Tag Archive: Amber Ale


Odyssey: Left Handed Giant: Left Handed Zombie (England: Amber Ale: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronze to amber. Large loose bubbled beiged head.

Nose: Peach. Pineapple. Grapefruit. Sweet fruit syrup and fresh fruit tartness. White grapes. Peach Melba.

Body: Lightly brown bread. Peach Melba. Good bitterness and hop character. Pineapple. Slight sour dough and chives. Light charring. Rye crackers.

Finish: Brown bread. Solid hops and bitterness. Light black pepper that grows over time. Sulphur and smoke. Peppermint.

Conclusion: Ok first up – no this is not as good as the showstopper that is the big brother of this – Imperial Hop Zombie Blood. Then again, what is? This is a less clean feeling beer – it has more notes that call towards the heavier real ale style, with bready notes making it a solid drink, with sulphurous notes mid to late on. It feels like a mild concession to make a more sessionable, more standard drinking ale style out of an intense beer, without losing what made that enjoyable.

Now, where it is most like its big bro is in the big bitterness it brings,and the big flavours with that. It bring sweet peach and tart pineapple, mixed with white grapes which makes this a right mouthwatering mix. That is set against that very robust, grounded, bready and slightly sulphurous base. It is an interesting contrast and works better than you would imagine. A very traditional feeling base with the fruit punching right out of the gaps.

It is heavy, almost rye tasting in style with some peppery character, but the fresh notes manages to keep it from getting wearing.

It isn’t a shining wonder like its big brother, but it also doesn’t feel like it is aiming for that. Instead it feels like a new world hopped, rye best bitter that is also an amber ale. Solid, tasty and one to have regularly- rather than a lot of similar beers that are great one offs but not one to have regularly. Not exceptional, but it hits its spots brilliantly.

Background: I learned something with this one. Mainly relating to the word dank. People have started referring to great dank hops a lot recently. Which confused me – as well, dank is “Unpleasantly damp and cold” which is not really something I want from hops. However after hearing a few uses it seemed to relate to those thick, oily, sticky hops. Which makes sense now after a bit of googling as it seems it probably comes from cannabis references – good sticky and oily cannabis being called dank in relation to the original usage. Also explains why everyone calls good memes “Danke memes” as a joke these days. Though it does not explain why and when meme changed so much from its original meaning. Then again that is kind of appropriate giving its original definition. Was completely out of the loop on Danke. Probably cos I’m an old fart now. Also I use muggy hops for a similar, though different style so I can’t really get on my high horse about using imperfect words to try and communicate an experience. Anyway, loved Imperial Hop Zombie Blood – so since this seems to be linked to that I grabbed this as fast as a could when I saw it in Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to a bit of At The Drive in – seems they are making a bit of a comeback now which is cool.

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Brewdog: The Physics (Scotland: Amber Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany to slightly browned. Large browned mounded head that leaves lace.

Nose: Malt chocolate and choc orange. Light crushed peanuts. Milky coffee. Lightly fresh feel.

Body: Nutty with slight cashew nuts. Orange and choc orange. Lightly milky chocolate. Soft fudge and toffee.

Finish: Roasted nuts and roasted hop character. Light orange. Creamy lime. Toffee. Light bitterness.

Conclusion: OK, of the three Brewdog re-brews this seems to have fared the best. Probably because it is malt led I imagine. The malty beers seemed to be the ones that fared best on being moved to the new site, back when Brewdog had about a year of very variable beer quality just after they set up their new brewery.

From the three beers they rebrewed I really am thinking that they didn’t bother trying to customise their brew time, etc for their new Brewery kit for doing these beers; as the beers that work and don’t work, and their flaws are so similar to those first batches after they moved over. Or if they did, they sure as hell didn’t do it well, and yet still put the beers on the market. Which really comes across as slapdash for a set that is supposed to be a celebration of their old beer.

Anyway, that rant aside, unlike the other two beers , this is still very decent. So I may have started ranting too early. Or too late and I should have put it in the prior set of notes. Anyway…. As said, this is well done with a soothing toffee led base matched with lots of choc orange that is laced throughout It has a fresh and sweet feel to it, but not excessive in either of them – Instead it is grounded very well by a solid dose of nuttiness and a little bit of roasted hop character. The fresh elements are helped by a taste not unlike those green flecks you get when you unshell nuts, which again means it never gets too heavy.

Yep, this one brings back memories of why The Physics was the beer that cemented by respect for Brewdog after Punk IPA had first blown my world. It is still solid with the malt chocolate and a mild, very milky, coffee set of notes giving a robust base behind the sweetness. All very easy to drink, and if it wasn’t for the 5% abv it would be kind of sessionable.

So, still got it, all these years on.

Background: I think The Physics was the second ever Brewdog beer I tried after Punk IPA – back before I had starting doing this little blog of mine. So, when Brewdog was doing a rebrew of their original three beers to celebrate their tenth anniversary it brought out a bit of nostalgia for me. Then again, their other two beers in the rebrew turned out to be sub-par, so by this point I was more nervous. This was grabbed direct from Brewdog’s store, and as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Had a bit of Faithless playing while listening to this, some good old 90s electronic nostalgia. So, really a nostalgia overdose for this set of notes.

Brewdog Beatnik Brewing Collective Imperial Red Ale
Brewdog: Beatnik Brewing Collective: Imperial Red Ale (Scotland: Amber Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Reddish brown clear body. Small bubbled carbonation. Thin off white head.

Nose: Crisp clean hop character. Slight resin and hop oils. Mild malt drinks – ovaltine. Slight kiwi. Mild cherry pocked biscuits. Black liquorice.

Body: Slight cherries. Liquorice. Malt drinks. Malt chocolate. Smooth. Quite clean hop character. Kiwi. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Liquorice. Toffee sweetness. Clean hop character. Palma violets. Slight glacier cherries. Slight hop oils.

Conclusion: Ok, first thing up – they avoided calling this a Red IPA, despite it having a fair good hop load in with the higher abv due to the high malt. So, good. They have got off on the right foot with me. The wildcard IPA naming convention for everything gets on my tits.

Speaking of the hop load, the hop character is delivered remarkably clean here; Some hop oils resin and bitterness but it is all smooth and easy drinking – The hop use seems to be all about the feel, with most of the flavour coming from the malt it seems, rather than late addition hops. Interesting choice.

Under the smooth, but well used, high hop level, the malt has a similarly soothing night cap, kind of ovaltine via vanilla fudge kind of character, with the fruit flavours from the hops ebbing below that. Early on there were darker liquorice notes, but they don’t seem to last as the beer warms even slightly. It hides the 8% abv very well, giving a few of those bigger flavours you would expect with the extra malt but little apart from that. In a blind testing I am fairly sure I would not have guessed it above 6% ABV.

It doesn’t overly surprise – I have seen people call it a ramped up 5 AM saint, and while not spot on, that isn’t exactly wrong – however after having a few I will say, surprise or no, I am in favour of it. Very no nonsense, very smooth. Brewdog has had a lot of experience with this kind of beer and it shows – they can deliver everything balanced so well. Doesn’t challenge expectations – instead matching them as well as could ever be wanted. If they decide to turn this into a regular I think this could be a very solid core beer for them. It feels odd as Beatnik special beer, but as a beer that you can get regularly I could see this as a more malty replacement for the gap left by Hardcore IPA in their line.

Background: So, as I may have indicated in my bias warning, I am a Brewdog shareholder, as well as being a reason for possible bias, it also means I have access to this beer; A beer voted for and made by the shareholders. I can’t remember the process too well, but we ended up with this, a high hopped, high abv, amber ale. Frankly any time you let beer geeks vote chances are you will just ended up with a vote for max everything. Ever. Subtle we are not. Anyway, I’d had a few of these in the week before doing the notes – first one I very much enjoyed, second I found average – however those were had amongst food, other beer, etc, so I was coming at this one clean to see how it help up on its own two feet. The glass used for this is technically intended as an IPA glass, but I figured a high hopped beer like this wouldn’t be hurt by it. Drunk while listening to Svalbard’s great new tune, amongst other of their tracks.

wiper-and-true-toast-collaboration-08-amber-ale-bread-pudding

Wiper and True: Toast: Collaboration 08: Amber Ale – Bread Pudding (England: Amber Ale: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana to caramel brown, with a murky, cloudy mid body. A mounded inch of toffee touched white froth for a head.

Nose: Bread and butter pudding to spotted dick (The dessert). Suet. Light strawberry. Fresh. Lightly milky.

Body: Strawberry and cherries. Milky. Cinnamon. Bread pudding. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Slight resin. Mild passion fruit and dried mango. Kiwi. White grapes.

Finish: Cherries in bread pudding. Semolina. Strawberry. Light bitterness. Light kiwi. Milky. Light pine and resin. Toast and dried mango. Hop bitterness grows. Slight hop oils and herbal character. Slight granite.

Conclusion: Wiper and True’s Amber Ales were the first beers of their that really brought them to my attention. Slightly resinous and herbal matched with red fruit sweetness – I bring that up as those are characteristics that this thing also wears on its sleeves. The bread pudding characteristics are more subtle. There is an added milkiness to the beer, and while it is subtle, the bread pudding character is still definitely there – but it it is more a backdrop for the fruitier elements.

I actually find the subtlety of the bread influence mid body odd as in the aroma it is pretty overwhelming. It is kind of raisin packed, but still definitely bread pudding. In way I am glad that the body has much more going on, as it would be a bit simple otherwise, but I am also mildly disappointed as I would loved to have seen more of what that characteristic could do. But, aye they probably made the right choice – if it had been bread pudding dominated it would have become wearing pretty quickly I guess.

This is pretty far from wearing or one note – good red fruit malt characteristics, subtle dried tropical fruit from the hops that rises up to dominate as it warms, nice bready backdrop and a very nice toast character to the finish. Combined with the aforementioned resin and herbal elements and the hop oil sheen it gives a lot to get your teeth into.

Frankly, you can’t go wrong with this beer. Amber Ale is a kind of hit and miss style for me – the style is pretty wide open to definition so often you are not quite sure what you will get. Here though, Wiper and True have, again, hit it out of the park. Am I disappointed it didn’t do more with the bread character? Yes. Does that make it anything less than an excellent beer? No. This is freaking great.

Background: I liked the idea of this one – Wiper and True working with Toast, who put their profits to try and fight food waste. It is made with brandy soaked raisins, and some of the malt replaced with leftover bread, and some lactose as well. An odd set. I refer to Wiper and True as The Kernel of the west. Very good quality and I highly recommend them. Drank while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force again. They work well as drinking music for me – intense, but without words to intrude on the writing. The beer was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Kettlesmith Outline

Kettlesmith: Outline (England: Amber Ale: 3.8% ABV)

Visual: Caramel to amber. Clear, just slightly hazy body. Creamy middling sized brown froth for a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Peach and peach syrup. Dried apricot. Love heart sweets. Crushed nachos. Caramel. Buttery shortbread.

Body: Light bitterness. Toffee. Orange chocolate malt drinks. Buttery shortbread. Strawberry. Hop prickle. Lime jelly. Cake sponge and light sugar dusting. Apricot.

Finish: Nutty. Light hop character. Slight sugared almonds. Lightly roasted. Light peach. Lime jelly. Pine needles and slightly resinous.

Conclusion: Ok, we have here a beer of 3.8% – the ABV of generic boredom! Or so it was years back, and for decades before that. In recent years though, well that is now pretty much out of the window. In recent times 3.8% seems to be having a resurgence as the abv used for craft brewers looking to make their perfect session ale. Just strong enough that they can can pull some weight with it. Low enough to drink easily if you get it right. Which is the important part, if it is done right. It not you end up back at bland and generic.

So is this well done? Yep, this is very well done indeed. Ok, you can skip the rest of the notes now I’ve said that. Still here? Ok, cool. What makes this even better is that, unlike a lot of the 3.8%ers, they don’t use a huge mass of hops to get around the lighter malt load. Nope this is a malt driven session ale. Now I have nothing against hops, quite the opposite, I love the damn things. However I do like something that goes against the grain and that is what this does.

It is lightly fruity on the nose, fresh peach and other bright fruit, but even then the malt shows its hand with a sense of the caramel malt sweetness to come. The body is gentle, like a malt drink, with carefully used hop prickle and rounding fruit to back it up. Late on it feels like a soothing chocolate drink, but without the weight that would put it into nightcap beer territory. Finally it goes out with a lightly roasted character, filled with hints of everything that came before. Satisfying and long lasting, but gentle so not to become wearing over a session.

While not quite at the level to earn the “my favourite” tag, it isn’t far off it. It is not just that it is well made, but also that it is creatively made, without needing to resort to special or unusual ingredients. There is so much in there, nothing heavy, but fruit, sweetness, toffee, roasted notes, all gently balanced in a beer to kick back and relax with.

Big malt flavour without needing a big malt load. Bloody amazing.

Background: Another fairly local brewery that seems to have popped up recently – I have been drinking many odd and unusual beers recently, so decided to make a concerted effort to go for something with just the yeast, water, malt and hops. So, yeah, grabbed this from Independent Spirit for drinking. Drank while listening to B. Dolan – House Of Bees volume 2. Worth it just for the back to back two of “Film The Police” and “Which Side Are You On?”. Never was into rap/hip hop when I was younger, but the whole socially conscientious hip hop I’ve been introduced to is awesome.

Lidl Hatherwood The Amber Adder No 3
Lidl: Hatherwood: The Amber Adder: No 3 (England: Amber Ale: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red brown. Medium off white head and clear body. Very low carbonation.

Nose: Malt chocolate and toffee. Low hop character and bitterness. Orange. Brown sugar.

Body: Caramel. Prickling hop bitterness and greenery. Light glacier cherries and fruitcake. Creamy orange.

Finish: Bitter hops. Mild charring and greenery. Caramel. Some pineapple.

Conclusion: You know, it would be oh so easy to take the cheap route here, to take the piss as this is a Lidl beer. But, eh, I try to be vaguely professional and, well, this is ok. It plays everything straight down the middle, pretty much the base you would expect – caramel body, low level but present hop bitterness, and a bit of greenery character. The base you know? Oddly, colour wise it doesn’t really look that much like an amber ale though, tending more towards a ruddy brown.

So it is solid at the base, but nothing more than that is done. It favours the malt over the hops, pushing more the light fruitcake notes. There are hints of a fruity hop character – in the finish it comes out as light pineapple, but it is definitely muted as an element. The hops are more a light generic bitterness and slight rough feel character. So, yeah, more on the malt and a decent toffee, chewy base.

Well, huh, that pretty much is the beer summed up, and fairly quickly as well – there is not much to say. It is ok but without any real character from the hops, what they do use gets leaden quickly. I will repeat that it isn’t actively bad, but so very middle of the road, no risk, no glory, no stand out character.

An inoffensive beer, it passes the time, tastes ok, but doesn’t do more than that.

Background: Style call was a hard one on this – they call it an amber ale but it doesn’t have much of that character. Ratebeer calls it a bitter which does fit better. In the end I have gone with my standard, which is lean towards what the brewer calls it and judge it as that. So in this case an Amber Ale. This was another beer given by the parents while I was up north. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to Jonathan Young’s cover of Dinosaur Laser Fight. Which is awesome. On Toast. I never claimed to be mature.

Purity Pure Ubu

Purity: Pure Ubu (England:Amber Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear reddened brown. Moderate froth brown head that leaves sud rings.

Nose: Cream and milky. Light cinnamon. Shortbread. Sugar dusting. Very, very milky coffee.

Body: Light hop prickle. Milky texture. Light cream. Light toffee. Malt drinks. Slight pepper. Light lime. Very milky coffee. Flour.

Finish: Light hop character and bitterness. Milky. Pepper. Crackers. Flour. Chutney.

Conclusion: This is quite a gentle beer in some ways. For one I have used the word “light” about a billion times during the notes. It has a nice thickness of texture for a bitter/amber ale (I’m not 100% where it lies between the two styles). There is also some hop bitterness, but the main body is quite soft and milky behind that. Kind of like hopped milk. Ok, that sounds horrid. Let me try again.

It has a mild malt backing that comes across like the milkiest of milky coffees, only a smattering of bitterness to back it, but with hints of that flavour. It balances, for the most part, between milk and flour dusted white bead. That is hopped. Ok, that sounds terrible again. I’m not doing very well.

It is ok, it feels set up to be an easy drinking beer, though the hop prickle and peppery character are clues against that. I feel like I am not the target audience for this beer, it has an uncommon mix of light spice, hops and smooth main body. In fact it feels like a beer to accompany a mild curry – that is the best way I can describe it.

So, it has that style, backed by an even lighter set of citrus notes, yet despite all the times I use the word light, it does not feel weak or watery mid body. It hangs around and lasts, just the flavours are easygoing.

So, the mild curry and milk side of the beer world. Not my thing, but so carefully crafted I feel it is for a group of people who will love lit.

Just not me.

Background: Third and final beer that was a gift from a colleague at Christmas. Many thanks. I’d heard about Purity through “Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar” where the two were condescending dicks to the people there. So, I have sympathy for them if nothing else. Drunk shortly after the JD Single Barrel review with a bit of water taken to freshen the mouth. I was listening to some rage against the machine, mainly because it was alphabetically after what I had been listening to during the JD review. I am lazy.

Sharp Wolf Rock

Sharp: Wolf Rock (England: Amber Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry red to brown. Large chocolate dust coloured froth head that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel and cinnamon. Sweet nuts – sugared almonds? Malt drinks.

Body: Cinnamon. Nutty. Malt drinks. Slightly thin when chilled. Prickling character. Some hop character. Cashews. Slightly earthy. Toffee. Sour cream tang.

Finish: Peanuts. Sugar icing. Cashews. Light greenery. Acrid notes – gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: This feels like a bit of a stylistic mash-up, a red ales remix shall we say. Right at the bottom of it all it feels like the dry Irish red take on the style – slightly sour, quite dry and kind of harsh at the edges.

At the top end it is toffee sweet and caramel touched, more towards the big malt base you get in the craft beer interpretation of the amber ale, admittedly with less hop influence than those beers have. The middle, managing the two, is a menagerie of nutty notes notes from sweet almonds to green touched cashew notes. It runs the gamut of those but relies on top and tail for other notes.

It is a nice conceit, but never becomes more than its parts. It can feel light at times, especially cool, and as the beer goes on the acrid and heavier notes soon outstay all but the most sickly sweet and unpleasant of the balancing sweetness.

So, a beer that opens well but can’t keep the momentum up. By half way through it is getting leaden and the earthy backing that is nigh imperceptible at the start becomes centre stage.

It has its moments but ends far weaker than it starts.

Background: The second of three beers gifted to my by a colleague at work. Many thanks. Anyway, just found out this is MolsonCoors owned. Wonder when that happened? (A quick googles says 2011 – I have my finger on the pulse of big brewery buyouts it seems). Anyway drunk while listening to Erock’s cover of the One Punch Man theme, been reading the manga – it is quite amusing and I’m hoping the anime hits these shores soon.

Brewdog Fyne Ales Same Werking

Brewdog: Fyne Ales: Same Werking (Scotland: Amber Ale: 5.1 %ABV)

Visual: Reddened brown. Loose bubbly thin browned head.

Nose: Slightly musky. Dried and peppered meat. Cream cheese and chives. Sour dough. Dry brown bread. Faint toffee,

Body: Sour dough. Roasted nuts. Dry. Paprika. Peanuts.

Finish: Sour dough. Cream cheese. Peanuts.

Conclusion: This reminds me a lot of the Irish style red ales I have tried – they have that very dry, and slightly roasted and slightly soured main body. I wonder if it is an intentional call, or just an effect of rooibos?

It is another of the collabfest beers that seems to be working more on the feel of the beer over the flavour, drying yet quite easy to drink- a roasted rough feel but quite slick behind that.

Unfortunately the style needs a lot of skill to pull off, in my opinion anyway – and this, while it manages to deliver a competent expression of the style, doesn’t seem to put that extra touch on it that it needs to really work.

The body is so drying, and so full of dry flavours – without that spark or twist to make it excite, that I can’t really get behind it. It could just be that, like scotch ales, this is one where often the style is not for me. They often seem, like this, overly dominated by the roasted character – the aroma hints at toffee, but none is expressed in the body.

A robust take on a style that it seems doesn’t really appeal to me, so I end up none too impressed.

Background: A rooibos red ale. Apparently rooibos is used for herbal tea, I’ve never tried it, so couldn’t say much on that. Anyway, twelfth beer of collabfest 2014 on day 2. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Brewdog Tyne Amba Necta

Tyne Bank: Brewdog: Amba Necta (England: Amber Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Amber to apricot. Moderate toffee coloured sudded head that leaves rings.

Nose: Toffee. juicy apricot. Medium amount of rough hops and pineapple. Resin. Honey.

Body: Slick thick texture. Moderate bitterness. Stewed fruit and light oak. Pineapple tartness. Chalk. Oily honey.

Finish: Charred oak. Thin honey sheen. Stewed apricot. Brown bread. Toffee malt. Dry mead. Slight sour dough.

Conclusion: Day 2! And what we have here is this kind of dry meadesque amber ale. It’s an unusual one, it feels like a thin sheen of honey is covering your tongue, but despite that it is still very drying, into an almost sour dough twist. The honey, while good for texture really doesn’t seem to provide much sweetness to the ale. Now, often I could criticise beers for being too sweet, but here it is so dry that going out if feels like charred oak on the tongue, and it doesn’t have the weight of flavour to pull off that element.

I guess all that is the long way around saying that I’m not really taken by this beer. The texture is probably the best part, slick but with a touch of grip, but in the other elements it lays on it is a bit too harsh and dry. The stewed fruit promised by the aroma, which would balance it out, is never really delivered in a large enough measure to make a difference.

So, you end up with a harsh beer, that promised a lot but ends leaving a dry mouth and little delivered. You just get lots of roasted and rough edges in need of a sweeter body to be a counter balance. It is a disappointment as it has hints of the elements it needs, that hint of pineapple tartness and stewed apricot – but they never rise to the challenge.

Ah well.

Background: So, after trying ten of the collabfest 214 ales in one day, what do I do. Go back for day two obviously. There are still six beers left to try! I may be slightly insane, but how would you tell? Anyway, the first beer of day two – a honey and apricot amber ale. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

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