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Firestone Walker: Luponic Distortion: Vol 11 (USA: IPA: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Light pale yellow. Medium white head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Guava. Crisp hops. Light hop oils. Light bitterness. Soft banana chewy sweets. Soft lemon sherbet. Light grapes.

Body: Bready hop character and gritty bitterness. Lemon hard sweet mixed with lemon sherbet. Light cardboard. Dry. Grapefruit.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. Fluffy hop feel. Grapefruit. Dry pineapple. Lemon sherbet. Dried and salted lemon.

Conclusion: This is a pretty dry IPA – well attenuated with a growling, bitter hop character over that. There is a slightly rough feel at times from the combination – slightly gritty – but generally it just provides a drinkable dry feel that works well as a base.

The aroma promises sweet fruit to go along with that – guava and banana sweet notes that, if present, would offset the dry style. Thus it was a bit of a shock when the main body actually gives tart lemon and grapefruit notes, giving a mildly puckering note to go with the dry body. Initially quite sherbety it soon becomes like dry, salted lemon. Again it complements the dry style, but does nothing to offset the rougher notes that came with that.

It feels like it could do with another flavour string added to the bow. The tart lemon and dry body is a nice base for a beer – good hop character, good tartness, but doesn’t go anywhere from there and keeps running into those rough spots.

Good, but not one I would recommend as there are so many other better IPAs out there. A good base that they should return to and experiment with, but not stand out for us drinkers. Yet.

Background: I’m a big fan of Firestone Walker – they’ve been bought up by Duvel Moortgat but the quality doesn’t seem to have changed. So, good for them. What first attracted me to them was their awesome IPAs, so when I saw this experimental series IPA at Independent Spirit I grabbed it to give it a go. From a quick google it uses Australian, German and USA hops, but I couldn’t find which. Ah well.

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Powers: John’s Lane Release- 12 Year (Irish Single Post Still Whiskey: 12 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Medium intensity gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry. General red fruit. Redcurrants. Smooth. Golden syrup touch. Lightly floral. Pencil shavings to heavier oak. Honeyed apricot. Water makes nuttier and adds crushed grains.

Body: Smooth. Honeyed apricot. Light alcohol warmth. Buttery shortbread. Golden Grahams cereal. Slightly rocky notes. Water adds more shortbread. Buttery puff pastry. Slight orange notes. Sherry notes.

Finish: Buttery shortbread. Light alcohol. Viscous sheen. Toffee. Very biscuity. Savoury bready notes. Water adds jelly babies. Dried apricot. Red fruit and sherry trifle.

Conclusion: This is a mix of that Irish whiskey smooth, lighter character combined with a slow building viscosity from the extra abv that gives it a thicker, more gripping sheen over the tongue than would be expected for a lighter whiskey. That extra grip brings some more sturdy expressions of the flavours – which gives a lot to dig into, so let’s examine it and see what we get.

Initially it hits very heavily on the sherry and red fruit notes in the aroma, before settling into a more apricot fruit middle with shortbread to crumbly pasty notes adding to the feel. It is very gentle in feel, very smooth, with a very buttery pastry character that crumbles away to reveal a surprisingly viscous finish that is simple but lasting.

Time lets the viscosity build up and the flavours with it. Water lets the whiskey open and and the notes spread out. In combination that shakes up the experience quite a bit. A simple but smooth whisky now opens to reveal those sherry notes that the aroma promised. Red fruit rounds out the body and finish creating complex pastry dessert imagery.

This is a whiskey that hits a lot of bases. Irish whiskey light and smooth early on that is dangerously easy to drink, it slowly gains mouthfeel over time before becoming viscous and tongue coating by the end that makes it hard to imagine it was ever so light at to almost unnoticeable at the start. The easy going apricot at the start ends up full on shortbread meets sherry trifle by the end, given time and water. This is easy going but ends up very flavoursome, walking the balance between easy going Irish and full on sherry aged fullness.

