Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


Northern Monk: Patron’s Project 10.02 DDH Raspberry Ripple Doughnut IPA (England: IPA: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Very bitty filled dark apricot body. Large off white head.

Nose: Raspberry ripple ice cream. Bitty orange juice. Peach. Light hop character. Light tart notes.

Body: Strawberry sherbet. Tart raspberry and hard raspberry sweets. Umami touch. Tangerine. Pink grapefruit. Creamy. Vanilla fudge.

Finish: Hop oils. Gooseberry. Tangerine. Tart apples. Pink grapefruit. Raspberry hard sweets. Melon.

Conclusion: Ok, point one – this has the most sediment I have e..e…ever seen in a beer, and trust me, that covers a lot of weird and wonderful experiences. Point two, this both nails its core concept in some areas and utterly ignores it in others,

The first hits are very obvious raspberry ripple ice cream notes, and then there are various different raspberry imagery hits throughout the beer in an artificial, hard sweet kind of way. However once the hops hit they come in a very different way – lots of green and orange fruit notes – from melon, grapes, gooseberry, tangerine and orange juice. Shoot you even get pink grapefruit notes for variety. Very tart very fresh, very natural fruit – it is a heck of a contrast.

Everything initially comes across fresh and sherbety. Then comes the tart notes, then finally the creamy thickness. I’m not sure if I would say that this calls to doughnuts, but that is just because it changes so much and pushes so much out of it. The one constant throughout though is the sweetness, with the fresh character coming close second for time present, but the sweetness is the always present characteristic – be it fruit, sweet hard sweets, vanilla or whatever it is always pushing something sweet at you.

Over time the elements start to merge together – the tart notes become backing to sweet raspberry and vanilla icing, backed by strawberry sherbet. You even see some, but nor much of the IPA backbone – some hop oils that bring light bitterness, but generally it is just a backing.

It is an intense and strange beer – not one to have often as it is bloody sweet – but had now and again as a one off – yeah I love it as that.

Background: Another local collaboration beer by Northern Monks – this one with the Temple Coffee and Doughnuts shop. From a quick google it seems that there was no actual doughnut used in making this, despite the level of bittiness of the beer giving that impression. I have been informed, and checked that if you take the labels off the cans, there is a ton of additional info on the beer and the collaborators on the inside of the label and on the can. Which is cool, but now I’m wondering what I missed out on the other Patron’s Project beers by not looking inside the labels. Ah well. Also with the level of sediment I was quite worried this would make the glass a total shit to clean – thankfully most of the sediment didn’t stick, so it wasn’t that bad. This is another one from Independent Spirit and I put on Nightwish – Dark Passion Play while drinking. My mate says the albums with a different singer are better for enjoying Nightwish, so will have to give them a try some time.

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Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Murky apricot to brown. Huge caramel brown mound of head that finally settles on late re-pours. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Dried apricot. Gritty hop feel and solid bitterness. Dried grapefruit. Dried pineapple. High hop prickle. Tangerine.

Body: Prickly, gritty, big bitter hop character. Malt chocolate toffee. Grapefruit. Mandarin orange. Choc orange. Pineapple. Bubblegum.

Finish: Choc orange. Mandarin orange. High hop bitterness and gritty hop feel. Pineapple. Pink grapefruit. Wheatgerm. Malt choc toffee drinks. Granite. Bubblegum.

Conclusion: Ok, call me an old fashioned fuddy duddy if you will, but, in my mind ESB is a style that should have a solid malt presence. This feels hopped like an IPA, with just a darker coloured and more cloudy base behind it. Like the ESB equivalent of a Black IPA. I mean, I like hops, heck, I love hops, but not every beer style needs to be dominated by them.

Ok, that is my old man whine over, let’s see how this does as a beer in itself then. Well, mixed. I can’t deny that it has massive presence – from the pop of the cap thick fruity notes float out of the bottle – dried fruit notes, or more correctly, dry takes on fruit notes, if that makes sense.

Sipping it, it is very prickly, very fresh in its hop bitterness. Unlike a couple of other Cloudwater beers recently though it thankfully manages to not suffer from hop burn. It still has a kind of gritty, rocky, quite rough hop feel, but done on the down low as a subtle element of the beer. Not my favourite but style I will say, but while the bitterness is high, the grittiness is an element that does not intrude too much thankfully.

Below that is fresh tart fruit – using grapefruit and pineapple for the old school tart hits against pink grapefruit and a range of fresh orange notes for the new hop style influence. This is the best element of the beer – fresh feeling and making the most of the new hop trend to add really bright notes to this beer.

The malt below that is … muddled. Toffee to choc toffee or choc orange sweets. It feels gritty again, murky in taste like the dirty river cloudiness that the beer has on the eye. It is ok, but a bit rough.

So, despite the fact that yes, I am looking at this side eyed as it doesn’t match what I would expect an ESB to be, I think that I can say that, aside from that, the hop forwardness really doesn’t work to its best here. It just feels rough and out of place. The flavour is great, but the feel that comes with it always makes it feel like something is out of wack.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer, but it definitely makes it sub optimal. It has an odd mouthfeel that doesn’t match what it is doing with the flavour, and isn’t an intriguing element by itself.

Good hops in a beer that doesn’t really reward it for that.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Cloudwater so far – some stonkers of beers, some real let downs. They have a huge rep and when they are on point they hit it, but they are a tad more variable in quality than I like. Still, I was intrigued by their last ESB, which was an unusual take on the style, so when I saw this collaborative ESB I thought I would give it a try. Don’t know much about Forest & Main by comparison, will see how that goes. Lots of unusual elements – uses JW Lee yeast – lots of hop use including Simcoe and Mosaic which I am a huge fan of. Put on Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt to listen to for this – looking forwards to seeing them again later this year. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Odyssey: Ego Wars: Simcoe vs Wakatu (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy bruised apricot. Large brown to caramel touched head of loose bubbles.

Nose: Grapefruit. Blood orange. Flour. Tart. Jiff lemon. Tangerine. Very fresh.

Body: Tangerine. Vanilla. Pineapple and grapefruit. Passion-fruit. Malt toffee drink. Malt biscuits.

Finish: Blood orange. Fluffy hop character. Palma violets. Some hop bitterness. Malt biscuits. Kumquat. Hop oils.

Conclusion: Wow this is fruity – the malt part of the body pretty much gets out of the way quickly, taking with it the rougher notes of the hop bitterness, and just lets the fruit side of the hops do their thing.

Over time a kind of malt biscuit core does reveal itself – a fairly neutral weight – again letting the fruit character show itself and do the heavy lifting. So, the fruitiness then – tart orange dominates, lovely bright notes backed by an equally tart pineapple and grapefruit set of notes that give a mouth tingling air. This is the bright and beautiful core of the beer.

The neutral backing of the malt feels like both a benefit and a curse here. A benefit as it lets the hops shine, and boy do those hop shine. However it feels like if they used the malt base to add to the beer, rather than just get out the way then this may be on its way to being an all time classic. By making the malt such a neutral element it doesn’t intrude, but can’t add to the beer either, so it feels like they are missing a trick. I will admit that is a minor point, the malt does do its job which is to let the bright hops really shine, so I shouldn’t give them too much grief.

Looking at the two hops used, I think the Wakatu hop is the one that wins out in this ego war. While the beer does show some oily hop notes over time and a vegetable hoppiness that I associate with Simcoe, the Simcoe hop feels like a bit player with none of the huge alpha acid hoppiness it normally brings on show. Instead it just provides a backbone from the brighter fruit notes here. It isn’t the star, but it does its job so the Wakatu can shine.

A very good, very bright IPA that is a great hop showcase. It just feels that with a bit of malt tweaking this could be an all time great instead of just good.

Background: Last Ego wars I had was V2, they seem to have given up on numbering since then but a quick google tells me this is V5 of Ego Wars where they make a beer with two big hops going head to head. I’m a big fan of Simcoe, not tried much Wakatu, so should be interesting to see what it brings to the table. Huge fan of Odyssey beers, especially their hoppy beers, so this was another must grab from Independent Spirit. Put on Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues while drinking – probably still Against Me!’s best album in my opinion.

