Tag Archive: 13-16% ABV


Brewdog: Paradox Islay (2016) (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15%)

Visual: Black. Brown froth edge, and light brown dusting across the still main body.

Nose: Iodine. Wet rocks. Black coffee. Bitter cocoa. Light salt. Brown bread rolls.

Body: Charred oak. Medicinal dryness. Bitter chocolate. Dry character. Riesen chocolate chews. Toffee. Resinous middle.

Finish: Charred oak. Drying. Bready. Popcorn. Medicinal. Bitter cocoa. Nettles. Slightly resinous. Chocolate toffee. Liquorice. Treacle. Smoke.

Conclusion: This is drier than I expected. I don’t know if it is due to the medicinal barrel ageing, or if they have changed the recipe, but this is very different from the usual intensely sweet and frothy Paradox we have generally seen since the jump to 15% abv.

It still has the chocolate and coffee notes, but then now lean more towards the bitter side rather than the creamy or sweet interpretations – less booming and less boozy, which I would imagine would be welcome for some. For me it seems slightly weird, slightly more restrained the base beer feels closer to the old 10% abv Paradox style from many a year gone by.

With a smaller base it instead become all very big in the medicinal influence, a reasonable bitter chocolate kick, but it definitely feels like it is letting more of the oak show. Also oddly it is slightly more resinous alongside that Islay character. Now, I loved the 2015 version of this as I felt it provided the perfect balancing of the base stout’s character and the Islay punch. This leans too much towards the Islay for me and because of that a lot of the complexity of the base beer seems to have got lost beneath it.

It doesn’t make it a bad beer as I often say, but it does mean that is basically exactly what you would expect from this kind of barrel ageing, but not really more than that. It is still fine, but for me the Islay ageing always works better with a bigger character to complement it, otherwise they will end up the same as every other Islay aged stout.

It is still a competent beer and does show the barrel ageing well, but hasn’t anything really on top of that. Not disappointing if that is all you want, but it doesn’t stand out.

Background: Back in 2015 I tried on tap a 13.8% ABV Paradox Islay and it was amazing, at 15%, and bottled I’m guessing this is a bit of a different recipe, and probably aged in a different Islay Distilleries cask – so a great excuse to do another set of notes then 🙂 Grabbed directly from the Brewdog online store along with a few other beers, this was drunk while listening to Garbage: Strange Little Birds. Not quite as exceptional as their first two albums, but still a great one burst of alt-rock whateverthehecktheyare. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Brewdog Vs Ballast Point Ship Wreck

Brewdog Vs Ballast Point: Ship Wreck (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 13.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear dark gold with a moderate off white head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Brie. Smoke and stewed beef. Massive. Blue cheese. Thick. Peat. Lightly bready.

Body: Sweet. Red and white grapes. Thick. Light medicinal note – drying iodine. Apricot. Smoke. Fruit syrup. Seaweed wraps. Slight soft cheese. Mead. Custard. Gingerbread. Light strawberry.

Finish: Dried apricot. Fruit syrup. Dried beef slices. Light salt. Seaweed wraps. Pear drops. Medicinal. Dried fruit sugars. Light charred oak.

Conclusion: This definitely feels like it is calling to the older, early, beer recipes – I have no idea if that is the intent or not, but it is definitely called to mind on drinking. It is very big and sweet and with the Islay influence it ends up tasting like smoked mead. If there is such a thing. Smoked honey? Sounds possible. May exist for all I know.

Anyway, let’s back up a bit – there is a huge aroma on this thing. I could appreciate it even as I struggled to turn the fizzing fountain bottle into a glass to catch it’s cascading contents. When I could take a moment, after cleaning up, to appreciate it I found it evident at great distance from the glass and full bodied. It brings a mass of soft and blue cheese notes mixed with peat and smoke. This is both 1) awesome and 2) Slightly disappointing when you find that the blue cheese notes are mostly absent from the body.