I am very much impressed.

Background: Think I have tried standard Powers before in a pub, but I’ve not had much experience with it. This is a single pot still whiskey – which if I understand right means it is from a single distillery, and uses a pot still in a similar manner to Scottish malt whisky, but it can use unmalted barley, or even in small amounts other cereal grains in the mash. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and I put on B. Dolan – House Of Bee’s Vol 2 while drinking. I love the track “Which Side Are You On?” and in general it is a great album. Also, this is my first set of notes done in 2019! Woo, happy new year!

Girardin: Faro (Belgium: Lambic – Faro: 5% ABV)

Visual: Reddish brown. Clear. Still. Thin off white dash of a head.

Nose: Sugar dusting to hard sugar casing. Touch of brown sugar. Cherries. Clean. Brown bread. Light apple acidic notes.

Body: Sweet cherries. Subtle marzipan. Light sugar dusting. Brown sugar. Watered down bourbon. Tannins to weak tea.

Finish: Madeira. White grapes. Slightly tart. Apple air. Weak tea. Milk. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: So. My first set of Faro tasting notes has revealed to me that the Faro style is a lot different to a standard lambic, and a lot different to what I ever imagined it would be.

It is softer, gentler on the tongue than most standard lambics. It has light grape notes, even occasionally tart grapes, but this is far from the acidic, sour and sharp assault that comes with, say, a gueuze. In fact, over time the tea notes and associated tannin comes come out in a way that makes me think of Lindeman’s Tea Beer – albeit a much more complex take on the idea. In fact, in general this feels more touched by a more standard beer style, but combined with that lightly tart and clean lambic feel, and a serious wodge of that tea character.

Now, I will admit that I don’t have any other Faros to compare it to, so I don’t know how representative of the style it is, but I am enjoying this one. Subtle dark beer notes such as the cherries and brown sugar give a very different take on the lambic freshness. In fact a soft sweetness over the whole thing makes it feel like an easy drinking entry point for a lambic newcomer. It is still complex, but very much moving away from the harsh, dry and sour edges of the lambic world.

It is enjoyable, though I can’t stop thinking of it as “Tea Beer” since I first noticed that element. So, a tea lambic that doesn’t actually use tea, a lambic without any lambic sharp edges. May not be for everyone, but hopefully you have enough info to decide if you want to try it. It is an experience worth having in my opinion.

Background: So, I had this about a month back, first time I had ever tried a Faro. It was so different that I decided I had to grab a bottle again and do notes this time. Which I just have. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, a Faro is a blended lambic (Sometimes with a non lambic beer by some sources) with additional candi sugar. This was drunk in the last hour of 2018, with Grimes – We Appreciate Power, and her Oblivion album playing in the background. We Appreciate Power is a wonderful mix of pop and industrial, mixed with cyberpunk imagery. Definitely a great tune for the end of the year. I’d just finished reading Gnomon by Nick Harkway before and seriously – check that book out, it is amazing.

De Molen: Juicy Loesie (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12.7% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown with black cherry red hints. Off white to grey thin head. Still main body.

Nose: Cane sugar. Apple. Brown sugar. “Boozy” alcohol aroma. Plums and raisins. Fruitcake.

Body: Cherries. Warming alcohol. Prunes. Rum. Apples in jelly. Raisins and sultanas. Treacle. Malt chocolate. Madeira.

Finish: Molasses. Apples pies. Chocolate liqueur. Rum. Liquorice. Calvados. Light turmeric.

Conclusion: Here we have ourselves a dark, boozy beast, a barley wine on the darker end of the style’s scale, lightened by subtle apple pie to Calvados imagery. It is undeniably a barley wine – the apple used doesn’t dominate, but it does feel like the beer has spent some time in a Calvados barrel smoothing off its edges. Well some of its edges. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The initial aroma is actually quite simple and light. Sugary notes along with fruitcake hints and a general boozy weight. Despite the booze it still actually feels pretty clean and doesn’t give much of an impression of what lies bellow it.

