Category: Beer Tasting Notes


Cloudwater Vermont ESB

Cloudwater: Vermont ESB (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Apricot to brown. Loose brown creamy head that leaves lace.

Nose: Watermelon and grapefruit. Fresh and tart. Mild gherkin. Slightly bready.

Body: Thick and viscous. Vinous notes. Smooth and creamy. Brandy cream, Mild gherkin. Raisins and Madeira. Glacier cherries. Caramel. Blood orange and tart grapes.

Finish: Light bitterness that raises quickly. Walnut oil. Malt drinks. Pineapple chunks. Kiwi. Watermelon. Light acidic drying feel. Tart grapes. Palma violets.

Conclusion: This very smooth, very smooth indeed. I think this, unlike the DIPA v3.0 is showing how the Vermont yeast works, based on the descriptions I have heard. It is smooth, creamy and really lets the hop flavours show.

Speaking of the hops flavours, for me ESBs have always been a malt led beer choice. This one on the other hand very much emphasises the tart fruity hop character. Though for that it does have a low bitterness, with the exception of the finish – it instead pushes really high on the tart fruit hop flavours.

In fact the fruit – the pineapple, blood orange and the like, feels so fresh that you can almost imagine fishing fruit pulp bits off our tongue – the texture is smooth but somehow you still have the urge to lick off psychosomatic flecks of fruit. This fruit tartness leads to an acidic dryness in the mouth, again almost akin to consuming the fruit itself.

Unfortunately due to this the traditional ESB flavours are pushed to hide as backing notes, especially early on. Though when they do come through, and are more notable late on they are done very well. Lots of spirit soaked notes, malt drinks and dark fruits, just hid much more than you would expect. The smooth texture lets the stabbing spirit notes stand out and gives the creamier, brandy cream influenced notes some play, so it really feels like the yeast could make a good malt led ESB if they wanted to lean that way.

So, yeah, it is interesting to note that the Vermont yeast used here has none of the brett style notes that were in the DIPA V3.0, which confirms my suspicion that the beer had something off with it. As for this beer itself, it is very good, but feels almost like a fruity IPA over an ESB base rather than as a firm example of the ESB style. It maybe could do with the malt side pumping up a bit.

As a beer in itself, rather than as an example of the style, it is lovely. A spirit touched tart fruit hop fest – the light use of the ESB style makes if feel like a barrel aged IPA, with a freshness of spirit character I do not feel we would see any other way.

It is a luxurious base beer with tart challenging flavours. A mix of relaxing and awakening. In the end it is a style mash up I can highly recommend. It may not be weak at 6.5% but it delivers a boom that tastes 8% or up with all the spirit notes, the thick character and the big hops. It earns every inch of the abv it uses. Very impressive.

Background: After my set of notes on Cloudwater: DIPA V3 a few people let me know that the weird Brett style flavour in it wasn’t similar to their experience, so I may have got a just slightly duff bottle. As of such I was interested to find another bottle made with Vermont yeast for comparison. Thankfully Independent Spirit had in another Cloudwater beer made with that yeast – this ESB. So, here goes my quest to get used to what this yeast does.

Wagtail Brewery Best Bittern

Wagtail Brewery: Best Bittern (England: Bitter: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Toffee hued body. Moderate off white creamy head. Some sud edges around the glass as you drink the beer.

Nose: Toffee. Sour dough. Dried fruit sugars. Creamy. Crushed hard sweets.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Tart apples. Bubblegum. Dried fruit sugars. Sour dough. Brown envelopes and gum. Very slightly sour. Moderate earthiness. Light bitty orange juice.

Finish: Gummed envelopes. Earthy bitterness. Solid remaining flavour. Sweet orange air. Soil. Bubblegum. Dried apricot. Malt drinks. Toffee.

Conclusion: Going a bit traditional with this beer. A moderately earthy English style bitter with that slight sour refreshing backing and robust but not heavy bitterness. It balances the earthy notes with the restrained toffee sweetness and apricot fruit sugars that make up the base, to prevent the soil character becoming dominant. There is nothing heavy, everything is just keeping it in that drinkable mid range.

The oddest characteristic it comes out with is a slight bubblegum character and an accompanying cloying touch of sour dough – it gives a bit more of a savoury twist in the depths of the beer.

So, overall it is well put together – the fruity notes sweeten and fresh the occasional soil notes as they should and you end up with something that may not be out of the ordinary, but it hits its marks well.

