Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


brewdog-vs-cloudwater-new-england-ipa

Brewdog Vs Cloudwater: New England IPA (Scotland: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale cloudy coconut touched apricot juice look. Large white crisp bubbled head.

Nose: Pineapple and coconut juice. Dried banana. Light hop character. Light bitterness.

Body: Thick, slightly bitty texture. Apricot and pineapple. Creamy smoothie style character. Light hop character. Fresh peach. Crusty white bread.

Finish: Peach. Coconut. Creamy banana smoothie. Milky. Light hop oils and bitterness. Slight musty dust notes. Malty ovaltine. Slightly gritty, rocky character.

Conclusion: Ok, this is far better than the first bottle – as explained in the background my first experience with this was kind of odd. Anyway, this is a much thicker beer with a bit of an unusual texture with it. It mixes a creamy smoothie style with a slight gritty infusion that comes in late mid body and then rises massively in the finish. I am not 100% sure if it works, as I shall explain, but it is interesting.

To begin with the bitterness level here is low, concentrating more on the fresh fruit and using a touch of coconut style for grounding. Here in the early days the smoothie character rules the roost. Very fruity juice smoothie giving a mix of pineapple, sweet peach and mashed banana. Pretty good start.

As time goes on the grittiness rises, bringing initially just a hop feel, then into that rises hope oils and light bitterness. At this point it is a pleasant addition to the beer – but after that it becomes gritty and with slightly musty bitterness in the finish. It is around this point in the finish that I begin to feel the beer doesn’t 100% work. The rest of the beer is quiet restrained – easygoing and fruity for an IPA. It builds up to a slow drinking , leisurely beer for kind of if not quite session drinking (anything over 6% is not a session beer!). The final musty and gritty moments in the finish make it feel rough. Elements that are good in a bigger more brutal IPA feel out of place in an easygoing one like this.

The thing is, the early fruit juice smoothie with a bit of grip to it still works – it is just let down by the end. So, still reasonable and a bit different but doesn’t work either as a big IPA or an easygoing IPA. So, close but not quite.

Background: Cloudwater know how do do very good IPAs. So do Brewdog. Ok, let’s go with this one. I grabbed two bottles of this – first was slightly thin. Think that something went wrong with bottling on that one- it had a lot of brown gunk in the neck of the bottle – filling about 80% of the area. Think some sediment or yeast issues there. Anyway, this was the second bottle – gunk free, so let’s give it a go. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog. Still plaything Dark Souls 2 – finally broke another DLC area so this was my treat to myself for that bit. Drunk while listening to more Louise Distras.

coedo-kyara

Coedo: Kyara (Japan: Pilsner: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold with moderate white head and no real carbonation.

Nose: Malt caramel. Light nutty hops. Milky coffee. Dried apricot.

Body: Milky coffee. Honey. Creamy lemon. Light hop crispness. Quite malt led. Creamy. Oats. Nutty. Slight stewed fruit. Dried apricot. Raisins. Hop oils.

Finish: Toffee. Light bitterness. Milky coffee. Porridge. Moderate hop prickle. Walnuts. Slight chalk. Honey. Madeira.

Conclusion: I was not expecting this to have quite as thick body as it does. It packs in lots of caramel, lots of toffee, honey – even some nuttiness in there. I was expecting a crisp, fresh lager – this is a comparatively full force, sweet sipping, thing with a touch of hops layered on too.

Now as I have reference in the background, I tried this when it was just a few days older than it should have been – but despite that it still has some good, but not excessive, bitterness to it, and some light citrus notes working in there as well. Now the citrus would probably be more emphasised if tried when the beer was young but right now it seems like a sweet fruity dusting over the sweet malt base, leading out into a pretty nutty finish.

It is very easy drinking big sweetness. Light chalk and nutty character rises with the bitterness over time which gives a slight grounding to what is a predominantly sweet beer. If you want a refreshing lager then, as indicated before, you might find this a tad of a disappointment. However this still isn’t hard drinking, and gives a good chunk of flavour in exchange for that. While not a world shaker it actually had got quite a bit of range to with with darker fruity notes below. I think if I had it fresher there would probably be a bit more hop prickle to contrast as well, though that is just conjecture on my side at the moment.

A solid thick lager – on the heavier end of the style and better off for it. I approve.

Background: Haven’t had Coedo since I was last in Japan, which is a few years ago now – so when I saw this in Independent Spirit I thought I would grab it. Now it turns out this was very close to best before date when I grabbed it, so when I drank it, it was about a week past its best before date. When I noticed that I considered not putting the notes up – but decided against that for a couple of reasons 1) I still enjoyed it 2) Looking at the profile on the bottle and other notes it seems I have very close matches to theirs, so it doesn’t look like it was hurt too much and 3) beers have to travel a long way from Japan, so they tend to be a few months old by the time they get here anyway. Any which way, just keep that in mind when you are reading these notes. Drunk while listening to Meshuggah – Obzen – fucking brutally heavy, technically awesome metal.

fantome-chocolat

Fantome: Chocolat (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened yellow to apricot with a large off white head and some sediment.

Nose: Carrot and coriander. Wheaty. Light malt chocolate. Lemon fresh air. Orange zest. Dried apricot. Bready.

Body: Juicy but warming. Chocolate late on. Peach and cream. Rustic middle. Light chilli seeds. Sour dough. Lime. Slight custard notes. Blood orange. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Light green peppers. Chocolate and cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Ginger. Slight sour cream and chives. Apricot. Lime jelly. Dried banana.

Conclusion: You know what I like about Fantome beers? The fact that they can use a concept for a beer, show the concept clearly in a beer, but not make the beer solely about that concept.

Take this for example – chocolat by name – so, for most people they would this to be a dark beer and to be pushing all chocolate all the time, right? Except it isn’t. It is a beer that clearly has that light Belgian spice use, with a fruity but rustic base body and evident fruit sweetness. The chocolate only comes out late mid body and into the finish. Similarly, this has chilli powder in it – is it some heat factory? Nope, just a slight mild chilli tingle, not no more prevalent that any other spice in a Belgian beer.

So, you end up with a fruity Belgian Ale with only some hints of its saison base there, leaning instead towards the Belgian Blond Ale side of things. It is smooth, the saison notes coming in light rustic elements, but definitely more on the sweet cane sugar touched, fruity blond ale style. This then leads out into the warming and chocolate styled finish. Normally around now I would be talking about the shock of moving between two such distinct elements – but here they manage to make it feel like a natural progression.

Now before I get too raving about it here, there are weak points -with the amount of strong flavours it can get wearing, and feel more a beer you appreciate than enjoy – but for the most part it is well done. It has a very solid base, and the smoothness of the texture shows a beer that is very competently done. That wearing character mentioned is most evident over several glasses. At 750 ml it is definitely a bottle best shared to get most enjoyment from it. So, not as high flying as most Fantome ales – but a very solid middle ground beer, with unusual styling. So, enjoyable, but not one of Fantome’s exceptional beers – Still, kind of damning with very faint criticism there – still enjoyed it a lot.

Background: I’ve been a huge fan of Fantome since I first managed to get my hands on their beers. This, a saison made with cocoa and chilli powder, was grabbed from Independent Spirit I am not quite sure if cocoa and chilli powder should go together, but hey, up for giving it a a try. Drunk while listening to some music from Louise Distras who I only recently heard – a nice mix of Billy Bragg and Riot Grrrl style punk to my ears. Due to an extended session on Dark Souls 2 this was drunk fairly late in the night. So far it seams weaker than the original Dark Souls – the bosses especially seem not as inspiring or awesome – still, early days yet – could be all the cool stuff is packed at the end.

brewdog-tropic-thunder

Brewdog: Tropic Thunder (Scotland: Stout: 7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown head.

Nose: Mocha coffee. Choc orange. Orange juice. Kiwi. Slight cloying touch. Grated bitter chocolate. Blood orange. Tropical fruit juice.

Body: Bitter chocolate front. Light earthy bitterness. Kiwi and grapes. Orange juice. Slight grapefruit. Tart grapes. Bubblegum. Coconut and very slight rum.

Finish: Coffee. Choc orange. Slight dried pineapple. Light tart grapes air. Orange juice. Slight sour cream twist. Tinned tropical fruit.

Conclusion: an unusual beer! I was expected the orange – since it was used in the brewing that was pretty much a no brainer. However I wasn’t expecting how much of a tropical fruit punch this stout was actually going to be.

Now the base stout is there – pretty bitter chocolate, mocha coffee and that light cloying twist I associate with foreign stouts – but everything from the nose to the finish shouts out fresh tropical fruit drink.

The bitty orange juice pocked throughout the chocolate is the first element, but it rises into tarter blood orange and from that bursts open into kiwi, tart grapes and grapefruit notes. The solid stout back counterbalances it with weight and restrained bitterness but it feels like the fruit is what makes it shine.

It is wonderfully fresh, while still keeping the stout weight. The stoutier notes last long into the finish as the freshness fades, leaving your final impression of that base weight and stout taste. It both keeps it loyal to the base style and means that each sip refreshes anew with the fruit mix.

Far better than I expected the mix to be – heat really helps bring out the fruit notes as the base weight also grows, fills the beer with utterly tropical flavour and makes it rewarding as heck. I’ve very much enjoyed this one.

Background: I think this is predominantly available through Tesco stores and was made for them, I think, but I grabbed it direct from the Brewdog online store. The winning HomeBrewDog entry and now made by Brewdog this is stout brewed with orange peel. Also it shares its name with a Dugges/Stillwater collaboration, and a Hollywood film. So a popular name then. Anyway, sounded interested, though, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This was drunk while listening to more Two Steps From Hell, love the epic feel of their work.

chimay-white-tripel

Chimay: White – Tripel (Belgium: Abbey Tripel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large yellowed to white head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Peppery. Wheaty. Dry. Light bitterness. Coriander.

Body: Dry. Cane sugar. Peppery and wheaty. Light custard sweetness. Light bitterness. Light white wine and tart white grapes. Creamy. Lemon.

Finish: Light bitterness. Wheaty character. Dry. Dry lemon. White wine. Soft toffee.

Conclusion: Oh this is a so very well attenuated tripel. Dry, always on the verge of too dry for my tastes, but always done well enough that it doesn’t take it that step too far. It just looks over the edge without the need to step back, or overbalance and fall forwards. It works a base that is dry, wheaty and lightly peppery – actually feels kind of tending towards those Belgian wit spice flavours, but layered over a more dry attenuated base than those beers tend to go for. It then lets the sweetness rise into the middle of that – giving cream and lemon notes that rise to the surface for a few moments, then sink again to let the dryness return. Cane sugar shimmers over the top of that generally dry base, creating delicious contrast.

The lemon character rises as the beer warms, which gives even more of a Belgian wit meets super attenuated Tripel impression. This leans away from the super sweet, easy crowd pleaser tripel style and into something that is harder to get used to – but to my mind is much more rewarding for that. It does get creamier over time, but never loses that dry air around it.

It works very well, never too dry, never sugar shock sweet, and always has a lot going on. This is the blueprint for how to do a classy tripel.

Trappist beers still impress me after all these years, and this especially does not disappoint.

Background: Chimay was my first experience of Trappist ales – ales brewed by Trappist monasteries. I ran into them in York as I was starting to expand my beer horizons and the sheer weight of them just blew my mind. Think it was the blue I first tried. Anyway, decided to grab this – the tripel of the bunch from Independent Spirit. Something big like this deserved big music, so I broke out Two Steps From hell – Archangel – lovely big epic music.

theakston-old-peculier

Theakston: Old Peculier (England: Old Ale: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Inch of creamy brown froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Lightly nutty. Earthy bitterness.

Body: Cherries. Light earthiness. Malt chocolate drinks. Slight sour back. Vinous red grapes.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Light vinous grapes. Lightly earthy. Cocoa dust. Peppery.

Conclusion:Another beer in the “earthy hops doesn’t have to mean dull” category. We have very specific categories these days. Anyway, here we have a fruity, lightly sour, old ale touched with vinous notes and then stamped with a good chunk of earthy hoppiness.

It is a good mix – used well the earthy notes grounds (no pun intended) the beer. It takes what could be a very heavy beer, an enjoy one then leave it be beer, and turns it into a soothing beer you can have a couple of. Still not a session abv beer, but one that is that mid point between session and heavy duty. Now, this does mean that it isn’t as deep and rich as a lot of old ales. Then again, as referenced, it also has a lower abv that most of those, so it really isn’t fighting for that niche anyway.

It feels like the child of an earthy bitter and an old ale – both share that slight sourness, but the old ale gives the fruitiness and more vinous character that makes this really enjoyable. It straddles the two styles – concentrates on the middle ground rather than aiming to challenge too much – but out of mainstreams ales this is one of my old reliables.

Possible it is because it is a mainstream beer not afraid to push that light sourness and old ale character. Posisbly it is because it matches those tart vinous notes while still keeping the solid British earthy ale influence that makes it refreshing rather than heavy duty. Any which way it may not rock the stars, but for what it aims to do and the market it aims at it is something very nice. It is a beer that is easy to find and does it solid and I very much enjoy it for that.

Background: Last of the beers I was given for Christmas by a college at work – many thanks! After a quick google I find out that is this not a misspelling in the name – a “Peculier” is an “ecclesiastical district, parish, chapel or church outside the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which it is situated.” Who says beer doesn’t help you learn? Anyway, I have been drinking Old Peculier for a while – it was one of those beers I enjoyed even before becoming a beer nut. Common opinion thinks that it used to be a heavier abv, thicker beer – which sounds about tight to me, though I have never been able to find anything to officially confirm or deny it. Possibly I just remembering as being bigger compared to everything else I drank at the time.

brewski-brewing-persiko-feber-ipa

Brewski Brewing: Persiko Feber IPA (Sweden: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Lemon juice colour. Moderate white head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Peach. Slight musty hop character. Soft pineapple.

Body: Slight musty feel. Pineapple. Dried peach. Good level of bitterness. Slightly chalky. Slight sour dough and sour cream. Dried mango.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Nettles. Good hop feel. Quite dry. Slight granite. Slight sour dough. Dried mango.

Conclusion: I have to admit, I expected something very juicy based on the fact that actual peaches were used to make this beer. The mackoff peach on the label kind of reinforced that impression as well. This is fruity, but in a very dry and clinging bitter fashion. Especially on smaller sips – like that it goes all sour dough and bitterness which really doesn’t let the fruit out.

Larger mouthfuls seems to give more room that you can get more of the fruit. However even with the enhanced fruit there seems a strong cloying sour twist to it – nothing like what I would have anticipated – felt kind of like sucking the peach remains off the stone at its heart.

So, as you may have guessed, I am not overly taken by this. The fruit seems less peach most of the time, and closer to a dried mango flavour. The body feels closer to an APA dryness than the bigger character of an IPA. Finally the aforementioned sour dough notes are very long lasting into the finish, and the bitterness seems rough. It is fruity, aye, but in a way that seems cloying and closed.

So, considering this is a fair popular beer I wonder what I am missing? The bitterness is impressive I will admit, but without a balanced back it just makes it wearing over time. It just feels too closed for me. Used in moderation a sour twist can be a nice break in midst an IPA, but this seems dominated by it. So, not for me I’m afraid.

Background: This brewery was recommended to me as the “Hipster beer” due to the little top hat, monocle and moustached man on the front. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this brewery seem to have a very good rep. This one is an IPA made with Peach. Looking online after I had finished the notes, most people seem to be having a very different experience with this than me. Odd. Bad bottle? Or just me not being in line with the rest of the world yet again? Beats me. This was drunk after coming back from a Chaos Wrestling event which had been great fun, so was in a generally chipper mood.

brewdog-self-assembly-pope

Brewdog: Self Assembly Pope (Scotland:Imperial Porter: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Large creamy brown head.

Nose: Coconut macaroons. Rye bourbon. Very milky coffee. Velvety.

Body: Light roasted nuts. Coconut macaroons. Bitter cocoa. Hazelnuts. Milky chocolate. Slight dry rice. Vanilla.

Finish: Dry coconut and slight rice. Bitter cocoa dust. Slight earthy bitterness. Bitter coffee. Slight soy milk. Rye crackers. Slight bourbon. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Coconut. Lovely, lovely coconut. Good start. Also an amazing amount of what I would call bourbon influence, except this beer hasn’t been barrel aged. So, doubly impressive then. Up front this is definitely a good one – it has so much I like in a porter or stout; Lots of rye like notes, moderate roasted nut character, huge amount of coconut macaroons – backed by a bitter core, smoothed by a lot of vanilla. Well balanced, good range – very good first impressions. Opening aroma through to early body is velvet smooth and spot on.

The second half is, well, different. Much harsher in the flavours – not in off notes or alcohol – just emphasising a very different style. Lots more bitter coffee, bitter chocolate – the rye bourbon notes now mix with a lot of rye cracker flavours, and even a touch of earthy bitterness. Very different and a bit of a shock. Not bad, just not what I would have predicted at the start.

What is a nock against it thought is a slight grittiness of feel that comes in – with also a hint of accompanying flavour of dry rice. It comes in more than the finish than elsewhere, but is hinted at later in the body. It makes the harsher notes more emphasised, and puts a few off notes in there with them.

Still, for the most part a very good beer – was in the running for a favourite for a while as it has so many of my favourite things. It is still good, but those flaws means that it feels like it needs a polish to get those off notes smoothed out.

Overall – very enjoyable up front, an ok end with some flaws. So close to being very good. Hope they do work on this one.

Background:man, Brewdog are putting out a lot of beers at the mo. Anyway, grabbed this from Brewdog Bristol – a porter made with coconut, vanilla and cocoa. Which in retrospect explains roughly half the items in the tasting notes. Love the fun artwork Brewdog have been putting on their small batch cans, and this is no exception. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was drunk while listening to more of Grimes: Visions – it is just an awesome album. Also had been playing some Pony Island – a weird meta as hell game, so was in a generally fun mood.

magic-rock-cigar-city-wayniac-ipa

Magic Rock: Cigar City: Wayniac IPA (England: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy browned apricot. Very large yellowed white head of creamy bubbles. Lots of sediment as you pour the last of the can.

Nose: Fluffy hops. Light bitterness. Peach and apricot. Slight cucumber? Something quite clean in there. Malt drinks.

Body: Good bitterness. Kiwi. Peach and apricot. Caramel and toffee. Peach syrup. Malt drinks. Good hop character. Tart grapes and accompanying fresh feel.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Caramel. Peach. Light charring. Slight gritty touch. Sour cream twist. Toffee. Malt drinks. Light grapes. Light custard.

Conclusion: So, lot of IPA styles around these days, and with the option of big hops and big malt sweetness, they decided to go all out and shove both of them way up. Not a unique take, but a nice easy way to sum up the general feel of this thing. The malt base is a bit more gritty than usual for an IPA, giving a tad odd feel – more heavy duty and less easy drinking than normal.

For that unusual texture you would hope to have some big flavours in return – as grittiness by itself isn’t that appealing. Not a good look, you know?

This does give a lot on exchange for the oddities of texture – while not initially that strongly noticeable, the extra texture does give grip that really pushes up the bitter punch of this beer by the end. The fruitiness is equally pushed up big – the heavy malt influence means that it is less fresh than it would otherwise feel – though there are hints of that left – instead it is thick, slightly dry fruit; There is a huge range of green and peachy styled fruits – heavy and thick flavours.

There is also a metric (not imperial) shitload of sediment in this beer. I only noticed late on, as I kept pouring to refill the glass. It doesn’t hurt the beer at all when you add it in, it tastes just the same, it just looks odd.

So, overall – feels a bit weird, and a heavy one to drink – but very big flavours are given in exchange. A quirky, and with slight off elements, drink – but has a lot to make up for the weaker points.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this collaboration was done with Wayne from Cigar City while he was in the UK. (I presume they mean Wayne Wambles – the brewmaster, but the site only says Wayne). Loved Jai Alai IPA so I presume Cigar City know what they are doing on this style. This was a bit bigger than normal at a 500ml can – so plenty of time to form an opinion. Drink while listening to the album “Visions” from Grimes. Lovely bright indie electro pop stuff. I was tempted to listen to E-rocks cover of “Maniac” and sing along replacing “Manic” with “Wayniac”. But that would be a tad eccentric even for me.

tiny-rebel-stay-puft

Tiny Rebel: Stay Puft (Wales: Porter: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Moderate creamy brown head.

Nose: Chocolate milkshake. Creamy. Kind of marshmallow like. Vanilla.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel. Dry roasted nuts. Popcorn. Light bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Quite dry. Gelatine sweets. Sour dough.

Finish: Lactose. Chocolate milkshake. Light roasted character. Unpopped popcorn kernels. Roasted character grows over time. Slight bitter coffee.

Conclusion: Since this is described as a marshmallow porter, I have to admit I was expecting a sweeter beer than this.

My first encounter with this gave an impression of it actually being a bit thin, so very much unlike those fluffy marshmallows. However a bit of time definitely let it gain in body, but with that also seemed to become drier in taste. Despite heavy amounts of vanilla in the flavours, the dryness actually seems to call to the drier Irish stout interpretations in a lot of ways – with that vanilla laid atop that in stark contrast.

There is a softer chocolate and the aforementioned vanilla – in fact there is even what can be interpreted as marshmallow in a pinch – if you are feeling generous. So the needed flavours are there, but I find it off that the base is so grounded – with cereal like feel and an unpopped popcorn kind of character. Which I guess would just be corn. Hopefully you get what I mean.

There is also what feels like a lactose touch to the texture (Though I do not think lactose was used in making this) and that gives it some of the mallow like contrast it needs – but never quite enough to feel like its namesake, So, it does not really meet my impressions of what a marshmallow porter would be. So, is it good as a beer in itself?

It is a solid, quite dry porter, with sweet notes laced through – kind of halfway between a sweet stout and a dry stout – but in a porter. Pretty easy to drink despite the grounded character, but slightly over grounded in that base flavour for me to put it as a special beer. Apparantly there is a nitro version of this, and that may give it that bit bigger texture I think it needs to work – I will keep an eye out for it and let you know if it works out if I find it.

Still, I am sure that such a harmless thing from my childhood could never destroy me.

Apart from the alcohol. That is a mild poison.

A tasty, tasty poison.

Background: Ok, I bought this because of the picture of Stay Puft with the Tiny Rebel mascot’s head. I am very simple to sell to and a huge ghostbusters fan. Drunk at Small Bar, where I discussed with the staff on how exactly does a marshmallow porter work? It is made with marshmallow according to the ingredients. Are they added early on to ferment with? Is it made with actual mallow plant stuff? I have no idea. Anyway, one I loved the idea of.

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