Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Cloudwater: Are We Unique? (England: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy, dark yellowed to apricot body. An inch of bubbled white head and lots of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Vanilla. Custard. Crisp hops. Tangerine. Lemon sherbet. Banana custard. Guava.

Body: Juicy. Guava. Dry underneath. Kiwi. Grapes. Peach and peach syrup. Slight cucumber. Banana.

Finish: Grapes. Moderate bitterness. Slight gritty bitterness. Mandarin orange. Good hop character. Slight cucumber. Slight sulphur. Lettuce leaves. Resinous.

Conclusion: Ok, yeah, I can see what they mean now. As mentioned in the background this was described as a mix up of west cost and hazy style IPA, which seemed a contradictory mix – but I get it now. Mostly.

Up front this is pretty juicy and feels thick (well, I say “feels” – I will get to that in a moment). Lots of juicy, fruity notes. It was described as hazy IPA style, but in all honesty it feels more like the sweet juiciness of an East Coast IPA, just with a lot less malt backing, if that makes any kind of sense. Lots of grapes, peach and some bright mandarin orange notes.

So, back to that comment, I said that it “feels thick”, that’s because despite that feel, it quickly falls into a drier west coast out of the way body, making me feel that it is not that the body is thick, but that the flavours give an illusion of extra thickness. Up front there are hints of vanilla and custard which just never come to the front and bring the body they promise.

There is good, if fairly moderate, bitterness and hop character that comes along with that drier body – the balance between a juicy fruit front and drier bitter back is enjoyable, but not without issues of its own.

Where the two sides meet there is a kind of greenery, water cucumber, savoury kind of note. It is not terrible, but not the best way to make a stepping stone between the two sides. It is a kind of neutral to slightly bad note in itself, stuck between two much better sides.

Still, in general a very enjoyable IIPA that wears a lot of influences on its sleeve. In fact it feels more an IPA that an IIPA in general, probably due to the more out of the way malt, but maybe does use the abv to push a bit more of the fruitiness.

Fun flavours, not perfect but bloody enjoyable and a heck of an experience on the way.

Background: So, Cloudwater are known for their hop forwards beers. Tend to be pretty good, if not quite up to their insanely high reputation. This caught my eyes, promising to mix west coast IPA dryness, with hazy (so I’m guessing NEIPA) IPA style juiciness, but in an Double IPA. Ok, sounds fun. Hope they can pull it off. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Had just picked up Le Tigre’s self titled album after being introduced to them via Jessica Jones. Thought they sounded familiar so wasn’t surprised when I found out they had the same lead singer as Bikini Kill. More pop and catchy than Bikini Kill but with non of the vitriol lost.

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Dead End Brew Machine: Curtis The Destroyer (Scotland: Barley Wine: 9.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear bright cherry body, with a ruddier centre. Small browned head, some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Booming glacier cherries. Caramel. Vanilla. Bourbon. Shortbread. Cake sponge. Brandy cream.

Body: Honey to mead. Cherries. Raisins and sultanas. Fruitcake. Toffee. Golden syrup cake. Apple touch. Oily thickness. Cake sponge.

Finish: Clear honey. Raisins to fruitcake. Brandy snaps. Golden syrup. Slight charred wood bitterness. Oily sheen with hop oil bitterness. Dry spice. Brown sugar

Conclusion: You know, for a while I was wondering of my memories of how good barley wines could be where just my youthful years’ memories lying to me and letting me down. I was finding barley wines that were ok, and barley wines that let me down, but none that even came close to how my memories told me they could be. There were none that revitalised that energy and brought back my love for the style.

This, therefore was welcome, as this is a blood good barley wine! Smooth, yet thick with a just slightly oily feel. That mouthfeel is great – slightly rough edged in way that says this is a strong beer without all of the prickles taken out, but 90% of the time it is smoothed down by its time in the oak . However for all it is smooth, it keeps enough fight to it, and keeps all the weight and mouthfeel of a good barley wine with it. That slight extra thickness, that not smoothed out edge, helps it stand out from the super smooth takes on the beer, and gives it a robustness so that the rougher notes don’t turn it into a boozy brutal thing. It nods to both the smoothness and the harshness, taking the best from each.