Frankly, while not a showstopper, I am enjoying it – though I do wonder if it would work as well on cask? A lot of what makes this work is the carefully and clearly defined elements – casks are good at blended notes together to give extra subtlety but less clarity, which I feel would hurt this beer.

Any which way, as a bottle this is a polished job in what can often be a dull earthy best bitter style. A beer that matches expectations very well but does not exceed them.

Background: Been back up north again, and again the family have been so kind as to provide me with some beers. Many thanks! Another bird themed beer from Wagtail brewery here which I drank while listening to some of The Pixies. Can still remember when I first heard The Pixies back at Uni. Blew my mind. Also everyone apart from me was high as balls, but that was a different matter.

Brewdog Ace Of Chinook

Brewdog: Ace Of Chinook (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Middling carbonation. Large white creamy bubbled head. White suds left afterwards.

Nose: Crisp hops. Sweet vanilla. Pine needles. Pineapple. Fresh.

Body: Tart grapes. Sweet grape juice. Vanilla toffee and custard. Slightly thin late on.

Finish: White grapes. Vanilla. Light pineapple. Shortbread. Light peppermint. Light greenery.

Conclusion: I nearly passed on this one. Nearly. I am glad I didn’t. Session IPAs are rarely my thing, and the last “Ace of” beer really didn’t grab me. However they seem to have got past that and honed this one in nicely.

While a slight bit thin late on, this seems to have solved a lot of the usual session IPA issues. The base has a moderate sweet backing, the greenery – while present – is far from the dominant note. It becomes drying only in the finish, but avoids cardboard like notes and for the rest of the beer it gives a good solid base for the hops to express themselves.

The hops delivery is straightforward – straight up fresh grapes and light pine needles, there is some hop bitterness but generally more on that tart and fresh flavours, less on the bitter kick.

It fits what a session IPA should do – lots of flavour, easy drinking and without too many harsh notes. Beavertown still have my favourite session IPA with Neck Oil, but this gives me new hope for the “Ace of” range and is an enjoyable beer in itself.

A nice suprise.

Background: I am generally not a fan of session IPAs, I am far from an unbiased actor on Brewdog. So, that is the whole bias thing out of the way. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s online store. Drunk while listening to Some Television Villain in preparation to go see them live again. They are currently gigging around the Bath and Bristol area – check them out if you can!

Fantome India Red Ale

Fantome: India Red Ale (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy bruised apricot. Massive off white, lace leaving loose bubbled head.

Nose: Coriander. Lemon. Carrot. Lightly minty menthol. Peppermint and crushed mint leaves. Paprika. Light strawberry. Orange crème.

Body: Strawberry sweetness. Custard. Orange crème. Light hop character. Smooth. Prickle in the middle. Toffee. Earthy notes. Dried orange fruit sugars.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Toffee. Custard. Custard hop character. Some greenery. Solid hop bitterness and character. Sour dough. Earthy notes. Resin.

Conclusion: Apparently, at least best I can tell, this beer does not use spice in the ingredients. Instead all the spice seeming flavours must be coming from the hops, yep, as you may have guessed already, this is spicy as heck. Odd, no?

On top of that it is a fair mixed up beer. For all it is called an India Red Ale it actually has a hell of a lot of saison influence – from the soft custard hop styling of Saison Dupont, to the lime notes of Fantome’s own spring Saison, to the traditional earthy rustic saison styled base. A lot going on there. From the red side of India Red Ale we get an amber ale set of calls mid body which develop into some strawberry sweetness and chocolate toffee malt notes near the end.

As for the India part of the name? Well, it leans close to Belgium IPA in the smoothness, but the hop bitterness is only really a thing in the earthy bitter finish. Then again, India gets appended to pretty much any high hop ale these days, even some lagers, so having the high bitterness is not automatically needed I guess. That however is a rant for another day.

Early on the beer is a bit rough and greenery led, with an odd menthol character, but as the late end sweetness rises it manages to balance itself out, more or less. At that point in this, high abv, bottle it seems closer to the spicy, Belgian IPA character that its name calls to. Still a bit greenery and resin led, but far more recognisable.

Overall a bit rough around the edges Amber Ale IPA Saison mash up – not the best, but there is hardly a dull moment.

Background: A hard one to pick a beer style for this one is. It is listed as an India Red Ale, which would make me think an IPA variant, so list under IPA, ratebeer calls it the ever helpful “Belgian Strong Ale”. For me, it seems closest to a Saison, so lacking any other definitive call, and knowing Fantome’s reputation with Saisons, I’m going with Saision. Seriously, Fantome does awesome saisons. Incidentally some places has this thing’s name abbreviated as IRA, which for seem reason they don’t seem to call it that in the UK. I wonder why… Anyway, drunk while listening to many Meets Metal tracks, with Flashdance Meets Metal being the standout one. This beer was grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection. Warning, this is a frothy beer – The beer was rushing out and I desperately shoved the cork back in while I shoved the bottle neck into the glass to pour.

Wild Beer Co Smoke 'N' Barrels Spring

Wild Beer Co: Smoke ‘N’ Barrels: Spring (England: Smoked: 4% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain. Large white bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Blue cheese. Wet wood. Hickory smoke. Perfume. Barbecue pits.

Body: Lime notes. Soft cheese. Smoked beef. Sage stuffing. Dried cherry pocked biscuits. Light syrup sweetness. Vanilla.

Finish: Wood chips. Paprika. Sage and onion. Beef stew. Light treacle. Vanilla. Smoke.

Conclusion: This gets oh so much right – it tastes like a mix between breathing in aromatic burning wood smoke, blue cheese, sage stuffing and smoked beef. That is a hell of a set for a smoked lager, no?

It is big and chewy feeling, despite the fact that the lager textured does not deviate much from expectations of a base lager – the wealth of flavour provides the weight which the texture does not.

In fact, for all the joy this beer brings, all the herbs and big smoke, it could actually probably do with a bit of a drier, and slightly less intrusive base. Now this is just me being picky, the base is pretty well done, but every now and then the sweetness rises from the normal smooth vanilla note level to a more treacle and syrup level and that additional sweetness breaks the wonderful savoury grip that the beer has on your tastebuds which is a pity.

Now that is just a minor point on how I feel the already good beer can be improved on. As for the rest of the beer? I love this – it has a wonderful use of the wood to create a medley of barbecue smoke notes in the mouth. Also it is wonderfully low abv for such a flavoursome beer – and the lager style makes it very manageable to drink despite the big flavours. This is one I could keep on for a while. Even better, the smoke is flavoursome rather than just ashed as hell – it mixes with the herbs and spice to create a wonderfully rich mix.

It is far from the most intense for smoke, so if that is the appeal for you, then this is not the one to go for. However for smoked backed flavour this is great, a few minor tweaks and it is ready to be a classic. Looking forwards to the next one.

Background: I’m a big fan of Wild Beer Co, and this smoked lager sounded pretty interesting. It is the spring entry in a range of smoked beers – this one using cherry and oak along with rosemary and sage. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to, yet again, the excellent David Bowie album Black Star”

Wensleydale - Semer Water

Wensleydale: Semer Water (England: Golden Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice to grain. Creamy white head. The body is mildly hazy and the head leaves lots of suds.

Nose: Lemon curd. Creamy. Light cinnamon. Light sulphur.

Body: Mild lime. Lightly creamy feel and flavour. Cinnamon. Light white sugar. Mild creamy lemon. Slightly thin up front.

Finish: Creamy. Peppery. Lemon cream air. Mild bitterness and hop character. Light sulphur. Lime. Slightly dry – dry biscuits.

Conclusion: It is time for another beer, sampled in the field! In this case, in reasonable closeness to the Yorkshire fields. Time to break open a bit of the local cask real ales again.

This seems to aim at the gentle and session end of the ale scale, with lemon and lime notes, any tartness there would be muted by a creamy style making this soothing rather than sharp. The beer feels slightly more attenuated than I would expect for a golden ale, it is creamy mid body but heads out to a quite dry feeling finish. Tellingly the finish is where it lets the mild bitter character play after being absent for most of the rest of the beer.

For the main part this is a a reasonable, lemon pushing, British Cask ale style, golden ale – though the finish reminds me of the milder hop take on an APA which makes me think that the dry character of the finish is done a bit too heavily. If the beer had been just slightly more easily going on the way out it would have helped the overall feel a lot.

Still, the body, which is slightly light up front, is soon helped by the real ale character – giving a nice weight without high abv or a too thick character, and backed by a light amount of sulphur.

So, still a nice enough beer, gentle and easy to drink, even quite refreshing. It could do with a bit of work, for example a less dry finish and a bit more body in the early moments, but not bad for a wee session, though not one that overly stands out.

Background: Drunk on cask up north at the Bolton Arms in Leyburn, just a very short drive from the brewery. Was back with the family for a while so decided to grab a local cask ale while I could. I’ve had Wensleydale beers while visiting the family before, but I think this is the first time I ever did notes on one. The parents very kindly let me be an antisocial git while I did the notes. Many thanks. Also the beer’s name sounds kind of like semen water. Which amused me. Because I am childish. In other reviews my mother sampled it and said, and I quote “Yuck”. She is not a fan of real ale so that may be a bias on her review.

Boon Old Geuze Boon Black Label

Boon: Old Geuze Boon: Black Label (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 7% ABV)

Visual: Clear banana yellow. Huge solid white bubbled head. Large carbonation.

Nose: Crisp. Wheaty. Fresh cut apples. Mild earthy spice. Tart white grapes. Fresh cooked pizza dough base.

Body: Very tart. Sharp lemon. Froths up easily. Lime notes. Oats. Solid mouthfeel. Light banana custard and pineapple. Grapefruit. Peach syrup.

Finish: Lemon juice. Slight meringue. Light oak. Lime juice. Apricot. Dry white wine. Oats. Apples. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: Juicy. Tropical juicy. You know, considering that this is the driest boon yet, or so the bottle says, this has a fruity character that is absolutely pounding. It starts out with lemon and lime notes and builds to pineapple and grapefruit burst – that lambic character means that it ends up mixing pure fruit juice with dry white wine like character.

What surprises me is that, dry as the beer is, it does not feel drying. There is no teeth tingle, nor those mouth puckering notes that a real dry acidic lambic can bring – no back of the throat acidic feel here. In a way it feels like a lambic equivalent of restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents – the highly attenuated body means that it mostly gets out of the way and lets the fruit explode.

This is good, very good – the base feels like a dry white wine but without any acidity or harshness, the fruit feels like the tartest of tropical fruit hop explosion – choosing the lambic base means that there isn’t any real sweet influence from the malt base intruding so you get everything very clean and fresh. Best of all it is very easy to drink for a lambic, As long as you are happy with tart flavours then dealing with the acidity is a cakewalk.

Beyond the fruit, at that base, there s a recognisable lambic character – Light earthy spice, oat character, and even some very understated sweet notes – it is hugely attenuated but they don’t let that become its defining characteristic – instead you get a masterpiece of lambic balance.

I am very impressed.

Background: The cork exploded out of this one – I was a mere two twists of the corkscrew and it popped out so hard that it took my hand and the entire corkscrew with it a good half foot up. Strangely, after that the beer did not froth up and out. Still, hell of a lot of force in there. On the pour it took a few attempts to get one that was not entirely froth. It is lively on the pour. Drunk while listening to some Madness – had seen Suggs do his life story recently and was in a retro mood. This had been grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB20

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB20 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 14.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown, though reddened if held to the light. Loose fizzy off white bubbled head that has a short lifespan.

Nose: Milky coffee. Coffee cream. Coffee beans. Light bourbon. Roasted character. Rum.

Body: Milky coffee. Toffee liqueur. Liqueur soaked cake sponge. Chocolate liqueur. Caramel. Spicy rum, Condensed cream.

Finish: Coffee liqueur. Condensed cream. Light roasted character. Port and mulled wine. Milky coffee. Cake sponge. Bitter chocolate. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: Ok, I could have saved a lot of effort in writing the notes above if I had just written “Tiramisu” for half the notes. However, since the beer is described as a tribute to tiramisu I kind of felt like that would be cheating.

This opens up with pretty much all the coffee – sweet, roasted, whole beans, creamy, it just has layers of coffee aroma wafting out of the glass. The body that follows is what really makes this hit peak tiramisu – lots of cream and liqueur soaked sponge notes now mix with the coffee.

It is interesting to compare this to the Ilkley/Brewdog Westwood Stout which also had a very tiramisu style character This is a darker beer, heavier, with lots of port, red wine and cherries making for a heady heavy base for the tiramisu to work from, more spirit and wine dominated.

By comparison the Ilkley white stout is comparatively more easy drinking,if only comparatively, smoother and more of the white chocolate notes. This is instead one of the dark decadent beers. It feels like it has more of a beer character to back up the tiramisu concept. Feels somewhat like a ramped up ESB to English Strong Ale fruity beer style. This never forgets that it is a beer at its base – albeit, at this strength, a strongly spirit influenced one.

So, unless the base concept wildly disagrees with you – say that you don’t like tiramisu, or you don’t like strong spirity beers, if you don’t like the idea of a tiramisu beer – if none of these apply, then this is a lovely dessert style beer for you.

