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Northern Monks: Drew Millward: Passion Fruit Lassi IPA – Northern Tropics (England: IPA: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Peach skin coloured body with a cloudy and semi opaque centre. Not much carbonation. A large, just slightly yellowed white bubbled head.

Nose: Flour. Crisp hop character. Light pineapple and bitterness. Mild passion-fruit and guava.

Body: Peach and apricot. Caramel. Natural yogurt. Vanilla. Thick. Guava. Dried passion-fruit. Some hop oils. Chives. Slight peppermint. Slight sour cream. Sweet fudge.

Finish: Thick yogurt. Slight mint leaves and chives. Some bitterness. Nana bread. Slight cloying sweet toffee. Mango.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unusual. On the unusual side this has a far thicker texture than most IPAs. It feels very natural yogurt influenced in both feel and taste. Nicely it is thick but not heavy, giving grip while still being pretty easy to drink in a kind of milkshake fashion. This styling also brings a slight sour cream and chives cloying note with a peppermint oddity mixed in – a mild note, but kind of refreshing as that. If I had to sum it up I would say that it has an element like this mint dips you get with your poppadoms in some restaurants.

So this has a thick base and some unusual fresh notes within that – they then layer that onto a more traditional big fruity character – passion-fruit, thick guava and some peach. It is slightly cloying in the thick flavour – very yogurt like still and very fruity – the extra grip and thickness pushes the level of fruitiness up without it feeling like just a fruit juice beer.

The thickness does have a few slight drawbacks though. One is that there is a strong vanilla sweetness to the middle of this – done in a similar style to what you would expect from bourbon barrel ageing. The problem is that the cloying thickness interacts with that in such a way that makes it a tad artificial, and well, cloying sweetness. It isn’t hugely off-putting, but does rise over time to become more dominant than I would like.

So this is fruity and thick – slightly unusual – with a little bit less emphasis on the vanilla mixing with the sour cream and greenery notes I think it would work better and be an excellent beer. Not absent , just a tad more subtly used. As is they do hurt the beer a touch, but it is still very enjoyable in its fruity and thick style.

Odd, and pretty good but not great.

Background: Another of Northern Monk’s Patrons Projects – number 4.01 to be exact by the can. This time with Drew Millward, about whom google tells me very little. Anyway, awesome can design on this one – one of the main reasons it caught my eye at Independent Spirit. So I grabbed it. I am fickle that way. I’m not 100% sure if this thing’s name is Northern Tropics, Passion Fruit lassi IPA, or possibly both. Anyway, I looked up what lassi is after drinking – it is a yogurt based drink with spices and fruit that is popular in India. Which suddenly makes a bunch of my notes make more sense – I knew it was yogurt based but not the exact nature. This was drunk while listening to Miracle Of Sound’s Level 7. I’ve finally bought my own copy of it rather than listening to the youtube version. Still good stuff.


Black Friars:Hanging Bat:Nanban:Wild Beer Co: Barrel Aged Yadokai (England:Belgian Strong Ale: 13% ABV)

Visual: Very dark hazy apricot to brown. Short lived loose bubbled white dash of a head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Bourbon. Vanilla and caramel. Slight oily feel. Slight fruitcake. Slight strawberry. Stewed fruit.

Body: Slick and viscous. Bourbon and alcohol touch. Oily character. Fried tofu. Banana bread. Brown sugar. Slight fizzy mouthfeel – sherbet lemon, Crushed buttery shortbread. Raspberry coolers. Malt loaf and stollen bread.

Finish: Fried tofu. Vanilla. Bourbon. Oily sheen. Alcohol taste. Sugared orange. Seaweed wraps. Buttery shortbread. Fish skins. Salted caramel. Shouchuu.

Conclusion: This is both very like, and yet also very like the unaged version of Yadokai. Which may be just my way of covering all my bases with the vaguest description ever.

It has a similar, if smoother texture, with oily and seaweed wrap notes matched by similar fruity flavours. However the bourbon has had a massive influence here. It has a spirity character despite the smooth mouthfeel – a tingle and with definite bourbon flavour – packing in lots of vanilla, caramel and such like. Where the original beer just about held the rustic calls to its saison base, they have been pretty much lost in this one leaving the more unusual notes and the bourbon influence.

This is still very nice – with a recognisably beer centre matched with the very umami bringing unusual and more savoury notes. It has the very sake influenced (well, more Shouchuu influenced) and Japanese food styled influence that made the original so great – Though it has lost a lot of the subtlety of the original. You get a lot of bourbon in exchange for the loss of the lighter notes, and while they are not bad they don’t feel like a fair exchange for the great complexity of the original. It also shows the alcohol more with the spirit influence, where, even at 13% abv the original never really did.

Still, let’s not be too harsh here- While not as good as the original this is still a very good and fairly unusual experience ( I can no longer say unique, since, well the original Yadokai exists!) It still gives lovely oily and yet smooth mouthfeel texture, still slight sherbety and fruity core and with lots of savoury notes blended in.

So, if you can get the original yadokai, grab that one. If you can’t this this still a very good way of experiencing a very distinctive beer,.

Background: Man, I loved Yadokai – A saison, kind of, made with sea buckthorn, sea salt, seaweed (Kombu and Hijiki if that means anything to you) and yuzu juice. It was a beer inspired by Sake and was made with Black Friars, Hanging Bat and Nanban. Absolutely lovely. Anyway, so when I saw this – a two year aged in Bourbon barrel version of it in Independent Spirit – I grabbed it straight away. This was drunk while listening to Iron Maiden- Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album. Still love the Irons, even after all these years. Anyway, this was broken out after a session on the original Lemmings – decided to revisit it and try and finally complete it in my old age.

Odyssey: Devil May Care (England: IPA: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy caramel brown with an apricot hint. Huge beiged frothy head. Moderate amount of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Caramel. Kiwi. Green grapes and crisp hops. Vanilla toffee. Light bitterness. Chocolate toffee. Mild orange and some blood orange. Vanilla.

Body: Tingling hops. Sour and fresh grapes. Fresh cut apples. Kiwi. Malt chocolate. Bubblegum. Lemongrass. Sulphur. Pineapple. Watermelon. Vanilla fudge.

Finish: Grapes. Bitter hops and slight greenery. Bubblegum. Mandarin orange. Lemon grass. Dried apricots. Nettles. Sulphur. Bitterness grows and growls over time. Coffee. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, another big hopped, bitterness forwards boomer from Odyssey. Yet again it is different to the ones that came before. I am seriously getting into these brewers!

This one has a much more solid, darker base – dark malt chocolate, with a slightly rough feel and even an old school sulphurous element. It is very different to the ultra sweet or ultra dry IPAs that are very popular these days. There is a greenery touch to this, and high levels of heavy hop bitterness laden out. This is full of different characteristic being pushed out – a lovable mess of hop influences.

Initially you get very American style fruit with some New Zealand style tart fruit – apricot and grapes mixed with pineapple tartness. It then starts just jumping in every direction – from blood orange which reminds me of some of the newer hop breeds – to a bubblegum and lemongrass character that makes me swear this must have some Sorachi Ace in it. I love a good Sorachi Ace beer, so the impression of it being used here is great – Sorachi must be one of the greatest WTF odd hops around. More seriously, while this may be a mixed up mess, it works. You get a huge range of flavour and huge intensity. Not subtle or distinguished – this just keeps pounding you with different flavours.

So – not subtle – not polished – old school sulphur and intensity meets new school flavours..and..erm intensity. Not for everyone, but for me it a beautiful, wonderful mess that I adore.

Background: I have really been digging IPAs from Odyssey so far, so when I saw this small batch release from them at Independent Spirit it was a no-brainer on if I was going to grab it or not. I drank this after (finally) watching Force Awakens. It was ok I guess. Put on some Rise Against while drinking – mainly Endgame album, but added in “Prayer Of The Refugee” – again the whole anti immigrant hated shit going on currently is on my mind.

