Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Bosteels: Kwak (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 8.4% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Large browned froth for a head.

Nose: Brown sugar in a carmalised and crème brulee fashion. Aniseed. Crushed palma violets. Toffee. Perfume. Blackpool rock. Sugared orange sweets.

Body: Brown sugar and crème brulee. Cane sugar. Sugared orange sweets. Golden syrup cake. Reasonably light mouthfeel. Sweet lime syrup. Slight cloying, sour, doughy touch at the very middle.

Finish: Candyfloss. Brown sugar. Orange sugars. Lemon sherbet. Very light earthy note. Slight liquorice. Slight woody. Light sour undertone as it warms.

Conclusion: You know what? This has no right being a decent beer. Very sweet with lots of residual sugar evident, kind of perfumed aroma. Very silly, impractical gimmick glass. Should be ballacks right? The simple, lowest dominator Belgian sweet thing?

Yet it isn’t. Very malt led, quite clean and slightly light textured body. It has a lot of raw brown sugar, Blackpool rock and other sweet flavours, but the lighter texture keeps it from becoming sickly sweet. It is one of the few dark, high abv beers that I find the lighter texture actually helps rather than hinders it. That is the thing that keeps it from ending up as just a cheap, sweet beer… well one of the things. The other is the wonderful interaction with the Belgian yeast. You get lots of fruity esters coming out, binding with the sweetness to give the impression of lots of candied fruit blended into the mix.

In fact there is another point that works for it, and that is the subtle grounding notes not found in the simpler sweet beers. There is a slight doughy, cloying touch, just at the middle, a grip in amongst the lighter texture. There is also a light wood and earthy note in the finish, brought in with a very, very slightly sour touch as it warms – at a point when otherwise the sweetness would be rising too much.

It is the beer that should have been the epitome of a sweet, simple, disposable beer – yet it is so much more than that. It takes careful work to make such a seemingly sugar dominated beer work this well. AB INBev, it is in your hands now. Don’t fuck it up.

Background: A bottle from before the AB INBev takeover. Grabbed from Independent Spirit on the day I head about the deal. I have been a big fan of this for a while but never got around to doing notes on it despite having had it reasonably often. Often beers go downhill after being bought up so I thought I would so some notes now so I can compare to them in years to come. According to the bottle Bosteels have been independent since 1791, and I guess not independent since 2016 now. I broke out the absurd Kwak glass for this one, wooden handle that lets the glass shuffle around in it. Silly bulge at the end that causes the beer to glug out suddenly if you are not careful. Technically it is a terrible glass but I love it, wooden handle and all. Drunk while listening to a random mix of erock metal tunes.

Närke: Kaggen Stormaktsporter Börb’nåhallon (Sweden: Imperial Stout: 9.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown rim of a head around the glass.

Nose: Bourbon. Vanilla. Spicy rum. Toasted teacakes. Buttery popcorn. Cinnamon. Treacle. Chocolate liqueur. Smoke. Fudge.

Body: Treacle. Molasses. Toasted teacake. Bitter chocolate. Cherries. Chewy. Black cherry. Heavy. Chocolate liqueur. Spicy rum. Bourbon. Honey. Vanilla toffee. Alcohol edge. Marshmallows.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Fudge. Toasted teacakes. Cherries. Butter. Spicy rum. Long lasting spice – jar of seven spice. Rye bourbon air. Bitter cocoa air. Red wine. Charring. Smoke.

Conclusion: There are times in a beer reviewers life that you wonder, am I just looking for flaws to be controversial? This beer has a huge rep, am I just being contrary? So, I have indicated I think this beer has a flaw, what is it? Kind of two fold. One, it is so packed that it can get crowded. Two, that it does show its alcohol. Yep, that’s it. Not much really.

Thing is, imperial stout is packed field of awesome beers. Is that enough though to disqualify it from being the best of the best? Good question, but we are getting ahead of ourselves, lets talk about the beer first and come back to that.

This is thick, spicy and chocolate liqueur loaded, all layered over a real wonderful toasted teacake base. Very good start. The spicy character reminded me of the excellent De Molen 666, but the rest of the beer means it is grounded completely differently. It is utterly intense, delivering cherries, cinnamon, chocolate, bourbon and smoke. Definitely spirity, but despite the alcohol very much showing through it is not harsh. It really lays that spice character on heavy, but thankfully the rest of the beer is big enough to cope with it. Similarly it lays down massive sweet honey, again relying on the weight of all the other elements so it is not sickly.

It is a mix of so much, creamy with fudge notes like the sweeter end of the Imperial Stout scale – Spicy like a rum aged IS, Vanilla and rye bourbon like ageing notes like a, well, bourbon aged IS, Even smoke like an Islay aged IS. It has so much depth, and frankly I’m guessing a few more years ageing would sooth that extra alcohol that is the problem.

As it is, rather than as an imagined aged version? Erm. Well, it is basically insane complexity vs that alcohol edge. Well, I am a fan of rough edged gem beers, but for smoothness the aforementioned 666 is better, for complexity this wins. I think it comes down to the fact that this doesn’t quite come to a coherent whole with all its elements, but each individual element is excellent. So, not quite a personal favourite, but bloody good, and I’m sure that it will be many of yours, it is on that knife edge.

The everything and a kitchen sink of the Imperial Stout range and impressive as fuck.

Background: WE GOT ONE! After finding this but not being able to buy it on the first day in Gothenburg, I was put in a dilemma on finding it on the last day in Akkurat, Sweden. I had already done two sets of notes. I tend to limit myself to that as afterwards I find alcohol and conflicting tastes make the notes less reliable. Then again, I had been taking my time, drinking water between beers, having lots of conversations and enjoying the awesome band that had come on at this point. So, I figured that I could do one more – let’s face it, it is an imperial stout, a big imperial stout, that should kick over anything drunk before it. By this point Akkurat was ram packed, with an awesome live band playing behind us – great atmosphere but because of this light was down, so my photo was not quite as good as it could have been. Apologies. According to a quick bit of google translate, this is the same base beer as the standard Stormaktsporter, which is brewed with honey – this has been flavoured with raspberry and aged for fourteen months, three of which are bourbon, and bottled in 2015. It is currently the highest rated Swedish beer on ratebeer, and one of the world top 50. As I was finishing this a kind Swedish man bought me a pint of Oppigårds El Dorado – a very good show of the hop but damn after everything else drunk I did feel pissed. Many thanks still!

3 Små Rum: SolDIPA (Sweden: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Thin white bubbled mound.

Nose: Peach. Banana. Pineapple. Very fresh. Custard. Tangerine. Dried apricot.

Body: Peach. Slight greenery. Resin. Pineapple. Syrupy feel. Tangerine. Dried apricot. Light cloying twist. Light sour cream. Pomegranate. Just slightly musky.

Finish: Pineapple. Apricot juice. Hop oils and some bitterness. Slight hop character. Slightly bready. Tangerine.

Conclusion: The first beer if the Sweden trip and it is a blinder of a fruit explosion! On the initial nose all I got was a big syrupy fruit blend, like an alcohol mixed fruit smoothie with extra syrup thrown in. It is all bright, all fresh, and occasionally quite tropical in style.

Initially the body follows that, in fact everything follows that – all insanely bright and insanely fruity. I did like it like that, but I was very glad when it, instead of just staying like that, expanded. It became more resinous, more greenery and hop oils – from that initial pure, delectable fruit juice style you get a true beer style backbone developing. It is this that takes it from a good but one note beer to an absolutely excellent beer.

It is wonderful – amongst the bright fruit it has that tiny soured tang twist that reminds me of Punk IPA, and late on you get a musky fruitiness of a heavier IIPA. It doesn’t have the pure freshness of, say, un-human cannonball, but has a similarly massive range of huge flavour, and with a heavier back as it goes on.

It doesn’t use large bitterness, or large levels of the more traditional prickling hop character, relying instead on the more hop oil and resin side for the IPA feel, and that means it is not just an excellent flavour IIPA, but a slightly unusual one as well.

A great IIPA with banana and peach side by side in a way little seen, and then combined with tropical fruit to just blow my mind in the sweet and fresh fruit contrast. A fantastic start to Sweden and a true great of the IIPA scene.

Background: Drunk at 3 Små Rum in Gothenburg on the first day of the Sweden beer trip. A wonderful place, the bar staff/brewers were fantastic to talk to, and happy to discuss their beer and beer in general. Had the motto “Don’t ask for blask!” (crappy fizzy beer), and a lovely feel with the small rooms encouraging chats between the various people there. Felt like they knew their regulars well also. They let me into the back where I saw the tiny brew setup they use, so they can be free with their experimentation. They did break my heart though – had a Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter Börb’nåhallon on the shelves, but it was his last bottle, so for display only. NOOOOO! Still, their beer is so good I forgive them. Also tried another beer that they gave to me to try– single hopped with Nelson Sauvuin hops but brewed with Vienna malt, so you you end up with a dark beer mixing with that fresh Nelson Sauvin style. Fascinating, and shows what you can do with small experimental batches. Definitely recommend checking this place out if you are in Gothenburg.

Stone: Mocha IPA (USA: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Pale caramel. Inch of browned bubbles and froth. Clear main body and good carbonation.

Nose: Distinctly milky mocha coffee. Crushed hazelnuts. Cocoa dust. Crushed coffee beans. Choc orange.

Body: Chocolate toffee malt drink. Vanilla toffee backing. A hop feel but little hop flavour. Pine needles and resin. Chocolate limes.

Finish: Big fudge and big chocolate. Choc orange. Hop prickle and popcorn hop feel. Light neutral hop flavour. Hop oils and resin. Chocolate limes.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Brewdog’s blond stout Abstrakt they did, number … AB 08 I think it was. Similar concept, only, oddly, this one – despite being a self declared IPA – actually feels closer to archiving the bright coloured yet imperial stout tasting goal. Albeit this is a roasted, hopped up stout, but , since hopped stouts is a familiar enough style these days that shouldn’t disqualify it.

Very big on the coffee, very big on the chocolate on the nose – The amazingly well expressed sheer clarity and complexity of the coffee on that first contact damn near blew my socks off. The level of toffee chocolate on first sip then burned those socks to ash so I could never put them on again. Wow.

Early on it is very stout, so much so that, while I enjoyed it, a small nagging part of me felt that it did not match its declared IPA name. As time passed that worry also passed. It was still very coffee, very stout, but the hop character rose, especially in the long lasting finish. It enters life as a stout, but it leaves as an IPA.

The only flaw then is that the flavours don’t really reflect the range of an IPA, just the hop character. Ok, it does make some concessions – the character of the chocolate can tend choc orange and choc lime, which I guess may be the hops. Generally though the flavour is stout, the feel is IPA.

A minor nitpick though. In concept, in how it matches its concept, and in general quality this is amazing. I can’t recommend it enough. A mind-blowing creation.

Background: Stone Brewing. IPA. Stone Brewing. IPA. I was fairly sure we were onto a good one here. This is an odd one though, an IPA (Or in this case IIPA) made with cocoa and coffee beans. Not your standard IPA addition. Anyway this was grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Drunk while listening to Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing. It seemed a nice blend of melodic and heavy metal for the time

Schneider and Sohn: Marie’s Rendezvous: Tap X (Germany: Weizen Bock: 10% ABV)

Visual: Deep cloudy apricot. Thin off white dash of bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Stewed apricot. Cloves. Honey. Ginger biscuits. Peppermint. Bready. Iced tea.

Body: Honey to mead. Quite dry. Light peppermint. Stewed apricots. Custard slices and icing notes. Raisins.

Finish: Dry honey. Light custard notes. Cloves. Stewed apricots. Raisins.

Conclusion: I have to admit I was expecting more from this. Schneider and Sohn have a long and proud brewing heritage, and this is a beer dedicated to the memory of that, doing their WeizenBock style. Their best in this style can be complex, subtle and yet still huge in what they provide in flavours.

Now this has the huge part down pat, unfortunately it is less so on the complex and subtle sides of things. Ok, that is overly harsh, there is complexity to it, but it has such a big honey sweet front that it can be hard to detect any of the rest of it. It is very booming sweet mead like at the front, dry mead at the back. The sweetness emphasis is so big that it can make it hard to make out the more traditional weizen characteristics.

If you let it warm, take your time with it then it does reward you by bringing out other notes. You get raisins and cloves that call subtly to the amazing Aventinus, beside that you get a peppermint freshness and a wodge of stewed fruit notes. In the end however, it all comes back to the honey. It feels like a mead beer, but needs to do more with the beer side of that to take advantage of it.

As a thick, sweet, honey touched beer it ok, but for a beer from Schneider and Sohn and a beer that is moderately costly, is a bit of a let down. It has a touch of spiciness that calls to its Weizenbock background, but it feels like it needs more. Something that you couldn’t get from mulling mead. Do people mull mead? Never looked into it…

Anyway, an ok experience but that feels like a let down when you look at what it could be.

Background: I do like like both Schneider and Sohn’s Weizen Bocks, and their Tap X range, so this is right up my alley. It is pretty well known that Aventinus is one of my all time favourite beers, so I wanted to see how this stacked up. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this was drunk with a bit of punk – Bad Religion: Generator to be specific, a fun album from a long time loved band of mine.

Cloudwater: DIPA v5 (England: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to apricot. Good carbonation. Large white to yellow touched head.

Nose: Passion fruit. Light boiled egg. Banana. Bready. Pumpkin.

Body: Moderate bitterness that rises to solid over time. Cloying passion fruit. Apricot. Vanilla fudge. Fresh white crusty bread. Frothy mouthfeel. Dried pineapple.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop oils. Digestives. Slightly cloying touch. Peppery. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I will admit that I was expecting the slightly cloying touch to the fruit in v4 to be one of the things that changed between it and this v5. It didn’t change. See I am already learning things about how timing of dry hopping does or does not affect a beer.

What we find instead is a more restrained aroma that shows less evident notes, a fact I am pretty sure will be due to the timing of the dry hopping – and a body that has a bigger evident bitterness to it. Also, overall the beer does feel less resinous as well. Yes I will spend a lot of time comparing this to v4, it seems a waste of time to just repeat the elements that are the same between the two.

In fact, returning to the cloying touch, if anything this feels more dedicated to the dry and cloying fruit side of things, with less bright notes showing through. Because of that we also seem to get slightly more of the fudge malt base shining through. Since that doesn’t seem to be something that would be increased by the hop timing I am guessing that it could be because there is less to get in its way so it shines through more. It feels slightly heavier and longer lasting in the flavour.

Of course this is all tried by having only one sample of each beer, with no blind, so hardly the scientific method being done here.

Anyway, this also seems to lack that touch of funky yeast touch from the v4, though it still keeps the peppery character I associated with that. It feels like the more weighty, slower drinking double IPA of the two. There is a nice weight to it, maybe a tad too heavy though, and it does get slightly wearing as it gets warm.

Of the two I would say that v4 is the better, with a tad more complexity, but the two are very similar. This is however the heavier of two slightly heavier than normal Double IPAs, and doesn’t have as much in return. Still good, but not great. V4 definitely wins from the two for me.

Background:Ok quick copy past from v4 which was released at the same time as v5. The two versions came out side by side as they are mostly the same beer, with the difference being V4 is dry hopped during fermentation, v5 is dry hopped after fermentation which will alter how the elements interact. Very interesting. The official advice is to drink half of one, half of the other, then mix the two and try that. Whichever is the preferred one will be used as the template for v6. My alcohol tolerance these days is sod all, and my taste-buds would probably get confused, so I did not do that. instead I drank v4 one day, and v5 the next, so I still had a clear memory of what they were like. Grabbed from Independent Spirit – these were very small batch due to their experimental nature, so I was very happy to get hold of a bottle of each. Also I deliberately didn’t look at notes of v4 until after initial notes but before conclusion so to minimise influence, but help with comparison.

Cloudwater DIPA v4

Cloudwater: DIPA v4 (England: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly hazy yellow to peach skin. Good carbonation. Massive white fluffy head.

Nose: Resinous. Peach. Quite clean. Pine cones. Light cannabis. Dried banana. Vanilla. Bran flakes.

Body: Peach. Nice bitter kick – moderate but there. Juicy. Good hop feel. Passion fruit and kumquat. Dried fruit. Thick. Brown bread. Slightly peppery. Yeasty. Peach syrup. Resinous.

Finish: Fluffy hop character. Slightly dry. All bran. Moderate bitterness. Hop oils. Palma violets. Passion fruit. Kiwi. Yeasty feel. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is definitely the dried fruit side of the double IPA. I mean it is fruity as heck, and laid over a quite dry base, but the fruit all comes in just slightly dried with that. It is just slightly parching rather than refreshing. Until I try the v5 I can’t say if this is due to the dry hopping being done during fermentation or if it just the base character of the beer. I’m looking forwards to finding out. This does feel pretty yeasty itself though, with a touch of Belgian feeling funkyness and alight peppery character. Nothing too obtrusive, just a nice feel.

With that I find it enjoyable in the flavours, definitely well done there, but just slightly cloying. It doesn’t make it bad, just different, which is oft appreciated. However it does make it far less refreshing as an IPA, resulting in a beer which is definitely better having as just a one in a session rather than repeat visits.

The flavour range is the best part, with the fruit emphasised and the malt body mostly out of the way. The bitterness is nicely pitched, present in a hop oil and resinous way that is present, but far from overly harsh. It matches the more dry and cloying fruit notes well.

So a slightly funky beer, the peppery notes and slight palma violets bring to mind the more noble hops, and matched with a quite resinous and slightly cloying IPA. Thick and definitely set for slow drinking. For me, I generally would prefer a slightly cleaner take on the fruit going forwards, really let it shine out of the beer. However I have enjoyed this different take on it. Let’s bring on v5 and see how it compares.

Background: Something a bit unusual here. I had tried DIPA v3, though from feedback I have got my experience was not similar to most drinkers so I may have got a tad yeast infected or something beer. Anyway, even with that it wasn’t too bad so when I saw v4 and v5 come out I thought I would give them a go. The two versions came out side by side as they are mostly the same beer, with the difference being V4 is dry hopped during fermentation, v5 is dry hopped after fermentation which will alter how the elements interact. Very interesting. The official advice is to drink half of one, half of the other, then mix the two and try that. Whichever is the preferred one will be used as the template for v6. My alcohol tolerance these days is sod all, and my taste-buds would probably get confused, so I did not do that. instead I drank v4 one day, and v5 the next, so I still had a clear memory of what they were like. Grabbed from Independent Spirit – these were very small batch due to their experimental nature, so I was very happy to get hold of a bottle of each. Drunk in the insane current heat while listening to the haunting David Bowie: Black Star album.

Rochefort 8

Rochefort: 8 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Large bubbled brown froth head.

Nose: Raisins. Wheaty. Figgy pudding. Smoke. Burnt grains. Brandy cream. Bready. Fortified red wine. Cherries. Chewy.

Body: Very vinous. Sour grapes. Sweet port mixed with Madeira cake. Black liquorice. Bready – both brown and unleavened. Lightly creamy.

Finish: Dry sultanas. Malt drinks. Madeira cake. Liquorice. Brown bread slices. Lightly earthy feel and peppery.

Conclusion: One day I will have to do Rochefort 8 and 10 side by side – I always seem to end up describing them with similar notes. Then after drinking both I will instantly collapse due to my weak alcohol resistance before their strong abv levels.

From memory this sets very neatly between the 6 and the 10. It has the big, fruity and vinous character that is similar to the 10, but without the wonderful, indulgent, malt load sweetness. It delivers the wine and plentiful dark fruit in a drier style, matching it with liquorice working against the sweetness. I’m not a huge fan of liquorice in beer most of the time, so that is a mark against it, but generally it is a very good set of flavours.

From the style of the 6 comes that bready, slightly Orval like drier character, which is what prevents the beer reaching the insane 10 like sweetness. For such a big beer in flavour and abv it feels very well attenuated, ending up dry and slightly peppery. It makes it a reined in rather than dessert like beer.

When the beer is cool it learns a bit too much towards the dry side for my tastes, but at room temperature it becomes fruitier and more fell – and here it is the standby of the Rochefort crowd – managing the flavour of the ten but without the excesses.

Despite that, I must admit I prefer the 10, I just love it, it is one of my favourite beers. This, I will admit, is the better balanced beer though, even if it is not my favourite of the three. It is still very impressive, and will age to a true gem of a beer if you give it time. So, if you prefer sweet go with the 10, if you prefer dry go with the 8. Any which way you will find a great beer.

Background: For ages I thought I had already done notes on this one, for a long time the Rochefort beers were my favourite Trappist ales and I grabbed them whenever I could. So, once I realised I had not yet done notes on them, there was only one thing I could do. Grab a bottle (from Independent Spirit again) and take my time with it. As you are probably aware, there are very few places allowed to call themselves Trappist beer producers – of which the majority are in Belgium. The brewing needs to be done, or overseen by the monks for it to count. Drunk while listening to Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls – an odd album in that I enjoy it, but none of the tracks really stand out by themselves.

Old Chimney King Alfred's Cake

Old Chimney: King Alfred’s Cake (England: Porter: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Sour dough. Cream cheese and chives. Chestnut mushrooms. Orange rind.

Body: Bitter cocoa. Condensed cream. Chocolate. Liqueur. Chocolate cake. Dandelion and burdock. Wine soaked raisins. Chestnut mushrooms. Glacier cherries. Milky coffee.

Finish: Milky, rich coffee. Cinnamon. Dandelion and Burdock. Spicy red wine to port. Cherry aid. Rum and raisin ice cream. Chocolate orange. Chestnut mushrooms.

Conclusion: Unusual, yet mixed with the usual. The familiar and the profound side by side. Let’s start with the unfamiliar stuff in the main body and work our way out from there.

So, yeah, the first and second odd notes are a mix of Dandelion and Burdock, and mushrooms – ok, as explained in the background one may be psychosomatic, but I’m fairly sure that not both are. It definitely has that distinctive, oddball, tangy D&B character that then slips easily into more spicy wine and wine soaked raisin notes that I would associate more with the heavier end of the ESB style, or with an Imperial Stout than I would a porter. However, I would say that that soft drink character previously described leans it closer to an ESB that a imperial stout in the expression of it. Fascinating, no?

The mushrooms are then a more rounding note – that kind of chestnut mushroom meatiness and a savoury backdrop to the sweeter main base. The chestnut mushroom character comes out more in the finish as the sweetness finally drips away.

Heading the other way, into the aroma, we find the more traditional notes – the sour dough, cream cheese and chives, thick, slightly soured aroma. It declares a certain kind of robust, traditional, porter is to follow. Then spends the rest of the time undercutting that image, the big liar.

The other familiar notes comes from the last word of this beer’s name. Cake. Cake is evident in both coffee and chocolate format, nice sturdy, heavy notes to ground the fresher and unusual D&B notes. Quite the layered, non standard porter then. Mostly it works. – you have to be able to enjoy dandelion and burdock but it isn’t totality dominated by it. It is basically a very ESB influenced porter – a few of the fruitier and fresher notes definitely call to the ESB style but without betraying the heavier porter style. Not a beer I would have often, mostly as I feel D&B is enjoyable but only in moderation, but taken once in a while? Very enjoyable.

Background: Old Chimney! Makers of Good King Henry Special Reserve – still one of my top three Imperial Stouts. Love those guys! Even if their stuff doesn’t turn up locally often. So, King Alfred’s Cake is an inedible fungus. I never knew that. Because of that word “Inedible” I am fairly sure none is used in the making of this beer. Fairly sure. Still, because of that mushrooms were on my mind while doing this, so could be a touch of influence on my notes there. Drunk while listening to Garbage’s new album: Strange Little Birds. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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.

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