Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


Eight Degrees: Sunburnt (Ireland: Irish Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy caramel to red with a cloudy centre. Moderate fluffy brown head.

Nose: Lots of malt chocolate and toffee. Cashew nuts. Slightly roasted. Milky coffee. Slight cinnamon. Orange.

Body: Slight roasted character. Malt chocolate. Kiwi. Soft orange to choc orange. Mild malt loaf. Strawberry.

Finish: Crushed peanuts. Malt chocolate and toffee. Slight roasted character. Slight chalk touch. Choc orange. Slightly dry. Milky coffee. Slight minty menthol. Strawberry.

Conclusion: Normally I find Irish red ales a bit too dry and roasted for my tastes. I like the idea of them but the implementation can be a bit too drying and harsh for me. This, therefore was a welcome beer in blowing that complaint clear out of the water.

This has some of those dry, roasted, nutty notes and it definitely leads out with a dry nuttiness, however it is far from defined by that. Instead this has a very solid toffee core of sweetness that mixes up the style. It rises up mid body, but then eases out at the tail end, into the finish and lets the dryness come back – this makes the dry moments much more manageable and also makes them more an enjoyable and distinct element when they do arrive. Above that small, but critical change to the beer there is also more flavour brought in by that thicker core – you get soft orange, light kiwi and sweet strawberry – all that would look out of place in an overly dry beer.

You end up with a beer that uses the drier red ale style, but isn’t dominated by it. The sweetness is present, but grounded by a very milky coffee character that mixes with it in the middle. The hops bring flavour, but it doesn’t go high on bitterness, nor rely on the hop flavours – it just uses them as subtle enhancement to turn this into a satisfying sipping ale.

So, pretty mellow and easy drinking. A good twist on the style but doesn’t abandon it. Solid.

Background: This is the second to last beer from the Honest Brew‘s set that a friend gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! Don’t know much about Eight Degrees brewing – so this is a new one on me – interesting times! This was drunk after seeing Goodfellas on the big screen, which was a hell of an experience. Broke out some Iron Maiden for drinking music as well.

wylam-hickey-the-rake
Wylam: Hickey The Rake (England: American Pale Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to slight apricot. Large fluffy white head that leaves sud lace.

Nose: Really fresh lemon. Slightly dry. Crisp hops. Slight mango. Slight bitterness. Dried apricot.

Body: Good bitterness – slight rocky flavour. Big hop character and slight hop oils. Lemon backing. Slight sour dough. Pineapple.

Finish: Brown bread. Slight gritty feel. Slight lemon. Good hops and bitterness. Bitter lemon. Slight kiwi.

Conclusion: How is it that all of the beers that call themselves a session IPA – it is one that doesn’t, that in fact just calls itself a pale ale, that seems to actually matches the intent of that style pretty well? Inside this moderate abv pale it has all the hops I would expect from an IPA and all the bitterness – with a slight bitter but refreshing lemon character matched to a very dry but drinkable body.

It has therefore the very dry character I associate with a lot of APAs – and matched with that a slight grittiness. That second element is often a huge flaw with session IPAs, yet for once they actually make it work here. I think it is the bitter lemon characteristics that makes it work – it refreshes but also matches the harsher gritty modes – making them feel like part of the beer rather than a flaw. The dryness also comes across like a super dry IPA which means that the thinner body from the lower abv doesn’t hurt the beer like many session IPAs.

So – moderate abv, big hops, big flavour. Pretty good. It isn’t complex, just big; The aroma promises more fruit to work with, but most of that is lost in the fray by the time you reach the body. What you get is hops and a mix of fresh and bitter lemon – one idea done well.

So a few decimal points of abv higher than a perfect session beer but apart from that this sits pretty nicely in that category. Refreshing enough to not get harsh nor dull over time – it is a simple beer, with a simple concept that does a hell of a lot well.

Background: The bottle calls this a Limonata Pale – which on a quick google seems to just mean lemonade. Which makes sense on drinking. Anyway, this is another beer from the honest brew‘s batch which my mate gave me for my birthday. Many thanks! This one was drunk while listening to Miracle of Sound’s Level 7 again – that is one huge album.

siren-vermont-tea-party

Siren: Vermont Tea Party (England: American Pale Ale: 3.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Small amount of carbonation. Middling size white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Crisp hops. Creamy lemon. Thick flour. Fresher lemon juice.

Body: Tingling nettles. Tea. Brown bread. Tannins. Soft lemon juice. Slight lime. Mango juice. Dry. Flour.

Finish: Tea and definite tannins. Peppery. Brown bread. Mango. Greenery. Gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: I think this is one of those beers that is good, but not aimed at me. From midpoint onwards this very much emphasises the tea – and is very good in that. I talk about coffee beers having well defined range of coffee notes, rather than a generic coffee flavour – and this does that but for tea; It is leafy, peppery, definite tannins – it does the whole nine yards.

The aroma promises something more balanced – it is gently fruity, crisp in the hops but with a thickness to the aroma like flour floating in the air. You keep some of this going into the body – there is a gentle lemon, and a definite flour like grip to the texture – but it becomes drier after a few moments and the very well layered and well defined tea flavours just takes everything over.

So, I don’t mind tea, but I’m not exactly wild for it. Yes I know that makes me an odd Englishman. Live with it. So it is very dominant here – in fact in a way that reminds me of my experience with gunpowder tea – Again something I don’t mind, but not overly my thing. I have to admit I was hoping the tea would be an element amongst the hops and fruit father than the main force. Ah well.

There is some concession to the other flavours – first lime and then soft lemon – again it is done in a tea style though – like when you add lemon slices to the tea. This really dedicates itself to its shtick.

So, definitely not a bad beer – everything it aims for it does well – and I am not hating it. However what it does well isn’t exactly what I am looking for. So, on that I hope you can decide for yourself if you want to investigate this or not.

Background: This beer was a gift from my mate Paul – many thanks. Part of a six pack from Honest Brew. There will be some more notes from the set to come – I had already done notes on two of the beers in the pack. This is a beer made with Siren’s house cultivated yeast from Vermont, Early Grey tea and lemon zest. Very unusual. It was drink while listening to tunes from Miracle Of Sound’s Level 7 album – he does great video game inspired music.

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!

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