Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


3 Fonteinen: Hommage (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red. Hazy. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Light horse blankets. Oats. Light acidic apple. White wine. Black cherry and red cherry mix. Mashed raspberries. Sherry. Cake sponge.

Body: Tart. Tomatoes. Oats. Lightly bready. Raspberries. Cakes sponge. Tart cider. Sour white grapes. Sour cherry. Sour pear. Greenery.

Finish: Tomatoes. Yellow raspberries. Cucumber. Tart air. Bitter dustiness. Raspberry. Cherry. Twigs. Oats. Sour cherry sweets. Dried raisins. Smoke. White wine.

Conclusion: Ok, something causes me to taste a tomato like character in specific lambics – I say that as it happened to me again with this one. I am starting to develop a hypothesis that it is the interaction of the sour cherry with the lambic base that causes it – as it seems to come only with beers that specifically use sour cherries. I could be wrong though, will keep an eye on it.

So, yeah this has that tomato set of notes that I don’t really find pleasant. Thankfully they are far less evident here than in previous beers I have encountered them in, so it doesn’t impact the beer too much, but it is still there.

Aside for that the base of this beer is lightly acidic, not too heavily so, instead leaning more towards a kind of cloying sourness that meshes with the tomato notes – A thick, oat, muesli and raisins kind of character, heading out into a dusty, slightly smokey bitterness in the finish

The beer is surprisingly savoury – coming into the tart raspberry and grape notes much later on that you would expect – then ending up in a light, dry white wine character that comes out. So you have a lot of savoury, backed with light tartness with a thick savoury-sour and thick, slightly musty feel to the character.

As time goes on the tomato notes recede allowing a more tart, sour cherry flavour coming out in a kind of sour sweets kind of way – it is much better here, and more full bodied, still over that more savoury than usual base though.

It is interesting, and the range of characteristics as it goes from cool to warm is very large, but I can’t overly say I like it. It feels cloying and considering the cost this goes for I really can’t recommend it for just finding it interesting. An unusual lambic, but unfortunately kind of sub average for enjoyment.

Conclusion: OK, this was bloody expensive, so I had to think hard and do a bit of research into it before finally grabbing it from Independent Spirit – it is a lambic made in memory of Gaston Debelder , the foudner of 3 Fonteinen and is made with 30% raspberries and 5% sour cherries. Sounded interesting, and had bloody good rep online, so I decided to shell out the cash for it. Continuing my attempts to put on awesome music for beer, I put on the indie pop joy that is Grimes – Visions – an utter burst of bright joy in music.

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Wild Beer Co: Yokai (England: Sour Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear, pale, yellowed colour. Thin white head. Still.

Nose: Popcorn. Flour. Peppercorns. Lime cordial. Wet cardboard. Grapes. Slight yeast funk.

Body: Tart. Lime cordial. Lightly sherbety. Light chalk. Warming peppercorn sauce. Mild chilli. White grapes. Slightly oily – eel sashimi. Slight peach.

Finish: Tangy. Slight chalk. Mango. Mild chilli. Lime cordial. Yeasty funk.

Conclusion: This is a hard one to pin down. It is lightly tart, with slight yeast funk that suggest a hint of a Brett yeast kiss, but not more than that. It brings tart fruit flavours, dryly delivered; A kind of sweet peach meets tart lime cordial kind of thing. It could be that is just me trying and failing to describe the yuzu that was used in making this. Been a while since I last ran into it, so I don’t have it quite fresh in my memory. That lightly tart, fruity note is then set against a savoury backing – slight chalky dryness, and slight chilli warming with the peppercorn character.

Everything is done gently – a kiss of yeast funk, a light peppercorn warmth, a waft of tart fruit. It is a very unusual beer, but kind of refreshing in the tart and dry mix, matched with a satisfying, well they call it umami and who am I to argue with that, kind of character. It gives a slightly oily gripping centre to an otherwise lighter beer.

Unusual and nice. Kind of gentle, but satisfying in what it does.

Background: Ok, I couldn’t find the o with a dash over it to indicate a long o sound You can see it on the can, you know where it is. We are all happy with the pronunciation, right? Ok, cool. Been grabbing less Wild Beer Co beers recently as their hit to miss ratio on experimentation has been going down a bit, but this new canned release sounded pretty cool. It is made with yuzu, seaweed and Szechuan peppercorns. Now, the can says that this beer is inspired by the Japanese folklore – but Szechuan, and therefore Szechuan peppercorns, is from China. Which is odd. Maybe they still get used a lot in Japan – I frankly have no idea. It just stood out, having had my taste-buds blown out by a Szechuan hot pot in China this year. It was bloody warm, and turns out the guide had ordered us the mildest version available. Anyway – continuing the trend of drinking beer with classic music albums, put on the collection of The Prodigy Singles for this one. Yes I’m a 90s teen. Another one bought from Independent Spirit.

To Øl: Santa Gose F*** It All (Denmark: Gose: 4% ABV)

Visual: Clear dark yellow. Massive sud leaving yellow white head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Gooseberry. Light wheat. Light white pepper. Dry passion fruit.

Body: Tart. Gooseberry. Salt. Tart grapes. Slight guava. Light chalk. Dry mango. Flour.

Finish: Lime. Tart. Pineapple. Salt. Slight sweat. Wet cardboard. Guava juice. Dry mango. Dry bitterness. Flour. Slight grit. Charring.

Conclusion: So, after trying an authentic German gose earlier this year, and after trying a couple of the varied new wave craft goses that have come out recently, I find myself with this – THE CHRISTMAS GOSE!

I’m not sure what part of this makes it a Christmas beer, but what it does have is that it opens with an appropriately tart gooseberry like base that seems to be moving more towards the new wave craft interpretation of a gose, backed by soft salt, almost sweat like notes. Man the things you write that sound terrible but actually are not. Anyway, initially that salt character is pleasant but by the end the salt does become very drying in the finish.

More on that later – for now we shall look at the mid body, which is where the fruit infusion comes in. It is quite subtly done, with sweet guava and dry mango notes around the edges giving some much needed extra body. It isn’t that the main body is bad, just a little light, but still very fresh and easy to drink.

So, the first half to two thirds of this beer does the job well – tart, fruity, fresh with subtle salt over time. Then, we get that finish…

The finish starts ok, with some pineapple but also a slight cardboard touch which does not work. Then that cardboard touch becomes gritty, then charred and matched with rough, dry salty bitterness. It is harsh and feels like it works against everything the rest of the beer sets up.

Two thirds of this is a good beer, with a third of fuck no. Nearly good but that finish hurts it so bad I can’t recommend it.

Background; The censorship is on the can, not because of me – I would happily have written “Fuck It All”. In fact I just did. A beer for the Christmas period, with appropriate sentiments. I am not a total Grinch, more nonplussed than angry about Christmas – for me it is just a nice time to catch up with friends and family. Anyway, this is a gose – a salted wheat beer style that nearly died out, but has had a recent resurgence. Like a lot of the craft beer interpretations this one is made with fruit – Passion fruit, guava and mango to be exact. Picked up from Independent Spirit. I got into the festive spirit by putting on Testament – Low. Ok they have nothing to do with Christmas, so I was in the right spirit for me.

Gweilo: Pale Ale (Hong Kong: English Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear. Large amounts of carbonation and massive bubbled white head.

Nose: Grapes. Apricot. Crisp hop character. Vanilla custard. Light lemon. Orange jelly. Light strawberry and slight dry spice.

Body: Peppery bitterness. Creamy backing body early on. A dry bready character later on. Light grapes. Vanilla yogurt.

Finish: Peppery. Brown bread. Good hop bitterness. Grapes.

Conclusion: With my recent, hugely impressed encounters with Hong Kong beer, especially in the Kowloon Taproom, I was looking forwards to break this one open – and boy, first impressions yanked me right in.

Huge solid head over a clear body made this impressive on the eye. The aroma is similarly fantastic – crisp hops, subtle fruit notes and soft vanilla variants for sweetness. Subtle and layered, I was anticipating that first sip.

You already know where this is going right? We have been down this path before. The body is …ok .. that dry, bready style that is so common of pale ales – normally I associated with the American takes, while this is generally listed as an English pale, but same point applies – a bit more grounded than the American style I guess – more peppery with good bitterness. At this point the difference between a slightly hoppier pale ale and a so called session IPA becomes even more blurred as they seem to have a lot of similar characteristics here. The main difference here seems to be that it has better body and mouthfeel than most session IPAs of similar abv.

It has vanilla yogurt flavour and thickness at times- good bitterness as mentioned, but nearly all that fruit subtext of the aroma is lost. It feels like a solid but dull base – the yogurt notes feel like they flatten the rest of the beer rather than enhance it. Promises a lot more than it gives and falls into the same trap as a lot of APAs I’ve seen (yes, EPA, I know, point still holds) in that it is overly dry and has not enough range. It has a lot of promise from the good mouthfeel for the abv but does too little with it. A weak end to what was an awesome beer trip.

Background: I saw this in a mini supermarket thing while I was looking for Tim Ho Wan Restaurant (Call me a Yorkshire stereotype if you want, but when I heard it was the worlds cheapest Michelin star restaurants I said – “Right, I’m trying that”). Their IPA was listed as part of ratebeer’s top 50 beers of Hong Kong, but I had hit IPAs pretty hard this trip, so decided to go with the pale ale instead. Drunk after getting back to the UK, this is the only beer I brought back, so the final beer of the trip. This was drunk while listening to some Testament – I had seen they were touring soon so was using youtube to check out what they sounded like.

Moonzen: Monkey King Amber Ale (Hong Kong: Amber Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Clear apricot. Thin white head.

Nose: Strong toffee malt. Cinnamon. Malt chocolate. Dried apricot. Fruitcake. Lemon sherbet.

Body: Sherbety lemon. Light chalk. Peach. Peanuts. Peppery. Mild toffee. Mild bitterness.

Finish: Lemon. Figs. Malt chocolate. Bitterness and a mix of praline and nuts. Gunpowder tea. Peanuts. Chalk.

Conclusion: This is a very different amber ale experience, examined and explained right here in the streets of Hong Kong! *cheap pop* (For some reason wrestling is on my mind right now, so I am being mildly self indulgent in my writing)

Anyway, most amber ales I’ve encountered have had at least a degree of being malt led. This does show strong toffee and therefore malt influence in the aroma, but the body is instead a fresh sherbety lemon led thing with peach notes behind. The malt body shows itself more as a nutty character, with a chalky backbone rather than a heavier toffee or malt chocolate base. There are hints of heavier malt notes but the fresh hop notes definitely rule the roost and push the rest to the back.

It is an odd beer in that it does not match anything I expected going in – so I must just take it as a beer in itself – fresh, citrusy, hints of peaches, but with a chalky grounding base. Let it warm and more balancing malt comes out, hinting more at the expected style concepts along with a growing peppery to gunpowder tea bitterness that adds some pep.

While it is slightly off when cool, heat balances the citrus notes with the malt and it becomes a good amber ale with just a touch of heat. The characteristics are odd – matching almost British ale grounding notes to American peach sweetness – a pretty good and different amber ale that it worth a try if you happen to be in Hong Kong.

Background: Hmm, we handed Hong Kong back to China in what, 1997? Should I list it separately, or under China? I listed it under Hong Kong based on 3 main considerations. 1) I needed to go through customs to transfer between the two. 2) they have their own money and 3) Most locals still view themselves as a separate entity culturally in the discussions I had. The whole scene seemed different enough that a separate listing from China seemed to make sense. Anyway, this was a random find – I was heading back from viewing the definitely legit items selling night market towards the hotel when I saw the Funky Monkey Bar – seeing that it had a few craft beers I decided to drop in for a quick one. Quite a cool aesthetic to the place.

Le Votre: Black Beer (China: Dunkel: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy and brown with a thin browned head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Cocoa. Light chalk.

Body: Roasted. Nuts. Cola bottle sweets. Light chalk. Slightly light. Slight charring.

Finish: Roasted. Malt chocolate. Slight liquorice. Chalky feel. Cocoa dust. Light charring. Low level bitterness and hops. Hop oils.

Conclusion: There seems to be a lot of lagers around China, with each region seeming to have a different common bottled pale lager, and a lot of places have their own lagers brewed for their taps it seems. So, here at Le Votre I decided to do notes on their dark beer – hadn’t tried a dark lager yet this trip.

It is fairly middle of the road – better than a lot of the inoffensively dull pale lagers I’ve run into though – a lot of the pale lagers feel like they are designed to be wet backgrounds to a meal than have any real flavour themselves. This at least does have flavour.

This has a mild roasted base, with low level malt chocolate backing and touches of cola bottles and liquorice. There seriously have been a lot of liquorice touched beers this trip. There is low level but present bitterness and hop character, which makes this feel like it is a German inspired dark lager – which make sense considering how popular German beers are in the local region. It similarly has light noble hops oily feel on the way out, further enhancing the comparison.

It is slightly light at the start, but gains just enough weight to the mouthfeel over time. It is a bit too chalk touched for the lower weight though, so it never quite balances it perfectly. The best part is definitely the finish, as the air roams the mouth it seems to have more time to develop tasty hop oil and chocolate notes that never seem to find their way in the mid body.

A better beer to enjoy alongside a meal than most here, in that you can enjoy it for its own flavours – an average stand alone beer though. Not bad, not great, just a dark lager.

Background: Turns out Yangshuo has more of a beer scene than my initial research suggested. Ratebeer listed only Le Votre restaurant, which where I tried this, and a quick google only found a few more. Turned out the place if packed with bars – a lot concentrating on import beer – especially from Germany with a couple concentrating on craft beer – but there are a few local brewpubs as well. I decided to do notes on this one as a representative of the many local breweries around the country that basically brew their own lager (sometimes just pale, sometimes a dark lager as well) – it is fairly common for an area to have its own locally brewed lager, often tied to a restaurant, even if there isn’t really any other beer scene. So – here I grabbed the dark lager. When I was trying to ask about the abv I was unable to get the question across despite my best mime attempts, so this info was taken from googling after getting back.

Tsing Tao: Stout (China: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dark red if held to light. Good sized browned bubbles in mounds for a head.

Nose: Liquorice. Caramel. Oats. Vanilla fudge. Mild milky coffee. Marshmallow.

Body: Liquorice. Creamy. Slightly light. Nutty. Fluffy marshmallow flavour and mouthfeel. Touch of chalk.

Finish: Liquorice. Marshmallow. Chocolate liqueur. Light dry roasted peanuts.

Conclusion: I must admit this is better than I was expecting. I don’t mind Tsing Tao , or at least the version I have tried in the UK, but the “draft” bottle version I’ve had here in China lacked a lot. This ain’t perfect, but it is definitely the more flavoursome creation.

It feels like halfway between a black lager and a stout – slightly light, smooth mouthfeel, both notes that say an easy drinking black lager – but then it develops a fluffy marshmallow thickness at time which is more at home in a stout.

Flavour wise it opens up with big amounts of liquorice, which seems to be popular in China’s stouts in my (vary small sample size admittedly) experience. Similarly stouty is the solid roasted character it brings, and the light chalk finish calls to the more grounded end of the stout style. The sweeter chocolate and heavier coffee notes you would expect of a stout are only really subtle hints here – the liquorice is the main thing.

It is still slightly light for a stout, even late on, so it feels like a solidly stout flavoured black lager. The marshmallow character giving rise to a slight sweet contrast to liquorice as time goes on really helping it from getting too dry by the end. It is decent, and probably the easiest to get decent Chinese beer, if far from the best. Not great, but since you can find it in a supermarket it is the Chinese beer to grab for a decent experience when you can’t find a more dedicated craft beer merchant.

Background: Tsing Tao turns up quite a bit in the UK – it is an ok lager – nowt special but I can drink it. In China there are so many different versions of the lager, varying in abv and quality – some ok, some bleeding terrible. The most common one at restaurants seemed to be Tsing Tao draft, which was a less flavoursome version of standard Tsing Tao. Anyway, being in China I figured I should do at least one set of notes of its most famous brewery – so, when I saw this stout in the supermarket I decided to grab I can. I didn’t even know they did a stout. Also, while I was in China I asked locals how this was pronounced to settle a long standing debate we have had – the best way I can write the response given is “Ching Dao” which is quite close to how I thought it was. Go me! Then again, I’m guessing the answer would vary by area and and accent so don’t take that as the definitive answer. This was another one done on the boat in a room I shared with another random traveller from China. Since he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese I do wonder what the heck he thought I was doing when I started taking photos of my beer.

Moor: All Dayer Deadpunk Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy yellow with middling off white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Quite fresh. Floral and lemon.

Body: Fresh lemon sorbet. Creamy vanilla ice cream. Pineapple. Brown bread. Prickly nettles. Slight dried apricot.

Finish: Brown bread. Mild lemon curd. Nettles. Mild guava. Vanilla. Peppery. Wheaty. Moderate hoppy bitterness.

Conclusion: A session IPA that is, for once, actually delivered at a session ABV. I haven’t brought this up too much, but most so called session IPAs are not really session abv for me – lower than a standard IPA yeah, but for me you need to be 4% abv or below to be genuinely a session beer. I will admit that very few beers keep to that these days, as abvs have ballooned a bit. This, at 3.5% abv, is nicely in the session bracket for me. So, with that discussion aside, how does it for flavour in this hard to master style?

Average. Which, compared to a lot of its contemporaries in the session IPA range, isn’t that bad. It is quite bready, which seems to be a common theme in session IPAs, but it avoids the excessive dryness that makes many of them wearing.

It also has a general lemon character to it – straying occasionally into fresher pineapple or more peppery finish at times. Not a huge range, but it does the job. Similarly the body is present in feel, and in malt flavour, but not exactly heavy. I guess it helps with the session characteristics but means it is much more average when you are having just the one.

As a session beer it isn’t stand out and it feels more like a lower abv APA than any kind of IPA. However it does do the job – The flavour works over several drinks and it has the abv to carry it.

Not a must have but does what it sets out to do, and is far from the worst session IPA I have had.

Background:Ok, I will admit it – I mainly grabbed this due to the whole “Brewdog trademark the word Punk in beer” controversy. Because I have listened to their arguments, and them pointing out some errors in reporting, and it still sounds bullshit to me to try and stop people using the word “punk” in beer. Seriously – limiting use of “Punk IPA” sure, just punk? Nah, sod off. So this beer, so named for, and made for, the Deadpunk festival amuses me. Also Moor make good beer, so that helps. So, I listened to some punk music when drinking it, right? Nah – still on a metal kick, so went with some Evil Scarecrow. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, yes again.


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Autumn (England: Brown Ale: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Moderate sized, short lasting brown to grey head.

Nose: Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Aniseed. Cinnamon. Slight wet twigs.

Body: Very lightly tart. Malt chocolate. Hazelnuts. Milky coffee. Figs. Praline. Slight plums as it warms. Tobacco.

Finish: Walnut cake. Malt chocolate. Coffee cake. Sultanas. Slight wet twigs. Figs. Port. Apples. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Once again Wild Beer Co’s seasonal range seems to get going as we hit the darker months, and with it the darker beers.

Despite the special twist of this beer being the foraged figs added, it is not hugely fig dominant – but they do their part. Instead the base brown ale does most of the heavy lifting here. The usual malt chocolate character is there, but here it is delivered in a nuttier fashion resulting in praline like flavours dominating the beer. It does feel slightly light in mouthfeel though – there is a slight tartness to the beer, probably brought in by the foraged ingredients, which seems to also slightly thin the beer. It isn’t a terrible trade off – you do get light apple notes beneath the darker figs and plum fruits, which balances out the flavour – but it is a slight minor off point.

The balance show in the mediating between the heavier tobacco notes up front, and the smoother barrel ageing influenced vanilla notes at the back, all resulting in a very comprehensive ranged brown ale. Frankly this is a beer that puts all that “Boring brown ale” stuff in its place.

If it managed to take the light tartness without the hit to the texture then this would have been perfect. As is it is a solidly complex brown ale that uses the special ingredients subtly and well. You can do a lot worse than that.

Background: Now this, the third release of Wild Beer Co which is made using locally foraged items, really caught my attention. For one thing its base beer is a brown ale, a nice style, oft accused of being boring, and not used enough these days. Next up is the special elements foraged – figs, fig leaves and fig branches. I’m a big figs fan, so that sounded right up my street. Finally, this has been aged in bourbon casks, which should give a bit extra smoothness and flavour. Overall something I was looking forwards to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah. Still just basically going on a metal kick for drinking times.

Warpigs: Lervig: Socks ‘N’ Sandals (Norway: American Pale Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very hazy lemon juice looking body with a moderate sized crisp white head.

Nose: Lemon – fresh to lemon meringue in style. Slightly wheaty. Becomes dry, salted lemon over time.

Body: Fresh lemon. Brown bread. Light milk. Light kiwi and lime. Light chalk. Salted lemon. Dried pineapple. Sweet vanilla to vanilla toffee.

Finish: Nan bread. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Lemon. Drying. Slightly peppery. Slight chalk.

Conclusion: Flavour-wise this is simple and refreshing – it is another beer where the complexity comes with how it feels. Frankly, it declares everything about its flavour to the eye. It looks like lemon juice; It tastes like a range of lemon based substances backed up by a dry APA character, moderate hops and bready backing.

Anyway – about that feel – it is slightly wheaty feeling against the traditional APA breadiness, against a slight fresh feel from the lemon side of things, into slightly chalky texture on the way out. Not a world shaking set but it is an ever changing range that keeps the simple flavour from getting samey. It also helps that, as time and warmth affects the beer you do get some variety late on. Some toffee sweetness gets added to the body in the middle and a peppery outro helps draw a line under each sip to break things up.

It is both solid and satisfying – a mix of fresh lemon and dry bready APA that balances both elements resulting in something that is not too heavy a drink. The flavour does expand slightly as I indicated before – even the fruit range expands with some pineapple and such joining in – not much and not for long, each time doing just enough to keep you interested. It never reaches the level where you go “wow” but each time you think you are going to get bored, it throws out a little bit more to bring you back in.

One you are never going to complain about, not a must have but solid craftsmanship.

Background: This is listed as a mixed fermentation double dry-hopped APA. Which sounded interesting, also the can looked interesting, and I don’t see why people rant about socks and sandals so much. If they look stupid, but you like them, then who cares? Anyway, so this was a beer for me it seemed. Another beer grabbed from good old Independent Spirit, drunk while listening to a bit of Carcass – on a general metal kick currently.

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