Tag Archive: 10-13% ABV


Top Out: First Ascents – Yukatan Honey Wheat Wine (Scotland: Bearley Wine: 10.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. A beige, thin bubbled centimetre of a head.

Nose: Honey. Brown bread baps. Dry mead.

Body: Honey. Black pepper. Brown bread. Dry mead.

Finish: Brown bread. Black pepper. Clear honey. Flour. Cloudy honey.

Conclusion: Ok, honey, bready, black pepper. That was a fairly short set of notes. Ok, I put a bit more than that but it took a while, for nearly half the beer that was all I had written down. Let’s take a moment and see if I can find a bit more to dig into here.

Ok, well, the honey character comes across very thick and full initially, but quickly become a kind of dry mead character that then just lasts and lasts – so, some kind of progression going on there.

The peppery and bready notes mix well to create an oddly savoury experience in the midst of this, especially considering the sheer amount of honey flavours. Despite occasional sweet honey notes it is generally very well attenuated with little residual sweetness.

And with all that said, eh, I have to admit I am having a hard time getting excited. I like mead. I like honey. I just kind of need a bit more in a beer than only that.

So, to look at the positive, it does express the honey in a very varied way – dry mead, cloudy thick honey, clear honey sheen. All good, but I need more.

A very honey beer that ends up kind of boring.

A pity.

Background: While I haven’t grabbed many of their beers, Top Out have been pretty solid in what I have encountered from them. This is a wheat wine made with Mexican yucatan honey, which is something a bit different. Been on a barley wine kick recently so a mead like take on that sounded right up my street. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with Getter – Visceral for this while drinking. Not my usual kind of music but works nicely for a backing to drinking.

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De Dolle: Stille Nacht (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 12% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Large white head with brown touches. Absolutely full of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. White sugar cubes. Orange sherbet. White, crusty bread.

Body: Orange sherbet. Lemon sherbet. Cane sugar. Candy floss. Bready. Toffee. Oily bitterness. Choc limes.

Finish; Candy floss. White sugar. Milky chocolate. Toffee. Odd, oily bitterness. Kind of kippers like oiliness, but not. Charred bitterness. Earthy bitterness. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. For the most part this is sugary sweet fluff. Which I enjoy they heck out of and I make no excuses for.

So, yeah, for the most part this is straight up candy floss, sherbet, cane sugar, crushed hard sweet and the like. You get the idea. Sugar shock, the beer. The thing is that isn’t the whole of the beer.

The tail end into the finish brings an unexpected and more subtle set of elements. A slightly oily bitterness, that is also kind of earthy and peppery. There is even some oily fish character that I was hesitant to add to the notes as it doesn’t 100% match but is the best description I have managed to get. It’s basically a mix of subtle savoury and slightly bitter notes that come in as a welcome experience after the big sugar shock before.

So, a stupidly sweet, candyfloss and cane sugar, rough edged high abv been with unusual subtle notes managing to make it a tad more than that. On a technical level it is unbalanced, and rough, lots of elements that I should hold against it, but I enjoy the heck out of it and keep coming back.

Make of that what you will.

Background: So, it is, what roughly six months from Christmas is either direction, right? TIME TO REVIEW A CHRISTMAS BEER! Yes I just like being contrary. Anyway, it is a strong Belgian ale so should have held up to the time fine. Grabbed from Independent Spirit a few times over the past months, this is the first time I pulled my finger out and did notes on it. De Dolle are a fun brewery that used to have issues with over-carbonated bottles exploding the liquid out on opening. Did not have that here thankfully, so I’m guessing they fixed that over the past decade or so. I put on the ever excellent and haunting David Bowie – Blackstar while drinking. Christmas!

De Halve Maan: Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2017: Scotch Whisky Oak Aged (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. Thin grey dash of a head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Raisins, sultanas and malt loaf. Light medicinal alcohol. Cheap blended whisky.

Body: Creamy. Plums. Smooth. Brown sugar. Vanilla. Caramel. Brandy cream. Slight medicinal alcohol. Tannins. Liquorice. Cherries.

Finish: Fig pudding. Plum. Fruitcake. Slight brandy cream. Bourbon and rye whiskey. Salt touch. Tannins. Herbal spice. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, what type of scotch whisky was this barrel aged in? I genuinely have no idea. It has a definite general whisky character, vanilla notes from the time in the oak that makes me think more of bourbon ageing than scotch, then there are some medicinal notes that call to Islay but could just be the higher abv showing itself, then finally what seem like Highland style sweeter notes. I give up. No idea.

Anyway, the beer itself! Massive in flavour, but generally smooth. Initially rich and sweet with huge lumps of dark fruit and fruitcake – a very dessert beer at this point.

The alcohol, or possibly the influence from the barrel ageing, does give a slight rough blended whisky edge – but generally the extra highland feeling weight adds a lot to the beer, helping to break up the creamy richness, and in general it feels like the time in the barrel has helped contribute to the smoothness of the beer in a way that more than offsets the slight rougher edges.

Late on oak, tannins and spice come out – an unexpected, odd savoury grounding to what had been up to this point a very sweet beer. In fact, by the end you get a sweet burst on each sip that settles into a very long lasting savoury spice finish which makes for very satisfactory progression.

Now, it is a tad rough edged, but complex and delicious – the alcohol and the barrel ageing react perfectly but still let though and awesome quad that deserves respect.

Background: Had this around for a while, waiting for a good time to break open. Not since 2017 though, I’m nowhere near that patient. Not had standard Straffe Hendrik for bloomin’ ages so not able to directly compare what the oak ageing has done, but should still be interesting. Also, for all my googling I cannot find what whisky barrel was used to age this. Ah well. I visited the Halve Maan brewery while in Brugge, very pretty, lovely view of the city and you get some unfiltered unpasteurised beer – so all good! This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Bad Religion. Yes I was pissed off with recent politics again and wanted some smart punk tunes.

Hair Of The Dog: Adam From The Woods 2018 (USA: American Strong Ale: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Slight rim of bubbles but no head.

Nose: Figs. Raisins. Brandy snaps. Chocolate liqueur. Slight black liquorice. Plums. Stewed apricot. Thick.

Body: Smooth. Highland whisky. Cocoa. Figs. Plums. Chocolate liqueur. Liquorice. Bourbon. Vanilla. Chocolate cake. Slight smoke. Slight oak. Coffee cake.

Finish: Cocoa dust. Liquorice. Chocolate liqueur. Chocolate cake. Coffee cake. Smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, wow, I didn’t expect the time in the oak to change the beer so much. It is still amazing but is now such a different beer. Not that you could tell that from the aroma. At this point it is everything you loved from Adam turned up to 11. Dark fruit. Chocolate and spirit soaked notes. Just lovely.

The body is where it really changes. Even smoother than the original beer, giving a lighter mouthfeel, with none of the nicely frothy filling mouthfeel of standard Adam. Instead it comes across like a mix between chocolate liqueur and barley wine that reminds me slightly of Hair Of The Dog’s Matt. It takes few sips for the flavour to build and get grip, but boy, when it does you are in for a treat.

Lots of smooth chocolate, dark fruit, smoothed with vanilla from the oak ageing and a mix of whisky and bourbon notes that go into cocoa and coffee cake notes. A mix of the barrel ageing, the base beer, and newly developed notes. As time goes on it builds up a welcome heavier feel, giving extra umph to all you get.

So, is it better than standard Adam? Not quite. It lacks some of the complexity, such as the tobacco like notes you get from a young Adam, or the real creaminess of an old Adam – great as this beer is, the smoother style leans away from my personal preference and with it loses some of the complexity. Still that is a personal thing, and I still love the beer. Definitely grab it if you can, and if the smoother style is for you, this may end up being an all time classic for you.

Background: All these years on Hair Of The Dog is still one of my favourite breweries, and Hair of The Dog Adam is in my top 5 greatest beers. Especially if it has been aged a few years. Only problem is, their beers very rarely leave Oregon so getting hold of them is a tad difficult. Thus, I have to give many thanks To Paula who was on holiday over there and brought me back a bottle of this, a version of Adam that has spent at least three years in a Bourbon barrel. To say I was excited was an understatement. Many thanks! Went with some quality haunting music I haven’t played for a while to go with it: Ritualz – CDR. Still epic haunting electronic tunes.

De Molen: Бакунин: терпение и труд (Patience & Labour) (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 10.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dried apricot with a cloudy centre. Thin off white head.

Nose: Buttery shortbread. Cake sponge. Dry sultanas. Oily, peppery hop character. Sake. Bready. Dried apricot.

Body: Dried apricot to standard apricot. Golden syrup. Peppery hop oils. Dry cake sponge. Sake. Cherry pocked biscuits. Oily bitterness. Vanilla.

Finish: Peppery hop oils. Dry sultanas. Dry cake sponge. Oily bitterness. Nutty oily character. Oak.

