Tag Archive: 10-13% ABV


Gusswerk: Dies Iræ (Austria: Barley Wine: 10.9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin greyed head.

Nose: Brandy cream. Buttery shortbread. Black liquorice. Port. Butterscotch.

Body: Fruitcake. Liquorice. Port. Rum soaked raisins. Very smooth. Dried apricot. Tart blueberry. Light chalk. Cola. Werther’s Originals. Vodka. Slight fudge. Pear drops.

Finish: Brandy cream. Fig pudding. Liquorice. Port. Blueberry. Brown bread. Cola. Vodka. Pears.

Conclusion: Ok, this has a lot of liquorice flavour in it. I can deal with that. Not my favourite element in a beer, but not one that causes instant hatred of the entire beer either. It just needs to be used carefully ya know?

Anyway, for all its strength this beer is very smooth – there is a kind of alcohol edge to the flavours, kind of a vodka weight, but no fire or roughness which is impressive. Since this was a 2015 bottling and it is now 2017 its possible that is the ageing going to work – I’m not sure if they hold back releases deliberately, or if I was just lucky to get an aged one. Either way it seems to have worked.

As can be guessed from the colour in the photo, this works on the darker side of the barley wine scale for flavours. (as a side note – is it just me or do a lot of barley wines seem to do that these days? – I kind of miss the brighter barley wines at the moment.) Obviously it has the heavy liquorice I already mentioned, but also deep ESB like notes such as a fruitcake character, brandy cream, blueberry and port. The strangest thing about this, is that when it all blends together it can taste kind of like alcoholic cola. Another set of words I never thought I would type.

It’s good – not out of the normal range of quality for a barley wine, but good enough. It is also a tad expensive, so it needs to be a bit above just good for it to be worth the price tag unfortunately.

It does have a good range for the most part – tarter notes in the blueberry, obviously the heavy dry liquorice, and even some green fruit fresh pear notes. It is smooth, but with that it also seems to lack a bit of weight to the flavours. Probably part of the old ageing trade off. Also in the latter half of the bottles it did seem to tend towards the heavier, drier and less exciting flavours. Another beer where sharing helps it show itself to its best.

So, pretty good, but with some small flaws, the dominance of the liquorice, the lighter flavours due to age and the wearing nature over time – between them I cannot recommend it at going cost – you are really paying for the ceramic bottle – but if you find it at a more reasonable price this is a good barley wine.

Background: Final beer grabbed from Craft Beer Kontor in Hannover, and to many people’s shock, this is not a German beer! Turns out this one is from Austria – now at the time I thought “cool, I’ve not done a beer from Austria before.” Turns out I was mistaken on that one, I have done a couple, still, always good to expand my brewery horizons. I will admit I grabbed this mainly for two reasons 1) Because I haven’t had many barley wines recently and 2) Because the ceramic bottle looked fecking cool. I am shallow. Dies Iræ is apparently a Gregorian chant describing the day of judgement – pretty cool imagery even for an atheist like myself. Anyway, this was fairly expensive – I’m guessing mainly because of the bottle – ah well. Also this, the 2015 edition,was drunk 2017 – and oddly lists on the bottle as 10.9% but on the attached cardboard as 9% abv. Googling suggests the 10.9% is accurate so I’m going with that. Drunk while listening to Praxis: transmutation. I considered going for Gregorian chants, but decided that would be a bit too much dedication to the theme.

Siren: Bourbon Milkshake (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lots of toffee, caramel and vanilla. Milky chocolate and bourbon. Rye notes. Vanilla custard.

Body: Massive cherries – both red and glacier. Treacle. Chocolate milkshake and chocolate liqueur. Nougat. Lots of toffee and caramel. Light pepperminty and menthol. Golden syrup.

Finish: Treacle. Palma violets. Red cherries. Chocolate milkshake. Light greenery and peppermint. Lactose. Vanilla toffee. Light oak and menthol. Bourbon. Slight liqueur notes.

Conclusion: There’s a lot more going on to this that I first thought, or even expected. It opens with an aroma that hollers out the bourbon ageing; Lots of caramel, toffee and vanilla notes; Lots of spicy rye bourbon influence, and lots of smooth vanilla character from American oak. It is like a whole wodge of bourbons pushed into one. Pretty great, but, frankly hardly unexpected from a bourbon aged imperial stout. So after taking in the booming, detectable from afar, aroma I took my first sip.

