Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


Arcadia Group: Vicious But Delicious – Seriously Hot Sauce Co: Explosive Chilli Beer (England: Spice: 3%)

Visual: Clear, light caramel brown. Thin dash of a head.

Nose: Crushed chilli seeds. Habanero. Watery. Dried green chilli.

Body: Watery front. Chilli seed. Quick growing heat. Meaty chilli notes. Mango chutney. Brown sugar touch.

Finish: Chilli powder. Green chilli. Warm. Slight raspberry yogurt. Barbecue sauce. Slight charring.

Conclusion: This is kind of watery, very light textured and tastes like chilli powder has just been dumped straight into it. Not a good start.

If you pay attention there are hints of better defined chilli notes in there – a meaty, smokey note is hinted at mid body – some crushed green chilli notes in the finish. Generally however, you just get too much bloody chilli powder.

Oddly, despite the fact that this is the “explosive”, highest heat rating of the four beer set, this seems to top out at annoyingly warm rather than any real intensity. Before anyone thinks this is silly macho chilli heat dick waving, I would like to point out I am an utter chilli wimp. I like all the flavour, but little of the heat. So, while this may be hotter than some people like, I am fairly confident it is not the endorphin rush experience that I hear hardcore chilli heads enjoy when they get something seriously hot.

Beer wise this is bland, watery, with maybe some brown sugar notes but lacking in texture or anything more than the most generic flavours to back the chilli. It feels almost like caramel touched water rather than a beer.

Not the worst chilli beer I have had, shockingly enough, let alone the worst beer ever, however, that said, this is still utter shit.

Background: Sorry about the long heading – I have no idea if the spice company is called “Vicious But Delicious”, “Seriously Hot Sauce Co” or what. Googling did help me find out the brewery though – The Arcadia group, contract brewed for a Debenham’s four pack of chilli beers. This is the allegedly most spicy of the four and was given to me by a colleague at work to do notes on. Many thanks. Hot beer called for heavy music, so I put on Lamb Of God – Ashes of The Wake Album. I once did “Laid To Rest” on karaoke in Japan and it damn near did my throat it, so thematically appropriate for a chilli beer. Maybe.

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Tiny Rebel: Neon Raptor: Tropical Sorbet IPA (Wales: IPA: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale and just slightly hazy lemon juice colour. Very small bubbled carbonation and a huge white to yellow loose bubbled head.

Nose: Tart grapes. Lemon juice to lemon sorbet. White chunks from tinned tropical fruit. Mild hop character. Crushed palma violets. Grapefruit.

Body: Tangerine. Tart lemon juice. Pink grapefruit. Slight flour like hop character.

Finish: Tangerine. Pink grapefruit. Tart grapes. Crushed palma violets. Pineapple. Standard grapefruit. Mild hop prickle.

Conclusion: Ok, since I have a few spare moments, I would probably argue against this being classified as an IPA, but mainly as an intellectual exercise rather than any genuine gripe. Kind of just trying to work out exactly where the line lies between IPA and not. It is far from the worst offender for not matching style guidelines but it is an interesting one. What do I mean? Well what seems unusual is is the sub 5% abv which, ok has been taken by session IPA but this is definitely not a session IPA. It has low bitterness, which yes is used by NEIPAs, but seriously, screw NEIPAs. It has a mild hop character, and unlike the lower bitterness IPAs I have encountered before the malt character is nearly completely out of the way. The main thing is that it obviously has had a lot of hops used late on to make it very tart and fruit, but nothing is used for bitterness, hop character or similar. Feels more like a very tart hopped APA to me, but anyway.

For the closest IPA comparison it reminds me of those IPAs in style about five years back, utterly smashed with Nelson Sauvin and similar New Zealand hops creating a very tart experience, but with much more out of the way malt styling. On a side note I very much miss those IPAs, I loved the tart, hoppy bombs. Everyone seems to use Nelson Sauvin much lighter these days. Anyway, yeah this beer is like that but with less malt and far more variety in the tart fruit notes.

So, this is very fresh and enjoyable- pushing grapes, lemon, grapefruit and tangerine notes for a great tart medley of an experience. It just lays those tart notes on moment after moment while the actual hop character, when it shows itself, comes across as a subtle flour texture kind of thing – there is no bitterness of hop prickle here. Hence my long ramble on the IPA style above. However, if you ignore the style expectations this is a mouth puckering refresher of a beer and very good at it too.

A tart as heck, kind of IPA if you squint, beer. Please, other people, do this level of tart hops more please. Also, Tiny Rebel please do a variant of this beer, but with more hop character please – that would rock my world.

Background: The …. fourth I think beer from Tiny Rebel’s seventh anniversary box. This one with Neon Raptor, who I love the visual aesthetic of, but their beers have never quite jumped out at me yet. Not much to add really, seems a tad low abv for an IPA, can looks very bright and cheerful. So of course I put on the completely not cheery and angry early era Gallows albums to listen to while drinking. The past few weeks politics bullshit may have left me with a lot of angst and anger to blow off musically.

Tiny Rebel: Magic Rock: Citra Session IPA (Wales: Session IPA: 4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach colour. Moderate creamy off white head.

Nose: Apples. Soft peach. Cream. Creamy strawberry touch. Soft pineapple. Custards. Some sugar dusting.

Body: Bready. Gritty bitterness. Egg plant. Apple. Dry cake sponge. Milky.

Finish: Cake sponge. Sugar dusting. Gritty bitter hops. Apple. Egg plant. Creamy. Unleavened bread. Pepper.

Conclusion: This … is so close to being a kind of ok session IPA. Yes that is intentional damning with faint praise. With the exception of Beavertown’s excellent Neck Oil I just don’t seem to get along with session IPAs. They’ve proven to just not be my kind of thing. Thing is, that one that I do enjoy means I keep trying new ones in the eternal hope that I will find another one I enjoy.

(Update: I have just looked at my old notes, and there are more session IPAs there I enjoyed than I initially remembered. The bad ones must just really stick in my mind)

Now, the aroma on this one is actually spot on – Peach, soft apples, slightly creamy with a gentle hop character. It promises a gentle yet fruity IPA, but at a low session abv. That lying fucking aroma.

The body is kind of milky, but despite that it generally suffers from the overly dry and gritty feel that seems to curse so many session IPAs. The hops here are robust, if – as mentioned- gritty, but the beer feels kind of hollow at the core. Where is that lovely fruit complexity that the aroma promised?

There are some hints – apple notes, creamy notes, but generally a peppery, dry, unleavened bread kind of character dominates. This comes up so many times I have to ask…is this deliberate? Is this actually how the style is supposed to taste and I just don’t like the style, as seriously it does nothing for me.

Anyway, another sub optimal session IPA that promises so much and fails to deliver.

Background: The third of Tiny Rebel’s collaboration beer pack for their seventh anniversary. On opening up the back I find that there is a huge picture to colour in with the provided crayons. Silly, but it made me smile. Seriously need some smiles in the current political climate is all I’m saying. Anyway, I’m not generally a fan of the session IPA style, so, yeah bias warning on this one. Not much else to add, grabbed from Independent Spirit. Put on Slipknot’s self titled album while drinking – I had recently found out the lyrics to “Get This” were absolutely nothing like what I had been thinking they were over years of listening to it, so they were back in my mind.

Tiny Rebel: Fourpure: DDH Pils (Wales: Pilsner: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale bananaish yellow. Vary large crisp white head. Clear. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Crisp, wheaty hop character. Soft sweet lemon. Vanilla. Cake sponge.

Body: Soft vanilla. Mild peach and tangerine. Slick and smooth. Popcorn. Slightly floral. Mild but gripping bitter hops. Cake sponge. Light pineapple.

Finish: Good hop bitterness. Slightly gritty. Wet sheen. Light lime. Slightly oily. Slight pineapple.

Conclusion: So, to open up with, this has a thicker body than I expected. It isn’t huge, not a treacly syrupy thing, but has that touch extra grip that gives the hops have got more room to roam. It felt a tad closer to a bohemian pilsner in mouthfeel, just with a different take on the hop usage.

Early on there are some interesting flavours in there – soft peach and tangerine against a gentle hop bitterness that lets the pils feel do its thing and slip down your throat easily. As time goes on the hop bitterness rises and starts to dominate.

It is still easy to drink, but with a good hop bitterness punch to it now; That said, I miss the fruit character that is lost under that higher bitterness. The hop bitterness is satisfying but simple. I preferred the balance and mix of characteristics early on. Still, while I prefer the earlier character, at least the beer has some decent progression to it so it doesn’t get dull quickly.

Even late on a light pineapple character enters the mix. Still not as good as at the start, but again a good progression note and adds a bit more complexity back into the mix. So, it is decent – the main real flaw is in the finish, which can get a bit gritty in its bitterness; Not ruinous, but it results in a weaker experience than the rest of the beer.

A solid pils, works best in its first half, but still decent at the end. A solid second of the seven Tiny Rebel anniversary beers.

Background: Ok, I wasn’t going to get this – a box set of seven beers, seven collaborations, in a box set to celebrate Tiny Rebel’s seventh anniversary. I generally don’t get boxed sets like this, I prefer to grab the exact beers I want rather than a collection. Same reason I don’t use the subscription posted to your door beer set thing much. Then I tried their 0.5% abv not an Imperial Stout thing and it was fucking awesome. So, yeah I own the box now. It also includes a glass (shown in the photo), plus pencils and party balloons, because, yeah, of course! Decided to go for their Pils first – not a style that you see craft beered up as much as, say, IPAs so was an interesting one. Yes this was grabbed from Independent Spirit again – let’s face it, when you have a great selection on your doorstep it does tend to become your go to. I put on Throwing Muses self titled album while drinking, some gentle but high quality indie pop tunes.

Wychwood: Harper’s: Medusa (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark chestnut brown to red clear body. Good sized beige to caramel tight bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Roasted nuts.

Body: Cherry. Earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Slightly creamy. Shortbread. Slight gummed brown envelopes. Lightly sour and tart undertones.

Finish: Creamy. Earthy bitterness. Light menthol. Bitter cocoa. Pepper. Brown gummed envelopes. Dry. Tart apple. Very watered down vinegar tart touch. Soft cherries and cream,

Conclusion: This is… this, this is actually really good. I have to admit that, with it being an Auldi own brand beer kind of thing, I was expecting something fairly middle of the road. Not expecting something bad, just something average. Yes I fell into the beer snob trap, because I am really enjoying this.

Its got a solid malt chocolate base that edges into richer or more bitter cocoa notes at times, alongside that slightly sour and refreshing note that you get in a good, drinkable bitter. Similarly it calls to a bitter in that earthy hop character that comes in the traditional British take on the style. By itself that would result in a generic but satisfying beer, but this goes a step further. Cherry and cream notes make for sweeter high end notes and helping the drinkability is a lightly tart apple undertone.

It is very easy to drink, yet has this soft chocolate middle that seems out from the earthy bitterness and makes it feel soothing, welcoming and very rewarding. So, this is really a very good anytime drinking beer that mixes traditional British bitter notes with sweeter malt ESB character to make a bloody good beer.

Remind me to double check my beer snob assumptions every now and then, so I don’t make mistakes like this again. Well worth a try.

Background: First of all, this is listed as being made by “Harper’s” which is Auldi’s home brand beer. Looking online, that is just a cover name for whoever contract brewed it for them, in this case Wychwood, who are owned by Marston’s. Oh this just gets confusing. Anyway, this was part of a bunch of beers given to me by a colleague at work. Many thanks! The rest I just drank, but I decided to put this one aside to do notes on. Worth noting the Harper’s Wild Bill IPA was solid as well. Put on some Brassick (self titled album and their EP) to listen to while drinking. I’m always glad to see new punk bands still bubbling up after all these years. Solid stuff as well.

Yeastie Boys: Cigar City: Brewing With Wayne (New Zealand: Lichtenhainer : 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice to apricot. Large white to off white head.

Nose: Bready. Sulphur. Slightly sour. Dried lemon. Peppercorn.

Body:Lemon. Smoked meat touch. Tart grapes. Wheaty. Salt touch. Juniper.

Finish: Salted lemon. Barbecue ribs touch. Lemongrass. Lemon juice. Salt. Slight sage. Juniper.

Conclusion: This is a pretty thick, sticky, weighty mouthfeel of a beer. Which is completely not what I expected from the moderate abv, less so did I expect that, despite the sticky weight, it is actually easy to drink. Oh what a world we live in that has such things in it.

What makes it work is that it is tart – with lemon notes,slightly salted, something that should, by themselves, make an easy going summer refresher; here they are matched with a smoke character that is akin to scraping a thin layer of the top of a rack of barbecued spare ribs and dropping it straight into the mix. Flavour wise it is a light note, but it makes the whole beer feel more mouth clinging, before expanding into subtle peppercorn and sage notes that make me think of a good steak dish.

So, lightly tart and sour, smoked gently with savoury herb notes. Quite the mix. If kind of feels like the less sour goses that I tried in Goslar – the wheat beer character is more evident than most of the sour wheat beers, and it seems to have extra ingredient flavours packed into every place they could, with juniper notes coming out later on.

It has a strange weight, but the tart flavours let it slip down easily. Sticky, yet never outstays its welcome. Not exactly a session beer – just a tad too high abv for that. It feels like a gose meets smoke meets herbs meets an attempt at a session … thing with wheat beer influence meets the reflection on the concept of Plato’s cave. Ok, I lied about that last one. Just making sure you are still paying attention.

A nice easy drinking, big flavour unusual beer.

Background: This caught my eye as it is a darn unusual one – a lichtenhainer – a style I have not tried before. Looking online it seems it is a traditional German style, similar to the gose, but made with some use of smoked malt. So, a sour, smoked wheat ale. Of course! This one seems unusual even for one that falls in this style – it is made with lemongrass,BBQ charred lemons and juniper, along with several different types of smoked malt. Oddly for a collaboration between a USA and an NZ brewery, it looks like it was actually brewed in England. Again, of course! This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and,feeling a bit old school, I put a variety of Madness tunes to listen to. One of the first bands I ever got into in my youth and I still have a soft spot for them.

First Chop: Syl Black IPA (England: Black IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Black-cherry red hints at the edges. Moderate sized brown head. Some evident carbonation.

Nose: Fresh dough. Crushed peanuts. Malt chocolate. Slight flour. Brown bread. Slight peppermint.

Body: Charring. Slightly empty. Brown bread. Crushed walnuts. Chalk touch. Malt chocolate. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Charring. Brown bread. Bitter chocolate. Slight savoury/sour mix at the end. Bitter hops. Peppery. Chalk touch.

Conclusion: You know, I’ve not had a good Black IPA for bloody ages. Having finished drinking this, I’ve still not had a good black IPA for bloody ages.

Yes that is about the limits of my attempts of comedy, why do you ask?

The aroma is fairly generic – leaning towards a more roasted stout like set of notes rather than crisp hoppy notes. Fans of BIPAS will know they tend to go one of two ways – Fresh fruity IPA over darker malts, or stout like but with roasted hoppy notes. This definitely is going for the second of those based on the aroma.

It is roasted, nutty and bready – you can see why I think it is playing to the roasted stout side, right? It isn’t my favourite of the two interpretations – I just love the fruity hop over dark malt style, but this take has its place as well.

The first sip taken is- kind of charred, bitter but also kind of empty behind that. There is a vague chocolate backing, but nothing to really get your teeth into. On top of that it is kind of rough around the edges as well – slightly chalky, roasted and yeah, just generally rough.

Time lets it build up a bit of weight behind the hoppy notes and the chocolate character, letting them express themselves a bit better. Because of this you end up with a beer that is mediocre rather than shit. So, an improvement.

