Tag Archive: 5-8% ABV


Stigbergets: Amazing Haze (Sweden: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Lemon to peach colour. Cloudy body and thin white head. Some carbonation is visible.

Nose: Smooth hop character. Cake sponge. Peach skin.

Body: Smooth hop character and crisp bitterness. More oily hops as it warms. Soft apricot. Some greenery. Milky. Peach.

Finish: Cake sponge. Milky. Moderate bitterness and hop character. Slightly resinous. Greenery. Hop oils.

Conclusion: Short way to describe this? It does what it does well, but I want it to do a bit more though.

This is more, well, hoppy that a bunch of the New England IPAs I’ve encountered – it has a good use of the hops in the mouthfeel producing a resinous and hop oily character. It has a solid level of bitterness and generally a solid hop character all around. As a hop head I have to admit a higher level of bitterness and hop feel in an IPA definitely draws me to it, even if that isn’t really what the NEIPA style is all about.

Flavour wise is seems a bit more simple – rather than the huge range you get with the hop feel – the mix of oily, hoppy and resinous characters – for the flavour it leans into soft peach and apricot in a creamy fashion. It is nice, but feels weak against the bigger hop character. It is an ok, if not wide ranging flavour, but that is the main point that comes to mind when I say that it needs a bit more.

It needs either more range, more subtle notes, or more push of the limited flavours it does has – as tight now the milky NE fruit style can’t compete with the bigger hops.

It is a good beer at what it does, but I want more.

Background: Saw this being hyped up a bit when it arrived, hadn’t heard about it so did a quick look round and yeah, this is seriously well rated IPA online so I thought it would be worth a try – even if the New England interpretation isn’t my favourite of the IPA styles. So, grabbed this from Independent Spirit. Broke open this while listening to Rise Against: Siren Songs Of The Counter Culture – I know it catches some shit as the first time they went with a major label, but I still think it is a decent album.

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Uiltje: Grandma’s Cooking Recipes Vol 2: Lemon & Vanilla Cheesecake Wit Beer (Netherlands: Belgian Wit: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lemon juice. Thin off white head a few seconds in after an initially large head on the pour.

Nose: Fresh squeezed lemon with the leftover lemon rind in it. Cake sponge. Pineapple. Lime touch.

Body: Tart and fresh. Vanilla. Slightly peppery. Lemon juice. Creamy lemon. Sherbety feel. Orange slices. Mild peppercorn. Slightly dry.

Finish: Creamy lemon and vanilla. NY style cheesecake. Fresh orange slices. Salted lemons. Mild peppercorn sauce.

Conclusion: I swear that I didn’t look at the back of bottle before specifying in the notes above that it was NY style cheesecake that this seemed like. It just turns out that my impressions and how they describe it were identical for once – that slightly drier bodied cheesecake style. Good shout from them then.

Despite that, the cheesecake side of this is actually lighter than I expected. This has a drier take on a wit that seems to call to the pre inbev Hoegaarden (Well – I say that – my only experience is of the Celis white which was made by the original brewer, and is apparently very close to the original Hoegaarden, so my comparison is at least a few stages separated from the original). It comes in with lots of tart lemon notes that feel very natural fruit in character. There are some creamier edges as the vanilla mixes in, giving slightly fuller feel on the way out, but main body definitely emphasises the dry and fresh character.

What I did not expect from the bottle’s description though is the peppery character – coming in from standard pepper into subtle peppercorn sauce in flavour – adding that traditional wit spice behind the more creamy lemon notes.

So, looking at this as a cheesecake beer, well it does have influence from that idea, and it definitely shows the vanilla and lemon it uses, but they come more as discrete elements that a coherent cheesecake whole for the most part.

As a beer in itself thought it does it right. Initially it seems only ok, but it develops into a traditional dry wit backed by creamier, fuller edges, and subtle solid backing behind the lemon freshness that is easy to drink while still being rewarding.

It is better to be a good beer that doesn’t quite deliver on the concept that a good concept that doesn’t deliver on the beer, so I am happy with this one.

Background: I’m not sure if that is the longest beer name I have ever had on this site – but it is at least in the top 5. So, a Belgian wit made with lemon and vanilla – a simpler beer than the cool name makes it sound, but still the idea sold me pretty much instantly. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I make no apologies for grabbing so much from them. Drunk while listening to the 50th spektrmodule podcast for some gentle background music.

3 Fonteinen: Zwet.be (Belgium: Porter: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin to middling creamy brown head that leaves suds but has a quite short lifespan.

Nose: Sour red wine. Black cherry. Coca dust. Rum soaked raisins. Chocolate liqueurs.

Body: Tart black cherry. Charring. Black cherry sour sweets. Salt water. Cold stones. Touch of Pocari Sweat drink. Bready. Soft pineapple. Dry raisins. Lightly tart.

Finish: Charring and bitter character. Oats. Bitter cocoa dust. Brown bread. Salt water. Cloying coffee notes. Soft pineapple. Dry Madeira. Tart apple.

Conclusion: The sour stout, or in this case sour porter, is one of the odder styles to have come out of recent years. In fact if anything this is somehow both more odd and more restrained that previous examples I’ve tried. Maybe it is more odd because it is more restrained. Which may need some breaking down to make sense.

The nose provides full on mix of sour wine, fruity experience with chocolate hints – it is something really fresh and bursting with flavour. Unfortunately the rest of the beer is not that.

The body is drier, with charred notes and even a slightly salty character – it is full of the heavier, rougher notes that can come with a porter. The tarter notes are there, but as gentle additions not super sour intrusions – it gives dark fruit early on, but somehow late on lambic like green fruit and pineapple hints give very subtle fresher notes.

Warmth gives it more of what you would expect – tart black cherry and spirit soaked raisins – chilling really hurt this, making it far too pedestrian. Warmth makes this reasonable – still quite dry, but with fruit range of both dark and light fruit. The biggest disappointment is the porter backing to that. The porter character is often relegated to a dank (in the cold wet cave style of the meaning, not the resinous hop style of the meaning) background that seems to bring down the sour notes rather than enhance them.

Overall an ok beer, but one of the weaker sour stouts/porters I have encountered.

Background: So, something more than just a bit unusual here – a beer from 3 Fonteinen, celebrated sour beer makers, but according to a quick google brewed at De Proefbrouweij – a famed contract brewer. I’m guessing they did that to prevent yeast infection issues from the wild yeast. Anyway, this one is a porter brewed with lambic yeast. So, yeah, odd as heck. Drank while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees for appropriate backing to that oddness. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Brewdog: Make Earth Great Again (Scotland: Saison: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale light yellow to grain, very clear. An inch of white froth for a head but still main body.

Nose: Wheaty. Vanilla. Light lemon citrus character. Dried banana. Light cloves. Crusty white bread. Light white chocolate. Cheese puff crisps styled funk.

Body: Bitter. Slight cloying cream character. Cream cheese and chives. Slight chalk and prickly feel mix. Cheese puff crisps. Hop oils. Light lemon. Palma violets. Dried banana.

Finish: Cream cheese and chives. Dried banana. Light yeast funk. Light tart yellow raspberries. Hop oils. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Mature cheese.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Wild Beer Co’s bretted lager “Chronos” – it has that mix of lager like easy drinking character with a yeast funk style.

At its base it feels clean, slightly lemony and very lager styled with noble hop feeling hop oils and a light palma violets touch to it. Layered over that clean base is a kind of cheese puff into cream cheese and then mature cheese notes – a real contrast of feel and taste going on here. It opens with the cheese funk first, then lets the lighter lager drinking feel through, rather than the other way around that you might expect.

Now, that funk gives some flavour but there is also a light berry tartness below those heavier funk notes that works as a nice bridge between the lager like notes and the more saison like funk. Good use of hop oils smooth out the remaining rough cracks that may have existed, and a moderate bitterness caps off the finish.

Everything works – it doesn’t declare itself as a must drink – instead concentrating on being very easy to drink, mixing smooth feel and funk. The flavour is gentle but tasty, and the beer feels far too close to a session character for a beer of higher abv. It doesn’t break the world, but once you start drinking it is easy to just keep continuing to drink this in a dangerously drunken way – so it definitely has something for it!

Background: So, Brewdog making a beer to protest USA removing itself from the Paris agreement and gives the profits to a climate change charity – I can get behind that. A few gimmicks to go with that, the saison is made with melted ice cap water and cloudberries which are endangered (A few people have asked if that is a good idea, using endangered berries- I presume using the berries isn’t a prob – it’s the plants environment being in danger that is screwing it – I could be wrong). As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop and drunk while listening to the final CD of Mclusky – Mcluskyism. So you will probably hear me mention it less for a while. Great 3 CD set and great value. Proper loving the insane energy it has.

Art Brew: Anarchist Party Bitter (England: Bitter: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy caramel brown. Large creamy head in coffee froth form. Some suds around the edge as you drink.

Nose: Malt choc orange. Crushed peanuts. Light fresh citrus.

Body: Treacle. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Moderate hop bitterness. Caramel. Thick. Brown bread. Prickling feel. Hop oils. Subtle peach. Creamy.

Finish: Choc orange. Good hop character and bitterness. Charring. Peanuts. Brown bread. Hop oils. Gritty. Golden syrup. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a no nonsense big beer. Big malt, big hops, big mouthfeel. It has a real thick caramel to treacle base with choc orange hints – the mouthfeel is really thick with even some syrupy hints amongst the character.

For the hops side, the aroma hints at more fresh notes than the body gives – it starts with moderate bitterness and builds to a mix of impressive roughness, hop oils and hop flavour. Then, over time, more subtle creamy hop flavours of peach styling comes out with a real grounding nutty character beneath that.

So, with the exception of the creamier end of the hop notes late on, this is fairly full bore all the time! It pretty much uses that higher than normal abv to create a base that can punch your taste-buds repeatedly for a good long time.

So, not subtle at all, and so doesn’t have those extra elements that makes an all time great for me, but it has that enthusiasm of a beer than is going for exuberance over fine detail and gives a full flavour assault with that. Approach with caution and enjoy the intensity.

Background: How to list this beer? It says a bitter, but the abv and hop use is a bit high for that style. Possibly English Strong Ale, as a vague catch all style. Possibly IPA with the hop use, but I am trying to avoid falling into the same trap that those red/brown/black/white IPA listings do by putting everything hoppy under IPA. Ok, sod it, I’ll use my general rule of a thumb, list it as the brewery describes it unless you have good reason to do so. So, bitter it is, with some reservations. Anyway, – Art Brew – a local Brewery and one that I have a soft spot for as it used to be tied with the Royal Oak back in the day – spent many a night drinking there. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to more of Mclusky – Mcluskyisms. You will probably see that a lot in the near future – it is a massive 3 CD thing so I have a lot of tunes to get used to – lovely discordant, angry, almost surreal at times tunes.

Northern Monks: Verdant: Patron’s Project 9.01: Captain North (England: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice with lots of carbonation and a massive white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheat. Lemon. Lightly peppery character. Dried pineapple.

Body: Very bitter. Peppery. Oatmeal. Apples. Slight kiwi fruit and egg plant. Mild toffee. Dried pineapple. Flour. Soft peach. Milky.

Finish: High bitterness and hop character. Peppery. Eggplant. Pineapple. Apples.

Conclusion: This takes some time to get going – early on it is all bitter hops and peppery character; Not something I generally complain about as a hop head, but I like a beer to have a bit more going to round it out. A high hop bitterness can’t do the whole job by itself, much as some beers may try.

Time lets out some soft green fruit and tart pineapple -often the fruit notes seem to come across in a dried fruit fashion, but there are some fresh and tarter notes that occasionally come out. It results in a soft balance to the peppery bitterness, backed by a solid oatmeal tasting and thickness of character. It is better like this but still feels solid rather than exciting – with the oatmeal like base, pepper, flour touches there is a lot grounding the beer, with the high bitterness being the biggest element and it feels like it doesn’t let the flavour range these hops should have really show. Again, more time can allow some soft peach, in a milky fashion come out- but it is light and feels like you are trying to reach it through porridge.

It is a bit too much grounding, with too little on the showy side for me. Good bitterness, but as I said that can’t make a beer work by itself.

Background: I mainly bought this ‘cos the can looked pretty. A run down Captain America looking dude but with an N for north on his head and a pint in his hand. While comics have not given up a Captain North yet they have given us a Captain Britain, and a Captain Midlands. No I am not making that last one up. Genuine truth mate. Anyway this is an IPA made with Azacca, Ekuanot, Nelson Sauvin and Mosaic hops. I only recognise the last two, but they are some good hops – think I have encountered the others, but couldn’t give any real details on them. Another one from Independent Spirit – I am making up for lost time.

Brewdog: Slot Machine (Scotland: Speciality Grain :5.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red. Clear with an inch of browned bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Choc orange. Lights nuts. Lightly creamy.

Body: Spicy, nutty and with malt chocolate. Peppery. Roasted nuts. Soft kiwi fruit. Vanilla. Toffee.

Finish: Cinnamon and dry ground spice. Coriander. Nutty. Rye crackers. Orange skin. Slight grapes and vanilla yogurt.

Conclusion: Hmm, giving this beer some time and with that some heat so it can develop, as chilled down this is really letting me down – however it has hints that makes me think it can do better – so let us see what some heat can do.

Initially this seems simple – nutty and spicy with a malt chocolate centre – a very middle of the road beer, with the grounding base but nothing done with this. I’m hoping that the fact I chilled this beer before I drank it just means it has been hiding the good stuff from me up to now.

So, how is it changing? Well it is more creamy, with some green fruit – also a touch more peppery, but the increased cream character easily balances that. Still doesn’t quite work – the sweetness comes with a vanilla character that starts as a pleasant vanilla toffee, but ends up a cloying vanilla yogurt style by the end – which is another savoury note that seems dull against the rest of the background.

It feels like it is overemphasising the grounding notes – the pepper, the yogurt, the roasted nuts – but with no high points against that. It has the roasted and bitter hop character, but few hop flavours to go with the IPA name it used. Instead it feels like a more bitter hopped Irish red. Not my thing – it feels leaden and so is not a beer I can recommend.

Background: Ok, usually disclaimer – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer and this was grabbed directly from the Brewdog online store. This is one of their new seasonal releases – they call it a red rye IPA – which is a whole mess of ideas. Basically a highly hopped amber ale made with rye to my eye. I really dislike how * IPA gets so overused these days – it seems to try and shove a wide variety of styles under one hat just due to them being well hopped. Drunk while listening to Praxis – Transmutation for some weird as hell backing music.

Beavertown: Other Half: Dead and Berried (England: Fruit Pale Ale: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy strawberry juice red. A moderate red to white bubbled head.

Nose: Oats. Flour. White bread. Mild raspberry yogurt. Light smoke.

Body: White bread. Milky. Bread pudding. Pepper. Tart raspberry. Light gooseberry. Light smoke. Blueberry. Green leaves. Slightly dry. Light strawberry.

Finish: Milk. Raspberry including the pips. Gooseberry. Flour. Brown bread. Slight peppery. Greenery and mint. Light bitterness.

Conclusion: This feels good, though I’m having a hard time pinning down what it does different to other, similar, beers that makes it so much more satisfying.

Let’s see – it is pretty to the eye – strawberry smoothie styled – but that great visual experience is pretty common to fruit beers.

So what is it then? The slight, but not excessive dryness of the body, matched with light peppery character? Two elements that contrast the tart raspberry notes and so makes it really “pop” while keeping a dry crisp ease of drinking?

Is it the tart, yet natural feeling fruit character? No artificial feeling sweet notes and matched by a bevy of other fruit notes to back it up, giving a refreshing, fruit cooler feeling, mouth refreshing Style? Could well be.

Or could it be the low level but present hop bitterness that draws a line under the whole experience? That definitely helps. Everything together makes for a dry base that uses the spice notes that come with it to make a refined and complex enough fruit beer to stand out. If it wasn’t so strong I would call it a summer refresher, but it is a few points too high abv for that – as is it is a fruit beer with a crisp hop base, that stands out from the crowd.

Background: Described as a German Style Raspberry Pale by the brewery – which certainly is a set of words I did not expect to see together, this is a collab beer made with German ale yeast, Citra hops and, well, raspberries. Don’t know much about Other Half, but Beavertown have been consistently good recently. Grabbed from Independent Spirit (That is a phrase I have not used much on the last month!) this was drunk while listening to Heavens To Betsy: Calculated. A whole bunch of the riotgrrrl music stuff feels worrying appropriate again in 2017.

Heroes Beer: Cereusly +50DB IPA (Hong Kong: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Thin white head over a clear body.

Nose: Lemon. Gooseberry. Good hop character.

Body: Juicy. Kiwi. Solid bitterness. Hop oils. Big hop character. Vanilla toffee. Gooseberry and tart grapes. Lemongrass. Frothy mouthfeel. Bready middle.

Finish: Good, heavy bitterness and hop oils. Charring. Dried black tea to gunpowder tea. Lemon sherbet.

Conclusion: This, at the end of the trip, is the first big, utterly stand out beer I have tried. I make no secret for my love for big hops in an IPA and this has that in spades.

This opens up juicy and fruity, a slight pause of kiwi before hitting with the aggressive bitterness afterwards – The green fruit of the early moments quickly falls to bitterness, charring and gunpowder tea like notes which last a long time. Late body tart gooseberry and tart grapes comes out, a refreshing release of fresh character, before it descends back into bitterness and bitter tea in the finish. It is a roller coaster ride of peaks and troughs, throwing you between sensations and only slowly letting the vanilla toffee straights of the ride show through as moments to catch your breath.

It is raw edged, yet does not feel unpolished. An assault IPA that keeps you interested to the end. It even manages as much subtlety as such a raw, assault beer can, far more than the average beer this intense, which makes for a sense awakening but not single note beer.

The Jackhammer of Hong Kong, but, if I may say so – even more intense, and more complex. Hop heads in HK, check this one out – it is the one you are looking for. I seriously hope this gets a wider distribution so more people can enjoy it. It deserves it. A proper great, intense IPA.

Background: I hunted out the Kowloon Taproom to try some more Hong Kong craft beer, and it did not disappoint – all decorated up for Halloween, with the staff in costume. It is a fairly small place and filled up fast, but the staff were great, very friendly and so enthusiastic about their beer. Had a chance to chat with some patrons and tried a fair range of beer. Some seriously good stuff. This, promising to be a big IPA, caught my eyes instantly and so was the first beer of the night.


RAN Craft Beer: IPA (China: IPA: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown. Thin off white to cream coloured bubbled head.

Nose: Creamy caramel and toffee. Light sulphur. Dried mango and kiwi. Dried apricot.

Body: Caramel. Sulphur. Creamy. Kiwi. Grapes. Kinda thin. Low bitterness and hop character. Dried apricot. Slightly muggy.

Finish: Caramel. Tart grapes. Apples. Kiwi. Sulphur. Some hop character. Slightly watery. Fudge. Cream. Dried apricot.

Conclusion: This is pretty disappointing as an IPA, to use a certain degree of understatement. There is some hop character, but it is kind of muggy with low present bitterness. So a bad start.

Part of the problem, I think, is that it doesn’t seem to know what kind of IPA it is aiming for. It has that light sulphur character that can come with a British real ale IPA – and here that feels like an off note out of its natural real ale habitat. It has the caramel sweetness of an east coast IPA but with a much thinner body so it doesn’t deliver it well, and without pushing the fruity notes as well as such an IPA tends to do. It feels too wet and lacking in hop bitterness for a west coast IPA and distinctly lacks the fruit punch and creaminess for a New England IPA.

So, instead of comparing it on and on to the other IPA variants it doesn’t match I ask – how does it do as a new take on the IPA on its own, is it any good?

Well, sub par shall we say, to be kind. Too watery, a few off notes, muggy bitterness and low clarity of fruit flavours. It has elements that could be improved to make a good beer, but pretty much everything needs pushing up a notch. More body, more hops, more flavour. As it is, it is one of the more disappointing IPAs I’ve had and one of the more disappointing beers of the China trip. Not the worst beer, I’ve had – especially considering some of the wet air pale lagers I have run into, but definitely more disappointing as this shows hints that could be made, with a lot of effort, into something decent,

A definite avoid.

Background: I genuinely can’t find shit on these guys online – I randomly wandered over their pub while walking around Yangshuo. So, erm, yeah it is a brewery I ran into and had a beer at. Went for IPA as it tends to be a good go to beer for an unknown brewery. That’s about all I can say really.

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