Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Wild Beer Co: Funky Dory (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lager to lemon juice. White medium sized head.

Nose: Lychee. Soft lemon. Mango. Tart. Cider touch. Wheat dust air. Fresh cut apples.

Body: Lychee. Mild yeast funk. Brown bread. Peppery. Lightly earthy. Dry lemon. Vanilla. Dry. Light apple. Mild blueberry backing.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Funky yeast. Dried mango. Dry lemon. Mature cheese and cheese puff crisps.

Conclusion: This tastes like an earthy old school British bitter matched with a new wave fruity pale ale, then they both went home and shagged in a pool of brett. Then nine months later this happened. Or something like that.

The front of the beer is full of soft, but quite dry, fruit – tart but in a way that still feels well attenuated and drying. Like a dry lemon drink, but with more range if that helps. That dry fruit works against the lightly funky brett character creating an easy drinking yet dry beer with a lot more weight behind it than such a beer often has.

What builds from that is a really earthy, peppery character that starts low and builds up slowly over the life of the beer. By the end it is very earthy, but backed by a tart character so it calls to, but is very different from the traditional earthy British bitter style.

It isn’t as great a beer as Brett Brett IPA or Chronos, but is another beer that shows that Bretting up other beer styles is where Wild Beer co really shine. The only flaw is that it ends up a bit too earthy dominated by the end and that keeps it from the great highs of the other beers.

Previous Bretted up beers from Wild Beer have aged well, So I’m planning on ageing up one of these for fun – see if it helps it get over the rough spots at the end. As is now it is a very nice take on the British bitter. Not their best, but a lovely twist on the Brit hop style.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Wild Beer Co’s beers recently, but when I saw this is looked like something that sits perfectly in the middle of what they do right. A British hopped ale, but funked up with Brett. Their Brett Brett IPA, Evolver IPA and Chronos Lager all were brett takes on other beer styles and generally were all impressive, so had good hopes for this. It helped that the image is a David Bowie reference – very cool, so I put on his Black Star album while drinking. Some tracks still give me chills even now. I bought one for ageing, to see what the brett did and one for drinking now. Then it was boiling hot so I drank both. This is my second attempt, grabbing two and doing notes on one. It is still too warm. All were grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Advertisements

Northern Monks: Sharknado 5 – Global Swarming (England: IPA: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Reddened apricot. Large strawberry touched head. Hazy body. Lots of small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Blood orange. Crisp hops. Salt touch. Moderate bitterness. Vanilla. Coriander.

Body: Blood orange. Sour cream. Lime. Thick. Brown bread. Hop oils. Pink grapefruit touch. Strawberry. Milky.

Finish: Sour cream. Blood orange. Salt. Fresh lime. Hop oils. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok, a beer based on the delightfully shitty Sharkando movies should not be actually this good. Seriously. It feels a lot thicker than its 5.5% abv should bring giving a real creamy and milky feel, but in a slightly more savoury sour cream style so that the bright blood orange and pink grapefruit notes have something solid to work against.

The tart fruit needs that base, and boy does it use it – the beer feels very thick and heavy, but despite that the tartness manages to make it refreshing. The blood orange is really clear and sharp in its expression and the light sea salt touch accentuates every other flavour that it rubs up against.

The IPA feel is impressive in its precision of expression. There is a crisp hop aroma that prickles on the way in, but then the body leaves that out so it doesn’t break up the tarter character, instead expressing itself in a hop oiliness that adds to the thickness and lets the bitterness wait to seep in slowly during finish when the tart notes have finished doing their thing. It doesn’t feel like a traditional IPA while still being recognisable as being within the style.

Very bright, tart, and yet late on strawberry sweetness and vanilla notes come in to round it out. It is wonderful in how it uses all the extra ingredients to make it a bigger and better beer. Now we just need Northern Monk to make a “The Room” beer, or more likely a beer to promote the Best F(r)iends part 2? Please. It would be awesome.

Background: So, I tried this a while back, saw it, grabbed a can, drank it, but didn’t do notes. Mainly grabbed it for fun, but it was a genuinely good beer so I went back to buy another can to do notes on and … they had sold out. I had underestimated the demand for beer based on shitty movies. Then again, I enjoy the sharknado movies – they are terrible, yes, but enthusiastically terrible, and that counts for a lot for me. They are no “The Room” sure, but it is self aware stupid, and I saw an interview with … the director I think .. where they actually used the word “logic” in relation to the movie. Because of course. Anyway, the beer, I found one final can available at the Beer Emporium and grabbed it, resolving to actually do notes this time. Which I did. This is a beer made with blood orange and sea salt, which both sound tasty and are thematically appropriate. Put on Testament – Low again while drinking. No real reason, just really been digging that album recently.

Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Winter (England: Vegetable/Herb/Spice: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Massive browned head. Very lively to pour.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Choc limes. Earthy. Sweet, cloying apricot. Dessert wine. Pine cones. Orange rind. Paprika.

Body: Orange jelly sweets. Sour grapes. Cloying sweet wine. Treacle. Chives and other herbs. Mulled wine. Rye crackers. Liquorice. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Finish: Cherries. Dried apricots. Sugary sweet wine. Boiled bark. Mulled wine. Malt chocolate. Rye bread. Rock salt. Golden syrup. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Well, this is very much dedicated to the foraged elements conceit, but despite that remember to be a beer as well – a beer that is backed by a heck of a lot of vinous notes from the barrel ageing. They are trying to pack in a lot here, let’s see if it works.

The base feels closer to a dubbel than than the actual dubbel I tried recently for their 2018 Smoke N Barrels, though that isn’t saying much. By itself it feels more towards an ESB style malt character with chocolate notes coming out -however it is pepped up by rye spice notes and a liquorice element that makes it all feel more earthy and more ready to fit in with the foraged root character.

Onto that is layered the sweet, thick Sauternes wine notes that go from cloying stewed thick apricot to the sour grapes of a tarter wine, to a golden syrup like dessert wine style. It seems to have reacted here with the base beer to show off a real fruit sugar styling to the sweetness. Initially it felt intense and cloying, but soothed over time as the more grounded base worked with it.

The rooting around foraged style is actually a robust middle to this beer. It is oaken like stewed bark, matched with herbal and spicy notes. The spiciness blends nicely with the rye to create a robust, forest imagery filled, set of notes.

It is a weird beer. Lots of intense notes, lots of prickly notes, lots of elements that don’t blend in with each other, instead all struggling for dominance. However it is never dull and never bad. Not a favourite of mine, but probably the best of the rooting around series, and the best at showing what foraging can add to a beer, especially if you make it one element rather than the sole element.

Background: I left off grabbing this one for a while. The Rooting Around series, a series of beers made with locally foraged items, missed more than it hit in my opinion. However it was recommended to me on the Alcohol and Aphorisms Facebook page, so I thought, what the heck, why not? This is a beer made with rock samphire, Douglas firs, tonka beans, orange peel and a mix of oats, rye and barley in the malt bill. Then that whole mixed up mess was aged in Sauternes casks. This is either going to be great or terrible with a set-up like that. Put in Ozzy Osbourne again while drinking this, prefer the earlier years tracks on the album I think. Anyway, another one grabbed from my Wild Beer supplier that is Independent Spirit.

Founders: CBS – Canadian Breakfast Stout (USA: Imperial Stout: 11.7% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Roasted, rich coffee. Vanilla. Toffee. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Peanuts. Slight bubblegum.

Body: Maple syrup. Black cherry. Chocolate liqueur. Oily mouthfeel. Eel sashimi. Liquorice touch. Toasted teacakes. Cashew nuts. Muted but complex toffee. Fudge. Frothy milky chocolate.

Finish: Oily sheen. Riesen chocolate chews. Light liquorice. Maple syrup. Vanilla toffee. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallow. Caramel. Cashews. Bitter coffee. Ash. Bitter cocoa. Cloyed sour cream touch and chives.

Conclusion: Oddly, my mate also got a bottle of this – and he handed it to me to try once without telling me what it was. On fist sip I went “Hold on Maple syrup? This tastes of maple syrup. Wait, is this the CBS?” So I’m fairly confident that when I say I taste maple syrup notes in this that, for once, I know they are not psychosomatic.

So how is it? Surprisingly bitter considering both the maple syrup and the barrel ageing. Both the coffee and the cocoa push out in quite a bitter but complex way – holding the middle ground of the beer nicely.

The maple syrup gives a more oily sheen and some sweetness against that bitterness. The bourbon barrel ageing seems to be lost within that heavier maple character – it gives lighter vanilla notes than usual, mainly showing itself in the very smooth character of this high abv beer.

So, as a beer it definite rocks the maple syrup – despite the high bitterness presence this still comes in over that and stomps all over it. I kind of wonder what the base beer would be like without the coffee, cocoa, barrel ageing and maple syrup, as it is pretty much lost under them. Then again I think that is kind of the point.

I do feel that its reputation is somewhat exaggerated by its original rarity but … it is still a good beer; this has tasty contrasts – bitter coca vs sweet maple syrup. Bitter coffee smoothed by barrel ageing. It is a good look – a tad artificial tasting – but you know – maple syrup. I kind of expected that.

I would say that their KBS is a better beer on the technical side of things, and more balanced, but this has an element of silly fun amongst a solid beer and I dig that. If you can get this at a non silly price then it is worth it. It is fairly single minded but with subtle bitter, umami and savoury notes so it is balanced better than you would expect.

Is it a top 50 Imperial Stout, let along top 50 beer? No. It’s bloody good though.

Background: So, this is a beer that used to go for about a hundred dollars a bottle on resale when it first came out, It had jumped straight into rate beers top 50 beers and people were desperate to get hold of it. Though it is is still in ratebeer’s top 50 I managed ot get it at a far more reasonable price of seven quid fifty from Beer Hawk. Which was nice.

Anyway, this is the same beer as KBS, but while this has also been aged in bourbon barrels, those bourbon barrels previously held maple syrup. Hence Canadian Bourbon Stout, despite the fact this was not made in Canada. Makes sense, right? Anyway, this was drunk while listening to Two Steps From Hell – Archangel, aka epic music made for movies and trailers, which always makes for great backing music when chilling and drinking.

Northern Monks: Patron’s Project 11.01: Rhubarb Sour: Made In The Dark (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Reddened apricot. Cloudy. Large off white and slightly yellowed head.

Nose: Dry and tart. Turmeric and tannins. Dry rhubarb. Cooking apples. Strawberry.

Body:
Without Popping Candy: Gentle rhubarb tartness. Red Grapes. Hop Oils. Light vinegar notes. Plum. Strawberry. Turmeric.

With Popping Candy: Similar but with popping feel in your mouth. Rhubarb and custard sweets. Raspberry hard sweets. Oilier and thicker. Lightly creamy.

Finish:

Without Popping Candy: Apples. Rhubarb. Tart sheen and lightly oily. Brown bread. Plums. Earthy notes. Lightly creamy.

With Popping Candy: Sweeter. Blackpool rock. Strawberry.

Conclusion: Initially I though that the popping candy I got with this was defective. You see I put it on my tongue aaand .. nothing happened. So then I took a sip of the beer to go over it. Nothing happened. I then took a larger mouthful and held the beer in my mouth and … nothing happened. Then finally the little fuckers started popping. If you are wondering why I am eating sweets and drinking, well, I kind of explain in the background. Kind of. As much as it can be explained.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself here. So, they recommended trying the beer with the provided popping sweets, which I eventually did, but I decided first to do some sips au naturel and compare the beer from before and after. Because that is the kind of rebel I am.

