Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Brewdog IPA Is Dead Ella

Brewdog: IPA Is Dead: Ella (Scotland: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to brown. Large yellow touched head. Clear. Some carbonation.

Nose: Soft peach. Good hops and bitterness. Sugar dusting. Kumquat.

Body: Somewhat creamy and sweet. Crushed digestives. Good bitterness. Apricot. Thick texture. Fudge and caramel. Peach. Prickly middle. Strawberry.

Finish: Good bitterness. Toffee. Good hops. Hop oils. Quite dry. Passion fruit. Crushed digestives. Gets creamy over time.

Conclusion: I am seriously growing to love Ella as a hop – I have yet to run into it in a bad beer (I know inevitably I will – bad brewers can ruing anything, but the hit ratio so far is awesome). Besides that fact, I am also finding this beer an interesting second beer in the IPA is Dead set. It is still dry on the way out, but the thickness comes through as a much creamier body here. It is now getting easier to work out what is the base recipe and what is the hop.

Despite a robust bitterness and set of hop oils, this one is actually a very soothing drink. The creamy centre is sweet and accompanied by brought peach and strawberry notes. Well done, though I will say – and sorry Brewdog – Wiper and True’s Ella Amber Ale still rules the roost as a single hop showcase – I must grab a bottle for review, it just kicks the hop perfectly.

Anyway, this is still very nice, very drinkable and stripped down to show the hop well. It kind of needs a bit more punch – I know the hop can kick a bit harder and it would work better that way. Here is it very mellow, though the flavour is huge.

An excellent hop, a great beer to deliver it.  Just, yeah, Wiper and True just killed it, so this seems unfairly weak in comparison. Still very good by any measure.

Background: Ahh, Ella. Originally called “Stella” I believe, then a certain shite brewery started getting sue happy. Allegedly. I am a huge fan of Ella, just started running into beers with it earlier this year and it is already on my favourite hop list. IPA Is Dead is a set of single hop beers, with four beers released each year. Ella is the Australian hop of the 2015 set. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was drunk while listening to The Gunflowers “Vote For UKIP and I’ll Piss In Your Bin“. Over and Over. That is my stance on the upcoming election laid out.

Old Guardian Extra hoppy

Stone: Old Guardian Extra Hoppy (USA: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Dark mahogany red. Reddened whitish inch of a head. Clear body but with some carbonation.

Nose: Pine wood shavings and wood polish. Gingerbread and cinnamon. Roasted nut shells. Dried apricot.

Body: Bitter. Toasted chestnuts. Big hops. Frothy feel. Dried beef slices. Brown sugar. Dried apricot. Strawberry. Very light toffee behind. Light cherries. Hop oils. Glacier cherries and caramel late on.

Finish: Chestnuts. Lots of hops. Nutmeg. Charred oak. Very nutty. Malt drink touch. Light lime sorbet. Strawberry and cinnamon.

Conclusion: Nutty? When has a barley wine ever been nutty? Ok, that is a rhetorical question, I know you can probably bombard me with examples. I am wondering though – are we still even under the barley wine category by this point, as the abv seems to be the only thing that matches with expectations of the style.

This is nutty, roasted, bitter and charred – it doesn’t quite ruin you, partially because of the ghost of sweetness and smoothness haunting it but for the first half a glass or so it is utterly relentless and dominated by the harsh character. Over time the ghost gets to be a bit more of a geist on the poltergeist fashion – throwing out notes of toffee and cherry with just enough to give escape velocity and break free from the roasted core. Even there they are lighter, easily lost secondary notes. Though the angry spirit fights harder and harder with every sip to push the sweetness out.

Warmth does help, bringing out more sweetness, cherry and cinnamon – the hops get more heavy as well, but it is well worth drinking it this way as you get more of the root barley wine style.

If standard Old Guardian was intense then this is brutal – share a bottle or by the end you will just feel the hops. The main disappointment her is that the hop character is so simple – nutty and brutal but if feels like you are mainly getting the alpha acids rather than complex extra flavour. It is admirable for intensity but really lacks on subtlety.

In fact this taste kind of like what I expected Ruination IPA to taste like – i.e. ruining. It takes until very late on in the beer for the sweetness to do its thing and taste like barley wine. The hops don’t lessen, but for those moments the balance is far better – for most of the time leading up to that moment it is very intense but very single minded.

Background: You know, I tried standard Old Guardian a while back – nice, but I thought it laid the bitterness on a bit heavily which meant that it got a bit clinging by the end. therefore when I heard they did an even more hoppy version of it I grabbed it from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. Because of course. This paragraph may explain a lot about what is wrong with me.