The body instead comes in thick and initially it is all about the dark fruit and malt chocolate notes that speak of the darker barley wine style. Soon however a chewy apple pie jelly centre taste and feel comes out, a gentle sweetness that is bright against the dark boozy, spirity centre that is sucking you in.

The malt chocolate, backed late on by gentle earthy spice, keeps it from being too heavy and boozy, but trust me, the big spirit character keeps leaning back towards that direction whenever it gets the chance. Again the Calvados like apple character is what pulls it back from the brink. When faced with molasses like finish, and the rum and liquorice notes, it really needs the subtle apple notes to keep it steady.

Boozy but very enjoyable for me. It possibly could do with a few years ageing to let the alcohol settle, but right now it is already a weighty but delicious subtle apple barley wine. Well worth trying.

Background: Ok, I will admit I have had this one before, really enjoyed it, so grabbed another to do notes on. In fact I have quite a few De Molen in the cupboard at the moment, after not having had them for a while. They are a very fine brewery. I had forgotten how much I tend to enjoy their beers. Anyway, this is a barley wine made with apple juice. Makes sense. I always wanted to make an apple barley wine in my delusions of ever starting home-brewing so this caught my eye. Another one found at Independent Spirit. I’d just received Evil Scarecrow – Antartarctica for Christmas so put that on. I love the over the top camp horror metal and sci-fi styling of their music. Very funny and great metal stage-shows live. If you get a chance definitely go see them live.

Leeds: Yorkshire Gold (England: Golden Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Bright, clear gold. Mounded off white head.

Nose: Floral hoppy character. Soft lemon to lemon cakes. Soft cake sponge. Light icing sugar.

Body: Orange. Lightly earthy hops. Light dry spice. Brown sugar. Lemon to lemon curd. Palma violets. Light strawberry. Cinder toffee.

Finish: Dry,earthy spice. Peppery. Earthy hop character. Brown sugar. Orange juice. Solid bitterness. Brown bread. Cinder toffee. Charring.

Conclusion: This is quite a sweet golden ale, more so than I would expect from the style. Just for clarity, when I say “sweet” I mean that literally, as in sugary like, not as in mid 90s slang to mean cool. It may or may not also be cool, we will get to that in a moment. And no I don’t mean cool as in cold. This may end up going on forever if I don’t pull my thumb out.

Anyway, there is also a lot of the expected elements from a golden ale – soft lemon and orange notes particularly, initially slightly fresh in style at the front, with a thicker slightly curd like character by the end.

What is unexpected is that behind that lemon freshness is a kind of brown sugar sweetness, even kind of burnt brown sugar at times. That burnt sweetness expands into burnt cinder toffee notes over time and becomes especially prevalent in the finish, mixing with heavier spice, peppery and earthy hop notes. Generally the hops are on the lemon fresh side, but they don’t seem to shy away from the earthy and spicy notes here in the finish, bringing a robust hop bitterness against the sweeter main body.

The earthier, spicier notes become more prevalent in the entire beer over time. For a golden ale I was surprised as the citrus notes became less evident and the heavier notes become more the main show. That spice and earth calls more to a traditional British bitter and results in a heavier beer. Enjoyable, as long as you don’t expect the crisp citrus hops style that is more common.

Feels a tad rough edges in the spice elements, and slightly charred at times, which pushed it out of the comfort zone for the beer. So overall an average beer I would say. There are nice notes in there, drinkable and with a good bit of texture. Not too complex though and rough around the edges, generally not too shabby.

A middle of the road beer, bit different in places, ok overall.

Background: Bean back up North with the family for Christmas, and the parents kindly got some beers in for the period. So I decided to do notes on one of them. Went for Leeds Brewery as 1) I quite like Leeds (the place) and 2) I’d not done anything from the brewery before to the best of my knowledges. Many thanks to Mum and Dad for providing the beers. A Golden Ale – a nice style, tend to be pretty easy drinking so nice for chilling with the family. Not much more to add, so hope you enjoy the notes and had a good Christmas.