As a stand-alone beer it is a solid enough sour. The rhubarb is there, there is a decent thickness, but not so much it gets sticky. It shows both the tart and earthy side of the rhubarb, along with some darker fruit notes and a nice oily hop sheen.

So how is it with the popping candy? Well the first thing I noticed is that by itself the sweets seemed to have a slight rhubarb character of its own. The second thing is that it kept sticking to the bloody roof of my mouth in a lump. Anyway, once I started drinking I noticed it seemed a little thicker – I don’t know if that is just I am holding it longer, but it definitely felt thicker, creamier and heavier.

Apart from that it seemed very much the same beer – there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference apart from the performative aspect – which I think is the whole point of the beer. The drinking ritual it creates is fun – especially when the sweets finally start popping and you enjoy the drink amidst the feeling of impacts in your mouth. However, for all it is fun, I don’t think the beer is overly enhanced by it.

Then again, the base beer is pretty decent by itself. Probably The best of the rhubarb sours I have encountered. There is good rhubarb character, good hop oil thickness and good plum backing and nicely tart and earthy as previously said. I actually would be interested to see what happens if they ditch the sweets touch and just concentrate on re-brewing this a bit bigger and thicker as I think that could be an excellent beer.

Background: Ok, this is one of the odder beers I have done notes on. In fact that was pretty much why I grabbed it – it is a sour beer made with forced rhubarb, which sounds up my alley enough. It also contains a small packet of popping candy, tucked away in the beer’s base, to eat while drinking it, which is another level strange. Hence why I have two sets of notes above. I decided to first try the beer just as is, then add in the popping candy and see how it changed things. If you peal back the label you find underneath a guide to tasting this – which is in the dark, lit by a single candle, put candy in your mouth then take a sip. Now, I cannot be trusted near naked flame when drunk, so I did the closest I could. I tuned off the lights and lit the from only by the shine of my VDU, with the Fire Watch desktop background glowing out. Similar enough, right? Anyway, all this theatrics seems to come as this beer is a collaboration with Lord Whitney – so yeah, that explains a lot. To add to the mood I put on Ulver – Shadows Of The Sun to listen to. Still the most genuinely beautiful album I have heard.

Little Earth Project: The Brett Organic Stock Ale 2017 (England: English Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot.

Nose: Funky. Lemon curd and lemon cake. Crushed nuts. Oaks. Stewed apricot. Cake sponge.

Body: Tart yet oily. Acidic apples. Tart grapes. Stewed apricot. Dry white wine. Dried apricots. Hop oils. Lemon. Slightly dusty. Yeastie. Raspberry late on. Toffee.

Finish: Dried apricot. Tart jiff lemon. Lemon cake. Dry white wine. Gooseberry. Hop oils. Popcorn. Brown bread. Raisins and dry sherry. Vanilla yogurt. Dusty bitterness. Funky.

Conclusion:This is both heavy duty and tart freshness, with both elements complementing and contrasting the other so neither become too overwhelming. A good start.

First impressions are of a yeast funkiness worthy of a lambic coming out in the aroma, with oats, nuts and similar backing it up in that lambic way. However, instead of the crisp dry notes of a lambic what it is backed by is thick, heavy stewed fruit that tells you instantly that something different is coming up.

The body is next, tart but thick with hop oils giving an oily base of stewed fruit acting as a solid middle. The tarter lambic like notes are laid on top of that robust body, used sparingly like spice to add to a meal.

The after that tart notes lead out into the finish and it then it finally sinks back into hop oils, darker fruit and dry sherry notes as a distinct contrast to the brighter middle. Even here though there is a white wine air that the brett uses to bring more lambic imagery.

Despite the lambic like calling this is a thick oily, almost old ale feeling traditional styled British beer. There is lots of the slightly more cloying tartness and thickness rather than the clean lambic sheen – however in the middle of the beer the flavours owes little to the dark heavy old ales. While it has the tart and thick old ale character mentioned, but here it is pushed in a brighter, lighter fruit and tarter notes. Mixing the thickness of an old ale with the freshness of a lambic, and pushing stewed apricot and lemon fruit notes that actually feels like a call to new world hop stylings. Eventually these bright notes do descend though and it falls back into those darker fruit notes of the more traditional take in the finish.

This isn’t super polished, it feels more like a beer that evolved naturally, left to find its own way rather than being polished and designed to an ideal. It feels organic in how it developed within the guidelines of the ingredients used, and it shows that in the wide range of elements delivered. It is nowhere near single minded as a beer, nor organised -scatter shot in how it throws things out. However it throws them out full bodied, mixing traditional elements with twists of style. Well worth trying as long as the idea of something a bit more haphazard does not put you off.

Background: This one caught my eyes for a number of reasons – the very simple label, with seemingly hand stamped details upon it of the beer’s name. The fact it is a take on the old stock ale that was traditional for so many years in the UK, the fact it is loaded with brett which is always an interesting yeast to see that adds acidity and funk to a beer, or the fact that over 10% abv this is never going to be dull. Any which way I grabbed it from Independent Spirit and tucked it away for trying on a later day. So, the day finally arrived, I put on the ever good for slow, heavy duty drinking music – Godspeed You! Black Emperor! – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, and broke it open.

Black Isle: 5-A-Day (Scotland: Fruit Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened yellow to brown. Very large off white bubbled head.

Nose: Passion-fruit. Lightly wheaty. Light white pepper. Light hop character and bitterness.

Body: Sour-dough. Gritty bitterness. Gritty hop character. Chalk. Light tart gapes.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. High hop bitterness. Slight charring. Dry guava. Dry passion-fruit. Flour. Chalk.

Conclusion:Ok, this is one of the least fruity IPAs I have ever encountered. Which, considering it is made with passion-fruit is really a bad sign.

First impressions are of just a gritty, slightly chalky and rough thing. The beer seems to have run into the problem that a lot of session IPAs do, which that that unless they are brewed very well then the lower malt base can make the beer feel dry and over-attenuated with little residual sweetness, which can make the higher hop load just acrid rather than flavoursome.

Over time an ,admittedly still very dry, fruit character does out, but it is never anywhere near enough to push itself ahead of the dry charring that is the front of the beer. It isn’t big flavoured except in roughness, it isn’t easy drinking in any way, the hops are rough and the malt is empty. Even worse the added fruit twist does very little resulting in a beer that is both dull and harsh.

So this is a bad beer – chalky and clinging with all the worst elements holding on the longest. This is genuinely one to avoid as it has nigh no redeeming qualities.

Background: Black Isle Brewery was one of the first set of beers I did notes on, back when I was first starting the blog. They were ok but nothing special back then. Since then they seem to have a complete image overhaul and gone more into the craft beer scene rather than the more traditional ales they did before. So when I saw a bunch of their beers at Independent Spirit I decided to grab one and see how they had changed. This is is a low abv IPA made with passion-fruit. Seems simple enough. I put on Testament – Low for music to back this. No real reason, just enjoy their music.

Wild Beer Co: Smoke and Barrels 2018: Islay Whisky (England: Smoked Dubbel: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Opaque. Small bubbled carbonation. Caramel head with dark brown troughs in it.

Nose: Liquorice. Gin. Gooseberries. Sour plums. Medicinal meets broth. Tart black cherries.

Body: Tart. Liquorice. Bready. Iodine. Sour black cherries. Tannins and teabags. Gin and juniper. Medicinal and salt.

Finish: Medicinal. Sour red grapes. Teabags. Woody. Peppery. Tannins. Tart raisins. Smoke and dust.

Conclusion: Well, even having had the un-aged version of this, I was not expecting this to be as tart as it was. With it being a Dubbel at the base, and Islay barrel aged I was expecting a lot of big things, but not something this mouth refreshing.

The aroma didn’t really give it away – it has tart hints but that meets a brothy and medicinal character from the time in Islay oak that gives thicker and meatier imagery. So, when I took a sip and got a sour Flemish bruin meets dubbel kick it was kind of a shock.

It is all about the dark fruit, sourly delivered – backed by medical Islay character that makes the mouth sparkle. The oddest large element is the tarter notes that feel very gin influenced with sloe and juniper floating around there.

Now I will admit that for the first few sips I was not a fan – I was expecting something closer to the 2017 version, something tart but still recognisable as a dubbel, just with enhancements from the special ingredients. Instead I find something utterly dominated by them.

So, I decide to take my time and try and work out how to describe it- imagine a dubbel mixed up with a gin, a rodenbach grand cry and a shot of Caol Ila and … well you roughly have this. It is heavy duty with sour, medicinal and tannin notes all mixing. It is a bit prickly edged as beers go and feels like it needs a more solid core for the notes to work around. While the fruit character is dark and sour it isn’t in a thick way that gives a solid core to work from. It does gain a bit by the end though, resulting in a smokey, full flavoured, sour dark fruit beer – which if not perfectly delivered is bloody intriguing.

So, unusual, prickly edged and tart- no polish, all experimental. Intriguing, smokey and pretty tasting – but needs a bigger body to make it all work. Good but not a must have.

Background: From a quick look around I think this is the same beer, or at least a very similar beer to the one that Wild Beer Co released as the Winter 2017 Smoke and Barrels. What makes this different is it has spent the intervening time in Islay barrels ageing. Which is pretty much why I grabbed it. I love a good Islay whisky. So, to go over it again, this is a dubbel brewed with smoked malt, infused with cherry and chestnut wood and made with sloes smoked with liquorice. Which is a thing apparently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – I was expecting something big and slow to drink (no sloe puns please) so put on the excellent moody tunes of Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! To listen to. Utterly awesome experimental tunes that make great drinking music.

Northern Monk: Patron’s Project 10.02 DDH Raspberry Ripple Doughnut IPA (England: IPA: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Very bitty filled dark apricot body. Large off white head.

Nose: Raspberry ripple ice cream. Bitty orange juice. Peach. Light hop character. Light tart notes.

Body: Strawberry sherbet. Tart raspberry and hard raspberry sweets. Umami touch. Tangerine. Pink grapefruit. Creamy. Vanilla fudge.

Finish: Hop oils. Gooseberry. Tangerine. Tart apples. Pink grapefruit. Raspberry hard sweets. Melon.

Conclusion: Ok, point one – this has the most sediment I have e..e…ever seen in a beer, and trust me, that covers a lot of weird and wonderful experiences. Point two, this both nails its core concept in some areas and utterly ignores it in others,

The first hits are very obvious raspberry ripple ice cream notes, and then there are various different raspberry imagery hits throughout the beer in an artificial, hard sweet kind of way. However once the hops hit they come in a very different way – lots of green and orange fruit notes – from melon, grapes, gooseberry, tangerine and orange juice. Shoot you even get pink grapefruit notes for variety. Very tart very fresh, very natural fruit – it is a heck of a contrast.

Everything initially comes across fresh and sherbety. Then comes the tart notes, then finally the creamy thickness. I’m not sure if I would say that this calls to doughnuts, but that is just because it changes so much and pushes so much out of it. The one constant throughout though is the sweetness, with the fresh character coming close second for time present, but the sweetness is the always present characteristic – be it fruit, sweet hard sweets, vanilla or whatever it is always pushing something sweet at you.

Over time the elements start to merge together – the tart notes become backing to sweet raspberry and vanilla icing, backed by strawberry sherbet. You even see some, but nor much of the IPA backbone – some hop oils that bring light bitterness, but generally it is just a backing.

It is an intense and strange beer – not one to have often as it is bloody sweet – but had now and again as a one off – yeah I love it as that.

