Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV



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.

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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.

Bone Machine: Green Machine (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to brown clear body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white loose bubbled head that leaves suds (The photo is after I let the head go down a bit if you can believe it)

Nose: Bitter hops. Pepper. Pine cones. Wheat. Zesty lime.

Body: Zesty lime. Mild gherkins. Milky main body. Peppery base. Tart pineapple. Greenery. Moderate bitter hop character. Melon.

Finish: Mild gherkin. Lime. Wheaty. Earthy hop bitterness. Brown bread. Melon. Resinous. Mild peanut butter late on.

Conclusion: Ok, this is indeed a “Green Machine” as the beer is named. I will give it an A++ for honesty in naming. From the tart end of the spectrum it comes in with lime, gherkin and such, to the more savoury end where it comes in with greenery amongst the hop oils – this is a very green tasting beer. It is very tingly feeling as well, calling to very fresh hops resulting in prickles of zesty flavour stabbing into your tongue.

The base has a dry touch and an attenuated feel but they’ve put a milkiness under that so it avoids the harsh, over dry character that some APAs run into. While that is good it does mean that the malt load feels slightly generic here – it relies on the hops to do the heavy lifting.

The hops do good work though. They bring moderate bitterness that then grows into quite the peppery and earthy bite. Against that is a nice tart pineapple set of notes that back the varied green notes mentioned before – it all results in something fresh and very zesty.

Oh, a quick digression at this point – pour this bloody carefully and give it a lot of time to settle. This thing froths up very easily and will fill the entire glass with head if you are not careful.

Overall this is fresh, has good bitterness, well used tart and green fruit flavours that leads out into heavy earthy and peppery bitterness by the end. It could do with a rework of the malt if they were to make it the complete package, but its still decent as is. A mouth tingling zesty take on an APA that will awaken your mouth.

Background: This was a bit of a whimsy pick up – I liked the look of the beer, the name brought the Pixies song Bone Machine to mind, and it was from a new brewery, so I grabbed a can. Actually, looking back, I totally should have put the Pixies on while drinking. Ah well, missed opportunity. Had put on Bad Rebellion – Stranger than Fiction instead as that band is an old favourite of mine. Something familiar and welcoming for drinking music. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

First Chop: Salford Red (England: Speciality Grain 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel to red. Yellow-brown moderate bubbled head. Clear body.

Nose: Fresh cut wet grass. Pine cones. Malt chocolate. Fresh mint. Menthol. Peppermint. Oats.

Body: Very herbal. Sage. Mint. General greenery. Orange crème. Peppery.

Finish: Orange crème. Pepper. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Ok, this is absolutely nothing like I expected. This is really, really herbal – minty notes, sage notes, fresh with a peppery spark. I have to admit I was expecting a hoppy amber ale, so that completely blind-sided me. Silly me, no?

Anyway, after I got over my shock I started recognising the more beer like elements under the greenery – soft malt chocolate notes and a creamy orange touch, as the beer warms they become more evident – nothing complex but closer to the expected amber ale notes in the malt style. By the end the sweet orange cream notes especially have risen to the challenge.

Still, that feels like a backing for the most part – a base for the high, herbal notes to dance upon. Does it work? Kind of. The favours are tasty, savoury and it tastes like something I would definitely enjoy if it was poured over some lump of lightly cooked meat on a dish. As something I am drinking in a glass? I will admit it is taking some time for me to get used to it.

I enjoy it, but in small doses. The herb notes last a looooong time after you have finished sipping and as of such I can’t say I was lining up to break open another one after I finished the can, but I did appreciate it while it was there.

Another one of those for the interesting rather than great pile, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting.

Background: Another one where I was unsure where to list this – beeradvocate calls it an Irish Red, ratebeer a speciality grain, from the can I was going to call it an amber ale. In the end the grain influence seemed the most notable element so I went with that. Odd, as the reason I picked this up from Independent Spirit was that I hadn’t had a good amber ale in the while. Oh well, will keep hunting for something that expresses that style well. Also this is Gluten Free for those that affects. Anyway, first encounter with First Chop, went old school With Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape while drinking. Picking out great albums I haven’t listened to for a while.

Neon Raptor: Island Party DDH Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale:4.3% ABV)

Visual: On first pour clear lager yellow colour with huge yellow-whitehead. Tons of small bubbled carbonation. Later pours are cloudy and opaque.

Nose: Dry bitter hops. Soft pineapple. Floral. Chalk touch. Flour.

Body: Dry, hoppy bitterness. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft apricot. Prickly. Light gherkin. Mango. Strawberry touch.

Finish: Strawberry. Flour. Soft pineapple. Vanilla yogurt. Crushed love heart sweets. Solid bitterness. Kumquat.

Conclusion: This pours oddly. The first pour was utterly clear and lager like, with a massive head. However it seems I should have given the can more of a shake before pouring as later pours were cloudy in a NEIPA style. (or maybe not – again, massive head already – but you get the gist).

So, once I had let the head settle a bit I found that this was pretty subtle in the aroma. Soft pineapple and dry, bitter notes. While it never hits that super dry, super harsh take that some APAs do, this still leans into the drier take throughout the rest of the beer.

It has a fairly creamy mouthfeel, but very dry around that. Kind of a flour dryness that seems to be a common APA shtick. There is some soft apricot and pineapple notes packed around that which freshens it up a touch, along with some savoury vegetable notes and sour gherkin notes rounding out the range.

Altogether it is ok, but gets wearing as times goes on and the drier notes take over, leaving more flour notes on your tongue as a desiccating experience. It is a just slightly too far into the harsh dryness in style, rather than the super drinkable dry style.

So, it had good first impressions, before the flour notes got too heavy, as the soft fruit is appealing, but it just gets bogged down over time. Ok at the start, but definitely sub-optimal and gets worse as time goes on.

Background: Neon Raptor. Neon. Raptor. There was no way I wasn’t going to try something from this brewery. Decided to go for the APA as been trying a lot of IPAs recently. Also the IPAs were New England style. I’m trying to not hate on NEIPAs too much, but the way they are saturating the market at the mo is not exactly my scene shall we say. Anyway, not much else to add – picked this up from Independent Spirit and put on B. Dolan’s House Of Bees Vol 2 while drinking. Should be seeing the Epic Beard men live soon, so gets me in the mood for cool socially conscious rap.

Lost and Grounded: Moor: Left Hand Giant: Berry Lush (England: Fruit Witbier: 4% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Huge strawberry red head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Blackcurrant cheesecake. Blackcurrant jam. Twigs. Strawberry. Thick. Tart grapes.

Body: Wheaty. Sharp lemon. Blueberry. White pepper. Tart blackcurrant. Charring. Tart grapes. Gooseberry.

Finish: Tart blueberries. Noble hop oils. Subtle blackcurrant. White pepper. Charred bitterness.

Conclusion: There is a massive disconnect between the aroma and the taste in this one. The aroma is hugely jammy, packed with fruit flavoured jelly notes (aka Jello for our American friends). It is sweet and thick. I was kind of worried that the sweetness was going to dominate the body too much and end up with a simple, one notes, sweet thing.

That definitely did not turn out to be the case.

The first hit of the main body is a sharp lemon note that seems fairly much like your standard expectations of a good wit, which was encouraging. It was good to see signs of the base beer evident through the berries. There also was a strong white pepper character that called to the spice use in a traditional wit. However that element isn’t too well used, combining with charred notes that make the beer feel unnecessarily harsh.

At this point the fruit is pretty much non existent, and the beer was feeling really lacklustre due to the harsher notes, the lack of fruit and the base beer being overwhelmed by the charring and spice. So, massively flawed, but not in the way I expected it to be.

This however turns out to be a beer that works better when warmer and with a bit of time to air. The rougher notes subside, though do not totally vanish. The berries rise without taking over and the base wit feels like it has some room to roam.

It is still not great, but is far more drinkable than it was before. Showing evident traditional dry, lemony wit character with subtle berries backing it up. There is still too evident pepper and charring which hurt it – however if they managed to turn that down a bit then this would be a heck of a better beer.

Bad start, reasonable end, but definitely needs work.

Background: This seems to a collaboration of some of the great breweries we have in the west country – Moor is an old fave of mine, while LHG and LAG are comparatively new kids on the block, but with some tasty beers already out from each. I’ve been feeling like a Belgian style wit for while, so when I saw this one – made with blackcurrant puree, at Independent Spirit, I figured it was worth a try. Put on a bunch of White Zombie for some retro b-movie style metal fun.

Art Brew: Pale (England: English Pale Ale: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark apricot towards brown. Thin off white head.

Nose: Malt chocolate and toffee. Fresh pineapple. Dried apricot. Fruit sugars. Peach. Light milk. Pumpkin.

Body: Moderately bitter. Moderately earthy. Light peach. Prickly hop mouthfeel. Toffee backbone. Soft lemon sherbet. Pumpkin. Slight peach syrup. Soft pineapple.

Finish: Solid earthy bitterness. Malt toffee. Soft pineapple air. Good hop character. Soft lemon cake. Pumpkin. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is a nice mix of things. The initial impression was a fairly earthy hopped English Pale Ale/ Bitter kind of thing. It was solidly earthy with good bitterness and a solid toffee malt backbone. Nothing fancy, but well done and the bitter, earthy British beer is a take oft overlooked these days.

Over time it really rounds out though. The first tell is a very soft pineapple note that freshens up the aroma, and then the body. The soft peach and apricot sweet notes come out and slowly pushes the earthiness into the background – though it still comes back for a solid kick in the finish.

It isn’t a super shiny beer, but it works at giving a solid kick up front as it leans heavily into the traditional British bitter style, then soothes into a gentle American pale hopped style that lets you relax with the rest of the beer. At a super sessionable 3.2% abv the earthier front and gentler back work very well indeed. It doesn’t get heavy, but doesn’t get dull, and that is a hard balance to get.

Very solid, calls to the old but uses the new. It isn’t going to turn up in anyone’s top 50 true, but … that isn’t the point of it. Let’s just say that this is not my first bottle of it – it brings you back and is enjoyable pretty much any time. It has a very well deserved place in the drinking range because of that.

Background: Ahh, Art Brew. Their beers are old friends of this blog, and I try to drop back to them every now and then. In this case to a session abv Pale Ale. Fairly simple name, and fairly simple concept. I felt like trying a beer that would hopefully concentrate on just being a good beer, rather than any flashy conceits or ingredients. Let’s see how that goes. Another one from Independent Spirit. I put on Svalbard’s bloody awesome It’s Hard To Have Hope while drinking. Seriously metal fans – great crunchy metal and socially relevant lyrics – you want to check this one out.

Wild Beer Co: Funky Dory (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lager to lemon juice. White medium sized head.

Nose: Lychee. Soft lemon. Mango. Tart. Cider touch. Wheat dust air. Fresh cut apples.

Body: Lychee. Mild yeast funk. Brown bread. Peppery. Lightly earthy. Dry lemon. Vanilla. Dry. Light apple. Mild blueberry backing.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Funky yeast. Dried mango. Dry lemon. Mature cheese and cheese puff crisps.

Conclusion: This tastes like an earthy old school British bitter matched with a new wave fruity pale ale, then they both went home and shagged in a pool of brett. Then nine months later this happened. Or something like that.

The front of the beer is full of soft, but quite dry, fruit – tart but in a way that still feels well attenuated and drying. Like a dry lemon drink, but with more range if that helps. That dry fruit works against the lightly funky brett character creating an easy drinking yet dry beer with a lot more weight behind it than such a beer often has.

What builds from that is a really earthy, peppery character that starts low and builds up slowly over the life of the beer. By the end it is very earthy, but backed by a tart character so it calls to, but is very different from the traditional earthy British bitter style.

It isn’t as great a beer as Brett Brett IPA or Chronos, but is another beer that shows that Bretting up other beer styles is where Wild Beer co really shine. The only flaw is that it ends up a bit too earthy dominated by the end and that keeps it from the great highs of the other beers.

Previous Bretted up beers from Wild Beer have aged well, So I’m planning on ageing up one of these for fun – see if it helps it get over the rough spots at the end. As is now it is a very nice take on the British bitter. Not their best, but a lovely twist on the Brit hop style.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Wild Beer Co’s beers recently, but when I saw this is looked like something that sits perfectly in the middle of what they do right. A British hopped ale, but funked up with Brett. Their Brett Brett IPA, Evolver IPA and Chronos Lager all were brett takes on other beer styles and generally were all impressive, so had good hopes for this. It helped that the image is a David Bowie reference – very cool, so I put on his Black Star album while drinking. Some tracks still give me chills even now. I bought one for ageing, to see what the brett did and one for drinking now. Then it was boiling hot so I drank both. This is my second attempt, grabbing two and doing notes on one. It is still too warm. All were grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Black Isle: 5-A-Day (Scotland: Fruit Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened yellow to brown. Very large off white bubbled head.

Nose: Passion-fruit. Lightly wheaty. Light white pepper. Light hop character and bitterness.

Body: Sour-dough. Gritty bitterness. Gritty hop character. Chalk. Light tart gapes.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. High hop bitterness. Slight charring. Dry guava. Dry passion-fruit. Flour. Chalk.

Conclusion:Ok, this is one of the least fruity IPAs I have ever encountered. Which, considering it is made with passion-fruit is really a bad sign.

First impressions are of just a gritty, slightly chalky and rough thing. The beer seems to have run into the problem that a lot of session IPAs do, which that that unless they are brewed very well then the lower malt base can make the beer feel dry and over-attenuated with little residual sweetness, which can make the higher hop load just acrid rather than flavoursome.

Over time an ,admittedly still very dry, fruit character does out, but it is never anywhere near enough to push itself ahead of the dry charring that is the front of the beer. It isn’t big flavoured except in roughness, it isn’t easy drinking in any way, the hops are rough and the malt is empty. Even worse the added fruit twist does very little resulting in a beer that is both dull and harsh.

So this is a bad beer – chalky and clinging with all the worst elements holding on the longest. This is genuinely one to avoid as it has nigh no redeeming qualities.

Background: Black Isle Brewery was one of the first set of beers I did notes on, back when I was first starting the blog. They were ok but nothing special back then. Since then they seem to have a complete image overhaul and gone more into the craft beer scene rather than the more traditional ales they did before. So when I saw a bunch of their beers at Independent Spirit I decided to grab one and see how they had changed. This is is a low abv IPA made with passion-fruit. Seems simple enough. I put on Testament – Low for music to back this. No real reason, just enjoy their music.

Cassels and Sons: Extra Pale Ale (New Zealand: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow with lots of small bubbled carbonation and a small yellowed head.

Nose: Turmeric. Earthy bitterness. Orange zest.

Body: Orange zest and orange skin. Dry. Vanilla. Earthy bitterness. Sour dough. Cereal and shredded wheat. Light sour grapes.

Finish: Turmeric. Dry. Slightly rocky. Moderate bitterness. Nettles. Peppery.

Conclusion: This feels a very Birtish influenced pale ale rather than the American take which I think is more its aim. It is especially odd as this is Nelson Sauvin hopped – a hop I associate more with grapefruit and pineapple rather than the earthy, turmeric and pepper notes that we get here.

Another element that makes me think of English Pales is that light orange note and solid dry bitterness that is an oft overlooked part of the style – it is a less obvious note that the earthy character that just shouts UK hops, but still there – and odder still because this does not use UK hops. At all I think.

Maybe it is the well attenuated character combined with a lower abv that makes the hop express itself differently. I mean, 4.9% isn’t a low abv, but it is a lot lower than a lot of the bursting beers that I usually encounter Nelson Sauvin in, so that may make the difference. The attenuated character makes it super dry, so maybe there is little for the tart fruitiness to grab hold of, instead you get light fresh notes in a tart grape style, just below the earthy bitterness.

It is pretty drinkable though – there area a lot of heavy bitterness notes, along with some rough notes that should prevent it being so, but the dry character is used well and instead of hindering, instead gives a lager like drinkability, backed by just a touch of vanilla to wash the rougher bitterness down down.

It is a solid beer, not showy, nor showcasing the hop, but solid and easy to drink. It does the British pale style brilliantly, even if it seems that was not the style they were aiming for.

Background: Ever since my Sister spent some time in New Zealand, which made it easier for me to get hold of their beers, I have been interested and excited by the NZ beer scene. So when this new brewery on me turned up at Independent Spirit I decided to give one of their beers a try. This beer in fact. Went for their Pale Ale as it seemed a reasonable entry point, especially as it uses the Nelson Sauvin hops which are one of the utter gems of the NZ hop scene in my opinion. Had been at a 90’stastic gig in Bristol the day before drinking this, so put on some Terrorvision as seeing them live reminded me they are still a bloody good band.

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