Tag Archive: 10-13% ABV


Omnipollo: Amurga (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy brown head that leaves suds.

Nose: Grated chocolate and chocolate dust. Wholemeal bread. Smooth. Light butter.

Body: Smooth. Wholemeal bread. Treacle. Bitter chocolate. Bitter nutty character. Cashew to walnut notes. Light butter like fatty character. Cherries come over time. White chocolate.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Thick maple syrup. Charring. Charcoal. Light greenery. Salt touch. Cocoa. Bitter nuts. Grapes. Lightly peppery. Cashew shell green flecks. Rough hop character. Butter fatty character. Apple liqueur. Fortified red wine.

Conclusion: Considering the wealth of ingredients that I presume went into this, based on the description anyway, it turns out to be a pretty single minded beer in the imagery it delivers.

It is thick in a fatty, buttery kind of way with solid bitter chocolate into bitter hop character that works as a solid weight on your taste-buds. It pushes through that into heavier charred to charcoal bitter black notes and bready weight. Dark heavy notes are the story here, bitter but on a smooth, if thick, texture all the way.

It is only in the final third of the beer that it starts to push back against that imagery that dominates the first two thirds. White chocolate notes mix into the darker chocolate, and vague hints of cherries escape occasionally, bringing with it light spirity to liqueur sweet notes that work underneath the main notes – an odd mix of apple liqueurs and red wine. This manages to open up the beer in a way that the simpler, heavier front did not.

So, the front is ok but far too simple, all basic rough heavy weight notes. The end however has spicy, spirity subtlety that makes the heavier notes dance and uses the fatty, buttery character to give those notes grip.

It is good, in fact by the end it is very good, but it does take a good whole to get there – the rough charcoal and slight salt notes that are rewarding grounding late on are simple and annoying early on.

So, a good beer that takes a tad too long to get going and reward you for your time.

Background: Ok, this is another beer trying to set the record for most odd ingredients used in ak beer. This is described as a black butter vanilla volcano salt mocha maple white chocolate ganche. Presuming they did not put actual ganache in this means I have no idea which of those are ingredients and what is what they were aiming for. Ah well. Anyway, Omnipollo are a bloody good brewery so I grabbed this from Independent Spirit a while back and waited for a good opportunity to try it. Put on Mclusky: Mcluskyism – still love the utter insanity of their tunes.

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Lervig: Toasted Maple Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dash of a grey head.

Nose: Liquorice. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla.

Body: Treacle. Marshmallow. Maple syrup. Very thick. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla. Light butterscotch. Fudge. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Maple syrup. Liquorice and blackcurrant hard sweets. Chocolate liqueur. Vanilla. Molasses. Light charring. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, between this and the Barley Wine I had recently Lervig are really wooing me back into the fold. Why did I ever doubt them?

I have to admit the first impressions weren’t in its favour. While it had lovely toasted notes in the aroma they were matched and quickly overcome by masses of liquorice. As I think has been established over the years, I don’t mind liquorice in moderation, but I think when it is overused it can ruin a beer.

So, I was nervous as I went in to take the first sip aaaandd – this thing is intense! It is thick as heck, frothy and syrupy, but just about manages to not do those elements to excess. There is a toasted teacake breadiness as just a hint under the thick maple syrup and treacle notes that make up the main stay with other, softer, notes coming out over time. The vanilla beans and smoothness makes it feel like a barrel aged beer, but without the loss of intensity and weight that ageing sometimes brings

The finish bring in the heaver contrasting notes. The liquorice comes back, tied now to blackcurrant notes in a hard sweet like fashion that keeps in manageable. There is a light charring and sweeter notes that slowly fade out into bitter cocoa. That bitterness is just what is needed to keep such a heavy sweet beer manageable.

This has a very distinctive feel – half way between toasted marshmallows and toasted teacakes in a super thick beer. It has a distinctive flavour as well with the maple syrup very evident while not being too dominant. It is distinctly rewarding with huge complexity and manages to feel barrel aged but without the drawbacks.