Background: This was designed to be inspired by the Tiramisu dessert – it is a mix of rum aged Paradox Imperial Stout and milk Barley Wine made with oats and coffee beans. As of such I had pretty much no idea which beer style to shove it under. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Drunk while listening to more of The Algorithm: Brute Force.

Wiper and True Wheat Beer White

Wiper and True: Wheat Beer: White (England: Wheat Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lemon juice with large white mounded froth head. Moderate carbonation. The head leaves lace.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Key lime and fresh wheat character.

Body: Lightly earthy. Light lime and key lime pie mix. Kiwi. Pepper. Wheaty. Empty middle. Sulphur. Apricot. Soft lemon.

Finish: Earthy notes and bitterness. Wheaty. Light salt character. Kiwi. Sulphur. Apricot.

Conclusion: You know, if I had salt I would add a few grains to this. Chris from Independent Spirit has mentioned several times that it can help with weak mid body beers. I have never tested it but trust his knowledge on such things. Unfortunately I don’t currently have any salt. Yes I am a freak. I just don’t actually use salt that much so never have any in. Probably for the best for tasting note purposes. Adding extra bits may be cheating.

Anyway, as you may have guessed from the above, this has a thin middle. A pity as the aroma, though simple, promised a lovely mix of wheat character and green fruit hops. I mean, that is, in fact, the body you kind of get, backed by earthy and spicy notes – however most of the notes are very lightly done, and the body is slightly thin, which means that the earthy, simple wheat body dominates. I was hoping the loss of the other notes was due to excessive coolness, but I have given the beer plenty of time to warm and to no avail.

It really is just a case that the fruit notes of the aroma are there but too weak to do any good. It does feel like just a small raise in intensity would shove the whole beer from bad to decent or better. It doesn’t have to be super intense, just a a modest raise.

So, a rare beer from Wiper and True that I don’t like and in general a weak beer, so not that much to say here. It is sulphurous and earthy and even feels a tad watery, combine that with a slight salt note in the finish and it occasionally tastes slightly sweaty. So, not a good beer, very much not a good beer.

Ah well, no company bats 100%.

Background: I’m a big fan of Wiper and True, so much so I refer to them as “The Kernel of the west country” – not tried any of their wheat beers before. Was glad to get to use the wheat ale glass again – it is probably the least used of the three beer style designed glasses I was given at Christmas by craft beer sis. Drunk while listening to various Miracle Of Sound tracks.

Firestone Walker DBA

Firestone Walker: DBA (USA: ESB: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown. Thin small bubbled browned head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Fruitcake and Madeira. Shortbread. Whipped cream. Slight chalk. Gingerbread,

Body: Lightly chalky. Fruitcake and cherries. Shortbread. Dates. Lemon cakes. Cream. Sour dough.

Finish: Almonds. Fruitcake. Mild liquorice. Chalky. Slight sour cream. Bitter. Raisins and sultanas. Mild prunes.

Conclusion: Hmm, this tastes like a drier take on Fuller’s ESB – it has that full on fruitcake character but with a dry body that reminds me of the attenuation level on your average APA (Albeit that is pretty much the only similarity to an APA). That dryness comes with a slight matching chalkiness – the two elements combine to make the beer more easy drinking, but also trades that off to make the flavours feel slightly more muted. Overall not a bad thing, but just a different thing.

Flavour wise it digs a bit deeper for the notes than your average fruitcake, sultanas and cherries – there are more dates and occasional slight prune notes in the finish, against slightly muted but it works well to give a distinct character to the beer. There are also lightly creamy hints of wine and spirit notes that I am sure would come out at higher abv, but here are little teases that don’t expand out. Still interesting though.

I’d say I actually prefer the Fuller’s ESB – the more robust character leans towards my preference for the style – however this is very enjoyable, and even ever so slightly muted it is still packed with dark fruit.

Nothing really pushes it to the top leagues, there is nothing unexpected or super polished, however as a general drinking dark beer this is very well done. One for a general drinking quality beer session.

Background: Huh, looks like Firestone Walker is part of the Duvel Moorgat group now. That one had gone under my radar. Never mind, as long as the beers are good and they don’t do any horrid immoral act I’m fine with that. Anyway, had to a quick double check before doing notes on this one – it is “Double Barrel Ale” and I remember doing something with a similar name. Turns out that was Double DBA, or Double Double Barrel Ale, because that naming convention makes sense. Anyway drunk while listening to an English language cover of the “One Punch Man” theme, now I just need the anime to get a UK release.

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