The body instead mixed new wave and traditional styles with ease. There is mead stylings and tons of grapes for a fruity sweet as hell mix of traditional alcohol styles that meet the drying, medicinal, smoke and seaweed character from the Islay barrel ageing of the new wave style. It turns the nigh sickly sweet body into a surprisingly drying overall beer. As time goes on more and more comes out – strawberry, hints of the cheese, gingerbread. I am not sure if they are so much there, as it is my body trying to deal with the already existing alcohol and mix of big sugary flavours. Any which way it hits big with a complex and very enjoyable range.

Overall, a very big beer, very Islay dry and medicinal, yet very sweet and fruit filled, syrupy set of notes. It is extremely good. Every moment something new comes out to be experienced. Basically, this is a smoke, Islay aged, mead beer with grape influence. There is little else like this and it is very worth grabbing.

Background: Or, Brewdog Vs Blank as the label puts it. Since doing this collaboration Ballast Point was bought up by a macro brewer so Brewdog blanked their name out. A tad petty, but oh well. Anyway this ale is made with *deep breath* Sal De Gusano, Smoked agave syrup and smoked malts, and aged it a mix of Islay and Speyside whisky barrels. I may have had to google a few of those words to find out what they were. Normally Brewdog beers are not volatile on open so this caught me out as it frothed up rapidly, causing me to lose a small amount of the bottle as I tried to get it into the glass. Be warned. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was bought direct from the Brewdog shop and drunk chilled on a very warm night.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB20

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB20 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 14.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown, though reddened if held to the light. Loose fizzy off white bubbled head that has a short lifespan.

Nose: Milky coffee. Coffee cream. Coffee beans. Light bourbon. Roasted character. Rum.

Body: Milky coffee. Toffee liqueur. Liqueur soaked cake sponge. Chocolate liqueur. Caramel. Spicy rum, Condensed cream.

Finish: Coffee liqueur. Condensed cream. Light roasted character. Port and mulled wine. Milky coffee. Cake sponge. Bitter chocolate. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: Ok, I could have saved a lot of effort in writing the notes above if I had just written “Tiramisu” for half the notes. However, since the beer is described as a tribute to tiramisu I kind of felt like that would be cheating.

This opens up with pretty much all the coffee – sweet, roasted, whole beans, creamy, it just has layers of coffee aroma wafting out of the glass. The body that follows is what really makes this hit peak tiramisu – lots of cream and liqueur soaked sponge notes now mix with the coffee.

It is interesting to compare this to the Ilkley/Brewdog Westwood Stout which also had a very tiramisu style character This is a darker beer, heavier, with lots of port, red wine and cherries making for a heady heavy base for the tiramisu to work from, more spirit and wine dominated.

By comparison the Ilkley white stout is comparatively more easy drinking,if only comparatively, smoother and more of the white chocolate notes. This is instead one of the dark decadent beers. It feels like it has more of a beer character to back up the tiramisu concept. Feels somewhat like a ramped up ESB to English Strong Ale fruity beer style. This never forgets that it is a beer at its base – albeit, at this strength, a strongly spirit influenced one.

So, unless the base concept wildly disagrees with you – say that you don’t like tiramisu, or you don’t like strong spirity beers, if you don’t like the idea of a tiramisu beer – if none of these apply, then this is a lovely dessert style beer for you.

Background: This was designed to be inspired by the Tiramisu dessert – it is a mix of rum aged Paradox Imperial Stout and milk Barley Wine made with oats and coffee beans. As of such I had pretty much no idea which beer style to shove it under. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Drunk while listening to more of The Algorithm: Brute Force.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB 19

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 19 (Scotland: Saison: 13.1% ABV)

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

Nose: Vinous. Rum soaked raisins. Brandy cream. Creamy. Honey snaps. Dry white wine. Very mild coffee.

Body: Very smooth. Sponge cake. Raisins and figs. Slightly dry mouthfeel. Dry white wine. Cherries. Slight noticable alcohol character. Malt chocolate. Vanilla.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Dry alcohol air. Sultanas. Tart white grapes and dry white wine.

Conclusion: A very big beer this one, feeling like the offspring of a brewed up ESB and a dry white wine. An unexpected pairing to say the least, but it could be an interesting one, though frankly the declared beer style – the saison – barely gets a look in.

The ESB side of the family brings raisins, brandy cream, figs and chocolate. Robust, heavy and hearty notes. Beer that puts hairs on your chest. The white wine like side is tart and drying – white grapes filling out the air along with a slight alcohol air that comes behind it. They create odd sensations in their combination. Despite the heavy spirit touched character the body feels dry, which creates a cake sponge like feel where the two mix. Slight dry but sweet at the same time.

It aims for the almost spirit touched strong beer style that is almost a genre in itself – though it manages to avoid the worse excesses of harshness and rough as a badger’s arse character that some of the badly brewed beers out there have. The wine like characteristics are the most interesting, but are also when the most obvious alcohol elements come out to play.

It is nicely complex, but lacks the panache or utter decadence of the top end of these kind of beers. Maybe in a few bottle years it will integrate better. In fact I would bet on it. However right now it feels a bit young. Nice, but young. There is a lot to it, but I think it needs a while to let the heavy alcohol out of its system

Background: Brewdog call this a mix of two saisons, one black – one red, that have then beer aged in rum barrels. At a guess that would be Everyday Anarchy and Black Jacques then. Neither of them were massively like what I would call a saison, but the style is a varied one, and I tend to go with the Brewers choice when listing style, unless it is blatantly wrong. So, saison it is. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while waiting for Windows 10 to update and hoping it did not break the start menu again. Windows 10 is terrible is what I am saying. Thankfully it is not on my main machine. Also was listening to Sigh: Gallows Gallery – a very odd metal album – very experimental – Best description would be almost vaudeville metal, but that may be just my odd associations.

Storm Imperial Sssouuurrrrr Flanders Red Ale

Storm: Imperial Sssouuurrrrr Flanders Red Ale (Canada: Sour Red: 14% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark brown. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Cider apples. Gum of brown envelopers and vinegar.

Body: Sour. Vinegar. Envelope gum. Bitter charred core. Sour cherry and cherry sweets.

Finish: Gummy. Dry and dusty. Cider apples. Tart. Sour black cherry. Charred oak.

Conclusion: Ok, what would happen if someone attempted to replicate Rodenbach Grand Cru, but at 14% ABV? Would that ever be a good idea, could they even manage a close approximation?

Well, it does have some similar qualities, such as that gummy brown paper and almost vinegar notes that makes Rodenbach so odd – but the brewed up nature of this seems to make it feel a lot more charred at the core which overpowers a lot of the range of a good sour brown.

It isn’t a bad beer, but since that interesting holographic style shimmering flavour of a good sour ends up getting lost in the strength you end up with a lot more noticeable rough edges and a lot less pay off.

So, a very gummy beer, which is odd considering the mainly dry mouthfeel, but in the finish it is the gumminess that sticks around the longest. Not really a good or bad thing, just odd. Probably the most appetising characteristic if the beer is a slight cider apple characteristic that works well with the sourness. That fresh apple backing is a pretty good base to work form, and late on develops out to add sour black cherry – hints of where it could be going well, but it needs more. It has the right idea, but pushes itself too far into elements that don’t work by concentrating on the strength, and letting the better elements get lost in the mix.

Ah well.

Background: Hmm, looking online I can find an Imperial Flanders Red, but not with the oddly named sour that it was listed as on the menu. The one I found was 11% rather than 14%, could be a different batch of the same beer. I don’t know. Due to the high abv the kind people in the Alibi Room allowed me to grab a small measure to try. I just had to try it, an insane high abv sour, ok, let’s give that a shot.

De Molen Bommen & Granaten PX Barrel Aged

De Molen: Bommen & Granaten PX Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 15.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red. An inch of creamy browned head. Carbonated body.

Nose: Red grapes. Malt drinks. Cherryaid. Sake (Nihonshuu). Raisins.

Body: Big but clean bitterness. Light greenery. Spiced red grapes. Pilsner clean hop feel. Overripe banana. Malt biscuits. Frothy mouthfeel. Malt drinks. Raisins. Cherryaid. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Sake. Clean bitterness. Pilsner dry feel. Light banana notes. Digestives. Spiced red grapes.

Conclusion: This is a very nicely attenuated barley wine. At over 15% I was expecting something insanely sweet – but this is dry and cleanly bitter. At times the clean character actually reminds me of noble hopped pilsners, but done barley wine style. if that makes any sense at all.

The pilsner feel is much more dominant when it is cool, as it warms up the fruit elements start tuning up the band, but it still uses the dryness there as a base. There is good use made of the raisin, cherry and spicy grapes flavours. With the PX barrel aging it seems to work brilliantly to mix with that fruitiness, while still letting that unusual clean easy drinking barley wine base do its thing.

Even then, with the fruit at full power, there is that clean bitterness and soft banana notes and the like that make me think of a pils. I am genuinely impressed that they managed to bring elements together from two such disparate styles. Though, and this is a minor flaw, over time the clean bitterness does alter – becoming more clingy with the texture. It is a common issue with high bitterness strong beers. That extra grip that makes them so awesome can cause the bitterness to stick and get wearing. At 330ml it manages not to wear out its welcome, but it is a notable element.

This is, for the most part, so very clean and so very fruity – it reminds of Magnum style single hopped beers in the bitterness and the cleaner flavours. The PX barrel doesn’t come in too heavy, but enough to make it worthwhile. Too many beers vanish under the barrel ageing. Overall a beer of balance, clean flavours and hop impact. A more restrained, easy drinking and yet complex barley wine than I have seen for a long time. very nice.

Background: Wax on bottles. I used to be a fan, as it made a beer feel a bit special, but it is getting overdone. Then again, for once this one was easy to open despite the wax. Bought on a sweltering day, the wax was damn near melting off onto everything near it by the time I got it home. It was pretty much early morning by the time I drank this – my sleep patterns are fucked. Drunk while listening to some Crossfaith and some B. Dolan – a tad eclectic mix I know. De Molen have been exceptional so far, so a PX barrel aged barley wine sounded awesome. grabbed for the ever reliable Independent Spirit.

Brewdog Paradox Compass Box

Brewdog: Paradox: Compass Box (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Froths up brown, but soon descends to a brown dash over the body.

Nose: Thick toffee. Boozy caramel and salted caramel. Coconut. Fresh custard doughnuts. Shaken bag of liquorice allsorts.

Body: Smooth bitter chocolate. Toasted teacakes. Cadburys’ fudge fingers. Coffee. Boozy caramel. Bourbon. Froths up easily.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Touch of Turkish delight. Toasted teacakes and butter.

Conclusion: Should I praise a beer for having an awesome aroma, or get shirty as it fronts what the body can’t back up? I guess it depends on how my day has gone so far. So, not too bad today. You get the cheery version of the pretentious beer blogger today!

The aroma is thick and boozy, full on caramel in a salted style, backed by my favourite ever Imperial Stout note – coconut! If I could have a beer that was the very essence of its aroma, then I want this beer!

Oddly, despite my comments, the body provides much of the same – so why did I give it shit earlier on? Probably the lack of coconut in the body. Seriously I love coconut notes in my imperial stouts. It’s my thing. There is also a lovely toasted tea cake character, and it still pushes the sweet notes large. Normally I find overly sweet beers a tad one note, but here the oak seems to have done something a tad unusual. Instead of the expected whisky notes, it seems slightly closer to sour bourbon – a subtle hint, but combined with the toasted tea cake it balances the sweetness very well. Finally the finish emphasises more bitter notes, underlying the whole experience.

So, yeah, my disagreement with the body basically comes down to the lack of coconut. You can’t promise me coconut and then snatch it away!

So how is it? Well, despite the well done offset notes it still is very heavily on the sweet side. Also it lacks coconut and I hold grudges. It is however a very good imperial stout. The compass box doesn’t seem to have brought quite the same complexity here that they do in their blended malt whiskies – but I’m not complaining at what they did bring.

While I am spoiled in high quality barrel aged imperial stouts, insanely spoiled, I still very much enjoyed this. Not so stand out to be one of the top in the world, but it has no real flaws to call out. Ok no flaws that aren’t coconut related.

Background: Yet another of Brewdog’s whisky aged imperial stouts. I’m not quite sure how this one works. Compass Box do blended malts – so take malt from many different barrels and mix them together. How does that work with barrel aged beer? Do they age some in each different cask? Or is there a final cask the whisky is married in and is this used for ageing? I am unsure. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer.

Paradox Islay

Brewdog: Paradox Islay (2015 Edition) (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 13.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Caramel coloured dash for a head.

Nose: Smoke. Iodine. Salt. Tar. Brown sugar. Toasted tea cakes. Fresh cooked brown bread.

Body: Thick. Liquorice. Tar. Molasses. Salty rocks. Peat. Toffee and fudge. Sweet chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Salt. Brown bread. Bitter chocolate. Medicinal character. Coconut.

Conclusion: Oh fuck yes. Ok, for ninety percent of the people reading this, you have probably worked out where I stand on this. Some of you may even feel you don’t have to read any further. That is ok. I may have kind of summed it up. for everyone else, let’s go.

The trick with Islay ageing, I find anyway, is making sure it doesn’t overwhelm the base beer. So, I initially found it odd that at 13.8% this is slightly lower abv than most of the Paradox range these days. Despite that the base beer still manages to rock the casbah in a big way.

There is sweet chocolate liqueur into molasses level flavour along with big toffee. This is an important thing to mentioned, as it is a miracle that it could kick hard enough to be tasted beyond the tarry, medicinal beast that is the Islay influence.

If you like the heavier end of Islay then it is all here, from the big aroma to the medicinal finish. If you like big imperial stouts, then it is all here, from the fresh bready opening to the bitter chocolate end.

So, basically if you like big beers, it is all here. Thick, big, yet somehow balanced. One of the best Paradoxes Brewdog have turned out, and one of the best Islay aged beers ever.

That is saying a hell of a lot, no?

Background; I was worried I had missed this one, I had tried a sip of this a few weeks ago, before I realised that it looked like this may be a keg only release. So I made sure to run back and try it properly. The Paradox range is Brewdog’s Imperial Stout aged in an almost silly range of varied casks over the years – it started at 10%, is now 15%, yet this release comes in at an unusual 13.8% – not sure why. Drunk at Brewdog Bristol – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Wild Beer Co Hanging Bat Blackfriars Nanban Yadōkai

Wild Beer Co: Hanging Bat: Blackfriars: Nanban: Yadōkai (England: Speciality Grain Saison: 13% ABV)

Visual: Clear still apple juice.

Nose: Apple juice. Alcoholic raspberry trifle. Sake. Shaken up bag of liquorice allsorts. Light toffee. Fresh apples.

Body: Apple juice. Sake(Nihonshu). Shoochuu. Earthy base. Grapes. Vanilla. Toffee. Coriander and carrot. Bright raspberry pavlova. Apricot. Thick. White chocolate. Rye. Pancakes.

Finish: Banana. Shoochuu. Liquorice. Apple. Carrot. Raspberry spirit. Seaweed wrap. Lemon. Dry white wine. Dried apricot. Pepper.

Conclusions: Oh my, very interesting indeed. I’ve had issues with high abv saisons before (yes, best I have heard this is, at its base a saison). I have found them either too light, or the inverse, too alcohol touched. This beer is weird as fuck, but awesome.

This has very little of your traditional saison character – a slight rustic base and coriander notes, but the strength of it gives a far more viscous feel. While sake is listed as the inspiration for the beer, and that is very true for the flavours, I find the viscous feel puts me much more in mind of another Japanese spirit – Shoochuu.

It all works though – you get good quality sake flavours from both dry and fruity sakes. It many ways I can see calls to the sake I tried at the Sake Jam hotel in Kyoto, and that was fine quality stuff.

That isn’t the main element though – what you have lying under that is a very Wild Beer co apple cider calling to styled beer, matched with an almost liquorice allsorts and earthy base, bringing in contrasting vanilla and toffee sweetness with the higher abv.

The thickness really makes it hang together, the extra weight and Shoochuu style does give it a rough edge at times but, for me, I will happily take extra rough edges for extra complexity – and sometimes I even prefer a rough edged over polished charm as long as it can justify it.

So what do we end up with? A remarkable beer, to say the least, with tons of layers to examine. There is definite umami, with seaweed wrap notes showing up in the finish, plenty of nihonsu and shoochuu flavours of all kinds over a sweet and yet somewhat saison based beer – it is utterly different to most beers out there.

It’s abv makes it one to share, but its character in not dull even by the end of a shared bottle, if it was lower abv I could keep examine its intricacies for ages. If you can, try it, this beer is worth it.

Background: Ok where to start? Readers of my blog probably know Wild Beer co by know. Hanging Bat is a very new brew group I don’t know much about. Nanban is the masterchef winner Tim Anderson, and Blackfriars is a restaurant … I think. When I first saw “nanban” I thought it translated as “what number?” which seemed an odd choice, but then I realised there may be other readings as I was only seeing the hiragana, not the kanji. A quick search revealed that it can translate as “southern barbarian” which was the term for the first arriving Europeans, which makes more sense. Yadōkai was a term for a set of mischievous monks – a quick google indicates there is quite an interesting background to this, which I may have to look into later. The beer is made with flaked rice, saison yeast, sea buckthorn, yuzu juice, and two types of seaweed. Whew. This was shared with friends as we chatted and discussed the flavours. Bought at Independent Spirit, if you hadn’t guessed.

Buxton Double Axe
Buxton: Double Axe (England: IIPA: 13.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot to browned. Large off white head made of small froth bubbles. Some sediment in the glass.

Nose: Very resinous. Heather. Bitter hops. Brown bread. Shortbread. Dried apricot and pineapple.

Body: Very bitter. Golden syrup cake. Resin and hop oils. Pineapple. Apricot, and peach syrup. Slight alcohol air at the back of the throat. Lemon cakes. Kumquat.

Finish: Lots of bitterness. Buttery shortbread. Hop oils and resin. Grapefruit. Lemon cakes. Brown bread. Light spirit air.

Conclusion: I was given good advice on this one, chill it down, but let it warm a touch before drinking. It is true, there is a syrupy alcohol feel when it is chilled down, but just a small raise in temperature reins it in and lets the beer really show itself. Thanks for the heads up to the guys at Independent Spirit.

This feels like an even higher abv take on “I hardcore you“, it uses a similar intense bitterness and resinous character against a mass of sweet fruit hop flavours that boom mid body. The contrast is both intense and enjoyable, though the alcohol does come in from the back of the throat to the finish just a bit too high, and it does give a spirity air.

The fruit is really pushed mid body, emphasising the apricot and lemon cake, it saves the harsher elements for the way out. There in the finish you get the pleasurepain of very bitter notes, more an experience than discernable individual flavours.

So, a very fresh fruity mix of apricot and peach for sweetness, then pineapple and grapefruit for sharpness. Not the most original mix, but there is a reason it is a classic. The resin and hops are really fresh, and really intense – I imagine it will reduce with time, but here and now it is massive. It isn’t used as efficiently as, say “Enjoy By IPA“, but this wasn’t designed with that goal in mind.

However, as you may have noticed, I am describing this beer in relation to two of my favourite IIPAs. So is it as good as those two? Just below actually, but still pretty darn good. It’s just a touch too alcohol touched, but does give great intensity in exchange for that. It feels raw, which does give it charm, but the alcohol touch that comes with that feels unnecessary. Despite that minor flaw it is well worth a bottle.

Background: Double Axe Handle is the name of an aerial wrestling move. Not sure why the name brought that to mind, but it did. This was literally pressed into my hands by the guys at Independent Spirit. Apparently it is quite a hard one to find, therefore it was my duty to buy and review it. Good sales technique, and as you see, it worked. This is pretty damn fresh. Bottled on 19/08/2014 and drunk 01/09/2014. I think that is fresher than the Enjoy By IPA I had. Drunk while listening to the Pottymouth album by Bratmobile.

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