Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


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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Wander Beyond: Paddle Raspberry Gose (England: Gose: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Reddened apricot. Moderate creamy off white head.

Nose; Tart, fresh raspberry. Very clean. Light grapes and twigs. Raspberry yogurt underneath. Soft apricot.

Body: Soft raspberry. Slight salt to white bread. Slightly thick body. Chalk touch. Vanilla. Slight rocks. Apricot. Wet socks. Vanilla yogurt.

Finish: Light raspberry. Light strawberry. Light chalk dryness. Stale white bread. Lightly creamy.

Conclusion: Well, the aroma on this sure sells the raspberry gose gimmick. It is frankly just plain, fresh raspberry cleanly done in a raspberry cooler kind of way backed by slightly creamier raspberry yogurt notes. Very simple, very fresh – maybe a few apricot hints in there, but it lead me to expect the body would be similar – a very raspberry kind of beer.

So, well, it wasn’t that.

The body does have a nice touch of raspberry that heads out into join strawberry notes in the finish but it is built around a core of, well, fairly vanilla yogurt with slight salt and touches of what people tend to call the “sweaty sock” gose taste.

It is thick textured – especially for a gose, thick in a way that I would call creamy except it lacks the accompanying flavour you would expect from such a descriptor. The thickness does not manage to banish the very neutral flavour of this beer though, waiting until the finish where it finally moves out of the way and lets the tarter notes play again.

This feels like a great mouthfeel that manages to kneecap the flavour the aroma promised, producing an empty weight of a beer that only occasionally has the fruit rising up to pay off the promise it made early on.

A sub optimal beer.

Background: Wader Beyond is a new brewery on me but their bright and colourful illustrated can caught me eye, so I decided to give them a go. They have here tried their hand at a gose – a risky one to use an introduction to a new Brewery as they can vary so much, but I felt like it was gose time again. Gose is a German style that nearly died out – a lightly salted wheat beer that if often just slightly soured. This, like a lot of the new interpretations, is made with fruit, raspberry in this case. I was going to see Machine Head live shortly after this, so slammed on some of their tunes as warm up for the big gig.

Toppling Goliath: Golden Nugget (USA: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy darkened apricot skin and a large yellowed loose bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Creamy. Apricot yogurt. Crisp hops. Light bitterness. Banana custard. Light prickly hops.

Body: Custard. Popping candy. Light candyfloss. Raspberry hard sweets. Hop oils. Grapes. Peach. Light bitterness. Banana. Lemon sherbet.

Finish: Banana custard. Solid bitterness. Light greenery. Dried apricot. Light sulphur. Hop oils. Pineapple. “Dank” hop notes. Light charring. Pear drops.

Conclusion: Ok, now I can never say what exactly holds the number one slot, but I can say for sure this instantly entered in my top five IPA list.

It all starts out innocently enough – cloudy body, but the recent New England style surge in beers has made that nothing unusual – it is still pretty to the eye though – thick, dark coloured for an IPA and creamy looking.

Similarly the aroma is good, but not unusual – light prickly hop use over creamy apricot notes. It is a bit creamier than normal , giving yogurt to custard imagery, but not that unexpected. What is the first hint of something else is the banana notes that come out – now this is not unheard of, but is a tad unusual in an IPA.

Then you get the first sip – It feels like it is actually exploding, popping candy style, on your tongue – the texture is creamy but the flavour makes it feel like fizzing sherbet sweet candy notes against hop oils. The banana comes out again making a banana custard style malt base that is the solid core of this beer.

What then comes is the slow development of hop oils, resin and … Sigh ok I’ll say it .. dank hop character. This adds a weight to the sweet beer that is oft ignored in the sweeter IPAs. It just finished the thing off perfectly. Light notes initially then the hop oil character dances across it building to be a secondary, but definitely present counterbalance to the high sweetness.