Anyway, this is part of Stone’s “Odd Year Release” selection – beers released every other year. This is the 2015 version. Shared with friends, because I may be stupid, but I can just about learn from past experiences.

Weird Beard Marble Bullfinch You Taste Better When You Are Scared

Weird Beard: Marble: Bullfinch: You Taste Better When You Are Scared (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot flesh. An inch or so of off white bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Pink grapefruit. Melon. Light nettles.

Body: Pink grapefruit. Light hop character. Pineapple. Malt drinks. Acrid touch at the back. Peach fruit syrup. Light toffee.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Acrid touch. Pineapple. Fruit syrup. Muted musty hops. Lactose touch.

Conclusion: So, acidulated malt is a thing? You learn something new every day. usually something pointless, but today is a good day. However, for a beer crammed full of hops and acidic grapefruit juice on top of the acidulated malt, it is odd that it feels quite so traditionally malt led.

Don’t get me wrong, the flavour is a mix of pineapple and pink grapefruit – however I’ve had New Zealand hopped beers that tasted sharper than this. mainly Nelson Sauvin single hop admittedly.

There is just such a malt drink back, kind of a touch American brown ale style and it makes what should be a sharp beer actually feel slightly leaden. It tastes ok, but doesn’t really taste like an IPA, in that there is no real bitterness or hop kick, and the tart character definitely lacks against expectations.

As a beer in itself it is ok, slightly tart but generally fairly mellow. Against what it is pitched as it is fairly disappointing. It isn’t bad, but the special ingredients actually seem to contribute less than what you get with a judicious use of hops, and that special character seems to have killed what the hops themselves bring. Heck, straight up grapefruit juice has more of a kick.

An experiment that doesn’t really pay off.

Background: A collaboration! Woo! I’ve run into Marble and Weird Beard a bunch of times now, Bullfinch are a new one on me. This is made with 100KG of acidulated malt – the kind of malt often used for berliner weisse and such like, and is added along with fresh grapefruit juice. So, a grapefruit IPA – of course I grabbed it, I am easily hooked with such things. I have the attention span of a cat near a red laser pointer. Picked up from independent Spirit, and drunk while listening to the ever cool Sabaton: Coat of Arms.

Brewodg IPA IS Dead Pioneer Brewdog: IPA Is Dead: Pioneer (Scotland: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow, slightly hazy. Small off white head that leaves lots of suds. Some carbonation mid body.

Nose: Flour and fresh dough. Soft lemon sherbet. Stewed dates.

Body: Pepper. Stewed apricots and dates. Thick feel. Flour. Fruit sugars. Golden syrup touch. Moderately dry.

Finish: Pepper. Solid bitterness and hop character. Soft jelly sweets. Flour. Vanilla pods. Dry pumpkin. Pine needles. Quite dry overall. Chocolate toffee late on in the beer.

Conclusion: Interesting. This ended up being a drier IPA than first impressions would lead you to believe.

The beer seems to have two main poles – the first is a thick, sweet, stewed fruit character. The other is a dry, well attenuated flour and peppery character. Somehow it manages to incorporate both in one beer. Possibly by involving wizards. Invisible wizards.

Since this my first of the 2015 IPA is Deads I’m not quite sure how much of that I can attribute to the hop character and how much I can attribute to the base recipe. I may look into this more in later sets of notes on the series. Either way this is interesting – there is bitterness in the finish, but for the most part this really is not that bitter for an IPA. Not a bittering hop at a guess. (Huh: Google says it is “Dual Use” but brings a mild bitterness. Makes sense). The stewed fruit is tasty but not that explosive – it has a kind of thick, slow sweetness. It ends up making for a very fruit pie kind of beer, especially with the flour and dough notes standing is for crust imagery.

It’s pleasant, if heavy feeling – like a stodgy base of a beer. I’m enjoying it but the thick characteristics could get overly heavily quite quickly. I’d guess that this is a hop that benefits more from careful combination use than single hop. A reasonable start, and bodes well for IID 2015 even if it is not overly special itself.

Background: IPA IS DEAD! Woo. Brewdog’s single hop series, which, with one years exception, has been a good set for finding out about exactly what a hop brings to a beer. This, Pioneer, is a British hop. The Brit hops tend to be the nice surprise of the set, tasting much different to the earth and soil heavy stereotype. Drunk while listening to the chilled out podcast Spektrmodule – number 40 to be exact. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

La Senne Jambe de Bois

La Senne: Jambe de Bois (Belgium: Abbey Tripel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy banana juice, cloudy body with evident sediment. Very large yellow to white mounded froth head that leaves lace.

