Tag Archive: 10-13% ABV


Kees: Wander Beyond: Where the Wild Blackberries Grow (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red that appears almost black. Thin grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Boozy. Liquorice. Brandy cream. Brambles – blackberries. Burnt brown sugar. Chocolate bourbons and bourbon whiskey.

Body: Boozy. Red cherries. Treacle. Blackberries. Cake sponge. Brown sugar. Brown bread. Earthy bitterness. Liquorice. Burnt caramel.

Finish: Golden syrup. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Brambles. Charred bitter notes. Blueberries.

Conclusion: This is a boozy one, and a big, dark barley wine with it. Thankfully not shunning the beer side to show only the fruit. I approve.

Initial impressions on the nose lead with almost Belgian dubbel like character – lots of burnt brown sugar and liquorice – and even well used liquorice at that, which for people who know me will know I consider a rarity. The liquorice is quite present which usually puts me off, but here worked very well as a savoury offset to the big, boozy sweet main work of the beer.

Boozy seems to be a term used many different ways, so just to clarify. For me boozy is when a beer had that thick, full of spirity but viscous alcohol style in the air and body, but generally without much if any burn. In this case the beer hints at alcohol throughout. The alcohol feels present all around the edges, in the dry middle and the general air around the beer, but never feels raw or rough.

A good showing, but thought I would detail as that boozy character can put off some people. Me, I like it – as long as it isn’t rough I like the reminder that I am drinking something heavy and should take my time with it.

So dark and boozy with a distinct dubbel influence. However it shows some more traditional bright barley wine notes with golden syrup and the like. Very sweet notes, but that dry alcohol note helps keep in check. Pretty smooth as well considering the over 12% abv – but still distinctly boozy and needs that earthy character underneath to match with the liquorice savoury character and bring it down a touch.

A very good beer, but some of you may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned the fruit much yet. Don’t worry. The fruit is very present, it is just not as much in the limelight as the beer itself – a beer that I feel deserves respect in itself.

There is a present sweet and lightly tart fruit character – oddly slightly red fruit touched with cherry notes somehow showing around the brambles and blueberry notes. It adds to the beer, becoming a definite fresh presence which mixes with the beer’s dark weight of flavour and gives it a brighter and fresher note that makes it slip down nicely.

It takes a good beer and makes it great, bringing extra notes throughout without compromising the base beer. I love it. Utterly fantastic.

Background: This is not the first time I have had this beer. It, along with Kees 05 Anniversary Stout are beers I kept buying and then drinking before I get around to doing notes on them. I must grab another Anniversary Stout and finally do notes on that. It is gert lush. Anyway a barley wine from Kees, who work well with the big beers, and this one is made with blackberries. You may have already guessed that from the name. Only had one or two beers from Wander Beyond, not made any huge impact on me yet, good or bad, will have to give them another look some time. Went back to Nine Inch Nails new albums while drinking this (Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts). I do miss the vocals, but as atmospheric backing music they are great.

Kees: Caramel Fudge Stout: Pedro Ximenez Edition (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thin brown rim instead of a head.

Nose: Creamy caramel. Spicy red berries. Strawberry. Dessert wine. Fudge. Cream chocolate.

Body: Creamy chocolate. Thai seven spice. Spicy rum. Sulphur. Peppery. Fudge. Milky chocolate. Fatty butter.

Finish: Thai spice. Cocoa dust. Bourbon biscuits. Peppery. Brown bread. Fatty butter. Rye crackers.

Conclusions: Wow, I always knew that PX barrels carried some weight to them, but the flavours from it utterly pound over the base beer here.

Now, the base beer still shows itself – creamy and thick with lots of weight to it – but the sweeter caramel notes shown by the aroma seem to be overwhelmed by the time you hit the body and only a little of the fudge shows through. So the name of the beer seems slightly misleading in that it has now become a PX delivery system.

It is slightly sulphurous, dry spice and peppery in a rye kind of way into solidly bitter character. Pretty much the opposite of the base beer, and with surprisingly bitter red wine character hanging throughout. I always thought of PX as a very sweet wine, and sweet in its influence. Here there is very recognisable wine influence but it is more savoury, spicy and sulphury in its influence. Nothing is going as I expected with this beer.

The sweetness tries to swell below, but it is always a second string to this bow, to mix my metaphors. I mean 1) This is still good. But 2) This is nothing like what the name “Caramel Fudge Stout” would make you think. Instead you get what is left of the sweetness used to deliver a slightly bitter, spicy red wine character into heavy spice.

So, very spicy, very intense. I prefer a more subtle spice usage, and barrel ageing, but I am still impressed by it.

People into spicy beers will definitely get more from this than I did, and it is perfect for them.

Background: Don’t think I ever did notes on the standard Caramel Fudge Stout, so jumping right in here with the Pedro Ximenez barrel aged version. Done a lot of the barrel aged beers from Kees and they tend to be impressive for the most part, so was hoping for good things from this. This was just before I went to see IDLES live so put on IDLES: Brutalism to get in the mood. Oh, in related news. Fuck the Tories. Fuck Boris Johnson the fucking piece of shit. Also, this beer was bought from Independent Spirit. Who are nice people.


De Molen: Decadent & Dutch (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 10.1% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown, with red hints at the edge. A thin off white head.

Nose: Treacle. Charring. Liquorice allsorts. Fresh waffles. Toffee. Salted caramel. Smooth chocolate.

Body: Very smooth. Thick mouthfeel. Creamy toffee. Liquorice. Chocolate liqueur. Salted caramel. Pancake.

Finish: Toffee liqueur. Salted caramel. Candyfloss. Liquorice touch. Thick American style pancakes. Sugary honey.

Conclusion: Ok, this manages to be super smooth on the tongue, yet present a decently weighty mouthfeel, while still allowing out a gentle showing of alcohol to warn of the danger of over 10% abv. A hard balance to get right, but done well here.

On things that are not balanced though – this is very sweet. Which admittedly is unsurprising considering the inspiration. Having now had freshly made warm stroopwafels in the Netherlands, I can say that it is not as stupidly sickly sweet as those are though. It is still very sweet.

It is a fairly simple mix of flavours – caramel, toffee, chocolate and thick pancakes. All sweet, all done kind of liqueur style, and all done in a salted variant fashion. That is a big sweet beer.

There is a bit of savoury liquorice in there, though that can tend to a sweeter liquorice allsorts style at times. Not my favourite note in beers in general but the savoury touch it brings is very much needed here.

I love it. Very one style – so concentrating on the sweetness that I cannot have it often, so it cannot be a favourite, but a smooth, sweet beer that just warns of the alcohol and is toffee heavy and makes for a wonderful occasional treat.

It is going to be a Marmite love or hate beer for people – but if you can manage a salted sugar shock assault of a beer then this is as well made as you will get of them. After all that is said, hopefully you will know if it will appeal to you.

I’m a simple soul. I love it.

Background: Stroopwafels! De Molen! Despite being bought up by Swinkels Family Brewers, De Molen seems to be still going strong. Then again looking at the other breweries Swinkels own, they mostly seem to have held up. Which is nice. Anyway, I don’t get to try as many Barely Wines as I would like, Stroopwafels beers always intrigue me, even if they don’t always work out and De Molen are reliably great. So of course I grabbed it. This is made with actual syrup waffles according to the ingredients. And sea salt. A shorter list of odd ingredients than I expected, but definitely an odd one. Bought from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to IDLES – Brutalism. Yes I finally grabbed their first album. Seeing them live soon!

Basqueland: Saveur Bière: Coco Chango (Spain: Imperial Porter: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized grey-brown head.

Nose: Bourbon. Liquorice. Bunt toffee. Coconut. Cinder toffee. Toasted teacakes. Marshmallows. Coconut macaroons. Slightly spicy.

Body: Thick. Rye spice. Vanilla toffee. Chocolate fondue. Bitter chocolate cake. Slight caramel. Bourbon. Brown bread. Bitter coffee. Peppery.

Finish: Nutty. Peppery. Bitter cocoa. Crushed walnuts. Slight mint leaves. Spicy. Coconut.

Conclusion: Ok, I can see no mentioned of bourbon ageing on this thing’s bottle, so I presume it has not spent any time in the oak – which is odd ‘cos from the experience drinking it I could swear this has been barrel aged. Any which way it is a good sign for the beer. Whatever caused it, it smooths a thick beer and adds a light sweetness to heavy, rye touched, spicy porter.

So, good start. Let’s dig into the details.

This opens up with a kind of burnt toffee, bonfire night and bourbon aroma. Some coconut notes to tease me, as coconuts in dark beer is totally my jam, and hints of liquorice which were a bit of warning as over used liquorice in dark beers can be my ..erm, anti-jam? Still, a good start. Could do with more awesome coconut, but good start.

The body comes in very differently after that. It is thick, with a wonderfully heavy texture with plenty of rye spice against cream toffee and bitter chocolate cake. It starts out on the sweeter end of the spectrum and gets spicier and more bitter as the beer goes along, but still matched against that creamy sweetness.

The finish is the only bit that doesn’t quite grab me. It is quite savoury and spicy without the contrasting notes needed to make that work. Also not enough coconut, but that is true of the whole beer.

Overall it is lovely – great progression both in aroma to body, and in over time within each element. It is thick, heavy but smooth. Sweet up front, spicy at the end. I love it. There is a slightly weak finish, and it could do with more coconut, but despite that it is still highly recommended.

Background: A new brewery on me, and this one caught my eye as it is an Imperial Porter made with coconut and rye. It is the coconut that really caught me. Long time readers will know that coconut porters and stouts are totally my thing. I love them. One down side of the beer though was it is yet another one with wax to seal the bottle. In this case the wax was very brittle, so thankfully easy to get off the bottle, but it was hard to try and stop the crumbs from falling into the damn beer. I have really gone off wax sealed bottles through overexposure over the years. Maybe one beer a year from each brewery can justify wax, all the others can fuck right off. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. I hadn’t heard of their collaborators, saveur bière, a quick google tells me they are an online beer store. Neat. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with Miracle of Sound’s awesome Metal Up for background drinking music again.

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.

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.

%d bloggers like this: