Tag Archive: 3-5% ABV


Neon Raptor: Island Party DDH Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale:4.3% ABV)

Visual: On first pour clear lager yellow colour with huge yellow-whitehead. Tons of small bubbled carbonation. Later pours are cloudy and opaque.

Nose: Dry bitter hops. Soft pineapple. Floral. Chalk touch. Flour.

Body: Dry, hoppy bitterness. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft apricot. Prickly. Light gherkin. Mango. Strawberry touch.

Finish: Strawberry. Flour. Soft pineapple. Vanilla yogurt. Crushed love heart sweets. Solid bitterness. Kumquat.

Conclusion: This pours oddly. The first pour was utterly clear and lager like, with a massive head. However it seems I should have given the can more of a shake before pouring as later pours were cloudy in a NEIPA style. (or maybe not – again, massive head already – but you get the gist).

So, once I had let the head settle a bit I found that this was pretty subtle in the aroma. Soft pineapple and dry, bitter notes. While it never hits that super dry, super harsh take that some APAs do, this still leans into the drier take throughout the rest of the beer.

It has a fairly creamy mouthfeel, but very dry around that. Kind of a flour dryness that seems to be a common APA shtick. There is some soft apricot and pineapple notes packed around that which freshens it up a touch, along with some savoury vegetable notes and sour gherkin notes rounding out the range.

Altogether it is ok, but gets wearing as times goes on and the drier notes take over, leaving more flour notes on your tongue as a desiccating experience. It is a just slightly too far into the harsh dryness in style, rather than the super drinkable dry style.

So, it had good first impressions, before the flour notes got too heavy, as the soft fruit is appealing, but it just gets bogged down over time. Ok at the start, but definitely sub-optimal and gets worse as time goes on.

Background: Neon Raptor. Neon. Raptor. There was no way I wasn’t going to try something from this brewery. Decided to go for the APA as been trying a lot of IPAs recently. Also the IPAs were New England style. I’m trying to not hate on NEIPAs too much, but the way they are saturating the market at the mo is not exactly my scene shall we say. Anyway, not much else to add – picked this up from Independent Spirit and put on B. Dolan’s House Of Bees Vol 2 while drinking. Should be seeing the Epic Beard men live soon, so gets me in the mood for cool socially conscious rap.

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Lost and Grounded: Moor: Left Hand Giant: Berry Lush (England: Fruit Witbier: 4% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Huge strawberry red head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Blackcurrant cheesecake. Blackcurrant jam. Twigs. Strawberry. Thick. Tart grapes.

Body: Wheaty. Sharp lemon. Blueberry. White pepper. Tart blackcurrant. Charring. Tart grapes. Gooseberry.

Finish: Tart blueberries. Noble hop oils. Subtle blackcurrant. White pepper. Charred bitterness.

Conclusion: There is a massive disconnect between the aroma and the taste in this one. The aroma is hugely jammy, packed with fruit flavoured jelly notes (aka Jello for our American friends). It is sweet and thick. I was kind of worried that the sweetness was going to dominate the body too much and end up with a simple, one notes, sweet thing.

That definitely did not turn out to be the case.

The first hit of the main body is a sharp lemon note that seems fairly much like your standard expectations of a good wit, which was encouraging. It was good to see signs of the base beer evident through the berries. There also was a strong white pepper character that called to the spice use in a traditional wit. However that element isn’t too well used, combining with charred notes that make the beer feel unnecessarily harsh.

At this point the fruit is pretty much non existent, and the beer was feeling really lacklustre due to the harsher notes, the lack of fruit and the base beer being overwhelmed by the charring and spice. So, massively flawed, but not in the way I expected it to be.

This however turns out to be a beer that works better when warmer and with a bit of time to air. The rougher notes subside, though do not totally vanish. The berries rise without taking over and the base wit feels like it has some room to roam.

It is still not great, but is far more drinkable than it was before. Showing evident traditional dry, lemony wit character with subtle berries backing it up. There is still too evident pepper and charring which hurt it – however if they managed to turn that down a bit then this would be a heck of a better beer.

Bad start, reasonable end, but definitely needs work.

Background: This seems to a collaboration of some of the great breweries we have in the west country – Moor is an old fave of mine, while LHG and LAG are comparatively new kids on the block, but with some tasty beers already out from each. I’ve been feeling like a Belgian style wit for while, so when I saw this one – made with blackcurrant puree, at Independent Spirit, I figured it was worth a try. Put on a bunch of White Zombie for some retro b-movie style metal fun.

Art Brew: Pale (England: English Pale Ale: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark apricot towards brown. Thin off white head.

Nose: Malt chocolate and toffee. Fresh pineapple. Dried apricot. Fruit sugars. Peach. Light milk. Pumpkin.

Body: Moderately bitter. Moderately earthy. Light peach. Prickly hop mouthfeel. Toffee backbone. Soft lemon sherbet. Pumpkin. Slight peach syrup. Soft pineapple.

Finish: Solid earthy bitterness. Malt toffee. Soft pineapple air. Good hop character. Soft lemon cake. Pumpkin. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is a nice mix of things. The initial impression was a fairly earthy hopped English Pale Ale/ Bitter kind of thing. It was solidly earthy with good bitterness and a solid toffee malt backbone. Nothing fancy, but well done and the bitter, earthy British beer is a take oft overlooked these days.

Over time it really rounds out though. The first tell is a very soft pineapple note that freshens up the aroma, and then the body. The soft peach and apricot sweet notes come out and slowly pushes the earthiness into the background – though it still comes back for a solid kick in the finish.

It isn’t a super shiny beer, but it works at giving a solid kick up front as it leans heavily into the traditional British bitter style, then soothes into a gentle American pale hopped style that lets you relax with the rest of the beer. At a super sessionable 3.2% abv the earthier front and gentler back work very well indeed. It doesn’t get heavy, but doesn’t get dull, and that is a hard balance to get.

Very solid, calls to the old but uses the new. It isn’t going to turn up in anyone’s top 50 true, but … that isn’t the point of it. Let’s just say that this is not my first bottle of it – it brings you back and is enjoyable pretty much any time. It has a very well deserved place in the drinking range because of that.

Background: Ahh, Art Brew. Their beers are old friends of this blog, and I try to drop back to them every now and then. In this case to a session abv Pale Ale. Fairly simple name, and fairly simple concept. I felt like trying a beer that would hopefully concentrate on just being a good beer, rather than any flashy conceits or ingredients. Let’s see how that goes. Another one from Independent Spirit. I put on Svalbard’s bloody awesome It’s Hard To Have Hope while drinking. Seriously metal fans – great crunchy metal and socially relevant lyrics – you want to check this one out.

Wild Beer Co: Funky Dory (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lager to lemon juice. White medium sized head.

Nose: Lychee. Soft lemon. Mango. Tart. Cider touch. Wheat dust air. Fresh cut apples.

Body: Lychee. Mild yeast funk. Brown bread. Peppery. Lightly earthy. Dry lemon. Vanilla. Dry. Light apple. Mild blueberry backing.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Funky yeast. Dried mango. Dry lemon. Mature cheese and cheese puff crisps.

Conclusion: This tastes like an earthy old school British bitter matched with a new wave fruity pale ale, then they both went home and shagged in a pool of brett. Then nine months later this happened. Or something like that.

The front of the beer is full of soft, but quite dry, fruit – tart but in a way that still feels well attenuated and drying. Like a dry lemon drink, but with more range if that helps. That dry fruit works against the lightly funky brett character creating an easy drinking yet dry beer with a lot more weight behind it than such a beer often has.

What builds from that is a really earthy, peppery character that starts low and builds up slowly over the life of the beer. By the end it is very earthy, but backed by a tart character so it calls to, but is very different from the traditional earthy British bitter style.

It isn’t as great a beer as Brett Brett IPA or Chronos, but is another beer that shows that Bretting up other beer styles is where Wild Beer co really shine. The only flaw is that it ends up a bit too earthy dominated by the end and that keeps it from the great highs of the other beers.

Previous Bretted up beers from Wild Beer have aged well, So I’m planning on ageing up one of these for fun – see if it helps it get over the rough spots at the end. As is now it is a very nice take on the British bitter. Not their best, but a lovely twist on the Brit hop style.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Wild Beer Co’s beers recently, but when I saw this is looked like something that sits perfectly in the middle of what they do right. A British hopped ale, but funked up with Brett. Their Brett Brett IPA, Evolver IPA and Chronos Lager all were brett takes on other beer styles and generally were all impressive, so had good hopes for this. It helped that the image is a David Bowie reference – very cool, so I put on his Black Star album while drinking. Some tracks still give me chills even now. I bought one for ageing, to see what the brett did and one for drinking now. Then it was boiling hot so I drank both. This is my second attempt, grabbing two and doing notes on one. It is still too warm. All were grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Black Isle: 5-A-Day (Scotland: Fruit Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened yellow to brown. Very large off white bubbled head.

Nose: Passion-fruit. Lightly wheaty. Light white pepper. Light hop character and bitterness.

Body: Sour-dough. Gritty bitterness. Gritty hop character. Chalk. Light tart gapes.

Finish: Gritty bitterness. High hop bitterness. Slight charring. Dry guava. Dry passion-fruit. Flour. Chalk.

Conclusion:Ok, this is one of the least fruity IPAs I have ever encountered. Which, considering it is made with passion-fruit is really a bad sign.

First impressions are of just a gritty, slightly chalky and rough thing. The beer seems to have run into the problem that a lot of session IPAs do, which that that unless they are brewed very well then the lower malt base can make the beer feel dry and over-attenuated with little residual sweetness, which can make the higher hop load just acrid rather than flavoursome.

Over time an ,admittedly still very dry, fruit character does out, but it is never anywhere near enough to push itself ahead of the dry charring that is the front of the beer. It isn’t big flavoured except in roughness, it isn’t easy drinking in any way, the hops are rough and the malt is empty. Even worse the added fruit twist does very little resulting in a beer that is both dull and harsh.

So this is a bad beer – chalky and clinging with all the worst elements holding on the longest. This is genuinely one to avoid as it has nigh no redeeming qualities.

Background: Black Isle Brewery was one of the first set of beers I did notes on, back when I was first starting the blog. They were ok but nothing special back then. Since then they seem to have a complete image overhaul and gone more into the craft beer scene rather than the more traditional ales they did before. So when I saw a bunch of their beers at Independent Spirit I decided to grab one and see how they had changed. This is is a low abv IPA made with passion-fruit. Seems simple enough. I put on Testament – Low for music to back this. No real reason, just enjoy their music.

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.

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.

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