Category: Beer Tasting Notes

Wild Beer Co The Blend Winter 2015 Beyond Modus II

Wild Beer Co: The Blend: Winter 2015 : Beyond Modus II (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy red. Off white bubbles.

Nose: Dry. White wine. Soft raisins. Madeira cake. Tart. Apples. Light oak.

Body: Acidic apple. Raisins. Sherbety lemon. Fresh. Plums. Sweet red wine. Cherries. White tart grapes. Spiced rum.

Finish: Lemon sherbet. Vinegar touch. Oak. Raisins. Sticky brown paper. Cider.

Conclusion: These beers seem to be getting closer and closet to a Flemish bruin / Belgian lambic mix with each iteration. Not a bad mix to go for – the two styles are quite similar in tartness, just differ in what tart elements they emphasise. This is very tart, mixing cider apple with white wine on the more lambic styled side. On the Flemish brown influenced side it runs to raisins, vinegar and sticky brown paper. Together that packs quite a punch.

However, things are starting to get a tad familiar with the Wild Beer sours. The cider like touch seems to be their speciality, and while Modus is a quality beer, it is very familiar in the characteristics here. What makes this seem different is that it is much more acidic and tart than the standard Modus.

While nice, I am slightly disappointed that it doesn’t really break the mould or offer anything radically new or even of notably superior quality. This is very much at the expensive end of their range, and yet it isn’t significantly different or better than the cheaper mainstays of their range.

The increased acidity is refreshing but does make it hard to get a feel for the darker fruits within the beer – it feels like it is hiding some of the complexity the beer could show if it was reined in just a touch. A pity as the deeper notes hinted at within the beer could make for an excellent beer, but they really don’t get time to express themselves. So, with the acidity you get a trade off against the more complex notes, rather than adding to and improving. As always, maybe a few years in the bottle will settle it. However at the cost I will admit that I am not going to grab another one to lay down, for that money I expect top quality at first touch.

Also, a hint, if you do grab this, share it. Had by yourself, as I did in an anti social moment, it gets far weaker over the glasses – feeling rougher edged by the end.

So, nice enough but needs a shake up to stand out. I’d say just grab standard Modus Operandi.

Background: Wild Beer Co has been a favourite of mine for a few years now – experimental, pushing sour beers, which are getting more common now, but were rare as hen’s teeth for a while. So, I grab as many of theirs as I can. This one coming from the similar old favourite Independent Spirit. It is their second of “The Blend” series that takes advantage of their three years worth of sour beer stocks. This one uses Modeus Operandi as its base beer to work from. Mainly listened to Napalm Death while drinking, as I am on a bit of thrash metal kick. However while trying to get the bloody waxed top open the song “Die Motherfucker Die” by Dope may have featured prominently. Because god damn it did not want to open.

Purity Pure Ubu

Purity: Pure Ubu (England:Amber Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear reddened brown. Moderate froth brown head that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Cream and milky. Light cinnamon. Shortbread. Sugar dusting. Very, very milky coffee.

Body: Light hop prickle. Milky texture. Light cream. Light toffee. Malt drinks. Slight pepper. Light lime. Very milky coffee. Flour.

Finish: Light hop character and bitterness. Milky. Pepper. Crackers. Flour. Chutney.

Conclusion: This is quite a gentle beer in some ways. For one I have used the word “light” about a billion times during the notes. It has a nice thickness of texture for a bitter/amber ale (I’m not 100% where it lies between the two styles). There is also some hop bitterness, but the main body is quite soft and milky behind that. Kind of like hopped milk. Ok, that sounds horrid. Let me try again.

It has a mild malt backing that comes across like the milkiest of milky coffees, only a smattering of bitterness to back it, but with hints of that flavour. It balances, for the most part, between milk and flour dusted white bead. That is hopped. Ok, that sounds terrible again. I’m not doing very well.

It is ok, it feels set up to be an easy drinking beer, though the hop prickle and peppery character are clues against that. I feel like I am not the target audience for this beer, it has an uncommon mix of light spice, hops and smooth main body. In fact it feels like a beer to accompany a mild curry – that is the best way I can describe it.

So, it has that style, backed by an even lighter set of citrus notes, yet despite all the times I use the word light, it does not feel weak or watery mid body. It hangs around and lasts, just the flavours are easygoing.

So, the mild curry and milk side of the beer world. Not my thing, but so carefully crafted I feel it is for a group of people who will love lit.

Just not me.

