop styling with a cake sponge sweetness. While not giving much away it is far from unpleasant as an introduction to the beer.

Now, as a single beer, well, with the exception of the finish it is ok. However, I can’t see the sweet emphasis body holding up too well over more than one beer, and for something called a “Lawn Mower” beer that is a bad thing.

In fact as I reach the end of this beer it is already wearing out its welcome. the rougher finish is backing up and running roughshod over the main body. The more pleasing notes are fading away, so I am doubting it will even last the entire can.

So, I expected worse, and it is drinkable for a while – but it isn’t really worth it.

Background: Everyone is trying to be craft beer these days. “Backyard Brew” with its imagery of a beer knocked up in a small space – made by Carlsberg- ok Carlsberg Sweden, but still Carlsberg. Then again some of Carlsberg Denmark’s beers are actually quite good, the ones that never seem to leave the country, so it is worth giving this a chance. Well, I say give a chance, this was donated to me for review purposes. Many thanks. Rate beer calls this a Premium lager for style, it calls itself an Amber Lager, so I will list it as what it is trying for. For now. I am always unsure reviewing macro brewery beers. Half of me wonders if I am being harsh due to them being part of the macro scene, the other half of me worries I am going easy on them to try and avoid letting my biases affect me. Hopefully it comes out about even, you will have to decide for yourself.

Kubla Saison Number Two

Kubla: Saison: Number Two (England: Saison: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy amber. Thin off white head.

Nose: Crushed leaves, like those from a curry. Vanilla. Dried passion fruit. Slightly cloying twist. Musky grapes. Cider.

Body: Ginger. Hibiscus. Bitter wheat body. Slightly sour. Lemon. Vanilla. Juniper berries. Dried apricot. Peach juice.

Finish: Hibiscus. Sour grapes. Juniper berries. Wheat bitterness. Lemon shortbread. Apricot.

Conclusion: Heat. Not just an overlong movie with two of the great actors meeting and a spectacular shoot out. Number Two. Not just a euphemism for a shit.

These may seem, on first glance, to be two completely unrelated statements – but watch as I – the weaver – bring these two disparate topics into one coherent review.

I hope.

As you may have worked out from the above, chilled way down this was a bit of a number two. You get the dominant spice, a sour twist, but not much more. It reminded me of Brewdog’s underwhelming (To say the least) Vote Sepp beer mixed with their (also underwhelming) Juniper Wheat. A bad start.

So, I let it warm, it seemed only fair. Warm like my heart, but less bloody. Ok not that warm. But warmer. Where was I? Oh, yes “one coherent review”. Warming helped the beer – there is still a hibiscus and gin like Juniper back, but rising from that is fruiter notes, and the vanilla from the oak ageing comes in much smoother. What was initially a thin body fills out with a bitter wheat character and sour grapes.

The beer leads more towards the rustic and sour end of the saison style, a pretty varied style at the least of times – Since my preferred end tends to be the more crisp hopped style I have to look past that – but it is a genuinely interesting beer to examine.

As a just slightly sour and rustic beer, with a lot of gin calls to its style- well the juniper berries taste anyway – and smoothed bourbon aging it has a lot of character. As much as is it interesting, I am unsure if I would return to it. I feel once you have experienced it, that once is enough- but still worth a look once.

Background: A barrel aged saison made with rosemary. Number two in fact. Which makes me presume there is a number one out there somewhere. Their naming conventions are sheer innovation. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Sabaton: Coat Of Arms for some epic metal backing.

Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection Stony Brook Red

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Room Collection: Stony Brook Red (USA: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red. Browned thin bubbled moderate sized head.

Nose: Acidic apple. Vanilla bourbon notes. Malt chocolate. Dry oak. Port soaked raisins. Figs. Strawberry and red cherries. Shortbread.

Body: Figs. Bitter back. Chocolate syrup. Oak. Spicy mulled wine. Toasted teacakes. Red cherries. Chocolate cake. Brown bread. Sultanas.

Finish: Red wine. Raisins. Mulled spice and spiced orange. Acidic apple. Vanilla. Oats. Chocolate drops and chocolate cake.

Conclusion: I like to describe those shifting odd flavours found in tart and acidic beers as “almost holographic flavours” – talking about the fact that they seem like an illusion caused by the tongue’s response to the mix of the acidity and the base beer.

Oddly this has those flavours despite the fact that the beer isn’t that tart or acidic. Well it is a little, but generally whatever harshness it had has been mellowed by the barrel ageing – yet still it somehow has a magnificent range of those holographic feeling flavours.

Initially acidic apple seems the main course to this beer, but after a while you realise a slightly bitter chocolate cake is the solid core that has been marked by drying oak ageing. Then from that core the fruit and tartness seep out into the outer edges.

What seeps out is brilliant dark fruit, full of figs, vinous red wine and raisins – that dark fruits mix gives the beer a real depth. The acidic apple that seemed so prominent early on floats above it all adding acidic freshness to what would otherwise be a heavy beer.

The oak ageing works here nigh perfectly, adding toasted teacake flavours, vanilla notes and smoothing everything together. It gives a cask ale style feel with the intermingling flavours, which makes it wonderful to dissect and examine.

So a very mellow sour red ale, but still with a lot of life that would come with the sharper and more challenging elements that make the style stand out. It walks a thin line between accessibility and quality and marks well in both. A lovely toasted texture, just enough sharpness and a rock solid core. Very much worth getting.

Background: Samuel Adams rarities are getting easier to find in the UK, though not hugely so. Thus Independent Spirit brought through a few cases of their Barrel Aged selection and I grabbed this one, what seems to be a Flemish style red that has been aged in Bourbon barrels. Drunk with friends, this has a surprisingly easy to get out cork. Which I appreciate. Oh, also how cool is the bottle shape? – kind of like a telescope – I may be easily pleased but that is just fun.

Weird Beard Sadako Ardbeg Barrel Aged

Weird Beard: Sadako (貞子): Ardbeg Barrel Aged (England: Imperial Stout: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thick creamy brown head of half a cm size.

Nose: Chocolate. Iodine. Beef slices. Peat and smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Thick. Brown bread. Charring. Iodine. Drying salt. Greenery. Sour dough. Some malt chocolate behind. Meaty back.

Finish: Brown bread. Smoke. Drying. Bitter chocolate. Salt and rocks. Sour dough. Iodine.

Conclusion: When you have a cask as booming as Ardbeg, you really need a big beer to go against it for cask ageing. For a case of it being done right check out De Molen’s Hemel & Aarde Octomore Barrel Aged (Yes I am aware that Octomore is from Bruichladdich – I’m just comparing intense whisky casks).

This, well oddly it tastes more Laphroaig than Ardbeg to my eyes – possibly because the barrel ageing only lets the harsher and more medicinal elements through, without the weight of the base whisky to contrast. Ardbeg was always a peaty beast, and you get that here, but it never was as medicinal as Laphroaig, which is why this is such a surprise.

The aroma is sheer quality Ardbeg, with the depth that entails, but the body comes in more as an assault of medicinal, salt iodine and the like. As I say, very Laphroaig. The feel backing it is a thick bready character – a heavy texture but flavour wise it feels quite neutral as a base for the whisky influence to work from. As it warms you do get a much needed peat meatiness that comes out, the whisky aging now giving it the backing it needs.

Now, you may notice at this point I’m talking a lot about the whisky influence but very little about the beer influence. There is a reason for that. The beer is damn near killed here – on the finish there is some bitter chocolate, and all throughout there is some sough dough, but generally? The beer just can’t compete.

Overall it is a hell of an experience, but not overly a great beer. For Ardbeg and Laphroaig fans this may mix things up a bit for you by delivering flavour but in a thicker, longing lasting experience.

For most everyone else – it just doesn’t gain much from the beer side of the equation. Just backing Ardbeg with brown bread. Meh I guess, it definitely shows the Islay style, but doesn’t add anything to it. Ah well.

Background: I tried to guess this thing’s translation without looking – I failed. I recognised the second Kanji as “Child” so, knowing this is a barrel aged beer, guessed it may be barrel or oak child. Then I found out there was a non barrel aged version so that screwed up that idea. Anyway, turns out Sadako is a women’s name, with literal translation of Chaste Child. In my defence I really haven’t needed to know the Japanese letter for “chaste” much in my use of Japanese. I’m fairly sure it is also the name of the antagonist ghost in “The Ring” but I may be wrong in that. Anyway, yes Ardbeg aged – Ardbeg is one of the heaviest duty Islay whiskys, so this should be interesting. Drunk while listening to early era Slipknot. No mocking me, I was a kid when I got into them and I like to listen and reminisce sometimes. This beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally, wax on bottles of beer was amusing for while, now so many beers have it that it just gets annoying. Stop putting tests between me and my beer damnit.

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