Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


wild-beer-co-breakfast-of-champignons

Wild Beer Co: Breakfast Of Champignons (England: Sour Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot skin colour. Settles to a thin white head a few seconds after pouring. Some dark sediment.

Nose: Sour. Chestnuts. Lemon juice. Dry. White pepper. Slight vinous and raisins undertones and dry Madeira.

Body: Tart – tart apples. Slight chestnut. Light vinegar touch. Tart apricot notes. Slight floral notes. Generally nutty. Aniseed. Madeira. Malt chocolate. Grapes.

Finish: Lemony. Tart. Slight orange juice. Dried mushrooms. Petals.

Conclusion: OK, I am not quite sure what I was expecting from this beer. I mean, mushroom in a beer? I don’t really have much experience to extrapolate from here. No idea how it would alter the beer. Now I have it in my hands, I am still trying to work out what exactly it is I have got.

Well, what we seem to have is a lightly nutty sour ale. From my love of mushrooms in general I am happy to guess that the mushrooms provide the nuttiness. I’m going out on a limb here. Any which way. Not as wild and out there as you may expect from the beers base concept – let’s face it lambics can be slightly nutty in their sourness – so this sour ale isn’t too unusual in bringing more of that.

Generally it is a nice beer – Comes in with reasonable but not heavy sourness – more fresh than anything else for the most part – with occasional harsher vinegar notes. Gives the expected lemon and apple tart notes which become less evident as the nuttiness rises. It does have some unusual depth to it though – both on the nose and the body, just at the edges you may catch some subtle Madeira and vinous notes. Very subtle undertones, but nice to see they are there.

The tartness of the beer get soothed over time, late on you get much more predominance from the nuttiness and even some light malt chocolate merges in to give a very different beer to what you started with – though you never completely lose the tart base. It is a reasonable enough beer, but doesn’t feel too special – or even too unusual all things considered. It was an odd choice going with mushrooms as the extra ingredient, and it had resulted in the neither a terrible, nor an expectational beer – just a subtle influence on a competent sour.

Not raving, not complaining – an oddly standard sour.

Background: OK. Right. Erm. This is a beer made with mushrooms. So, yeah that is a thing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a beer made with Penny Bun to be exact – a wild mushroom that mankind has yet to manage to deliberately cultivate. Which is interesting. Was a tad nervous about it after Wild Beer Co’s lobster beer didn’t work out well – but finally decided to give it a try.

shepherd-neame-sainsburys-taste-the-difference-london-porter
Shepherd Neame: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference: London Porter (England: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of mounded brown froth.

Nose: Grated chocolate. Brown bread. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Milky chocolate. Slight chalky texture. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Slightly chalky. Coffee cake. Light vanilla. Peppery.

Conclusion: We have been discussing (well, more correctly I have been monologuing about) earthy bitters recently. While doing so it is easy to overlook that, with the mass of easily available earthy hops in the UK, the earthy beer take has turned up in quite a range of styles over here.

This is a moderately earthy porter, though not dominated by that fact. The standard bitter chocolate and coffee notes you would expect of a porter are also there. However it is a lot more grounded than a lot of porters, with an earthy and peppery finish giving it a very savoury lead out. Also it gives it a bit more of a robust texture, rather than the smooth porter style it has a slight chalky texture and a rougher, but not unpleasant feel.

Over time the earthiness does become more present though – not a bad thing for the most part to my mind, but your mileage may vary. This has a lot of notes that I would associate with a more traditional bitter than a lot of porters, and that may not be up everyone’s alley. Apart from that it pretty much does the standard porter thing. I think if this was a cask real ale I would be giving it more time, the texture feels like it would slip into a cask beer nicely.

So, pretty simple for a porter but not badly done – the earthiness could be better used – early on the balance between it and the normal porter notes make it interesting, they grow and, while working for most of the beer, by the end it still isn’t bad but the earthiness does end up dominating and doesn’t let the porter notes flow well.

So, ok, but I would be interested to see what a more polished earthy porter would end up being like.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my mate Tony – many thanks. Shepherd Neame used to do their own beer called Original Porter which I thought was the same as this one – looking up online though their version seemed to be 4.8% abv or 5.2% abv depending on when it was brewed, so this must have at least a slightly different recipe. Broke out the porter designed craft beer glass for this. Don’t know really if it makes a difference but it is fun.

wadworth-6x

Wadworth: 6X (England: Bitter: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruby brown. Creamy inch of slightly browned froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel. Lemony hops. Creamy. Light turmeric and orange peel.

Body: Earthy. Caramel. Slight liquorice. Thick. Popcorn hop styling. Corn Pops cereal. Malt chocolate. Chalky over time.

Finish: Corn pops cereal. Vanilla. Earthy character. Caramel. Orange.

Conclusion: I talked recently about earthy bitters and the value thereof – this is the other way an earthy bitter can go. It doesn’t have the slight sourness I associate with a good sessionable bitter; Instead it goes for a much sweeter malt base. It goes bigger and more malty, and with that it seems it brings out more flavour from the hops as well. Some fruity lemon and orange float out from amongst the earthiness.

It is easier to get into than the Black Sheep Bitter as it has that immediate sweet hook – but without the light sourness I found that the earthiness got wearing more quickly.

It is a fairly standard beer, gets chalky over time, which can be used well, but here is again slightly wearing. So, it starts off pretty good with the sweetness and the nice fruitiness with balanced earthiness – but that earthiness and chalkiness gets a bit one note by the end.

It feels like it needs something to make the good qualities last, something normally provided by the light sourness. It doesn’t have a bad opening for a sweeter styled bitter, but can’t keep the game up. Ok, but by the end is just doing the minimum I would expect from a beer of this type.

So, not a great ale. Ok to start, even slightly good, but a rough end.

Background: Quite a quick set of notes this one – This was a beer given to me by a colleague at work – many thanks. This used to a be a regular pint in my early twenties at our local, so some fond memories. Also people keep punning its name as sick sex. Because of course they do. That is all.

berliner-kindl-weisse

Berliner Kindl: Weisse (Germany: Berliner Weisse: 3.0% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Large white head.

Nose: Musty and oats, yet tart feeling. Slight lemon.

Body: Tart. Light chalk. Oaks. Lemon. Slight syrupy lemon core. Slight milk to cream. Slight bitter greenery. Light mint leaves.

Finish: Oats and muesli. Thick sheen on tongue. Lemon syrup. Vanilla. Light greenery. Light salt. Slight grapes.

Conclusion: This is a lot less sour than I remember. Then again I have drunk a lot of sours in the intervening years. Also I don’t have a fucking tooth cavity this time. Which may explain things.

Anyway, this is fresh, with a tart lemon in a kind of traditional lemon juice style and feel – what I don’t remember from last time it it having a kind of oat and muesli roughness to it. Nor do I remember the greenery touched gritty bitterness it the back. It feels quite nature touched, with a pre hops bittering agent style to the taste. Though all this is background to the main lemon freshness. By itself fit is refreshing, but slightly empty. I can see why most new beers in the style add fruit, or most drinkers add syrup to the traditional base. This feels like a very good start to a beer, but not an ,and nowhere near an, end point.

Still, taken as it is it still works the refreshing side well and delivers a good texture while waking up the taste-buds. In fact, to concentrate on that aspect for a moment – it really is an interesting texture progression. It feels kind of light when it firsts touches your lips, gains tart but gritty as you hold it, until it finally finds a slightly thicker syrup touch at the centre. It may be a base that needs something extra, but I can see why it is so popular as a base.

Not one I will return to often, but it has given me a new respect for the base of the style.

Background: Years ago, back when I was first trying sours, it turns out I had a cavity – It was around that time I was trying Cantillons, and this – the Kindl Berliner Weisse. I cannot remember which exactly it was that caused me to realise I had a cavity, but let us just say it was painful. So, with that in mind I returned to this beer, grabbed from Independent Spirit, for a hopefully less painful experience. To psyche myself up I broke out a mix of Iron Maiden tunes. Often Berliner Weisse is drunk with syrup such as raspberry or woodruff for added sweetness, but for this tasting I took it au naturel.

black-sheep-ale

Black Sheep: Black Sheep Ale (England: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed brown. Clear. Still. Small grey head.

Nose: Earthy. Caramel sweetness. Palma violets. Sulphur.

Body: Slight fizzy feel. Nettles. Earthy notes and palma violets. Lightly sour. Light chalk. Soft vanilla back. Light cherries. Sticky brown envelopes

Finish: Dry roasted peanuts and chestnuts. Earthy notes. Light bitterness. Palma violets. Sticky brown envelopes. Turmeric.

Conclusion: You know, earthy bitters catch some shit. They get overlooked so much. I can see why – they aren’t bursting with tropical fruit. They don’t have huge malt sweetness to sooth. They are work-a-day beers. Not to mention they are, by definition, earthy. That is a hard sell. No one likes the idea of drinking earth, right?

The thing is, while it isn’t going to set the world alight, when done right a bitter has a slight sourness, very mild but just there, that makes it refreshing. It is why they are so good as a work-a-day pint.

This is one of those beers that does it right. It is earthy, with that slight sour refreshing note – and in a unique element for this one, matches that with a kind of palma violet cleanness to the whole thing – if that makes sense. Also, if it doesn’t make sense. It makes the earthiness feel less wearing over time, which solves what is oft a flaw of those type of bitters.

Now, it is pretty one note, a one trick pony; It never changes from that beer it is at the start, but it balances itself well – even using a slight vanilla sweetness and slight chalk grounding to polish the edges. I’m not going to rave about it as a beer – I’ve yet to run into a solidly earthy bitter that can make me rave about it. That may be your breweries challenge for 2017 if you are reading this and want to take a run at it. This does do the job though.

Not fancy, but hopefully from my meandering writing of the past few paragraphs I have shown why I’m glad beers like this exists, even if they are an oft overlooked style.

Background: Second in my “Sheep” themed tasting notes. An intentional theme. Honest. Anyway, this s part of a Christmas gift from a workmate. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to the latest Spektrmodule podcast. Black Sheep brewery is actually close to where I used to live once up North. Never visited it though. Possibly should do that one day. I am minorly biased towards the North for beers, cos I love the North, but try not to let it affect me.

wychwood-marstons-bah-humbug

Wychwood (Marstons): Bah Humbug (England: English Strong Ale: 5.0%)

Visual: Reddened mahogany brown. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Browned inch of a bubbled head.

Nose: Lightly roasted. Light nutmeg. Malt drinks.

Body: Caramel. Cinnamon. Light chestnuts. Slight chocolate, grows over time. Quite treacle texture and slight flavour as well. Soft vanilla notes. Nutmeg.

Finish: Cinnamon and nutmeg. Slight vanilla. Slight brown bread. Light oak notes. Soft treacle. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: This feels like your standard, non real ale, bottled ale – but spiced up for Christmas. Ok, went a bit “damning with faint praise” on that opening – but please do not read that too harshly, let me expand.

The base has that smoother feel that I find tends to come with pasteurised beers, with accompanying higher levels of sweetness. It has less evident texture than the real ale version which I have also tried, and a cleaner sweetness. Kind of a clean caramel and light treacle style backed by some vanilla. As is indicated in the opening that is kind of standard for this kind of beer, to my eyes at least. From the colour of the beer I would also admit to expecting it to be closer to the chestnut coloured bitter style of ale, as for that this seems a tad light on the bitterness and hop stylings. However on the malt side it matches exactly to expectations.

Instead of notable bitterness and some earthy work from the flavouring hops, this actually goes to work with the spices in the same space. Moderate but present – they call to Christmas with the nutmeg matched with cinnamon sweetness. It is a pleasant, slightly warming flavour – very gentle in intensity, but despite that the spice is the main flavour here. It is nothing out of the normal, but solid and matches the season it is picked for nicely.

Soothing malt base, moderate spice – no complaints, does what you would expect. Some people dislike the distinct feel and taste of the pasteurised beers, but it matches the spice usage here. As mentioned, I have also tried the lower abv real ale version – It has a better, more gripping texture – the flavours are less distinct, but in that have more subtle meshing between them and with lower evident sweetness. Either way it is a solid enough drink for the season, but not one to actively hunt out.

Background: Not sure if this still counts as English Strong Ale, as it is down from its old 6% abv of years gone by. However I’m not putting it under spiced beer as the cinnamon added to the beer doesn’t dominate that much in intensity and it doesn’t really match any other style cleanly. I had drunk the lower abv, real ale, take on this in a pub the day before, but this, pasteurised bottle version was provided by my family while I was back home for Christmas – many thanks!

york-guzzler

York :Guzzler (England: Golden Ale: 4.0% ABV)

Visual: Clear bright gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large yellowed mound of a head.

Nose: Floral. Wheaty. Moderate hop bitterness. Light vanilla. Orange rind. Cinnamon. Lemon.

Body: Light treacle. Cinnamon. Doughnuts. Smooth. Honey note. Light flour. Orange juice. Vanilla. Toffee.

Finish: Light treacle. Honey. Fluffy hop character. Cinnamon. Slight brown bread. Light earthy hops. Black liquorice.

Conclusion: This has much more subtlety than it seemed at first. Initially it seemed a vanilla sweet, mildly treacle touched, easy drinking ale. Nice enough, easy to drink – gently creamy with a dry flour back to contrast. You can forgive me for not expecting much, nothing more than a gentle session ale, based on that first impression.

It does keep that gentle style throughout, but gains a gentle cinnamon sweetness and light citrus orange notes that develop throughout. It still keeps things gentle, but it builds so that the more sweet and treacle notes drop into the background, letting fresher, subtle but enjoyable fruit notes to the front. Everything is quite restrained, but if you take your time to examine there is actually a bit going on.

It is nicely put together, pretty traditional styled in feel with a slight touch of the British earthy style, but without the connotations of dullness that can often be insinuated by “traditional”. It isn’t a super stand out ale, but a nice, easy drinking ale with a bit more than you would expect.

Background: A tasting note from up north, back with the family over the holiday. Dad had got some beers in, including this one from York. Many thanks. I love York as a place, very beautiful city, lots of good pubs and shops for a beer nut like me, lots of culture. Great place. Not drunk anything from the York brewery yet, so this is another new brewery on me. Have great holidays, whatever you celebrate – enjoy your drink!

mad-dog-its-all-propaganda

Mad Dog: It’s All Propaganda (Wales: Black IPA: 5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Large creamy heads. Not quite opaque in body.

Nose: Bitter cocoa. Light charred notes. Bitter hops. Lemongrass and a touch of key lime. Fresh wet lettuce. Roasted nuts and cashew nuts. Fresh doughnut dough. Coffee.

Body: Lemon sorbet. Malt chocolate and chocolate liqueur. Kiwi. Lemon milkshake.

Finish: Lemongrass. Bitter chocolate. Charring touch. Lemon sorbet. Kiwi. Light apricot. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Did you say Sorachi Ace was used in making this? Instant five stars. Would drink again! More seriously, these hops work much better in a Black IPA than I originally thought they would. I had bought this more out of whimsy than thinking it would actually work.

The malt base is definitely present, but not too heavy – kind of chocolate, bitter coffee and slightly doughnut dough like. Those elements show a lot more later on though, as the hops stop doing their thing. Thus the finish especially feels quite roasted stout like, sure, but the first sip is more than malt base mixed with fresh lemongrass and a kind of lemon milkshake creaminess, followed by a nice hop punch. You are always very much aware of the darker set of notes, so your tastebuds feel slightly confused as it tries to reconcile a lemon creamy notes with bitter chocolate and hoppiness. The conflict seems less as time goes on, with the savoury lemongrass as closer match to the black IPA base.

If I was to pick a main criticism it is that, based on expectations of the style, the base feels closer to a general British dark ale than specifically a Black IPA – probably due to the comparatively restrained abv for a BIPA of 5% ABV. So, best view it as a hopped dark ale than a BIPA if you are thinking about if you want to grab it.

Generally, taken as itself, taken as that British dark ale with a bit more hops, it gives a nice bunch of freshness early on, and a solid darker set of notes to dominate the back, with the savoury a line throughout.

So, fun for me, not dominated by Sorachi Ace, but enhanced by it. Not super refined as a beer, and not closely tied to BIPA expectations. However for general drinking I enjoyed the hell out of it. Could it be made more polished? Sure. As is it is a fun one though.

Background: I grabbed this from The Beer Emporium, it hit a few of the things that make a beer interesting to me -new brewery on me, sorachi ace hops, Black IPA. Nice mix of stuff to grab my eye. Especially as the hop choice is a very odd one for a BIPA. I try to grab beers from over in Wales as well – they don’t get much of a look out a lot of the time, but there is some very good stuff there. Drunk while listening to a mix of old school Offspring albums. Used to be a huge fan of them during my teen years, no so much a fan of their recent stuff. I may just be getting old.

elusive-brewing-plan-b

Elusive Brewing: Plan B (England: Belgian Ale: 3.7% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed to apricot. Hazy streaks in the body. Large amount of carbonation and a massive white mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty and peppery.

Body: Nicely bitter. Slight cloves. Dried banana. Creamy texture with prickly hop character. Custard crème biscuit’s centre. Light vanilla toffee. Cane sugar. Apricot notes.

Finish: Peppery. Light earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Smoked banana. Slight funky yeast feel – puff crisps. Good hop character. Pine needles. Cheddar cheese.

Conclusion: You know where I have, recently, been chatting about beers that are not complex, but are fun. Well, I didn’t expect a Belgian ale to come along and be an example of that style. I associate Belgian style ales with massive complexity and range. Oh and usually massive abv. Then again this isn’t from Belgium, just in the Belgian style. So that may explain that.

So, a Belgian style blond ale with light sweetness and a slight yeastie character. Ya know, standard, what you would expect. Backed by slight peppery character, slight cloves – again what you would expect. Rounded off by mac off huge bitterness, ya know stand…wait, what?

Basically, instead of adding layers of complexity to this Belgian ale it seems that they just slammed the hop bitterness way up. Earthy notes, prickly hop bitterness. Actually works a lot better than it feels it should.

The balance between the oddity of the funky Belgian yeast and the massive hop character is actually kept quite well, while allowing both to be very influential. Despite two fairly big flavours it is still very easy to drink, very sessionable despite having big (if limited in range) character. Perfect character for something at a tidy 3.7% ABV.

Even better, near the end of the beer some of the more expected fruity flavours that oft come with high hopping, such as apricot notes, start to come out – alongside more traditional cheddar cheese like funky Belgian yeast flavours. Still not massively complex, but just a bit more when you need it to keep the beer from getting dull, when the simple assault would be wearing out its welcome.

So – a simple mix of Belgian style and high hops, but charming, fun and sessionable. I dig that.

Background:

(EDIT: Quite amusingly I have been informed that this is meant to be one of our arseholes – Boris Johnson (hence Plan B) and not Trump. Damn, I always knew they looked similar, but when 8 bitted up they look damn near identical. Anyway, I stand by my comments Re: Trump and have left them there to show I am a fallible human being, oh and Bojo is a prick as well)

Ok, so yes, as is evident this beer is taking the piss out of Trump. I am aware a good chunk of my readers are from the USA. I am also aware that just under half of the USA voting people voted for Trump. So, to address the elephant in the room. Fuck Trump. At best he is a raw populist willing to spout shit from the fascist playbook to get elected, and to snuggle up to the newspeak like named Alt-Right to do so, or to speak plainly – Fucking Nazis. The alt-right are Nazis, at some points literal sieg heiling Nazis, and Trump gives them succour. So, yeah, I’ve never gone wrong in my own personal morals with saying fuck the Nazis and I’m not about to stop doing so now. So fuck them and fuck him. I am aware that we have enough shit in our backyard in the UK and Europe, so don’t worry I’m not claiming this is a uniquely USA issue – just the one I am addressing at the moment. Ok, that now addressed – the beer, a Belgian style pale ale made with English malts, German and Australian hops, and Belgian yeast. Grabbed from Independent Spirit as it was a new brewery on me, and the mix of lower abv and Belgian style made it seem an interesting one to try. In happier news, drunk while listening to Mobina Galore – a punk band who was one of the warm ups at the Against Me! Gig. Great fun, lots of energy, definitely worth checking out.

hubris-id-ix-mint-chocolate-stout

Hubris ID: IX Mint Chocolate Stout (England: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose: Peppermint and After Eight mints. Slight sour cream and chocolate shavings. Slight brown bread. Crushed mint leaves.

Body: Slightly thin when chilled. Bready. Malt chocolate drink. Mint. Milky coffee.

Finish: Mint leaves and peppermint gun. Brown bread. Slight milk. Chocolate dust.

Conclusion: Very minty. Very minty indeed. Seriously, if you like mint – here is all the mint you could want. You are welcome. Possible could do with some work on the chocolate side though.

The aroma has the mix just right – lots of peppermint and crushed mint leaves as you would expect, but also a luxurious, kind of After Eights mint like, chocolate character. So, spot on, and at this point I was expecting good things ahead.

The body goes very heavy into the mint character, doubling down and giving a very natural mint character. A lot less artificial and sweet than most mint interpretations; Instead closer to, well, ya know, mint – the whole leafy, green thing in nature. Normally something less artificial would be something I would applaud – I am all for things tasting like what they are, as opposed to the image of it we have been sold in synthetic versions in other foodstuff. However here it makes it a drink that is all mint, and very little stout. There is some chocolate, and a kind of bready base but it is so very far at the back. It feels like the base beer needs a bit more of a robust character to balance everything out, and to match the overall concept better.

So, as mentioned, if mint is your thing then this is epic level mint. Personally I think it needs a bit more work aside from that though – I gave it time to warm, which gave it a tad more body, but it still felt like it needed to grow a little more as it still kind of lacked body.

So very good at half of its concept, not so good at the other half (or third and two thirds if we are including stout as a separate part from mint and chocolate). Interesting but a tad overwhelming due to the mint excess. As always, your mileage may vary depending on how much that idea appeals to you.

Background: Another new local brewery – this one a tiny brewery heading by a previous brewer of Wild Beer co. I’ve tried a few of theirs before, on tap, but this is their first bottled product (I think)– one which I found at Independent Spirit. It is made with cocoa nibs, mint oil and spearmint. This was broken open to chill out after getting back from an awesome Against Me! gig, Absolutely great time, so was ready for something nice to cap off the evening.

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