Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


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.

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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.

Ironfire: Synner Hoppy Pale Ale (USA: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Very large mounded white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Clear main body.

Nose: Musty hops. Some charred and wet wood notes. Apple. Greenery.

Body: Apple. Pineapple. Slight cardboard. Hop bitterness. Grapefruit. Slight hop oils. Slight peach.

Finish: Hop bitterness and charring. Malt toffee. Peppery. Grapefruit. Hop oils. Slight peach. Choc toffee.

Conclusion: This is another one that slowly grew on me after a very rough start. Or more correctly a rough finish. Also a rough start. I’ll get to that in a moment. Anyway, let’s start at the top.

So, to put it bluntly, the aroma is a bit shit. Slightly musty and slightly charred, with not a huge amount going on. Now this could be because the hops they used fade fast and it takes a while for USA beer to reach the UK, or maybe it was always shit. I may never know.

The first sip is ok – a mix of fresh apple and tart pineapple and grapefruit notes. Its got a slight cardboard style to it, but uses the tart and fresh notes well enough to mostly push past that. Mostly. Then you get a charred and rough finish which is just not welcome. It is slightly pepper, but in general it is not showing the choice hops to their best – instead giving a slight rough hop burn. An unexpected but not entirely unwelcome note here is a slight malt toffee notes which calls to a sweeter APA than this which generally has an out of the way malt character in the main body.

The finish never really recovers from this – it gains a bit more malt and chocolate to balance it so it is less ruinous, but I would never go so far as to call it good. What does improve is the main body which steps up with soft peach roughing, more of the appealing tart notes and a better defined hop character. All of which are much appreciated.

So, still not great top and tail, but the improved main body means it isn’t the complete write off it originally seems. Wow I am killing it with faint praise today. Not one I’d recommend but it has its good points.

Background: Managed to get a chance to drop over to Corks Of Cotham in Bristol recently so grabbed a few beers while I was over there. They have been around since before craft beer became huge and have always had a good selection, so was nice to drop back there again. I mainly grabbed this one as the can looked pretty – similarly to keep in theme I put on White Zombie – Astro Creep 2000 while drinking. It all makes sense. From the can’s description this is dry hopped with Citra. A good hop, hope it pays off here.

Cantillon: Mamouche (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Still. Thin dash of white rather than a head. Later pours have an actual head – an inch of white froth.

Nose: Dry white wine. Rose petals. Sour. Elderberry. Wet oak. Horse blankets.

Body: Thin front. Peppery. Charred oak. Acidic back. Light lemon. Dry middle. Watery edges. Mild strawberry. White wine. Dried apricot.

Finish: White wine. Sulphur. Elderflower cordial. Dried lemon. Charred oak. Petals. Vanilla yogurt. Dandelions. Tart grapes. Flour.

Conclusion: There seems to be a trend with Cantillon beers, for me at least, that they start out feeling slightly underwhelming to my expectations, then slowly build up to gain my respect by the end. This is, well, slightly different, but it mostly matches that general trajectory. As always let me explain.

Early on it seemed slightly thin – not something I would ever expect to associate with Cantillon normally. Instead of the mouth puckering dryness what you get is an acidity that hits the back of the throat kind of harshly, an unexpected kick from the lighter front. There is an elderflower cordial taste, watered down a lot to create an experience that lacks lustre.

Time brings out a lot of white wine dryness, in fact this may be he most white wine like I have encountered in a lambic. The elderflower flavour seems to polish off some of the edges you would expect from Cantillion, but adds a bunch of new ones itself.

It adds a lot of petal, dandelions and similar floral notes which go into slightly charred and peppery notes later on. This side of things didn’t really work for me – so while the beer definitely improved on Cantillion’s usual drinking trajectory it doesn’t end up at the usual high. Just ends as a shrug and a “it’s ok.”

It is a white wine, floral and somewhat acidic thing that doesn’t grab me like the other Cantillons do and doesn’t feel like it earns the time to took for it to improve.

A distinctly sub optimal Cantillon.

Background: Shockingly (ok, not shockingly, maybe mildly surprisingly) I did not pick this up at the Moor Taphouses’ Zwanze day. They had sold out. Instead I found it in Independent Spirit a few weeks later. I’m guessing it came across as part of the same batch though. Anyway, this is a lambic made with elderflower in two year old lambic. Another new one on me – Cantillon seem to have more of these unusual experiments than I would have expected. Wasn’t sure what music was appropriate for this, so just went with an old favourite of New Model Army – No Rest For The Wicked. When in doubt go for some punk.

Westerham: Helles Belles (England: Helles: 4% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow to grain. Moderate white head. Moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Lightly creamy. Lime. Hop oils. Smooth. Light nutty character.

Body: Very soft, but lightly chalky. Vanilla. Tiny marshmallows. Soft honey. Palma violets. Dried apricot. Soft lychee.

Finish: Moderate bitter hop character. Light chalk. Vanilla. Dried apricot. Soft lychee. Honey.

Conclusion: I’m trying to work out how to describe the very soft feel of this beer’s texture without referring to kittens. Apparently mentioning kittens in tasting notes is mock-worthy and not allowed. Which is a pity, as when I hold this on my tongue it feels like soft fruit just falling apart on my tongue and – no word a lie, makes me think of fluffy kittens. No I don’t know why. My mind is a strange place. I already knew that.

Anyway … this has a very nice, soft texture – maybe like mini marshmallow bits in a dry lager? Does that work as a better description? I dunno. Anyway (again) it is underlined by a slight chalkiness that then goes into a crisp hoppy bitterness in the finish. A nice note that means the soft character doesn’t end up feeling like drinking wet air.

Flavour-wise is fairly simple – vanilla, slight honey, that noble hop style palma violet character. It has a crisp lager base that gets just slightly tart as time goes on, and gains a higher bitterness than is expected for a helles as the beer progresses adding a nice bite to things. A soft lychee flavour joins in as it goes, another light backing note but welcome. It is solid, if not super exciting, but it is satisfying to drink.

It comes in gentle as hell(es) up front, crisp and dry in the middle, into a hoppy end with just enough flavour in-between that it does the job. Ok at the start, with subtle extra flavours by the end – pretty decent all said.

Background: Ok, I grabbed this one for two reasons. 1) You don’t see many new Helles these days, so it is always nice to try non IPA/stout beers. 2) Helles Belles. Heh. It is a pun. Heh. Puns. I am a fully mature adult. Honest.

Not much else to say. Put on Andrew WK’s first album – “I Get Wet” while drinking. Great, silly party fun music. Back at university metal nights (in the dim and distant past) people hated Andrew WK as they felt it wasn’t proper metal. Don’t care, it is glorious fun.


Collective Arts: Ransack The Universe (Canada: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light hazy yellow to apricot body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Solid creamy white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Resin. Hop oils. Soft lime. Floral. Crisp bitterness. Pineapple.

Body: Oily bitterness. Mild gherkin. Pineapple. Prickly. Resin. Grapefruit. Slight vanilla. Dry body. Slight fudge. Mandarin orange. Tart grapes. Lychee. Peach syrup.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Oily charring. Dry charring. Bitter hop character. Gunpowder tea. Grapefruit. Tart orange. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a punchy wee one. It comes across a lot different from the fresh fruity IPA was was expecting from the hop choice in making it. It has a tart fruit character, but emphasises the dry attenuated base and a bitter, charred to gunpowder tea hop kick that is slightly smoothed by hop oiliness.

It feels like a beer that want s to kick you hard, then gently hug you with flavour after. Initial impression are prickly hops, oily, resinous and quickly leads out into a charred bitter finish. The base is dry and out of the way – not getting in the path of the hop punch at all. Here the beer feels kind a fairly brutal IPA, weighty enough backing that the charring isn’t evil and harsh, but still kind of one note.

Time, heat and the slow build of repeated sipping all come together to give access to a second layer of flavour – tart pineapple into brighter tart orange notes with a sour, mild gherkin like twist to it. The hops rock up front, but now with subtle flavours backing it, giving something hiding behind the harshness. Heck, you even get a soft vanilla fudge note that hints at actual malt presence, but without harming the super dry IPA character.

So it is definitely leaning towards the dry, hop assault IPA side of things, which is super my jam. Thankfully. It doesn’t leverage the favour from the hops fully, and can be a tad harsh in the bitterness, but it is a very satisfying, brutal, hop bomb with a lot to back it up flavour-wise.

In a normal environment I’d call this a good beer – in this world where there are so many milkshake/NEIPA/etcs I’m just very happy that I got my hand on an IPA like this again.

A solid beer.

Background: Didn’t run into Collective Arts while I was over in Canada, so when I saw them turn up in the UK with their wonderfully evocative can illustrations I thought I might as well give them a go. I went through all of them looking for an IPA without a New England before it. Yes I’m still not 100% on board with the NEIPA style. Anyway, saw this, grabbed it, drank it. Simple enough story. Put on Throwing Muses’ self titled album while drinking – saw Kristin Hersh was touring again and it brought them back to mind. Nice gentle drinking tunes.

Cantillon: Nath 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy but generally clear body of apricot colour. Moderate off white head. Very little carbonation.

Nose: Horse blankets. Dry white wine. Dry crusty white bread. Tart. Gooseberry. Rhubarb.

Body: Tart. Tart grapes. Elderberry. Tart rhubarb grows over time. Oats. Lightly chalky. Earthy. Lemony.

Finish: Tart rhubarb. Tart white grapes. Lightly chalky. Gooseberry. Vanilla. Tannins. Lemony.

Conclusion: Ok, now rhubarb is tart, lambic is tart also. So, because of that it took me a short while while drinking this to work out where one ended and the other began. It was not immediately obvious is what I am saying. Thankfully it became more obvious over time, otherwise I was going to be very confused.

So, as you may have guessed, first impressions are very straight up gueuze like character – horse blanket aroma, dry white wine and tart grape character. Ya know, good, but I could just have bought myself a gueuze if I had wanted that. Still, even like this is has the super dry, drinkable Cantillon character and what I used to find mouth puckering level sourness back in the day. Now years later it is just a pleasant sour kick that has become an old friend.

Over time the rhubarb character came out – that recognisable tart style in the middle, then leading out into the earthy style in the finish. It turns out that, contrary to what I first thought, it actually is fairly present – it just complements the gueuze so well that it takes a bit of time to separate them. When you do thought it is like a magic eye picture image popping out – this just delicious rhubarb character mixed with the white wine dry character.

There is a bit more fruit play noticeable now as well – the tartness has a gooseberry and elderberry character at the edge. As a result the tartness already there from the grapes is pushed up a notch, but again there is that earthy rhubarb character in the finish that helps ground it.

So, despite my initial doubts, this does the rhubarb justice – a very competent lambic that, however, is slightly lacking in range compared to some other Cantillons as the base and the rhubarb are so close in character. Not their best but a solid contender and a solid Cantillion is still a hell of a beer by any standard.

Background: So, I grabbed this at the Moor Taphouse on Zwanze day – the day Cantillon releases a new, unique beer to a few pubs around the world. Of which the tap-house was one, I didn’t do notes on Zwanze as I was being *shudder* social, but it was very nice. Anyway, they had a good range of Cantillon in bottles as well so I grabbed a couple to bring back. This is one of them. Natch. Otherwise that whole story would have been pointless. This is a lambic made with rhubarb. Long time readers may have noticed I am fascinated with rhubarb beers, even if their quality varies greatly. Speaking of varied quality I was very worried -on popping the cap off this as the cork below was soaked through and smelt of harsh vinegar, so I was worried the beer was off. Thankfully on removing the cork the beer within was fine. Whew. After failing to play Pixies – Bone machine during the Bone Machine beer review, I made up for it by putting the best of pixies while drinking this. The Pixies rule.

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