Different in its feel, prickly and chewy in the fruitiness, sweetness against oily and resinous notes with a dash of bitterness. This is a nigh perfect IPA – utterly drinkable and utterly awesome.

background: You know, Initially I thought this brewery was called “Topping Goliath”. I had so may sub/dom jokes worked out. Then I realised it was Toppling. Life is pain sometimes. Anyway, despite always getting their name wrong, I have been hearing good things about Toppling Goliath for a few years now, but they had a reputation for being hard to get hold of, even in the USA, so when I saw them turn up on the shelves at Independent Spirit I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I then grabbed three cans instantly to try. This is an IPA made with Golden Promise barley and Nugget hops. Because of the Attitude Era podcast I am aware that nugget was a euphemism for shit when used to insult Owen Hart (The late and great). Thus this beer’s name made me snigger. As always I can be a tad childish. Put on Garbage 2.0 while drinking this. That bloody album is 20 years old this year. Damn time flies – still one of the albums of my teen years and still great.

Naylor’s: Martha’s Chocolate Milk Stout (England: Sweet Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black to very dark brown at the edges. Small grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Chalky. Light smoke. Bitter coffee beans. Liquorice touch. Cola bottles.

Body: Light lactose. Blackcurrant sour sweets. Sour dough. Malt loaf. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Blueberry. Roasted nuts. Cola bottles.

Finish: Blackcurrant sweets. Blueberry. Light charring. Light smoke. Vinegar crisps (minus the salt) Light apples. Lactose. Milky coffee. Roasted.

Conclusion: You know, for a chocolate milk stout, this really runs a lot of sweet dark fruit notes in its flavour mix. There is some chocolate in there – working as a smooth backing to the rest of the beer – but there is far less than its name would suggest.

So, ignoring the expectations that the name brings, is this any good? Well, it is not bad – it has that light sour touch I would associate with a good quality bitter and the roasted nuttiness I would expect of a standard stout. Added to that is the touch of lactose feel that a milk stout brings – so we have the expected notes, the less common but not unusual notes, then the kind of unusual influence of the light sour bitter notes. That light sour character mixes well with the dark fruit that I mentioned before to create a mild sour-sweet set of notes that give refreshing flavours, but also a slightly thinner mouthfeel.

So it is slightly unusual in style, but kind of middle of the road in flavour quality. It is definitely not bad but the unusual elements seem to neither enhance nor detract from the beer – they are just there as a different way of doing things. The light sour touch is refreshing, and the fruit notes are a nice touch, but a lot of the stout notes are just a mild backing until we reach the more roasted finish.

It really doesn’t sell the imagery the name promises and ends up a beer that feels like a mix of a quarter bitter, one quarter stout, half milk stout – interesting but not more than the sum of its parts.

An ok pint, but not really one that I can be too enthusiastic about recommending.

Background: This was the third of three beers that my parents gave to me when they came down to visit. Many thanks! If you have been paying attention, and wonder what happened to notes on the second one. I just drank it. No notes. I am the worst of monsters. It was pretty good. Anyway, been a while since I had a Naylor beer, if I remember rightly I quite enjoyed their barley wine on cask when I was up in Manchester. That was a while back. Anyway, drank this with some Meshuggah – Obzen! I could give some convoluted reason, but I was just feeling a bit shitty and wanted some super heavy music to listen to. It was awesome. For some reason I imagine Superman drinking this beer, comments on it, and suddenly Batman bursts in and goes “MARTHA! Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?” Because I am a geek.

Beavertown: KCBC : Unity Makes Strength (England: Belgian Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, hazy peach skin to lemon colour. Moderate white mounded head.

Nose: Funky. Peanuts. Yeastie. Crusty white bread. Soft peach. Peppery. Dried banana.

Body: Peppery. Lightly milky. Good bitterness and prickly feel. Banana. Light apricot. Fluffy bready character.

Finish: Lemon. Wheaty. Peppery. Prickly. Funky yeast feel. Popcorn. Vanilla yogurt.