Eight Degrees: Sunburnt (Ireland: Irish Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy caramel to red with a cloudy centre. Moderate fluffy brown head.

Nose: Lots of malt chocolate and toffee. Cashew nuts. Slightly roasted. Milky coffee. Slight cinnamon. Orange.

Body: Slight roasted character. Malt chocolate. Kiwi. Soft orange to choc orange. Mild malt loaf. Strawberry.

Finish: Crushed peanuts. Malt chocolate and toffee. Slight roasted character. Slight chalk touch. Choc orange. Slightly dry. Milky coffee. Slight minty menthol. Strawberry.

Conclusion: Normally I find Irish red ales a bit too dry and roasted for my tastes. I like the idea of them but the implementation can be a bit too drying and harsh for me. This, therefore was a welcome beer in blowing that complaint clear out of the water.

This has some of those dry, roasted, nutty notes and it definitely leads out with a dry nuttiness, however it is far from defined by that. Instead this has a very solid toffee core of sweetness that mixes up the style. It rises up mid body, but then eases out at the tail end, into the finish and lets the dryness come back – this makes the dry moments much more manageable and also makes them more an enjoyable and distinct element when they do arrive. Above that small, but critical change to the beer there is also more flavour brought in by that thicker core – you get soft orange, light kiwi and sweet strawberry – all that would look out of place in an overly dry beer.

You end up with a beer that uses the drier red ale style, but isn’t dominated by it. The sweetness is present, but grounded by a very milky coffee character that mixes with it in the middle. The hops bring flavour, but it doesn’t go high on bitterness, nor rely on the hop flavours – it just uses them as subtle enhancement to turn this into a satisfying sipping ale.

So, pretty mellow and easy drinking. A good twist on the style but doesn’t abandon it. Solid.

Background: This is the second to last beer from the Honest Brew‘s set that a friend gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! Don’t know much about Eight Degrees brewing – so this is a new one on me – interesting times! This was drunk after seeing Goodfellas on the big screen, which was a hell of an experience. Broke out some Iron Maiden for drinking music as well.

De Cam: Nectarine Lambiek (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy tropical fruit juice colour. Still. Slight white head.

Nose: Tart. Oats and muesli. Slight raisins to dry Madeira. Dry pineapple. Mashed fruit. Subtle orange.

Body: Tart orange and mandarin orange. Nectarines. Slight flour. Sharp pineapple. Sour fruit stone centers. Tart pineapple. Slight oats. Slight vanilla. Peach melba.

Finish: Tart orange. Nectarines. Stewed fruit notes. Tart. Lots of pineapple. Tart grapefruit. Dry at the end. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This is fruit dominated. Like, super fruit dominated. This surprised me. I have got used to the more unusual fruit lambics having pretty subtle influence from the fruit. I have figured that the reason Cherry, Raspberry, et al are the go to choice is because frankly they work. The other fruit lambics tend to be interesting, but tend to have more influence from the base lambic character. This – well, wow – this seems to match sour nectarines with tart mandarin orange, with lots of pineapple and grapefruit as it is mixed with the base.

With nectarine being a lighter coloured fruit I was, again, expecting this to mean that the base lambic would be more noticeable. This impression was reinforced by the first encounter with the aroma – the first notes that hit are dry and quite oaty; So I thought that the base was going to follow with that dry and rural character. The texture of the base beer is quite oat filled, but a mix of tart fruit quickly comes in to fill up that space nigh instantly. It results it a feeling akin to sucking fruit flesh off the sour fruit stone centres; Slightly harsh, very tart and very fresh and flavoursome.

It really is a sour fruit mash up – it doesn’t have the subtlety of the more famous lambics – instead it just tries shoving everything out at once. The closest you get to progression is that, while it is quite dry at the start, it ends up being remarkably juicy – with its only real subtlety being in the subtle vanilla sweetness picking it up.

This isn’t a classic lambic – but it does use the lambic base well as a delivery system for something tart and fruity, rather than using the base as an element in itself. A heck of a fresh experience.