Art Brew: Doppelbock (UK: Doppelbock: 7.4% ABV)

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

Nose: Malt chocolate. Grated chocolate. Roasted nuts and cashews. Vanilla. Creamy.

Body: Hot chocolate. Black cherries. Grated white chocolate. Marshmallows. Chalk touch. Sour cream and chives. Moderate earthy bitterness. Treacle touch. Vanilla toffee. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Bitter cocoa and earthy bitterness. Cashews and roasted nuts. Coffee cake and chocolate cake. Chalk.

Conclusion: While it takes a few moments to build up, this is actually a pretty robust and heavy beer – it just sneaks up on you rather than jumps out at first sip.

It is not that it hides things though – there is a creamy, thick hot chocolate vibe from the get go, but it uses that to sneak up a Trojan horse of bitter cocoa and earthy British style hops in under your guard.

There is also a slightly rough chalk character, but thankfully that doesn’t make as much impact. However time makes a fool of the expectations that the heavy front gave – light marshmallow and vanilla toffee notes slightly soften the beer back again. It is still big in the earthy and chocolate bitterness but more manageable and enjoyable, especially with hot chocolate and marshmallow imagery mixing.

By the end it has an enjoyable balance, possibly leaning a bit heavily on the earthy notes, but a fairly solid beer, if nothing too out of the ordinary. A slightly more earthy interpretation of the doppelbock style that is good but not exceptional.

Background: Decided it was time to return to Art Brew again, they were my go to on cask for many a year when I first moved to Bath so I still have a soft spot for them. Don’t think I’ve seen a Doppelbock from them before, so this is going to be interesting. Played some The Royal They while drinking – a band I had just been introduced to via Welcome To Nightvale. This was another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Loka Polly: Citra Double IPA (Wales: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy bruised apricot to lemon. Large bubbled white head.

Nose: Pineapple. Apple. Crisp hops. Light bitterness. Soft vanilla.

Body: Thick. Huge apple. Honey. Custard. Pineapple. Peach. Solid bitterness. Oily. Passion-fruit. Light sour cream. Banana touches. Strawberry comes out over time.

Finish: Peach juice. Pineapple. Vanilla toffee. Hop oils. Greenery and bitterness. Oily passion-fruit. Guava. Sour cream and chives. Good bitterness.

Conclusion: This is an oily, thick beer. A fact that surprised me at the aroma was all tart pineapple and crisp hops, fooling me into thinking this was going to be a light, fresh thing – not the oily flavour bomb that it actually is.

It isn’t full on “dank” as they say, it is more juicy, with the oily character it mixes to make a thick fruit syrup and oily bitterness thing that results in a bursting with flavour, well contrasting beer.

Flavour-wise it leans heavily on the pineapple freshness and fresh cut apple sweetness to get the job done – I didn’t know hops were capable of sapience enough to link naming similarities of pineapple and apple and to use it to give itself a theme, but apparently it does here! There is peach and even banana sweetness behind that – seriously, jokes aside, I didn’t realise that, as a single hop, Citra could deliver this much range. I can definitely see why it has such a reputation as a hop now.

This is wonderfully full flavoured, with lovely thickness and brilliant oiliness. A slow drinking weight of a beer – no alcohol burn, smooth but weight enough that you know every inch of its abv despite that.

This is very impressive – uses Citra better than nearly any IPA I have encountered. I’ve got to check out more beers from this brewery.

Background: This is one of those beers where I don’t know much about the beer, or the brewery – they just caught my attention as a new brewery to try. Went for the Citra DIPA – I didn’t really get Citra as a hop when I first encountered it, but running into it again and again over the years has made me see exactly how well it can be used, so this seemed a fairly safe jumping on point for the brewery. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I was in a pretty good mood when I drank this – Was just back from watching Deadpool 2 and put on some Andrew WK to match my party mood!

Left Hand Giant: Heretic: Monuments (England: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon yellow with a gold hint. Large white mound of a head.

Nose: Raspberry. Wheaty. Light cloves. Light dried banana. Flour. Soft bitter red wine.

Body: Pomegranate. Cherry picked digestives. Wheaty. Peppery. Light lemon. Slight sour red wine. Apircot. Funk. Raisins. Plums. Moderate, earthy, low level bitterness.

Finish: Rum. Pomegranate. Raisins. Turmeric. Dry red wine. Dry plum notes. Milk. Port notes. Lightly earthy with a yeast funk.

Conclusion: I’ve had to take quite a while with this one, as it isn’t a beer that instantly jumps up and punches you in the face with what it is all about.

It is a gentle rustic style saison rather than the highly hopped take on the style – slightly milky, oaty mix with the rustic and wheaty notes that makes a soothing background that the pomegranate notes can come out from in a natural feeling and not too heavy way.

There is an earthy bitterness that becomes, well, present over time if not overly evident. The barrel ageing starts off light in raisin and plum backing notes, but becomes fully fledged with sour and bitter red wine notes coming out by the end after flirting with sweeter red wine notes for a moment before. It is never heavy, more a robust body that is a competent part of the beer, but doesn’t feel overly dominant.

It is both blessed and cursed in its balance – it is definitely barrel aged, but not so much as to make you go “wow” but also not to lose the base beer. It is definitely showing its fruit, but I would not call it a fruit beer for better and worse. It has a good rustic base, but the other elements of ageing and fruit mean that you don’t really get to see it at its best.

So, it is balanced, super easy to drink but… also 8% abv at that. At a low abv this would be a fairly awesome beer that you could drink forever. As it is is a master-work of balance that uses that balance to deny itself the large moments that would justify the 8% abv.

So it is very good and very impressive, but can’t quite earn the high abv, nor work as a session beer, so it struggles for a spot in the drinking line up.

Background: This came on my radar for a couple of reasons – one, I dig saisons and they don’t seem to pop up as often as I would like, so new ones tend to catch my eyes. Two, this is made with pomegranate puree, which was unexpected – saisons also seem to be a beer style where people don’t try the odd experimentations as much as some other styles. Finally – burgundy barrel aged, another bit of experimentation that often is overlook with saisons. So I grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit to give a go. Put on Television Villain again while drinking – so proud of those guys for their awesome music.

Fyne Ales: Origins Brewing – Kilkerran Wee Heavy (Scotland: Scotch Ale: 7.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose; Oily. Figs. Smoke. Raisins and fruitcake. Brown sugar. Fudge. Treacle.

Body: Smooth. Oily. Brown bread. Slightly thin. Medicinal notes. Light salt. Fruitcake and figs. Eccles cake. Malt chocolate. Smokey.

Finish: Brown bread. Oily. Slight charring. Figs and raisins. Malt chocolate. Smoked meat. Hop oils – nutty. Slight rocks. Slightly drying. Greenery. Toffee.

Conclusion: A beer of contradictions. That may be getting to be an overused term for me, but it is true here. It is an oily feeling Scotch ale that still manages to feel slightly thin at the same time. Even odder I am fairly sure that both elements come from the same barrel ageing. Odd again in that despite the thin mouthfeel it manages to pack some big flavours.

While smoothed out at the base we still have the familiar Scotch ale – the whole raisins, fruitcake, malt chocolate and such, though fairly restrained in delivery. What comes out more is an oily, slightly salty, smokey and lightly medicinal character. Having drunk Kilkerran I am surprised how barrel ageing in their casks seem to bring similar notes to what I would expect from Islay ageing. You do get more familiar campbeltown grassiness come out over time which is quite interesting to observe. By the end of the beer the notes become slightly dusty, and the salt becomes rockier but it manages to keep the more pleasant smoked meat notes

Chilled it is definitely too light a beer, but the flavours work well despite that. As it warms the body doesn’t gain much thickness but the rougher notes seem to gain more presence which results in a harsher experience. It is definitely interesting, and when chilled the whisky influence is fascinating, but it really needs a bigger body to work with it.

A tad too light for the rough edged notes it carries. A noble experiment, but needs beefing up a few percent abv, or similar thickness adding methods, to work right I feel.

Background: As always, I will not lie and claim that an opportunity to break out the thistle glass again was not part of why I grabbed this scotch ale, however it wasn’t the only reason. One of the big reasons was that this has been aged in Kilkerran casks. I’m a big fan of the Campbeltwon distilleries, few in number though they may be, and you don’t see them used with beer much, so this sounded like a nice experiment to try. This was again grabbed at Independent Spirit, and was drink while listening to Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast album, always a blinder of an album.

Wild Beer Co: Rhubarber (England: Fruit Beer : 6% ABV)

Visual: Dark, cloudy apricot with large white fluffy head.

Nose: Tart rhubarb in an unsweetened fashion. Ground ginger. Ground almonds. Light sulphur. Brown bread.

Body: Stem ginger. Smooth. Custard and vanilla toffee touch. Cream. Lightly tart. Rhubarb. Bitter nuts. Tart grapes. Lactose. Apples. Nutmeg. Salt.

Finish: Rhubarb. Ginger. Solid custard to egg custard tarts – Surprisingly not sweet in that. Salt touch. Lightly earthy. Peppery.

Conclusion: Well, this is a lot less sweet that I expected. Now, I did expect the rhubarb to be unsweetened rather than in a dessert pie fashion – and I got that right – it is tart and very robust. I was impressed with the amount of rhubarb character – previous rhubarb beers I tried had very light to no rhubarb influence while this just booms with its tart, dry, earthy and peppery character.

Anyway, back to the lack of sweetness. There are custard like notes, as mentioned on the bottle in fact, kind of in a solid egg custard tart kind of way, but kind of dry in that – like the custard has been under sugared or something. I don’t know of any actual custard that exists that tastes hat exact way, but that is the imagery the beer creates.

Instead of custard sweetness this emphasizes the earthiness along with the ginger spice to give a real spicy, peppery, ginger, earthy kick – warming and robust over the smooth, slightly creamy textured body. Late on and into the finish it gains a light salt touch that calls to the gose style and which works well at reinforcing these spicier elements.

This character dominates most of the beer, until it finally starts to let up slightly at the end where it relaxes and some soft green fruit comes out. It is a final salty sweet final release from the heavier notes.

So, thus far I have generally been descriptive – it is an unusual beer so I thought it deserved a bit more of an examination of what it before I dive into how well it worked. It is pretty good actually. There your mind is set at rest now. It is very specific in what it does – with the unsweetened rhubarb and spice it has limited crowd it will appeal to, but the beer is well textured with the cream hint giving some weight, has very big flavour layered over that and reins in the elements just enough that it does not feel harsh despite the big ginger influence.

So, a beer dedicated to the idea very much, like a rhubarb gose meets a general rhubarb sour that has been rinsed through a ginger patch. Very earthy, very robust – a work a try definitely for rhubarb fans, but definitely not an everyday beer.

Background: I bought this because it has rhubarb in it. That simple. I used to try and get most, if not all of the Wild Beer Co brews that come out, as I love their experimentation, even if they don’t always hit the mark. However the glut of high quality beers out recently from many different breweries meant I have had to cut back on that recently. I grabbed this though. Because rhubarb. It is made with **quick glance at the bottle** wheat, oats, brown sugar, forced rhubarb, tonka beans and stem root ginger. Fair chunk of stuff there. A quick google tells me forced rhubarb is rhubarb grown away from light to encourage it to grow. Which I never knew. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to a mix of History Of Guns tracks. Big fan of HOG, from their more electronic really grimy downbeat tracks, to their angrier guitar work, to the just plain weird stuff they turn out.

Spencer: Trappist Ale (USA: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy apricot skin colour, with a cloudy body. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lemon sherbet. Funky yeast character. Popcorn. Wheat. Light earthy, bready bitterness.

Body: Bready – brown bread. Light earthy bitterness. Lemon sherbet. Peppery. Light vanilla milkshake. Milk.

Finish: Lemon sherbet. Lime touch. Earthy hop bitterness. Peppery. Yeast funk. Popcorn. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, first impressions, this definitely seems to be aiming for the Orval style within the wide Trappist Beer theme. It is the lesser walked path for Trappist breweries, or even breweries in general. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Now, I don’t mind Orval – in fact my appreciation for it has grown significantly since I first did notes on it, many a year ago – however I have not been as wild about it as many, so I may not be the best to compare the two, but this USA take seems fairly solid.

It has the yeast funk that really defines Orval, along with the mildest sour twist, slight earthy bitterness and a bready character matched with peppery notes – all that call to Orval. This is a beer that wears its influences openly on its sleeve with pride.

It has a slightly more sweet character with more sweet vanilla undertones, and slightly more fruity in the lemon and lime character that expresses itself in a sherbety fashion, so for all the Orval influence it is not just a cheap clone of that beer.

It is easy drinking, though the extra creaminess gives a weight that means it is less thirst quenching than the style would suggest. It racks in at roughly the same abv as Orval, so is playing in the same field, but has a bit more thickness without needing more booze – which, depending on what you want – easy drinking or weight, may or may not be an advantage to you.

It is decent, maybe needs to be just a tad drier in my opinion, or maybe a tad bigger in flavour if they keep the extra thickness, but it is decent. Hopefully they are still tweaking the recipe as with some work this could be one to watch out for in the future.

Background: So, the …9th I think Trappist brewery and the first American one. I first head about this in Japan, but at the time they had not turned out any beers yet. So, here we are, years later and I have beer from one of the newest Trappist breweries, courtesy of Independent Spirit (a quick google tells me we have had two more since, for a total of eleven – not many but seems a ridiculous amount considering the six I was aware of back in the early 2000s) . Whoop! Been looking forwards to giving this a try and put on a bit of Iron Maiden to go with it. Been reading Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography, which is pretty good, and it put me in the right mood for some of the old irons!

Staggeringly Good: Post Impact Porter (England: Porter: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large creamy brown loose bubbled head that soon has large holes in the bubbles as it collapses.

Nose: Roasted character. Light lactose. Crushed peanuts. Milky coffee. Charred oak. Slight musty brown bread. Mint leaves.

Body: Bitter coffee, with milky notes behind. Frothy feel. Bitter chocolate. Light chalk touch. Light sour cream and chives crisps. Light toffee.

Finish: Lactose. Chocolate milk. Sour cream and chive crisps. Light milky coffee, into bitter coffee.

Conclusion: This is a nicely solid porter. Now, despite the oddity of a real ale in a can, I will say – flavour wise at least – porters seem to be a style with little difference between the craft and real ale interpretations. However in the mouthfeel this definitely delivers that bit extra thickness that a real ale tends to give, so it does seem to be doing its job there.

The beer opens up in a very roasted way and keeps that a a solid layer of the character throughout. It is that base that the mix of bitter to milky coffee character works from – a kind of lactose touched element but far from as sweet as a milk stout would be. Though it does have another layer of weight behind it apart from the roasted character, an element that I am going to give up and just describe as “like sour cream and chives crisps” It is a light savoury and sour mix that really helps the feel of the beer. The nice savoury elements especially work well to give a more neutral middle between the other elements.

Overall it is solidly flavoursome – creamy with lots of coffee and chocolate notes against that savoury and roasted backing. Nothing too unusual but does the job of standard real ale porter well.

Background: OK, I bought this because it has dinosaur on the can. Can anyone fault me for that? Dinosaurs are awesome. Also if you look closely, you realise that, while the dinosaur in the picture is holding the same can it is on, its fingers are over the pictures of the can that the dinosaur on that can is holding – so to prevent infinite recursion of can images I would presume. A cleaver design choice that I approve of. Now, the can calls this real ale – it doesn’t have the CAMRA logo, but based on the experience I had when drinking it I trust them. Real ale in a can, oh what a future we live in that has such things in it. Went a bit into the past for music with this one – A best of Meat Loaf CD. While I enjoy Meatloaf, people have pointed out what I actually enjoy is Jim Steinman music as sung by Meatloaf. Which is fair. His non Steinman songs tended to be nowhere as near as good. Anyway, this was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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