Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Trappistes Rochefort: Tripel Extra (Belgium: Tripel: 8.1% ABV)


Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Evident sediment in the body and a moderate sized white tight bubbled head.

Nose: Slight lemon. Bready hop bitterness. Dry. White pepper.

Body: Sherbety mouthfeel initially. Dry attenuated character later. Naan bread. Lemon sherbet. Cheese puff crisps. White pepper. Slight mature cheddar. Lemon juice.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Moderate yeastie funk. Wotsits crisps. Slight mature Cheddar. White pepper. Dry lemon. Slight sulphur.

Conclusion: Now this is definitely an interesting one. A lot of Tripels go for the sweeter route, with either evident residual sugar, or a smoother malt sweet style.

This says “Fuck that noise”

This is dry, very well attenuated, with lots of flavours that would normally be expressed in a sweeter way instead being so dryly done that they come across almost savoury here.

Yet it also defies the smooth American take on the Abbey Tripel style – it has good levels of bitterness, which is very unexpected, a savoury yeast funk that calls to the rougher edges of some of the best Belgian takes. It has all the polished brewing skilled mixed with a touch of rough gem style you would expect of a Belgian Tripel, just drier.

This slightly different take allows it to play with more unusual flavours. The dry lemon matched with an unleavened bready bitterness for a refreshing yet savoury base – then with white pepper spiciness and subtle mature cheddar notes that give the complexity and challenge. There is a lot more savoury style than you would expect.

So how good is it? Well it may not win a place as a favourite, return to often beer for me, but it 100% got my attention, and with that I enjoyed it more than most other Tripels I have had recently.

It is a challenging one, and doesn’t declare itself as a must have for me as there are just some aspects that don’t quite click – but those are more personal things than signs of its quality, I still dig it, and would still recommend it in general.

A more bitter, more attenuated, more different Tripel. Brilliantly made, just not for everyone nor one for every time.

Still worth trying.

Background: I’ve had a few of these, before doing notes today. This is the first time it poured with the very evident sediment mentioned in the notes. As a huge fan of Rochefort, hearing that they were turning out this – a rare new beer release from them, was very interesting so this was a must grab. So grab it I did, from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Went with Stay Alive by Laura Jane Grace as music while drinking. I’m a big fan of Against Me! So was interested in this solo album. In other thoughts, was nice to have an excuse to break out the Trappist beer glasses again

Equilibrium: Super Fractal Laboratory Set (USA: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy peach skin to apricot coloured body. Medium sized bubbled white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Cake sponge. Muggy hop bitterness. Pine needles. Custard slice. Mango. Apricot skin. Grapes.

Body: Mango. Pomegranate. Cake sponge. Thick. Peach. Marshmallow but dry. Custard. Honey syrup. Watermelon jolly ranchers. Resinous. Gherkin like sour touch. Hop oils

Finish: Pine needles. Muggy bitterness. Granite touch. Savoury, lettuce like touch at the end. Honey.

Conclusion: This feels heavy. Thick, kind of savoury and with a bready to cake nature. It is kind of sticky as well – the fruity feels dried but in a way that clings to the tongue.

There is sweetness, predominantly expressed as a honey, again sticky notes that hangs around for a long time at the end. However, considering the abv it comes across moderately attenuated in a way that I would not expect. Not dry, but restrained, drier than the malt load would suggest.

The bitterness is, again, moderate. Some resinous character, a good level of bitterness but slightly muggy rather than prickly, and slightly oily but not the main character. It isn’t lacking in bitterness, but it isn’t exactly the front either.

The front is instead an odd, slightly muggy, slightly dry, fruit set of unusual notes; Rocking with pomegranate and mango more than the more common choices. There are hints of sweeter release, but generally it is kind of savoury, slightly soured unusual notes with some dry sweetness.

It gets a bit sweeter over time and feels much more clinging – the flavours and hops last long, long into the finish. It is decent, but a tad too sticky kind of clingy for me. The thick body and dryness keeps every flavour around, but without those notes that pop out to make it feel more welcome and complex over time.

Still, decent – lots of flavour and identity, just not quite expressed to a style of my preference.

Background: Ohh, a new brewery to me from the USA. With the smaller USA craft brewers being pretty rare in the UK these days I was again happy to snap up something to try. There seemed to be a lot of variants of this Super Fractal beer, so being a science fan I grabbed the Laboratory Set variant and thought I would see where it would take me. Yep, a very formal selection method used. This is called Triple IPA, but I have to admit I always thought 10% fell under the high end of a double IPA. Feh, I’m listing it under IIPA anyway for ease, but I am fairly sure 10% abv is not in the triple range. The base beer – Super Fractal is described as having a simple grain bill, the can doesn’t list ingredients so I’m not exactly sure what that entails, to which this adds massive Citra hopping. Cool. Ok, let’s see how that goes. Went with Ulver: Flowers of Evil when drinking – a brighter sounding but still musically complex work from the always great Ulver. Oh I bought this at Independent Spirit.

London Beer Factory: Zia Tiramisu Imperial Stout (England: Imperial Stout: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized creamy brown head that doesn’t last long.

Nose: Cocoa. Cream. Chocolate dust. Tiramisu. Creamy coffee. Light liqueur touch and light alcohol. Chocolate cake.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. Alcohol prickle. Creamy coffee. Tiramisu. Honey. Cocoa dust. Lightly peppery.

Finish: Honey. Cream. Chocolate liqueur. Light pepper and bready notes. Milky coffee. Caramel.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a Tiramisu stout, that much is unmistakable. Yet it has honey notes. That was Flavourtown’s thing! Stop your beer gimmick infringement darn it!

Comparing the two actually makes for some interesting points though – so I think I’m going to follow that idea and see where it goes.

For all I started talking about the honey, as it was unexpected, this really has a lot of the tiramisu that it promised, so I will give it points for that.

Compared to the Imperial Porter of Flavourtown, this is thicker (as you would expect) with a creamier character, mixing cocoa, cream, coffee and, well, tiramisu. It isn’t solely dominated by the concept, but it definitely pushes it. It is generally sweeter and thicker, but doesn’t have any one flavour as strong as the honey was in Flavourtown, so despite being sweeter overall and having more alcohol, it feels more balanced.

It has a similar slight peppery contrast, but generally this rides heavier on the sweetness, so much so that it seems honeyed (despite the lack of any ingredient like that being used). However it never feels sickly.

Overall it feels like what a dessert stout should be – definitely a stout, definitely a dessert, and most importantly wears its beer characteristics on its sleeve. They are a few off notes, the alcohol is a tad present, and it could do with a touch more range, but generally it does exactly what it promises and is well worth a drink.

Background: I have a mixed relationship with Dessert Stouts. As an occasional treat I love them, something big, sweet, different and decadent. However sometimes they seem to overly dominate the beer scene, especially ones laden with many ingredients that overwhelm the base beer. Thus this one caught my eye, boldly boasting that “No tiramasus were hurt in the making of this beer”, and odd ingredients limited to oats and lactose from the look of it, so looked like a nice balance of dessert and beer, in theory at least. Anyway, first encounter with London Beer Factory here, and they have those completely pull off lids, which, despite being a good idea, always unnerve me for some reason. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, I went back to The Royal They’s self titled album for this. I should buy more of their albums.

Arbor: Tiny The Welder (England: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark yellow to caramel brown body. Two inches of caramel touched frothy head that leaves suds. Body is semi clear.

Nose: Pine needles. Light vanilla custard. Pineapple. Slightly resinous hop character and bitterness. Quite clean. Fresh cake sponge. Palma violets. Creamy peach. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Jelly babies.

Body: Big bitterness. Big hop character. Light charring and sulphur. Apricot and peach. Pineapple and grapefruit. Palma violets.

Finish: Peach syrup. Good hops. Growling low level bitterness. Pineapple. Custard. Pink grapefruit. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Ohh, this is a big one. While its name is (I am 90% sure) a reference to Pliny The Elder, I get the feeling that they aren’t trying to duplicate that beer as this is a very different beast.

Whilst dry, this doesn’t skimp on the malt load. It has slightly dry vanilla and custard that gives a sweet and yet well attenuated base that allows a real growling hop bitterness to get going over it. The hops and bitterness are high but not super brutal and the sweetness mellows the heavy hops, creating a flavoursome but not harsh character.

Beyond that it teases you with sweet apricot and peach hints, in that USA, mid 2K hops way, and then BOOM pineapple and tart but not overwhelming grapefruit. Big fresh notes over that sweet malt base – the drier base really giving the flavour room to roam. Love it.

It feels like a wonderful call back to the tart hopped big bitterness double IPAs that used to be omnipresent when I was first investigating the USA craft beer scene. Lovely malt use that is just dry enough, and just slight sweetness, aided by tart fruit notes with great hop character.

I adore this one. Now I hope it sticks around, and we see more beers like this so the style makes a comeback.

Get it.

Background: A few reasons why I grabbed this one. 1) Arbor have been pretty good as of late, showing both a respect older beer styles and a willingness to experiment. 2) The name is, I am fairly sure, a pun on Pliny The Elder, the very well reputed American beer, which amused me. 3) From that pun name I was fairly sure this would be an older school take on an American IIPA, which is exactly what I was looking for at the time. I went with Bodycount: Bloodlust as music while drinking – not really linked to the beer, just really been listening to No Lives Matter and the like a lot recently. This was another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Kees: #05 Anniversary (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Creamy coffee brown head.

Nose: Cocoa dust. Rich roasted coffee. Dry roasted peanuts. Sour cream.

Body: Creamy chocolate into bitter cocoa back. Sour cream and chives touch. Creamy coffee. Hazelnuts.

Finish: Creamy coffee cake. Bitter cocoa. Creamy coffee itself. Pecan pie. Crushed peanuts. Earthy, slightly peppery bitterness.

Conclusion: Ok, looking up at the notes I know that from them it sound like a fairly standard imperial stout fare. So, now I need to use this section to convince you that this is in no way a standard stout.

Ok, first up, best I can tell this has no extra special ingredients – no coffee beans, no cocoa, no barrel ageing, you get what I mean? This is just a beer. Fucking fantastic isn’t it that people still remember how to do that, right?

Because of the lack of odd ingredients I know that when this is so thick, creamy and smooth, that when it has not only a wonderful mouthfeel but also shows the abv with malt weight while never getting boozy of any alcohol harshness, that all of that is from the brewing and not from time in the oak to smooth it.

Similarly when it has bitter cocoa, rounded, rich coffee or when it brings pecan nutty notes – again that is all the work of malt, hops, yeast and water (ok, and oats, I’ll give you that one, and oats). Yet with the rewarding, well rounded and developed notes it brings in those categories it easily matches those “throw everything in the brew” style beers.

Yet that isn’t all that makes this beer great, there is a solid grounding beery earthiness and bitterness, which makes this very much feel like a beer and not just a collection of popular flavours. There is also a slight sour cream savoury touch which gives thickness and again gives a more recognisable beer nature against the richer notes.

Masterfully crafted, easily matches the bigger and fancier ingredient filled Imperial Stouts. I have drunk so many of these before I finally got around to doing notes on it and I have regretted none of them.

A wonder of an Imperial Stout.

Background: So, this is one of those beers I have bought many times, and keep drinking before I get around to doing notes on. As you may guess from the name it was brewed for Kees 5th anniversary. Shocking eh? Anyway an Imperial Stout, made with oats, but apart from that standard ingredients. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, over and overt again. Went with Rise Against: Appeal To Reason for music while drinking, took a while for this album to really grow on me, but definitely has now, even if Endgame is still my favourite Rise Against album.

Fierce: Magic Rock: Black DIPA (Scotland: Black IIPA: 8.3% AHBV)

Visual: Black. Massive chocolate froth brown coloured frothy head that leaves suds.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Chocolate dust. Slight charcoal. Bitter coffee granules. Mocha. Good hop bitterness.

Body: Good bitterness. Bitter cocoa. Slightly creamy mouth feel and taste. Kiwi fruit. Chocolate. Mild choc orange. Bitter hop character. Chilli seeds, with slight heat. Slight pineapple.

Finish: Chocolate dust. Bitter cocoa and chocolate cake. Bitter hops. Peppery. Earthy and turmeric.

Conclusion: This claims on the can to have pine, citrus and tropical notes from the hops. Not the set of words I would have picked I have to admit.

On examination there are fresher hop notes that could justify those descriptors, but they generally just put a general fresher, slightly easier drinking feel to a heavy, hoppy bitter BIPA.

The Black IPA side is quite balanced between the stouty and IPA styled notes – showing solid chocolate and roasted notes, but the bitterness feels IPA like bitterness, backed by the slightly bitter chocolate, but definitely the hops are the main bitterness maker here. A lot of BIPAs end up feeling like just a more roasted bitter hopped stout, but, in fairness to the can’s description, the fresh notes makes this definitely a Black IPA, not just a hoppy stout.

However I would say that more than those fresh notes this emphasises instead the peppery, earthy, chilli seed heat character to make it more grounded and warming. It is less showy than say, to pick a random example and definitely not just picking my favourite BIPA, Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. This feels more like a British IPA, made into a BIPA and with just a few American hop influences showing.

There is some sweeter chocolate character to offset, some creamier notes, which are welcome against the grounded hops. It is slightly creamy in mouthfeel as well – slightly fresh in taste over that – but at its core it is bitter hops, bitter chocolate and an earthy, peppery touch.

Very solid, very well brewed. Could do with more of the lighter notes it claims, but still a solid grounded BIPA. I wish there were more BIPAs, but I am happy enough with this one.

Background: Black IPAs! I freaking love Black IPAs for all I complain about the nonsensical naming convention. They seem comparatively rare at the moment, so I grab a new one whenever I can. Haven’t seen Stone Brewing’s Sublimely Self Righteous ale this side of the pond for ages. Beer shops, importers, whoever, pretty please get it back in again. Anyway, yeah I grabbed this mainly because it is a Black IPA, helps that this is a collaboration with Magic Rock who are decent. Anyway, went with the Algorithm: Brute Force for music to back this – techo, electronic, mathcore, whatever the heck they are tunes to again help burn off some energy in covid lockdown.

Tilquin: Gueuzerable Tilquin (Belgium: Gueuze: 10% ABV)

Visual: Light caramel to toffee body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation in a clear, if slightly hazy body. Large caramel to off white head.

Nose: Clean. White wine. Subtle milky coffee. Subtle dry fudge. Funky yeast character. Honeycomb.

Body: Tart green grapes. Very dry. Subtle maple syrup. Dry white wine. Tannins. Oak. Subtle toffee.

Finish: Maple syrup. Dried apricot. Dry white wine. Wet oak. Tannins. Yeast funk.

Conclusion: Ok, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a lambic made with maple syrup. Would there be much maple syrup character left after the sugars had been converted? Would it just be a high abv lambic? Well now I have drunk it I am still not 100% sure what I got. Also I am still in coronavirus UK lock-down. Still, I have booze so I am ok for now.

I mean, at the base it is a dry lambic. Very dry, which I found surprising considering the considerably beefed up abv that I was expecting to bring a bigger body.

There are lots of white wine notes here, dry and backed by a touch of tannins and funk. Not mouth puckeringly dry like a Cantillon, but very distinctly dry.

And yet…

There is also more sweetness to this than the average lambic – possibly residual non fermented sugar? Possible maple syrup? Both? Magic? I dunno. It is a kind of dry toffee and fudge character, with some maple syrup notes in there as well, but still all deathly dry.

So, is it any good? Generally, yes. There are some hints of the alcohol, but not much – which is a mixed blessing. It makes it dangerous to drink, especially with the dry character – but it means that an alcohol air is the only rougher element marking the flavour.

The sweetness is subtle, dry, but makes for a a very different take to what would otherwise by a very dry white wine lambic. It adds a little something that makes it stand out.

Not a must have, and very heavy abv for the flavours it brings, but very interesting and satisfying as a lambic.

Background: Soooo, a lambic made with Maple Syrup. What the actual fuck? Yes of course I bought it. I had to see how it worked. It is made with a mix of 1,2 and 3 year old lambic, and oh, yeah is fermented with maple syrup for the sugars! Anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit and was fascinated to see what change this could make to a lambic. Went back to Miracle Of Sound: Level 10 for music for this. Such a good mix of music styles in video game inspired music. Check it out.

Electric Bear: User Guy’d (England IIPA: 9.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to lemon juice. Thin white head and lots of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Thick. Pine needles. Oily. Brown bread. Muggy thickness. Floral. Vanilla. Black pepper.

Body: Malt drinks and milky choc toffee. Prickly bitterness. Resin. Dried apricot. Harsh bitterness. Gunpowder tea. Soft grapefruit. Sulphur. Banana. Harsh at the back of the throat. Peach.

Finish: Peppery. Brown bread. Solid bitterness. Sticky feel. Bitter chocolate. Prickly hop character. Sulphur.

Conclusion: I’m having a hard time getting a handle on this one. It is interesting and wide ranging in its influences so I am trying to work out how to best describe it.

It seemed fairly standard in the aroma -thick, murky hop led thing with a few sweet vanilla notes backing. Very hop led, very aromatic, very floral.

So, yeah the body is different to that – remarkably sweet and malt heavy. I didn’t see that coming I have to admit. It is very east coast IPA based, yet somehow still quite dry which always feel more west coast to me, especially with a thick, resinous, pine needles and sulphur hop character.

No New England IPA influence in there though. Fuck NEIPAS. (I kid, I kid, mostly)

It’s also oily, and can be a tad overly harsh at time with a touch of hop burn noticeable amongst gunpowder tea and peppery notes, along with that aforementioned sulphurous character. However it also manages a fresh grapefruit like note under, and even some sweeter fruit notes as it becomes more manageable and gentle over time.

It is a tad rough edged, with that hop burn I mentioned, but that aside I like what it is pushing. The mix of floral and pine cone notes along with heavy hops and a hint of fresh release over a big malt base that manages to be dry yet sweet is a good mix. It does need some polish to get rid of the harsh edges, as it is a tad too rough edged to recommend as it is right now, but it is definitely on the right track and with some work this could be great.

Background: Not had that many Electric Bear beers. Which is odd, their tap room isn’t that far away. I really should hit it again. Anyway, this is a beer by one of their brewers – Guy – hence the pun name – a DIPA made with Amarillo, Citra and Azacca hops. Citra and Amarillo are old friends, but I don’t know much about Azacca so this should be interesting. An unusual malt bill as well with Extra Pale, Dextrin, Torrified Wheat and Oat Malt. So, yeah, went with odd music as well – found Bad Religion – Into The Unknown on youtube and put that on. Normally I try to avoid pirated music, but this album was never released again as it bombed so hard – going a kind of electro-prog-punk route that led to Bad Religion calling their next, pure punk, album Back To The Known to show they had moved away from that style. So there is genuinely no way I can pay to listen to it. Oddly, Into The Unknown is actually pretty good , I can see why people expecting hardcore punk hated it, but it is genuinely intriguing. The beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit BTW.

Cloudwater: Kees: You’ve Been Spotted (England: Imperial Stout: 9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. A dash of grey/brown head.

Nose: Cinnamon apple. Liquorice. Very strong cinnamon in general. Nutmeg. Toffee.

Body: Cinnamon. Apple. Nutmeg. Liquorice. Sour dough. Sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Caramel. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Apple. Liquorice. Sour dough. Riesin chocolate chews. Sticky toffee. Pudding.

Conclusion: This is very, very, very, very, very cinnamon filled. Very. So, yeah be warned that this isn’t apple pie with a touch of cinnamon. This is a cinnamon beer with a touch of apple.

It is a thick, kind of dark, sticky toffee pudding heavy take on a stout for a base -lashed with the aforementioned cinnamon. That isn’t the only spice though, there is also a very present nutmeg character. Probably others but it came across as cinnamon and nutmeg to me.

So, what we have is something thick, heavy and very spicy and … could probably do with a lot more apple. There is a light, fresh apple touch, and that freshness is very much needed to give a release from the stickiness and spice. However the apple is a very light element, a mere lick of apple sweetness. A heavier hand with the apple would really sell the apple pie concept and also stop this being such a pure spice bomb.

As it is, it is a beer that really needs sharing – early on I very much enjoyed it (and the 1/3 I had on tap at Cloudwater’s tap room was way above and beyond this – far more balanced and much easier to recommend) but as it goes on it gets one note with the spice very fast, or possibly two note as the sticky toffee thickness grips it all on your tongue. The flavour that seems a welcome burst on first sip ends up sticking around and gets very old by the end.

It needs more apple, more range, or preferably both for it to work well. Split two, or even three, ways you can have fun with this. Unless you are really into the spice then had alone it is too much. Even split between people it is a bit of fun rather than a must have.

A fun few moments, but gets old fast.

Background: I tried this at Cloudwater’s tap-house in Manchester when I was up there to watch Progress Wrestling. It was very tidy. So decided to grab a can from Independent Spirit to do notes on. Cloudwater are generally very good, if not quite up to their huge rep – though the beers at their tap room always taste just that touch better. Kees, who this is a collaboration with are also pretty awesome. Anyway this is an imperial stout made with apple, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla. They are aiming to replicate an Apple Pie as they made it on July 4th, Independence day – which as we all know is hugely celebrated in England and the Netherlands. For people who are unsure, that was sarcasm. Anyway, went with IDLES – Brutalism as backing music for this. Still bloody love IDLES.

Frau Gruber: Hybrid Moments (Germany: IIPA: 8.3% ABV)

Visual: Mango milkshake colour and thick, cloudy character to the body. A yellow-white creamy head.

Nose: Bitty hop character. Light resin and oily hop character. Moderate bitterness. Mango. Slight toffee. Fresh white bread.

Body: Creamy. Peach. Banana custard. Slightly oily. Sweet, light strawberry. Prickly tingle. Mild golden syrup. Some pineapple.

Finish: Light resinous character and bitterness. Banana. Hop oils. Light charring. Golden syrup. Prickly hops. Sweet pineapple. Some tart grapefruit.

Conclusion: Goddammit! Cans should be legally required to say if they are a New England IPA on the packaging, on pain of loss of kneecaps and life for failing to do so. I was very deliberately trying to avoid the NEIPA style when I picked this one from the line up.

Sigh.

Thankfully this has some bitterness to it, but more importantly a moderate use of resinous hop character that gives a nicely IPA feel to the beer. I can live with that. I just would have preferred to have been prewarned what I was buying. Sooo, NEIPA ranting aside….

This is thick and fairly sweet and creamy. Lots of those sweeter notes are expressed as sweet fruit – with peach, banana and the sweetest beer expression of pineapple I have seen for a very long time. However what starts as a low bitterness matched to good hop oiliness and resin character early on gets more and more bitter as time progresses until it is a solid kick backing that sweetness. I approve.

It’s still that creamy thick thing that was not the beer style I was looking for, so take that into account, but it is a decent beer, even with that said.

So, uses the creamy style, but manages a surprising level of hop bitterness by the end. From a discrete hop touch in the sweet fruit dominated front, it feels like very good progress into a mouth filled with bitter, resinous hops by the end.

It is a sweet milkshake IPA that punishes you with resinous hop pain as a reward. Not quite what I was looking for but enjoyable all the same.

Background: There were three Frau Gruber Double/Imperial IPAs on the shelves at Independent Spirit. So I looked at them and decided that this, with its BRU-1, Galaxy, Motueka and Mosaic BBC hops was most likely to be to my tastes. Also, I thought it was unlike to be a NEIPA. I was wrong on that last point. Can image was decent stylised image and eye catching, and Germany has a good brewing heritage so I had high hopes. Also, Gruber, Ya know, Like Die Hard. I as always, am a simple person. Anyway, had just been to see IDLES recently, and discovered a new great artist called Billy Nomates, so was listening to her music during the drinking session.

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