Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Wild Beer Co: Dr Todd (England: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Thin off white head.

Nose: Thick honey. Peat. Smoke. Salt. Ginger. Chilli air. Marmalade. Wet rocks.

Body: Heavy. Honey. Salt. Chalk. Treacle. Smoke. Dry back. Ginger. Medicinal. Crunchy medicine tablets. Brown bread.

Finish: Honey. Dry beef slices. Medicinal. Salt. Crunchy tablets.

Conclusion: Ok, I can definitely see why the drink this is based on is called Penicillin if this beer is anything to go by. Under everything is a dry note, like crunched up medicine tablets, chalk backed by a medicinal Islay note. It it wasn’t such a terrible idea to take painkillers with booze I would imagine this is what it would taste like.

Probably. I, of course, have never tested that. That would be silly. Don’t mix booze and painkillers everyone!

The other element that stands out in this beer how how strong the special ingredients used show through; There is a ton of honey, and as indicated before the Islay ageing is really obvious -from the salt to the peat smoke, to the medicinal character, it is all there. Then there is the definite ginger influence that comes though into an almost mild chilli air at some times. Subtle this thing ain’t.

So you get a real honey sweet Islay whisky poured over the corpse of a thoroughly crushed paracetamol, into a beer and you end up with this. It is definitely interesting, and actually – for all the taste goes to the harsher end of the spectrum – it is also enjoyable. Not one to have often though. It feels like it is deliberately challenging you and daring you to still enjoy it.

Now you can step up to that dare and enjoy it, and it is worth it, but it is not a general drinking beer in any shape or form. In fact this calls to the feel of an actual complex cocktail more than any other beer I have encountered – if that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

Hard to get used to, but ultimately enjoyable – however the crunched medical feel and taste is for very specific occasions only and for very specific people only.

Background: Ok, so this was inspired by the “Penicillin Cocktail”. Something I have never tried so cannot really compare it to. To give you an idea, this is made with lactose, honey, lemon, ginger and then aged in Islay whisky barrels. This sounded like the type of experimentation in beer I could get behind, so grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit. Put on Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac – Repent, Replenish, Repeat while drinking – a nicely dark edged spoken word to hip hop styled set of tunes that I though deserved returning to.

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Brewdog: Native Son (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Moderate sized off white head.

Nose: Peach, kumquat and musty hops. Thick feeling aroma. Resinous. Dried apricot. Light tart pineapple. Flour.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Oily hops. Moderate bitterness. Kiwi. Apricot. Mandarin orange. Greenery. Apples. Peach. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy lemon. Good hop character and bitterness. Creamy lime. Mandarin orange. Popcorn. Greenery. Dry. Ashes.

Conclusion: What we have here is another example for the fact that you can actually have heavily hopped beers too fresh. I had a can of this when it first arrived and, back then, it felt rough and kind of dull. Now, a few weeks later, I break it open to do notes, and I find something much more pleasant.

It still has solid, prickly and musty bitterness with a rough ash tasting hop character on the way out – but now it also lets the fruit really play in the mid body. When it bursts with fruit it pushes out peach, Mandarin orange and lemon – it is dry based, but just slightly creamy in the fruit flavours.

Now it still isn’t perfect. For example, you may have seen the words “rough ash tasting” earlier and thought “Now, that doesn’t sound pleasant”. And you would be right. It isn’t. The finish still goes into rough and charred notes making the oily bitter character now feel burnt. When the rest of the beer is playing well it isn’t ruinous, but when there is a lull it comes out and is an unfortunate end to each sip.

It is a pity as the dry body that keeps out of the way and lets a mix of fruit and oily bitterness do the job is moreish – but those last moments stomp over that. Nearly very good, but not. Considering how much it has improved in the last two odd weeks I do wonder if it will become a proper working beer with a few more. However, let’s face it – the beer should work now. Good front, but unpleasant end – close, but not quite good.

Background: This would normally go in the IPA glass, but I, erm broke that – so I wondered how it would work in the wheat glass. Didn’t really suit it visually but worked ok. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This is their new west coast style IPA – big fan of a good west coast so thought I’d give it a try/. Grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store, and drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album – You Are Not Alone. For a guy who loves partying so much it is a pretty heartfelt album – cheesy but I won’t claim not to enjoy the hell out of it. It is just crazy fun and feel good.

Beavertown: Alvinne: Tempus: Uptown Monk (England: Abbey Tripel: 9.3%)

Visual: Deep apricot skin. Small off white dash of a head. Semi clear and still body.

Nose: Peppery. Cane sugar to brown sugar. Rye crackers. Dried apricot. Crushed Blackpool rock.

Body: Smoke. Vanilla slices, but dry. Dry lemon. Light lime funk notes. Apricot. Tart notes – tart grapes. Vanilla yogurt. Orange. Cane sugar. Champagne.

Finish: Dry cheesecake. Rye crackers. Pepper. Darkly bitter. Malt chocolate drinks. Dry lime. Tart apples. Slight yeast funk. Vanilla and lemon yogurt. Champagne.

Conclusion: Oh, there is a shit-ton going on with this beer. On the front I seems to be a simple literary conflict – peppery spice rye versus a cane to brown sugar tripel style sweetness. An enjoyable pulp tale of beer rather than an intricate layered script.

Time brings funk influence and side characters of tart lime and drier lemon yogurt notes that explore further themes of the beer. In fact the beer in general has a drier, yet tart backing character that creates layered and complex characters that accentuates that initially simple base conflict. The peppery character expands into bitterness, showing the futility of attempts to map reality linier plotting while hanging a lampshade on its own beery progression.

Dried, fruit sugar apricot comes out – giving a nod to crowd pleasing simple beers but here deconstructing that in its contrast to the complex developments below, showing both funk and barrel ageing influence in equal share rather than being shunted to sub plots as the more simple beers would do.

It does however revel in its barrel ageing, gaining a champagne character that freshens your mouth, allowing for tart grapes to join; Here the subtext of the tart funk becomes the text, the funk joining the barrel ageing to make the beer’s theme plain to all.

Hopefully the above has allowed me to explain how complex this layered beer can be, and to illustrate its character to you clearly. It is unusual, deep and one I enjoyed very much.

Background: I have no clue why I wrote the notes like this – I mean obviously I was drinking, but due to the oddity of the beer I decided treating it like a book review seemed a thing to do. I have no reason, no excuse and no excuse would be accepted. Anyway, decided to leave the notes as is an upload them because, well it amuses me if no-one else. Anyway, this is a beer I grabbed from Independent Spirit before Christmas – as a heavy rye Triple aged in white wine barrels I figured a bit more time would not hurt it. Been a while since I had an Alvinne beer, even as a collab, but this should go some small way to correct that. Drunk while listening to some Testament again, no real reason, just did.

Brewdog: Choco Libre (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small dark brown head but one that froths up easily on a swirl.

Nose: Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Slightly milky coffee.

Body: Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Milky chocolate. Light chalk touch. Bitter coffee. Light cream at back.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Chilli seeds. Bitter, roasted coffee. Hershey’s chocolate. Light chilli warmth, Pepper.

Conclusion: For an imperial stout that shoves a whole mess of damn skulls on the bottle, and packs itself with tons of ingredients, this actually feels kind of middle of the road.

Let’s address the chilli first, as that is the part you would expect to stand out the most. Well, it doesn’t do much. Now, I’m not a huge fan of chilli heat – so not being a mouth burner doesn’t bother me. However I am a big chilli flavour fan, so the lack of any real influence in that area does bother me. What we get us a light tingle character which tastes kind of light mild chilli seeds being chewed, which develops into a mild warmth in the finish. It adds savoury notes to the beer but little else.

So, onto the base beer then – not particularly thick for an 8% and up beer. It isn’t that it feels overly thin, just not particularly present. It could be the chilli – it does seem to have an odd influence on the mouthfeel. So possibly that is another (negative) influence that ingredient is having.

Apart from that there are moderate coffee and chocolate notes – not bad, not stand out. Solid but unexceptional and without a huge range to them. The savoury notes from the chilli mix with a set of bready notes that gives a solid flavour profile, if not mouthfeel.

The most unusual element that comes out is a slight sour cream touch to the chocolate – kind of akin to Hershey’s chocolate. An interesting touch, but doesn’t really lift up the beer to make it stand out.

Average, which is a disappointment – with all the extra ingredients it shouldn’t seem so mediocre. Meh.

Background: Ok, let’s open up with, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Cool, that is that done. This is an attempt to recreate a spiced Mexican chocolate drink, but in a beer, which seems cool. Looking at the ingredients it is made with oats, coffee, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and chilli and well as the usual four. Quite a set. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store and drunk while listening to Ulver – Childhood’s End. I seriously love Ulver’s work, and this set of covers of psychedelic 60s tracks is another brilliant haunting set of music.

Robinsons: Old Tom (England: Old Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown to mahogany body that is clear and still. Thick off white head.

Nose: Raisins. Port. Sherry soaked fruitcake to Christmas pudding. Earthy hop character. Slight chalk. Vinous – sour wine.

Body: Christmas pudding. Charring. Bitter chocolate. Sour red wine. Slight chalk. Earthy hops. Cherries. Peppery. Sour grapes.

Finish: Christmas pudding. Sultanas. Bitter chocolate cake. Earthy hops. Peppery bitterness. Sour grapes. Dry.

Conclusion: Whoop! I’m on an old ale roll now after a long time without – this coming fairly shortly after Marble‘s barrel aged old ale. This one is less challenging and less complex as a beer, but also comes in at less than half the price while still being a fairly complex one – which is a reasonable trade off. This is a beer from my early days of experimentation and it seems that it still holds up.

This is less sour than most of the style, with only a light sour note matched with a real Christmas pudding style heaviness as its solid core. Matched with that a similarly solid British style early hop character – with a peppery character as well as the earth, grounding with moderate bitterness.

However amongst that grounded character, against the sour vinous elements with it you get a big fruitiness – a sultana packed fruitcake character that make up a big wodge of the contrast, but even here everything is just slightly savoury with only a few sweeter hints. It is amazing how they can push the Christmas pudding without making it feel overly sweet and also having such low sweetness without the overall character feeling dull. For all the chalk notes, peppery and earthy notes it still feels like it is not pushing the grounding notes overly heavily and because of that it feels like a complex and rewarding beer.

It is not up there with the more experimental old ales that have come since, but looking back it it, it blows my mind that a beer this good and non standard is so easy to buy in the UK. A beer you can buy in the supermarket that is an old ale that gives easy access to a world of flavour that most beers in the same place will not reach. Good as an accessible gateway into something different and good as a beer in itself.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from a colleague – many thanks. Old Tom is a fairly common beer to find in supermarkets, so was one of the earliest of Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers that I tried. So this is a bit of a nostalgia drink here. I saw The Eels were on tour again this year – unfortunately nowhere near me – so put on the Beautiful Freak album – a bit of nostalgia for me again. It matches up, right?

Tempest: Attack Of The Killer Crab (Scotland: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear body with many bits evident floating in it. Medium sized white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Thick hop character. Musty and slightly resinous hops. Lightly bready.

Body: Creamy mouthfeel. Cake sponge. Grapes. Good hop bitterness and hop oils. Peach. Dried apricot. Mango. Light hop prickle. Thick hop feel. Resinous. Caramel.

Finish: Kiwi. Good hop oils. Dried apricot. High bitterness. Lightly bready. White grapes. Resinous. Fudge.

Conclusion: Ooohh, a nice, bitter, oily, resinous double IPA matched with sweet fruit flavours. Sign me up! This is right in my wheelhouse. There is sweetness from the malt, but it is offered up twisted and spanked by the oily hops to create a bittersweet sensation. The malt provides more a creaminess and thick mouthfeel than anything else, so everything else in this beer really grips.

To go back a moment, this is visually an odd one – not cloudy like the New England IPA style, and it definitely doesn’t taste like that style, but it has lots of floating bits in it that gives it a very odd look to the eye. As you drink the bits swirl around the glass, catching and reflecting the light. I was temporarily worried I had grabbed a bad bottle until I sipped it and found out that – nope – it still tastes great.

When I say tastes great, I mean genuinely great – I like the … sigh ok I’ll call it “dank” hop character. I love the oily and resinous style with big bitterness, but it uses the creamy mouthfeel and sweet peach, kiwi and grapes to punch through making for great contrast. This is a beer that loves balance – everything is intense, but it doing that it creates a fragile true between the elements that lets everything work without having to compromise either side.

We are early in 2018 and we already have the first truly great beer. An old school fruity, USA style double IPA with extra resin and hop oils. Just what you need when you are beginning to think you are getting blasé to the style.

Background: Been a while since I had a tempest beer, and this one’s name and art caught my attention – so it seemed like one to grab. It was only after I bought it that I worried that it may actually contain crab. Thankfully the “Vegan Friendly” label on the side made me fairly sure there is no crab in this. Unless crab got redefined as a vegetable recently and no-one told me. Which is fairly unlikely. I think. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy album – “Will To Power” – which I’m presuming is a reference to the original Nietzsche not the dickhead Nazis who appropriated and misused it.

Vibrant Forest: Necropolis (England: BIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Massive brown froth head with large bubbles.

Nose: Milky coffee. Crisp hop character. Pine needles. Wet wood. Kiwi and grapes.

Body: Walnuts and cashews. Slight sour cream twist. Kiwi. Lightly creamy. Creamy chococlate. Grapes. Pineapple. Toffee.

Finish: Sour cream and chives. Malt chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts. Slight hop oils. Praline. Grapes. Pineapple and custard. Bitter cocoa and hops. Chocolate cake

Conclusion: This is fairly low bitterness for an “India” prefixed beer – well low in hop bitterness anyway, it has a decent level of bitter chocolate character, especially in the finish, which makes up for the lack of hops kick.

However, for the most part we have a fairly sweet chocolate body, matched with a sour cream like twist contrast – in an old school Punk IPA style – backed up by light use of sweet green fruit and light tarter fruit notes.

The hops seem to all be working on the fruit flavour rather than bitterness, hop oils, resin or any of that stuff. It feels like the New England take of the Black IPA world, just with a lot more body than that would suggest.

That body is what makes the beer work – a good malt sweetness, with moderate range in those sweet flavours; More importantly than that it gives the fruitier notes grip with a solid mouthfeel. The light sour cream twist makes it feel different from the BIPA range and gives contrast to keep the sweeter notes from getting dull.

The beer doesn’t quite feel like a Black IPA – the fact it calls itself an India Black Ale seems a very good call to me as it balances the malt and the hop much more than the IPA style oft suggests. It is also worth mentioning that this is dangerously easy drink at the abv it comes in at – the smoothness makes you feel like you could session it. But you can’t. Just don’t. Please.

I’m very impressed – the easy drinking BIPA of great flavour.

Background: Independent Spirit have had Vibrant Forest beers in for a while now, and I keep promising to get around to trying something from this brewery. Also I haven’t had any Black IPAs for a while, so this looked like a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Incidentally the beer calls itself an India Black Ale, which seems like better naming convention than Black IPA, but I think the fight for getting general acceptance for that naming has long since sailed. Drunk while listening to more Nightwish – the album is bloody long so I’m giving it a few listens over to get a feel for it – seems to have quite a range of styles within it.

Kees: Barrel Project 17.07 S.P.X. (Netherlands: Scotch Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Creamy brown head. Some carbonation. The head leaves suds.

Nose: Sweet dessert wine. Sweet raspberry crème. Figs to figgy pudding. Raisins. Brandy cream. Spotted dick. Marshmallows.

Body: Figs. Cocktail bitters. Prunes touch. Sour apples. Calvados. Smooth. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Brandy cream. Marshmallows. Raspberry yogurt. Dessert wine.

Finish: Sour dates. Sour wine. Calvados. Slight bitterness. Charring. Earthy hop bitterness. Malt chocolate. Dessert wine. Brandy cream. Spiced grapes. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: I spent a lot of time digging into this before before starting this conclusion. This initially seemed another one of those beers that was overly dominated by the barrel ageing – but only initially. You get a real fresh and sweet dessert wine like character from the sherry ageing on first sniff and sip, but it soon dispels the illusion that this is all it has.

What is notable, for me anyway, is that the Wee Heavy is a style that is very easy to make a simple beer – packed with enjoyable dark fruit notes, but one note in that and so quickly dull. This does have part of that description – it packs in the dark fruit, but beyond that it has a slight sour apple and figs set of notes against that sweet base. Not a heavy set of notes, and not in an acidic fashion – instead akin to stewed, fruit stone sucked, sour notes under the heavy malt. This is all then underlined by a solid, low level, earthy hop bitterness.

The dessert wine style character keeps adding to this, bringing sweet high notes and also mixes with the base to create interesting concoctions such as Calvados like sweet notes as the sherry character mixes with the sour fruit to create rewarding combinations.

To me this is both Barrel Ageing, and Wee Heavies, done right. It has added complexities to the base of what you would expect from a scotch ale, then topped that up with extra notes from the ageing. So, it seems I am back on the barrel ageing fan bandwagon again!

Background: I had a try of a bunch of Kee’s Barrel Project beers about a year back I think – generally enjoyed them, so decided to try this from the new batch. The fact it was a wee heavy interested me – you don’t see a huge amount of them around, and less so of experiments with them – so was definitely worth a try to my mind. This has been Pedro Ximenez barrel aged – I haven’t had much experience with the sherry, but beers and whisky aged in it tend to be fabulous. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and was the first beer drunk in 2018! Whoop Whoop! Drunk while listening to Rise Against – Endgame, seriously an album without a single bad song on it.

Lervig: Cloudwater: There’s a Cold Beer In My Fridge And I Need A Drink (Norway: IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Murky dark apricot with a massive yellow-white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pine needles. Resin. Oily hop character. Pineapple. Vanilla and custard cream biscuits. Watercress. Wheaty air.

Body: Sticky, oily hop bitterness. Apricot. Kumquat. Soft grapes. Love heart sweets. Thick creamy texture. Peach juices.

Finish: Stewed apricot. Sticky oily hops. Solid bitterness. Moss. Raw eel sashimi. Resinous. Brown bread.

Conclusion: On first glance I rolled my eyes at this one, as this came out looking like the prototypical New England IPA. It is all cloudy and hazy on the eye, which is a nice look I will admit, and the NEIPA is not a bad style, but it is not my favourite style due to often taking a light, low bitterness take on the style which is not what I was looking for right now.

This beer quickly kicked that idea into touch. Pine needles and oily hops come out in the nose, then into sticky, oily bitterness in the body, and a solid bitter kick on the way out. This packs in all the nice alpha acids and oily hop character that I like in an IPA. Obviously if you like the low IBU, smooth NEIPA style, your mileage may vary significantly.

Beneath that the fruit is juicer and thicker than in most NEIPAs – using the creamy texture for extra mouthfeel but not tying the fruit character to a similar smoothness. Instead they give sticky stewed apricots and grapes to match the sticky hops punch for punch. There is good use of a savoury kumquat style backing and moss like notes underneath – mixed with a umami, kind of eel sashimi, hard to place kind of character – basically savoury grounding notes against a big peach syrup sweetness that adds range around the solid bitterness.

All together a great IPA – uses the creaminess of NEIPA, the “dank” hops of current popular trends, and the fruit use of a more traditional USA IPA. What keeps it from classic status is a lack of range to come out throughout the beer- it just lacks extra notes to dig into as time does on, but that is about all. Another great IPA.

Background: Ok, this was basically pressed into my hand at Independent Spirit, and I was told to grab it. So I did. Let’s face it Cloud water know their hop beers, and Lervig have a good rep – plus the can looks like someone vomiting up green. Which is nice. Always the best reasons to grab a beer. Anyway, made with rye in as well, so that is an actual thing about the beer.

Odyssey: Simcoe DIPA (England: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large white head with a yellowed hue.

Nose: Pineapple. White crusty bread. Good crisp hops and bitterness. Light flour.

Body: Juicy peach. Brown bread. White grapes. Tart pineapple. Slightly dry back.

Finish: Hop oils. Palma violets. Brown bread. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Egg plants. Dry apple.

Conclusion: Ok, this is good, but surprisingly one dimensional. Ok, it is single hopped which may explain some of that, but Simcoe is an awesome hop and can usually bring an entire beer worth of flavour by itself. I am surprised to not see more range here.

Still, I’m opening up with too much negativity for such a well brewed beer – well attenuated to give a dry, but not drying, backing. The malt base is quite flavour neutral, just setting itself up as a well attenuated, dangerously easy to drink beer. It feels more like a slightly bigger flavoured IPA than a big malt DIPA – the mouthfeel is akin to “restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents”, and by that I don’t mean the newer version which Brewdog tinkered with and made not as good as before – I mean the sublimely awesome original version.

It keeps itself solidly fresh and with pineapple tartness for the most part. Early on there was a big juicy peach interlude which led me to expect more complexity but that was short lasting. Instead it plays the tart notes with savoury egg plant like backing and a good use of hop character – nicely bitter but without the booming bitter bite I normally expect with Simcoe.

Still, slight lack of complexity aside this has awesome dry drinkability and tart character and actually compares well with old school Restorative Beverage, even if it doesn’t quite reach those heights. Still a bloody good beer to be compared to. Dangerously easy to drink for the abv – is pretty good as a stand alone beer, and if they used it as a base to make a multi hop beer with? Well I think they could have something amazing on their hands.

Background: So, this is an Odyssey beer – yep. Hop lead which is their speciality – yep. Single hopped with the awesome simcoe hop – yep. Ok, this was a must have and grabbed from Independent Spirit as soon as I saw it. Basically I am a huge mark for Odyssey beers, so was hyped for this. Drunk while listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hyaena, an old album but comparatively new to me and I love the strange surreal sound to it.

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