Boom. A complete change. The first thing that hits is cherries, sweet like a barley wine with golden syrup and nougat coming in against the more expected chocolate character for an imperial stout. Still toffee and caramel from the bourbon showing through here, but with so much more as well.

So, at this point it is a milky imperial stout meets barrel ageing, meets barley wine, meets ESB fruitiness. Already thick and packed with character and varied notes. There is, however, one more, final element. And here it is both kind of good and kind of bad. A kind of minty, greenery, menthol peppermint note. It is a refreshing note, and that works well to lessen the overwhelming intensity and sweetness of the rest of the beer. However, occasionally it could do with being a bit lighter and let the rest of the beer shine more – it can be a bit too dominant at points.

Still, it is a minor weak point in a hugely complex, rich and rewarding imperial stout. Not 100% spot on, but still just managed to claw itself in as one of the all time greats of the style If you like Imperial Stout, definitely go for it. It has all the thickness and richness of a good IS, but takes it in its own distinctly awesome direction.

Background: This one was highly recommended to be by the good people of Independent Spirit, so I grabbed a bottle and put it aside for a later date. It’s an imperial stout, hardly like it is going to go off, right? It’s an imperial milk stout made with vanilla, muscavado and honey then aged in mixture of George Dickel, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and other bourbon barrels. This was the first beer I did notes on after a gap after returning from Germany and was drunk while listening to some of the excellent Miracle of Sound.

Brewdog Vs Beavertown: Coffee and Cigarettes (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Brown coffee rim of a head and a dash of a head across the main body.

Nose: Tar. Peat. Brown sugar. Smoke. Thick treacle and caramel. Ash. Honey. Rich coffee. Crushed muscat grapes.

Body: Ash. Smoke. Mild bitter chocolate. Rich coffee beans to coffee cake. Light carrot. Smoked meat. Spiced red grapes.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Smoke. Smoked meat. Shortbread. Bitter coffee. Slight salt air. Slight carrot cake. Cocoa dust. Ash. Spicy grapes. Treacle.

Conclusion: You know, you can rarely criticise Brewdog beers for not matching their concept. This, well it matches the concept to a tee. This has coffee, rich and full up front with thinner and more raw notes at times; This also has ash, smoke and such cigarette imagery. Quite peated and full up front, dry and smokey at the end, with smoke meat dished out throughout to help the idea.

Despite all this, which is impressive, I am a tad disappointed. Please let me explain why. The aroma is a booming beast – tarry, smokey and meaty. It hints and brown sugar and rich, sweet and spicy dark fruit. Frankly amazing. Not quite explaining the disappointment, am I? Give me a mo.

None of the above is entirely absent from the body, but it is far more restrained. Drier really, and a touch lighter. Not thin, but far from the beast of an aroma that dragged you in. A lot of the notes aren’t their at the start as well, they take a long time to develop. The spice grapes especially take some time to build up, so the initial impression are a distinct let down from the wonderful aroma.

When it has built up is is a) Very good and b) still nowhere near as booming as the aroma. While the nose is tarry, caramel thick and full of the burnt sugar the body is dry coffee cake and cocoa dusting. Not bad but distinctly different in intensity.

It is still good though – lost of coffee, spice grapes and caramel taste late on – lots of salt air but far from Islay heavy duty. It is drier than most Imperial Stouts, lighter all times but still complex with tons of well defined smoke and coffee notes. So, despite my criticism I enjoyed it – just a tad too dry, a tad too reined in. Small flaws but with a bit extra boom this could have been a classic.

So, good beer that does the concept well and well balanced. Maybe they made it how they did as a bigger beer would have blown out the balance. Who knows? Any which way, very good, but not ten quid a pop good. For that cost I demand a lot from a beer. Nearly worth it, but not quite for me. Hopefully I’ve given you enough info to decide for yourself if you think it would be worth that much to you.

Background: As I always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This one, a collaboration with the excellent Beavertown brewery, is one with a heck of a lot shoved in. Made with oats, muscovado sugar, coffee then aged in three different whisky casks – Islay, Rye and Bourbon it sounds like from the description at the Brewdog Store. This was drunk while listening to the experimental funk, guitar mash up wonder that is Praxis: Transmutation. Not broken that out for a while, still weird and awesome.


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.

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.

kees-barrel-project-06-2016

Kees: Barrel Project 06/2016 (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

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

Nose: Creamy vanilla and very evident bourbon. Very smooth. Caramelised brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur notes. Fudge.

Body: Treacle. Cherries. Vanilla. Soft fudge. Massive bourbon. Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Caramel. Soft alcohol presence with a slight tingle. Brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Toffee. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Smooth bourbon. Chocolate liqueur.

Conclusion: Ok, this is both smooth as sod and bourbon backed to buggery. This is nice is what I am saying. Despite the darker colour it does not lean away from the intense sweetness of the traditional barley wine – though it does express it with more chocolate and fudge as well as the more excepted golden syrup style. Still, very recognisable straight out of the gate.

If I had to dig into what exactly is the major sweetness here I would say it has a lot of caramel, backed by huge amounts of vanilla – it is delivered with the slightest amount of alcohol prickling, but in general it slips down like quality liqueur. Or, considering the range of flavours, more like a blend of liqueurs – aged in a bourbon cask of course, you cannot deny that influence at any point. Seriously this is possibly one of the most clearly and evident defined beers for showing the bourbon ageing’s influence. It has all of the vanilla, that rugged sweet undertone and slight sour mash notes – all so very clear.

It is only because the base beer and the ageing are so in line that the ageing doesn’t overwhelm the base beer. While the base beer has a lot of flavour it is not so epically big to overpower the bourbon ageing, instead it relies on the base caramel and chocolate complementing rather than fighting the bourbon notes.

So, I enjoy this massively – thought not quite enough for it to be one of the rare “my favourites”. It is classy as all hell – smooth and with full flavour – the only thing it does not have is that unique element that pushes it to the very top and makes it an all time great. Still, that is possibly the weakest criticism there is. It is still great.

So, genuinely great, even if not an all time best, but there is no way you will regret this if you are a fan of bourbon and barley wines. Full on bourbon. Full on barley wine. Full on beer.

Background: This is the third of the Kees Barrel project beers I grabbed, and probably the one I was most looking forwards to. You seem to get less barrel aged Barley Wines over here, so this – aged in Barton Bourbon barrels looked like just the thing for me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, it was drunk listening to the every energetic indie pop electronic tunes of Grimes for a bit of extra fun.

Kees: Barrel Project #04/2016 (Imperial Stout: Netherlands: 10.5% ABV)

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

Nose: Toffee. Prickly alcohol. Bourbon. Vanilla. Treacle toffee. Chocolate liqueur. Wet wood. Chalk dash. Mild ginger bread.

Body: Chocolate liqueur and frothy chocolate fondue. Vanilla. Blended whisky. Slight sour cream twist. Prickling alcohol touch, but light and smooth underlying texture. Caramel. Light peppermint. Cocoa.

Finish: Charcoal and charred oak. Milky chocolate. Slight gherkin sour fresh note. Caramel. Cocoa pops in chocolate milk. Light peppermint. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: I found the oatmeal stout from Kees in this Barrel aged project to be a tad too smooth and light – oatmeal stouts should have a bit of weight to them. This as “just” an imperial stout, is still a tad light in its smoothness, but is in a style that suits more, and also, oddly actually has a bit more weight to it.

Flavour wise this really runs straight down the middle of what you would expect for what it is. It’s a barrel aged Imperial Stout and brings cocoa, smooth chocolate and a hint of coffee at the base – the barrel ageing bringing in caramel and vanilla notes. So nothing really unexpected. Warmth actually thickens it up just enough from the slightly light touch when chilled. So all very competently done.

Not having had many grain barrel aged beers, I would say that this comes across as a mix of prickling blended whisky character and bourbon sweetness – which sounds about right from what I would expect single grain to give. So again, it is spot on to expectations – not more – not less. Very smooth, very refined, but doesn’t surprise in the least. Not a bad thing when what you expect is a high quality imperial stout. Doesn’t stand out beyond that though, still can’t complain about it being very well done.

So – basically a very good, treacle toffee, smooth chocolate, vanilla caramel and touches of bitter coffee Imperial Stout. If you want to dig there are slight sour cream notes and slight peppermint hints, but mainly it plays in straight. No regrets, but no soaring new experience.

Just a very good barrel aged imperial stout. Just I say….

Background: Second of the Kees’ Barrel Project beers I have grabbed from Independent Spirit. The first I tried was good, but a bit light – but generally good, so decided to give this one a go. This one has been aged in Girvan single grain barrels – since I had a bit of a Girven experience last year it seemed a nice thing to try. I am as big fan of Imperial Stouts, but try and pace out having them, lest they become commonplace to me.


De Molen: Cuvee #5 (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin grey brown dash for a head.

Nose: Slightly salty, medicinal air. Peat and dried beef. Cocoa dust.

Body: Sweet chilli and hoisin sauce. Brown bread character. Sour cream. Dried beef. Plums. Slight funky feel. Slight smoke and salt. Mature cheese. Cherry. Creamy texture. Green peppers.

Finish: Chilli jam. Charring. Bitter. Salt. Green peppers. Slight mature cheese. Sweet chilli. Smoke.

Conclusion: I was worried that the chilli was going to be dangerous here. My last, and previously only, experience with De Molen chill imperial stouts was at GBBF a few years back and was like drinking molten lava. As in the flavour was great but I couldn’t finish a third as the heat just stuck to your mouth. This, this is pretty sweet chilli styled. I had been steeling myself up for a while before going in for the first sip and the relief when it turned out to be manageable was immense.

This is, as seems to happen a lot with varied De Molen Imperial Stouts, is quite a mixed up set of flavours. The chilli is sweet, the chocolate is bitter, the air medicinal, smokey and peaty, the base kind of fruity and mature cheese touched. Out of all this I noticed that a lot of the more dominant flavours were on the savoury end – with, in an unusual twist, it being the chilli that actually gave the main sweet contrast. You don’t get to say that often.

It is a very interesting beer, I don’t see many Imperial Stouts, or even standard stouts, go heavy and all in on the savoury character – with the big malt used there tends to be at least a slight sweet leaning; Less still do you find that savoury matched with such big Islay flavours – usually big harshness like that is matched by bigger sweetness to contrast. For all it is interesting, you may have guessed that a beer I find interesting and a beer I genuinely enjoy are two different things.

I generally appreciate something a bit different, and I can dig this for that. You really can take your time digging into this, almost always finding new notes – but when the new notes you get are such like green pepper it does not feel like you are rewarded so much for your effort. So, a very layered and interesting savoury fest, but one I bounce off when I try to just sit back and enjoy it.

Background: Ok I grabbed this one as it is a blend of Hel & Verdoemenis and Spanning & Sensatie, aged on Octomore and Bruichladdich whisky barrels The words that grabbed me was the Octomore Barrel ageing. I tried Octomore Hemel & Aarde at a London beer show a few years back and it was glorius. I have since been trying to, if not find that beer again, find a beer that comes close. Hel & Verdoemenis variants have been from good to great for me, never tried Spanning & Sensatie, but looking at the bottle it seems that it was an Imperial Stout made with cocoa, chilli peppers and sea salt. Unusual. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit .

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 21 (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Inch of caramel brown froth. Redish if held to the light

Nose: Dry black liquorice. Blackberry. Sour cream.

Body: Liquorice all-sorts. Blackcurrant. Sour chewy sweets. Sour black cherry. Dry. Slight charred wood and charcoal. Slight funky, yeastie note. Some bitter chocolate. Light toffee. Creamy as it warms, yet still dry late on.

Finish: Black liquorice. Tart black cherry. Black currant. Bitter and lightly charred. Black pepper and pepper seeds. Charcoal dust. Gooseberry and Ribena as it warms.

Conclusion: Erm, well, it does what it says on the tin – well, bottle anyway. Blackcurrant? Somewhat. Liquorice? Very much so. Aaaand, that’s kind of it.

The base Imperial Stout is kept to simple notes – fairly polished simple notes though – predominantly using a charred, bitter back with some hints of bitter chocolate, but not much. The main thing the base gives is a very good texture – it is a nice, kind of oatmeal stout thickness kind of thing – just the kind of feel and grip the beer needs.

The berries come out more with warmth, the liquorice plays with the cold. With the liquorice ascendant it feels very dry, and very, very liquorice filled. I will admit it tastes better than most uses of liquorice in a beer – there is a slight sweetness that makes it feel like all-sorts, and that helps it get not too dry, which is a common problem I find. However it is much better as it warms, the light tart edges becoming a more fruity front face.

It gains a mix of Ribena, tart black cherry and tart fruit gum sours. A more bright mix and far more enjoyable for me, plus a bit more complex. However, while it is more complex than before, it still isn’t very complex in general. It is a good drink, but very similar to already existing blackcurrant and liquorice stouts that aren’t ten quid a bottle. It is well made enough, but not better than those, nor is it particularly innovative or unique. As a standard Brewdog beer, I would give this a thumbs up. As an expensive Abstrakt it doesn’t earn its place with either ingenuity or complexity, Good, but too costly for what it is.

Background: This seems kind of normal for an Abstrakt beer – for those who don’t know Abstrakt is Brewdog’s one off specials, and tend to be pretty out there. This one is an Imperial Stout made with liquorice and blackcurrants. Grabbed straight from Brewdog’s shop, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Abstrakts have started waxing their bottles – eh, it is done kind of ok – wax does get on my nerves these days due to overuse, but at least this one was fairly easy to get off. Think that is everything for this one.

Chimay: Grand Reserve 2016: Viellie En Barriques (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate creamy brown coloured small bubbled head.

Nose: Crushed almonds and peanuts. Funky yeast. Popcorn. Dry. Wholemeal bread. Fig rolls. Sour red wine.

Body: Smooth. Carmalised brown sugar. Fig rolls. Plums. Hazelnut liqueur. Vanilla toffee. Lactose. Fizzy and sherbety. Liquorice. Malt chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Raisins and sultanas. Red wine and Madeira.

Finish: Hazelnut liqueur. Cream. Plums. Vanilla toffee. Lightly woody. Gummed brown paper. Slight sulphur and smoke. Brown sugar. Slight funky yeast. Cloves. Cognac.

Conclusion: Chimay blue by itself is a big, rewarding beer. In fact one I really should have done notes for by now. This is bigger, and possibly even more rewarding. At this level of quality it is hard to say.

At its base it is a very familiar, big dark fruit, brown sugar, creamy and malt led drink with obvious Belgian yeast influences. So, at its base still the same dark heavy delight the blue is.

So, what makes this different? Well the ageing has given it smoothness. You still feel the weight that says this is an alcohol heavy drink, but a lot of the rough edges are worn down. Thankfully not completely – it still has enough charming prickly edges to not be mistaken for the (in my opinion) overly smooth American take on the style.

Ageing in the barrels seem to have given it some unusual characteristics to play with. There is a light oaken sour note mixed with malt drinks below that which remind me of a good quality Flemish red. There is also a definite mix of sour red wine and sweet Madeira styling – the second of which I’m guessing may be from the cognac ageing. Maybe. Any which way it works very well backing up the strong dark fruit flavours. The final odd note is a much larger nutty character – generally it stands well, though it is slightly overly dominant in the aroma which gives a weak first impression to what is an excellent beer.

As you can probably guess from the examining above, I am very impressed by this. Very smooth, yet booming in flavour. The only difficulty in detecting new flavours is managing not to get washed away in the flood of what you have already encountered as there is so much going on.

The only real flaw is the nuttiness which can be too present occasionally. Everything else is an excellent Trappist beer carefully nurtured in oak. Slightly less nuttiness would let the other notes roam more, but that is a minor thing.

Suitably subtle Flemish sour ale notes meets Trappist dark ale meets multiple barrel ageing. Not perfect, as said above, but definitely very well done. Wish I had one to age further.

Background: OK, this is a big one, Chimay Blue at the base, aged in a mix of French oak, new chestnut, American oak and new cognac barrels. Fermented in tank, barrel and bottle. It was an expensive one picked up at Independent Spirit, but you don’t see many barrel aged Trappist beers, and I am a huge fan of Chimay – I think the blue was the first Trappist beer I ever had if I remember rightly. There are very few Trappist breweries, and the beer has to me made or overseen by the Trappist monks themselves – so they don’t tend to play with the more new wave brewing tricks, like this. Drunk while listening to a mix of History of Guns tracks on random.

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