A great beer then.

Background: Grabbed this a while back – basically saw the words “toasted” and “maple syrup”, followed by “Imperial Stout”, and grabbed it. Since I grabbed it I started becoming less enamoured with Lervig, then back totally into them again. I have been very changeable recently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – not sure what is going on with the can image – looks kind of like what would happen if Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four burnt to death. Don’t think that was the intended imagery. Anyway, put on The Germs’ MIA compilation CD. Really stripped down punk that I got into after hearing they were an influence on Bad Religion. Pretty fun, if kind of rough sounding.

Lervig: Barley Wine 2017 (Norway: Barley Wine: 12.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small grey-brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vanilla, liquorice and fudge. Caramelised brown sugar. Treacle. Almonds. Light strawberry.

Body: Light charring. Chocolate liqueur. Heat at the back of the throat. Chocolate toffee. Brown sugar. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallow. Vanilla fudge. Light strawberry. Black cherry. Quality bourbon undertones. Sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Sticky toffee pudding and treacle. Fudge. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallows. Charred touch. Bourbon.

Conclusion: Ok this smooth. Has big flavour. Has evident but not overpowering bourbon ageing influence. Huge and rewarding range if you hold the beer on your tongue. We have here an entry for the fuck-yes-this-is-how-you-make-a-barley-wine contest. They were only allowed one word for the name of the contest so they cheated by using hyphens.

So, this is deeply sweet with sticky toffee pudding, treacle and chocolate liqueur at the base. It somehow has those very sweet flavours restrained so as not to become sickly – as would be very easy to occur with a barley wine of this type and strength.

I think that some of that restraint is due to toasted teacake undertones – bready but still slightly sweet matching but also grounding the flavours. Similarly a toasted marshmallow character gives some sweetness against light burnt notes that segue nicely into the light charred character into the finish.

All of this delicious character and I’ve not even touched on the bourbon influence yet. Early on it just shows in how damn smooth the beer is, then comes out in vanilla and fudge notes, then finally it shows in its rawest form in smooth but present actual bourbon spirit flavours – coming out as subtle elements beneath the rest of the beer.

So what downsides does it have? Well, I’m not a huge fan of liquorice notes in beer, and this does use it heavily early on , but a) it actually isn’t used half bad here and b) the liquorice notes left before they started to wear on me. Shockingly they were actually used to add to, not detract from the beer.

So, that is the worst I have to say, this is a great beer. Buy it. Drink it.

Background: I’ve had a few Lervig beers over the past year – some have been awesome, some have been ok but not stand out. I was beginning to think I was mainly grabbing them for the odd names and labels. However enough have been good that I don’t regret grabbing them. Decided to grab this to see how they do with the non hoppy beer styles – especially as this one has spent 12 months in bourbon oak. Put on Jack Off Jill – Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers – a mix of melodic, screaming, anger and sorrow in a gothic punk style. Such an awesome album.

Siren: Fred In London (England: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Thin yellowed head. A small amount of small bubbled carbonation. Some suds left by the head.

Nose: Golden syrup and brown sugar. Brown bread. Crushed hard sweets. Dried apricot. Fresh dough.

Body: Fresh bread. Sulphur smoke touch. Brown sugar. Raspberry hard sweets. Dried apricot. Golden syrup. Oily hop bitterness. Brown bread. Honey.

Finish: Golden syrup to treacle. Earthy bitterness. Sour cream note. Oily hop character. Kiwi. Nutty

Conclusion: There are three explanations I can think of my my views on, and reactions to this beer compared to Hair Of The Dog’s original. 1) My previous experiences with Hair of The Dog’s Fred have been with aged examples due to how long it took me to get and drink them, while this is a relatively fresh beer. 2) My memory has exaggerated how great that beer was compared to my experience now. 3) This beer is, in fact, not as good as Hair Of The Dog: Fred.

This is very golden syrup and brown sugar sweet. Very much using the malt needed for the high abv to make it a sugar shock of a hit. By comparison the hop character seems a lot simpler – giving slight kiwi and dried apricot notes, then an odd British real ale feeling touch of sulfur smoke and light earthy hop notes in the finish.

So, based on an ever fallible memory, this is not as good as the Hair Of The God classic. So, does it hold up as a beer in itself instead then?

Well, it has simple, but joy bringing notes. Big golden syrup, big brown sugar and hop oils, wth light but oily bitterness. The smoke, small as it is, adds extra depth – but for all that it feels like a middle of the road barley wine.

In the good news, it does hide the alcohol well. There is a hint in the flavor, but no burn with that – very smooth overall without going so far as to make it seem not beer like – however it seems fairly standard rather than a stand out experience.

Unless my memory is lying to me this is not a patch on the original Fred. Ok, but not up to its heritage.

Background: I freaking love Hair Of The Dog beers, and Fred is one of the first few I ever tried of them. Siren have had a good run with remaking other peoples’ beers in collaboration – most notably their take on Even More Jesus – so when I heard they were doing a collaborative remake of Fred, I decided it was a must grab. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s online store and drunk while listening to Akala: Knowledge Is Power – Vol 2. Still blows me away how good Akala is.


Northern Monk: Glory: Triple IPA (England: IIPA: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apricot. Huge yellow white head.

Nose: Big hops. Solid bitterness. Slight granite. Lightly floral. Light gherkin. Oily hops. Apricot.

Body: Peach syrup. Oily hops. Good bitterness. Crushed Blackpool rock. Custard slices. Slight rock character. Pineapple. Smoke. Prickly hops. Gherkin. Kiwi. Apples. Greenery. Apricot.

Finish: Crushed raspberry hard sweets. Hop oils. Gherkin. Custard. Kiwi. Dried apricot. Peat.

Conclusion: This a thick and oily (Triple? Double? However many 10.5% really is) IPA. The malt character is thick with lots of mouthfeel heaviness and with that some custard sweetness. However, unusually for a 10% and up IPA, for roughly half the time the sweetness is actually beaten into the background.

The front flavours are the oily hops and bitterness – showing greenery and very … damnit I have to use the term… very dank as they say. That oily hop character is the dominant element – almost smokey, oily heavy hops. It can be almost peaty at times, though not as intense in that aspect – it is in feel as much as flavour in a lot of ways.

There is sweetness though – dried fruit and peach syrup which either hits on the front, or comes out again if the beer is held. The malt even brings out some big, intensely sweet Blackpool rock like notes at time – however often these notes will slip back down leaving the hop oil character to take precedent.

Over time there are releasing moments from the oily hops – you get green fruit – kiwi, apple mixed with pineapple and apricot, though still matched by greenery hop notes. For such a big beer this feels like most of what it gets from the malt is feel not flavour.

This is intense, swinging between the two poles of dark and fruity. The only real flaw is that it never reaches a nice balance between the two, instead showcasing one or the other at a time. If you are happy with swinging, intense flavour then this is lovely stuff.

Background: OK, I love IPAs,but the term triple IPA always confused me – this is just over 10%, is a standard IPA meant to be under 4% then? Naming conventions, huh? Anyway, Northern Monk has been a good go to, so this seemed like a nice chance to try a big beer and have a fair chance of it working out well. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while chatting with friends on Skype.

Brewdog: Omnipollo: I Wanna Be Your Dog (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Thick oily black. Thick creamy brown head. Still.

Nose: Nougat. Condensed cream. Sugared nuts. Milky chocolate. Black cherry yogurt. Black forest gateaux. Vanilla.

Body: Black forest gateaux. Vanilla fudge. Black cherry yogurt. Milky chocolate. Bitter black chocolate. Bitter cashew nuts. Slight caramel.

Finish: Black cherry yogurt. Vanilla fudge. Black forest gateaux. Truffle oil. Unsweetened cocoa. Crushed peanuts. American style pancakes.

Conclusion: Damn. This is two great beers. It is the beer it wants to be and manages to be, then the beer it didn’t set out to be but also is. That was a convoluted sentence, let’s try and break that down.

The beer it wants to be, and is, is pretty good. It is intensely creamy and nougat like from the get go – heavy but not sickly. Lots of the sweet touched nuttiness, and lots of vanilla fudge. It is definitely going for the creamier, nuttier, fudge filled style stout and does that well. That is enjoyable, but if that was the only beer it was then I would be disappointed. By itself an overly fluffy, milky style stout can end up feeling like you a drinking a glass full of marshmallows while trying to play a variant of the fluffy bunny game.

Then there is the beer that it did not intend to be but it is – and this is what makes it special. A black-forest gateaux to black cherry yogurt beer. This is more emphasised up from, letting the creamier notes take centre stage later as it fades.

Thus, I am a fan – up front the cherry meets cream comes across as a balance of bitter chocolate, dessert styles against savoury and sweet nuttiness – and this balance last pretty much to the end of the beer. Near the end the creaminess does become over done – but you can counterbalance that by holding the beer in your mouth longer and letting the bittersweet balance come out – it just takes more work than normal.

So, a bloody good beer – lots of depth – eventually seems to move away from its best points and makes it an effort to get back that beautiful balance but it is still possible. Depending on how you like to try your beers that may be an acceptable trade off or not, but for me it is very impressive.

Background: This is described as a whisky barrel aged coffee pecan mud cake stout. I figure of all of those, the only parts actually used in making it is the oak ageing and possibly the coffee. I couldn’t read most of the can as it was in Swedish, so I am guessing. Yes, I know I could have typed it into google translate, but I am feeling lazy today. At least I’m honest on that. Anyway, Brewdog have had a bit of a rough patch recently but are generally very good brewers – Omnipollo generally knock stuff out of the park, so hopes were high. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store. Due to “I Wanna be your dog” sounding vaguely S&M themed I put on some Genitorturer again. Also because that band is ace.

Brewdog: Abstrakt AB24 (Scotland: Baltic Porter: 12% ABV)

Visual: Deep brown to black. Light toffee brown creamy head.

Nose: Brown sugar. Clotted cream. Bitter coffee. Dry roasted nuts.

Body: Treacle. Milky chocolate and cream. Sour cream. Bitter coffee. Pecans. Nettles prickle. Roasted nuts.

Finish: Sour cream. Milky chocolate. Pecans. Brown sugar. Clotted cream. Hop oils. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: I’ve often tried to work out where Imperial Porters differ from their close cousin, Imperial Stouts. Now we have this – an imperial strength Baltic porter. That is just trying to make me confused. It is different, but I guess it is one of those you know it when you see it kind of things. However I think this is a good example for me to take a run and and try to elucidate the differences.

The coffee is dominant – creamy and milky but still bitter. This tends to be a good tell that you are dealing with some kind of porter in my experience, rather than the weightier bitter coffee notes I tend to find in an Imperial Stout.

The other real stand out difference is a savoury to sour cream thickness – It has similar thickness to an imperial stout, but without as much dominance of the sweet character. Much more grounded, though with some sweet notes around the edges.

Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t separate sweet notes – there is a real brown sugar character – but the base is roasted nuts, thick sour cream and coffee. The sweetness feels more likely to come out as a slight sweet pecan nut character than anything else.

There, in this particular case this is how an Imperial Baltic Porters stands out from an Imperial Stout – which will help you not a jot with any other example, but I tried, right?

Anyway, that said this is delivered very smooth, with strong hints to the abv in alcohol feel not burn – they match with the thick, heavy sour cream notes so actually don’t seem too out of place here. It results in a well delivered beer, well made, but the more savoury notes are a tad over emphasised for my tastes, so it isn’t always for me. Still, I appreciated what it does, and being so well made means I can enjoy it despite that.

So – well made, a good example of the style, not 100% for me.

Background: Wasn’t quite sure if I should list this under Imperial Porter, or Baltic Porter, or go the whole hog with Imperial Baltic Porter. Went with Baltic Porter in the end. Not for any particular reason beyond the fact it is such a little used tag. I was intrigued to find out, on googling to make my mind up, that a Baltic porter generally uses lager yeast, or cold fermented ale yeast. Huh, never knew that. May be worth mentioning at this point that, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This Baltic Porter is made with coffee and brown sugar. I grabbed this directly from Brewdog’s shop and was drunk while listening to some of the over the top sound of Mclusky.

Frontaal: Imperial Dutch Stout (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small, short lived creamy brown head.

Nose: Medicinal – iodine notes. Peat smoke. Sugared pastry. Brown sugar. Doughnuts. Tobacco.

Body: Medicinal. Peppermint. Chocolate. Peat smoke. Custard doughnuts. Sour green nuts – cashews. Iodine. Roasted potatoes. Caramel.

Finish: Dry. Bitter. Charring. Roasted potatoes. Medicinal.

Conclusion: Not … not what I was expecting. This is a medicinal, iodine touched, charred and slightly peaty stout. Which if they had pitched it as an Islay barrel aged stout would be exactly what I expected. This however has not been aged in Islay barrels and tastes nearly nothing like the imagery of the waffles that were used in making it. There are some sweet notes in the centre of the beers – calls to caramel notes, but that is nestled within the heart of a very medicinal feeling stout.

As what this beer wants to be, that of a sweet waffle stout, it is a mixed bag – with a tendency towards the bad. It really does not deliver the idea of a stroopwafel in the beer. Now it does have doughnut like elements, some caramel, but generally it is a beer that leans on the harsh side of the style. So, don’t buy this beer if it is the gimmick that appeals – it kind of sucks at it, so that way lies disappointment.

Now as an Islay style beer, which it never wanted to be and has no element listed which can explain why it is so close to it, well as that it is pretty good. Lots of medicinal and smoke notes over those light sweet notes and a thick base – it is fair intense – not perfect – but definitely one I can enjoy as that.

So, to paraphrase something I once heard – This is a beer that misses its aimed for style by so much it ends up as a good example of a completely different style. Make of that what you will.

Background: OK, I grabbed this because it is a beer made with stroopwafels. I didn’t even know what stroopwafels were at the time. I just knew I wanted a beer made with them. It turns out stroopwafels are waffles made with two layers of dough and a caramel syrup like filling. Sounds awesome. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful albums of all time – Ulver: Shadows of The Sun. So haunting, so amazing.

Marble: Castle Of Udolpho (England: Old Ale: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate frothy beige head.

Nose: Sour grapes. Sultanas. Sour apple. Vinous. Sour red wine. Oatmeal biscuits. Wheat.

Body: Oily. Malt drink. Nutty. Lightly bitter oils. Slightly chalky. Plums. Slight fizzy feel. Malt chocolate. Sour black cherries. Light charring. Sour wine. Cake sponge.

Finish Sour red and green grapes. Plums. Sour red wine. Madeira. Cloying notes. Sultanas. Gooseberry. Sour blueberry.

Conclusion: Oh old ale, I have miss you as a style. Not many people seem to make them these days. Or maybe I just miss them. That kind of cloying, sour, dark fruit beer that emphasises heavy character and class. They don’t tend to hit easy reward receptors, but take your time and they are lovely. Admittedly an acquired taste, but one I consider worth acquiring.

What I like here is that it has those thick, cloying sour notes all the way through – not acidic fresh like a lambic but heavy sour grapes and sultanas. The best, high concept description I can give of this is like red wine soaked plums and sultanas mashed into an oatmeal biscuit then blended and drunk. Yes, exactly like that.

There are sweeter notes, but they are light releases, short lived bursts – usually Madeira notes or slight sweeter fruit – but generally it is thicker charactered. There are some darker grounding notes, such as slight charring or slight chalk -but not heavily so. It seems the brewer knows that too many of those notes would break the balance on this which already demands a lot from the drinker. Instead they push savoury nutty and oily notes that seep in along the sour notes – grounding them but still letting the important dark fruit elements free to do their work.

The vinous notes from the barrel ageing are so closely intertwined with the base beer I find it hard to say where one ends and the other begins. They definitely bring more fruitiness, but the booming character of Pinot Noir now ties its wagons to the more sour characteristics of the old ale. It expands the range of flavour but does not alter the base character. A definite example of barrel ageing done well. A great return to the old ale style here.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a few months now – as a big beer I felt it would last. This one is a beer named in reference to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho – not a book I’ve read, but as a fan of the Gothic tales I should possibly check it out some time. More importantly this beer is an old ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which sounds good by me- Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can usually identify by taste. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Genitorturers -Flesh Is The Law. I’ve been meaning to check them out more since I was first introduced to the band by the Vampire: Bloodlines video game, and later by Diamanda Hagan’s reviews (Hail Hagan!), but only just got around to grabbing some music for myself. S&M themed heavy industrial tunes may not be to everyone’s taste, but if that sounds good to you – check them out.

Uiltje: Analogue Recording (Netherlands: American Strong Ale: 13% abv)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. Floating sediment. Large browned tight bubbles head.

Nose: Pepper and crackers. Make spirit. Lime cordial. Vanilla. Sultanas.

Body: Smooth. Brandy cream. Fruitcake and cherries. Dry red wine. Port soaked raisins. Bready notes. Rye crackers. Light make spirit notes. Peppery.

Finish: Cake sponge. Glacier cherries. Sultanas. Madeira. Almond rounds. Light bitter and oily hop character. Orange zest. Light charring. Peppery. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Imperial Red? Ok, that makes sense, from the flavour I would have guessed a Rye Wine (A barley wine with rye), but yeah Imperial Red makes sense as a description for this.

As you may have guessed from the above, the initial elements are barley wine like – fruitcake and cherry notes, extra sultanas – a mix of sweet notes and dried fruit characteristics. Considering the whisky barrel ageing it instead seems to have a lot of vinous notes and other spirit characteristics – dry red wine and brandy cream character being the most evident. It is a mix of sweet, dry and just lightly cloying sour touches, matching the base well.

The actual whisky ageing influence seems more subtle – it is shown in the extreme smoothness of character and in a light make spirit yet smooth character in the background of the entire beer. As time goes on the final element comes out – the peppery, rye cracker notes that makes me think of a rye wine – savoury, spicy notes that ground the beer hard.

As time goes on it almost rye bourbon styled with peppery and rye notes matched with orange zest hints. This is initially appealing, but it can get a bit too much by the end as the peppery notes dominate – however the journey to that point is very enjoyable. So, very good for the most part – starts well, ends slightly weakly. Still you enjoy getting there – a beer that is about the journey, not the destination.

Background: This was the last bottle on the shelf when Chris from Independent Spirit asked my if I had tried it – when I answered no he encouraged me to grab it before it was gone. The entire staff of IS seemed impressed by it, so I decided to give it a go. The bottle calls it an Imperial Red – to keep some standardisation in my tagging I have gone with ratebeer’s label of “American Strong Ale”, but Imperial Red definitely describes it better. This has been barrel aged in Carsebridge whisky barrels – a now deceased grain distillery. Never tried the whisky, I think, so not 100% sure what to expect from the ageing. Drunk while listening to the new Propagandhi album – Victory Lap -a good album, that seems almost more resigned than their previous albums, or possible just more introspective – another one that I feel I need a few more listens to get to grips with. Enjoying on the surface level though.

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