Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Het Uiltje Flaming Ass Owl

Het Uiltje: Flaming Ass Owl (Netherlands: Imperial Porter: 9.7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Half inch of milky chocolate froth.

Nose: Dried chilli. Milky chocolate. Roasted nuts. Spiced orange skin. Smoked bacon. Vanilla.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Initially little warmth, but it grows if held on tongue. Blood orange. Grassy touch. Smoked chipotle. Slight fruit sugars and bubble gum.

Finish: Green peppers and chilli seeds. Light charring and wood smoke. Dried beef.

Conclusion: Ok, it’s called “flaming ass owl”. I may give it a point just for that. I am easily amused. Of course, I am kind of hoping I wont regret this come the ‘morrow. With a name like that it does have a negative on the boding well score.

Anyway, even without the introduction of the chilli this seems to be a slightly odd one – with the milky chocolate character, that is not so abnormal for a porter, infused with notes of blood orange and bubblegum. Also, considering the strength, the body feels just marginally slight. While I think that hurts the feel a tad, possibly it is that which I can thank for the fact that it takes a moment for the chilli to come through and when it does it is warming rather than lava like.

The lower thickness also means that it is a beer that can build up over time, and along with the beers progression to reveal more grassy notes and fruit sugars the heat gains a chipotle smoke character and light meatiness which is welcome.

I am both relived and slightly disappointed that this seems not to live up to its, erm, vivid bottle imagery. They seem to have balanced this on the pleasant end of the heat scale. Despite the slightly thin texture this has come to impress me more than I had expected. I have to admit due to the name and the weaker start I was expecting a badly delivered gimmick beer. There may be a tale about the chilli beer that scarred me for life hidden in my past. It may have been vile.

This however is warm, meaty, chocolate packed and yet fruity. I think it is that fruit that helps it, it sooths the heat and adds a bright note to an otherwise dark beer. It is like that slice of fruit garnish on a meat dish. A good beer, best experienced at room temperature. Not flaming great, but not arse tearingly terrible. An interesting and fun beer with a bit of heat.

Background: It is called Flaming Ass Owl. I am childish. How could I not end up buying it? Anyway I picked up this Imperial Porter made with Trinidad Scorpion peppers from Independent Spirit. I am actually a bit of a wuss when it comes to chilli beers, so this may have been a mistake…

Brewdog Born To Die 04072015

Brewdog: Born To Die: 04/07/2015 (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Half inch of whitened head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Dry hop bitterness. Dried pineapple. Slightly musty. Maize. Crushed skittles. Floral.

Body: Apricot. Passion fruit. Very smooth. Light cream into moderately dry mouthfeel. Smooth hop oils. Kiwis. Malt biscuits and toffee. Watermelon. Light raspberry cream and sugared shredded wheat. Peach. Light golden syrup.

Finish: Light cane sugar. Bitter hops. Vanilla custard. Toffee. Watermelon.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected. After the brash, bitter foot forwards “Enjoy By IPA” from Stone, and after Brewdog themselves turned out “Restorative Beverage For Invalids and Convalescents” I was kind of expecting something similar here. Nope. 馬鹿.

This is the smooth end of the uber fresh hope scale with a creamy touch, lots of toffee sweetness and real smooth hop oils over a refreshingly dry base. This goes with a present but comparatively restrained hop bitterness, and instead pushes up massively the thick textured fruitiness with lots of heavy green and orange fruit.

While there is the aforementioned creaminess and thickness, the dryness is what actually ends up taking over the mouthfeel. It makes it very drinkable indeed for the abv, and despite the strength actually sets itself up for the session comparatively well.

A very slow, very careful session.

So, let me explain that. The initial first impression was actually slightly disappointing. The aroma doesn’t seem all that and the initial flavour was ok but not fantastic. The flavours are very slow build, and each layer either adds on, or parts to reveal something else. From the IPA staples of apricot and passion fruit to the more unusual watermelon fresh notes to raspberry cream tartness – it definitely plays the progression game well.