Background: Another local collaboration beer by Northern Monks – this one with the Temple Coffee and Doughnuts shop. From a quick google it seems that there was no actual doughnut used in making this, despite the level of bittiness of the beer giving that impression. I have been informed, and checked that if you take the labels off the cans, there is a ton of additional info on the beer and the collaborators on the inside of the label and on the can. Which is cool, but now I’m wondering what I missed out on the other Patron’s Project beers by not looking inside the labels. Ah well. Also with the level of sediment I was quite worried this would make the glass a total shit to clean – thankfully most of the sediment didn’t stick, so it wasn’t that bad. This is another one from Independent Spirit and I put on Nightwish – Dark Passion Play while drinking. My mate says the albums with a different singer are better for enjoying Nightwish, so will have to give them a try some time.

Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Murky apricot to brown. Huge caramel brown mound of head that finally settles on late re-pours. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Dried apricot. Gritty hop feel and solid bitterness. Dried grapefruit. Dried pineapple. High hop prickle. Tangerine.

Body: Prickly, gritty, big bitter hop character. Malt chocolate toffee. Grapefruit. Mandarin orange. Choc orange. Pineapple. Bubblegum.

Finish: Choc orange. Mandarin orange. High hop bitterness and gritty hop feel. Pineapple. Pink grapefruit. Wheatgerm. Malt choc toffee drinks. Granite. Bubblegum.

Conclusion: Ok, call me an old fashioned fuddy duddy if you will, but, in my mind ESB is a style that should have a solid malt presence. This feels hopped like an IPA, with just a darker coloured and more cloudy base behind it. Like the ESB equivalent of a Black IPA. I mean, I like hops, heck, I love hops, but not every beer style needs to be dominated by them.

Ok, that is my old man whine over, let’s see how this does as a beer in itself then. Well, mixed. I can’t deny that it has massive presence – from the pop of the cap thick fruity notes float out of the bottle – dried fruit notes, or more correctly, dry takes on fruit notes, if that makes sense.

Sipping it, it is very prickly, very fresh in its hop bitterness. Unlike a couple of other Cloudwater beers recently though it thankfully manages to not suffer from hop burn. It still has a kind of gritty, rocky, quite rough hop feel, but done on the down low as a subtle element of the beer. Not my favourite but style I will say, but while the bitterness is high, the grittiness is an element that does not intrude too much thankfully.

Below that is fresh tart fruit – using grapefruit and pineapple for the old school tart hits against pink grapefruit and a range of fresh orange notes for the new hop style influence. This is the best element of the beer – fresh feeling and making the most of the new hop trend to add really bright notes to this beer.

The malt below that is … muddled. Toffee to choc toffee or choc orange sweets. It feels gritty again, murky in taste like the dirty river cloudiness that the beer has on the eye. It is ok, but a bit rough.

So, despite the fact that yes, I am looking at this side eyed as it doesn’t match what I would expect an ESB to be, I think that I can say that, aside from that, the hop forwardness really doesn’t work to its best here. It just feels rough and out of place. The flavour is great, but the feel that comes with it always makes it feel like something is out of wack.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer, but it definitely makes it sub optimal. It has an odd mouthfeel that doesn’t match what it is doing with the flavour, and isn’t an intriguing element by itself.

Good hops in a beer that doesn’t really reward it for that.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Cloudwater so far – some stonkers of beers, some real let downs. They have a huge rep and when they are on point they hit it, but they are a tad more variable in quality than I like. Still, I was intrigued by their last ESB, which was an unusual take on the style, so when I saw this collaborative ESB I thought I would give it a try. Don’t know much about Forest & Main by comparison, will see how that goes. Lots of unusual elements – uses JW Lee yeast – lots of hop use including Simcoe and Mosaic which I am a huge fan of. Put on Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt to listen to for this – looking forwards to seeing them again later this year. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

%d bloggers like this: