Tag Archive: 8-10% ABV


Frau Gruber: Hybrid Moments (Germany: IIPA: 8.3% ABV)

Visual: Mango milkshake colour and thick, cloudy character to the body. A yellow-white creamy head.

Nose: Bitty hop character. Light resin and oily hop character. Moderate bitterness. Mango. Slight toffee. Fresh white bread.

Body: Creamy. Peach. Banana custard. Slightly oily. Sweet, light strawberry. Prickly tingle. Mild golden syrup. Some pineapple.

Finish: Light resinous character and bitterness. Banana. Hop oils. Light charring. Golden syrup. Prickly hops. Sweet pineapple. Some tart grapefruit.

Conclusion: Goddammit! Cans should be legally required to say if they are a New England IPA on the packaging, on pain of loss of kneecaps and life for failing to do so. I was very deliberately trying to avoid the NEIPA style when I picked this one from the line up.

Sigh.

Thankfully this has some bitterness to it, but more importantly a moderate use of resinous hop character that gives a nicely IPA feel to the beer. I can live with that. I just would have preferred to have been prewarned what I was buying. Sooo, NEIPA ranting aside….

This is thick and fairly sweet and creamy. Lots of those sweeter notes are expressed as sweet fruit – with peach, banana and the sweetest beer expression of pineapple I have seen for a very long time. However what starts as a low bitterness matched to good hop oiliness and resin character early on gets more and more bitter as time progresses until it is a solid kick backing that sweetness. I approve.

It’s still that creamy thick thing that was not the beer style I was looking for, so take that into account, but it is a decent beer, even with that said.

So, uses the creamy style, but manages a surprising level of hop bitterness by the end. From a discrete hop touch in the sweet fruit dominated front, it feels like very good progress into a mouth filled with bitter, resinous hops by the end.

It is a sweet milkshake IPA that punishes you with resinous hop pain as a reward. Not quite what I was looking for but enjoyable all the same.

Background: There were three Frau Gruber Double/Imperial IPAs on the shelves at Independent Spirit. So I looked at them and decided that this, with its BRU-1, Galaxy, Motueka and Mosaic BBC hops was most likely to be to my tastes. Also, I thought it was unlike to be a NEIPA. I was wrong on that last point. Can image was decent stylised image and eye catching, and Germany has a good brewing heritage so I had high hopes. Also, Gruber, Ya know, Like Die Hard. I as always, am a simple person. Anyway, had just been to see IDLES recently, and discovered a new great artist called Billy Nomates, so was listening to her music during the drinking session.

Vault City: Strawberry Skies (Scotland: Fruit: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy, with a bright strawberry red colour. Short lived white dash of a head.

Nose: Very fresh strawberry to strawberry yogurt. Lightly tart. Fresh apples. Mild use of hibiscus. Fresh white grapes. Melon.

Body: Strawberry. Light cream. Lightly acidic. Melon and apple. Fresh white grapes. Mild herbal notes.

Finish: Lemon cream. Strawberry yogurt. Melon and apple. An air of light hibiscus. Light cream. Vanilla. Banana.

Conclusion: Hibiscus usage in a beer that I don’t hate! Wooo! Finally! I think the thing that makes it work here, where is so often doesn’t elsewhere, is that it is used as a gentle backing note. It adds spice to an otherwise sweet beer – it has a definite goal to its use and achieves that. It isn’t the main event. Everyone who is ever thinking about making a beer with Hibiscus in it, pay note please.

So, with that out of the way … Strawberries, eh?

There is such very clean and fresh strawberry style on the nose. The beer is bright red on the eye, giving a wonderful visual experience even before you get into drinking it. The first impressions for this are spot on.

Sipping brings a more balances experience. Strawberries over a gently acidic and sour base – the freshness comes across more like fresh grapes than a sour lambic. It is helped by a slightly creamy mouthfeel than makes for a thicker feel and sweetness than you would normally get in a sour. Added into that a lovely sweet melon and apple notes well expressed makes for something that is recognisable as a (just about) sour beer, but very much towards the fruitier side of things.

The finish is the biggest surprise. Fresh and sweet but with sweet vanilla and banana notes making this quite dessert like over the creamier touch.

Through it all it is a fresh thing. Those cut apple, grapes and melon all keeping it feeling just fresh enough not to be sickly. It is not a heavy element, but it sticks around as a fresh note as the strawberry fades away, keeping the beer feeling clean, with the (and yes we are back to this) hibiscus as a spicy grounding and underlying of the whole experience.

Fresh, just savoury enough, fantastic use of strawberry with dessert like thickness from the vanilla and higher abv. An utterly awesome fruit beer. If you like strawberry, and fruit in general – grab it.

Background: I like strawberries. Rarely seem to work well in a beer for some reason. So, when I saw this strawberry sour from a brewery I had not tried before, I shrugged my shoulders and figured “What the heck, I’ll take the risk. So here we are. Also, I note after buying it also uses hibiscus which I, so far, have not had good experiences with in beers, so this was more of a risk than I thought. Also includes vanilla, which I have only encountered in a few sours, but seems to be a positive when I do encounter it. Not much else to add. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the Rotten Citizens Vol 1 EP – a mix of nicely dark sounding electronic tracks.

Left Handed Giant: Double Dot Matrix (England: Imperial Stout:8.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. A cream brown cm of a head.

Nose: Cherry. Black cherry. Crushed chocolate bourbon biscuits. Creamy.

Body: Cherry liqueur. Black-forest gateaux. Vanilla cream. Cocoa dust. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Fudge. Black-forest Gateaux. Red cherries. Cocoa. Crushed peanuts.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a black-forest gateaux stout. BOOM. Notes Done.



Ok, I have to do more. It’s in my contract. A contract which I wrote for myself. To myself. I hate me some times.

This is very smooth, slightly creamy which gives a nice weight to it. There are hints of booze, especially in the finish. Nothing harsh, nor that thick boozy feel, just a pleasant reminder to be careful when drinking this. It is very cocoa to creamy chocolate bourbon biscuit at the base. It would be a smooth, satisfying, if lacking range, stout even without the special ingredients – making a good base for the rest to work from.

Layered on that is a lot of vanilla cream, vanilla toffee and some fudge style that adds sweetness and thickness onto that, combining to make a very creamy beer indeed. The base bitter cocoa keeps the sweetness in check though, so it all works out very well.

So, the cherries then. Actually initially a lot of it comes across as red cherry to cherry liqueur notes, all bright and such rather than the black-cherries actually used. The black-cherries still do their work though as the brightness dies down, mixing with the bitter cocoa, cream and such to give ….

A black-forest gateaux stout. BOOM. Notes Done.

If you use that to loop back to the start now this could end up an infinite review.

Anyway, a smooth and creamy stout, with great black-cherry usage. This is a spot on imperial stout that is dominated but not totally overpowered by its special ingredient. So very good.

Background: So far I have not been overly taken with LHG hoppy beers, not that they are bad, just that they have not entranced me. So I decided to try this to experiment more with their malt led side. Dot Matrix was a milk stout collaboration made with Stillwater. This is a brewed up Imperial Stout take on that. The stout is made with Cacao nibs, vanilla, black cherry and dextrose. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I went with a mix of Gogol Bordello tracks for music while drinking this.

De Strusie: Aardmonnik – Earth Monk 2013 Vintage (Belgium: Flemish Bruin: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to brown. Thin grey brown dash of a head.

Nose: Strong brandy cream. Rich red wine. Fruitcake. Glacier cherries and raisins. Malt chocolate.

Body: Vinegar. Malt drinks. Earthy. Dry white wine. Dry middle. Rich red wine. Blueberry. Yellow raspberry. Brandy cream late on. Pinot noir.

Finish: Dry white wine. Tart grapes to sour grapes. Tannins. Earthy. Teabags. Dry red wine. Yellow raspberry.

Conclusion: This is Vinous! As! Fuck! So, that is first impression dealt with.

Actually, that said, let’s take a bit more time to go over first impressions. Contradictory as that may seem – there are some interesting points here. Because the vinous first impressions is an overall first impression of the beer. The aroma was actually very different – the aroma is all dark and spirity, promising heavy fruitcake, deep dark fruit and a mix of strong spirits.

That first impression is bollocks.

The first impressions on first sip had me very disappointed. It was vinegar touched and very earthy that seemed simple and paid off none of the promise of the aroma. I was disappointed, but I should have remembered that generally I have to take a bit longer than normal to acclimatise to sours.

Time creates something very different to the first impressions, either the aroma of those first sips. Dry white wine at the base, still earthy and tannin touched. Then slowly tart blueberry and yellow raspberry notes come out, before it blossoms into rewarding red wine that mixes well with the fresher and tarter fruit notes. It becomes even richer wine over time, feeling like a tart beer meets pinot noir, which is quite an experience.

It is a slow burn beer, going from the initial simple tart grape and vinegar notes into a remarkably deep and expressive beer, with the earthiness becoming balanced by much malt drinks and malt chocolate. Shoot, very late on it even pays off those spirit cream notes that the aroma promised long before.

It is a hard beer to get into, which does keep it from being a favourite, but it rewards you when you get below the surface. Challenging but rewarding.

Background: I’ve been looking this for ages. One of the beers in 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die and one that is released very rarely. You can see why, this one has spent 5 years in a Burgundy cask, that is something that may hold up your release schedule a while. Anyway, I never found it for all my searching. However my mate Tony saw it while he was in Belgium and grabbed it for me. So many thanks for that Tony. Anyway, went with Tool again while drinking – the new album gets better every time I listen to it.

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.

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.

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