Nose: Wheat. Dried banana. Custard slices. Toffee. vanilla ice cream.

Body: Solid hop bitterness. Bananas in custard. Toffee. Wheat. Peach. Blackpool rock and candyfloss. Pear drops. Apple.

Finish: Wheat. Banana and big bitter hops. Apricot. Blackpool rock. Pear drops.

Conclusion: So this is a Tripel? Or, maybe a Belgian IPA? Actually, you know what this makes me think of? If Saison Dupont and Westmalle Tripel made the two backed beast in a back alley and then waited nine months.

It was that brisk but clean hop character that made me think of Saison Dupont. Refreshing and awakening, and with the same sweet backing, but merged with the rough edged gem sweetness of Westmalle Tripel. There is definite raw sugar and hints of well buried alcohol strength.

Even though it can be described thus, it still has very much its own character – behind the wonderfully bracing level of hops for a tripel it has this massive banana and custard middle, which is the final defining element of this beer. Together there is huge bitterness and huge sweetness, mixed in with lovely esters. Despite the massive sweetness this feels perfectly attenuated – the initially frothy middle becoming a drier take which leads out into a shining yet bitter finish.

Frankly this entire beer shows exactly why I always seem to end up preferring the Belgian take over the American ones. It wears the slight rough edges with pride and brings so much more to the beer because of that. It allows raw sugar touches, subtle esters and varied mouthfeels, all of which add up to an exceptional experience.

Absolutely lovely, the balance of Saison Dupont, Chouffe Houblon, Westmalle Tripel and more makes for a fantastic beer.

Background: Grabbed at Corks of Cotham – Been a while since I’ve had La Sennse beer, they tend to be spot on for quality so this was a no brainer. I tend to prefer the Belgian style Tripel over the American style, they tend to have a few more charming rough edges. Drunk while listening to some Against Me! for no particular reason apart from I enjoy them.

Widl Beer Co Wineybeest

Wild Beer Co: Wineybeest (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown bubbles at the edge and a dust of a head over the main body.

Nose: Intense red wine. Acidic almost vinegar touch early on. Sharp apples. Liquorice.

Body: Rich red wine, backed by sour wine notes. Sour red grapes. White chocolate froth and bitter chocolate cake back. Cheese boards.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Red grapes. Bitter chocolate. Spicy – mixed spice. Liquorice. Blackberry.

Conclusion: Am I doing Pinot Nor week or something? Or is it my birthday and no-one told me? Either way I am Pinot spoiled at the moment I tell you. Oddly this thick imperial stout seemed initially to find it harder to stand up to the wine influence than the Blackjack Native Sun Dopplebock did.

The nose, even the first sips, are massively wine dominated. Initially rich and fruity, then backed up by sour and spicy notes. All wine, all the time though. Very nice, but as long time readers (both of you) will know I get disappointed when you completely lose the base beer to the barrel ageing. It just seems to lose some of the potential that the merging of two great things holds.

Thankfully here the beer fights back, slowly but inevitably. Bitter chocolate cake and complex mature cheeseboards start revealing themselves, pushing up strong enough to be noticed past the rich wine. At a rough comparison, only about thirty percent of the character of Wildebeest shows itself, but that adds heavy stodgy flavours to this wine force. It is mainly a matter of holding the beer character – top and tail is wine, but the centre is that bitter crumbly chocolate cake.

It may not be as complexly and richly balanced as Whiskebeest, but it is far more its own thing – two strong flavours pulling against each other – not clashing, just sloshing back and forwards.

The wine is too dominant to call it a master piece, but the strength of flavour is too great to call it any less than fantastic. Unbalanced, rich and joyous wine explosion.

Background: This is a Pinot Noir barrel aged version of wildebeest. I believe in recent notes I have mentioned my lack of wine knowledge, and of the fact that despite that I have enjoyed a couple of pinot noirs. So of course I grabbed this from Independent Spirit. There were only 500 bottles of this made, and one less exists now. The wax didn’t get too much in the way of opening the bottle for once. Which was nice.

Brewdog Paradox Compass Box

Brewdog: Paradox: Compass Box (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Froths up brown, but soon descends to a brown dash over the body.

Nose: Thick toffee. Boozy caramel and salted caramel. Coconut. Fresh custard doughnuts. Shaken bag of liquorice allsorts.

Body: Smooth bitter chocolate. Toasted teacakes. Cadburys’ fudge fingers. Coffee. Boozy caramel. Bourbon. Froths up easily.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Touch of Turkish delight. Toasted teacakes and butter.

Conclusion: Should I praise a beer for having an awesome aroma, or get shirty as it fronts what the body can’t back up? I guess it depends on how my day has gone so far. So, not too bad today. You get the cheery version of the pretentious beer blogger today!

The aroma is thick and boozy, full on caramel in a salted style, backed by my favourite ever Imperial Stout note – coconut! If I could have a beer that was the very essence of its aroma, then I want this beer!

Oddly, despite my comments, the body provides much of the same – so why did I give it shit earlier on? Probably the lack of coconut in the body. Seriously I love coconut notes in my imperial stouts. It’s my thing. There is also a lovely toasted tea cake character, and it still pushes the sweet notes large. Normally I find overly sweet beers a tad one note, but here the oak seems to have done something a tad unusual. Instead of the expected whisky notes, it seems slightly closer to sour bourbon – a subtle hint, but combined with the toasted tea cake it balances the sweetness very well. Finally the finish emphasises more bitter notes, underlying the whole experience.

So, yeah, my disagreement with the body basically comes down to the lack of coconut. You can’t promise me coconut and then snatch it away!

So how is it? Well, despite the well done offset notes it still is very heavily on the sweet side. Also it lacks coconut and I hold grudges. It is however a very good imperial stout. The compass box doesn’t seem to have brought quite the same complexity here that they do in their blended malt whiskies – but I’m not complaining at what they did bring.

While I am spoiled in high quality barrel aged imperial stouts, insanely spoiled, I still very much enjoyed this. Not so stand out to be one of the top in the world, but it has no real flaws to call out. Ok no flaws that aren’t coconut related.

Background: Yet another of Brewdog’s whisky aged imperial stouts. I’m not quite sure how this one works. Compass Box do blended malts – so take malt from many different barrels and mix them together. How does that work with barrel aged beer? Do they age some in each different cask? Or is there a final cask the whisky is married in and is this used for ageing? I am unsure. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Blackjack Native Sun 2014 (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged)

Blackjack: Native Sun 2014 (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged) (England: Dopplebock: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red to brown. Moderate rich chocolate froth.

Nose: Chocolate shavings. Dry malt drink. Sour red grapes. Rose petals. Chocolate fondue comes out as it warms. Herbal notes. Raisins and liquorice.

Body: Cinnamon sticks. Sour red wine. Malt chocolate to bitter chocolate. Mint leaves. Blackcurrants. Nutmeg. Liquorice. Slight glacier cherries.

Finish: Bitter chocolate flakes. Sour red wine. Nutmeg. Lightly earthy. Liquorice. Raisins.

Conclusion: I have limited experience with Pinot Noir – that is I have tried several New Zealand versions of it, and they are awesome. very big and fruity. I owe that knowledge entirely to my awesome sister who has provided me with a few glasses of good stuff over the years.

Yes I have a friendly booze family.

This is much drier and more sour wine influenced than the Pinot Noirs I have encountered – with more earthy and acidic notes. From what I have been told this is pretty standard with more European Pinot Noirs. Which makes sense.

Anyway, now I have demonstrated my nigh complete lack of knowledge on wine, we have – THE BEER!

I mention the wine first as it is a huge influence, but while the wine does dominate the dopplebock seems to make a solid base under that – bitter chocolate and malt drinks makes for a robust base character. It is smooth, with some cherry and raisins hints (though actually, for all I know that could be the wine as well. I would say 70% sure it is the beer). A lot of the malt flavours crossover with the red wine ageing very fluidly, so it is hard to be certain exactly where one ends and the other begins. That does mean that the flavours meld very well and gives a very well balanced experience.

Combined together the elements manage a menagerie of dark fruits, Christmas spices, earthy character and acidic sour wine notes, all balanced by malt chocolate. Halfway between a dopplebock and a mulled wine in some ways.

Overall, yep it’s a good one – you do have to like the wine aspect though as it works its way into every pore. There is a wine dryness to the entire thing. As a beer alone there are far better, but this is such a well done mix that explores the wine but doesn’t lose the beer.

A bigger amount of complexity to the base beer would have made this an all time great – as is it is still a very nice beer indeed.

Background: This one is from Manchester! I have some good memories of that place. Anyway, a dopplebock aged in Pinot Noir barrels, that grabbed my eye – not just as you don’t see many Brit made dopplebocks. Picked up from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Prodigy: The Day Is My Enemy. That album definitely has legs.

Monsieur Rock

Greenbrew SPRL: Monsieur Rock (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Large mound of white crisp bubbled head. Moderate carbonation. Clear body.

Nose: Quite funky. Sulphur notes. Lemon.

Body: Coriander. Spritzy. Sharp lemon. Kumquat. Funky yeast. Puff crisps. Very frothy feel. Mature cheese.

Finish: Carrot. Musty. Cheese puffs. Bitter hops. Cheddar. Pepper.

Conclusion: I dub thee. “Cheese Beer”. Hey, don’t blame me, all the good beer names were already taken. It could be from the funky Belgian yeast maybe, but this has a real strong Cheddar element going on. It took me a while to get used to it, but it turns out the beer doesn’t suck.

I mean that as a compliment by the way. I know it can be hard to tell sometimes.

As I said, it took me a while to get a grip on this beer. The aroma isn’t the most forthright and the first sip came in very spritzy up front, then very frothy as it developed. It felt like a lot of the elements seemed to mingle in the midst of that froth cloud, making them hard to discern individually.

It feels kind of half saison, half Belgian wit in how it comes across – with a bit of the Orval style yeast effect dusted over the top. That last one may have been psychosomatic. There is a lot of the saison rustic character, hop feel and, yeah the yeast. From the Belgian Wit comes that carrot and spice stylings. The real mature cheddar elements are right there in the middle.

It merges pleasantly, and I’m thinking it would go well with some savoury snacks. The pepperiness makes for a good finish after the cheese character. In fact a lot of the elements seem to have built around the cheese as a base.

By itself it gets a bit one note quickly – it is definitely interesting for the first few moments, then kind of samey. However I have a hunch that it you find the right food complement it would shine. Something savoury, maybe crackers. May be worth an experiment but doesn’t stand up on its own.

Background; I ummed and ahhed over where to place this – it is contract brewed by Meantime in the UK, but the brewers are based in Belgium. They are apparently awaiting building of their own Brewery. In the end I plumped for Belgian, it seems to fit closest with my picks for past contract brew work. Jean-Marie Rock, one half of the team was associated previously with the Orval brewery. Which I will admit is what convinced me to give a try. Picked up from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to the classic album Mezzanine by Massive Attack. mainly for “Angel” – that song is amazing.

Evil Twin Freudian Slip

Evil Twin Brewing: Freudian Slip (USA: Barley Wine: 10.3% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy black cherry to red. Half inch of browned tight bubbles. Some sediment evident.

Nose: Smooth caramel. Pine cones. Muted hops. Malt biscuits.

Body: Sherbety feel up front. Cherries. Toffee and caramel. Apricot. Bitter charred core. Dry white wine. Dried passion fruit and dried pineapple. Resin. Dry liquorice stick. Quite dry overall. Lime sorbet. Brown sugar.

Finish: Acrid note and big bitter hops. Dry. Long lasting in the hops. Dry white wine. Tangerine.

Conclusion: You know, for all the words I have used over the years when describing barley wines, I don’t think dry is one that has come up yet. I could be wrong, but it is unexpected. How can a barley wine feel over attenuated? It really doesn’t seem to mesh with the imagery the style calls to mind.

Yet this does feel dry and heavily attenuated. It could be due to hop use, possibly -there is an acrid hop bitterness at the core of this. It certainly concentrates on the hop oils and bitterness over the fruity flavours and aroma and that gives a more drying feel, which could explain a lot.

If you get past that, and if you take bigger mouthfuls, then the usual barley wine sweetness is there. Then again, bigger mouthfuls? On a barley wine? That is approaching the danger zone my friends. However it does work, bringing an apricot sweetness and caramel notes – The more expected barley wine notes, but the more acrid notes clamp down like a steel trap as soon as your mouth empties, with only a few Madeira notes escaping the cage.

Am I mixing metaphors there? Possibly. Trap/cage – kind of similar.

Anyway, the question is – does it weave all this together into a good beer? Well even the sweeter flavours laced through the body feel drier than usual. It is an unusual sensation, intensified by the hop emphasis.

It definitely took a while to get used to, and equally definitely isn’t one I dislike. However it’s not wooing me. Maybe if feels it doesn’t have to, it is confident in what it is, but it ends up as another beer I feel more as interesting than awesome. As always I hope have given you enough info that you can work out yourself if this may be a beer for you.

Background: Picked up from the Brewdog Guest Beer selection, this is a barley wine from the Evil Twin lot – previously based in Denmark, now in the USA – Evil Twin is the brainchild of the brother of the head of Mikkeller. hence Evil twin. Anyway Evil Twin has been stand out so far, so I thought it was worth giving this a go. Drunk while listening to The Prodigy: The Day Is My Enemy. Pretty good album.

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