Uerige: Doppelsticke Altbier (Germany: Altbier: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown to black. Inch of tight bubbled brownish head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Raisins. Spirit soaked fruitcake. Charcoal dust touch. Thick, hot caramel. Malt chocolate. Dry liquorice. Oily nuttiness. Cola bottles.

Body: Caramel. Oily nuttiness. Oily liquorice. Honey undertones. Fudge. Treacle.

Finish: Oily. Coffee remnants. Oily nuttiness. Liquorice touch. Palma violets. Toasted teacakes. Raisins.

Conclusion: This is another big, thick, beer. Seem to be having a run of them at the moment. This one is chewy and oily, mixing thick caramel and treacle notes with oily nuts and oily liquorice character. This feels pretty much like what would happen if you ditched a gallon of treacle into a standard Altbier. Only, ya know, good.

It is a beer that is thick and treacly head to toe, but there is enough going on under there to keep you interested during the time. You get showing from dark fruit, chocolate, even some slight use of fresh tasting palma violet notes in the finish that help separate each sip from the next. For such an intense beer it does well differentiating the notes and thus breaking up the drinking experience.

Now, with that said, the odd thing is that only applies to part of the beer. This thing rocks the aroma, and has a subtle and complex finish that makes taking a long time between sips worthwhile but … it has only a good not great body. Now note that is still good, but it is the one area with less complexity. In the main body is where it is the most treacle filled, most caramel filled and the other notes get much less of a look in.

If the body matched the complexity and range of the opening and finish of the beer, then this would be an utter classic. As is it is still a very enjoyable, super thick altbier and deviantly worth grabbing for a cold night in front of the fire.

Background: I picked this up my a kind of mistake. Uerige: Altbier is one of the beers listed in Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers and I picked this up thinking that is what this was. This is not that, it is the stronger, higher abv version of a similar beer. Ah well, still should be nice. Found it at Corks Of Cotham. A bit out of the way from my usual route, but has a good selection of beer, so worth checking out when I can. This has that flip cap style that I pretty much only see on German bottles. Very nice, and very easy to use. Put on Bratmobile – Pottymouth while drinking. No reason, I just like it.

Uiltje: North: Monster IIIPA (Netherlands: IIPA: 18% ABV)

Visual: Dark, cloudy apricot coloured body with a large yellowed froth head.

Nose: Dried apricot. Bitter hops. Earthy hop character. Malt chocolate. Turmeric. Light pepper. Thick and oily.

Body: Apricot. Cream. Hop oils. Creamy kiwi. Custard. Oily bitterness. Vanilla fudge.

Finish: Custard cream biscuits. Peach. Hop oils. Bitter oily character. Creamy kiwi. Musky hops. Slight greenery. Vanilla fudge. Light menthol.

Conclusion: Big, but simple. That is the best way I can describe this. It is thick, oily backed, showing the abv, but only just which is impressive considering it is kicking out at 18% abv. It is creamy with the oily character showing in the fruit, the hops and pretty much everything else. There is some bitterness, but the sweetness of the massive malt base is at the forefront. There is a slightly funky feel that gives a musky hop weight, but only a little at the edges. Generally the huge sweet malt and fruit hops are the thing.

Anyway, that was a lot of words. I can cut it down to this. This is predominantly apricot. Creamy apricot. Creamy apricot in hop oils, with custard to vanilla fudge backing. There, that covers pretty much 98% of the beer. There is a lot I can (and will) say around that, but that is your flavour profile right there.

So, yeah, the flavour is big, but simple. A lot of the effort here seems to have gone into making the feel stand out. There is a creamy centre, oily hops, some slight funky feel, and a kind of greenery chewiness. For all that the flavours are simple it does a lot of work with the mouthfeel.

A few rounding notes come out over time. Some menthol, some creamy kiwi. Still the same basic overall impression though. Very sweet, enjoyable, good oily hop character, but I would expect a lot more going on in exchange or drinking something of 18% abv.

A nice experience, but for the cost and the abv there are much better IPAs, IIPAs and IIPAs out there. Not bad, just not special for the huge abv it uses.

Background: This is an IIIPA, more commonly called Triple IPA. It is 18% ABV. Which means it is one of the few triple IPAs that is actually triple the abv of a standard (around 6%ish) IPA. Truth in advertising. Good job. So, anyway, an insanely high abv IPA – from Het Uiltje, yeah I had to try it. Oh and North Brewing are involved as well, but it was mainly Het Uiltje I grabbed it for. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, and ,since I guessed I may be a tad intoxicated as I drank it, put on some Siouxsie and The Banshees while drinking – Hyaena to be exact.

Glencadam 21 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Nose: Cherries. Brandy cream. Sherry soaked sponge to trifle. Pencil shavings. Custard slices. Water makes little difference.

Body: Thick. Honey. Raisins. Very clear sherry. Soft lime. Sweet lemon. Slight alcohol. Oak. Water brings more raisins. Vanilla fudge. Red grapes.

Finish: Raisins. Creamy lime. Dry oak. Malt chocolate. Fruitcake. Water adds red wine. Dry sherry. Dry spice. White grapes. Mildly waxy.

Conclusion: This is very sherry dominated. Very red wine heavy. Very fruitcake solid body. So the first thing to get out of that way, does that idea appeal to you? If not that this is not the one for you.

Still with me? Cool, let’s dig deeper then. Initial impressions is very sherry trifle, and wine soaked fruitcake. Very much heavy, sweet desserts that are appropriate to this winter season. Surprisingly, even at a nice 21 years of age, this still has a touch of alcohol character present. Nothing too bad, probably just a sign of the touch higher than normal 46% abv. Thankfully a touch of water clears that up nicely without hurting any other element of the whisky.

It is a tad simple without the water. It is nice, and big in the flavour but slightly closed. Water helps round it out as dry spice grows out adding more savoury elements around the sweetness. The sweetness also spread out with red wine and a mix of red and white grapes that provide extra elements over the stodgy fruitcake middle.

Now admittedly none of this is new to the whisky world, nor unusual. The base whisky provides the weight and a mildly waxy feel in the finish. But generally most of the character here seems to come from the sherry ageing.

It is very enjoyable, very solid, with Highland weight meeting sherried flavour. Nothing is unsual, but no complaints, and no off notes evident from the spirit – so a good job if not stand out.

Background: Only tried Glencadam once before, that was initially weak but had my attention by the end. So when I saw an aged 21 year version in minis at Independent Spirit I thought it would be nice to give it a go. Not much else to add on this one – Had just grabbed Miracle of Sound’s “Level 9” album from bandcamp – a very varied in style bunch of video game themed songs – so put that on while drinking. Goes from light pop punk to moody epics, so at least one song would probably match the whisky!

Heller: Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche: Doppelbock (Germany: Smoked: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark ruddy red. Inch of browned head.

Nose: Smoked blue cheese. Smoked meat board. Smoked bacon. Ash.

Body: Brown sugar. Blue cheese. Smoke. Slight cream. Plums. Raisins.

Finish: Smoked cheese. Blue cheese. Brown sugar. Brown bread. Sour dough. Cherries.

Conclusion: Oh yes, this is the beer I tried years ago and could never find again. I have been beer hunting this one for bloody ages, and now it is here again!

Why am I so excited about this one? Blue cheese my friend. Blue cheese in a smoked doppelbock. Oh yes. The smoke is what I presume creates this awesome blue cheese and meat platter aroma – all smoked versions of course. Those elements follow through into the main body to create a heavy, intense smoked beer that manages to avoid the ash tray like character that can hit some of them.

