Tag Archive: 10-13% ABV


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.

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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.

Northern Monk: Evil Twin: Even More Death (England: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive brown creamy head.

Nose: Coconut macaroons. Milky chocolate. Chocolate toffee. Smooth. Creamy.

Body: Creamy. Coconut. Chocolate ice cream. Brown bread. Cocoa dust. Chocolate cake. Slight sour dough.

Finish: Chocolate ice cream. Coconut. Bitter cocoa and chocolate cake. Moderate bitterness.

Conclusion: Flavour wise this is fairly straightforward, smooth and very dessert and especially chocolate influenced. There you go – the short version.

Basically, 90% of this is chocolate bing expressed in various different ways. 5% of it is coconut, wonderful, lovely coconut. I love coconut in beer in case you hadn’t noticed. The other 5% is a nice set of general rounding notes.

The solid core of that is chocolate cake, quite basically done – dusted with cocoa but without any icing or cream, mainly just the sponge. Oddly, despite this dryness there are creamy notes to the beer, though mainly in the aroma and the early part of a sip. Those creamy notes soon move out of the way for heavier, drier chocolate sponge notes though. Around the edges there are sweeter chocolate ice cream notes – though I may be slightly influenced in how I view it as it is bloody nippy at the moment, so ice and the like may be on my brain.

The coconut matches that drier character -sweeter coconut macaroons up front, but then into drier coconut flakes in the middle. For such a high abv beer it does seem very restrained in how it uses its sweetness; The bitter cocoa has much more free rein, using the softer, sweeter notes mainly to keep it from becoming too harsh.

It is good, but there isn’t a huge amount of variety to it – what is interesting and fun in the first sip seems slightly staid by the time you get the same notes at the end. A solid tasty beer, but Even More Jesus does it better. Though frankly, Even More Jesus is amazing so that is comparatively mild criticism.

Background: Even more Jesus is one of my favourite Imperial Stouts of all time. Northern Monk have been skyrocketing up my respected brewery list , and their collaborations have been awesome. This, a collaboration, involving Northern Monk to make a mix of their Death imperial stout, and Even More Jesus. Well, there is no way I could not try it, is there? So, it is a 12% abv Imperial Stout made with coca nibs, toasted coconut and vanilla pods. Drank this during an utter flurry of snow outside, so was happy to be sitting in with something heavy, dark and boozy. Music wise and went simple and back to my youth with a mix of Madness tunes again for some simple upbeat fun with a few heavier themed tunes in-between.

De Molen: Said & Done – Bowmore Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Viscous. Thin brown head.

Nose: Salted caramel. Sour black cherry. Walnut liqueur. Toffee liqueur. Creamy chocolate. Walnut coffee cake. Praline. Mildly vinous. Sour red grapes.

Body: Viscous. Oily smoke. Salted caramel. Medicinal notes. Bitter chocolate cake. Sour black-cherry hints. Charring. More caramel as it warms.

Finish: Toast. Charring. Bitter. Cocoa touches. Walnuts. Bitter chocolate cake. Medicinal. Gunpowder tea. Burnt moss. Choc orange. Caramel. Smoke.

Conclusion:What the fuuuuuucck even is this? It is…it is…erm. Ok, give me a moment. OK, the aroma sells it as a mix of imperial stout and a good chunk of the caramel influence. There is very thick caramel, here in a salted caramel way, which I presume is the influence of the Islay ageing adding the salt. Next to that is a lot of liqueur notes – from toffee, to a nutty style which again is showing the special ingredients through strongly. It is a very thick aroma, very sweet and very complex. The thing that surprised me most is that for a sour stout, this seemed to lean more towards the standard imperial stout in these first impressions.

The body is, well it is half that – the back half of the beer is what you would expect from the aroma. The front half is nothing at all fucking like that. Up front it is a thick oily smoke thing, medicinal notes and charring kicking behind that. The Islay barrel ageing booms, holding onto the front half until it finally lets go so the caramel and nutty notes can come back. It is a heck of a shock to the system after the aroma pulls you in by whispering sweet nothings.

Then, in the finish it pulls another trick. Starting as a sweet sheen before sinking into medicinal notes, smoke, gunpowder tea and in general full on Islay times again. This level of harsh notes is an easy look to do badly, and at times this teeters on the edge of being too harsh, but generally works very well.

On the down side, the sour stout is nearly completely lost in the mix. There are hints of sour black-cherry at times, but generally it is either full of sweet liqueur notes, or the heavy Islay character. When the sour stout does show up that sour black cherry does work as a nice step between two sides, so I wish it was just a touch more present – but I guess you can’t have everything.

As is it is really good, if occasionally a tad overly harsh touched. A touch more of the sour stout and it would have been exceptional. Ah well, still a great and strange beer mash up.

Background: Ok, this is a … Hold on while I look it up … sour stout made with walnut extract, caramel and salt, then barrel aged in a Bowmore whisky cask. So fuck yes I was buying this one, that is incredible. Well in theory anyway, had to wait to see if it held up in practice. Anyway, another on grabbed from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Not much else to add. I should stop playing Dark Souls 3 before my eyes bleed but that is neither here nor there for this beer. I’d got the new Louise Distras EP -Street Revolution recently, so put it on while drinking. Good first impressions so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dugges: Banana Toffee Chocolate Imperial Stout (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin creamy brown dash of a head.

Nose: Thick banoffee pie. Very ripe banana. Creamy chocolate to chocolate fondue. Boozy. Oily chocolate. Thick caramel. Praline. Nuts.

Body: Banana liqueur. Banana ice cream syrup. Banoffee pie. Pecan pie. Praline. Nutty oiliness. Slight brown bread. Bitter cocoa backing.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Sweet chocolate. Banoffee pie. Ripe banana. Walnuts. Pecan pie. Bitter coca. Brown bread.

Conclusion: Ok, they missed a trick in not calling this “Banoffee Pie Imperial Stout”. Because this is a god damn huge banoffee pie imperial stout. Maybe the dessert isn’t as well known in Sweden? I have no idea.

Any which way this is basically a mix of thick overripe banana to banana syrup laden over chewy toffee to caramel backed by a moderately bitter cocoa core with some sweet chocolate notes. So, as mentioned, basically banoffee pie in a glass.

There is a tad more subtlety than you would expect from a beer of this type. There is a nutty oiliness and oily chocolate notes, into pecan pie notes. In fact it seems to like sweeter nut notes in general to round out the character.

As time goes on it seems that some of the more sickly sweet notes are lost -which is probably for the best, even though I do miss them – If they had stayed around I would probably have found them wearing over time. Instead bitter cocoa notes and some solid brown bread character come out creating a heavy middle, with the sweeter notes still dancing around the edges.

Definitely not an imperial stout that is for everyone. It very heavily leans on the dessert beer style, which I will admit is a style that can be over exposed at times. However I can’t blame this beer for the rest of the beer scene’s sins, and this is one of the better dessert style stouts – it sells the idea so very well, yet has subtleties beyond that idea.

After much arguing with myself I have decided that this doesn’t quite earn the “My Favourites” tag. Just. It is still really good and fans of sweeter imperial stouts should definitely grab it as soon as they can.

Background: This is the second time I’ve had this, first time I enjoyed it so much I decided I had to do notes on it. So, yeah spoiler warning. These notes are going to be positive. Then again I put this background at the bottom, so shouldn’t be spoiling anything if you are reading sequentially. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit this is is an Imperial Stout made with cacao, vanilla, coconut, rye and oats. Oh, and natural flavours which I resume account for the banana. Wanted something heavy and odd to go with this musically so broke out Marie Davidson – perte d’identite.

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