Background: Third and final beer that was a gift from a colleague at Christmas. Many thanks. I’d heard about Purity through “Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar” where the two were condescending dicks to the people there. So, I have sympathy for them if nothing else. Drunk shortly after the JD Single Barrel review with a bit of water taken to freshen the mouth. I was listening to some rage against the machine, mainly because it was alphabetically after what I had been listening to during the JD review. I am lazy.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB 19

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 19 (Scotland: Saison: 13.1% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous. Rum soaked raisins. Brandy cream. Creamy. Honey snaps. Dry white wine. Very mild coffee.

Body: Very smooth. Sponge cake. Raisins and figs. Slightly dry mouthfeel. Dry white wine. Cherries. Slight noticable alcohol character. Malt chocolate. Vanilla.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Dry alcohol air. Sultanas. Tart white grapes and dry white wine.

Conclusion: A very big beer this one, feeling like the offspring of a brewed up ESB and a dry white wine. An unexpected pairing to say the least, but it could be an interesting one, though frankly the declared beer style – the saison – barely gets a look in.

The ESB side of the family brings raisins, brandy cream, figs and chocolate. Robust, heavy and hearty notes. Beer that puts hairs on your chest. The white wine like side is tart and drying – white grapes filling out the air along with a slight alcohol air that comes behind it. They create odd sensations in their combination. Despite the heavy spirit touched character the body feels dry, which creates a cake sponge like feel where the two mix. Slight dry but sweet at the same time.

It aims for the almost spirit touched strong beer style that is almost a genre in itself – though it manages to avoid the worse excesses of harshness and rough as a badger’s arse character that some of the badly brewed beers out there have. The wine like characteristics are the most interesting, but are also when the most obvious alcohol elements come out to play.

It is nicely complex, but lacks the panache or utter decadence of the top end of these kind of beers. Maybe in a few bottle years it will integrate better. In fact I would bet on it. However right now it feels a bit young. Nice, but young. There is a lot to it, but I think it needs a while to let the heavy alcohol out of its system

Background: Brewdog call this a mix of two saisons, one black – one red, that have then beer aged in rum barrels. At a guess that would be Everyday Anarchy and Black Jacques then. Neither of them were massively like what I would call a saison, but the style is a varied one, and I tend to go with the Brewers choice when listing style, unless it is blatantly wrong. So, saison it is. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while waiting for Windows 10 to update and hoping it did not break the start menu again. Windows 10 is terrible is what I am saying. Thankfully it is not on my main machine. Also was listening to Sigh: Gallows Gallery – a very odd metal album – very experimental – Best description would be almost vaudeville metal, but that may be just my odd associations.

Brewdog Albino Squid Assassin

Brewdog: Albino Squid Assassin (Scotland: Speciality Grain: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy brown. Large coffee froth beige head.

Nose: Dried pineapple. Grapefruit. Understated. Pine needles.

Body: Peach. Cinnamon. Chocolate malt drinks. Coconut. Rye crackers. Sweet liquorice touch. Creamy. Moderate to low bitterness. Orange crème and caramel. Marshmallows. Apple.

Finish: Chocolate toffee. Slight spice. Shreddies. Black liquorice bits. Marshmallow. Charring. Higher bitterness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Took me a few cans of this over a few weeks for me to get a coherent take on it. The first few cans were nice enough but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it.

The rye hit of the beer seemed to vary a bit depending on what time of the day I drank it and what I had been eating before, as is to be expected. For these notes I had not had food for a while before and had it early evening and here the rye seemed restrained and really let the rest of the beer open up.

Early on it still didn’t make it easy to get a handle on the beer as the aroma is pretty restrained. It doesn’t give much information and leaves everything up to the main body.

Thankfully the body rocks it well. I hate using the varied wildcard IPA names for the most part but this tastes (Deep breath) kind of like a brown IPA, but with extra rye spice. The malt base is caramel sweet, the rye spicy, and the hops give a very good range of sweet and fruity flavour. It isn’t that bitter for an IPA, and the sweet toffee very much tastes below its 7% plus abv. Dangerously easy drinking.

The finish following that is ok, but does let the side down a bit. There are occasional liquorice notes that are not well integrated and it is a bit spice heavy here. Not terrible though but not up to the excellent body.

Thankfully the mainstay of the beer is the body, so it manages to ride over those few weak final notes. It definitely doesn’t feel much like a traditional IPA, red, rye, or otherwise. It is more malt heavy with more hop flavour than bitterness. A general easy drinking and fun beer with a tad too high abv for the notes it brings.

Background: Love the artwork on this can, the name is pretty cool as well, if somewhat nonsensical. As opposed to all those other beer names which are actually short aphorisms on the nature of reality. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is described as a *grimace* red rye IPA. Red IPA, of course. I’d probably call it a rye amber ale myself, but rate beer goes with just speciality grain, which seems fair enough for this one. Anyway drunk while listening to some OCRemix stuff from Dynamite Headdy and Gunstar Heroes. I am a geek.

Sharp Wolf Rock

Sharp: Wolf Rock (England: Amber Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to brown. Large chocolate dust coloured froth head that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel and cinnamon. Sweet nuts – sugared almonds? Malt drinks.

Body: Cinnamon. Nutty. Malt drinks. Slightly thin when chilled. Prickling character. Some hop character. Cashews. Slightly earthy. Toffee. Sour cream tang.

Finish: Peanuts. Sugar icing. Cashews. Light greenery. Acrid notes – gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: This feels like a bit of a stylistic mash-up, a red ales remix shall we say. Right at the bottom of it all it feels like the dry Irish red take on the style – slightly sour, quite dry and kind of harsh at the edges.

At the top end it is toffee sweet and caramel touched, more towards the big malt base you get in the craft beer interpretation of the amber ale, admittedly with less hop influence than those beers have. The middle, managing the two, is a menagerie of nutty notes notes from sweet almonds to green touched cashew notes. It runs the gamut of those but relies on top and tail for other notes.

It is a nice conceit, but never becomes more than its parts. It can feel light at times, especially cool, and as the beer goes on the acrid and heavier notes soon outstay all but the most sickly sweet and unpleasant of the balancing sweetness.

So, a beer that opens well but can’t keep the momentum up. By half way through it is getting leaden and the earthy backing that is nigh imperceptible at the start becomes centre stage.

It has its moments but ends far weaker than it starts.

Background: The second of three beers gifted to my by a colleague at work. Many thanks. Anyway, just found out this is MolsonCoors owned. Wonder when that happened? (A quick googles says 2011 – I have my finger on the pulse of big brewery buyouts it seems). Anyway drunk while listening to Erock’s cover of the One Punch Man theme, been reading the manga – it is quite amusing and I’m hoping the anime hits these shores soon.

Brewdog Prototype Elvis Juice 2.0

Brewdog: Prototype: Elvis Juice 2.0 (Scotland: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Amber touched gold. Brown bubbled head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Digestives. Moss and hops. Dried apricot. Lemongrass.

Body: Good bitterness and hop prickle. Key lime. Lemongrass. Bubblegum. Elderberry. Some toffee. Shortbread. Quite dry. Palma violets. Sweeter as it warms with golden syrup touch and grapes.

Finish: Kiwi and lime. Good bitterness. Bubblegum. Apricot. Palma violets. Fudge. Grapes.

Conclusion: Version 1.0 of this was an interesting mixed bad. 2.0 is… better. More balanced than before in delivering its various ideas. It feels like it is aiming at trying for the same range that Stone’s Delicious IPA was going for. Now it isn’t as good as Delicious IPA, but that is ok. Delicious IPA was fucking delicious.

This is bloody tasty, which as we all know is a mere one level below fucking delicious. I have a chart. This is science.

This has quite a dry base IPA but it ramps up the flavour range going from fresh citrus fruit, bubblegum, though to lemongrass and palma violets. The expected, more toffee, base is there, but really just a backing note.

If you let it warm up it still has some of the sweetness of 1.0, but far more restrained. Chilled down it feels just as dry at the base as the beer needs. Oddly the special ingredients never seem to stand out in themselves, just seeming to mix into the overall citrus medley.

As is it feels like a serious rival to Punk IPA for the mainstay IPA of the Brewdog set. Punk is more stand out to me, but this seems more towards the expected IPA notes. It has bigger citrus flavours which are oft what is expected.

A seriously good IPA, I look forwards to the final release.

Background: A second run for Elvis Juice. The original I found fun, but seemed to have two contrasting, clashing styles within. This is a reworked recipe so I decided to give it another run, albeit with a shorter set of notes as it is similar to the original which I already gave a full write up. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was made with orange and grapefruit peel to accentuate the Magnum, Simcoe, Amarillo , Citra and Mosaic hops.

Elmtree Golden Pale Ale

Elmtree: Golden Pale Ale (England: Golden Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Still, mostly clear but with a hazy edge to the body. Off white head that leaves sud circles.

Nose: Creamy. Lemon curd. Popcorn.

Body: Apricot. Smooth lemon. Light bitterness and hop character. Slightly thick texture. Citrus lime. Lightly wheaty. Kiwi. Fruit syrup. Apple.

Finish: Lemon meringue. Lime. Light hop character. Muesli. Kiwi. Apples.

Conclusion: For some reason Golden Ales seem to tend to wards the formulaic more than most other styles I encounter. Ok, the British interpretation anyway. The bitterness level varies but in general a gentle drinkable lemon charactered beer seems to predominantly be the way to go for them.

This both matches and yet subtly defies those expectations. Because of course life can never be simple. The taste is citrus lemon and some lime, refreshing, as expected.

The difference is that the texture is thicker, and reminds me some of the Marston ales, but with the real ale character grounding it nicely. Above and beyond that the fruitiness moves to heavier places than the average golden ale – they have deeper green fruit into apple and kiwi that makes is less easy drinking but helps it stand out more.

It doesn’t completely diverge from expectations, especially within the real ale take on the style, but it gave me a lot more than I expected. Overall it is a slower sipping golden ale than most. It doesn’t break the mould but it stretches it just a touch.

Nice, not super refined nor super out of the ordinary, but, ya know, nice.

Background: Final of the Norwich beers I was given over Christmas and brought back home with me. Many thanks to the parents for these. Drunk while listening to Shirehorses: The Worst Album in the World…Ever..EVER. For anyone who didn’t grow up in the 90s listening to late night Mark and Lard on radio 1 that will make no sense whatsoever. Their late night show was responsible for me staying up far too late and being knackered for school the next day far too many times. Good times.

Weird Beard Safe Word

Weird Beard: Safe Word (England: IPA: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Deep yellow. Moderate off white to browned head. Moderate carbonation. Some floating veins of what I presume to be fruit.

Nose: Gooseberry and pineapple. Tart, thick and musky. Vanilla fudge. Apricot. Nettles.

Body: White grapes. Smooth. Some bitterness and hop character. Malt chocolate drinks. Sour grapes. Bitterness and hop character rises.

Finish: Toffee. Greenery. Tart white grapes. Malt chocolate drinks. Apricot. Hop oils. Quite dry.

Conclusion: They made some interesting choices with the brewing of this one. I would have imagined that for a berry IPA they would have matched it with the cleaner, more bitter and more attenuated take on the IPA style. Not so. Instead, at its base, this has the sweeter, almost chocolate touched, toffee heavy IPA style. The only exception is the finish which is drier, though still slightly heavy.

The berry influence, based on what I can work out, seems like a mustier, more greenery touched mix of gooseberry and white grapes. The fruit doesn’t dominate, instead creating a musky, thick layer that seeps into the body like moss spreading over a tree. It creates a very greenery touched, thicker IPA than usual, with a hop oil character mixed with more hints to the hop’s natural budding state than most. That isn’t the only hop influence, there are a lot of extra, non berry like notes, which seem to come from the hops.

Does it work? Mostly.

The heavier malt base becomes a bit wearing over time. With having the more musty fruit character on top of the sweet base it emphasises character over easy drinkability. Not a bad trade off but one to be aware of. Despite that the unusual fruit definitely makes its mark and that is what keeps the beer interesting. It seems here to have the tartness of gooseberry, the sweetness of grapes and the mustiness of furry berries.

Not one to return to over a session, but a fun one. I think I would have preferred the drier expression I expected as I think that would have been less leaden by the end – but then again, what beer in the world can compare to the perfect beer of the mind.

And ok and different beer, not one I would repeat regularly.

Background: As a chokeberry IPA, Safe Word has to be one of the most awesome beer naming ever. In my ever so humble opinion. This was part of the 2015 Brewdog collaboration fest, which I missed. It was a mix of being a bit unhappy with a few Brewdog promotions and the fact that it had got to the point where there were too many beers to do in one weekend. Doing a weekend long comparison run was always fun for me. Maybe as they get bigger they could split into two events, maybe a south and north collabfest? Anyway, thought this would be fun to try. Drunk while listening to Svalbard’s awesome “One Day All This Will End” album. Check it out if you like metal. I don’t think I have ever tried chokeberrys so I am kind of guessing about their influence on the beer. Grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Stewart Elysium 1 Bourbon Edition

Stewart: Elysium 1: Bourbon Edition (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thick brown head that dissipates to a dusting quite quickly.

Nose: Vanilla. Cherries and fruitcake. Big fudge. Vanilla yogurt. Plums. Big but smooth. Rum soaked raisins. Shortbread. Rye bourbon.

Body: Smooth, almost light. Cocoa powder. Vanilla yogurt. Strawberry yogurt. Plums. Red wine and red berries. White chocolate.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Vanilla toffee. Vanilla yogurt. White chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, this tastes like a white stout. Okay, okay, white stout seems to have many definitions these days, some just based on stout meaning strong. This one tastes like an imperial stout, but with everything switched to white; White chocolate, the vanilla delivered as vanilla yogurt. In fact that yogurt is the element that really makes my point here. Lots of imperial stouts can feel like a chocolate milkshake – this turns that on its head and feels like its yogurt smoothie cousin.

Now the traditional stout flavours aren’t missed out, with dark fruit embedded in it and dark cocoa notes, but that different vanilla yogurt feel and taste mid body puts those traditional notes into a completely different context.

This different take on the Imperial Stout works better as it warms. Cool the yogurt dominates too much and it can make the beer feel kind of empty. Warm you get deep red wine and fruitcake notes that fill the emptiness and create contrast, like raspberries pocked in white chocolate.

In really intrigued to see how much of this is the base beer, and how much the barrel ageing. I’m used to vanilla and toffee notes from a bourbon barrel but not so much that they overpower the base imperial stout character.

Even as it warms it feels a tad too yogurt influenced to be special, a bit thick and cloying. It is very different though and I always appreciate that. I wonder if the Elysium would take better to a heavier barrel ageing. They have other variants so it may be worth a test. Anyway, overall more interesting as an experience than a beer in itself, but it has a lot of promise to make a very different take on the beer if they can just fine tune it.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is one of three barrel aged version of their Elysium imperial stout. The other two being Speyside whisky casks, one ex-sherry and one, I presume, ex-bourbon cask. I decided to go for the bourbon version as I have not tried Elysium and bourbon is often the smoothest and less intrusive barrel ageing method for me, so may give the best idea of the base beer. Or that is the theory at least. Drunk whilst listening to Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip: Repent Replenish Repeat. I love that album.

Timothy Taylor Landlord

Timothy Taylor: Landlord (England: Bitter: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold. Off white to brown froth head that leaves suds. Still body.

Nose: Lightly wheaty and fluffy hop character. Vanilla toffee. Greenery.

Body: Hop oils and solid bitterness. Peppery and earthy. Light vanilla. Sour dough. Cinnamon. Soft lemon. Slightly chalky. Slight dried apricot.

Finish: Fluffy earthy hop bitterness and peppery. Soft lemon.

Conclusion: I’m a bit split on this one. I am worried that I am being influenced by that fact that this was a beer I was a huge fan of way back in my early real ale drinking days. Why am I worried? Well, technically I am still enjoying drinking this very much – however I am very aware that I have criticised many beers for having similar elements to this one.

Let me explain. This is an earthy and peppery, moderately attenuated and dry pale bitter. On cask it was more sulphurous, here it has a cleaner touch. Anyway, so it isn’t doing anything too unusual for the style, and I have criticised many a beer for doing that. So, what I am trying to work out is, how much of my enjoyment is from my memories, and how much is it that it delivers itself well enough to overcome its familiar base conceit.

It really does seem to do that style just that much better than most of similar notes. The attenuation isn’t too dry and lets soft but slightly fruit sugar like apricot and lemon notes through to refresh what would otherwise be a too heavy ale. The vanilla toffee base is dried but still sweet enough to contrast the pepper. Overall it seems to match earthy weight with a refreshing character and perfectly set dry drinkable style.

So, maybe it is just the fact that you end up liking what you are accustomed to, but this feels far more than the sum of its well know parts to become the ideal of a British bottled bitter. So, there is the evidence for and against, feel free to make up your own mind, but I will continue to enjoy this old friend.

Background: This was gifted to me by a college at Christmas. Many thanks. Landlord is one I have had many times over the years, predominantly on cask. As of such it was a bit of a shock that apparently I had never done notes on it. Time to remedy that. Drunk while listening to a bit more Akala. It seems to be popular in the new wave craft scene to take the piss out of Landlord these days, which I never quite got as I have always enjoyed it.


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