It doesn’t have the hop flavour excitement of a good IPA, nor the weight and accompanying flavour of a good stout. It really feels like , at best, a very basic Black IPA.

So, it goes from terrible to only dull,

Not worth grabbing.

Background: I grabbed this as it is a Black IPA. I love the style but there seems to be less of them about these days as NEIPAs and Brut IPAs became the new fad. Ah well. First Chop have yet to release a beer that really excite me, but have not been bad, so I figured it was time to grab another one from them. Looks like they are doing something a bit different with this one though – it is made with jaggery sugar – something I will admit I had to look up on google. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Since it is a Black IPA, I put on Metallica – The Black Album while drinking. Ok, that was just an excuse – I haven’t listened to Enter Sandman in ages and needed to change that.

Girardin: Faro (Belgium: Lambic – Faro: 5% ABV)

Visual: Reddish brown. Clear. Still. Thin off white dash of a head.

Nose: Sugar dusting to hard sugar casing. Touch of brown sugar. Cherries. Clean. Brown bread. Light apple acidic notes.

Body: Sweet cherries. Subtle marzipan. Light sugar dusting. Brown sugar. Watered down bourbon. Tannins to weak tea.

Finish: Madeira. White grapes. Slightly tart. Apple air. Weak tea. Milk. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: So. My first set of Faro tasting notes has revealed to me that the Faro style is a lot different to a standard lambic, and a lot different to what I ever imagined it would be.

It is softer, gentler on the tongue than most standard lambics. It has light grape notes, even occasionally tart grapes, but this is far from the acidic, sour and sharp assault that comes with, say, a gueuze. In fact, over time the tea notes and associated tannin comes come out in a way that makes me think of Lindeman’s Tea Beer – albeit a much more complex take on the idea. In fact, in general this feels more touched by a more standard beer style, but combined with that lightly tart and clean lambic feel, and a serious wodge of that tea character.

Now, I will admit that I don’t have any other Faros to compare it to, so I don’t know how representative of the style it is, but I am enjoying this one. Subtle dark beer notes such as the cherries and brown sugar give a very different take on the lambic freshness. In fact a soft sweetness over the whole thing makes it feel like an easy drinking entry point for a lambic newcomer. It is still complex, but very much moving away from the harsh, dry and sour edges of the lambic world.

It is enjoyable, though I can’t stop thinking of it as “Tea Beer” since I first noticed that element. So, a tea lambic that doesn’t actually use tea, a lambic without any lambic sharp edges. May not be for everyone, but hopefully you have enough info to decide if you want to try it. It is an experience worth having in my opinion.

Background: So, I had this about a month back, first time I had ever tried a Faro. It was so different that I decided I had to grab a bottle again and do notes this time. Which I just have. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, a Faro is a blended lambic (Sometimes with a non lambic beer by some sources) with additional candi sugar. This was drunk in the last hour of 2018, with Grimes – We Appreciate Power, and her Oblivion album playing in the background. We Appreciate Power is a wonderful mix of pop and industrial, mixed with cyberpunk imagery. Definitely a great tune for the end of the year. I’d just finished reading Gnomon by Nick Harkway before and seriously – check that book out, it is amazing.

Leeds: Yorkshire Gold (England: Golden Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Bright, clear gold. Mounded off white head.

Nose: Floral hoppy character. Soft lemon to lemon cakes. Soft cake sponge. Light icing sugar.

Body: Orange. Lightly earthy hops. Light dry spice. Brown sugar. Lemon to lemon curd. Palma violets. Light strawberry. Cinder toffee.

Finish: Dry,earthy spice. Peppery. Earthy hop character. Brown sugar. Orange juice. Solid bitterness. Brown bread. Cinder toffee. Charring.

Conclusion: This is quite a sweet golden ale, more so than I would expect from the style. Just for clarity, when I say “sweet” I mean that literally, as in sugary like, not as in mid 90s slang to mean cool. It may or may not also be cool, we will get to that in a moment. And no I don’t mean cool as in cold. This may end up going on forever if I don’t pull my thumb out.

Anyway, there is also a lot of the expected elements from a golden ale – soft lemon and orange notes particularly, initially slightly fresh in style at the front, with a thicker slightly curd like character by the end.

What is unexpected is that behind that lemon freshness is a kind of brown sugar sweetness, even kind of burnt brown sugar at times. That burnt sweetness expands into burnt cinder toffee notes over time and becomes especially prevalent in the finish, mixing with heavier spice, peppery and earthy hop notes. Generally the hops are on the lemon fresh side, but they don’t seem to shy away from the earthy and spicy notes here in the finish, bringing a robust hop bitterness against the sweeter main body.

The earthier, spicier notes become more prevalent in the entire beer over time. For a golden ale I was surprised as the citrus notes became less evident and the heavier notes become more the main show. That spice and earth calls more to a traditional British bitter and results in a heavier beer. Enjoyable, as long as you don’t expect the crisp citrus hops style that is more common.

Feels a tad rough edges in the spice elements, and slightly charred at times, which pushed it out of the comfort zone for the beer. So overall an average beer I would say. There are nice notes in there, drinkable and with a good bit of texture. Not too complex though and rough around the edges, generally not too shabby.

A middle of the road beer, bit different in places, ok overall.

Background: Bean back up North with the family for Christmas, and the parents kindly got some beers in for the period. So I decided to do notes on one of them. Went for Leeds Brewery as 1) I quite like Leeds (the place) and 2) I’d not done anything from the brewery before to the best of my knowledges. Many thanks to Mum and Dad for providing the beers. A Golden Ale – a nice style, tend to be pretty easy drinking so nice for chilling with the family. Not much more to add, so hope you enjoy the notes and had a good Christmas.

Art Brew: Black Cherry Chocolate Porter (England: Porter: 4.8 ABV)

Visual: Very dark, cloudy brown to black. Thin brown head with white edges.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Light charred bread. Smoke. Lightly nutty.

Body: Subtle black cherry. Gunpowder tea. Malt chocolate drink. Black forest gateaux. Milky coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Slight earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate. Slight black forest gateaux. Slight milk. Tea. Pepper.

Conclusion: Ok, tea notes. I did not expect tea notes to come out in this. Now, checking the bottle’s label as I write I notice that I shouldn’t actually be surprised as it turns out that it is literally made with black cherry tea. I have to admit I did not know there was such a thing. Still this tastes of that – black cherry and, well a kind of gunpowder tea set of notes. Ok, it isn’t an exact match but it is close enough.

The black-cherry varies between subtle notes backing the porter, and heavier black-forest gateaux notes that are much more up front. It is generally nicely present but without being super dominant, with occasional pushes towards either end of the scale.

The base porter pushes a nice bit of milky coffee and milky chocolate but it isn’t super present. The fruit notes seem to lighten it a touch in mouthfeel so it doesn’t have the usual thicker and creamier porter texture. Flavour-wise it helps compensate for this with a slight wisp of smoke, possibly from the tea, which gives more grip – but generally it feels like just the tad thicker texture would really help this boom.

Still, it is a comparatively easy drinking, moderate if not low abv, dark beer that matches the porter coffee notes with just enough black-cherry to give a fruity to dark dessert edge to the beer.

While it could do with a few tweaks it is balanced beer between easy drinking and able to be appreciated for its depths and works well as that.

Background: ART BREW! I still have a soft spot for this lot. In my early days in Bath I used to drink so much of their stuff at the Royal Oak. Times change, and Art Brew vanished for a while, but since they have returned I have picked up a few of theirs every now and then to see how they are doing. This one caught my eye as, well black cherry is often a very nice note in the darker beers, so I was intrigued by a porter that emphasised it more strongly. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is made with cocoa nibs, black cherry tea, chocolate malt and lactose. For some reason they put lactose in all caps. I presume because of potential intolerances, however I am head-cannoning that they were just super excited about brewing with lactose and used cap lock to show that to us – the readers. That is what I do. Put on Night Wish – Dark Passion Play while drinking. Well part of it. That is one long album.

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