Conclusion: Table beers are nearly always an odd one for me to do notes on. I enjoy them for the most part, but they are intentionally a lighter beer style – both in abv and flavour ( though at 4.5% abv this actually seems like a fairly standard abv beer to me. Then again I lean old school on my views of beer strengths). Anyway, so while nice, they tend to not have much to do notes on.

So, what do we have with this one? Well, what we are looking at mainly is the yeastiness that seems to make up a good chunk of the character. It has a funky aroma, a fluffy feel in the body into the prickly hop character. It adds a level of interest to what is a comparatively Milquetoast milky middle that is the core of the beer. The yeast influence is further evident as it warm, bringing peppery flavours and light banana notes.

The rest of the flavour is much lighter – soft apricot, vanilla yogurt – quite neutral – the beer definitely relies on yeast feel and notes to rock it through. The hop prickle isn’t as light as you would imagine given all that, so the beer isn’t quite as mild as you would think – but it is far from a hop assault – more the hops’ way of keeping your taste-buds awake.

Considering the gentle main flavour this is still enjoyable. Easy going and doesn’t add any extra weight to the beer. Not a must have, keeps to the table beer style well, but is interesting enough in how it uses the yeast.

Background: After a quick google I find that KCBC is King’s County Brewer’s Collective. So now you know – a Brooklyn based brewing group. Anyway, I misread this beer’s name as Make Strength Belgian Style Table Beer on first glance, and wondered how strong it was going to be of it was “make strength”. Anyway, no, just a Belgian style table beer – though the 4.2% abv is a bit higher than I would expect of a table beer. Put on some Taiko Drumming music in the background while drinking this – haven’t seen Taiko for years – I loved the way the beats just wash over you. The CD can only capture a tiny amount of a live performance but is still good backing to drinking. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales: Stallion Amber (England: Bitter: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut to gold. Clear. Moderate off white bubbled head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Vanilla. Nutty. Musty sour dough.

Body: Light earthy bitterness. Fluffy mouthfeel. Lightly creamy. Palma violets. Light marmalade zestiness. Toffee. Marshmallow.

Finish: Fresh sour dough. Chives. Light earthy bitterness, that grows to moderate bitterness. Light marmalade. Very milky coffee. Marshmallow. Lightly prickly.

Conclusion: Ok, the beer I had in my hand when I first stared drinking this, and the beer I am supping on now are very different things to each other. Usually I would blame such a shift on me getting drunk while doing the notes, but since this is a moderate 4.2% ABV I think that is unlikely to be the case here.

Early on it is fairly earthy, with sour dough like notes amongst the earthiness – so a fairly standard earthy hopped British bitter dressed up in light calls to amber ale style clothing then. Then, over time it gets … creamier .. or maybe fluffier, then light marmalade notes and toffee sweetness comes out while still being nestled in the earthy bitter heart.

It feels marshmallow like in fluffiness, but without the sweetness you would associate with that. It has all the elements that make an earthy bitter work, but then a bit of extra, more unusual note such as palma violet like notes which call to more noble hop styling, and marmalade notes that give it a bit of extra pep late on.

It is definitely not a must have, but it is more than it first appears. Ok, nice progression definitely, but far from a world shaker.

Background: Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales – man it has been a while since I drank one of these – anyway, my family were visiting from Yorkshire so they brought down some good old northern beers for me to try. This being the first. Many thanks! I am a tad biased towards the North, but not so much as it should affect the notes. Not much to say – put on Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape to listen to, which had been on my mind since Scroobius Pip mentioned them in his podcast.

Wiper and True: Amber Ale: Red Orange (England: Amber Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Treacle to dark brown. Only amber hints at the edges. Large browned mound of forth head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Bright oranges. Pine needles. Passion-fruit. Grape touch,

Body: Good bitterness. Palma violets. Vanilla toffee. Mandarin orange. Prickly hops. Gooseberry. Greenery. Light resin. Pine. General oranges. White bread.

Finish: Rye crackers. Vanilla toffee. Orange crème. Menthol notes. Mint leaves. Tangerine. Chocolate dust. Pepper.

Conclusion: You know, for a beer called an Amber Ale, this is murky brown as hell on the eye. I’ve seen bike and trolley filled ponds that were easier to see through than this. Still, I can live with that as the beer tastes bloody great.

There is an odd mix of a grounded hop character, pine and resinous hops which are used as a prickly, grounded base – which then put against a real bright burst of mandarin, tangerine, and just, well, orange notes.

On taste I would say it doesn’t fit quite under what I would expect of an Amber Ale either – for all that the style definition is loose in the first place. It has IPA style hop flavour in places, and a real ale ESB style use of malts. However, whatever the hell it is, it does well. The more down to earth malt usage brings out almost rye beer style dry spice and pepper – it pushes both the bright and the grounded characteristic out as far as it can without feeling overdone for a general drinking beer – and it manages to define them very well.

Really malty, really orange hopped with mild, but solid bitterness and prickly hop character. Just a tiny touch away from being a favourite, but genuinely a beer worth a try. You don’t get something that push the grounded and the bright so well without compromising either done so well often.

Wiper and True pull out yet another really good beer.

Background: Been a while since I have done notes on Wiper and True beers -still grab them regularly on tap when out and about, just never done notes. So decided to grab one of their Amber Ales again from Independent Spirit – W&T really seem to have the nack of the Amber Ales down pat. Wiper and True are one of those great quality breweries that use kind of generic labels so it is really hard to tell at a glance if you have tried the beer before or not. Ah well, it works for The Kernel, so should work for Wiper and True. Which reminds me, not done notes of Kernel beers for ages either. Anyway, put on the electronic mathcore oddity that is “The Algorithm” while drinking this. Not to everyone’s taste but weird intricate, computer sounding music that works for me.

And Union: Unfiltered Lager (Germany: Helles Lager: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Moderate white head. Hazy. Some bits visible at the base of the beer. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Wheaty. Light cream. Bready hop bitterness to crusty white bread. Flour.

Body: Lemon. Crusty white bread. Clean hop character. Light hop oils. Lightly fresh, Soft lime. Soft kiwi. Light prickle to the mouthfeel. Vanilla ice cream. Moderate bitterness. Zesty.

Finish: Lightly creamy. Creamy kiwi. White bread hop feel. Light bitterness. Flour. Palma violets.

Conclusion:Lager really should be drunk unfiltered in my opinion. Pretty much always unfiltered, yep. Maybe a few exceptions, but generally unfiltered is the way to go. There. My cards are on the table. Now, with that said, we have a great example here – fresh, lemony, with a wonderful bit of extra mouthfeel over a filtered lager but without losing that very drinkable and thirst quenching character. The body has a crusty white bread weight and a similarly white bread kind of neutral backing character that lets the citrus notes float in a soft and refreshing ways.

For flaws, well it has very few – there is a flour touch to the texture that is a pleasant weight early on, but slightly wears thin by the end. Only slightly though. This is still a beer that stands up to repeated drinks.

This feels like what a lot of the heavily hopped lagers are trying to do and failing – It grains lovely soft citrus hop flavours, but keeps the more gentle hop bitterness along with than larger style mouthfeel all the way through. That lager character especially accentuated by the unfiltered nature.

There is a slight noticeable, noble hop feeling, oily and palma violet set of notes but they are a minor backing showing the more traditional side of its lager roots – the fresher notes are the mainstay.

So, not flawless, but still a hell of a good lager and a comparatively easy unfiltered lager to grab, which is a rarity for me. Well worth keeping a few to hand for easy drinking flavour whenever the mood takes you.

Background: This is one I’ve had a few times before – it came up in conversation when I mentioned how much better I found unfiltered lagers than their filtered siblings, and how they are so comparatively rare. It was pointed out that Waitrose had this in and it was well worth trying. So I did. This was drunk while listening to Television Villain’s new album, having been to the album launch gig a few days before. Now, I am biased as I know a couple of the band members but I think they have some proper great tunes there – Bevvy especially.

Founders: Green Zebra (USA: Gose: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Slightly dark lemon juice. Some carbonation. Large fluffy white head.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Distinct watermelon.

Body: Golden syrup. Vanilla. Watermelon. Cane sugar. Grapes. Honey. Apples. Salt. Shortbread.

Finish: Golden syrup. Watermelon. Salt and vinegar crisps. Honey. Apples. Crapes. Lime cordial.

Conclusion: This is possibly the sweetest gose I have ever had. It eschews the harshly salty and tart recent craft takes on the style, even goes past the light sweetness of the Goslar breweries’ take in the style, and instead goes into a full on honey beer thing that tastes more like a watermelon mead than anything else.

Now the salt notes come out softly later, so it isn’t abandoning the gose side – but what really sells this beer is the watermelon. I was imaging this would be fresh watermelon over a tart gose- instead I’m getting sweet watermelon doused in syrup and honey. It is a simple joy. It is shockingly sweet for a sub 5% abv beer – I don’t know how the heck they manages that without a higher malt load, then they use an impressively detailed set of watermelon notes, along with apples, grapes and other green fruit to add contrast and complexity to the beer.

The most gose like element is the slightly drier and saltier finish, but even that is fair honey dominated. Time allows you to get used to the sweetness, and then the watermelon and the rest of the fruit can really rock – in fact, at this point I kind of dig it.

Now – this is a simple sweet crowd pleaser of a beer and far from what you would expect from a gose, but frankly I enjoy it. Go in to it with the right expectations (i.e. not expecting heavy tartness or saltiness) and this does the watermelon thing in a really fun fashion. It it a classic? No. Is it a joy to drink? yes. And some days that is all you want.

Background: I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, a watermelon gose just sounded off enough to be fun. Unfortunately other beers kept jumping ahead in the queue. But now, finally I have it. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Goses are now far from the nearly dead style they once were – slightly salted wheat beers that vary massively in level of tartness, sweetness and saltiness in the expressions I have encountered. This was drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album again – it is just so damn joyous.

Oakham: Inferno (England: Golden Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale and light yellow. Clear. Still. Small white head.

Nose: Thick, muggy passion fruit. Vanilla hop character. Doughnut. Pineapple.

Body: Grapes. Moderate bitterness. Soft golden syrup and vanilla. Soft kiwi. Good hop character and prickle. Soft fudge. Light strawberry. Soft lemon.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop oils. Pineapple. Good hop character. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: Ah, Oakham, the experts of getting the best bits of traditional British ales and matching them with the craft hop style with subtle mastery. Always good to see these beers again.

This has the traditional, kind of Real Ale in a bottle feeling base (of note, it doesn’t say on the bottle that it is real ale, best I can see, it just has that feel). It has a nice thickness and slight call to, but not heavy, sulphur touched weight – hope that makes sense. It hints at the characteristic rather than having overt flavours. Behind that the base is soft vanilla and lemon notes, with occasional stronger but not overly heavy golden syrup notes.

The front is taken by excellent hop usage- tart grapes and pineapple – used in moderation for a balanced, flavoursome but easy to drink beer. The flavours are clean as can be – adding freshness, but holding back from being a full on hop assault.

Big juicy flavour over well set golden ale base, dry enough to be drinkable, juicy flavoured with just slight oily hope bitterness. At a touch lower abv that would be an utterly awesome session beer – as is it is a solid one to have one or two of with mates, or at pretty much any drinking occasion.

Excellent work again form Oakham.

Background: Oakham! How long has it been since I went back to Oakham? These lot balance the real ale and craft tricks perfectly – used to love finding them on cask at random pubs. Anyway, Tony, in his great taste, gave this as the final of his birthday presents for me. Much appreciate mate. Went with Nightwish – Dark passion Play again for this one – been really enjoying them since my mate Andy introduced me to them.

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