Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


Odyssey: The Cult (England: IPA: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot skin to brown – very dark for a New England IPA. Massive amount of darkened bubbled head.

Nose: Mashed banana. Crisp hops. Milky to creamy. Slightly bready.

Body: Good bitterness. Slight dill pickle and a prickly hop feel. Hop oils. Kiwi. Dried apricot. Muggy, thick hop centre. Slight sulphur. Slight toffee to caramel.

Finish: Dill pickle. Creamy notes. Kiwi. Good bitterness and hop character. Dry peach. Greenery. Bready. Sulphurous. Apples.

Conclusion: Whelp, this is pretty much unlike any other New England IPA I have encountered, which could explain why – in general – I quite like it. Man that sounds like I’m really hating on the NEIPA style – I’m not, I just think I haven’t quite found the one for me yet. Anyway…

From the New England side of the style we have the cloudy main body and with that an accompanying kind of milky character to the beer – generally smooth, but with a slightly rougher, wheaty styled gripping texture at times.

However unlike the generally low IBU NE beers that I have tried, this just shoves in ladles full of hop oils and thick, gripping, heavy and muggy hop bitterness. Which may be against style guidelines best I can tell – still as a bitterness fan I’m not going to complain too much.

This also tries for the big fruity character of the NEIPA style, though on the heavier and drier end of the scale; It uses kiwi, some sourness from a slight pickle like notes, dried apricot and peach. However while they are present they are always close to being subsumed by the oily, thick hop bitterness.

So, as I’ve said, I enjoyed it – for the most part – but it isn’t without flaws. The mugginess of the hops is up to an almost sulphurous level – which may add a bit of spice to the thing early on, but feels wearing and overly charred by the end. The huge oily hops end up overwhelming the other flavours and makes it a bit one note.

So, while I enjoyed it, most of the enjoyment was in the first half rather than the latter – it really could do with being a 330ml bottle at most – it feels too heavy going for more than that.

So – I did enjoy it, but it still isn’t selling me on the NEIPA style over the more traditional interpretations.

Background: Not been quite sold on the New England style of IPA yet, though I am getting a handle on what it is now after some beers and some research. Since Odyssey a) Do awesome IPAs and b) Did a Black New England IPA that was interesting, I thought I would give their standard NE IPA a try and see how it went. So I grabbed this from Independent Spirit, put some Svalbard on the playlist and sat down to see how things went.

Lost and Grounded: Running With Sceptres (England: Premium Lager: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Small bubbled carbonation. Large white mounded head.

Nose: Pineapple. Slight dill pickle. Crisp hops. Peach. Soft lemon sherbet. Slight hop oils and thicker hop character. Light toffee.

Body: Vanilla. Smooth. Good crisp bitterness. Soft peach. Palma violets and hop oils. Stewed apricot. Slightly dry. Slight strawberry yogurt undertones.

Finish: Buttery shortbread. Good bitterness and hop character. Hop oils. Light charring. Light sour grapes. Digestives.

Conclusion: This both is, and isn’t the beer I have been seeking for so long from my experience at BrizDram earlier this year. Yep, its open up the notes with a blatant contradiction time again. Give me a mo and I’ll explain.

From the fruity soft aroma I realised that this was the same lager that I enjoyed so much when I encountered it before – it has the same good hop bitterness and a gentle but aromatic mix of tart and sweet fruit. It is a wonderful welcome.

The body backs this up with a slightly thicker and creamier texture that your average lager, but still remaining a clean lager base under that with slight hop oils and a resolute bitterness against a fruitiness that is softer and lighter than the aroma promised. This lighter fruitiness and such is why I say it also isn’t quite the same beer as the one I tried before; Or more correctly, it is but had fresh as it can be on tap at the brewery it is – as you would expect – better. The fruitiness and flavour is just more evident and better.

Still, here it is still a good lager, using hopping well and balancing the traditional lager character with the craft style well. Basically the difference is that when had fresh at the brewery everything is turned up a notch – not to assault hopping levels, but everything is more evident and better defined.

I’m getting distracted – this is still worth trying, it carries just enough of the heavier, muggier hop character for some weight; Crisp hops used for drinkability. It brings hop flavour without forgetting that it needs the lager base. So, worth grabbing – however, if you are near the brewery when it is on – the definitely try it then, it is a whole different level of “yes!”

Background: I’ve been looking for a certain lager from Lost and Grounded for a while. During the Brizdram drinking event in Bristol, we visited the Lost and Grounded brewery and I had a brilliant lager, utterly brilliant. But I was drunk. And I forgot the name. So here we are now, with this beer grabbed from Independent Spirit. Let’s see how it does. This was drunk while listening to a random shuffle of Bad Religion tunes – hopefully seeing them live later this year, so was in the mood to listen to them.

Lemke Berlin: Yellow Sub Sour (Germany: Sour Ale: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon yellow, with a massive mounded white head.

Nose: Wheaty with peppery bitterness. Slight brown bread.

Body: Lemon to lemon curd. Tart apples and pears. Pineapple. Vanilla. Light toffee. Moderate thick texture. Passion fruit. Light chalk. Peach syrup. Fizzy.

Finish: Pear drops. Pineapple. Fresh. Peach syrup. Brown bread. Pink grapefruit. Lactose to yogurt.

Conclusion: This is a lot thicker than I was expecting – it has a lemon curd to yogurt sort of grip for the usually quite dry sour style. It gives a very different intensity and flavour range to what I was expecting going into this – when I found out they called this a “sour milk ale” that made a bit more sense of this, I’m guessing they are using lactose or similar to add a thicker feel to the beer.

Initially, when chilled down, it still leads with fresh tartness that sours are well know for – giving lemon, apple and pear drop notes that give a freshness to the thicker grip. As it warms and the more yogurt side of the feel comes it it gives more grip to the sweeter peach and passion fruit notes. At this point I had definitely realised that this wasn’t your standard sour. It has what, for lack of a better word, I will call a more standard “beer” set of flavours – more traditional hop flavours I guess, matched with a tartness that the more traditional beer style couldn’t bring.

It is very fruity, very fresh, and the grip of the texture not only brings that huge amount of flavour, but also makes it far easier to drink for someone not used to the average sour style. I like it, I like it a lot.

It’s odd to call such an unusual character as having a “More standard beer set of flavours” I know, but in a way it does. Well, more standard for a craft beer anyway, if such words make sense. Lots of tropical fruit flavours- just done fresh, acidic and tart as can be, instead of delivered in an IPA style.

Easy to appreciated, tons of depth and easy to drop into a session without hurting beers coming after it. A very good sour ale for more occasions than you would think a sour could match. In fact, it feels like what Bonaparte wanted to be.

Well worth grabbing if you can.

Background: After the dried hopped Berlinner Weisse had oop north, I was surprised, on googling this, to find out it is another dried hop sour. In this case a dry hopped sour milk ale, according to untapped. Which is an odd set of words to get together. Another beer grabbed from the awesome bottle shop that was Craft Beer Kontor in Hannover. So many beers I wanted, so few I could actually get safely back into the UK. This is one of the three I grabbed and brought back. Anyway, drunk while listening to a bunch of metal covers on youtube – mainly Jonathan Young.

Brewdog: Pump Action Poet (Scotland: IPA: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale. Clear yellow. Large white, loose mounded head. Some small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Musty hops and dried pineapple. Moderate bitterness.

Body: Vanilla and vanilla yogurt. Tart grapes. Fresh peach and dried apricot. Moderate bitterness. Thick hop oils and fluffy hop character. Quite thick, gripping feel.

Finish: Pineapple. Dried peach. Light hop character and bitterness. More peach as it warms. Shortbread. Tart grapes.

Conclusion: The cult of super fresh would be severely let down by this beer. This is an IPA, right? Made with fruit right? So surely the most fresh you could get it would be the best, drunk on the day of arrival straight from the brewery? In my experience, no. I tried one of these the day it arrived and it felt a bit empty – it really didn’t bring the range of flavours you would hope for and felt a bit thin even. The very fresh character just felt prickly and undeveloped.

The difference a couple of weeks can make, eh? I’ve had this a few times since and it gained a thicker, slightly hop oil led feel, with a very raw, hoppy character. More importantly, that raw hoppy character has also managed to leave room for the special ingredients to come into play where before they were lost in the not quite settled beer. Now it is tart and even slightly sour in how it delivers the peach and apricot notes, with lots of the sour stone character showing through. It merges these with tart pineapple and sour grapes for a solid tart and sour mid body.

So we have here a muggy thick, hop feeling bitterness and sour fresh tart fruitiness. They are cemented together by a slightly neutral vanilla yogurt character, which is probably the weakest part of the deal. It is a thickness that gives little in return and doesn’t rein in, nor accentuate the two poles of bitterness and tartness. However, overall it is a solid IPA and solidly delivers on the stone fruit conceit.

Time, though admittedly only a few weeks, definitely helped this. Yes hopped beers can be great fresh,and you don’t want to leave them too long – but sometimes they can do with just a few weeks after canning so they can mellow and balance everything going on inside. It is solid ( I say that a lot don’t I? I need a new word…) and does the idea well. Not a world shaker, but aye, I’d recommend giving it a go.

Background: The next of Brewdogs limited run can range of this year – they seem to be getting pretty neat can art these days, of which this one is no exception. Grabbed direct from Brewdog’s online store, this is a Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe hopped IPA, with added peach and apricot into the mix. I’d tried this a couple of times before doing the notes. On the day of the notes my hay fever was playing up slightly – however I felt the notes were still good and matched my experience of the past few times within expected variance – so I still decided to put them up. This was drunk while listening to Ulver – War Of The Roses. Ulver is awesome background beer drinking music, in all their wide range of experimenting.

Odyssey: The Occult – New England India Black Ale (England: BIPA: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. An inch of brown head that leaves suds.

Nose: Fresh. Slight vanilla, kiwi and grapes. Slightly milky. Slight creamy pineapple.

Body: Treacle. Milky chocolate. Creamy and milky. Kiwi and grapes. Milky coffee. Peach yogurt. Light tart notes – grapefruit.

Finish: Grapes. Malt chocolate. Low bitterness and moderate hop character. Peach yogurt to milkshake. Grapefruit. Treacle. Brown bread and brown sugar. Slightly yeastie.

Conclusion: Ok, as I’m still trying to work out where I stand on the whole New England IPA style thing, I have to contend with the fact that we now have a Black New England IPA. I swear I will never catch up with these things.

This is an odd mix – the creamy NE IPA style and the darker BIPA notes interact in unusual ways. When you take a sip it can be either a big boom of treacle, chocolate and coffee – or a soft milky thing that allows the fruit notes to roam more. Ok, in either one there are hints of the other, but it still gives a very different impression depending on which is ascendant at the time.

It is odd – the prevalent treacle reminds me of the notes used to give weight to lower abv dark beers, especially in how it seems to float over the lighter creamy flavours. It seems to be because of that creamy NE style that makes everything seem easier going than the abv or hop usage would otherwise suggest.

Possible because of the contrast between the two sides, the fruit hop flavours feel more evident than a standard NE IPA, and more than most BIPAs. They come across as a kind of fruity yogurt style and light tart grapefruit freshness. The bitterness level is still fairly low – which does make the BIPA style feel kind of odd – usually the higher hop bitterness I what makes a BIPA not just a higher abv dark ale, in my eyes anyway.

Overall – good – actually does more to make me get why people enjoy NE IPAs that most standard IPAs’ take on the style do. However the varied elements are good, but not really coherent. Each element works by itself, but they don’t feel like they all build a bigger whole, just working by themselves.

Still, there are much worse things to be – still interesting and enjoyable, just doesn’t 100% hang together.

Background: Offer me Odyssey Brewing and hops and you have my attention – their work has been pretty damn shiny so far. This one is an odd one – a black New England IPA – ok, someone was going to start spinning off variants of the new England style eventually – my first encounter may as well be from Odyssey. This one was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to B. Dolan – house of Bees vol 2.

Kazematten: Grotten Sante (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown to black. Large brown small bubbled fizzy head.

Nose: Yeastie. Wheaty. Gentle raisins and sultanas. Clean hop bitterness. Still cola. Crushed stones. Minty and menthol.

Body: Fizzy. Earthy bitterness. Cola bottles. Charring. Sour dough. Cloying touch. Slightly mint. Chalk. Raisins.

Finish: Cola bottles. Charring. Earthy bitterness. Cloying cream. Sour dough. Palma violets. Menthol.

Conclusion: Ok, I remember loving this beer while it was in St Bernardus’ hands. Either my memory is shitter than I thought or Kazematten have really driven this beer into the ground.

It is a surprisingly fizzy feeling beer – and filled with a lot of rough flavours along with that. There’s chalk, crushed rock and earthy hop bitterness -with the rougher edges of these dominating. You get hints of some of the raisins I remember before, but that is the only call to dark fruits that you get – I would expect much more from a Belgian dark beer. Instead it manages some flat cola notes, which really aren’t a fair trade off for what you are missing.

There’s even some menthol, greenery and minty notes that would be refreshing if there were more heavy notes for it to work off and refresh from. I mean it does give relief from the charred character, that much is true and good, but usually these fresher notes work well against heavy hop bitterness or sweet notes to prevent them from becoming excessive. Those things just aren’t present here.

What I once viewed as a favourite seems to have become a genuinely bad beer in new hands. Bad in itself, doubly bad compared to what it once was.

Background: This was a beer made by St Bernardus for many years under the name Grottenbier – after the original brewer sold them the rights. This seems to be the new home for it with Kazematten. I’m unsure if the grottenbier is still being brewed by St Bernardus, or if this has replaced it. Any which way – a beer aged in cold caves for an extended period of time. The grottenbier is currently one of my favourite beers I have never got around to doing notes for, so I hope this one holds up to that reputation. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Brassick’s album – some great punk tunes.

Einbecker Ainpockish Ur-Bock 1378 (Germany: Heller Bock: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Small bubbled carbonation. Thin white head.

Nose: Vinous and grapes. Raisins. Marzipan. Slight hop oils.

Body: Thick. Light creamy raspberry. Apricot. Slightly syrupy. Vanilla and light cream. Cinnamon. Golden syrup.

Finish: Golden syrup. Light hop character and bitterness. Creamy. Cinnamon. Light bitterness. Slight vinous. Slight white wine.

Conclusion: This tastes stronger that it actually is, but in a good way. It isn’t showing the strength in alcohol burn – that aspect is very smooth; instead this carries itself with large vinous notes layered over a thicker lager character. Both elements that would say an around 8% beer if I had to guess. Similarly it has those creamy raspberry notes that can come with higher abv bocks and barley wine style beers. I mean, it isn’t light at an abv of 6.7 %, but even at that it is definitely punching above its weight.

So, definitely leaning towards the bigger and sweeter side of the bock spectrum – it has a few elements in common with the darker bocks – hints of raisins and such like, but it definitely is making use of the lighter style to bring vanilla and a mix of white grapes to white wine vinous notes- the latter of which much needed so it is not too sickly sweet,

It uses its creaminess without being dominated by it – it manages to be vinous without losing the base lager underneath it. The bitterness is low, allowing you enjoy the sweetness of the body, waiting until the finish to give a, still low, but now reasonable hop bitterness for a slight punch on the way out.

So a very good Bock lager – lots of vinous, lots of sweetness, lots of character. Not one that will unseat the Aventinus of its seat at the top of the Bock mountain, but this is frankly of a different bock style and with different aims- very worthy as its own thing.

Background: Did a google translate on the description of this one – looks like an old recipe (from 1378 at a guess) that they brought back to celebrate 500 years of the brewing purity law in Germany. Sounded cool so I tried this in Craft Beer Bar in Hannover. Lovely music at the place, some real guitar legends chosen for background music to the bar, which I always appreciate. Huge selection of beer – both local and world as well. This is the last set of notes from the Lower Saxony trip – hope you’ve enjoyed them. I didn’t know at the time, but this is one of ratebeers top 50 in the Heller Bock style – which is nice to know.

Carl Betz: Celler Bekenner Bock (Germany: Dunkel Bock: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. Large yellow brown touched head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cinnamon. Mild malt chocolate. Mild raisins. Vanilla comes out as it warms.

Body: Caramel and liquorice. More dry black liquorice. Chewy toffee. Palma violets. Hop oils. Blackcurrant hard sweets. Slight fluffy hop character. Currants– Eccles cake style. Slightly vinous as it warms. Red grapes and marzipan.

Finish: Blackcurrant and liquorice. Hop oils sheen. Light bitterness and hop character. Mild toffee. Eccles cake. Dry vinous air.

Conclusion: I do like the bock beers, even if the higher abvs may not like me much these days if I have more than one at a time.

This has a lot of the trademark bock notes – a slighter thicker body with caramel and raisin notes, and a low, though not absent, hop bitterness. What is unusual, and very nice, is a little blackcurrant and liquorice bit of extra flavour coming in. It makes it fruitier, but also drier from the black liquorice notes.

Together these are a warming set of notes, which match well with a rising vinous character; They call come together for a very satisfying and rich set of notes. For the best quick description I can give – it feels like a slightly ESB touched bock if that makes sense. The two styles share a fruitiness at the very least, but here it is far more pronounces.

At its base this is genuinely solid- it does the style well, avoiding the thinner texture that hurts a badly made bock so badly. It progresses well as it warms and doesn’t become sickly to drink as it does so.

While not quite having enough to make it a stand out must have bock, it is high quality in the expected style, and as its own character from the added blackcurrant and liquorice emphasis. A genuinely good beer – not outstanding but definitely very good.

Background: An interesting grab here – I lived in Celle for a bit in my very young years, so was interesting to see it when I was back in Germany – and it turns out they have their own brewery. So I had to try and grab one. Turned out pretty easy, the local supermarkets had a wide variety to choose from – so as a fan of Bocks I picked this one out of the line-up. It turns out, unfortunately it was a month past its best before date, which I did not notice on buying. Since it is a winter seasonal I’m guessing it had a six month BBD and was just over that. Since the notes still came out positive and it is a quite high abv beer, and a bock – so tend to do pretty well with ageing anyway – I decided to still put them up. Just thought I would still give you a heads up anyway. The only glass I could get for doing the notes was a bit rubbish, but what can you do?

Ale-Mania: New England IPA (Germany: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep yellow and cloudy body. Thin white head.

Nose: Grapefruit and pineapple. Banana. Guava. Orange juice.

Body: Mango. Smooth. Vanilla toffee. Creamy. No bitterness. Creamy lemon to lemon curd. Hop oils. Orange juice.

Finish: Creamy and milky. Light hop characters. Light hop oils. Bitterness grows over rime. Dried mango.

Conclusion: Another very creamy New England IPA – very thick, very low bitterness – instead concentrating on playing with the fruitiness. With the thickness that the main body it carries a cloying cream character with it as well – not too heavily, just adding a bit of weight to this drink, a bit more thickness to an already robust feel.

The aroma bursts with fresh fruit and while the main body does have similar flavours, it has nowhere near the intensity that the aroma promises. This, so far for me, has been a common trend with NE IPAs. I wonder if it is intentional, and if so why?

Instead of that intense burst, the fruit notes float around the creaminess as a mild, slightly fruit yogurt like character. It’s ok, but I guess I would prefer it if it tended more towards the intensity of the aroma.

Similarly the hop bitterness is very low in this – instead it uses a slick hop oil feel. It does finally give a slow rising bitterness to the finish, but the body has almost 0% bitterness to it.

So, a tad unusual take on the IPA, even given the creamy New England base. The creaminess seems to reduce some of the main characteristics of the IPA style, but despite that it is well made and not bad; More that with the wealth of great IPAs out there I can’t say that this one has much to make it stand out.

Background: New England IPAs seem to popular at the moment, and especially in my experience going around Lower Saxony in Germany. Saw a huge amount of them popping up. This being the first of which I tried – this one at Gig Linden in Hannover. Nor run into Ale-mania before so this is my first experience with them. The day had been fairly hot before this, but we hit the bar early evening so things were starting to chill down a bit. So far I am not 100% sold on the NE IPA style – its ok, usually creamy, sometimes a tad bitty – ok, but I really can’t see why it is blowing up as big as it is. Still, will keep trying them, see if I find the one that makes me get the style.

Paulaner: Salvator (Germany: Dopplebock: 7.9% ABV)

Visual: Reddened brown. Large overripe banana bubbled head.

Nose: Cinnamon. Dried banana. Cloves. Wheat. Toffee.

Body: Fruitcake. Madeira. Glacier cherries and port soaked raisins. Marzipan. Bitter wheaty centre. Cinnamon. Dried banana. Clove. Dry liquorice. Earthy. Dried apricot. Spicy notes.

Finish: Raisins. Dry liquorice. Dried prunes. Dry cinnamon. Wheaty. Cloves. Earthy. General dried spice.

Conclusion: This tastes like Aventinus‘ more bitter, charred and spicy cousin. It plays with similar raisins, banana and cloves – that sort of thing – but it has a more bitter core character, with much heavier earthiness and actually quite a wheaty feel despite, I think, not being a weizen.

It has heavy dried fruit and heavy spice to it. In fact, the longer I spend with it, the more it seems to move away from Aventinus and more become its own thing. I mean, Aventinus is still a good starting point for a reference but this deals with harsher flavours without moving away from being enjoyable.

It is also very robust, much more so than the bottled version which I also enjoyed. In fact that extra weight really does give it an extra intensity that takes a bit of time getting used to – rather than a smoother dopplebock this feels much heavier spiced – so much that if you told me it wa a spice beer I would not have been surprised.

Because of the above it is a very complex beer – from the toffee base, the spice into what really does taste like wheat beer notes and dark fruit, it has a lot going on. There are a few notes which means that it is not quite as beloved as Aventinus for me – for one the dry liquorice notes are a bit harsh for me, but it is a sign of how well it is made that I really enjoy it despite that.

So, it has a few flaws and rough edges, but behind that is a fruity, spirity, heavy beer that has a lot to recommend it. Lots of the banana and cloves notes I love – all done with a bit more British feel earthy hop twist. A lot of these are pronounced than in the bottled version, so if the idea of earthy earthiness and spice doesn’t put you off then this is an excellent beer for you. Only have one in a session though I would say – both the abv and flavours are too heavy for any more than that.

Background: The first beer notes of the Germany trip! This one was drunk at Paulaner Am Thienlenplatz near the Hannover train station after doing a few hours walking tour of Hannover itself. I’ve had Salvator a few times before and very much enjoyed it, but this is the first time I’ve had it on tap which was a nice special touch. I don’t think this is actually a wheat beer, even if it does taste like it at times- I did a quick google and I think this is just a dopplebock not a weizen bock, but I could be wrong. Anyway, after all that walking I definitely had earned a beer, so this was a welcome treat.

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