Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


Kennet and Avon Brewing: Dundas Best Bitter (England: Bitter: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Very large caramel brown touched white mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty and peppery. Slight earthy touch. Light lime and greenery.

Body: Peppery. Lightly milky. Coriander. Solid bitterness. Brown paper. Light caramel. Light cream and orange backing ovaltine.

Finish: Coriander. Peppery. Slight sour tang. Wheaty and earthy. Moderate hop feel. Choco toffee malt drinks. Charred notes.

Conclusion: You know, on the first sip I had of this, I was ready to give it some shit. It comes in slightly light, dominated by a peppery chunk that made it seem rough edged. “Why?” I was about to whine. “Why is so hard to make a good best bitter?”

A few sips later I was instead nodding appreciatively – it is lightly earthy, and still definitely peppery, but the beer had balanced itself pretty quickly – there was now a gentle toffee sweetness backing it, but more importantly that slight sour, almost brown paper feeling backing character that makes for the more refreshing aspect of a well developed bitter. It has some grip now, where it felt light before, a slightly thicker texture that lets the hop character and moderate bitterness grab your attention without getting super intense.

So, now kind of answering my opening paragraph question, in a round about way – yes it is hard to make a good best bitter – and while this isn’t a showstopper it has a good mouthfeel, solid flavour and balances mild sweetness, good earthiness and a slight sour touch – all which combine to make it a solid beer for a session.

This, I think is what makes it so hard to do a good best bitter – here you have nothing super stand out, but everything in the right proportions. It manages to deliver a good beer and has had to do it without the crutch of being able to use high amounts of fruity hop, heavy amounts of malt, nor high bitterness. Instead it has had to use everything it can get out of restrained bitterness, malt and less showy earthy and spicy notes to give a complete experience.

It is hard because you are working with a comparatively limited selection of tools – if you push too much experimentation you lose a lot of what makes the style – and when done right it is unlike any other beer style – a very savoury experience in a lot of ways – a satisfying liquid meal of a drink. This isn’t the best of the best bitters, but it manages that and makes it a a good one.

Background: So, a quick google tells me this is gluten free. Huh, usually gluten free beers shout it more on the label, while this tucks it away on the back. Anyway …. the best bitter isn’t one that turns up very often in the new wave of beer scene, so when I saw this at Independent Spirit thought it would be cool to give it a go. Drunk while listening to more Warrenpeace – yep this was pretty much directly after doing one of the Jefferson Wood Experiment notes.

8 Wired: Hippy Berliner (New Zealand: Berliner Weisse: 4% ABV)

Visual: Pale lager yellow to grain look. A small amount of small bubbled carbonation. Thin white head.

Nose: Quite thick. Passion-fruit. Oily resinous feel. Light bitterness and hop character. Slight apple. Oats. Slight fresh lemon.

Body: Fresh and acidic. Tart apples and tart white grapes. Dry mango. Slight cloying twist centre. Oats. Light kiwi. Light bitterness.

Finish: Tart white grapes. Elderflower. Vanilla. Light hop bitterness. Flour. Light salt.

Conclusion: This is very unlike most Berliner Weisses that I’ve had – in fact it feels like what Bonaparte wanted to be; It is a berliner that tries to match that freshness with extra flavour from a good use of hop character.

Things are distinctly different from the off – while it has fresh undertones, the aroma is quite resinous with this muggy passion-fruit character. It feels like a heavy resinous hop styled beer, not something I’d associate with most sour beers, but it doesn’t eclipse that aspect either.

The beer below that aroma is closer to expectations with fresh lemon and acidic apple; Smoother and lighter than most berliner weisses in harshness but still recognisable in the style. It actually feels kind of elderflower drink like as an additional unusual characteristic – the sour character mixes with the moderate fruit hops to give this refreshing characteristic about halfway between the two. Odd, but nice.

Overall it is refreshing – despite its unusual takes it ends up not feeling that revolutionary. The odder elements come together over time to balance pretty well, losing some of the odder edges, but making for a better beer.

It is not a must have, but does the job well – the hop usage feeling like a nice replacement for the adding of syrup that is traditionally common. Not bad at all.

Background: 8 Wired! I love these lot’s stuff, but they turn up comparatively rarely in the UK – so when I saw this one in Independent Spirit I grabbed it. With it being a brightly coloured, hip and happy bottle, I decided to put on Paradise Lost – Gothic as music. They just seemed to go so well together. This is a Berliner weisse, hopped with American and New Zealand hops – wasn’t sure how well that would work – oft hops get over used these days to wreck an originally not hop based style. Still when done well a pinch of hops can really rock a beer in new ways, so happy to give a go.

Downton: Pumpkin Ale (England: Spice/Vegetable/Herb: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy ripe banana to gold. Some sediment. Large mounded ice cream float looking off white head.

Nose: Pumpkin. Earthy hops. Cinnamon and coriander. Low but present bitterness.

Body: Earthy bitterness. Slightly peppery. Some pumpkin comes out if held. Greenery. Soft soil. Orange zest. Slight brown sugar.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy. Moderate bitterness. Paprika. Soil.

Conclusion: This is a fairly earthy beer, almost soil like at times. Not something I would generally associate with a pumpkin ale, but there you go. While pumpkin isn’t a super fragile flavour, it isn’t exactly a dominant one either. And here it really seems to suffer against the earthy bitter weight that this brings.

It is odd that the pumpkin gets such short shrift in the body as the aroma manages to push those notes very well – they just get lost very easily when you start sipping the beer itself. If you hold the beer on your tongue for a while it does start time come out, but basically you have to seriously dig to get the element to be anything but the lightest of notes.

So, as a pumpkin beer this is definitely a fail – but how does it do just as a beer in itself? Fairly dull; It is a soil dominated, earthy bitter – which, let’s face it, is a style that is hard to do in an interesting fashion – not impossible, just hard.

This is a bit dull, a bit leaden, a bit too much earth and too little pumpkin. As both a beer in itself and a pumpkin beer it is a let down. Avoid.

Background: This beer was kind gift from my work college Matt – Many thanks. He informed me that he had it for a while before giving me it, however looking at it the best before date is still way in the future so it should be ok. Then again,as a pumpkin ale I’m guessing this came out Halloween last year, so damn that must be a long best before date. I did wonder if this was the same recipe as their other Dial’s Pumpkin Beer but it did seem to taste very different despite the same abv. Anyway, in some act of insanity I bought the Afterbirth+ DLC for Binding Of Isaac in the latest steam sale. This was drunk after I finally managed to stop playing that stupidly addictive game. Why did I do it? WHYYYY? Anyway, drunk while listening to some Rob Zombie to keep in with the macabre atmosphere of playing that game!

Mill’s Brewing: Oliver’s Cider and Perry: Foxbic (England: Cider/Sour Ale: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apple juice – goes very cloudy on later pours. Large white mound of a head that quickly vanishes. Lots of small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Dry. Apples to cider. Vanilla. White grapes.

Body: Dry. Oaken. Fresh cut apples. Slight yeastie feel. Slight soft mushy apples. Apricot on later pours.

Finish: Tart grapes. Vanilla. Moderate oak. Moderate bitterness. Flour. Dry white wine. Fresh apples.

Conclusion: OK, I am moving outside my comfort zone by doing notes on this one, as it seems closer to the cider side of things than the beer side – albeit with some lambic style notes in there. Any which way, I’ll see what I can do.

It is on the very dry cider side, with only as little sweetness there in the middle. This then meets a white wine and oaken character akin to the drier lambics. So it is slightly tart, very dry but not especially sour, and has very little mouth puckering character considering the flavours.

Flavour-wise it mixes fresh cut solid apples with their softer, more mushy apple type. No I don’t know the names, unfortunately; My obsessiveness already has an outlet in beer and whisky so I don’t know all the apple names as well. There is also a vanilla sweetness to it that feels more beer than cider, one of the few sweet notes it uses.

It feels reasonable – if you handed me this and told me it was a cider I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise – thought with the heads up given, there is a kind of brett funky yeast character to it, and a slight beery thickness that cider doesn’t often have (in my limited experience).

It’s not one I would return to often, as cider is something I only have occasionally, but it does seem to do it well – a white wine to lambic feeling cider thing that is dry and fairly easy to drink.

Background: Ok, grabbed this one from Independent Spirit as it is, in my experience a unique one. Feel free to tell me if I am wrong on that one. It is a mix of brewing styles from beer and cider to create this – the closest thing to cider I have ever done notes on here. Lots of people ask me to do cider notes, but I’m not quite sure if I’ve got the knowledge or the language to do it justice. Anyway, this is made with the turbid mash method to make the wort in the style of a lambic, but the wort was fermented with Foxwhelp juice by cider lees in old oak barrels for eight months, then bottle condietioned for 8 more months. I had to google some of those terms. Drunk on a far too bloody hot day while listening to a relaxing mix of Ulver music

Ilkley: North Brewing: Bonaparte (England: Berliner Weisse: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Light clear grain yellow body. Thin white head that leaves some white suds.

Nose: Apples and lime. Key lime. Kiwi. Fresh lemon.

Body: Apples. Dry. Flour. Dry hop bitterness. Slight cider vinegar. Pears. Lemon.

Finish: Flour. Apples. Slightly sour. Pear. Vanilla. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Dry hopping made this promise so much, so much lovely fruit in the aroma. However, it seems that the aroma is writing cheques that the body can’t cash.

The aroma is full of fresh green fruit, tart and with a good chunk of complexity – lots to invite you in. That first impression is genuinely amazing. The body that follows is light tart apples to apple cider, with apple vinegar touches and, well, that is just about it.

It is kind of bitter, kind of flour like in the hop grip, but somehow it manages to mute what is usually the huge freshness of the berliner weisse style. In muting that it also seems to mute the complexity and masses of fruit range that the aroma promises. It feels like a real let down.

The finish does manage to recover it again slightly, some of the green fruit comes back and plays again. However generally it feels quite empty – the main body just feels like empty, mild sourness and really doesn’t pay off its gimmick of the dry hopping. Then again, I know dry hopping is basically about adding awesome aromas, but I expect it to follow through with it – I expect it to give something beyond that.

The idea does have promise, adding extra layers to the sour style, and I have seen dry hopped lambics and other sours that do good things with the idea – however in this instance it needs a lot more work to, well, work. This really isn’t worth it.

Background: This was drunk at the Port Street Beer House up in Manchester – was in the area before heading up to Leeds for the NXT wrestling show the next day. Had some good friends with me and was having a very chilled time. Tried a few beers there, they had a very nice tap selection including a good chunk of Cloudwater and a decent, if expensive, bottle selection. Very good beers, if expensive in general. This one is dry hopped berliner weisse which intrigued me.

Fantome: Vertignasse (Belgium: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright green. Massive green to white bubbled head.

Nose: Minty. Wheaty. Lamb stew. Lime. Coriander.

Body: Lime. Sage. Wheaty. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Minty. Peppermint and mint leaves.

Finish: Lime jelly. Moderate bitterness. Wheaty. Malt drinks. Greenery. Peppery. Mint.

Conclusion: This is the, I think, 2nd green Fantome beer I have had. I think. It’s not something you expected to see more than one per brewery of at the most. Anyway, considering that there is strong suspicion that woodruff is used to make this green, that could explain that flavour that I am having a very hard time pinning down. I have never tried woodruff in anything except a Chorlton beer which a) similarly confused me and b) wasn’t green. So, anyway, could taste like woodruff for all I know, I’m doing my best here.

What seems to come out of the beer is a mix of lime and herbal sage notes over the usual peppery, high quality saison from Fantome. The result is good, but seems slightly less than the sum of its parts. The base seems to lead towards their awesome Spring Saison but the … you know what, right or wrong I’m going to call it woodruff for now just so I have a word for it rather than just saying “green thingy influence” … the woodruff influence does overpower a lot of the lighter subtle notes that made that beer so awesome.

Now, it’s still good – but also more one note, or really more two note with the strong lime and sage like notes. There is an impressive, slow building, bitterness backing it, but again this is matched by the fact it overpowers the lighter notes.

So, fairly decent – though another one I would say to share – despite the lower abv the flavours can get wearing if you solo this beer raid (If you forgive the video game reference). There is a cloying note and a minty character that raises up, adding complexity, but it still becomes heavy going over 750ml.

So, good, kind of one note – I would say to go with some of Fantome’s other excellent beers over this merely ok but not great one. The curse of having such a great line up is that only ok ones like this seem weak by comparison.

Background: Another beer with style disagreement online- depending on where you look it is described as a wit or a saison. Frankly, considering whatever was added to it to make it green, it isn’t close to any style really – but I have leant towards saison based on my experiences. I don’t think official word has been given on what makes it green, but a few people have guessed woodruff, which seems a fair call. I adore Fantome saisons, they rate from ok to bloody excellent, and from just excellent takes on a standard saison, to weird mad experiments. All good. This one was grabbed at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some Rhapsody – great fantasy, storytelling metal. This was drunk the night before heading up north to go watch NXT wrestling – so I knew good times were ahead.

Kefalonian & Ithaca Microbrewery: Kefalonian Beer (Greece: Premium Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow, clear. Massive white head and masses of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla. Wet cardboard. Slight sulphur eggs. Slight wheat. Orange fruit sugars. Slight banana and funky yeast.

Body: Moderate hop character. Fresh lemon. Light brown sugar. Slightly muggy hop middle. Prickly feel. Vanilla. Light orange jelly sweets. Slightly chalky. Banana. Cheese puffs.

Finish: Lemony. Popcorn hop feel and light bitterness. Slightly watery. Slightly chalky. Cardboard. Banana. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This is the more interesting side of meh and shrug compared to the pretty damn bad meh and shrug that was Mythos.

Like that beer, this has some rough notes. It is a bit chalky, a bit watery -which is admittedly an unusual mix. You usually only get one or the other. The aroma was a very bad first impression as well – seeming dull, and mainly giving wet cardboard notes.

However it turns out when you hit the body it does have some actual flavour in there. There is some lemon freshness, some orange notes, even a moderate hop character. Not world shaking but it is something, they are trying to put out an actual beer with flavour. As time goes on the rougher elements get more prevalent, with the dank wet cardboard notes rising, especially in the finish.

There is a slight funky character to it – kind of cheese puffs and banana. If the beer didn’t have the rough notes then I think these would be quite interesting and even give some play to the beer – with the rough notes however they bounce badly off each other so it just seems like a missed opportunity,

So, it does have some promise, some good notes but badly delivered. I cannot in any way recommend it, but unlike Mythos they do have something. If they do a heck of a lot of work with it there is an enjoyable beer in there somewhere. Until they find it however, I say avoid.

Background: The second of two beers Tony brought back from Greece for me – many thanks! This one from a Greek microbrewery, very interesting, hope it will be better than the macro beer that I tried before. Don’t know much about this – it calls itself “The First Kefalonian Beer” So that is a thing. To match the lack of knowledge on the beer I shoved music on random for this one – had no idea what I was getting.

Boglers Braustube: Dinkel & Weizen (Germany: Hefeweizen: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to lemon juice. Very large white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheat and crisp hop bitterness. Popcorn hop notes. Vanilla. Peppery. Slightly fresh.

Body: Slightly thick texture. Caramel. Cloves and dried banana. Orange segments. Vanilla toffee. The head is bitter and yeastie. Wheaty and moderate bitterness. Palma violets. Kiwi. Lemony. Hop oils. Hard rock candy. Slightly milky. Slight raspberry yogurt bits.

Finish: Soft toffee. Palma violets. Banana custard. Vanilla. Just bananas. Moderate hop character. Slight kiwi. Cloves. Slight chestnut mushrooms. Moderate bitterness.

Conclusion: This seems a lot smoother than your standard weisse beer – the harshness and texture seems set half way between a kristall weisse and a standard hefewizen, though with an extra touch of thickness to it

The thickness seems to bring a lot of toffee and caramel notes that usually don’t get much play in a wiesse – mixing with the more expected banana and clove notes. It also has sweeter kind of cane sugar notes – it feels actually like a more traditional pale malt base that you would use for an IPA or an APA mixing with a bit extra from the weisse addition. This gets less obvious as time goes one, with a cloudier visual and more wheat character coming out over time. I guess that, despite my best efforts, the sediment was mainly in the lower half on the pour.

The bitterness and hop character are more present that normal, but not massively so. Well that is unless you take a sip with some of the head in it – then it comes with a brash intensity indeed. Otherwise, well the extra thickness merges well with some hop oils, and bring some unusual flavours – palma violet like from the noble hops, and light raspberry yogurt notes. If held on the tongue the bitterness grows, but also a fresh lemon contrast as well.

Overall it mixes a smoother base and a bigger hop character with a decent weisse wheat character. It is a balance of style – the base feels like that of a sweeter IPA as already mentioned, along with some, but definitely not all of the hop flavour and intensity – the rest is full wheat character.

It is a very solid beer, and another one that is a bit off the standard style path, which is nice. The huge bottle is a bit much for one person, as I found. The bitterness rises at the end and can come to dominate. Shared I think this would work well.

A nice experiment with a hopped hefeweizen without (generally) being dominated by it – well unless you have the entire 1L yourself. Pretty good, not super polished but there is a lot going on. Tad rough edged, but I had fun with it.

Background: Grabbed from Craft Beer Kontor in Hannover, excellent stocked wee shop. I grabbed this one for a few reasons, one of which was the silly sized bottle and the utterly packed with text label that put me in mind of the overwritten Japanese style labels. Also best I could tell it was a weisse done craft beer style. Though I have to admit I read “Dinkel” as “Dunkel” so was expecting a dark beer. Whoops. Turns out dinkel is a speciality malt. My mistake. On first pour this was about 90% froth – a very energetic one, but a few careful pours later I had a drinkable beer. Due to the huge bottle I had more time that usual to get notes, hence this may be a tad overwritten. Drunk while listening to the awesome final David Bowie album – Black Star. Still utterly haunting.

Mythos Brewing (Carlsberg): Mythos Hellenic Beer (Greece: Pale Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Large amount of small bubbled carbonation. Thin white head.

Nose: Mashed grain and wet rice. Mild palma violets note. Vanilla cream. Light hop character and bitterness.

Body: Vanilla. Slight brown sugar. Musty at the back. Slight palma violets and mild hop character. Rice crackers. Slight sugar dusting.

Finish: Dry rice. Some bitterness. Wet air. Moss. Vanilla. Some hop character. Rice cakes. Greenery and musty dust. Granite.

Conclusion: This is inoffensive for the most part. Kind of bland. If it wasn’t for a few rough notes at the back I’d even shrug and call it passable. Unfortunately, at the back there are some rough notes. So I can’t. Go figure.

Anyway, all this is predicated on it being a mass market lager that isn’t German, Czech or Polish. So expectations were low going in anyway. If I was expecting anything from it I may have been harsher.

So, I’ll come to the rough parts later – lets look at the rest. The base beer is fairly bland, kind of rice cakes with some vanilla and a mix of brown and white sugar dusting. Hop character is low and kind of musty. Nothing really to write home about.

Even that brings no worse than a shrug from me, I’ve had worse, but then in the late end of the beer to the finish it falls off the road. Dusty notes come up, slightly rough greenery, dry rice notes and such like. For a beer that main audience is one expecting inoffensiveness a rough, muggy, slightly rough tasting finish is a killer. It takes the beer from meh to pretty much avoid.

The thing is, even with this I can’t get up the energy to be annoyed by it. It isn’t Fosters style soda stream fizzy, it isn’t Tesco Value Lager level rank, It is just very dull and a touch badly made.

There really isn’t much to say if I can’t even be arsed to rant about it. The rougher side of dull and it gets worse as the beer goes on. So, avoid.

Background: This was a kind gift from Tony – many thanks! He was in Greece while I was in Germany and brought back a couple of local beers for me to try. Think these are my first Greek beers, so adding a bit more to my beer map! Always good. Anyway, don’t know much about this – had it chilled down on a far too warm day, while listening to Two Steps Form Hell: Archangel. I didn’t know if the beer was going to be epic, but I wanted the music to be.

Herrenhauser: Premium Pilsner (Germany: Pilsner: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to gold. Moderate white head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Light popcorn hops and vanilla. Quite clean. Toffee.

Body: Vanilla toffee and light custard. Smooth hop oils. Present but low to moderate bitterness. Light greenery backing. Slight chalk and fizzy character. Moderate thickness. Lightly peppery after a while.

Finish: Clean sheen. Low but present bitterness and a popcorn hop character. Slightly dry. Maize/cereal. Lightly peppery.

Conclusion: While the tap version of this is definitely better than this bottled version I have here – this local Lower Saxony lager still holds up pretty well.

First up on things it does well is the feel – A slightly thicker than normal texture for a pilsner. It gives a smooth, slight hop oil touched experience. The lead out into the finish is dry, but the body much less so because of the thicker mouthfeel. Good for me as I’m not much of a fan of an overly dry lager – for you a thicker texture may be a benefit or a flaw – judge as you may.

Flavour-wise it leans towards the gently sweet, but with a moderate but not particularly heavy hop bitterness. The sweetness definitely leads and makes it very easy to drink – it doesn’t go too heavy on this elements so doesn’t end up sickly. A pretty simple beast, that uses the hop character to give a similarly gentle robustness that develops into pepperyness as a secondary characteristic over time. This peppery character is especially present in the finish, as the sweetness from the front soothes away. Simple – but not one note.

Looking at lagers that eschew the craft trapping and keep to the more traditional notes, this is one of the more satisfying I’ve had in a long time. Good texture, good sweet to bitter balance. Not revolutionary, but I’ve returned to it a lot over the trip as a good standby – and if you are around the area it is on tap I recommend you give it the chance to be the same.

Very enjoyable.

Background: This was pretty much everywhere in Hannover, during my Lower Saxony holiday. I first encountered it at the Kleine Museum restaurant – a nice, atmospheric joint with good food and super friendly staff – oh and a crocodile hanging overhead. Lots of weird nick-nacks and items around made it a great place to enjoy this on tap. Since it was one of Michael Jackson’s 500 recommended beers in his Great Beer Guide I also grabbed a bottle at a local corner shop to do some tasting notes on. Which are these notes.

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