Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


Salt: The Queer Brewing Project: Flavourtown (England: Imperial Porter: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown dash of bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Fresh dough. Slight crushed bourbon biscuits. Crushed crunchies chocolate bars.

Body: Smooth chocolate fondue. Light mead. Peppery. Caramel. Clean texture and mouthfeel. Honey.

Finish: Light earthy character. Watery chocolate. Honey sheen. Caramel in a Twix bar style. Milky coffee. Sheen of choc toffee. Cocoa.

Conclusion: What makes the difference between an Imperial Porter and a higher abv stout? That is the eternal question. Technically there are style guidelines, but in practise it seems to vary wildly. In this case I would say the difference is in mouthfeel and general weight of the beer.

While this is not a light beer by any means, it is only late on that it ever starts to show the full weight of the 8% ABV and even then it is very smooth for the style. That is in mouthfeel anyway, flavour wise this booms all the way. All the way to …flavourtown. Haha. Haha.

Ha.

Anyway, this is smooth chocolate with honey and mead notes – in the finish those honeyed notes especially linger. Despite the strength and lasting flavour it doesn’t feel artificially intense or sweet, which feels a tad confusing. You have big long lasting flavours, but somehow restrained.

It has a little in the way of earthy and peppery notes, but at its core it comes in with that rich cocoa and honey, with only subtle influence from the common coffee porter notes. Despite the sweet notes it it quite dry, especially into the finish. It is odd, like a lot of the beer it feels slightly contradictory in its ways.

The beer does get thicker over time, feeling slightly honey thickened by the end – still not Imperial Stout like weight – more like a thicker mead, but so different from the start. Still not quite sure how that happened.

But, is it good? Kind of. Feels like it is honey balanced over a gentle sweet core at the start, but by the end it is honey on full blast which gets over powering. I enjoy it, but is an occasional drink, not a frequent one. Starts subtle, ends outrageously mead filled. Decent if unbalanced.

Background: The Queer Brewing Project! Cool idea, with some of the profits going to LGBTQ charities and Salt are a good brewery to match, so it was an easy choice to drive into Flavourtown! Whoop whoop! So what did they go for? An Imperial Porter made with honeycomb dust. You don’t get many Imperial Porters, possibly because of the confusion in what exactly one is, so it was an interesting one to grab from Independent Spirit. Went back to the 90s with Faithless: Reverence as backing music while drinking.

Brew York: Big Eagle 2020 (England: IPA: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Browned gold clear body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation and a huge off white head.

Nose: Pine needles. Moderate hop character and some bitterness. Quite clean. Slight resin. Soft apricot.

Body: Bitter. Peppery. Slightly charred. Acrid hops. Soft watered down caramel back. Soft fudge. Very dry.

Finish: Acrid hop burn. Gunpowder tea. Dry toffee. Watered down caramel. Heavy bitterness. Charred. Very dry. Peppery. Moss and other greenery.

Conclusion: OK, like Natalie Imbruglia I am torn (and that is a reference that shows my age). On one hand this is better as fuck and nicely dry. Two things missing from so many IPAs these days.

On the other hand, this is a tad acrid, with hop burn very evident early on. It feels like they let it out a few months too early and is suffering from that. The welcome bitter character keeps leaning into over burnt and charred notes.

Flavour wise it is very peppery and it eschews brighter hop flavours to concentrate on the bitterness, which is the primary hop influence here, along with the evident hoppy mouthfeel. The malt is nicely out of the way but not full west coast dryness, with a gentle caramel and dried toffee sweetness evident, though very subtle and way below the hops.

There is a lot of good work in the base – the dry but slightly sweet malt use balancing very drinkable character with just a touch more body- the OH GOD hop kick – but apart from that there is basically just a pine needles and pure hop assault character, which leans too much towards a pepper, charred and burnt character.

I’m still kind of enjoying it, but it is flawed as fuck. They need to ditch the hop burn and make it a big polished hop kick, or balance it out with some complexity added to the pepper hop feel. It just needs something else.

As is, I respect the old school take but it is too unpolished to recommend.

Background: I love York, the place that is. Best place in the UK IMHO. Brew York has been so-so so far, but this one caught my eye as one to give another try. A brewed up version of a very well reputed hoppy pale ale they did a while back. Though I must admit I am never quite sure why brewers keep noticing a beer they did before was well received, so they bring it back with a different recipe. Surely the point is people want the same beer they loved before. Anyway, not tried the beer before so no big deal, just something I notice popping up a lot. Went with New Model Army again for some punk tunes – The Ghost Of Cain to be exact. Need somewhere to vent my energy in lockdown so punk tunes it is. This was grabbed from the reopened and home delivering Independent spirit. YAYZ!

Marston: Devil’s Backbone: American IPA (England: IPA: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear browned gold body. An off white, thin head that leaves suds as it descends.

Nose: Good hop character. Soft lime. Fresh dough to brown bread. Slight sulphur. Greenery.

Body: Solid bitterness. Mild golden syrup. Creamy lime and kiwi. Reasonably thick body with syrupy touches. Pine needles and resin. Vanilla and custard touches.

Finish: Lime. Reasonable bitterness and hop character. Prickly hops. Kiwi. Vanilla fudge. Resin. Hop oils. Grapes. Sugared apricots.

Conclusion: You know, I may catch some shit for this, but this is a solid IPA.

The body however is, well, odd I will admit. It has that standard, slightly syrupy thick style that Marstons seem to use in their beers a lot. Not really American IPA style, any of them, but still something I can live with here.

What I like about this is that it actually uses the damn hops like they always used to in an IPA. Good bitterness, solid resinous character and hop oils along with a fluffy hop feel. It may not be a masterclass but I can taste a nice hop kick. I’m missing that in a lot of IPAs these days, even when I avoid NEIPAs.

Fruit hop flavour wise it is a reasonable if not not inspiring mix of green fruit – lime, kiwi and grape, all quite sweetly delivered. In fact the whole thing is fairly sweet under the hops with a heavy vanilla influence over the slightly syrupy body.

It’s decent, a very Marston familiar body meets good hop use, if with unoriginal hop flavours choice, but you know, I’ll take that. A nice hop kick with an odd choice of malt backing.

I genuinely could see this being a nice regular beer to visit for a good hop infusion. Not stand out, but goes down nicely and not too expensive.

Background: While they are back via delivery, for a while in this virus lock-down a lot of bottle shops have been closed. So I decided to take advantage of this time to look at how the beer selection has changed in supermarkets over the years and do some notes. This one is from a local Co-Op. I first saw This beer in one of my rare visits to Weatherspoons. I respect Weatherspoons’ beer selection and decent price, but their owner is a grade A fucking shit. So, I tend to only go when mates want to or it is the only available choice. No seriously, the owner is a complete cockwomble. Devil’s Backbone is a USA brewery but this was brewed at Martson’s in the UK. First time around people from Devil’s Backbone came over to help, now I’m guessing it is just brewed under licence or similar. I found this out by a quick google, my suspicions were raised by a) The brewer listed as Marstons hidden in small print on the back of the label. And b) the text that opens “Hey there Englanders!” followed by some real folksy bullshit. In my experience no beer label from a beer actually brewed in the USA opens with anything quite that twee. Anyway, I put on a bunch of old superbursts and other Warren Ellis curated music podcasts while drinking.

Vault City: Dark Fruits Bakewell Sour (Scotland: Fruit Sour: 7% ABV)

Visual: Thick, opaque dark purple to black cherry body. A creamier, lighter black cherry inch of head that leaves sud clumps.

Nose: Creamy black cherry to black cherry yogurt. Tart apple and tart black cherry. Brambles. Menthol creamy touch. Wet twigs. Tart grapes.

Body: Tart yet sweet red grapes over tart white wine. Vermouth. Menthol. Wet twigs. Almond rounds. Burnt cake sponge. Vanilla.

Finish: Pineapple sours. Black cherry yogurt. Light creamy touch. Tart white grapes. Apple. Sour black cherry. Tiny aniseed. Bitter peppery notes.

Conclusion: This is a rewarding and wine ranging beer – far from the simple sweeter sour I was expecting from the bakewell part of the name. In case it is not clear I mean that as a good thing.

Initial notes on the nose are all black cherry – ranging from initial sweeter notes, that soon descend into tarter notes. Very fruity with hints of wet twigs and the like in a very natural way.

The body pushes the sweetness to the side, with hints of vanilla and almond notes but they are only little grace notes over a tart dark fruit body. Under that is white wine flavour and dryness underlying it. There are darker, heavier notes at the core – still very naturally delivered and with lots of fruit to reward you. It is only wine like in the underlying notes and makes a nice contrast to the more natural fruit.

The finish is where real distinct white wine character starts to develop. It is still dark fruit touched but drier, with peppery and slightly bitter notes coming out amongst the twigs. A harsher underline to the whole beer but not unwelcome. Something that really helps show beery bitterness amongst the still unusual sour notes.

Quite thick in mouthfeel, yet refreshing from the dryness. Sweet edges but tart souled. Lots of fruit, and definitely sour while still being recognisably beer. I’m very impressed by this rewarding fruit sour experience.

Background: So, Vault city have been turning out unusual yet good quality beers for a bit now. While I have found myself getting a tad weary of gimmick beers recently, these tended to feel like solid beers that happened to have odd flavours and ingredients rather than just feeling gimmicky. Even though a bakewell sour is undeniably gimmicky. As does the Iron Bru beer I had that I tried from them. They still felt beer like. Which was nice. Anyway, so yeah a dark fruit bakewell inspired sour. From Vault City. Yep I’m in. One of the last beers I got from Independent Spirit before lockdown of doom hit the UK. Trying to keep my stash going as long as poss. Went with Nine Inch Nail’s two new free albums while drinking this. No lyrics, but wonderfully moody.

Brew By Numbers: Broaden and Build: C5 India Pale Ale – Blood Orange (England: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Pale grapefruit juice colour – opaque at the top, and clear around the edges. Large white, loose head.

Nose: Orange rind. Vanilla. Fluffy hops. Tangerine.

Body: Prickly hops. Malt chocolate and toffee. Bitty orange juice. Vanilla yogurt.

Finish: Tangerine to blood orange. Toffee malt character. Crisp hops. Moderate bitterness. Prickly feeling. Peppery. Nettles.

Conclusion: OK, orangey, yep this has orange notes, got that. Not 100% sure it is screaming blood orange to me, but definitely orangey.

This still manages to surprise me though. The malt bill does not come through in any way like what I expected. It hints towards East Coast style IPAs with the malt use coming through with malt chocolate and toffee styled darker sweetness. Not what I would expect for a blood orange IPA, and not what the lighter coloured body on the eye made me expect. It makes for a very solid malt base, the heavier character possibly is why some of the lighter orange notes don’t express themselves as much as they may have as they have to contend with that dark sweetness. Instead the malt provides a solid base for a prickly, nettle like hop character and moderate bitterness.

Now, its most direct competitor, or point of comparison, is Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell. I prefer that for its fresher and more orange emphasising character, but they are very different beers despite sharing a similar base conceit. This is more solidly beer like, really showing the base malts and the hop prickle – I can respect that. The orange is a dominant characteristic, but this isn’t afraid to let the beer do a good chunk of the work as well.

Its a very solid beer. Good use of the special character but not excessively so. I prefer a bit more out of the way malt in my IPAs but that is personal taste, this is still solid.

Background: Been a while since I grabbed a Brew By Numbers beer, and I’ve only had one, pretty decent, encounter with Broaden and Build. Keep meaning to grab more BBN beers though. They have a huge rep behind a fairly simple numbers based facade. So, I saw this, and I remember enjoying my previous encounter with a Blood Orange IPA from Beavertown, and wanted an IPA. So I grabbed it. Another Independent Spirit beer, who are, understandably, closed at the moment. My heart is breaking still. In respect there is no music listed for this tasting note, and no it is not just because I forgot to write it down.

Cerana: Bira 91: Boom: Premium Super Strong (India: Strong Pale Lager: 6-8% ABV)

Visual: Pale banana yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Clear. Rapidly descending large loose white bubbled head.

Nose: Clean. Brown sugar. Vanilla. Custard slices. Malt biscuits. Soft peach.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Slight wet cardboard. Golden syrup. Banana. Palma violets. Peach.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Slight hop character – hop oils and low bitterness. Slight liquorice touch. Wet cardboard. Light chalk. Fluffy popcorn hops.

Conclusion: First non Kingfisher beer of the India trip has been found! And it isssss … fairly nondescript actually. It definitely has more character than Kingfisher by a mile, but that isn’t really saying much.

It is smooth, while being thicker than the average lager and more malt led, but thankfully doesn’t really show any alcohol burn considering the abv. Whatever actual level that abv is.

On the downside there is that slight wet cardboard, slightly muggy hop rough edge that tends to come with the more dull lagers, and it has a slight artificial feeling touch to it despite that lack of alcohol burn. So, imperfect but not overly harsh, just unrefined.

There are hints of palma violets and hop oils that call the German and Czech noble hops styles. Even smaller hints of peach and banana that call to the fruitier American hops. Nothing too well defined, but hints that it is trying for something more than the most standard lager.

Over all nothing stand out bad, but just generally sub average. The slight rough edges and lack of stand out character means that it doesn’t rise to be recommendable – just generally inoffensive.

Not worth hunting down, and considering where I was in India I had to really hunt for non Kingfisher beers not worth that hunt. Sub optimal but not horrible.

A bit meh and hard to find for that meh.

Background: So the full name is Bira 91: Boom: Premium Super Strong Rich and Malty Munich Lager. So, Cerana is the contract brewer, Bira 91 the beer company, boom the sub category for their more mainstream line so the beer name is? I dunno, Munich Lager? Super Strong? Don’t mix up your descriptions and beer names people, it makes things complicated for me! Similarly, while I tend to go for the description the brewers use, Munich Lager can fall under a bunch of categories, – due the beer strength just general Strong Pale Lager seems right as it doesn’t seem to have characteristics of a dopplebock or Imperial Pilsner despite its strength. Life is pain. Also the can lists the strength as 6-8%. Fucking helpful. Anyway, first non Kingfisher beer I found in India, so grabbed it do notes. Simple. Being on holiday I had to use what glassware I could find.

Lervig: Shiga Kogen: Yuzu Raga (Norway: Fruit Lager: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain to yellow. Clear body with a good sized off white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Tart lemon to jiff lemon. Tart grapefruit. Yuzu? Fresh. Yellow raspberry. Lightly yeastie.

Body: Lemon curd. Yellow raspberry. Yuzu? Flour touch. Palma violets.

Finish: Lemon curd. Tart lemon. Yuzu? Tart grapes. Clean sheen feel. Touch of bitterness and hop oils. Flour. Lightly gritty bitterness. Peppery.

Conclusion:Soooooo. Have I ever eaten Yuzu? I honestly can’t remember. I know I have had a variety of Yuzu based and infused drinks. Deffo had them. I just cant remember if I have ever had the thing itself.

Anyway, the tart fruit character is very up front here. Very fresh, mixing lemon, grapefruit and yellow raspberry like notes. Or probably just tastes like yuzu and I would know that if I could remember trying it.

Probably.

The lager styling beneath the fruit is clean, with a slight hop oil sheen. It has a good, slick texture and slight noble hop feeling palma violet notes. The mouthfeel is slightly bohemian pilsner like, but generally the lager is only here as a mouthfeel, the yuzu is here as the flavour.

Because of that it is kind of simple, but refreshing and smooth. One point of note it it uses a slightly gritty, and initially light bitterness. It rises to moderate bitterness, though restrained in mid body and builds to a nice kick in the finish.

It is a simple 1-2-3 punch. Good texture, good fruit usage, good underlining bitterness. Simple. Refreshing, exactly what it says on the tin. Hints of Bohemian pilsner, but with tart fruit and light bitterness.

May not be world shaking but bloody drinkable. I am happy with it.

Background: Shiga Kogen, been a while since I had anything from them. Tried a good chunk of theirs during my visits to Japan. Mixed bag, some great stuff, some average. Lervig on the other hand tend to be spot on. Anyway I’m guessing Raga is the Japanese spelling of lager when adapted to their katakana alphabet, what with this being a lager and all. Yuzu is tart citrus fruit. I may or may not have tried it. My memory is fucked. Another beer from Independent Spirit. Went with Ritualz – CDR for music. Wonderfully weird and haunting music.

Arbor: Faked Alaska (England: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark lemon to apricot. Large loose bubbled crisp head.

Nose: Vanilla custard. Crisp hops. Soft pineapple. Lightly peppery. Cut apple. Apricot. Vanilla fudge. Crushed melon Jolly Ranchers.

Body: Very thick. Melon jolly ranchers. Pineapple. Cut apple. Vanilla. Light hop character and bitterness. Bitty orange. Lemon.

Finish: Pineapple. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Low level hop character and bitterness. Orange. Melon. Lemon.

Conclusion: You know me, not a NEIPA super fan. This does have something though. Probably the super thick texture. There is a whole lot of grip to this beer, that gives even the restrained bitterness of the NEIPA a lot of staying power.

The sweetness is there, but reasonably restrained – giving a custard feeling mouthfeel but only moderate sweetness to match. Which is another element that makes the lowish bitterness work a lot harder than it would in another beer.

It is called a pudding IPA, but I’m not sure from this what dessert it is aiming for. I would guess baked Alaskan from the name, but I have never had one, and a quick google gives me a wide range of suggestions that I presume would taste nothing like this.

This is tart pineapple and lemon notes filled over soothing melon and apple, with low level hops and that super thick base.

Is that a Baked Alaskan? Maybe? Fucked if I know. Google seems to say no, but who trusts them?

This is super thick, tart hopped. Feels like an east coast style IPA, made super thick, but hoppped in a tarter take on a NEIPA style. It is pretty fun. Good tart hop usage in a way we don’t get enough of these days.

Good enough for me then, even if I may quibble on if this counts as an IPA after a few drinks are in me. It has enough hop bitterness and character that before that I would be happy to just accept it as a fun wee beer.

Background: Ok, a NEIPA, or as this puts it a Pudding IPA. I will admit the promise of a beer made with vanilla, and citra, el dorado and mosaic hops got me over my dislike of New England IPAs enough to give it a try. Not had an Arbor beer for a while – they were very solid back before the carft beer explosion, so should be interesting to see how they are doing these days. Another one from Independent Spirit. I went with Garbage: Strange Little Birds while drinking. Still not given that album as much listening time as I should so this was a nice chance to put it on again.

Tiny Rebel: Welcome To The Party Pal! (Wales: IPA: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Hazy to cloudy lemon juice colour body. Very large white, slightly yellowed, mounded head. Very small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Coconut. Vermouth touch. White chocolate. Marshmallow. Peppermint.

Body: Peach. Vermouth. Aniseed touch. Melon. Slightly creamy. Coconut. Menthol.

Finish: Melon. Mint – peppermint. Peppery. Slight hop character and bitterness. Marshmallow but dry.

Conclusion: This is … odd. Probably good. Depending on what you want. I mean, it isn’t one I can drink often – it is a whole mess of strong and unusual flavours, but it has my interest. Despite what it says on the can, and therefore how I list it here, It is not an IPA by any recognisable style guideline– the only really IPA like elements are the higher abv, and having some recognisable hop character in the finish.

The most notable elements are a very present melon character, and a decent chunk of coconut. It’s quite creamy, slightly menthol and minty. A whole bunch of unusual flavours mashed up together.

Now, I’ve never had a snowball cocktail. I now presume that this is what they taste like. It definitely has that kind of cocktail, slightly spirity alcohol feel, and similar that matching cocktail sweetness to try and minimise the alcohol presence.

Now, there is a beer touch to it, but only in the finish. That is where you get an underlying hop bitterness and general hop character which draws a line under the more unusual notes of the body.

So, this is a nice bit of fun, if not overly beer like. Think it would wear out its welcome fast if you tried to have several of them, but as a one off oddity, have a party…

Pal!

Background: DIE HARD IS A CHRISTAMAS MOVIE! There, my hat is firmly thrown in the argument arena. Anyway, yeah, we are not even out of November yet and I’m on the Christmas beers. This an oddity of trying to replicate the snowball cocktail in a beer. Even odder trying to replicate it in an IPA. Oh Tiny Rebel you wild wee scamps. It is made with lactose, but I can’t see any other odd ingredients so I’m guessing it is mainly achieved with the main set (albeit with wheat and oats). Weird. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with super Christmassy music for this one – Slipknot: We Are Not Your Kind Of People. What? Sums up my Christmas.

Salt: Track: Tramshed DDH IPA (England: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy peach to lemon juice colour. An inch of yellow/white bubbly froth for a head.

Nose: Pineapple. Crisp hop character. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft peach.

Body: Big peach. A flavour like a non sour gherkin. Tart grapes. Lightly oily hops. White bread. Prickly hops. Slight nettles. Slight vanilla custard.

Finish: Peach. Apricot. Slightly oily and resinous character. Fluffy hop character. Slight bitterness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Ohh, this is a good IPA. The cloudiness made me worried it was going into full NEIPA mode, and would have none of of the lovely hop character I crave, but, despite the fact it it wears the NEIPA style fruitiness it also has a very pleasant hop character which pushes it closer to the other IPA styles. IMHO anyway.

It is very juicy, with peach, tart grapes and an odd gherkin/pickle like note but without the sourness. Kind of hard to explain, but it is a nice, more savoury note against the huge sweet fruitiness. But again, fruit aside, what makes it work is that hop character. Crisp and clean in the aroma. Lightly oily and resinous in the body, into a fluffy style with present but muted bitterness in the finish.

So, maybe it is like a NEIPA in a few ways, but different enough in the ones that count to me. Fucked if I know which style it actually falls under – the style guidelines don’t exactly match either way. What it does match is the good hop character to sweet fruit, and just a light pineapple fresh character. There is so much fruit that it feels like it matches just enough old school IPA to a touch of what actually works in a NEIPA to the benefit of both styles. It has a slightly dry take that makes me think of West Coast IPAs, while using a touch of vanilla custard malt styling that makes me think East Coast.

Any which way it is a lovely mix up of an IPA. Deffo recommended.

Background: My first experience with Salt was a good one – they managed to put out an impressive Session IPA. A style I’m often not a big fan of, so when I got the chance to grab a full on IPA from they I decided to give it a go. I had a slightly hard time working out who the collaborator was – from the small icon on the can it looked like it said “TAACW”. Turns out it is track. Guess that font doesn’t handle being shrunk well. Don’t think I’ve tried anything from them before – though with over 2000 tasting notes these days I will admit I lose track some times. No pun intended. Went back to Tool: Fear Inoculum for drinking music. It is sooo good. This is another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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