Beneath that is a brown sugar to dark fruit doppelbock that gives a nice backing to the cheese and meat. However that blue cheese and meat is what you are here for (Or at least it is what I am here for). That is what you chew on, the other notes are just to give something behind it.

So, for the first half, this beer is absolutely amazing, but it does become a different beer as time goes on. The brown sugar backing becomes more evident and the smoke elements less so. Now it is still decent, with cherry and raisin notes showing through, but is isn’t that great thing it was at the start and by the end of the beer the brown sugar notes are far too present.

A great opener of a beer – genuinely a layered legend – but the higher sweetness seems to mean that it can’t hold that to the end. Pity. Still well worth trying – maybe share a bottle between two people to get it at its best.

So, the end lets it down, but the front is so good that I still recommend it.

Background: Tried this a few years ago, it was on tap at The Beer Emporium and it was lovely. Sometimes I can find Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche beers a tad too smoke filled, but this had the balance down just right. Ever since I’ve been hunting for it again to try and do notes on it. So, yeah, it turned up at Independent Spirit, so now I have it and I’m doing notes on it. Simple. The difference to this beer is that it is oak smoked rather than beech smoked for the rest, which I presume accounts for a lot of its different character. With it being a doppelbock I decided to break out the Aventinus glass – I don’t get many excuses to use it. Put on Rotten Citizens Vol 1 EP while drinking for some nice heavy moody backing music.

Rulles: Tilquin: Stout Rullquin (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Fizzy. Inch of beige head.

Nose: Fresh apples. Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Malt chocolate drinks. Dry white wine. White grapes.

Body: Tart apples. White wine. White grape juice. Fizzy. Raisins. Madeira cake. Fizzy cola bottle sweets. Slight creamy character. Pear.

Finish: Chocolate liqueur. Lemon on pancakes. Apple juice. Cherries. Madeira cake. Banana yogurt. Cherry coke. Charring. Brown bread. Pear drops.

Conclusion: This is more dominated by the lambic than I ever imagined it would be. Only one eighth of this is lambic. It seems a little lambic goes a heck of along way! Visually this seems very stout heavy, albeit one that pours a bit quicker than the usual viscous beasts do. Taste wise though it is tart and dry white wine at the front, mixed with fresh apples and sour grapes that are layered over the darker centre.

The darker notes are never hidden, but generally they play second fiddle to the tarter notes. There are chocolate touched, such as you would expect from a stout, but more than that are the dry raisin notes and the madeira cake elements. It is still fairly dry, but darker and sweeter that those first impressions. The stout like elements are biding their time, coming out more to play late on, developing into a definite presence in the dry, slightly spicy and dark fruit filled finish.

Time and warmth allows a slightly better balance between the two to come out- though nothing seems to save the muted aroma up front. It still feels fresh, pushing pear drop notes and such, but now the darker – though still tart – notes feels spread throughout the whole beer rather than being just hidden at the back. Cherry notes, tart and fresh, mixed with chewy cola bottle fizzy notes.

It ends up a sour but balanced beer mixing tart fresh to dark fruit character. It takes that almost holographic complexity you get with sour beers and matches to a dry, spicy solid core and chocolate liqueur streaks. It is not a must have, but these lambic and something else mixes stand out as a bit different and this one is good enough that it is worth a try for that.

Background: This was another one bought in the big batch of sours I grabbed a couple of weeks ago, and definitely is the most unusual of them. I don’t see much De Rulles stuff in the UK, so that was a big plus – add into that, that this is seven eighths De Rulles Brune and one eighth one year old lambic to make a sour stout kind of thing and they definitely had my interest. So, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, using a glass given by my sister – replacing my one of that type of glass that I accidentally broke. Many thanks craft beer sis! Put on some Ramones for background music. Not my favourite punk band, but still good for a listen and definitely respect for the influence they have had.

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