Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


White Frontier: Northern Monk: Garage: Whiplash: Slow Runnings (Switzerland: Brown Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large creamy brown bubbled head.

Nose: Roasted, nutty character. Coffee cake. Light lactose. Subtle toffee.

Body: Good, lightly creamy, mouthfeel. Cashew nuts and green flecks from the shell. Slight chalk. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Charcoal touch meets bitterness. Cashew nuts. Nutty bitterness. Roasted character. Coffee cake. Slight malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This is pretty roasted, leaning heavily on that for the character rather than going either towards a sweeter or lightly sour brown ale style. It seems to be walking the middle ground shall we say. So, does it work well?

The mouthfeel is slightly creamy, along with a touch of lactose to creamy flavour, which gives a decent weight and feel for the 4% abv without getting too heavy. So the basics are down pat.

Flavour-wise, apart from the roasted, nutty flavours, it keeps to the more savoury or bitter rounding notes – subtle cocoa and coffee cake for example. There’s a few unwelcome rough elements amidst that, including a kind of charred, charcoal note at times in the finish, but generally it is solid.

So solid, but not really standout – I think the problem is that for everything apart from the roasted character it feels slightly indistinct. There is flavour, but not well defined. It is relying in the nice feel and general gist of the flavours to get along, but it doesn’t give anything for you to really get into.

Decent enough but pretty middle of the road. I’m still glad I had it as you don’t see as many new brown ales these days, at least in my experience, but it isn’t one to draw new people to the style.

Background: Ok, new brewery on me – White Frontier (and one of their collaborators – Whiplash) – so that caught my eye. I don’t see many coming out from Switzerland. Got a lot of trust for Garage and Northern Monk though, so that made me confident I was in safe hands. In fact, that is a lot of collaborators on one beer! You don’t see many craft brown ales, so that caught my eyes as well. So a lot of interest going in. Was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with some lighter indie to pop tunes for this – Honeyblood – Babes Never Die.

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Burning Sky: Saison Houblon (England: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to lemon juice. Large mounded bubbled white head with brown clumps.

Nose: Banana custard. Wheaty. White pepper. Mild grapefruit. Moderate cake sponge hop character. Orange zest. Slight sour dough. Apple.

Body: Slight tart grapefruit. White pepper. Tart grapes. Slight sour dough. Fresh cut apple. Earthy middle. Coriander.

Finish: Wheaty bitterness. Tart grapefruit. Peppery. White pepper. Coriander. Muesli and dried raisins.

Conclusion: This is nice, but boy the aroma promised something with far more subtlety and range. It makes the decent body that you actually get feel slightly disappointing on comparison. Ah well, let’s look at what we actually get then.

The body is fairly rustic style saison – peppery, solid earthy saison style but made fresh with gentle tart grapefruit hops so the body refreshes you before pushing out into a solidly bitter and peppery once again finish.

Refreshing, but yet earthy and grounded. A solid beer and one at not too high abv. The thing is, the aroma has so much more range to it – much more in the tart fruits and hints of a sweeter malt touch that calls to the classic that is Saison Dupont. If those notes had carried through into the body then this could have been similarly a classic beer.

Ah well, let’s look at what it is, not what it could have been. It fits bright hop character well into the base earthy saison without compromising either. A fairly solid twist on the saison, not a classic – it needs a few more layers for that – but it is solidly drinkable with solid hop bitterness.

Could do a lot worse for a saison, give it a go if you are in the mood for something refreshing but with weight.

Background: So, houblon just means hop in French. So this is a hoppy saison. Simple. Burning Sky really haven’t got the attention they deserve from me, may have to make an effort to reverse that. This is step one in trying anyway. Not much else to add – I wanted something comparatively easy drinking, with a not too high abv, so I hoped a saison would do the job when I broke it open for the night. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I returned to IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance to listen to while drinking. Still amazing mix of anger and sensitivity. I still should pick up some of their other albums to see if they are all this good.

7Bräu: Dalseo Orange Ale (South Korea: Fruit: 4.2% abv)

Visual: Lightly hazy apple to lemon juice. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Orange juice. Rose petals. Brown bread to bready hop character. Slight sulphur.

Body: Brown bread. Savoury orange juice. Bready hops. Lemon. Vanilla. Sweeter orange juice later on.

Finish: Brown bread. Light hop bitterness. Crumpets. Petals. Slight lemon. Grows in earthy bitterness over time.

Conclusion: This is a, erm, gentle, kind of bready beer at the base. Imagine the kind of bready, yeasty character of Orval, but imagine it is nowhere near as complex, just in the same ballpark to give kind of an idea.

The orange character feels fairly savoury at the start, a gentle backing that develops a light sweetness over time. While the bready character is generally dominant it feels like a nice balance for a not too fruit dominated beer – it always feels beer first but never loses the fruit character,

However, with that said, the flavours, while balanced are also quite pedestrian. There is early bitterness, simple orange with a touch of vanilla – it isn’t bad but is overly savoury and doesn’t use much of the wit character which I think is there at the base.

It is ok, kind of dull but drinkable. Without the orange character it would have been an exceptionally dull beer, as it seems to very much lean on that extra ingredient for character. With it, it passes the time nicely but really doesn’t stand out.

Drinkable but not much more than that.

Background: This is a nice treat. My mate, Tony, went over to South Korea a short while back and brought a few of their beers back. He invited me over to his place to try them with him, and was willing to indulge me in me doing tasting notes on two of them. Very many thanks! It is not often you see Korean beers over here so I did not want to miss the chance. Also if the photo looks like it is in a much fancier place than normal that is the reason. This one is, I think, a wit made with orange. I have no skills at reading Korean so I am relying on google or this.

Salt: Jute Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy to cloudy pineapple juice. Medium white creamy head.

Nose: Gentle pineapple. Vanilla. Flour. Soft grapefruit to pineapple juice. Lemon meringue.

Body: Soft,slight creamy to the outside of marshmallows in mouthfeel. Lemon juice. Light nettle hop prickle. Flour.

Finish: Lemon and pineapple juice. Flour. Moderate hop bitterness. Pineapple pieces.

Conclusion: Holy poop, another good session IPA. I was beginning to think that the world had set a hard cap on the number of good session IPAs allowed in the world at one time. Glad to see I was wrong.

This is gently done, soft and almost feels like licking the outside of a marshmallow, for an oddly specific image there. It is slightly dry from attenuation but has none of that painfully dry character that curses a lot of session IPAs.

Helping it is the hop flavour choice – lightly tart pineapple and lemon, freshening and making the beer easy to drink without needing to lean on a larger malt body for contrasting sweetness. The bitterness is moderate, but feels heavier due to the lack of malt contrast. It has picked its presence well to prickle and show the bitterness, but not get up in your face too quickly. It is set up well to take advantage of the beer style and let you have a few in the session.

It is gentle, but prickly – dry but lightly tart and backs it with hops, just enough lovely bitter hops. As a beer it goes down your neck far too easily, which is my excuse for the short notes, I’ve finished drinking it and I’m now trying to fill out the rest of the notes without an example in front of me. Something I am spectacularly bad at doing,

So, I’m going to leave it there and point out the fact I finished the beer before the notes is a pretty good recommendation in itself.

Background: This is one that Chris from Independent Spirit was raving about, so I overcame my slight aversion to the Session IPA style and grabbed it to give a go and do some notes on. Had not tried anything from Salt before, but with a recommendation like that I was intrigued to see how it went. Not much else to add, went back to my youth for tunes with The Eels – Beautiful Freak, some lovely melancholy tunes.

Arcadia Group: Vicious But Delicious – Seriously Hot Sauce Co: Explosive Chilli Beer (England: Spice: 3%)

Visual: Clear, light caramel brown. Thin dash of a head.

Nose: Crushed chilli seeds. Habanero. Watery. Dried green chilli.

Body: Watery front. Chilli seed. Quick growing heat. Meaty chilli notes. Mango chutney. Brown sugar touch.

Finish: Chilli powder. Green chilli. Warm. Slight raspberry yogurt. Barbecue sauce. Slight charring.

Conclusion: This is kind of watery, very light textured and tastes like chilli powder has just been dumped straight into it. Not a good start.

If you pay attention there are hints of better defined chilli notes in there – a meaty, smokey note is hinted at mid body – some crushed green chilli notes in the finish. Generally however, you just get too much bloody chilli powder.

Oddly, despite the fact that this is the “explosive”, highest heat rating of the four beer set, this seems to top out at annoyingly warm rather than any real intensity. Before anyone thinks this is silly macho chilli heat dick waving, I would like to point out I am an utter chilli wimp. I like all the flavour, but little of the heat. So, while this may be hotter than some people like, I am fairly confident it is not the endorphin rush experience that I hear hardcore chilli heads enjoy when they get something seriously hot.

Beer wise this is bland, watery, with maybe some brown sugar notes but lacking in texture or anything more than the most generic flavours to back the chilli. It feels almost like caramel touched water rather than a beer.

Not the worst chilli beer I have had, shockingly enough, let alone the worst beer ever, however, that said, this is still utter shit.

Background: Sorry about the long heading – I have no idea if the spice company is called “Vicious But Delicious”, “Seriously Hot Sauce Co” or what. Googling did help me find out the brewery though – The Arcadia group, contract brewed for a Debenham’s four pack of chilli beers. This is the allegedly most spicy of the four and was given to me by a colleague at work to do notes on. Many thanks. Hot beer called for heavy music, so I put on Lamb Of God – Ashes of The Wake Album. I once did “Laid To Rest” on karaoke in Japan and it damn near did my throat it, so thematically appropriate for a chilli beer. Maybe.

Tiny Rebel: Neon Raptor: Tropical Sorbet IPA (Wales: IPA: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale and just slightly hazy lemon juice colour. Very small bubbled carbonation and a huge white to yellow loose bubbled head.

Nose: Tart grapes. Lemon juice to lemon sorbet. White chunks from tinned tropical fruit. Mild hop character. Crushed palma violets. Grapefruit.

Body: Tangerine. Tart lemon juice. Pink grapefruit. Slight flour like hop character.

Finish: Tangerine. Pink grapefruit. Tart grapes. Crushed palma violets. Pineapple. Standard grapefruit. Mild hop prickle.

Conclusion: Ok, since I have a few spare moments, I would probably argue against this being classified as an IPA, but mainly as an intellectual exercise rather than any genuine gripe. Kind of just trying to work out exactly where the line lies between IPA and not. It is far from the worst offender for not matching style guidelines but it is an interesting one. What do I mean? Well what seems unusual is is the sub 5% abv which, ok has been taken by session IPA but this is definitely not a session IPA. It has low bitterness, which yes is used by NEIPAs, but seriously, screw NEIPAs. It has a mild hop character, and unlike the lower bitterness IPAs I have encountered before the malt character is nearly completely out of the way. The main thing is that it obviously has had a lot of hops used late on to make it very tart and fruit, but nothing is used for bitterness, hop character or similar. Feels more like a very tart hopped APA to me, but anyway.

For the closest IPA comparison it reminds me of those IPAs in style about five years back, utterly smashed with Nelson Sauvin and similar New Zealand hops creating a very tart experience, but with much more out of the way malt styling. On a side note I very much miss those IPAs, I loved the tart, hoppy bombs. Everyone seems to use Nelson Sauvin much lighter these days. Anyway, yeah this beer is like that but with less malt and far more variety in the tart fruit notes.

So, this is very fresh and enjoyable- pushing grapes, lemon, grapefruit and tangerine notes for a great tart medley of an experience. It just lays those tart notes on moment after moment while the actual hop character, when it shows itself, comes across as a subtle flour texture kind of thing – there is no bitterness of hop prickle here. Hence my long ramble on the IPA style above. However, if you ignore the style expectations this is a mouth puckering refresher of a beer and very good at it too.

A tart as heck, kind of IPA if you squint, beer. Please, other people, do this level of tart hops more please. Also, Tiny Rebel please do a variant of this beer, but with more hop character please – that would rock my world.

Background: The …. fourth I think beer from Tiny Rebel’s seventh anniversary box. This one with Neon Raptor, who I love the visual aesthetic of, but their beers have never quite jumped out at me yet. Not much to add really, seems a tad low abv for an IPA, can looks very bright and cheerful. So of course I put on the completely not cheery and angry early era Gallows albums to listen to while drinking. The past few weeks politics bullshit may have left me with a lot of angst and anger to blow off musically.

Tiny Rebel: Magic Rock: Citra Session IPA (Wales: Session IPA: 4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach colour. Moderate creamy off white head.

Nose: Apples. Soft peach. Cream. Creamy strawberry touch. Soft pineapple. Custards. Some sugar dusting.

Body: Bready. Gritty bitterness. Egg plant. Apple. Dry cake sponge. Milky.

Finish: Cake sponge. Sugar dusting. Gritty bitter hops. Apple. Egg plant. Creamy. Unleavened bread. Pepper.

Conclusion: This … is so close to being a kind of ok session IPA. Yes that is intentional damning with faint praise. With the exception of Beavertown’s excellent Neck Oil I just don’t seem to get along with session IPAs. They’ve proven to just not be my kind of thing. Thing is, that one that I do enjoy means I keep trying new ones in the eternal hope that I will find another one I enjoy.

(Update: I have just looked at my old notes, and there are more session IPAs there I enjoyed than I initially remembered. The bad ones must just really stick in my mind)

Now, the aroma on this one is actually spot on – Peach, soft apples, slightly creamy with a gentle hop character. It promises a gentle yet fruity IPA, but at a low session abv. That lying fucking aroma.

The body is kind of milky, but despite that it generally suffers from the overly dry and gritty feel that seems to curse so many session IPAs. The hops here are robust, if – as mentioned- gritty, but the beer feels kind of hollow at the core. Where is that lovely fruit complexity that the aroma promised?

There are some hints – apple notes, creamy notes, but generally a peppery, dry, unleavened bread kind of character dominates. This comes up so many times I have to ask…is this deliberate? Is this actually how the style is supposed to taste and I just don’t like the style, as seriously it does nothing for me.

Anyway, another sub optimal session IPA that promises so much and fails to deliver.

Background: The third of Tiny Rebel’s collaboration beer pack for their seventh anniversary. On opening up the back I find that there is a huge picture to colour in with the provided crayons. Silly, but it made me smile. Seriously need some smiles in the current political climate is all I’m saying. Anyway, I’m not generally a fan of the session IPA style, so, yeah bias warning on this one. Not much else to add, grabbed from Independent Spirit. Put on Slipknot’s self titled album while drinking – I had recently found out the lyrics to “Get This” were absolutely nothing like what I had been thinking they were over years of listening to it, so they were back in my mind.

Tiny Rebel: Fourpure: DDH Pils (Wales: Pilsner: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale bananaish yellow. Vary large crisp white head. Clear. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Crisp, wheaty hop character. Soft sweet lemon. Vanilla. Cake sponge.

Body: Soft vanilla. Mild peach and tangerine. Slick and smooth. Popcorn. Slightly floral. Mild but gripping bitter hops. Cake sponge. Light pineapple.

Finish: Good hop bitterness. Slightly gritty. Wet sheen. Light lime. Slightly oily. Slight pineapple.

Conclusion: So, to open up with, this has a thicker body than I expected. It isn’t huge, not a treacly syrupy thing, but has that touch extra grip that gives the hops have got more room to roam. It felt a tad closer to a bohemian pilsner in mouthfeel, just with a different take on the hop usage.

Early on there are some interesting flavours in there – soft peach and tangerine against a gentle hop bitterness that lets the pils feel do its thing and slip down your throat easily. As time goes on the hop bitterness rises and starts to dominate.

It is still easy to drink, but with a good hop bitterness punch to it now; That said, I miss the fruit character that is lost under that higher bitterness. The hop bitterness is satisfying but simple. I preferred the balance and mix of characteristics early on. Still, while I prefer the earlier character, at least the beer has some decent progression to it so it doesn’t get dull quickly.

Even late on a light pineapple character enters the mix. Still not as good as at the start, but again a good progression note and adds a bit more complexity back into the mix. So, it is decent – the main real flaw is in the finish, which can get a bit gritty in its bitterness; Not ruinous, but it results in a weaker experience than the rest of the beer.

A solid pils, works best in its first half, but still decent at the end. A solid second of the seven Tiny Rebel anniversary beers.

Background: Ok, I wasn’t going to get this – a box set of seven beers, seven collaborations, in a box set to celebrate Tiny Rebel’s seventh anniversary. I generally don’t get boxed sets like this, I prefer to grab the exact beers I want rather than a collection. Same reason I don’t use the subscription posted to your door beer set thing much. Then I tried their 0.5% abv not an Imperial Stout thing and it was fucking awesome. So, yeah I own the box now. It also includes a glass (shown in the photo), plus pencils and party balloons, because, yeah, of course! Decided to go for their Pils first – not a style that you see craft beered up as much as, say, IPAs so was an interesting one. Yes this was grabbed from Independent Spirit again – let’s face it, when you have a great selection on your doorstep it does tend to become your go to. I put on Throwing Muses self titled album while drinking, some gentle but high quality indie pop tunes.

Wychwood: Harper’s: Medusa (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark chestnut brown to red clear body. Good sized beige to caramel tight bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Roasted nuts.

Body: Cherry. Earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Slightly creamy. Shortbread. Slight gummed brown envelopes. Lightly sour and tart undertones.

Finish: Creamy. Earthy bitterness. Light menthol. Bitter cocoa. Pepper. Brown gummed envelopes. Dry. Tart apple. Very watered down vinegar tart touch. Soft cherries and cream,

Conclusion: This is… this, this is actually really good. I have to admit that, with it being an Auldi own brand beer kind of thing, I was expecting something fairly middle of the road. Not expecting something bad, just something average. Yes I fell into the beer snob trap, because I am really enjoying this.

Its got a solid malt chocolate base that edges into richer or more bitter cocoa notes at times, alongside that slightly sour and refreshing note that you get in a good, drinkable bitter. Similarly it calls to a bitter in that earthy hop character that comes in the traditional British take on the style. By itself that would result in a generic but satisfying beer, but this goes a step further. Cherry and cream notes make for sweeter high end notes and helping the drinkability is a lightly tart apple undertone.

It is very easy to drink, yet has this soft chocolate middle that seems out from the earthy bitterness and makes it feel soothing, welcoming and very rewarding. So, this is really a very good anytime drinking beer that mixes traditional British bitter notes with sweeter malt ESB character to make a bloody good beer.

Remind me to double check my beer snob assumptions every now and then, so I don’t make mistakes like this again. Well worth a try.

Background: First of all, this is listed as being made by “Harper’s” which is Auldi’s home brand beer. Looking online, that is just a cover name for whoever contract brewed it for them, in this case Wychwood, who are owned by Marston’s. Oh this just gets confusing. Anyway, this was part of a bunch of beers given to me by a colleague at work. Many thanks! The rest I just drank, but I decided to put this one aside to do notes on. Worth noting the Harper’s Wild Bill IPA was solid as well. Put on some Brassick (self titled album and their EP) to listen to while drinking. I’m always glad to see new punk bands still bubbling up after all these years. Solid stuff as well.

Yeastie Boys: Cigar City: Brewing With Wayne (New Zealand: Lichtenhainer : 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice to apricot. Large white to off white head.

Nose: Bready. Sulphur. Slightly sour. Dried lemon. Peppercorn.

Body:Lemon. Smoked meat touch. Tart grapes. Wheaty. Salt touch. Juniper.

Finish: Salted lemon. Barbecue ribs touch. Lemongrass. Lemon juice. Salt. Slight sage. Juniper.

Conclusion: This is a pretty thick, sticky, weighty mouthfeel of a beer. Which is completely not what I expected from the moderate abv, less so did I expect that, despite the sticky weight, it is actually easy to drink. Oh what a world we live in that has such things in it.

What makes it work is that it is tart – with lemon notes,slightly salted, something that should, by themselves, make an easy going summer refresher; here they are matched with a smoke character that is akin to scraping a thin layer of the top of a rack of barbecued spare ribs and dropping it straight into the mix. Flavour wise it is a light note, but it makes the whole beer feel more mouth clinging, before expanding into subtle peppercorn and sage notes that make me think of a good steak dish.

So, lightly tart and sour, smoked gently with savoury herb notes. Quite the mix. If kind of feels like the less sour goses that I tried in Goslar – the wheat beer character is more evident than most of the sour wheat beers, and it seems to have extra ingredient flavours packed into every place they could, with juniper notes coming out later on.

It has a strange weight, but the tart flavours let it slip down easily. Sticky, yet never outstays its welcome. Not exactly a session beer – just a tad too high abv for that. It feels like a gose meets smoke meets herbs meets an attempt at a session … thing with wheat beer influence meets the reflection on the concept of Plato’s cave. Ok, I lied about that last one. Just making sure you are still paying attention.

A nice easy drinking, big flavour unusual beer.

Background: This caught my eye as it is a darn unusual one – a lichtenhainer – a style I have not tried before. Looking online it seems it is a traditional German style, similar to the gose, but made with some use of smoked malt. So, a sour, smoked wheat ale. Of course! This one seems unusual even for one that falls in this style – it is made with lemongrass,BBQ charred lemons and juniper, along with several different types of smoked malt. Oddly for a collaboration between a USA and an NZ brewery, it looks like it was actually brewed in England. Again, of course! This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and,feeling a bit old school, I put a variety of Madness tunes to listen to. One of the first bands I ever got into in my youth and I still have a soft spot for them.

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