Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV

Brewdog Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin

Brewdog: Barrel Aged Albino Squid Assassin (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red. Moderate inch of creamy brown froth.

Nose: Cherries and cherry liqueur. Vanilla and caramel. Chocolate liqueur. Jelly babies. Rye crackers. Tequila.

Body: Big amounts of jelly babies. Chocolate. Fudge. Bitter core. Sour pineapple juice. Malt chocolate. Pink grapefruit. Vanilla.

Finish: Sour pineapple juice. Rye. Toffee. Jelly babies. Grapefruit. Tequila. Coconut.

Conclusion: Some beers just seem frickin’ weird when barrel aged. Note that that is not in any way commenting on the quality of said beer, for good or bad, just noting that they do not go in the ways that you would expect.

Take this for example, a hopped up amber rye ale – now, after time in the barrel – it shoves a mix of vanilla (expected from the barrel ageing), tequila and jelly babies notes (only seen before in tequila barrel ageing, which is not used here), sour pineapple and grapefruit juice (kind of expected from the hop style, but far more sour), and sweet cherry liqueur notes (oh I give up). In no way is this how I thought the barrel ageing would affect the brown rye IPA tasting, kind of malt led, base beer that it originated from.

That sourness of the hop flavours, while note hugely powerful, is one of the bigger twists on the hop character that I didn’t see coming. However the coconut notes the base retains helps sooth it out, and together makes an oddly, well, not balanced, but managed beer.

It is an unrestrained mash up – soothing malt and coconut notes. Big sweet notes. Earthy spicy rye notes. I don’t think you could deliberately design this beer. It just wouldn’t work if you tried to put it together on purpose. However, here, somehow the mix does work. It is far sweeter and more dessert like that this beer should be, more bitter cored than that sweetness should allow, and more sour than that balance should handle. And, early on, it doesn’t work. It is a car wreck. However somehow it manages to build up, and somehow it ends up actually very good.

This kind of madcap foolery is where Brewdog shines, and is why they are still so appealing to me despite the fact I disagree with some of their stunts. A genuinely unexpected mix that has pulled off well. Well worth a try.

Background: A rye IPA that has now spent time in rye whiskey barrels, six months to be exact. I quite enjoyed standard Albino Squid Assassin, though this one seems to have had its abv punched up a few notches as well – so, either a hell of a wet wood to age in, or I’m guessing they have tweaked the recipe a bit so it survives ageing better. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Moor Benny Havens Scotch Whisky Barrel Aged

Moor: Benny Havens: Scotch Whisky Barrel Aged (England: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Deep bruised apricot skin. Coffee froth beige head. Much creamier and larger head on second pour.

Nose: Apples. Pepper and ritz crackers. Gooseberry and grape skin. Brown bread. Dried apricot. Blended whisky. Musky. Very milky coffee. Paprika.

Body: Golden syrup. Cloves and pepper. Aniseed. Pear drops. Fairly smooth texture but spicy. Apricot. Cinnamon. Brown bread. Lightly spirity. Toffee. Blended whisky. Apples. Caramel.

Finish: Light charring. Milky chocolate. Aniseed. Mulled wine. Light gin. Toffee. Greenery. Smoke. Apple. Honey. Hop oils. Dried banana.

Conclusion: Bit of a mixed up wee beast this one. Can’t say I disapprove. This leans towards the good side of disorganised, but because of that it does lack a lot of polish.

So, let us rewind a few moments and let’s try to break this down. Note one is that this is spicy – a fact that I would, at a guess, put at least part as whisky influence, but it is hard to say – depending on the region the whisky is from, a barley wine can push a lot of similar notes to a whisky. This feels half way between a Highland whisky and a European peppery noble hopped beer. I am going out on a limb by saying that as I have no idea if either were used to make this -it is just the flavour impression it leaves. The whisky feels a tad spirity in a blended whisky way, but that could just be the already high abv of the beer.

At the base, under all that, is a heavy honey to golden syrup barley wine – a tad rough but with a smooth mouthfeel. Around the edges you get fruitiness, from apricot to gooseberry, rounding notes and most probably the most subtle part, especially compared to the whisky, hop oil and spice punch. Late on a large apple character does grow out of it though to surprising prominence.

So, yeah, a mix of barely related notes – it isn’t one I’d recommend as high art, but there is something to its eclectic mix that I enjoy. So, not polished, nor near the high end of the barley wine style, but it definitely has charms. Decide from the notes if you think that means it will be one for you.

Background: Been far too long since Moor have graced these pages, so here it is, grabbed from Independent Spirit (I promise drinks form another source will turn up soon!). This is scotch whisky barrel aged – I am unsure if all Benny Havens is barrel aged or not, so I listed it in the name – if anyone knows please comment and let me know. Drunk while listening to a bit of a mash up – Erock’s excellent Mad Word meets metal and Rise Against’s Help Is On The Way being the stand outs. I seriously love the song Mad World – one saw a busker doing it on the London Underground and hung around for the entire song. I may have been mildly drunk at the time, but it was still cool.

Hawkshead Wild Beer Oat Wine Cider Brandy Barrel Aged

Hawkshead: Wild Beer: Oat Wine: Cider Brandy Barrel Aged (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Deep hazy dried apricot darkened body. Moderate dark brown bubbled head.

Nose: Oily and apples. Hop oils. Stewed apricot. Alpen – with raisins and sultanas emphasised. Dried banana. Raspberry tart notes. Syrupy.

Body: Raspberry. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Apple syrup. Vanilla custard. Hop oils and accompanied bitterness. Alpen. Peach.

Finish: Apple syrup and hop oils. Malt chocolate and fudge. Dry oats. Vanilla and vanilla pods. Raisins. Spicy rum. Greenery bitterness.

Conclusion: Oat Wine! Apple filled oat wine! Now, the original Oat Wine collaboration didn’t really grab me. This is similar, but the cider brandy ageing has had an interesting effect.

That base muesli style and those apricot fruit notes, are still there. In fact the pre hop styling greenery bitterness is kind of still there as well, but leaning towards a more hop oil evident character here.

What is added is a sweet syrupy character, very apple flavoured – though very artificial tasting due to the sweetness. It made me think of apple ice cream syrup, if there is such a thing. I have never encountered it, but if it does exist I would imagine it tastes like this.

Does the beer work? Hmm. Well, while artificial feeling, the sweetness of the apple adds a strong note that does help the beer early on. It adds an easily identifiable element at a point where the base beer was struggling to find itself – this strong character added to the Alpen like base does help sooth some of the flaws.

Later however it does become kind of wearing – the bitterness and oats mix in a slightly leaden fashion. However, overall I will say it is a slight improvement. It still feels like it doesn’t really do enough to leverage the strength of the oat style, but the early,bright, moments are pleasant.

Still weak, but less weak than before. At 9% abv kind of ironic, no?

Background: Not an auspicious start for this one. I had grabbed it at the same time as the standard Oat Wine, a beer which didn’t really impress me. Then I was warned by one commenter to avoid the Cider Brandy barrel aged version. Which I already had. Fuck. Ah well, I oft go against common consensus on beers so let’s give it a go anyway. Drank while listening to New Model Army: Thunder and Consolation. NMA are such a great band.

Cloudwater DIPA V3

Cloudwater: DIPA V3 (England: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy apricot coloured body. High carbonation. A centimetre of apricot to brown touched head that quickly leaves sud rings.

Nose: Kumquat. Slight egg. Quite musty. Sour gherkin. Lime. Apple.

Body: Lime and kiwi. Sour grapes. Sour dough. Lime sour sweets. Pineapple. Grapefruit chunks. Slightly funky cheese notes. Custard. Slightly acidic. Melon. Apricot and peach.

Finish: Sour white grapes. Lemon sherbet. Kiwi. Apple. Sour dough. Haribo sours. Cheese. Acidic cider. Pepper. Peach.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve just had to google Vemont yeast half way through doing the notes, just to check that it was not a brett variant, or acid malt, or some other weird thing. But, no, my initial thoughts were confirmed, it is in fact just a specifically DIPA aimed yeast. So why does this test Bretted as fuck? Or Bretted as funk if you want a poor pun.

The unusual character meant that it took a while for me to try and work out what the beer was trying to be – and, partially because of that, initial impressions were terrible. The beer’s aroma felt closed with sour gherkin, eggs and acidic notes. The body helped a bit with tart fruit, but the mix of light acidic notes and attenuated style did make me wonder if it had a light yeast infection. After a while I concluded that the acidic, feeling brett touched, style seemed to be intentional, so lets look at it as that.

It is unusual – not really bitter, more acidic and funky with sour dough and yeast characteristics – it reminds me very much of Wild Beer’s Evolver and Brett Brett beers. This becomes fruitier and sweeter over time, much more pleasant, but still interrupted by sour stabs that make the beer feel off.

The funk character of it can be fun, the fruit range is very good, but that base character just keeps intruding – too dry and acidic, and not in a way that complements the beer. There is a lot of good in this beer, but those notes initially up front end up hanging around in the background dragging it down.

Lots of good high points utterly let down by a few flaws in the base character.

Background: Not tried any Cloudwater before this, another brewery with a good reputation. We have a seriously well growing beer scene in the UK at the moment and it is awesome. Anyway, grabbed this at Independent Spirit. Again. Thought I would go for the Double IPA as the heavy hop stuff is always a good start for me. Drank this quite late at night, with music on random.

De Molen Hemel & Aarde

De Molen: Hemel & Aarde (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate brownish creamy head.

Nose: Iodine. Peat bogs. Smoked kippers. Seaweed. Blue cheese. Beef broth.

Body: Smooth textured body. Iodine. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Caramel. Beefy – soft and falling apart beef chunks. Milky coffee. Cane sugar. Smoke. Light blue cheese comes out late on.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Iodine and salt. Coffee. Charred oak. Smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, first things first – this is not as good as the legendary Octomore Barred Aged version of this. How could it be, that thing was liquid heaven; I seriously wish I had done tasting notes on it. This, unfortunately does not manage to quite scale those heights.

The aroma does come close though – big, chewy with blue cheese, seaweed and peat. Beefy, yet medicinal, it is an absolute luxury of big, strong flavours – albeit ones that are learned pleasures – everything is challenging and all mashed up in an aromatic meal.

The body doesn’t quite match that – it still kicks the iodine out, backed by caramel sweetness – still a mix of sweet, bitter and beefy notes, but not overly well integrated. This is where the Octomore barrel ageing in the other version took it to the next level – it took each of these strong elements and mixed it into a coherent whole. Here it is still a mix of big flavours, but you get either the strong medicinal, or the strong sweetness but rarely both at once.

It still has a lot of punch – smoke, cane sugar, coffee – Unfortunately the blue cheese takes a very long time to turn up in the mid body, which is a missed opportunity I feel. I love a good blue cheese filled strong beer. Filled with flavour, not literally blue cheese, of course. Anyway, this is utterly unbalanced – in can be sickly sweet at one moment then drying medicinal the next. I love the flavours it uses but it is very far from polished.

As you have probably worked out already, the octomore aged version rocks on toast. This one is an interesting, but not coherent, experience.

Background: I have tried this beer before! Well, not this exact beer, the octomore barrel aged version. It was heavenly (no pun intended, as the beer name translates as “Heaven and Earth”), an absolute legend of a beer. Unfortunately I did not have my review kit to hand, so now, I try this, the standard version grabbed from Independent Spirit. This imperial stout is made with the most heavily peated malt from the Bruichladdich distillery, so is right up my alley. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force – originally on their youtube channel, but have since bought my own copy of it as I enjoyed it.

Bristol Beer Factory UnLimited Wheat Wine

Bristol Beer Factory: Un\Limited: Wheat Wine (England: Barley Wine: 10% ABV)

Visual: Apricot. Hazy. Thin white dash of a head. Still body.

Nose: Apricot and fruit sugars. Peach schnapps. Boozy. Vanilla. Bourbon. Banana. Cinnamon sticks. Raspberry. Toffee and toffee liqueur.

Body: Mildly bitter. Wholemeal crackers. Dried apricot. Ovaltine. Mild milky coffee. Bourbon. Chocolate and toffee. Light banana esters. Smooth. Custard slice with their pastry. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Bitter. Earthy touch. Mild charred oak. Coffee cake. Caramel. Bourbon. Chocolate toffee. Fresh pastry. Cane sugar.

Conclusion: This is quite a mixed up experience of a drink and it shows all its included ingredients well. I seem to be on a Adjunct Wine kick at the moment, and, so far, this is one of the most impressive of the set.

First impressions a a mix of raw bourbon boozy imagery and smooth banana and apricot ester notes. The intensity of that alcohol belies the actually very smooth body and the impressively subtle fruity notes. There is a bitterness to the beer, but it isn’t in a hop style. I wasn’t sure initially what it was, but over time it finally becomes identifiable as coffee like bitterness. Speaking of the coffee, the coffee influence is present but it feels like it is being used as a grounded base. It mixes with the occasional earthy notes and only really comes out near the end of the beer as it settles down.

As well as the house yeast that the bottle mentions, I’m guessing the wheat is what to thank for a lot of the light fruit notes and smooth character that very slightly calls to a very boozy hefeweizen. It is an odd mix of very smooth at the base, and yet boozy as hell when the bourbon hits. The flavours and alcohol of the oak ageing are very evident.

The odd stand out element is a very chocolate style character that seems to rise from the coffee influence. Maybe it comes from the coffee merging with the sweetness of the * Wine base, but it is unexpected. It gives a dark chocolate toffee sweet core that the rest of the beer can then hang off. It gives that base to a beer that otherwise would be a mix of good but unrelated notes.

Overall it manages to mix smooth character with quirky rough edges with compromising either. I’m impressed. It is literally just one “Je ne sais quoi” away from being one of my favourites, and as is it is easily in the top set of beers. A very good wheat wine.

Background: Bottled 2014, drunk just under two years later in 2016. Been a while since I tried what once was a regular to these pages – Bristol Beer Factory. So, grabbed this, with its long list of ingredients and twists. 75% wheat, uses triple strain house yeast, aged in oak bourbon barrels and blended with cold brewed coffee. Quite the mix up. Drink while listening to Dope: Life, which seems to have become a generic go to for music for a while. Probably because of the song Die Motherfucker Die. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, like approximately 90% of my beers recently.

Hawkshead Wild Beer Co Oat Wine
Hawkshead: Wild Beer Co: Oat Wine (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Apricot, hazy bodied and with evident sediment, darkened under its large caramel touched head that leaves suds.

Nose: Peach melba or maybe peaches and strawberry. Creamy. Custard cream biscuits. Muesli. Nettles. Dried apricot.

Body: Thick and oaty. Nettles and greenery bitterness. Dried apricot. Hop oils. Peach syrup. Strawberry. Shouchuu.

Finish Greenery. Bitter. Tannins. Dry. Dried fruit sugars. Peach. Cheap sake. Muesli and sultanas.

Conclusion: Much better than first impressions indicated. Which may be an ominous dooming with faint praise, or possibly a prelude to raving about a new awesome beer. Suspenseful, no?

The aroma sells this as sweet and fruity, peach melba style, which initially isn’t really represented when you reach the body. The muesli tasting base seem to be laden with traditional pre-hop beer greenery bitterness and then leads into a disappointing finish backed by a shouchuu like alcohol character.

So, not good. Though time lets the fruit rise, the oaty base doesn’t seem to play well with it. The thick texture and light fruit seem like two separate entities that never mix or mesh. The best mixing element is where it feels like you get dried fruit sugar notes – kind of dried apricot and peach that seem to match the more restrained and less showy base.

The peach syrup grows late on and as it comes to dominate the beer becomes a thicker and much more fruity medley, but while this improves the beer, it feels like it does so by overwhelming the base rather than complementing the style. So, while it ends up a decent beer when it pushes that fruit up front, it does so by losing what makes it unique, so an ok beer at the end, but doesn’t make use of anything that makes it special.

Background: Now, Wild Beer Co seem to be a bit weak on Barley Wines, and while this is an Oat Wine, it still falls in the same ballpark. Then again this is a collaboration, so may be that they are learning from the main parter in it – Hawkshead. Any which way this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Chelsea Wolfe: Hypnos/Flame, mainly because Warren Ellis had mentioned it in his weekly e-mail so I thought I would check it out

Wild Beer Co III

Wild Beer Co: III (Aka Three) (England: Barley Wine: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cherry touched red. Slightly hazy. Strawberry touched white froth head. Seemingly still body. Head leaves suds.

Nose: Jelly touched. Passion fruit. Light pencil shavings mixed with wet wood. Strawberry. Pomegranate. Orange jelly.

Body: Pomegranate. Tomato juice. Light oak. Orange. Sickly honey. Brown bread. Treacle. Orange liqueur.

Finish: Tomato juice. Brown sugar. Pomegranate. Brown bread. Petals.

Conclusion: Ok, first sip impressions here were majorly off putting. This tasted like a tomato juice beer – I’m not exactly a tomato juice fan at the best of times, so this was not exactly what I would hope for as a beer opening handshake. After a bit of time with the beer I have come to the conclusion that is probably the effect of the pomegranate. Well, that is a guess, it is made with pomegranate molasses -I have no idea what they taste like, I presume like sweet pomegranate. Anyway, actual pomegranate notes also become evident later on. Anyway (again), the tomato is not pleasant here and lasts a very long time.

So, I said “first sip impressions” – does that mean that the beer gets better over time? Slightly. It lets more notes come out – light wood, and a bready base that helps ground it. It makes it more balanced so that it isn’t an actively painful beer. Wow “ it isn’t an actively painful beer” – that is damning with faint praise if ever I did so.

Ok, let’s be less harsh – I can see what they are doing – unusual fruit against a less sweet barley wine background than usual. It should all mix to create a kind of unusual and floral mix in a soothing and fruity way. It is a nice idea, and there is a floral character in the finish. Unfortunately here the beer just makes for a clash between the floral, the fruit and the few sweet notes that manage to break out, ironically too sickly sweet where the rest of the base is too dry.

Overall – nope I am not a fan. The fruit tastes like tomato juice and the base has no spark, with the occasional spurts of sweetness misplaced. For all their skills, Wild Beer Co seem to be weak with barley wines. Leave this one be says I.

Background: Wild Beer Co’s third anniversary beer, innovatively named, well, three. Usually I am a huge fan of Wild Beer Co, however their past attempt at Barley Wine was not particularity impressive. Still, grabbed this from Independent Spirit as always willing to give them a go. This particular barley wine was made with caramelised orange zest and pomegranate molasses. I have to admit I did not know that pomegranate molasses were a thing. You learn something new every day. Drunk while listening to Electronic Super Joy’s OST for some non intrusive upbeat backing music to my drinking decadence.

Störtebeker Whisky-Bier

Störtebeker Whisky-Bier (Germany: Smoked Beer: 9% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Some carbonation. Clear. Large yellow white mound of a head.

Nose: Caramel. Wet wood (kind of like sail ships). Custard. Smoke. Blended whisky. Kippers. Blue cheese.

Body: Syrup. Blue cheese. Light medicinal notes. Blended whisky. Orange zest. Custard. Brown sugar. Apricot. Smoked beef.

Finish: Brown sugar. Shortbread. Blue cheese. Syrup. Smoked beef.

Conclusion: Ok, smoked, this is smoked. I was not expecting smoked. In fact, this is not much at all like what I expected from the name – and that comes with a mix of the good and the bad. Where shall I start? Hmm, I’m feeling like a Little Mr Negative today, so let’s start with the down side.

Well it is a high abv beer and doesn’t deal with it particularly subtly. The body is sweet and syrupy, really declaring itself as boozy in the simplest manner possible. It doesn’t feel like there has been any attempt to optimise the attenuation for a balanced beer. Despite that the thick texture is pleasant and it doesn’t feel too harsh to drink – just simple and boozy.

The upside? Well the smoke is subtle but most wonderfully it brings a delicious blue funky cheese aroma with it. Even better it follows that into the body – the blue cheese weights in heavily and it is that which turns the thick boozy texture into a chewable and tasty beer rather than a sickly one. It similarly brings a smoked beer character, making a whole smorgasbord in a glass.

Oddly the whisky of the name seems like less of an influence than the aforementioned notes. There is a kind of cheaper whisky blend character and an obviously alcohol and sweet character – generally the only real call I can see that stands out is a spirity character at times to the main body.

So, what happens when you bring all these different strings of its bow together? Well it is ok, a bit raw, but for all that I love its blue cheese notes. Frankly it could do with lower abv I feel – as a more restrained beer this could be excellent.

Unfortunate as it is, by the end the sweet side of the beer overwhelmed the blue cheese. However it had its moments, and they were wonderful moments, even if it is far from a masterclass on how to do a brew.

Background: Not 100% sure why this is called whisky bier, I don’t think it has been barrel aged. Trying to pick words I recognised out of the German I think this was made using whisky malt, but I could be wrong. As always no expense has been spared in my research. Another beer that was a birthday gift from friends. Many thanks! Drunk while listing to some 4Bitten, saw them live a few years ago and they made enough of an impact that I still listen to them to this day.

Fallen Brewdog Big Raspberry Dog Chew

Fallen: Brewdog: Big Raspberry Dog Chew (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thick creamy inch of brown bubbled milkshake froth.

Nose: Soft chocolate. Large fresh raspberries. Some clean alcohol – vodka? Ice cream caramel sauce drizzled down. Slight salt.

Body: Raspberry crème. Bitter cocoa dust. Hot chocolate and caramel drink. Thick. Whipped cream,. Light salted toffee – grows as the beer warms. Lactose.

Finish: Fudge Sundays. Sweet raspberry sauce. Strong salted toffee. Clean alcohol air. Tart raspberries.

Conclusion: You know, I love beers with odd ingredients, and I always feel sad when you get such a beer where the ingredients don’t seem to have an influence, as that means they might as well not have been there. This has the opposite kind of problem,. You know exactly what you are getting from reading the description and ingredient list on the bottle.

The raspberry especially has a lovely influence – a mix of sweet raspberry cream and tart refreshing character. Despite the heavy abv it leaves your mouth fresh enough to sip again instantly. Yeah, dangerous, but tasty.

The milk stout declares the base – chocolate backed by a huge thick creamy character. We are talking whipped cream, trifle custard mouthfeel and sweetness – the baby sweet stout we are used to but all grown up now. Without the raspberry this would be painfully sickly sweet – as is this is a creamy dessert treat.

The final elements starts out the most subtle – the alcohol in the aroma had a slight salt character which turned an otherwise clean alcohol note into a light Islay touched whisky styling. At this point I had forgotten the salted caramel description and sea salt ingredient so it just seemed an odd note. The body is what reminded me – it starts low but quickly grows the salted toffee up until it almost eclipses the other two – only leaving the refreshing character that makes you continue sipping.

So, a wonderful combination with each point complementing the other. The only, and quite minor, point, is that everything is expected, everything is the listed ingredients. I have to admit I would have liked a few surprises from the base beer, as it feels more like a delivery system for the high concept pitch and special ingredients.

It is a very minor point. This is great, genuinely great, and balances everything so to create a beer stronger than each individual element. My wishes are basically the equivalent of wanting a second ponycorn (half pony, half unicorn) when you already have one. That kind of greed. So, can I have one please?

Background: Think this was one of the beers from last years Brewdog Bar collaberationfest. I think, I missed it last year. Anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit, and have had it on the shelf for a while. Imperial Stouts never die, they just age. It is a salted caramel raspberry milk stout, though from the special ingredients listed no caramel is used – instead it is made with raspberry juice, sea salt and lactose Drunk while listening to Dope: Life for a retro kick..


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers

%d bloggers like this: