Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Odyssey: Fiendish Breakfast (England: Imperial Stout: 9.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large, solid, creamy brown head.

Nose: Salted bacon. Dry malt chocolate. Peanuts. Light smoke. Cocoa dust. Kippers.

Body: Thick textured, with creamy milky chocolate. Slight bitter cocoa and hop prickle. Light tart black cherries. Salted. Bitter coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy coffee. Very bitter cocoa kick. Smoke. Mildly salty. Brown bread and slight sour cream. Slight chives. Dry roasted peanuts. Some dry treacle notes.

Conclusion: This feels heavy – a very thick, creamy body packed with deep bitter notes- most emphasised in the usual imperial stout notes of coffee and cocoa being delivered in a more bitter fashion than normal. Then a salted character shows through, backed by whispers of smoke that give slight Islay whisky styling.

What I find interesting from this is that some of the special ingredients really show through, while other seem but subtle hints. We have already seen the salt doing its thing, and the smoked malt having a subtle influence – The treacle thought? Not really there that much – a few dry notes coating the tongue in the finish, and I’m guessing it contributes to the sweeter notes of the main body, but not immediately evident as itself. The more evident sweetness is instead given when you get sweeter takes on the coffee and chocolate that acts as release from the more bitter cocoa and coffee that dominates it.

As mentioned the salted aspect does not hide itself, but what I found odd is how the smoked character that is so closely linked doesn’t have the huge bacon stylings that the beer’s name suggests – the aroma does show bacon, but the body and finish is more an inhaled ash kind of light dusting over the beer.

There are light off sets to the heavier notes – hints of tart berries, and yes, that treacle in finish – but generally this is big and grounded in bitter and savoury notes making a weighty imperial stout that goes against the showy sweet trend of the moment.

It is a slow drinking thing, definitely enjoyable, doesn’t wow me like Odyssey’s hop master-works do, but I can’t doubt its quality. It feels like a beer to drink, and the just slip down through the floor with. It just drags you down with its weight. Not one I will rave about, but it is a beer that fills its every moment with heavy set character. Intriguing, if not must have.

Background: I’m more familiar with Odyssey for their hop forwards beers, which are bloody amazing, but this Imperial Stout made with oats, salt, smoked malt, roasted coffee beans and treacle did catch my eye, and money from my wallet. Grabbed from … yes, Independent Spirit again … they have tons of good beer, leave me alone. Went a bit unusual with music for this one – put my player to list tunes by least played and check out some tracks I hadn’t listen to for a while.

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Panda Brew: Mocking Imperial Stout (China: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Slightly fizzy. Loose bubbled large brown head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Dry coffee. Roasted nuts. Liquorice – predominantly dry black liquorice bits.

Body: Viscous. Dry black liquorice. Vanilla. Roasted nuts. Bitter chocolate. Caramel as it warms.

Finish: Black liquorice. Bitter roasted nuts. Sour dough and cloying sour cream. Gains bitter hop character over time. Bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve had a few liquorice infused imperial porters, and I’ve run into some Imperial Stouts with a level of liquorice influence – but this is the first IS I’ve had with this much liquorice kick.

It is a very dry delivered beer, full of roasted nut character, and yes, the dry liquorice mentioned – it doesn’t give an inch to to the usual more sweet stylings of the imperial stout style. Instead this goes for a surprisingly heavy bitterness route – pushing out bitter, roasted hop character that builds to quite the intense and long lasting finish.

Warmth gives some, minor, concessions to the expected sweet style. You get mild caramel and vanilla, and a real bitter, but recognisable cocoa, chocolate backing. It is still a harsh flavoured beer, but is closer to expectations in style. Just. It is cloying, bitter, roasted and liquorice led. Technically I should hate it. I do like liquorice, in moderation, but not massively so in beer, and not to the levels used here.

However, with all that said, it is well made. Viscous, weighty with heavy mouthfeel that gives good grip to the flavour but doesn’t make the bitterness too clingy. Not world class, but another well made beer found on this trip. It you want more liquorice in a well made stout – well, here it is. It is well made, and well textured, but pushes flavours in a way that isn’t really aimed at me. So, good, but not one for me. Your mileage may vary.

Background: This was a bit of an accidental find – I was looking for the Beer Nest in Chengdu when I found that they had another Panda Brew brewpub here. Since Panda Brew had been pretty good quality, and a good guide when I had got lost before I decided to drop in and try one of their beers. This “ Mocking Imperial Stout” Looked like one of their special releases with the fancy bottle, and since I hadn’t done an imperial stout yet this trip I decided to give it a go. Anyway, this was a simple pull off cap to open, and was drunk from an absolutely tiny glass that came with it. The bottle lists this as a pretty high for a stout 66 IBU.

Wild Beer Co: Jambo! (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black with an impressively large and solid coffee froth coloured head.

Nose: Raspberry and cherries. Wheat. Cocoa dust. Fresh tart notes. Orange peel. Light cloves. Strawberry crème chocolate – Belgian chocolate style.

Body: Frothy. Tart black cherry and raspberry. Tart grapes. Bitter black chocolate and smooth Belgian chocolate mix. Bready backing. Rhubarb. Gooseberries. Milk.

Finish: Raspberry coolers. Milky and bitter chocolate mix. Gooseberry. Brown bread. Malt chocolate. Rhubarb. Black cherry.

Conclusion: You know, Imperial Stouts are big, big beers, that will not be news to most of you. It is a rare thing however for their flavours to get shoved to the back of a beer. Prepare your shocked faces. Here, it has been. The base, the chocolate you expect from an IS is there, and the bitter chocolate specially show top and tail. The heart of the beer though? The heart belongs to the tart fruit.

There is definite tart raspberry, delivered in raspberry cooler style – fresh and mouth refreshing, but that is far from the full story. There is distinct cherries – initially red and then into black cherry – there are even rhubarb hints. This beer uses the chocolate stout base as weight to allow it to go hog wild with the tart fruit.

The tartness leverages a contrasting milky character in the finish to balance the fresh air -a satisfying, if odd, mix. This isn’t a beer accentuated by fruit, this is a beer about the fruit – using the beer as a delivery method.

So, is it good? Yeah, pretty good. Not many beers like this are around, and less so ones this dedicated to the concept. Like many unusual beers, it is not super polished, so I would judge iy by how much you like the idea. Do you want a tart fruit led stout? One that can pushes tart grapes and gooseberry notes at the edges of a red fruit beer? Then this is for you. Otherwise, if you want a more standard Imperial Stout then this is not for you.

It’s that simple.

Background: While I used to rave about Wild Beer Co, these days I’m more split – they still turn out some excellent beers, but their experiments have been a bit hit or miss lately. Still, there are many brewers going with the standard styles – doesn’t hurt to have a few experimenters in there as well. This one is one of their more standard sounding beers – an Imperial Stout made with raspberries and cocoa nibs. Jambo is apparently a Swahili greeting. It has a very different meaning in some parts of Scotland. I won’t go into that here. Anyway, went for some Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to listen to – the heavier darker notes of it make it still my favourite of their works.

Boundary: Zapato: You’re Not Getting Any (Ireland: Imperial Stout: 9.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Blueberry. Grated chocolate. Milky chocolate. Slight sulphur eggs and brown bread.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. Blueberry. Toffee. Chewy mouthfeel. Bitter chocolate.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Blueberry pie with sugar dusting. Light dust. Bitter cocoa and bitter coffee. Nutty. Muesli.

Conclusion: I’m a lot further through this bottle than I thought I would be before I started with this conclusion. Thus, at 750ml and a hearty 10% abv I expect that my writing is likely to be nearer to the incoherent level that normal. Enjoy! I’ll try and tidy up on upload.

Part of that is that this is easy drinking for the abv – it has none of that “Boozy” character that normally comes with it. It does have a chewy mouthfeel , but not a heavy one – robust but nowhere near the thickness that a lot of stouts bring – let alone oatmeal ones, especially in this abv range.

Another reason that I am further through the bottle than I expected is that I am taking my time to see if a bit more is going to come out. The beer comes in with the base chocolate and coffee you expect of a stout, and the base blueberry you would expect considering that it used used with the beer. This all comes in smoothly delivered, but even giving time and warmth little else comes out. It is hard to complain that it is doing the job that it set itself, but I kind of expect beers, especially big beers like this, to have a bit more than that these days.

It is … ok.. I mean it feels like quality brewing in that it is very smooth for the abv, keeping good mouthfeel and the blueberry use is very well done to allow it to come through without dominating the beer. The whole abv to weight ratio shows a good understanding of texture and how to get the most out of a high abv beer in feel – it just has very little flavour range to go with that.

Enjoyable, does the job, but nothing spectacular for the style – especially for such a strong beer. It you want a stout with blueberry – this is a stout with blueberry and does it well – it just doesn’t stand out.

Background: Ratebeer lists this at 8.6% ABV, and since there is a label on the bottle giving the new abv and covering the old I’m guessing previous batches were at the lower abv. They also list it as a sweet stout, which I couldn’t justify at the abv, so I’m listing it as imperial stout. Anyway a collaboration imperial milk stout made with oats and blueberry. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the madcap metal that is Evil Scarecrow.

Omnipollo: Buxton: Texas Pecan Ice Cream (Sweden: Imperial Porter: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Froths up a head that vanishes nigh instantly.

Nose: Pecan. Cashew. Coffee cake. Cocoa dust. Light charcoal ash. Caramel. Creamy.

Body: Blackcurrant and liquorice. Slight sherbety feel. Chocolate liqueur. Slightly bready. Crushed pecan. Lactose feeling, yet slightly light mouthfeel. Light chalky feel. Caramel.

Finish: Chocolate bourbon biscuits. Crushed peanuts. Blackcurrant liquorice sweets. Milky. Leaves sheen on tongue. Dry fudge. Pecan pie.

Conclusion: I’m fairly sure Texas Pecan Ice Cream isn’t made with blackcurrant and liquorice. I mean, I could be wrong – ya know, not being from Texas and all that, but I’m still fairly sure.

You may be wondering why I am saying that, it is an odd way to open up the notes. Well, I say it as, while the nuts definitely dominate the aroma – on taking the first sip this came in big with those old blackcurrant and liquorice sweet character. Nice, but completely unexpected given the beer’s concept.

The nuttiness instead rises in the body as the beer warms – so don’t worry about that. There is a similar progression in the texture – while it does have a lactose, creamy mouthfeel, early on it feels deceptively light. I do wonder if this difference in texture is part of what makes an Imperial porter stand out from an imperial stout – they are such close linked styles. The weight does grow over time, but even late on it doesn’t have the fullness you would expect of a lactose infused, 10% abv beer. Even feels slightly sherbety against some chalk feel, and still slightly light. Unusual.

So – it is different to what I expected from the description – early on it is very enjoyable in the blackcurrant and liquorice it brings, and that always plays as a backing to the main beer. The nuttiness becomes quite present over time mixing with creamy caramel and fudge sweetness – it isn’t quite pecan ice cream to my mind, probably would need just a bit more body to sell that imagery – it isn’t bad at all, but it really feels like a bit more work, a bit more body and this could be a huge beer and much better.

Pretty good, a mix of the core concept with a radically different imperial porter base, but not 100% on point.

Background: I very much enjoyed the Ominpollo and Buxton collaboration Ice Cream themed beers when I first ran into them about a year ago. Seeing that Independent Spirit had one of the ones I had missed back in stock, I decided to grab it and give it a try. Made with vanilla and lactose sugar, along with wheat and oats in the malt bill – though not, it seems, any actual pecans. I could be wrong on that so don’t quote me on that one. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm – Brute Force. Missed seeing them live last year despite having tickets, which was a pity, but great electronic, mathcore style fun to listen to when drinking.

Brewdog: Prototype: Double IPA (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Small bubbled carbonation. Medium off white head.

Nose: Fresh, slightly resinous hops. Grapes and grapefruit. Slight hop bitterness. Fresh, but slightly dry. Mandarin orange. Bready.

Body: Kiwi. Toffee and caramel. Clean mouthfeel. Grapes. Juicy. Clean hop oils. Slight bitterness. Mandarin orange.

Finish: Good bitterness and hops. Grapes. Pink grapefruit. Vanilla. Light peach. Hop oil. Mandarin orange. Passion-fruit.

Conclusion: This feels like a double IPA that ties to take elements from all ends of the IPA interpretation range and mash them together into a flavoursome, well balanced beer.

For example – the malt – pretty cleanly delivered and well attenuated to let the hop character show through clearly, yet still has a touch of that sweeter caramel style rather than the more neutral vanilla or toffee sweetness that usually comes in with the drier attenuation.

Another example – the hops – seems fairly fresh in a NZ style early on – tart grapefruit, grapes and such – but if you hold it then old school American peach hop notes come out matched with orange notes that seem to come from the new hotness of the hop range. It isn’t pushing one message, but giving high notes from each hop style’s strengths,

It is very well crafted and shows the advantage in working upon a well known style, rather than the raw enthusiasm of adding in cool new twists as the other two IPA prototypes do – the experience in brewing means that this is very layered, balanced and high quality. It delivers an attenuated, but not stupidly dry beer for easy drinking and big flavour and hops.

It fills the gap left by Hardcore IPA leaving their line up much better than Born To Die does and is a great well crafted beer – general enough to be a beer you can have nigh any time you are happy with the abv, and good enough that you will look forwards to doing so. This had my vote.

Background: Second of the Brewdog prototypes for this year, of which there are now four again as they finally got around to releasing the blond ale. Still debating on if I should pick one of them up. Anyway this is their double IPA, with 80 IBUs according the bottle – a decent kick – the most normal of the initial three IPA styles released. Everyone gets to vote on which one they want to become part of the main line-up. Disclaimer – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed direct from their Brewdog store. This was drunk while listening to some Akala – still continually blown away by that guy’s lyrical skill.

Oude Geuze Boon: A L’ancienne Vat 109 Mono Blend (Belgium: Geuze Lambic: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Apricot skin coloured body. Large solid white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh brown bread. Oats. Dry. Horse blankets.

Body: Sherbet lemon. Tart lime. Frothy mouthfeel. Brown bread. Dry sultanas and dry sherry. Oats. White wine. Marmalade.

Finish: Dry sherry. Raisins. Madeira. Slight liquorice. Marzipan. Tannins. Plums. Slight marmalade.

Conclusion: This is a strange one, in that it has a fairly condensed set of tasting notes, as you can see above, yet feels complex as hell. A lot of that comes down to mouthfeel, which I find hard to describe in as florid detail as taste seems to lend itself to. Still, I’ll give it a shot.

This is dry, like, white wine dry – yet it froths up in a sherbety fashion up front which gives a completely different first impression before it sinks into that dry main body. After that it finally leads out into a similarly dry, but red wine and tannins touched dark fruit and sherry finish. A lot of the variation is expressed in terms of feel – the tannins especially are as much feel as taste and the varied acidic, dry, sweet and fresh areas give layers to the comparatively simple flavours in a way that I still feel I have not quite explained.

So, onto the main flavours themselves – generally very dry sherry like, mixing dark fruits with vinous notes – yet, again, the first elements up front are fresh lemon and lime notes that are not seen later on. Generally though this takes the lambic base and turns it bone dry, dark and rewarding. There are slight marmalade notes late on as the flavours build up – I presume this is the cognac ageing coming to the fore, rather than expressing in the wine like notes – it really is a slow build and does not overwhelm the base lambic at all. While it may not have a huge range of notes, the way it delivers them slowly over time makes it very rewarding – everything becomes bigger and heavier over time changing in intensity if not in nature.

A lot of the best points come late on in the drink, especially the marmalade notes – this is actually a fairly good thing – they are intense notes that would have become sickly if brought on earlier.

Overall this is a brilliant lambic that is far more than it seems on paper. Well worth it.

Background: This was one of the lambics got in during Independent Spirit‘s very impressive batch of sours. There are still tons I want to get. Anyway I finally settled on this one as a) Boon have been very impressive in my experience and b) it is unusually aged in ex cognac casks. From a quick google it seems that it is 4th fill casks due to the cognac being too dominant in earlier fills which is interesting to know. Anyway, put on some White Zombie for drinking this – no reason, just felt like some retro horror themed metal. Who needs a reason for that?

Lost and Grounded: Apophenia (England: Abbey Tripel: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to apricot. Thin white to off white head. Fast small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Buttery shortbread. Cane sugar. Light fluffy hop character. Toffee popcorn. Crushed orange hard sweets. Light crumbled brown bread.

Body: Sweet orange hard sweets. Palma violets. Custard. Crisp hops and moderate bitterness. Slight grape and kiwi. Slight sour green fruit tang and gherkin.

Finish: Orange hard sweets. Cane sugar. Moderate custard hops bitterness. Kiwi fruit. Slight gherkin. Buttery shortbread.

Conclusion: Ok, this works for me far more than the more highly reputed collaboration with Verdant and Cloudwater Belgian ale that they did. I think it is because this wears its Belgian roots far more openly.

While this is a tad smoother than your average Belgian tripel, it still has that raw cane sugar sweet edges and a great deal of sweet fruit esters. It differs in that it has a more defined hop character – the custard sweetness and light bitter hops mix in a way that actually calls to mind the excellent Saison Dupont, without losing the base tripel style. The hop use brings in more green fruit, but unlike most beers these days, it isn’t dominated by the hops so to hurt the benefits of the base style. Instead it just adds rounding notes that mix with the sweetness to give a real old fashioned sweet shop set of imagery.

Another twist is the buttery shortbread style it has, making for a thicker backing feel, yet also a subtle smoothness to the raw edges. Everything feels like it is respecting the style, but also expanding so not to be beholden to it.

Finally it adds a slightly more sour note – kind of in slight sour grapes to mild gherkin in expression, which brings a gentle twist to the middle and finish – its something that really offsets the sweetness, and is responsible for it never seeming sickly despite the cane sugar style. Since Tripels can be very high level sweetness this slight reining it gives it a lot of room to add more layers to it.

I’m genuinely impressed by this – new craft style hops being gently and not excessively used; A saison dupont influenced take on a tripel, and a bit more to boot. Just different enough, just respectful enough – a corker from Lost and Grounded.

Background: For some reason I always get the words Apophenia and Acedia mixed up – Well, I say for some reason – it’s because I first heard both those words because they were the names of History Of Gun’s albums. Which I used great self control and did not listed to while drinking these as a very obscure in joke to myself. Because I have self control. Instead I put on a bunch of different takes on the Mirrors Edge theme song – because I am still a massive geek. Anyway, grabbed this at Independent Spirit – they brought it to my attention as an example of L&G playing with Belgian yeast so thought I would give it a go.

Lervig: Oud Beersel: Black Acid (Norway: Sour Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small brown head.

Nose: Acidic apple mixed with thick molasses. Madeira. Rum soaked raisins. Dry sherry. Fruitcake. Sultanas.

Body: Tart yet thick. Bready. Sultanas. Chocolate sauce. Pear drops. Dry sherry. Tart black-cherry.

Finish: Charring. Tart pears. Malt chocolate and grated chocolate. Dry sherry. Raisins and sultanas. Madeira. Slight chocolate liqueur. Marzipan.

Conclusion: Whoever first thought of mixing sour beers and stouts – I salute you. Each time I encounter this unusual mix I am reminded that this is the beer style I never knew I needed, yet now I have it, it is brilliant.

For all its large base elements used to make it, this is a very balanced beer between the styles. From approach to aroma you get huge apple, tart and fresh and yet backed with chocolate thickness. It continues that way as you start drinking – fresh, touched with tart apples and pears up front then the sour character just seeps into heavy chocolate liqueur and dark fruits.

In some way it feels like the barrel ageing is what makes it perfect – a bridge built between the two, marrying the styles brilliantly. If you will excuse my mixed metaphors.

It brings dry sherry, dry fruitcake and spirit soaked raisin notes that are familiar to the stout style, but also vinous enough to not seem out of place in a sour beer; It works as matchmaker mid body then as the finish comes in it plays its own game – leading out for a long time with dry sherry like complexities.

Together it takes brilliant elements from each of the three influences and makes it a rich, yet tart and vinous beer with the stout weight giving it a lovely heft.

A brilliant complex mix – definitely worth getting. Go. Get it!

Background: Now this one jumped out at me at Independent Spirit – It is a mix of Oude Lambiek from Oud Beerel, with a Lervig brewed stout. I love the whole sour stout thing that pops up every now and then, and this one has been aged in the Cognac barrels that the Lambic was blended in, and then in Akevitt barrels. I had to google what Akevitt is. Anyway, put on some good old 90s tunes – Garbage 2.0. I slightly prefer the more raw feel of original Garbage album, but both of them are awesome.

Verdant: Cloudwater: Lost and Grounded – Loral and Ardi (England: Abbey Tripel: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy tropical fruit juice looking with a large, loose, bubbled, white head.

Nose: Peppery. Light hop character. Apricot. Slight smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Apricot. Banana. Light custard. Smoke. Bready bitterness. Yeastie. Puff crisp thickness. Peppery.

Finish: Smoked meat. Some bitterness. Crushed Blackpool rock. Pepper. Slight floral air. Palma violets. Mature cheese and cheese puffs. Dried apricot. Peach.

Conclusion: A very grounded beer for a Tripel this one. Well by the end it is. At the start it seemed like it was going to be another fruity hop explosion beer. Not a bad thing in general, but very overused at the moment and can make a lot of beer styles seem very similar, losing the wonderful range of the beer world. So, glad that it turns out to be something different going on here.

What gave me that impression, that it would be a IPA style hop fest is 1) That the cloudy colour really makes it look like the NEIPA style that is all the rage right now and 2) The fresh burst of apricot hops early on. Thankfully there is a lot more ot this beer than first impressions would suggest.

The peppery, Belgian character is there backed by that cheese puff crisps and mature cheese notes that I associate with the Belgian yeast. It gives a lot of weight to what initially seemed to be a simple beer.

Does it work? Well you get juicy hop fruitiness and some hop bitterness matched with the aforementioned Belgian characteristics laid across a custard sweet malt base. It is nice, but I have to admit, feels less than the sum of its parts. The hops and the yeastie notes kind of work, but also seem to create a slightly muggy centre below that. Not terrible, just the dried fruit and peppery character matched with the yeastie notes combine to make things a bit overly clinging in the middle, just slightly wearing.

So lots of good parts, not bad overall, but doesn’t quite mesh everything together to create something better than the individual elements.

Background: Took a while for me to find the name of this – it is tucked away on the side of the can. An odd promotional choice, maybe they were just really ashamed of the pun? Another beer where I was unsure on beer style to use – it pushes itself as a Tripel, which makes sense with the abv so that is the style I listed – however it is closer to a standard blond Belgian ale in a lot of ways, just heavier hopped. Anyway – this is made with Ardennes yeast and dry hopped with Lorcal, Simcoe and Centennial. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to a bit more of the varied sound that comes from Miracle Of Sound.

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