Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


Original Stormtrooper: Goon Squad (IPA: England: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear with just the slightest bitty haze to the yellow body. A large white mound of large bubbled head that leaves lots of sud remains.

Nose: Orange zest. Crisp hops. Lemon juice. Slight gritty bitterness. Slight crushed rocks. Fresh. Cake sponge. Light malt drinks.

Body: Bready feel, moderate bitterness. Lemon cakes. Sugared orange jelly sweets. Crushed rocks air. Slightly thicker feeling middle, but moderately dry in general.

Finish: Orange – a mix of blood orange and tangerine. Solid gritty bitterness. White bread feel. Drying.

Conclusion: Now, I have repeatedly said that in general the UK doesn’t match the USA when it comes to West Coast IPAs. It makes sense really, they have home court advantage. Ones in the UK almost always seem to not quite get all three aspects that I adore – the dry, well attenuated body, the heavy hop bitterness and the layers of complex hop flavours on top of that. They seem to manage two of the three ok, but always seem to miss at least one.

This one … does pretty well actually. I feel that, as they probably have a wide net of potential buyers from the definitely not Star Wars imagery, they are holding off on going fell bore with the harsher edges of the West Coast IPA style, so not to put people off, but even with that said this is a very solid take.

What this nails is the fruity hop flavours, lots of orange notes, from sugared jelly sweets to blood orange to tangerine – it is very well layered around one simple concept for the most part and very enjoyable. It also leans into lemon notes with fresher lemon juice to sweeter lemon cakes. That cake sponge aspect seems to come through quite a bit – which leads us onto how well this manages a dry attenuated base.

It is pretty well done there, not super dry, but with enough attenuation that you can recognise the style. There is a bit more malt showing than normal, some sweeter notes giving a slightly thicker mid body than I would expect, which matches with the bit extra weight of mouthfeel that aforementioned cake sponge character adds but nowhere near east coast style malt levels or sweetness. So, a bit more malt led than expected but generally dry and out of the way so pretty well done.

Finally, the bitterness! Also pretty good – me, I could do with more, I want a west coast that kicks, but I am aware I like silly bitter stuff – this is still solid. Not full USA West Coast, slightly toned down, but still enjoyable.

Overall, yep as you may have guessed a very solid beer and a pretty good take on the style. No complaints here.

Background: This was part of an x-mas present pack of Stormtrooper beers from my Sister and her family, many thanks! I decided to do notes on this one first as I am such a sucker for West Coast IPAs. Like a huge fan. Shocking I know. What did shock me when I saw this was all the stormtrooper Star Wars imagery, how the heck did they either a) afford that? Or b) get around Disney’s lawyers? Turns out it is pretty simple, this is not Star Wars themed. They instead got the rights to use the Stormtrooper armour, which exists completely separately from Star Wars – so it looks Star Wars linked, but is not. Clever marketing. The glass used came with the pack, which, while pretty, all the images on it did make it hard to look at it properly for the visuals section of this guide. Went with The Cybertronic Spree: Ravage as music for drinking to – more sci-fi themed tie ins made sense – a fun 80s feeling bunch of metal from a band that cosplays as transformers. Because of course!

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Augustiner: Oktoberfest (Germany: Oktoberfest Marzen: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Bright yellow gold clear body. Medium sized white bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation to the body.

Nose: Brown bread. Light bitterness. Light peppery character and light sulphur.

Body: Banana syrup. Brown sugar. Palma violets. Touch of malt drinks. Brown bread. Dry toffee. Peppery.

Finish: Palma violets. Lightly oily. Toffee. Light peppery character. Malt chocolate. Lightly earthy.

Conclusion: This is probably the most robust Oktoberfest I have had – it has a slightly higher abv that most of the style that I have encountered and you can feel it in the more malt led body, with toffee and banana notes against a light peppery bitterness, enhanced by just a touch of oiliness.

It means that it isn’t as clean and easy drinking as most Oktoberfests, but also means that I am really enjoying it. I dunno how well the extra weight and abv would go down drunk in litre steins at the festival itself, but had here in my room it is exactly what I am looking for.

It gains a lot of bready character in there as well as time goes on. Early on it has a palma violets style that calls to the more Czech hops and banana from the malt that makes it quite sweet, but as time goes on it builds on the peppery notes that exist, and with that bready character and a light earthiness it becomes much more savoury late into the game.

I would say it is more exciting early on, but the change in style over time makes it much more manageable to drink while still keeping hints of what came before.

Its not perfect, it could get rough over time i’d guess, but it is the most interesting Oktoberfest I have had so far.

Many thanks to Tony for getting me it!

Background: Over the years I have managed to try five of the six mainstays of the Oktoberfest, however the sixth – Augustiner, has always eludes me. I was this many years old when I found out that is because the Augustiner Oktoberfest is not generally imported into the UK, if you see it, it is likely someone manually brought some crates of it over. So, anyway shortly after finding that out I found out Tony was over in Germany for … Oktoberfest. So I pleaded with him, and he kindly brought me a bottle back. Many thanks, you are a prince amongst people. This is that bottle. Music wise I went with Godspeed You! Black Emperor: G_d’s Pee AT STATES’S END!. Yes that is its real title.

Elusive: Pomona Island: Rippin’ Rick (England: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow, with just a slight bitty haze. Thin white bubbled head.

Nose: Musty malt drinks. Pineapple. Grated choc lime sweets. Chocolate eclair sweets. Granted choc orange to orange zest. Crushed nettles.

Body: Orange zest. Lemon cakes. Sugared lemons. Nettles. Earthy touch to the core. Slight bready character. Thick mouthfeel. Pineapple.

Finish: Malt drinks. Sugared orange. Good bitterness to greenery. Turmeric. Pineapple. Lightly fresh. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: This is a very satisfying beer. The double IPA malt load gives it a lot of weight despite how dry the flavours are for that west coast style. The malt is much more evident than normal, in a way that gives a malt drink choc orange/lemon/whatever set of notes that show up semi regularly behind the hops. The notes may make it seem that they are a bigger deal than they really are though. They are a competitively subtle set of notes, but it alters and informs a lot of citrus flavours in the beer so it is worth noting. It is never heavy, just a slight chocolate malt drink, kind of dry ovaltine like note that shows in the malt character, which heads into a more bready weight.

The bitterness is solid, not an assault – but I may be a bit blasé about bitterness levels these days, so keep that in mind if you are not a hop head. Still, solid bitterness is good. It had enough pop to it to give a nice hop punch.

The citrus character from the hops is lightly tart, mainly showing as orange and lemon notes which gives a lovely freshness to the whole thing, but with sweeter pineapple and tarter grapefruit doing some work at the edges.

It is nothing new, but it is a solid west coast IPA given bit more weight from the thicker mouthfeel that the extra abv a double IPA gives it, and with that a touch more evident malt.

What I am saying is I am enjoying.

Background: Elusive and Pomena are breweries I’ve had a few from recently, they haven’t managed to get into my fave brewery category but both are good enough that I’ve returned to them a bunch of times – so when they collaborated to make one of my preferred IPA styles – West Coast IPA, BUT DOUBLE – I decided to grab it and give it a go. I am always charmed by Elusive’s 8 bit style can images anyway and I am that easy to sell to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit (yes I know, you are shocked) this loads up on Simcoe (an old fave), Columbus and Amarillo hops – leaning more old school in the USA hops which sounds good to me. Or older school. I’m old now I lose track of what is considered “old” in beer terms. Get off my lawn. Music wise I went with Kill Mirror Image’s new EP KLL MRR IMG. Bias warning, I know one of the band members, but also it rocks.

Sureshot: Dunblobbin (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot to yellow. Moderate mounded white head.

Nose: Peach. Green grapes. Fresh fluffy hop notes. Cream. Peach melba.

Body: Lightly oily. Milky. Good bitterness. Greenery. Palma violets. Hop oils. Vanilla. Peppery. Peach. Grapefruit and pineapple.

Finish: Good bitterness. Peach. Light fatty butter. Palma violets. Aubergine.

Conclusion: This is a weird beer. I know, a Mr Blobby themed beer being weird, who would have thought it? But yes, it is weird – if I sit and just sip this beer I am really enjoying it – but if I examine it and try to analyse why I am enjoying it so much it seems quite simple, and I’m finding it hard to pin down what elements actually make it work so well.

Maybe it is my brain trying to reject the fact I seem to be really enjoying a NEIPA style IPA.

Ok, let’s dig into it – the aroma is an obvious plus for it – a huge amount of peach in a mid 2K USA IPA kind of way. There is crisp bitterness there, but not an overpowering amount of hops, which actually calls a lot to east coast style in my mind despite the obvious NEIPA influences.

The body is creamy, showing more of the NEIPA influence but with an oily hop character that makes me smile. It is not quite “Dank”, as is probably no longer the cool term but fuck it, I’m old, but it is a nice call in that direction. Along with the slightly aubergine like savoury notes it really does remind me of mid 2K IPAs, but not as bitter hop heavy as those used to be.

There are hints of fresher grapefruit and pineapple notes that give it some pep, and below that is a gentle east coast style sweetness – no one element says “Banger” but combined together I am really enjoying this.

Without the scary pink blob can images, this would still be a good beer, and one I will probably revisit and enjoy once more if I can.

Background: Ok, if you are not British then those weird pink abominations on the can may confuse you. That is fine. Keep your innocence. You deserve it. It is a cursed image. Anyway, yes I grabbed a can of this because it had Mr Blobby on it. Yes I am easy to sell to. Yes I bought it because of that despite just insulting its existence. I am a complex and confusing entity. Anyway, turned out it was actually pretty good so I grabbed another can from Independent Spirit to do notes on. It is a hazy IPA, which, ok, not my favourite style so bias warning there. Music wise I went back to some Rage Against The Machine – the self titled album. Current world status is making me listen to them more at the mo. Oh, the brewery and beer? You want to know about that? Looks like Sureshot was started by an ex head brewer and founder of Cloudwtaer – so that is a heck of a good heritage for your new Brewery. The beer is double dry hopped with one of my favourite hops – simcoe – so I had high hopes at the start for it.

Holy Goat: Blood Eagle (Scotland: Fruit Flemish Red: 6.66% ABV)

Visual: Hazy cherry-aid red to black cherry centre. Reddened off white medium sized head.

Nose: Cherry yogurt. Wheat flecks. Sour red wine. Black currant and crushed red grape skin. Thick. Strawberry. Brown bread.

Body: Tart. Sweet plum. Sweet red wine. Sour cherry fizzy sweets. Sticky gummed brown paper. Lightly fizzy. Fizzy lemon sherbet. Peppery bitterness. Rye crackers. Black cherry.

Finish: Sour cherry fizzy sweets. Sweet plums. Light tart raspberry. Gummy – Gelatine sweets in general. Brown bread. Bourbon air.

Conclusion: This is very rewarding, with thick gummy brown paper style take on the sticky, sour red Flemish ale at the base but has been filled in every inch with some twist and turn that makes it stand out.

The fruit is the most obvious twist, as you might expect, sweet plums are there, but the sour notes and tart fruit notes are more evident. There is a raspberry freshness and sour black cherry, often in a slightly artificial style that calls to the sour gelatine fizzy sweets that exists. It is gummy in its thickness and the flavours really vinous with lots of red wine and red grape notes hanging around even as the main fruitiness is waning.

Around that is a peppery, slightly bitter character into a brown bread grounding. Savoury in general, slightly spicy, and slightly spirity in a bourbon to rye style. It is a mix of lower grounding notes that bring you down from that tarter flavours, and tells of the alcohol still present there.

So much to examine as you can probably tell, and while the flavours are wide ranging they never clash. If I had to criticise it I would say that the gumminess builds up over time to become very sticky at the end, and a bit too present, but this only becomes an issue at the very end when the more savoury gumminess tends to dominate and the fruitiness lightens.

Overall a very impressive and fun to examine sour beer.

Background: Oh, Holy Goat, I have had a few of these before and have been blown away by them, so I really needed to pull my thumb out and actually do notes on one of them. This one is, ok deep breath, based on a Flanders Red and a British stock ale, fermented with wild yeast, blended with an amber sour that had been aged in rye whisky barrels, then added in blackcurrant and redcurrant that had been used in a prior Flanders red, then a mix of smoked and unsmoked plums – with the smoked plums done on red wine staves – were added in. Follow all that? Because I think I got lost somewhere. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers: Bought To Rot.

Abbeydale: Wanderer West Coast IPA (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice at the edges to apricot skin main body colour. Thin, loose bubbled white head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Flour. Apples. Some prickly hop character and bitterness. Apricot.

Body: Peach. Good bitterness. Peach syrup. Apricot skin. Green feeling hop character. Slightly dry. Apples. Slightly resinous. Fudge.

Finish: Greenery. Good hop character and bitterness. Apples. Quite dry. Apricot skin. Slightly resinous. Kiwi. Crushed custard cream biscuits and a dry general custard touch.

Conclusion: I was surprised how cloudy this west coast style IPA was on the eye. Thankfully though there is no New England style IPA shenanigans going on here. It isn’t 100% in my preferred interpretation of of a west coast style, but it knows to make it bitter and kick a bit.

It is just slightly dry, not as much as you would expect from the style – there is a chewy fudge backing that shows the malt a bit more than usual, but still dry enough and it gives a base for a reasonably bitter and resinous character. Nothing too hardcore but, you know, bitter and resinous. That is what I am here for and they are doing the job right as long as they get that bit sorted, in my opinion anyway.

The bitter base is then a launch pad for a dry, apple character along with some dry apricot skin notes – a fruity but restrained experience. That said, there is a fruit syrup core to the whole thing that is sweeter and thicker than I would expect for the style, but despite that works pretty well here. It results in a sticky, fruity kind of hoppiness. Clinging but not so much that it gets harsh of dull.

While not a show stopper of an IPA this is a solid mix of bitterness, resinous character and fruitiness and does the job. It is just about dry enough for what I want, and gives a lot of flavour. Very solid indeed.

Background: Abbeydale used to be a brewery I knew for turning out more traditional ales. They seem to be experimenting a lot more these days. Their Wanderer series is bunch of different beers taking inspiration from things around the world – in this case the West Coast IPA which is a favoured style of mine. Single hopped with Citra, which is a classic of USA IPAs this was one I was hoping to enjoy a lot. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, I went back to the Animatrix album for backing music – I think I enjoyed the music from that even more than Animatrix itself.

Black Sheep: Riggwelter (England: English Strong Ale: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut brown coloured body with reddened hues. Middling sized brown froth head. Still.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Crushed peanuts. Light caramel. Raisins.

Body: Liquorice. Lightly earthy. Cake sponge. Milk texture. Light ginger bread. Light prickling. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Light charring.

Finish: Gingerbread. Earthy bitterness. Greenery. Nutty. Bitter chocolate dust. Light milk. Bitter coffee remains. Peppery. Dry treacle.

Conclusion:This shows how earthy hop flavours, and even liquorice notes, both of which are so often a weakness in badly made beers, can be used in satisfying and robust ways.

I think a lot of it comes from the balance of the weight of the beer to its drinkability. This is weighty with a slight milky, creamy grip and thickness at the core but around that is a dry general bitter like feel. The slight dryness is what makes it easy to drink, the thickness adds enough to make the earthier bitter notes more manageable and less wearing that they can be in lighter beers.

There is a gingerbread and peppery spice throughout it – a savoury tingling set of flavours that complement the solid earthy bitterness well without contradicting them too much. It is a very traditional set of bitter notes but behind that the extra malt weight gives hints of dark fruit, raisins, and even manages to make that hint of liquorice feel like a welcome release rather than an off note. It makes for very much the heavier take on the traditional earthy British bitter.

If that earthy bitterness, even a strong ale take on such, does not appeal to you then this will probably not be one you find to your tastes. If, however it does not put you off then you may find, like I do, that this stands on the ideal point between a weightier ale, and a drinkable bitter. Old school but done right.

Background: When the parents came down to visit, as well as the beer from Christmas I mentioned in some previous notes, they also brought a box of Black Sheep beers for me. Many thanks again! Black Sheep are good brewery up north, named after the creator who was the black sheep that left the Theakston brewery to set up his own. Which makes sense. Anyway, this is one I had many times back in the old days, but had not revisited recently, so was looking forwards to trying it again. Went with Jack Off Jill again as backing music, Sexless Demons and Scars this time.

Shepherd Neame: 1698 (England: English Strong Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. Fizzy white head of moderate size but does not last long. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Light toffee. Light black cherry. Light chalk.

Body: Christmas cake. Light chalk. Odd mix of thin and chewy mouthfeel. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Slight sulphur. Walnuts.

Finish: Light chalk. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Christmas cake. Almonds. Slightly earthy. Greenery and sage. Dry marzipan.

Conclusion: I don’t know if the time in the bottle hurt it rather than helped it, despite this being bottle conditioned, but when I first took a sip of this it felt like something there wasn’t working. It felt a bit light up front. Now it was close to working, there was subtle toffee and black-cherry in the aroma, which is a good standby of an English Strong Ale, but those elements didn’t follow through into the body.

The body instead calls to Christmas cake, but with a savoury walnut like backing before heading out into an earthy and even more obviously nutty finish. Which all seems pretty appropriate as this was first bought at Christmas and – well Christmas cake is pretty obviously appropriate to that, and I can just about wedge the nuttiness in under that to claim there is some sort of thematic consistency going on here. Probably.

It feels light early on, which is a fair flaw – occasionally showing the weight this beer needs, but it was disappointing. As time goes on the layers seem to build up so it feels a lot more present at the end, which makes it much more satisfying. As said at the start, initially this felt like the time in the bottle had hurt rather than helped it, and it was very much that early lack of weight that was the most obvious tell of that.

So, how is it when it has had some time to build up that flavour and weight? Well now it is very nutty, which is ok but I do feel disappointed that the Black Cherry and the Christmas cake notes seem to have fallen by the wayside as they could really have done with some more play. In return there has been an increase in savoury greenery and earthy hop bitterness which does the job at rounding it out.

Overall, takes a while to get going, but solid when it does – nutty, earthy and very present. Not shiny and exciting but a solid enough beer to spend time with.

Background: This beer has had quite the journey to get to these tasting notes. It was originally grabbed by my family for when I was going to head up last Christmas. Anyway, so covid was everywhere, so I never went up north, but since my family don’t drink this style of beer they kept it until we could finally meet up. Many thanks! So, this is now fairly close to its best before date of November 2011, but as it is bottle conditioned hopefully that should not be an issue, or may even make it better. We shall see. Went with Garbage V 2.0 as backing music, because that album is a classic and thus should be listened to regularly.

Paulaner: Oktoberfest (Germany: Oktoberfest Marzen: 6% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Large white mounded head.

Nose: Cake sponge. Vanilla. Soft citrus. Orange zest. Dry toffee. Slight sulphur.

Body: Bready. Moderate bitterness. Cake sponge. Palma violets. Fresh dough. Slight oily bitterness. Slight sulphur. Light toffee. Peppery.

Finish: Peppery. Moderate bitterness. Light charring. Moderate hop character. Palma violets. Slight orange. Bready.

Conclusion: This is a breadier, heavier Oktoberfest beer. It starts out fairly gentle, with soft citrus notes in the aroma and a restrained sweetness, but as you put your head down to start sipping you find something very different.

The body is bready and peppery with a moderate bitterness that, while not as heavy as some German Pils, is still higher than the average German lager and gives some heft to it. The body is so slick, and just a bit oily that this higher bitterness never feels harsh, just like a bitter velvet wrapped kick.

There is a gentle toffee touch, and that familiar noble hop palma violet like touch which show a bit more varied influence from the malt and the hops, but in general it is solidly bready, bitter and a bit peppery at its core.

It has just the slightest sulphurous touch around the edges, which is pretty unusual here, and it adds to the weightier character this beer brings. Despite that this is still very obviously a lager, it isn’t trying to pretend to be something else – it has a generally clean feel, not highly carbonated thankfully, and has a slight oily sheen that is very much a clean lager oily style rather than the heavier stickier style you tend to get in an ale.

This isn’t one of my favourite beers, it feels like an odd compromise between the sulphur touch and weight of an ale and the clean character if a lager and the two seem to weaken each other, but, with that said.- I do like the bitterness it brings. When you have that nice bitterness and hop character combined with the more easy drinking lager character it makes for something that still has a home with me

Not 100% for me, but I still kind of dig it.

Background: So, another Oktoberfest beer, and another of the official big six. After many years of it being fairly hard to find a good range of Oktoberfest beers I am feeling spoiled this year. This is my third tasting note of one of the big six, and fourth I have actually tried. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, who have had a decent amount in. I actually have a Paulaner glass amongst the many and varied glassware so I pulled it out for the occasion. I went back to Jack Of Jill: Clear Heart, Grey Flowers for backing music, still a favourite album that goes from melodic to screams in a heartbeat and has such great gothic punk influenced tunes.

Cantillon: Fou’foune (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark lemon juice to apricot skin. Thin white rim of a head.

Nose: Tart. Grapes. Apricot skin. Oats. Light horse blankets. Wet with fruit remains apricot stones.

Body: Tart. White wine. Fresh apricot that alters to dried apricot over time. Grapes. Thick grape syrup tart middle. Acidity. Cider. Dry oak. Lightly bitter.

Finish: Tart grapes. Apricot skin. Honey. Apricot syrup. Tart apples.

Conclusion: This a comparatively relaxed and yet still very flavoursome Cantillon. It does have the acidity of a Cantillon, but the fruit choice seems to have gone a long way towards keeping it from being too mouth puckeringly sour.

The apricot is delivered remarkably well. It comes through as drier apricot skin like notes front, then that sweeter clinging dried apricot notes in the middle, into a slightly syrup like release at the end. In fact that syrup character does show in the middle as well, just there it is more just the thickness with a slight grape taste that gives a lovely release from the drier Cantillon base. Finally there is a low level oat feeling bitterness underneath it at all times.

These three layers make it work wonderfully – the sweeter fruit touches gives release from the sourness. The tart Cantillon style, while not as high as usual makes for a solid rewarding main middle and the dry bitter touches ground it. Around all this the rest of the rewarding complexities of the fruit roam and reward you.

This probably the best introduction to Cantillion I have seen. Delicious, fruity but reins in the more mouth puckering side of Cantillion without completely hiding the sourness. I never thought I would find an easy drinking Cantillon, and I still haven’t, but I feel this is the closest thing we will ever get to it and it is lovely.


Background: Sooo Fou’foune is a bit of a rude word it turns out. I am so innocent and had no idea until anyone told me. Honest. Anyway, an advantage of of drinking with others at Zwanze day is someone let me know the rude pun of the name. This is unusual in that it is a lambic made with apricots, which is very far from a standard lambic fruit choice. This is listed in “100 Belgian beers to try before you die” where they oddly say that the taste has “little or no apricot or peach” – I have seen arguments that this beer is at its best when very fresh, so possibly the fruit fades fast and I was very lucky to try it on tap at the aforementioned Zwanze day when it was, I presume, very fresh. I only did notes on this and the Zwanze day beer, but the tap list at the Zwanze day event at Moor Taproom was immense. Magic Lambic was on, Camerise, Menu Pineau, Nath and more. I wish I could have spread my drinking over several days so I was in good tasting condition to do notes on more! So many rare Cantillon beers I had never seen anywhere else. I looked up the abv for this online as it was not listed, most say 5.5% which is what I put. Some say 5%. So around that region.

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