As an intense hop IPA I have to give the crown to “Enjoy By IPA” but this definitely has its own character – more complex and slow burn with a fantastic range. A very good beer in its own right and not just a clone of the beer of its inspiration. I prefer “Restorative Beverage for Invalids…” as a similar beer, which does influence my view of this, but is still a very good beer.

Background: Oh, excited, excited. After enjoying Stone’s Enjoy By IPA, I was very interested to find out that Brewdog were doing their own interpretation of an ultra short lifespan IIPA. Note: As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. So, yeah, brewed with tons of hops that tend to make beers with a short lifespan. Why yes I did break it open the day it arrived, why do you ask?

Huyghe Delirium Deliria

Huyghe: Delirium: Deliria (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with a chunk of carbonation and a massive mounded white head that leaves lots of suds and lace.

Nose: Wheaty. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Dried raspberries. Carrot.

Body: Palma violets. Good bitterness. Lemon. Cane sugar and candy floss. Crisp. Light potato character. Carrot and coriander. Vanilla.

Finish: Good bitterness. Vanilla. Celery. Candyfloss. Light potatoes. Coriander. Wheat.

Conclusion: A balanced Delirium beer. Huh, I did not expect to say that, Ever. Seriously – I have a love for Delirium Tremens (How have I never got around to doing a tasting note for that beer?), but they do tend to be a bit mental.

This is closer to a traditional Belgian ale than most of the Delirium range – in fact the influence of wheat like and spice notes makes me think of a bit of a Wit beer, but poured over a heavier Belgian blond style base. Now, like a lot of Delirium beers, it is an energetic wee one. You get a massive head, so take care pouring, but below that it is far less bubblegum styled and more a mix of cane sugars and spice.

As a beer it is nicely balanced (I still feel weird writing that) with good crisp bitterness, light sweetness, good spice and all over a lemon freshness. Yet it has just enough alcohol weight to add a bit of heft to that blond + wit combination I mentioned earlier.

Like many a beer its biggest flaw and its biggest feature are one and the same. It isn’t mental as hell. While I can appreciate the fact that it is solid, smooth and balanced to within an inch of its life I find that without the rough edge gem characteristics I associate with Belgian ales it feels like it is playing slightly safe to me.

Still a very well made beer, and for a lot of you reading this I’m sure you are thinking this is your thing. For me, well Belgium is overflowing with awesome beers, so this kind of gets lost in the shuffle, but that is more on my tastes than it. A technically highly proficient beer that just doesn’t quite catch my imagination.

Background: A variant on Delirium Tremens brewed by a team of women. Well, cool, I’m all for anything that helps break down the oft male dominated brewing scene. I will say though that I did raise an eyebrow at the bottle being pink. Possible the team picked it, in which case cool, their choice. But I did raise an eyebrow. Then again, Delirium Tremens’ colour scheme is pretty pink anyway, so I could just be being a tad over sensitive to cues that aren’t actually there. Anyway, this is the 2013 edition, a limited edition release which I picked up from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to Miracle of Sound’s Metal Up. A seriously fun metal album.

Beavertown Skull King Double IPA

Beavertown: Skull King Double IPA (England: IIPA: 8.7% ABV)

Visual: Slightly cloudy apricot. Large off white bubbles head. No visible carbonation.

Nose: Pine. Floral. Resin. Grapefruit. Good bitterness. Dried pineapple. Digestives. Dried passion fruit.

Body: Bitter. Kumquat. Passon fruit. Kiwi. New York style cheesecake. Quite dry. Some fruit sugars. Frothy mouthfeel.

Finish: Kiwi. Bitterness. Grapes. Hop oils. Bready. Slight gritty touch.

Conclusion: Oh, hello, another very dry IIPA, following quickly on the heels of Restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents. Is this starting a trend? I can but hope. This one really keeps to a low level of sweetness for an IIPA, there are some fruit sugars but I didn’t get any of the expected big toffee or similar backbone. Interesting.

This does provide something a bit different – from the understated, more floral and pine nose, to the dry and solid dry fruit body, to the bready hop oil finish. This shows a side to IIPAs less used, the lack of sweetness also means that it needs a less intense bitterness against that backbone to create a much larger impression on the mouth due to the lack of contrast.

This feels closer to the more traditional IIPA style than the sweeter IIPA tradition, despite its higher abv. It reminds me a bit of Pliny The Elder in that regard.

Overall it takes everything and delivers it a more restrained way. Still intense, but there is a muted edge to the flavours, a grounded feel – everything dry or drying.

I like what it is doing, and if I hadn’t had “Restorative beverage…” first I would probably be even more impressed. As is, I prefer Restorative as it just nails it better. Still, this is the more different beer and I like that it keeps away from expectations. This really doesn’t follow the trend of the style and I respect it for that.

Background: Grabbed from one of the few available at Independent Spirit! thanks guys! This is the first ever canned double IPA in the UK, or so I am told. Beavertown have been solid so far, and I need to get around to reviewing their neck oil session IPA. Also my friend lives near their brewery and keeps taunting me with the fact he regularly gets to try their beers. Anyway, they have made the can a bit more textured here, which combined with the cool image on it gives a great first impression. Drunk while listening to some Anthrax – Worship Music. A big beer deserves some big music.

To Øl Black Malts and Body Salts

To Øl: Black Malts and Body Salts (Denmark: Black IIPA: 9.99% ABV)

Visual: Black. Huge coffee froth and a tight bubbled mound of a head that leaves coffee sud rings.

Nose: Coffee granules. Light granite. Bitter character. Burnt wood. Earthy.

Body: Bitter coffee. Charcoal dust. Blended whisky undertones. Salt touch. Some thick chocolate notes.

Finish: Bitter, especially bitter coffee. Charcoal dust. Salt touch. Earthy and spicy. Light strawberry notes occasionally.

Conclusion: This is a harsher black IPA than most of the style. Against expectations it seems to go down the more earthy and straightforward hop bitterness of a British IPA rather than the more fruity use of the word IPAs. But with a Black IPA here obviously. Or a coffee BIPA as it turns out.

Strange as I don’t think they use British hops – could just be emphasising the early boil hops for bitterness maybe? Not really sure, but that is how it ends up feeling anyway.

Now the coffee makes up a very big part of the overall character – and very bitter coffee at that, easily matching the raw bitter hop character. It gets smoother mid body and is backed by some chocolate maltiness, but top and tail is very raw bitter coffee.

The harsher edges are emphasised, with the burnt wood into charcoal notes that make what would be an otherwise smooth beer come out as very drying into the earthy end. It is a very robust beer, so much so that – combined with the abv – there is a spirity kind of blended whisky undertone. Odd as the beer is so smooth texture wise, but there are definite signs of the alcohol in there.

I haven’t ran into many earthy based BIPAs, so this gets points for doing that well, and the coffee is used well – so much so it seems to be basically coffee beer half the time. Overall though – it is only an ok beer to me, and in the market of Black IPAs which is filled with greats. I like that it is a different take on the style but it doesn’t really excite – it has a few notes it does well, but doesn’t really seem to expand out.

A solid well made beer, but nothing that declares it a must drink.

Background: Ok, erm, I just looked this up on rate beer and it is their #1 rated Black IPA. I swear I don’t just write these things to be controversial. Anyway, I picked this up from Brewdog’s Guest Beer section as I had heard a good buzz about it. Anyway this is a Black IPA brewed with coffee, and, according to rate beer – body salts. I have to admit I thought that was just a clever name. Anyway, drunk while listening to a bit of 8 bit zoo – a nice bit of cheery light heartedness to get over the fact I had basically just watched a vast amount of Marble Hornets and I kind of wanted to sleep at some point this lifetime.

Blackjack Native Sun 2014 (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged)

Blackjack: Native Sun 2014 (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged) (England: Dopplebock: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red to brown. Moderate rich chocolate froth.

Nose: Chocolate shavings. Dry malt drink. Sour red grapes. Rose petals. Chocolate fondue comes out as it warms. Herbal notes. Raisins and liquorice.

Body: Cinnamon sticks. Sour red wine. Malt chocolate to bitter chocolate. Mint leaves. Blackcurrants. Nutmeg. Liquorice. Slight glacier cherries.

Finish: Bitter chocolate flakes. Sour red wine. Nutmeg. Lightly earthy. Liquorice. Raisins.

Conclusion: I have limited experience with Pinot Noir – that is I have tried several New Zealand versions of it, and they are awesome. very big and fruity. I owe that knowledge entirely to my awesome sister who has provided me with a few glasses of good stuff over the years.

Yes I have a friendly booze family.

This is much drier and more sour wine influenced than the Pinot Noirs I have encountered – with more earthy and acidic notes. From what I have been told this is pretty standard with more European Pinot Noirs. Which makes sense.

Anyway, now I have demonstrated my nigh complete lack of knowledge on wine, we have – THE BEER!

I mention the wine first as it is a huge influence, but while the wine does dominate the dopplebock seems to make a solid base under that – bitter chocolate and malt drinks makes for a robust base character. It is smooth, with some cherry and raisins hints (though actually, for all I know that could be the wine as well. I would say 70% sure it is the beer). A lot of the malt flavours crossover with the red wine ageing very fluidly, so it is hard to be certain exactly where one ends and the other begins. That does mean that the flavours meld very well and gives a very well balanced experience.

Combined together the elements manage a menagerie of dark fruits, Christmas spices, earthy character and acidic sour wine notes, all balanced by malt chocolate. Halfway between a dopplebock and a mulled wine in some ways.

Overall, yep it’s a good one – you do have to like the wine aspect though as it works its way into every pore. There is a wine dryness to the entire thing. As a beer alone there are far better, but this is such a well done mix that explores the wine but doesn’t lose the beer.

A bigger amount of complexity to the base beer would have made this an all time great – as is it is still a very nice beer indeed.

Background: This one is from Manchester! I have some good memories of that place. Anyway, a dopplebock aged in Pinot Noir barrels, that grabbed my eye – not just as you don’t see many Brit made dopplebocks. Picked up from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Prodigy: The Day Is My Enemy. That album definitely has legs.

Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection New World

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Room Collection: New World (USA: Abbey Tripel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Deep overripe banana to gold. Thin white dash for a head.

Nose: Resin. Light aniseed. Caramelised brown sugar. Passion fruit. White pepper. Watermelon jolly ranchers. Golden syrup cake.

Body: White pepper. Frothy lemon sherbet taste and feel. Slightly sour grapes – both red and white. Brown sugar. Peach. Candyfloss. Hop oils. Syrup texture at back. Banoffee and vanilla.

Finish: Red grapes. Madeira cake. Slick hop oils. Blackpool rock. Banana.

Conclusion: Ok, first impressions – this is balanced nicely. It is smooth like a lot of the American takes on the Abbey Tripel, but has just enough genuine rough edges to remind me of my preferred Belgian take on the whole thing.

I think it is partially the raw sugar feel on the sweet side of things, and the pepper character behind it all. The little spark of sugar gives the impression of being a little unrefined, and a little less attenuated than it could be- while the pepper adds a little kick to the end. Both give it the charm it needs to not feel over polished.

I’m not getting a huge amount of obvious elements from the oak, I mean there is sweetness, but it is a Tripel that is expected, that is kind of a no duh. It is smooth, but yeah, it is an American take on Belgian beer, that is also a no duh. I’m sure the oak will have had its influence, but I couldn’t say what without having access to the unaged version to compare.

There is a large chunk of tropical fruitiness, though it feels somewhat more artificial than what you would usually get with the hops – it could be the slightly syrupy backing, it makes it feel like hard sweets rather than the more natural take which would have suited the beer more.

It is an impressive beer, maybe a bit too sweet – the artificial feel hurts it a bit but the mix of tropical fruit, rough edged tripel and spice strikes a rounded and impressive balance.

Not the best, but very solid, and the mix of character means it is not just a clone of what the Belgians do, but neither does it forget its roots. A very bright fruit tripel, rough edged but too sweet. Still well worth a try.

Background: I very much enjoyed my first experience with the Barrel Room Collection, so I decided to grab another one from the range from Independent Spirit. This one is a take on the abbey tripel style, and was shared with friends.

Brewdog Restorative Beverage For Invalids And Convalescents

Brewdog: Restorative Beverage For Invalids And Convalescents (Scotland: IIPA: 8.7% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to gold. Large white bubbled head. Clear body with some carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Hops. Resin. Strawberry. Toffee. Peach. Digestives. Lots of hop oils.

Body: Dry. High bitterness. Peach. Digestives. Pineapple. Shortbread. Sugar dusting. Toffee touch. Peach. Lots of hops. Strawberry. Bubblegum. Lemongrass.

Finish: Bitter. Big hops. Apricot. Lager like characteristics in feel. Slightly gritty. Charring. Bubblegum. yeast extract.

Conclusion: Like Ruination IPA, oh so many years ago, this is not as harsh as I expected. This probably says more about me than it does of the beer. The description on the bottle promises something brutal, instead we get?

Well it doesn’t lie when it describes it as “Dry”. This is dry, and I would guess from that, that it is very highly attenuated – and it is that character that gives the bitterness some kick. Some says I, the master of understatement. However for all they say “Screw any semblance of balance”, there is, quite thankfully, balance. It just doesn’t come from the expected place. There is some small malt sweetness, but mainly you get real fruity sweetness from the hops which make it dangerously drinkable.

Still, this is a big and bitter beer – lots of resin, hops and hop oils. The aroma has an almost cannabis touch, such is the influence of the raw hops. The dryness makes it almost lager crisp and clean bodied – there is nothing to get in the way of the hop character – this is especially noticeable in the finish, which comes in just slightly gritty. Thankfully due to the weight of flavour it doesn’t ruin the beer, instead just emphasises a rough edge, without being dominated by it.

The hop flavours are the main game then, since the malt sweetness is restrained, as well as more expected pineapple and peach, there are more unusual notes. A slight strawberry, not huge but there. There is a much bigger character of lemongrass – not what I would expect from the hop choice listed but in blends in excellent with the resin and natural hop character. The whole range works very well together, creating a lively but grounded experience.

So, you have restrained sweetness, good level of fruit, big bitterness and huge hop character and lemongrass. It is possibly an acquired taste, but it is hellishly easy to drink. It is so very dry, but has just enough offset to keep bringing you back. If you think you can deal with the high abv, good level of bitterness, and restrain yourself from drinking it silly, then this is a great beer.

Background: As I type this up, I am down with a cold. How fucking appropriate. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog. Drunk while listening to Crossfire – Mainly their cover of Omen. Which is fucking awesome. I am going to go back and hide under a warm blanket again now.

Boston Beer Co Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection Stony Brook Red

Boston Beer Co: Samuel Adams: Barrel Room Collection: Stony Brook Red (USA: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red. Browned thin bubbled moderate sized head.

Nose: Acidic apple. Vanilla bourbon notes. Malt chocolate. Dry oak. Port soaked raisins. Figs. Strawberry and red cherries. Shortbread.

Body: Figs. Bitter back. Chocolate syrup. Oak. Spicy mulled wine. Toasted teacakes. Red cherries. Chocolate cake. Brown bread. Sultanas.

Finish: Red wine. Raisins. Mulled spice and spiced orange. Acidic apple. Vanilla. Oats. Chocolate drops and chocolate cake.

Conclusion: I like to describe those shifting odd flavours found in tart and acidic beers as “almost holographic flavours” – talking about the fact that they seem like an illusion caused by the tongue’s response to the mix of the acidity and the base beer.

Oddly this has those flavours despite the fact that the beer isn’t that tart or acidic. Well it is a little, but generally whatever harshness it had has been mellowed by the barrel ageing – yet still it somehow has a magnificent range of those holographic feeling flavours.

Initially acidic apple seems the main course to this beer, but after a while you realise a slightly bitter chocolate cake is the solid core that has been marked by drying oak ageing. Then from that core the fruit and tartness seep out into the outer edges.

What seeps out is brilliant dark fruit, full of figs, vinous red wine and raisins – that dark fruits mix gives the beer a real depth. The acidic apple that seemed so prominent early on floats above it all adding acidic freshness to what would otherwise be a heavy beer.

The oak ageing works here nigh perfectly, adding toasted teacake flavours, vanilla notes and smoothing everything together. It gives a cask ale style feel with the intermingling flavours, which makes it wonderful to dissect and examine.

So a very mellow sour red ale, but still with a lot of life that would come with the sharper and more challenging elements that make the style stand out. It walks a thin line between accessibility and quality and marks well in both. A lovely toasted texture, just enough sharpness and a rock solid core. Very much worth getting.

Background: Samuel Adams rarities are getting easier to find in the UK, though not hugely so. Thus Independent Spirit brought through a few cases of their Barrel Aged selection and I grabbed this one, what seems to be a Flemish style red that has been aged in Bourbon barrels. Drunk with friends, this has a surprisingly easy to get out cork. Which I appreciate. Oh, also how cool is the bottle shape? – kind of like a telescope – I may be easily pleased but that is just fun.

Weird Beard Sadako Ardbeg Barrel Aged

Weird Beard: Sadako (貞子): Ardbeg Barrel Aged (England: Imperial Stout: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thick creamy brown head of half a cm size.

Nose: Chocolate. Iodine. Beef slices. Peat and smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Thick. Brown bread. Charring. Iodine. Drying salt. Greenery. Sour dough. Some malt chocolate behind. Meaty back.

Finish: Brown bread. Smoke. Drying. Bitter chocolate. Salt and rocks. Sour dough. Iodine.

Conclusion: When you have a cask as booming as Ardbeg, you really need a big beer to go against it for cask ageing. For a case of it being done right check out De Molen’s Hemel & Aarde Octomore Barrel Aged (Yes I am aware that Octomore is from Bruichladdich – I’m just comparing intense whisky casks).

This, well oddly it tastes more Laphroaig than Ardbeg to my eyes – possibly because the barrel ageing only lets the harsher and more medicinal elements through, without the weight of the base whisky to contrast. Ardbeg was always a peaty beast, and you get that here, but it never was as medicinal as Laphroaig, which is why this is such a surprise.

The aroma is sheer quality Ardbeg, with the depth that entails, but the body comes in more as an assault of medicinal, salt iodine and the like. As I say, very Laphroaig. The feel backing it is a thick bready character – a heavy texture but flavour wise it feels quite neutral as a base for the whisky influence to work from. As it warms you do get a much needed peat meatiness that comes out, the whisky aging now giving it the backing it needs.

Now, you may notice at this point I’m talking a lot about the whisky influence but very little about the beer influence. There is a reason for that. The beer is damn near killed here – on the finish there is some bitter chocolate, and all throughout there is some sough dough, but generally? The beer just can’t compete.

Overall it is a hell of an experience, but not overly a great beer. For Ardbeg and Laphroaig fans this may mix things up a bit for you by delivering flavour but in a thicker, longing lasting experience.

For most everyone else – it just doesn’t gain much from the beer side of the equation. Just backing Ardbeg with brown bread. Meh I guess, it definitely shows the Islay style, but doesn’t add anything to it. Ah well.

Background: I tried to guess this thing’s translation without looking – I failed. I recognised the second Kanji as “Child” so, knowing this is a barrel aged beer, guessed it may be barrel or oak child. Then I found out there was a non barrel aged version so that screwed up that idea. Anyway, turns out Sadako is a women’s name, with literal translation of Chaste Child. In my defence I really haven’t needed to know the Japanese letter for “chaste” much in my use of Japanese. I’m fairly sure it is also the name of the antagonist ghost in “The Ring” but I may be wrong in that. Anyway, yes Ardbeg aged – Ardbeg is one of the heaviest duty Islay whiskys, so this should be interesting. Drunk while listening to early era Slipknot. No mocking me, I was a kid when I got into them and I like to listen and reminisce sometimes. This beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Incidentally, wax on bottles of beer was amusing for while, now so many beers have it that it just gets annoying. Stop putting tests between me and my beer damnit.

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