Conclusion: This is a oily, peppery barley wine. Not what I expected considering that part of this beer’s gimmick is it being made with apricots. Now the fruit is there, but in a dry, relatively restrained fashion. The sultana and apricot character are dry, clinging on through a similarly dry, and highly attenuated base. There is very little residual sugar for such a high abv beer.

There’s subtle vanilla woven through the beer, a fragile lace mesh of flavour, easily permeable by the dry oily base, oily peppery character and dry fruit. It only puts up the impression of a fight against the heavier flavours but that is enough to keep the drier character manageable.

It gives a subtle nutty backing over time, again a dry character but with hints of sweeter nut notes. Overall the beer is a heavy, slow drinker. The peppery, dry character last far beyond the end of the last sip in a long lasting finish. It is never unwelcome, but it does last beyond what I would call its best moments.

It is more dry than my preferred barley wine style, but I can appreciate its more savoury styling with only slight sweetness for a more peppery and restrained barley wine than usual.

Not the best, but a very well made and a tad different barley wine. A very polished beer that isn’t 100% aimed at me, but I can still appreciate.

Background: For people wondering, apparently the romanisation of the brewer Бакунин is Bakunin. Had to do a bit of searching for the right characters for терпение и труд as well – I was nearly ready to just give up and put the English in there. Бакунин is a Russian based brewery I have not encountered before – De Molen is an old favourite of mine, simple labels but utterly solid in the quality they turn out. This one, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a barley wine made with dried apricot and raisins. De Molen seem to be generally spot on with barley wines, which I currently have a bit of a hankering for, so was looking forwards to this. Had grabbed Crossfaith – Ex_Machina recently so I put that on and it as banging mix of Prodigy like electronics and metal as you would expect from them. Great tunes.

Tiny Rebel: Siren: Dark Cherry and Chocolate Barley Wine (Wales: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep, cloudy brown. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Coca. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Mild black coffee.

Body: Black cherry. Bourbon biscuits. Slightly light mouthfeel. Liquorice. Bourbon whiskey. Vanilla. Slight rye whiskey. Brown sugar. Slight brown bread. Slight chocolate liqueur. Earthy bitterness.

Finish: Black-forest gateaux. Bourbon biscuits. Watery coffee. Rye whiskey. Alcohol air. Liquorice.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m going to open up with the side of this where it is weaker. This is slightly watery on the mouthfeel, which is bloody surprising considering it rocks in at over 10% abv. It isn’t terribly weak, but just slightly thin at the edges, while letting through some of the rawer alcohol notes in the finish. So not light in a super smooth fashion unfortunately. It is definitely lacking a few points in the polish side of things for sure.

So, on a more positive note, this uses the cocoa to chocolate notes well, adding a strong chocolate character while still letting the barley wine come through so it doesn’t just end up feeling like an imperial stout. It mixes well with the brown sugar notes to make a kind of Belgian dubbel meets barley wine kind of thing.

If there is an upside to the rawer alcohol character it is that it results in some bourbon and rye whiskey like notes that makes it feel like this has been barrel aged, (which, while not something they have done for this beer I know is something they plan for the future) though not with the smoothness barrel ageing brings. It does make me genuinely intrigued to see what the barrel aged version of this would be like.

The black cherry (or dark cherry) could do with a bit more prominence here. It is nice but is a gentle backing note to the chocolate. In fact the lighter body seems to make a lot of the non cocoa ingredient flavours seem slightly muted.

So, an ok barley wine with a few nice notes, but definitely needs another run though with a bit more polish.

Background: Final beer from the Tiny Rebel seventh anniversary collaboration box set and I’ve been saving this one for last. I’m a big fan of barley wines and despair that they don’t seem to get as much love as the Imperial Stouts, so this, made with cocoa nibs and dark cherry definitely caught my attention. Totally going against expected mood music for this, went a bit retro with Radiohead – O.K. Computer. It just scratched an itch of awkward, moody music I wanted right then. The box was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Cloudwater: Veil Brewing: Chubbles (England: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very cloudy dark apricot. Large yellow white creamy bubbled head.

Nose: Fudge. Creamy. Slight kiwi. Mashed banana to banana custard. Doughnuts. Fresh brown bread.

Body: Custard. Fudge. Hop oils. Caramel. Eggplant. Apples. Tart grapes. Very thick. Dried apricot. Starts sweet but goes to heavy bitterness. Slightly resinous. Grapefruit. Brown bread. Banana.

Finish: Gripping flour feel and hop bitterness. Eggplant. Bitterness grows quickly. Dried apricot. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: This is thick as fuck. It’s heavy and feels custard touched in its thickness, if nowhere near actual custard thickness admittedly.

It starts super sweet, so much so that I was all ready to ask if we could genuinely call it an IPA, but the slight hop oils that are merely hinted at in the start quickly grow. They become resinous and into full throated hop bitterness by half way through the beer. In fact if you only look at the finish it doesn’t even take that long; While the main body is still wallowing in sweet custard and fudge notes the finish is already kicking out gritty bitter hops from about the third sip.

The fruit flavours are even slower to develop, but do come along in the tail end of the beer – tart grapes, sweet banana and slight tart grapefruit against a savoury eggplant like hint to ground it. I will admit I think they could do more with this part of the beer as it is mainly malt sweetness versus resinous, oily hop kicks, but even as it is, it is a welcome addition to the beer.

I’d prefer a bit more subtlety in the hop flavours, but as a big malt meets big hop assault beer this is bloody enjoyable. It takes skill to be this unsubtle and still work. Not a world shaker, but a bloody big flavour triple IPA.

Background: I am too lazy to check, but I am 90% sure if I look the binary on the can will spell Chubbles. The binary on the can is also 90% of the reason why I noticed this beer. I am such a geek. (3 minutes later) I take that back, I am not too lazy,

0110001101101000011101010110001001100010011011000110010101110011

does in fact spell Chubbles. I was right. Anyway another Triple IPA from Cloudwater, the last one I had from them had too much hop burn, so I had my fingers crossed that this would be better. Generally Cloudwater do hop beers very well. Don’t know much about the collaborator Veil Brewing so not sure what they may bring to the table. They call this a proper English Triple IPA, whatever that may mean. Another one form Independent Spirit. I put on At The Drive In – Relationship Of Command while drinking. Still an utter classic of a post hardcore punk album.

Lervig: Saskatoon Cheesecake Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Short lived brown head that settles quickly into a brown rim around the glass.

Nose: Blueberry. Cheesecake. Boozy. Raisins. Liquorice touch. Toffee liqueur. Raspberry.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. White chocolate. Cheesecake. Blueberry. Boozy. Malt loaf. Bready backing. Cocoa.

Finish: Malt loaf. Blueberry cheesecake. Bready. Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness.

Conclusion: This feels like it should be a white/blond stout. Getting the flavours you do but from a dark beer feels confusing, or at least partially. There are very obvious cheesecake notes, white chocolate notes. It isn’t overwhelmed by these notes but they are present enough that it leads to a very different experience to your standard imperial stout. Over that base tart, kind of blueberry but not, notes are layered. It feels kind of like a blue raspberry if that makes sense. I wonder if such a thing actually exists. Will have to google it.

So, as a result this is very much a dark fruit cheesecake beer, but against that are the darker standard imperial stout undertones. There are more expected cocoa notes and a solid bready base, even a slight earthy bitterness in the finish – lots of notes to add complexity and offset sickly sweetness.

So, it is just about recognisable as a standard imperial stout, mixed with lot of big blond stout notes, mixed with fruit desserts. It is so good. Like a lot of beers in this style it feels a tad “boozy”, heavy but not burning alcohol, which is fine by me, but a turn off for some – so be warned.

That extra boozy character does come with benefits though- a good mouthfeel, thick and tongue coating. The malt gives sweetness, but with bitter cocoa and tart fruit to contrast well. This really is a master-work of a high abv beer. Different to the norm, high quality, varied and shows the alcohol but isn’t dominated by it.

I whole heartedly recommend this. An excellent dessert beer that doesn’t forget the beer side of the equation.

Background: Saskatoon is a place in Canada, also a blueberry looking berry. I presume this is named after the second, though who knows, beers that taste like places may be the new big thing for all I know. My finger is not on the pulse is what I am saying. Anyway, Lervig have made some tidy heavy beers, and boy do I like cheesecake, so this jumped out at me when I saw it at Independent Spirit. Genuinely been feeling out of sorts this week with all the politics bullshit, so had on Marie Davidson – Perte D’identite for music that sounds as weird and disjointed as I do. Possibly not the best thing for my mental health but great music.

Northern Monk: Honour (England: IIPA: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Clear. Some small bubbled carbonation. Massive frothy white head.

Nose: Pine needles. Vanilla. Bitter hop character. Custard. Hop oils and resin. Lightly floral. Light grapefruit. Slight smoke.

Body: Good bitterness and hop prickle. Peach syrup. Grapefruit. Hop oils. Vanilla toffee. Slightly dry. Golden syrup touch. Thick mouthfeel. Yeast funk. White wine.

Finish: Peach syrup. Pineapple. Hop oils. Moderate hop character. Some bitterness. Palma violets. Soft raspberry. Champagne. Yeastie feel. Heavier hop bitterness over time.

Conclusion: What impresses me most with this beer is this – that despite it racking in at over 10% abv, it still manages to keep elements of that dry drinkable character that defines the west coast IPA. Usually the weight of the malt load would overwhelm that with sweetness, but this still comes across dry and crisp.

Ok, it is not entirely hidden – the malt comes across in a thicker texture, but as the beer froths up in the mouth it covers that leaving a dry feel and manages the malt very well. What seems more evident is a very unexpected character – a dry white wine like undertone and a slight champagne meets Belgium yeast funk character becomes evident. It keeps the dry character still, but still adds grip and makes a kind of chewy popcorn like mouthfeel later on.

So, the big thing here is the hop character – gentle hop bitterness, oily, with a good general hop character that rises into heavier bitterness as time goes on. A lot of it is about the feel – prickly hops with dry frothy mouthfeel behind that into yeast funk and slight dry champagne style. Lots to physically interact with inside your mouth,

What about the actual flavours? Well they are less evident. Soft vanilla toffee shows the gentle malt influence, tart grapefruit comes out but mildly done. It is mostly about that hop feel and dry drinkable character. However, you know what, that is bloody enjoyable – it just leaps head first into that west coast hop character and splashes the oils and hops around.

On the downside, well like many high abv beers it can get a tad wearing over time. The single-mindedness that makes it so appealing early on, hurts it later. Still, what I would say is get a can, share it between two people and boom, this is spot on.

A triple IPA that doesn’t lose the IPA to the malt – nice.

Background: This is the second Triple IPA I have tried from Northern Monks. Man, most places don’t even have one triple IPA to their name, let alone multiple. I only found the first – Glory – to be pretty good. Then, when I saw this one was a west coast take on the IPA style I thought I must give it a go. Let’s face it, Northern Monk have earned my trust by now. I’d just picked up Crossfaith – The Dream, The Space – which has their awesome cover of Omen on it, so I put that on to listen to while drinking. This is another beer picked up at Independent Spirit.

De Molen: Hair Of The Dog: Binkie Claws: Almond Bourbon Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 11.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Opaque. Thin caramel dash of a head.

Nose: Bakewell slices. Cherry liqueur. Marzipan and almonds. Raisins and Christmas cake. Cherry bakewell pies. Fig rolls. Vanilla and caramel.

Body: Plums. Creamy and smooth. Vanilla. Peppermint cream. Marzipan. Fig rolls. Almonds.

Finish: Almond liqueur. Toffee Liqueur. Liquorice touch. Blueberry. Charring. Mild coffee. Almonds. Raisins.

Conclusion: This is such a smooth beer, creamy, using the high abv but not beholden to it-and the aroma, oh my! Like many a barrel aged big beer, the aroma that leads into this is just so rich, complex and amazing. It is like mashed up desserts, almond liqueur and dark fruit.

Also, this seems significantly different to the also soooooo good Woodford reserve barrel aged version. While they share the same base notes, the cherry notes here come through even more dessert like and the almond character seems to add both savoury low notes and marzipan like high notes. Oh also, for people confused, yes this is a different beer – I’m not just doing notes on the same one twice (this time…) because I enjoy it that much. Darn similar looking labels.

Anyway, the aroma opens up like cherry bakewells meets marzipan meets a dark fruit barley wine. It is immense. The body behind that is more subtle – still using the dark fruit notes but with a bitter almond character behind it, which then leads into a charred but still dark fruit and savoury almond filled finish.

For the first half of the beer it is freaking amazing – mixing bourbon sweetness, dark fruit backing and sweet marzipan notes – it shows all the barrel ageing and still the smoothed out barley wine comes out to match it.

Over time the almond becomes more prevalent, pushing out that awesome balance between the styles. It is still bloody good – a very marzipan heavy barley wine – but for the first third of the beer this was on the knife edge of perfection for use of barrel ageing.

So, about a third of a beer of nigh perfection, two thirds strongly almond influenced barley wine that is still good. Not perfect, does not have quite as many notes as the aroma promises, still grab it.

Background: Ok, so I adored the Woodford Reserve aged version of this beer. I adore Hair of The Dog beers. This is a collaboration between them and De Molen, this time aged in Almond liqueur bourbon barrels. Seriously I was going to buy this. In fact I also have a second bottle ageing to see what happens to it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I was fairly certain I ws going to like this, so put on some IDLES while drinking. Freaking love IDLES new album – so intense yet so emotionally open. So good.

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