There are boozy and spirity elements, but it is no more alcohol touched than you would expect from a the fairly heavy barley wine style – Lots of vanilla and bourbon notes, heavier brandy cream sweetness and sherry spiciness – all elements that seem to come from the barrels and give complexity but not too much booze.

However, we are not here for the oak – that is an extra touch, a bit of spice, we are here for the barley wine it improves. From first pour onwards cherries just burst out from the beer, just oozing through in the aroma followed by a smattering of dark fruit. However as you move past that and into your first sip of the body you get a surprising level of clear honey to mead notes that makes this stand out as not your usual barley wine.

It is sweet and sticky but with darker, oily bitter notes, mixed with fruitcake and just a dash of Christmas style dry spice. It is so full on, yet so smooth and generally just so complicated.

So, does it have any downsides? Some – it gets a bit heavy and wearing near the end of the can. There is so much going on, and it sticks around so can get sickly with all the flavours, and because of that I can’t put it as one of the all time great beers.

So, in conclusion, an awesome beer with a few minor flaws, that come in late on, but is still pretty good at the end. Only just misses out on being a top favourite beer, but definitely still worth trying anyway.

Background: Ok, this is the second time I have drunk this – first time around I was just wanting something big to sip, and was shocked by how much I enjoyed it, so endeavoured to grab a second can to do proper notes on. This is a Jamaican rum barrel aged Barley wine, that is apparently made with a custom blend of London III and Burlington yeast. Don’t know enough on the yeast to get the specifics but I am intrigued by the effort that went into getting their yeast just right for this. Anyway another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with the heavy duty and both socially and politically conscious metal of Svalbard while drinking – “It’s Hard To Have Hope” to be exact. Utterly awesome album, the best the band has done in my opinion.

Ganstaller Brau: Weizenator (Germany: Weizenbock: 8.1% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Slightly hazy body. Good inch of whitish head.

Nose: Muggy apricot. Fresh apples. Smoked cheese. Wood smoke.

Body: Creamy body. Apple. Odd hop burn like feel deep down. Smoked cheese. Slight banana custard.

Finish: Creamy. Smoke. Charring. Smoked cheese. Muggy apricot. Banana.

Conclusion: I want to like this, I really do. It does so many interesting things. It just doesn’t hang together at all.

The interesting elements vary from an unusually fruity hop character, both in that it is unusual for using the fruitier character in a weizenbock, and that it comes across in a murky, thicker way on the apricot side, and then a very unusual fresh cut apple character after that. So both murkier and fresher than traditional hop flavours tend to come across.

The body has thick, creamy character, nothing I’d expect from previous experience with a weizenbock – it has a slightly smoked character which gives a kind of smoked cheese note, albeit without the depth of character and flavour I would expect from that descriptor.

Lots of good, interesting notes, but slightly let down by what feels like a kind of hop burn but not exactly rough. Just slight acrid weight. While that isn’t my favourite bit, it is a small element and not what makes me not enjoy this.

What is the problem is all the interesting notes clash. The creamy character doesn’t work well with the slight hop burn feel, making it stick. Similarly the fruit gets sticky and the flavours hang around too long. Lots of fun elements which, when combined, collapse into a mess.

It is such a pity. The fresh apple is such a great element. A smoke touched weizenbock – hell yeah! Creamy texture, not my first choice but sure, interesting. Together? Nope. Creamy makes smoke last too long, apple notes hit hop burn badly. So many good ides, just not a good implementation. Sorry.

Background: Ooh, new German brewery (ok, new to me. Its been going best part of a decade, which I guess is kind of new for a German brewery. Most of them have history that could be measured in ice ages) . A weizenbock as well which is one of my favourite, under exposed beer styles. Mainly because of the influence of Aventinus, which is still one of my favourite beers of all time. Which is why I broke the Aventinus glass out, despite being a 500ML glass and this being a 330ml beer. I just don’t get the opportunity to break it out often. Went with IDLES: “Joy As An Act Of Resistance” again for music. Such an epic mix of anger and compassion. Probably my favourite album of the past year.

Kievit: Zundert 10 (Netherlands: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown with an inch of crisp and mounded browned head that leaves a rim around the glass.

Nose: Raisins and fruitcake. Cinnamon sticks. Brown bread. Liquorice touch. Vinous notes. Touch of strawberry.

Body: Fizzy, sherbety feel. Fruitcake. Bitter almonds. Brown bread. Earthy backing. Vinous undertones. Port soaked raisins. Glacier cherries. Turmeric. Tart grapes. Chocolate dust. Liquorice. Dry toffee. Caramel late on.

Finish: Earthy. Cinnamon. Brown bread. Dried sultanas. Chocolate dust. Dates and figs.

Conclusion: Hmm, chewy and yet sherbety up front. Yep we are in heavy duty quad time again!

Let’s break from tradition and start by examining it mid body for once. As indicated it is sherbety and fizzy on first sip before settling down into a mix of sweet caramel and toffee malt body, an earthy rustic spice weighing heavily over that and deep vinous and dark fruit notes washing around underneath. So, as you may have guessed it has got that quad style down pat for its base.

This definitely leans into the rougher edged Belgian take on the quad rather than the super smooth USA abbey style. It uses it to emphasise darker savoury and liquorice notes – along with giving the earthy spice notes much more roam than is usual for the style. So while it definitely has the base style down pat, it isn’t afraid to push its own take. It moves away from over heavy sweetness , and even to a degree away from the more evident vinous notes to make the core of it the more heavy, earthy notes.

It is a good beer, leaning sweet and vinous in the aroma, spicier and earthier in the finish. Main body it feels like a heavy quad that has been filled with mulled wine spices and let loose into the world. It get sweeter over time, with a few caramel notes coming out, but the contrasting spice rises similarly.

It is recognisable as being fairly close to the Belgian take on a quad, but has its own style. A good heavy duty, earthy, spicy, grounded quad. I am impressed. Must try their Tripel if I get the chance,

Background: Kievit, the other Netherlands Trappist brewery! Yep, got my hands on it. After so many years with only 7 Trappist breweries, of which I had tried the vast majority of their awesome output, the nigh doubling to 12 (or actual doubling to 14 if we include the two that have not got the Authentic Trappist Produce Label) recognised breweries means I have to put more leg work in to see if these newcomers can live up to the high quality of their predecessors. Go on tell me there have been more since and make me cry. I did a quick google, but not an in depth check to make sure things haven’t changed since I last looked. Anyway, found at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Iron Maiden’s more prog influenced album – The Final Frontier. Pretty cool, not their best, but different enough that it makes them sound fresh again.

Garage: Cartoons (Spain: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Massive yellowed loose bubbled head.

Nose: Tart grapefruit. Pineapple. Wheaty hop character and bitterness. Flour. Slight banana.

Body: Good bitterness. Tart grapefruit. Stewed apricot. Subtle peach underneath. The hop character and bitterness grows rapidly. Slight vanilla. Subtle toffee. Slightly milky late on.

Finish: High bitterness. Prickly, bitter hop character. Peppery. Grapes into grapefruit. White bread crusts. Slight flour. Slight gherkin like sour twist. Dried banana.

Conclusion: Yep, that’s a hop kick. It starts off merely as a solid kick, but rapidly lays on the hop bitterness and punch to higher levels as it goes on. Very nice. There is nothing oily or resinous to it, just fluffy hop bitterness and kick delivered fairly cleanly. Old school(ish –old for USA style IPAs) hop use ya know, and I like it.

The fruity character has to work hard to get past the bitterness, but it just about manages to push through. It’s mainly grapefruit, tart and puckering. There are peach and apricot hints, even subtle banana, but don’t rely on them to be a major part of the beer. The tart notes are the main backing to the hop kick.

The malt body starts out even more out of the way. It isn’t an attenuated dry west coast style thing, it just isn’t really evident initially. Later on the slightly milky, slightly toffee notes show themselves and we have some welcome extra sweet notes in the latter half of the beer.

Its a rock solid bitter kick, tart styled IPA. Very little malt – lots of bitter hops. My kind of thing. It is kind of one track mind, but its just what I look for in an IPA so I’m not complaining.

Old school(ish) tart, hoppy, bitter fun.

Background: Sooooo, Garage did Snake Fear, an IIPA which blew me away, so I’ve had a hankering to see if they can make lighting strike twice. So when I saw Independent Spirit had more of their beers in I zeroed in on this one to grab. It’s pretty warm (for the UK) at the moment so I chilled these down nicely before I broke it open. Oh if the me from years ago could see me now. Chilling beers down. I am a monster in his eyes. This was drunk fairly late at night – I had been playing “Dead In Bermuda” and was convinced I was at the end of the game. Turns out there was about another two hours to go. Ah well, at least that meant it was cooler by the time I finally drank it. Went back to Crossfaith – Ex_Machina for music while drinking to give a bit of energy.

Senne: Bellwood: Imperial Donkey (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dark brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous white grapes. Yeastie champagne. Liquorice. Subtle cherries. Dry Madeira.

Body: Bready bitterness. Sour cream. Dry white wine. Slightly astringent. Dry Madeira. Dry cherry. Dry spice. Tannins. Light cocoa.

Finish: Sour dough. Dry white wine and white grapes. Champagne. Sultanas. Spicy dry red wine. Subtle bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, my first though was “What type of wine barrel did this spend time in?” On first breaking open the bottle, as I desperately tried to pour it into the glass before it frothed over, I got hit with a distinct, strong dry white wine into champagne character on the nose, with the imperial stout character lost under that due to its intensity.

The stout character comes out more as a bready, earthy kind of thing in the main body. For an imperial stout those flavours come across as fairly restrained.

What makes me question the barrel ageing is then how it changes, becoming spicier with dry red wine character coming out. Initially dry Madeira like notes into full on spicy red wine by the end via a few dry dark fruit hops in-between.

It is very barrel ageing dominated, even if I can’t quite pin down exactly which wine barrel it spent time in. There are slight cocoa to chocolate notes late on, but if you are enjoying this, chances are it is because the barrel ageing brought you there, rather than anything else.

As of such, it is not really for me. I like what the ageing notes bring, but I really need more beer backing it up. The beer just feels lost here. So, very vinous, lots of wine character and range, but so very little beer. May be for you, was not for me.

Background: Been a while since I had a beer from Senne, they have been stonking good in most of their past beers, so this one caught my eye at Independent Spirit – A barrel aged English style Imperial Stout. From googling I confirmed that it was a wine barrel as I thought, but yet to find anything that tells me the type. If you know please drop a comment and fill me in. Don’t know much about Bellwood Brewery apart from the fact they are a Toronto based brewery in Canada and they did a Beavertown collab I tried. For a heavy dark beer like this I put Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin on in the background to match.

Alvinne: Oak Aged Cuvee Sofie Kweepeer Quince ( Belgium: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale apricot. Thin white bubbly head.

Nose: Mashed apricots. Sour. Dry white wine. Grapes. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Sharp lemon.

Body: Very sharp. Yellow raspberry. Vanilla. Sour jelly sweets. Tart lemon curd.

Finish: Tart. Sharp lemon. Quince Rakia. Dried apricot. Yellow raspberry. Sour jelly sweets. White wine. Marmalade. Sour lemon curd.

Conclusion: Fuck me, this is sharp. Ok, after a few sips I acclimatised to it, and it became a pleasant tart and sour thing, but that first mouthfeel was a heck of a shock to the system.

I’ve only had quince in quince rakia, so I probably don’t have the best yardstick for comparison here (delicious though that rakia may be) to say if this tastes much like the fruit used. The fruitiness in this tastes like yellow raspberries meets mashed apricots meets tart lemon curd. So, possibly that is actually what quince tastes like and if I had tried it I could have saved myself a heck of a lot of words there. Any which way it is very fresh, very citrus and very enjoyable.

Super tart, super sour, this is carefully smoothed out at the edges by vanilla notes and a slight white wine dry character, into light, sweeter marmalade notes in the finish. It stops it from being just a flat out sour assault, and, considering my response to that first tart mouthful, for that I am very welcome. With those rounding notes it is still mouth puckering, but very enjoyable, if slightly single minded as a sour ale. It doesn’t change too much once you get over the initial shock, but the beer is fairly different from most others on the market, so I kind of welcome that for once.

So, initially a shock and may seem overwhelming for those who aren’t super into their sours, it does soften a touch into tart and rewarding fruity sour character (which may or may not be predominantly quince).

I would easily recommend this to any sour fan who are not shy of the tarter end of the spectrum and want something a bit different from the usual fruit experimentation. I very much enjoyed this.

Background; There area lot of words on this label, and I will admit I am unsure of which are the name and which are descriptors. Looking online there seem to be a lot of different versions of Cuvee Sofie, so I’ve played it safe and listed as many as I could here. So, this is a sour beer, foeder aged and made with quince. It mainly caught my eye as I tried a quince rakia in Belgrade and very much enjoyed it. So a sour beer made with the fruit sounded right up my street. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, and I put on Genitorturers – Flesh is The Law to listen to while drinking. S&M themed industrial metal turned out to go very appropriately with the very sour and tart beer!

Tiny Rebel: Yeastie Boys: Pomegranate and Molasses Belgian Strong Ale (Wales: Belgian Strong Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark ruddy red to caramel brown body. Inch of creamy browned head.

Nose: Turmeric and coriander. Earthy hops. Crushed peppercorns. Subtle caramel. Yeast funk. Heavy molasses notes. Brown bread.

Body: Chewy. Pomegranate. Mango. Tart apples to grapes. Dried banana. Slightly cloying mouthfeel. Sour-dough. Dry cinnamon.

Finish: Mango juice. Cherry pocked biscuits. Pomegranate. Muted cinnamon. Molasses. Sour cream.

Conclusion: This is a bloody weird beer. For one the pomegranate flavour is right up front and in your face. I always find pomegranate an unusual flavour in itself, but here it is layered over earthy spices, plus a hard to describe spice that I would best call “dry cinnamon”. It calls to spiced tea, just with beer instead of tea, if that makes any sense at all.

The feel is thick, with almost a savoury equivalent of cloying note, backed by sour dough and a grip that makes the flavours thick and clingy. I will say that the actual Belgian strong ale flavours feel lost under everything else. It ends up giving a texture, a funk feel, but not a flavour to match. That is all provided by the extra ingredients.

Early in it felt like it was trying to do too many things at once and felt unbalanced and mixed up. As time goes on it balances better but still feels too led by the special ingredients for me. I don’t mind pomegranate but with the thicker mouthfeel the flavour seemed to grip and hold on longer into the finish than I would like. It’s a flavour that I enjoy in the moment but gets wearing if it sticks around.

Lots of interesting elements in this one, but definitely more interesting than enjoyable for me. I love that the experimented, and like the idea, but it doesn’t quite work as a beer for me.

Background: Second to last of the seven collaboration beers made to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Tiny Rebel brewing. This is an odd one, as the name indicates it is made with pomegranate and molasses, to make what they describe as a Middle Eastern Belgian strong ale. Before drinking I had no idea what that would be like, but was intrigued. The collaboration box was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I put on Throwing Muses’ self titled album while drinking as I wanted some gentle but quality indie pop to relax with.

Ridgeside: Beer Ink: No Figgity (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy brown with a red hint. Good sized off white, creamy head.

Nose: Fig rolls. Slight cream. Wheat. Crushed Blackpool rock. Orange skin. Pepper. Caramel.

Body: Brandy cream. Malt chocolate. Figs. Sultanas. Fruitcake. Brown sugar. Caramel.

Finish: Figs. Cream. Wine soaked raisins. Dry notes. Brown sugar. Earthy bitter hop character. Nutty oily notes. Pepper. Carrot skin. Coriander.

Conclusion: Oh fig me, there are some full on figs in this. Initially very sweet and heavy on the dark fruit notes with some vinous backup, this then heads down a path into very earthy bitterness as time goes on, especially in the finish.

While distinctly a barley wine, the peppery and earthy notes, the rough gem edges and dark fruit actually makes me think that they have taken some influence from the Trappist Quads over in Belgium – making something more robust and rounded than the sweeter barley wine takes.

The extra ingredients used in making this are well done – I’ve already mentioned the very present fig character, but not yet that they mix with the sweeter notes to create a sweet pastry impression that calls to tasty fig rolls. Another point in its favour. Beyond that there are some subtle orange skin notes, and unsubtle cane sugar stylings creating some more Trappist like sugar notes.

It is rough edged, and the earthy, spicy notes that are a pleasant balance at the front do get too heavy by the end of the beer. However, with that said, I am on something like my third time trying this. I keep returning to it, this time to do notes, but in general just to enjoy, so it definitely has something.

Rough around the edges aye, but the extra fig notes add to the more traditional dark fruit barley wine character to give it a bit more than the usual style for a barley wine, and the additional orange notes certainly don’t hurt.

A flawed gem, but still a gem and worth trying.

Background: I’ve grabbed this a few times, so when it ended up in my fridge yet again I decided it was finally time to do notes on it. It grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. 1) I like barley wines and they don’t seem to be super common these days compared to say IIPAs or Imperial Stouts. 2) It is made with figs ..oh also candied orange peel but I am mainly here for the figs. Also it’s a collaboration with Beer Ink – I’m sure I’ve run into them before, but can’t quite pin down where. Will have to do a quick search at some point to find out. Another one from Independent Spirit – went back to Bad Religion for tunes to listen to, still got a soft spot for their mix of thoughtful lyrics and rocking punk tunes. Picked their Generator album, mainly for the title track.

Uerige: Doppelsticke Altbier (Germany: Altbier: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown to black. Inch of tight bubbled brownish head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Raisins. Spirit soaked fruitcake. Charcoal dust touch. Thick, hot caramel. Malt chocolate. Dry liquorice. Oily nuttiness. Cola bottles.

Body: Caramel. Oily nuttiness. Oily liquorice. Honey undertones. Fudge. Treacle.

Finish: Oily. Coffee remnants. Oily nuttiness. Liquorice touch. Palma violets. Toasted teacakes. Raisins.

Conclusion: This is another big, thick, beer. Seem to be having a run of them at the moment. This one is chewy and oily, mixing thick caramel and treacle notes with oily nuts and oily liquorice character. This feels pretty much like what would happen if you ditched a gallon of treacle into a standard Altbier. Only, ya know, good.

It is a beer that is thick and treacly head to toe, but there is enough going on under there to keep you interested during the time. You get showing from dark fruit, chocolate, even some slight use of fresh tasting palma violet notes in the finish that help separate each sip from the next. For such an intense beer it does well differentiating the notes and thus breaking up the drinking experience.

Now, with that said, the odd thing is that only applies to part of the beer. This thing rocks the aroma, and has a subtle and complex finish that makes taking a long time between sips worthwhile but … it has only a good not great body. Now note that is still good, but it is the one area with less complexity. In the main body is where it is the most treacle filled, most caramel filled and the other notes get much less of a look in.

If the body matched the complexity and range of the opening and finish of the beer, then this would be an utter classic. As is it is still a very enjoyable, super thick altbier and deviantly worth grabbing for a cold night in front of the fire.

Background: I picked this up my a kind of mistake. Uerige: Altbier is one of the beers listed in Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers and I picked this up thinking that is what this was. This is not that, it is the stronger, higher abv version of a similar beer. Ah well, still should be nice. Found it at Corks Of Cotham. A bit out of the way from my usual route, but has a good selection of beer, so worth checking out when I can. This has that flip cap style that I pretty much only see on German bottles. Very nice, and very easy to use. Put on Bratmobile – Pottymouth while drinking. No reason, I just like it.

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