Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Het Uiltje Flaming Ass Owl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuatara Bavarian Hefe

Tuatara: Bavarian Hefe (New Zealand: Hefeweizen: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale cloudy yellow. Thin white head.

Nose: Light raspberry pavlova. Dried banana. Cloves. Wheat. Bubblegum. Dough. Palma violets.

Body: Lemon. Slight sherbet. Barley and honey. Dried banana. Bubblegum. Coriander.

Finish: Light ground up peanuts. Banana. Vanilla. Wet feel.

Conclusion: Not bad. Despite being called “Hefe” this, however, doesn’t rock the full hefeweizen character to my mind. Flavour wise it is pretty close with nice banana and clove notes, but both to the eye and in mouthfeel it cleaves closer to the more filtered Kristalweizen style.

In fact the kristal influence does seem to show up in the weakest parts of the beer – with a slightly neutral malt tone in the middle of the whole thing; A kind of absence of character that the beer needs to fill before it can be what it could be. Despite that weakness they manage to pack around that a decent set of notes – a light coriander spice that calls to the Belgian wit and a nice lemon freshness.

Overall I think I will have to paraphrase my craft beer sis who put it best – it isn’t bad, but it is something that you get because you can easily find it in a NZ supermarket, not because it is one of the better beers. Thanks craft beer sis!

There, that saved me having to think up some pithy way of rounding off the notes.

Background: New Zealand beer! They have a nice wee craft scene over there, so I have been glad to see more of their beers turning up over here. This one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I am aware that I have it in the wrong kind of wheat beer glass, but it is only 330ml so looks silly in my big german weisse glasses. Incidentally the bottle looks kind of like a ribbed dildo, though that was not the only reason I bought it. Weisse beers were one of the first things that got me to try different and tasty beer, so I have long had a soft spot for them.

Brewdog Born To Die 04072015

Brewdog: Born To Die: 04/07/2015 (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Half inch of whitened head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Dry hop bitterness. Dried pineapple. Slightly musty. Maize. Crushed skittles. Floral.

Body: Apricot. Passion fruit. Very smooth. Light cream into moderately dry mouthfeel. Smooth hop oils. Kiwis. Malt biscuits and toffee. Watermelon. Light raspberry cream and sugared shredded wheat. Peach. Light golden syrup.

Finish: Light cane sugar. Bitter hops. Vanilla custard. Toffee. Watermelon.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected. After the brash, bitter foot forwards “Enjoy By IPA” from Stone, and after Brewdog themselves turned out “Restorative Beverage For Invalids and Convalescents” I was kind of expecting something similar here. Nope. 馬鹿.

This is the smooth end of the uber fresh hope scale with a creamy touch, lots of toffee sweetness and real smooth hop oils over a refreshingly dry base. This goes with a present but comparatively restrained hop bitterness, and instead pushes up massively the thick textured fruitiness with lots of heavy green and orange fruit.

While there is the aforementioned creaminess and thickness, the dryness is what actually ends up taking over the mouthfeel. It makes it very drinkable indeed for the abv, and despite the strength actually sets itself up for the session comparatively well.

A very slow, very careful session.

So, let me explain that. The initial first impression was actually slightly disappointing. The aroma doesn’t seem all that and the initial flavour was ok but not fantastic. The flavours are very slow build, and each layer either adds on, or parts to reveal something else. From the IPA staples of apricot and passion fruit to the more unusual watermelon fresh notes to raspberry cream tartness – it definitely plays the progression game well.

As an intense hop IPA I have to give the crown to “Enjoy By IPA” but this definitely has its own character – more complex and slow burn with a fantastic range. A very good beer in its own right and not just a clone of the beer of its inspiration. I prefer “Restorative Beverage for Invalids…” as a similar beer, which does influence my view of this, but is still a very good beer.

Background: Oh, excited, excited. After enjoying Stone’s Enjoy By IPA, I was very interested to find out that Brewdog were doing their own interpretation of an ultra short lifespan IIPA. Note: As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. So, yeah, brewed with tons of hops that tend to make beers with a short lifespan. Why yes I did break it open the day it arrived, why do you ask?

Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Aged Collection Tetravis

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Aged Collection: Tetravis (USA: Quadrupel: 10.2% ABV)

Visual: Cherry red to brown. Thin brown head. Hazy mid body.

Nose: Figs. Raisins. Brandy cream. Tart cherries. Port. Rum fudge. Light sweet crushed nuts.

Body: Very smooth. Warming. Cinnamon sticks. Raisins. Liquorice. Brandy cream. Sherbety touch as it froths up. Fig rolls. Christmas pudding. Brown sugar. Cherries.

Finish: Liquorice. Figs. Malt chocolate drinks and malt loaf. Vanilla. Slight spice. Brandy cream. Nutty notes. Marzipan. Slight Belgian esters.

Conclusion: Quads really deserve a few years on them before they can be correctly judged I feel. When tried young they tend to have a light fizzy feel to them from the carbonation, when what they really need is that thicker, still, stodgy pudding affair that they become after a year or two.

So, I , of course am having this one young. Leave me alone, I can be a hypocrite if I want. Also, I guess I really should judge a beer on it’s base experience before tinkering with ageing. I guess.

Anyway, Belgian style quads! The Christmas pudding of beers, and this is so very much that. Figs, brandy cream, cherries, port, cinnamon sticks – Let’s face it with all this level of Christmas style it is almost demanding you age one up at least until the 25th of Dec for a real winter warmer.

While it does have some of the smoother character I associate with American interpretations of Belgian ales, this has far more than normal of those lovely rough edged gem characteristics and I heartily approve. These are backed up by some dry spice notes that add a rough underline to the sweet figgy body.

As a standard quad this is towards the higher end of the quality spectrum, not the top, but nicely placed. There doesn’t seem to be a vast amount extra from the oak ageing – a slight sickly sweet vanilla note which seems to be the trend of this collection, but little else. A slight disappointment there, but the ale is already high quality as it is. With the spice, dark fruit, brown sugar and malt drink notes it is already packed enough.

On the downsides? Well there is room for a bit more of the Belgian esters and character, and it could do with a bit thicker body and less fizz, which may come with ageing. However overall it is a very good beer. I would still go with the Rocheforts and Westvleterens of this world as a first choice, but that very well defined Christmas character would earn it a place come tail end of the year.

Background: So, I’ve been enjoying the “Barrel Aged Collection”, so I decided to head back to Independent Spirit to see if they had any left. And walked out with this, the barrel aged quad of the group. I really do dig Quadrupels, so was interested to see how this would play out. This was drunk with friends, which at the abv was probably for the best.

Brewdog Hello My Name Is Little Ingrid

Brewdog: Hello My Name Is Little Ingrid (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Browned gold. Moderate off white head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Musty hops. Tart berries. Loganberry. Toffee and digestives.

Body: Prickly. Turmeric. Some bitterness. Brown bread. Light kiwi. Tart sour berries. Moderate prickly hops and bitterness. Dry. Toasted teacakes.

Finish: Brown bread. Turmeric. Tart gooseberries. Bitter hops. Earthy. Peppery touch. toasted teacakes. Toffee.

Conclusion: There are session IPAs out there I like. Honest. Despite the style’s stupid name there are ones I highly enjoy and would recommend. This is not one of them.

OK, bit of a bad start there. May have put some of you off. Let’s work on this. For all I would not recommend this overall, it does have the base elements down pat. The texture is nicely thick, especially considering the lower abv. They have the bitterness level racked in just right so to give a kick but still leave room so you could drink more. All the workman elements are locked down. However that is it. The part where it should shine is instead where we start hitting issues.

The hops feel slightly earthy, with a distinct lack of the huge amount of fruit that the hop load described should be capable of turning out, the added berries give some tart notes which are pleasant but without a real heft to them. If the hop flavour was up to the job then the berries would back it up well, on its own it can’t do much against the base bitterness.

A much weaker beer than grown up Ingrid, and not just in abv. I think if they want to do this again in the future with other of the “Hello My Name Is” series then they really need to rework the recipe as this is not it. It delivers about the very base of what I would expect from an IPA but little more.

Background: So, I enjoyed Hello My Name Is Ingrid – a cloudberry infused double IPA, when it first came out – and later batches have gone from good to awesome. This is the session IPA take on the idea. Session IPA .. still sounds wrong as a term.. anyway. I think this is intended as a Sweden only release in bottles, but I could be wrong. As you may guess from the fact I am writing this, that is not 100% strict. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk with a bit of Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in the background. Always up for a bit of old school punk, and it seems to suit Brewdog beers for me.

Huyghe Delirium Deliria

Huyghe: Delirium: Deliria (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with a chunk of carbonation and a massive mounded white head that leaves lots of suds and lace.

Nose: Wheaty. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Dried raspberries. Carrot.

Body: Palma violets. Good bitterness. Lemon. Cane sugar and candy floss. Crisp. Light potato character. Carrot and coriander. Vanilla.

Finish: Good bitterness. Vanilla. Celery. Candyfloss. Light potatoes. Coriander. Wheat.

Conclusion: A balanced Delirium beer. Huh, I did not expect to say that, Ever. Seriously – I have a love for Delirium Tremens (How have I never got around to doing a tasting note for that beer?), but they do tend to be a bit mental.

This is closer to a traditional Belgian ale than most of the Delirium range – in fact the influence of wheat like and spice notes makes me think of a bit of a Wit beer, but poured over a heavier Belgian blond style base. Now, like a lot of Delirium beers, it is an energetic wee one. You get a massive head, so take care pouring, but below that it is far less bubblegum styled and more a mix of cane sugars and spice.

As a beer it is nicely balanced (I still feel weird writing that) with good crisp bitterness, light sweetness, good spice and all over a lemon freshness. Yet it has just enough alcohol weight to add a bit of heft to that blond + wit combination I mentioned earlier.

Like many a beer its biggest flaw and its biggest feature are one and the same. It isn’t mental as hell. While I can appreciate the fact that it is solid, smooth and balanced to within an inch of its life I find that without the rough edge gem characteristics I associate with Belgian ales it feels like it is playing slightly safe to me.

Still a very well made beer, and for a lot of you reading this I’m sure you are thinking this is your thing. For me, well Belgium is overflowing with awesome beers, so this kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but that is more on my tastes than it. A technically highly proficient beer that just doesn’t quite catch my imagination.

Background: A variant on Delirium Tremens brewed by a team of women. Well, cool, I’m all for anything that helps break down the oft male dominated brewing scene. I will say though that I did raise an eyebrow at the bottle being pink. Possible the team picked it, in which case cool, their choice. But I did raise an eyebrow. Then again, Delirium Tremens’ colour scheme is pretty pink anyway, so I could just be being a tad over sensitive to cues that aren’t actually there. Anyway, this is the 2013 edition, a limited edition release which I picked up from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to Miracle of Sound’s Metal Up. A seriously fun metal album.

Isle Of Arran Blond

Isle Of Arran: Blond (Scotland: Golden Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale gold. Thin white dash of a head that leaves sud traces. No carbonation shown in the body.

Nose: Crisp bitterness. Cream. Lime and lemon. Popcorn. Hops. Raspberry pavolva.

Body: Crisp bitterness. Lemon fresh and zesty. Prickles of hops. Cream. Lime jelly. Toffee touch.

Finish: Lemon. Light bitterness and hop prickle. Cream. Crisp. Peach touch. Malt biscuits. Toffee. Slightly musty.

Conclusion: You know, I don’t think I have had a traditional style blond ale for while. I could be wrong though. I often am. Drinking does horrid things to the memory.

That said, this puts me in mind of that beer I drank many year ago – Summer Lightning – though this has a more forthright bitter character. Despite the increased bitterness it shares a similar ease of drinking and a well done citrus character.

