Tag Archive: 13-16% ABV

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.

Horizon Tokyo Black

Nøgne ø: Mikkeller: Brewdog: Horizon Tokyo Black (Norway: Imperial Stout: 16% ABV)

Visual: Black. Grey dust over it in the centre, and brown bubbles at the edges.

Nose: Real bitter chocolate. Real roasted nuts. Sour dough. Resin. Alcohol touch.

Body: Cherries. Chocolate liquore. Black cherry. Jelly babies. Bitter cocoa. Sugar cane. Orange liquore. Toasted tea cakes.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and milky coffee. Cream. Nuts. Alcohol air.

Conclusion: I was expecting to be mainly making jokes about this being a superfluous review, having already reviewed a different version of this. However, it turns out this is pretty different. This is heavier and darker, with more bitter flavours. It has some of the big sweetness, especially mid body where you get lots of fruit and jelly babies, but top end and tail it is much more raw bitter cocoa and coffee. It still had that noticeable alcohol air, but I think the heavier bitter emphasis helps offset that an makers for a better beer.

Here the sweetness mid body is a treat, not a sugar shock and, while it grow over time, the heavier sweetness doesn’t hit until the end when it is more manageable.

Overall this is a lovely imperial stout, like its Brewdog predecessor it could probably do with some time in a cellar to let the alcohol air lighten a little (I have tested with the Brewdog version, it works – two years in it was smooth as silky and lovely)

So a big gun of a beer, a bit alcohol touched, but apart from that a lovely mix of dark bitter chocolate and coffee, toasted tea cakes, dark fruit and jelly babies. Even better at 25ml it is the perfect size for beer of this strength. Now both versions of this beer I have had are excellent, but I will give the nod to the Nøgne ø version this time.

Which, considering my massive Brewdog bias, is saying something.

Background: Some of you may be thinking “Hold on, haven’t you revived this before?” In which case can I be the first to say … holy shit you have a good memory. I have reviewed the Brewdog version of this, which has slightly different abv This is the Nøgne ø version, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. Anyway, broke this open with a bit of “Rise Against”, because I finally pulled my thumb out and picked up one of their CDs.

Paradox Heaven Hill

Brewdog: Paradox: Heaven Hill (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 15% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown head.

Nose: Raisins and figs. Chocolate. Vanilla. Toffee. Coffee touch. Stewed fruit. Treacle sponge.

Body: Slick chocolate liquore. Roasted nuts. Bitter chocolate. Raisins. Fudge and Toffee Pavlova. Creamy and milky. Condensed cream. Plums.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Frothy creamy coffee after. Vanilla toffee. Big bitterness. Creamy chocolate. Rye dry notes.

Conclusion: I think I’m having a high quality Imperial Stout blasé burnout again, aren’t I? That really does have to be the epitome of first world problems. Whining that you have had so many awesome barrel aged, smooth as Tom Jones dance moves, imperial stouts that you can feel slightly let down when one doesn’t instantly stand out from the crowd of other quality competitors.

Life is pain.

So, you may have guessed, yet another great paradox imperial stout. Smooth as silk with a chocolate liquore like feel and taste. Yep. Frothy bourbon toffee and vanilla notes. Yep. Seriously, you must know the deal by now. And the deal is good. If Noel Edmonds’ banker asks you, then take the deal.

(A little side note – I was in the audience for Deal Or No Deal for two episodes. Noel Edmonds is friendlier than you would think. Also they provide you with free beer so you are drunk and laugh more during the show. The beer was rubbish)

So, yeah, what is new then? Well the main element is that you get more dark fruit. There is very obvious stewed fruit characteristics in the aroma, and while they are slow to reveal, similar in the main body. When you do get them though they are equally distinct.

More expected is the bourbon aged vanilla and toffee I have already mentioned, but yeah, for a bourbon aged beer that is almost expected by now. The thing is, for all I am being blasé, this is probably one of the best Paradoxes I’ve had. By far not the most complex, but everything works together so well. Dark fruit, chocolate, and smooth, they all complement each other.

So a wonderfully done Imperial Stout. Even as one of the best Paradoxes however it still barely touches the greats in its style. Then again – first world problems.

This is a wondrously rich Imperial Stout. Well worth it.

Background: Yet another Paradox oak aged beer, still at the higher 15% version. This one aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels – the first Bourbon aged Paradox…i think. There have been a hell of a lot of them by now so I may have missed one. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was drunk while listening to some 4bitten, been a while since I broke their album out


8 Wired: Bumaye (New Zealand: Imperial Stout: 16% ABV)

Visual: Black. Rim of suds.

Nose: Raisins. Figs. Fruity red wine. Brown sugar. Hint of smoke. Dates. Fruitcake. Coconut. Treacle. Nougat.

Body: Syrup and treacle. Charring. Liquore texture. Bitter chocolate. Coffee notes. Nougat. Spiced fruit notes. Cherries. Truffles. Red grapes. Cinder toffee.

Finish: Very bitter chocolate. Glacier cherries. Shortbread. Coffee. Bitter red wine. Brown sugar.

Conclusion: So it’s that time again, insanely high abv, barrel aged Imperial Stouts. Ok, I’ve got a lot to say on this one, so give me a moment to sit down and compose my thoughts. Though mainly the sit down part. My alcohol tolerance has gone with age.

This things tastes like those cherry liquore filled bitter chocolate sweets you can get. Very harsh at first, but richly rewarding. The massive bitter chocolate even manages to push the pinot noir influence into second place for influences on the beer and that is saying something. Not to say that the barrel ageing isn’t influential, especially in the aroma, it just isn’t the number one influence.

Speaking of the aroma…daaamn.. seriously if anyone can make a beer that tastes like this smells then I will love them for at least five minutes. Maybe even six. There are dark fruits, coconut, red wine, nougat. It is like someone took all my favourite Imperial Stout elements and put it in one haze floating over the beer.

The body just can’t live up to that. Sorry, it just canna. It is great though, nougat through chocolate then down into a finish of red wine…through chocolate. I did mention chocolate has a big influence right? On the other hand there are so many elements that make it almost triflesque with the fruit and wine rising up, but a trifle layered in chocolate fondue. That analogy also just about fits with the spiced side of the fruit you get. Presumably someone had soaked the fruit for the trifle in rum, because, why wouldn’t you?

It is spicy, dark, refined and heavy. Great, even if not quite what the aroma promised. When you accept what it is you find something not entirely unlike an alcoholic Turkish delight and lovely at that. Albeit with much more bitter chocolate.

I very much enjoyed this, the closest comparison I can find is the 666 version of hel and verdoemenis, though I would say this is the sweeter take. This happily manages to stand alone on its own two feet, maybe not the best, but as the unique thing it is it manages to make itself the best in a crowd of one.

I’m glad I’m sitting down. Wow that was good beer.

Background: 8 Wired have been my favourite brewery from NZ for a while now, so when I got the chance to get my hands on this Pinot Noir aged Imperial Stout, well of course I did.

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