Background: Saw this one at Independent Spirit a while back – and I was intrigued at its unusual choice of fruit for a lambic. However it is fairly expensive, so it was only recently I decided to take the plunge and pick it up. This, as you may have guess from the name is a lambic made with nectarines. It is fairly obvious, no? Anyway, broke this open after watching Logan at the cinema. Amazing movie – blows the lacklustre first two Wolverine movies away. Drunk while listening to Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance. Old school metal time!

wild-beer-co-raconteur-3-yr

Wild Beer Co: Raconteur 3 Yr (England: Barley Wine: 9.9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark burgundy to black. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose: Very vinous and heavy. Cider. Sour red wine. Malt loaf and raisins. Slight alcohol tingle. Sour white grapes. Sour black cherries. Sweet red cherries. Apple crumble.

Body: Bready. Alcohol feel at the back of the throat. Sour red wine. Malt loaf. Raisins. Sour grapes. Cider. Acidic tingle. Slight charred oak.

Finish: Sour red wine with sediment. Raisins. Soft vanilla and toffee. Cider. Sour air. Malt loaf. Sour apples. Brown sugar.

Conclusion: Ok, even more so than original Raconteur, this feels dominated by the oak ageing. Which is a lot. However considering that the base beer was already pretty much lost in the original – having more to play with actually does add to the beer here. However the adding of Modus Operandi to the mix has also done it a world of good . It has the Modus’ sour, slightly acidic character matched to lots of Somerset cider style acidic appleness and wine vinous sourness – lots of good elements, but not much of the base barley wine is there, even considering the original. So as a subtle, slightly oak influenced beer where you can appreciate both the base and the oak ageing, this is a bit of a failure; You get malt loaf and raisins as a solid base but that is a bout it. So, as an insanely oak aged beer? How does it do as that?

Well at its base – probably due to the modus influence – it feels close to the more sour end of the Flemish bruin style – it has that harshness and soft acidity at the back of the throat. That is then emphasised by the sour, acidic, cider character that is laden throughout. The sour red wine character, which normally is one of the booming elements, actually kind of grounds the beer here. This really does not feel like a barley wine – however if you take it as an unbalanced barrel aged Belgian bruin – it is rough but actually works pretty well. The harsh characteristics are actually a benefit, not a flaw if looked at like that.

So, it completely overshoots the style it aims for, and ends up as a good example of a completely different style. Genius or madness? You decide.

Background: I found the original Raconteur ok, but very dominated by the oak ageing – so, was unsure if to grab this- which has spent a mighty three years in the oak- from Independent Spirit. If you can’t guess from the fact I am doing notes, I relented and bought it. Hopefully that was fairly obvious. Anyway this has spent time in Somerset Cider and Burgundy wine barrels and some Modus Operandi has been blended in with the resulting beer. Drunk while listening to Gogol Bordello’s Trans-Continental Hustle. With all the anti immigration shit going on at the moment Immigraniada has become a bit of an anthem for me.

wylam-hickey-the-rake
Wylam: Hickey The Rake (England: American Pale Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to slight apricot. Large fluffy white head that leaves sud lace.

Nose: Really fresh lemon. Slightly dry. Crisp hops. Slight mango. Slight bitterness. Dried apricot.

Body: Good bitterness – slight rocky flavour. Big hop character and slight hop oils. Lemon backing. Slight sour dough. Pineapple.

Finish: Brown bread. Slight gritty feel. Slight lemon. Good hops and bitterness. Bitter lemon. Slight kiwi.

Conclusion: How is it that all of the beers that call themselves a session IPA – it is one that doesn’t, that in fact just calls itself a pale ale, that seems to actually matches the intent of that style pretty well? Inside this moderate abv pale it has all the hops I would expect from an IPA and all the bitterness – with a slight bitter but refreshing lemon character matched to a very dry but drinkable body.

It has therefore the very dry character I associate with a lot of APAs – and matched with that a slight grittiness. That second element is often a huge flaw with session IPAs, yet for once they actually make it work here. I think it is the bitter lemon characteristics that makes it work – it refreshes but also matches the harsher gritty modes – making them feel like part of the beer rather than a flaw. The dryness also comes across like a super dry IPA which means that the thinner body from the lower abv doesn’t hurt the beer like many session IPAs.

So – moderate abv, big hops, big flavour. Pretty good. It isn’t complex, just big; The aroma promises more fruit to work with, but most of that is lost in the fray by the time you reach the body. What you get is hops and a mix of fresh and bitter lemon – one idea done well.

So a few decimal points of abv higher than a perfect session beer but apart from that this sits pretty nicely in that category. Refreshing enough to not get harsh nor dull over time – it is a simple beer, with a simple concept that does a hell of a lot well.

Background: The bottle calls this a Limonata Pale – which on a quick google seems to just mean lemonade. Which makes sense on drinking. Anyway, this is another beer from the honest brew‘s batch which my mate gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! This one was drunk while listening to Miracle of Sound’s Level 7 again – that is one huge album.

siren-vermont-tea-party

Siren: Vermont Tea Party (England: American Pale Ale: 3.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Small amount of carbonation. Middling size white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Crisp hops. Creamy lemon. Thick flour. Fresher lemon juice.

Body: Tingling nettles. Tea. Brown bread. Tannins. Soft lemon juice. Slight lime. Mango juice. Dry. Flour.

Finish: Tea and definite tannins. Peppery. Brown bread. Mango. Greenery. Gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: I think this is one of those beers that is good, but not aimed at me. From midpoint onwards this very much emphasises the tea – and is very good in that. I talk about coffee beers having well defined range of coffee notes, rather than a generic coffee flavour – and this does that but for tea; It is leafy, peppery, definite tannins – it does the whole nine yards.

The aroma promises something more balanced – it is gently fruity, crisp in the hops but with a thickness to the aroma like flour floating in the air. You keep some of this going into the body – there is a gentle lemon, and a definite flour like grip to the texture – but it becomes drier after a few moments and the very well layered and well defined tea flavours just takes everything over.

So, I don’t mind tea, but I’m not exactly wild for it. Yes I know that makes me an odd Englishman. Live with it. So it is very dominant here – in fact in a way that reminds me of my experience with gunpowder tea – Again something I don’t mind, but not overly my thing. I have to admit I was hoping the tea would be an element amongst the hops and fruit father than the main force. Ah well.

There is some concession to the other flavours – first lime and then soft lemon – again it is done in a tea style though – like when you add lemon slices to the tea. This really dedicates itself to its shtick.

So, definitely not a bad beer – everything it aims for it does well – and I am not hating it. However what it does well isn’t exactly what I am looking for. So, on that I hope you can decide for yourself if you want to investigate this or not.

Background: This beer was a gift from my mate Paul – many thanks. Part of a six pack from Honest Brew. There will be some more notes from the set to come – I had already done notes on two of the beers in the pack. This is a beer made with Siren’s house cultivated yeast from Vermont, Early Grey tea and lemon zest. Very unusual. It was drink while listening to tunes from Miracle Of Sound’s Level 7 album – he does great video game inspired music.

moor-bath-ales-st-austell-dark-knight-weisse

Moor: Bath Ales: St Austell: Dark Knight Weisse (England: Dunkelweizen: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark reddish brown. Large bubbled brown head.

Nose: Nutty and soft lemon mix. Tobacco. Wheaty. Malt chocolate. Slight cloying sour cream note.

Body: Malt chocolate. Vanilla toffee. Tobacco. Wheat. Moderate thickness of texture. Light coriander. Smoke. Light lemon and lime hop character.

Finish: Wheaty. Malt chocolate. Brown bread. Lightly nutty. Moderate bitterness and hop character. Smoke. Light lime hops.

Conclusion: This is definitely, well, darker that the usual Dunkel Weisse flavours. A standard dunkel weisse, to my mind, deals with the wheat and malt chocolate notes as a base – which admittedly this does – but I haven’t encountered one that brings this stodgy, smokey tobacco flavour to the middle like this does.

It has just mildly more hop character than you would normally get as well – not hugely so, just some more noticeable bitterness and some subtle citrus hop flavours under the bigger malt, tobacco and malt.

It is pretty pleasant – it has a good texture that is generally smooth but with a bit of a wheat grip. It cleaves close enough to the standard dunkel weisse style but pushes things just slightly towards a heavier experience. Pleasant, ya know?

Nothing in it pushes it to special – but it is a well done beer in a style variant I have not seen done before. I think this could be a good beer to go with beef dishes – it is not complex enough to be heavily examined by itself, but is strong flavoured enough to complement the meat I feel. That is a guess. I haven’t tried it with beef yet.

So, solid, smoked – not stand out great but no complaints.

Background: Hit Moor’s tap-house recently and very much enjoyed the beers there – so decided to grab this collaboration of theirs from Independent Spirit for more Moor beer tasting note goodness. This was back from before I had finished Dark Souls 2 and was hammering my head against the Frigid Outskirts area. Seriously, screw that area. Anyway, basically I needed a good beer is what I am saying. Drunk while listening to more of the epic goodness that is Two Steps From Hell.

de-struise-st-amatus-vintage-2013
De Struise: St Amatus Vintage 2013 (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thick off white head.

Nose: Raisins. Malt chocolate. Nuts. Liquorice. Brandy cream. Dry red wine. Slightly dry overall.

Body: Vanilla. Custard. Raisins and fruitcake. Cherries. Walnuts. Slight cloves. Condensed cream. Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Marshmallows. Slight cinnamon. Chocolate liqueur. Mashed banana. Bready. Bourbon and orange liqueur.

Finish: Creamy chocolate. Fruitcake – lots of cherries and raisins. Sweet red wine. Dried banana to banana bread. Brown bread. Liquorice.

Conclusion: Ok, super smooth Belgian style beers impress me – be oft feel like they lack something. Rough edged Belgian gems are just my jam, but the rough edges can put others off. This thing walks the fine line between the two perfectly.

It is very smooth textured, but somehow doesn’t sacrifice the weight of the body to do so. Rock! It brings in lots of fruitcake, nuts and malt chocolate – all you would expect from a big quad; It also brings in some unexpected notes – big shots of mashed banana and light clove, even some walnut character to the nuttiness. Together it actually makes me wonder if this is the Belgian Quad equivalent of my beloved Weizenbock Aventinus – it plays with so many of the same notes, and if that was their intent I have literally no objection. Also metaphorically no objection but that is less important.

This is so well done – it even managed to bring in some slight licorice, which is hard to use well, without hurting the overall feel. Also, early on I wasn’t sure if this was barrel aged, however as it warms I am now 100% sure – it plays with vanilla and custard notes mid body – however it seems very different in style to many barrel aged beers and doesn’t break out any obvious spirit notes for a long time. Again that smoothness is done so very well. It has impeccable subtlety in how the barrel ageing adds to the beer.

Late on as it warms you still have that impeccable smoothness from the barrel aging but you finally get the bourbon influence more obviously – just some flavour – that definite bourbon taste and light orange notes – still barely any spirit character at all – I approve.

So, as you may have guessed this is an excellent heavy duty and yet smooth as hell beer. If you like big beer there is no reason not to get this one.

Background: I think, from googling around, that this was aged in Woodford Reserve barrels – however reports differ and the bottle doesn’t say – it definitely is bourbon barrel aged – not sure of the exact nature. I only found out after tasting, so was unsure during the tasting itself if it had been oak aged. I am a big fan of De Struise – they make some huge beers – and I think Belgium is probably the best beer making country in the world. So, yeah, wanted this to be good. Grabbed from Independent Spirit – I’ve had this since before Christmas and was waiting for the right moment to break it open. Drunk while listening to Brassick’s album – only found out they had done a full album recently and quickly grabbed it – some great punk energy there.

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