The package is one that I always find to my taste when I find a beer that goes that way and, while it doesn’t quite reach the summer thirst quenching heights of Summer Lightning it is very refreshing. Its problem for me is that the end comes in slightly musty, and the citrus and cream body – while fun – is far from complex. I will say however that for something with such creamy flavours it does manage an impressive dry note for the texture which stops it getting sickly. Overall, between the crisp hop kick and light citrus freshness is doesn’t fail to be pleasing.

A very solid enjoyable blond beer – nowt out of the normal for the style, but a solid take on it.

Background: The second beer from the Arran gift pack my family kindly brought back from Scotland for me. Many thanks. I have tried the blond a few times before over the years but never got around to reviewing until now. This was drunk while listening to the FLCL soundtrack. Because FLCL. I need no other reason.

Beavertown Skull King Double IPA

Beavertown: Skull King Double IPA (England: IIPA: 8.7% ABV)

Visual: Slightly cloudy apricot. Large off white bubbles head. No visible carbonation.

Nose: Pine. Floral. Resin. Grapefruit. Good bitterness. Dried pineapple. Digestives. Dried passion fruit.

Body: Bitter. Kumquat. Passon fruit. Kiwi. New York style cheesecake. Quite dry. Some fruit sugars. Frothy mouthfeel.

Finish: Kiwi. Bitterness. Grapes. Hop oils. Bready. Slight gritty touch.

Conclusion: Oh, hello, another very dry IIPA, following quickly on the heels of Restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents. Is this starting a trend? I can but hope. This one really keeps to a low level of sweetness for an IIPA, there are some fruit sugars but I didn’t get any of the expected big toffee or similar backbone. Interesting.

This does provide something a bit different – from the understated, more floral and pine nose, to the dry and solid dry fruit body, to the bready hop oil finish. This shows a side to IIPAs less used, the lack of sweetness also means that it needs a less intense bitterness against that backbone to create a much larger impression on the mouth due to the lack of contrast.

This feels closer to the more traditional IIPA style than the sweeter IIPA tradition, despite its higher abv. It reminds me a bit of Pliny The Elder in that regard.

Overall it takes everything and delivers it a more restrained way. Still intense, but there is a muted edge to the flavours, a grounded feel – everything dry or drying.

I like what it is doing, and if I hadn’t had “Restorative beverage…” first I would probably be even more impressed. As is, I prefer Restorative as it just nails it better. Still, this is the more different beer and I like that it keeps away from expectations. This really doesn’t follow the trend of the style and I respect it for that.

Background: Grabbed from one of the few available at Independent Spirit! thanks guys! This is the first ever canned double IPA in the UK, or so I am told. Beavertown have been solid so far, and I need to get around to reviewing their neck oil session IPA. Also my friend lives near their brewery and keeps taunting me with the fact he regularly gets to try their beers. Anyway, they have made the can a bit more textured here, which combined with the cool image on it gives a great first impression. Drunk while listening to some Anthrax – Worship Music. A big beer deserves some big music.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB 18

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 18 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 11.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thin browned head that doesn’t last long apart from some few islands. Still main body.

Nose: Thick. Shortbread. Vanilla. Black liquorice. Blueberry pie. Salted toffee. Toasted crumpets and toasted teacakes.

Body: Liquorice. Salted toffee. Blended whisky. Lightly oaken. Low level bitterness. Sour berry touch. Light earthy note. Malt chocolate. Red wine. Crumpets. Blackberry and blueberry.

Finish: Gooseberry. Liquorice. Salted toffee. Slight dry dustiness. Malt drinks. Alcohol air. Spiced red wine.

Conclusion: I do like an interesting brown ale. They are hard to find though, and probably even harder to make. This makes an interesting beer definitely, unfortunately pretty much everything that makes it a brown ale is lost in the process. It makes for a fun beer, but it doesn’t manage the far harder task of making an exceptional brown ale.

There are hints of malt chocolate drinks, but it is basically just a base – there are some good uses of liquorice as well, which is normally a hard sell for me but works here. I think it could be because of the tartness and spicy red wine notes, which means that the liquorice comes in as a dry back. However that is about it from the brown ale, there are no interesting takes on the base style. This means that the beer is going to live or die on its use of the special ingredients.

So, the special element – well you get touches of spicy red wine accentuated by tart berry characteristics There is quite the alcohol air to it, which actually helps here for once – giving a drying contrast to the tart fruit.

However, in the end it is a bunch of additions with no real base to add to – fun, oh yes fun, but when you get down to any beer…. Ok that would be a lie, many beers can be made competent with barrel ageing, berries and the like – but if they have nothing to build on then they aren’t really taking advantage of the opportunities brewing gives.

That doesn’t make it bad, it does make it spirity, spicy and berry filled but not in any way balanced or well integrated. A bit of a missed opportunity, but not a bad experience.

Background: Ok, Brewdog call this an Imperial Brown Ale (Specifically barrel aged with berries)- however as I mentioned in the notes I didn’t get much of the brown ale style, so I am happy to go with rate beer’s description of American Strong Ale. Broken open the day after the election results, as, yes, I was still miffed. As a result this was drunk while listening to some Against Me! Black Crosses. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Saint-Germain Nøgne Ø Rhub’IPA

Saint-Germain: Nøgne Ø: Rhub’IPA (France: IPA: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear at first glance, but if held up light then the light reflects off light sediment within. Large white crisp bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Floral. Dry lemon. Light crisp bitterness. Lightly wheaty. Pineapple.

Body: Light tartness and bitterness mix. Subtle rhubarb that rises as time goes on. Pineapple. Slight granite edged base. Sweet peach syrup taste and texture.

Finish: Sugared rhubarb pie. Moderate bitter hops. Grapefruit touch. Dry unleavened bread. Lemon. Dried apricot and peach.

Conclusion: I have always been a sucker for a good stick of rhubarb, all the way back to my young ‘un days. My love of IPAs, well that came later – but it is still a long time allegiance.

So…

Rhubarb IPA anyone?

Well, it does have rhubarb and IPA – the tartness of the rhubarb working better with the hops here than the similar concept grapefruit IPA “You taste better when you are scared“. Here the rhubarb is a subtle but definite presence, and the bitterness also has a solid but not excessive kick. Even better, either from the hops, or from the mixing of the different elements, there seems to be a nice range of tart flavours – grapefruit and pineapple standing out, with some small fruit sugar sweetness behind. It isn’t the most efficient melding of flavours, but considering there is little out there like this for comparison, it works the rough edged bits well.

Now, under that, the base ale doesn’t work quite as well – there is a dry, kind of unleavened bread character- it isn’t too heavy mid body but works its way out into the finish where it doesn’t quite work. Maybe this was needed as a base for the other elements to work, but it feels out of place here and unnecessarily rough – it draws attention away from the better front elements.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer – and the peach syrup sweetness does help keep it at bay for some of the time, but it is a flaw, and a consequence that can come with doing something a bit unusual. So, yeah, it is an element that reduces this to just a fun odd beer rather than a high quality one. Don’t get me wrong, I am charmed by this and its tart to hop balance but on the technical scale it is far from a perfect 6.0.

Still, have fun with it – sometimes you don’t need perfection and a good old try will take you far enough.

Background: A brewery from France I had only run into as part of a Welsh collaboration beer, oh and Nøgne Ø. So a blend of new and exciting and old reliable. A good balance. I grabbed this from Independent Spirit as the idea of an IPA made with rhubarb juice intrigued me – I love rhubarb. I drank it election day as I saw the result predictions as by that point I needed a brew to commiserate. Ah well. Drunk while listening to the Gunflower’s New EP, and Miracle Of Sound’s Metal Up. Both punk and metal awesomeness. Oh, also I love the little swing tops that the use for the bottle. They are so darn neat.

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