Tag Archive: American Strong Ale


Amager: Linda – The Axe Grinder (Denmark: American Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black cherry to brown. Large browned bubbled head.

Nose: Hoppy and bitter. Smooth caramel. Malt chocolate and fudge. Spicy rye notes and red cherries. Toasted marshmallows. Slight musty hops and herbal sage note. Light lime and kiwi.

Body: Very smooth. Sage and onion on cooked turkey. Caramel and vanilla toffee. Crushed Blackpool rock. Brandy cream. Glacier cherries. Kiwi. Slightly muggy hops. Spicy rum soaked raisins. Warming Christmas spice.

Finish: Slight charring. Herbal bitterness and slightly muggy hops. Vanilla toffee. Slight cloying cream note. Chocolate liqueur. Bitterness rises over time. Rye crackers. Christmas spice. Riesen chocolate chews.

Conclusion: Ohh this is exactly what I needed. It is big, spicy, warming and soothing all in one. Another beer that feels like a real mash up of styles, and here it happily wears the weight of each one.

Style 1 is close to a Christmas spiced red ale – lots of warming spice, delivered unusually early on as sage and onion, but quickly becoming Christmas spice mixed with rye spice notes. A good start.

Style 2: Bourbon aged barley wine – yeah, still spiced, but here golden syrup sweet, mixed with crushed Blackpool rock. Heavy sweet and powerful with a ton of vanilla and caramel against the spiciness.

Finally, fruity IPA as style 3 – the ageing has made the hop slightly muggy, as you would expect, but it is still reasonably bitter. The hop fruit flavours are green fruit, creamily delivered. This aspect is more subtle due the ageing relaxing and reducing most elements, but it adds another layer and is worth it for the kept hop bitterness that adds an assault punch to this beer.

Together it is wonderfully bitter, wonderfully spicy – soothing, warming and with an almost sickly sweet undertone and huge red fruit. Every element is big, coming together they somehow become soothing – like the world’s biggest, most intense nightcap of a beer. It is liqueur like, a hop assault and manages to use a weight of spicy character without getting lost in just being a spice beer. Great is what I am saying.

Background: Yep, I grabbed this because of the sweet, steampunkesque art. As always I can be kind of easy to sell to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is an Oaked Imperial Red Ale -ratebeer lists it as an Imperial IPA, but that doesn’t really quite fit for me – so I’ve shoved it under the catch all category of American Strong Ale where it seems to fit better for me. It has more dark malt influence than I would give for an IIPA. This beer was brewed in collaboration with Linda of Minneapolis brewing – hence the name. Anyway, drunk while listening to E-rocks take on San’s Undertale music. Just such an epic combination and reminds me of how bloody good that game is.

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Norrkopings Bastarden

Norrkoping: Bastarden (Sweden: American Strong Ale: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red. Thin off white head.

Nose: Red wine and glacier cherries. Chocolate liqueur. Brandy cream. Port and fruitcake. Treacle.

Body: Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Rye crackers. Light paprika. Treacle. Black cherry. Light chalk. Red grapes. Oatmeal biscuits. Red wine.

Finish: Light chocolate. Quite clean. Rye crackers and pepper. Light charring. Roasted nuts. Red grapes. Oatmeal. Red wine.

Conclusion: Wow, what a nose on this one. It promises a very full, spicy, spirity and red wine influenced beer. I had to look up the abv while I was drinking this as from the aroma it felt like a dangerous 10% abv monster. Thankfully, it turned out to be the mildly safer 7.1%.

The body doesn’t quite follow through with that weight, especially when chilled. Then again, if it delivered a 10% abv of full on flavour at 7.1% then it would be setting new levels of awesome and I would be praising it to high heaven.

Chilled it is definitely a bit weak, and kind of thin, but as is oft the case a bit of heat can do a world of good. It becomes, well, not heavy, but definitely much more complex. Not quite full force, but a lot of those influences shown in the aroma finally get some play – even better it is backed by a slight rye style spice and leads out into a roasted nut finish. Definite improvement.

While still not quite full in flavour the body does gain a good oatmeal style heft to it – with the lack of evidence of the alcohol in the body (as opposed to the very obvious nose) a bit of extra texture to remind you of what you are drinking is a good idea.

For a quick sum up – it is kind of like a fruitcake influenced English Strong Ale, meets a Rye Red Ale, with a barley-wine styled heavy nose. It needs a touch more body I would say, but overall, while not as good as the nose suggests, it is a spicier take on the English Strong Ale and so a reasonable hit with me. Not great, but enjoyable and a nice style mash up.

Background: Described by the label as an Imperial Red Ale, this was found in Norrkoping at the Saliga Munken bar, which google tells me translates as Blessed Monk. Norrkoping is referred to as the Manchester of Sweden and the bar seemed to go out of its way to meet that image, playing mid 90s Britpop pretty much the entire night. Some real cool tunes from my childhood came out there which I had not heard for years. My friend and drinking buddy was happy – he is a coaster nut and after hitting Wildfire at Kolmården Wildlife Park during the day, on the way to the pub we found a temporary fair in town with two more coasters for him to add to his list. All in all a good set up for a beer. Yes I did order this one just because it was called bastarden.

Brewdog Vs Ballast Point Ship Wreck

Brewdog Vs Ballast Point: Ship Wreck (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 13.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear dark gold with a moderate off white head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Brie. Smoke and stewed beef. Massive. Blue cheese. Thick. Peat. Lightly bready.

Body: Sweet. Red and white grapes. Thick. Light medicinal note – drying iodine. Apricot. Smoke. Fruit syrup. Seaweed wraps. Slight soft cheese. Mead. Custard. Gingerbread. Light strawberry.

Finish: Dried apricot. Fruit syrup. Dried beef slices. Light salt. Seaweed wraps. Pear drops. Medicinal. Dried fruit sugars. Light charred oak.

Conclusion: This definitely feels like it is calling to the older, early, beer recipes – I have no idea if that is the intent or not, but it is definitely called to mind on drinking. It is very big and sweet and with the Islay influence it ends up tasting like smoked mead. If there is such a thing. Smoked honey? Sounds possible. May exist for all I know.

Anyway, let’s back up a bit – there is a huge aroma on this thing. I could appreciate it even as I struggled to turn the fizzing fountain bottle into a glass to catch it’s cascading contents. When I could take a moment, after cleaning up, to appreciate it I found it evident at great distance from the glass and full bodied. It brings a mass of soft and blue cheese notes mixed with peat and smoke. This is both 1) awesome and 2) Slightly disappointing when you find that the blue cheese notes are mostly absent from the body.

The body instead mixed new wave and traditional styles with ease. There is mead stylings and tons of grapes for a fruity sweet as hell mix of traditional alcohol styles that meet the drying, medicinal, smoke and seaweed character from the Islay barrel ageing of the new wave style. It turns the nigh sickly sweet body into a surprisingly drying overall beer. As time goes on more and more comes out – strawberry, hints of the cheese, gingerbread. I am not sure if they are so much there, as it is my body trying to deal with the already existing alcohol and mix of big sugary flavours. Any which way it hits big with a complex and very enjoyable range.

Overall, a very big beer, very Islay dry and medicinal, yet very sweet and fruit filled, syrupy set of notes. It is extremely good. Every moment something new comes out to be experienced. Basically, this is a smoke, Islay aged, mead beer with grape influence. There is little else like this and it is very worth grabbing.

Background: Or, Brewdog Vs Blank as the label puts it. Since doing this collaboration Ballast Point was bought up by a macro brewer so Brewdog blanked their name out. A tad petty, but oh well. Anyway this ale is made with *deep breath* Sal De Gusano, Smoked agave syrup and smoked malts, and aged it a mix of Islay and Speyside whisky barrels. I may have had to google a few of those words to find out what they were. Normally Brewdog beers are not volatile on open so this caught me out as it frothed up rapidly, causing me to lose a small amount of the bottle as I tried to get it into the glass. Be warned. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was bought direct from the Brewdog shop and drunk chilled on a very warm night.

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.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB20

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB20 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 14.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown, though reddened if held to the light. Loose fizzy off white bubbled head that has a short lifespan.

Nose: Milky coffee. Coffee cream. Coffee beans. Light bourbon. Roasted character. Rum.

Body: Milky coffee. Toffee liqueur. Liqueur soaked cake sponge. Chocolate liqueur. Caramel. Spicy rum, Condensed cream.

Finish: Coffee liqueur. Condensed cream. Light roasted character. Port and mulled wine. Milky coffee. Cake sponge. Bitter chocolate. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: Ok, I could have saved a lot of effort in writing the notes above if I had just written “Tiramisu” for half the notes. However, since the beer is described as a tribute to tiramisu I kind of felt like that would be cheating.

This opens up with pretty much all the coffee – sweet, roasted, whole beans, creamy, it just has layers of coffee aroma wafting out of the glass. The body that follows is what really makes this hit peak tiramisu – lots of cream and liqueur soaked sponge notes now mix with the coffee.

It is interesting to compare this to the Ilkley/Brewdog Westwood Stout which also had a very tiramisu style character This is a darker beer, heavier, with lots of port, red wine and cherries making for a heady heavy base for the tiramisu to work from, more spirit and wine dominated.

By comparison the Ilkley white stout is comparatively more easy drinking,if only comparatively, smoother and more of the white chocolate notes. This is instead one of the dark decadent beers. It feels like it has more of a beer character to back up the tiramisu concept. Feels somewhat like a ramped up ESB to English Strong Ale fruity beer style. This never forgets that it is a beer at its base – albeit, at this strength, a strongly spirit influenced one.

So, unless the base concept wildly disagrees with you – say that you don’t like tiramisu, or you don’t like strong spirity beers, if you don’t like the idea of a tiramisu beer – if none of these apply, then this is a lovely dessert style beer for you.

Background: This was designed to be inspired by the Tiramisu dessert – it is a mix of rum aged Paradox Imperial Stout and milk Barley Wine made with oats and coffee beans. As of such I had pretty much no idea which beer style to shove it under. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Drunk while listening to more of The Algorithm: Brute Force.

Stone Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale

Stone Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard (USA: American Strong Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red to black. Toffee touched thin head. Still main body.

Nose: Cherries. Vanilla. Toffee. Bourbon. Fruitcake. Dry liquorice. Muggy hops. Malt chocolate.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla. Bready. Moderate bitterness. Caramel. Fruitcake and raisins. liquorice. Prickling nettles. Menthol.

Finish: Liquorice. High bitterness and some hop character. Brown bread. Some peppermint. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Bourbon alcohol air.

Conclusion: Hmmm. You know, I really do start a lot of conclusions with “Hmmm”. I Should stop doing that. Hmmm. This is a mix of a bunch of things I really like and a few bits of stuff that slightly disappoints.

What works? Well the bourbon is very evident without overwhelming the base beer. The base is smoothed out with lots of sweetness added – a mix of toffee notes and an alcoholic bourbon character laced throughout.

The hop character is the main weak point – age in the oak seems to have made it much more muggy and clinging – based on my little experience with ageing hoppy beers I would guess it could probably do with some more time in the bottle to help smooth and even it out.

With the hops lessened, well slightly – there is still a good bitterness to this, you see more of the malt coming through with raisins and fruitcake emphasised. It is still a backing though behind the bitterness and now the bourbon as well.

It is still a good beer – big brash flavours and the bourbon adds to that – it just needs to commit to one or the other. Either keep the fresh hops or give it more time to let the muggy hops die down – the half way point seems a ill compromise on both. It is, however, a sign of the quality of the base beer that despite that I still quite enjoyed it.

Background: I have yet to review Arrogant Bastard Ale. By which I mean standard Bastard, not any of the variants. This despite the fact I have had the bottle a few times, and on tap last time I was in the USA. Anyway, this version was in Brewdog’s Guest Beer section so I grabbed it. Drunk while listening to more Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Scroobius Pip. I am getting unimaginative in music picks in my old age.

Brewdog Abstrakt AB 18

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 18 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 11.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Thin browned head that doesn’t last long apart from some few islands. Still main body.

Nose: Thick. Shortbread. Vanilla. Black liquorice. Blueberry pie. Salted toffee. Toasted crumpets and toasted teacakes.

Body: Liquorice. Salted toffee. Blended whisky. Lightly oaken. Low level bitterness. Sour berry touch. Light earthy note. Malt chocolate. Red wine. Crumpets. Blackberry and blueberry.

Finish: Gooseberry. Liquorice. Salted toffee. Slight dry dustiness. Malt drinks. Alcohol air. Spiced red wine.

Conclusion: I do like an interesting brown ale. They are hard to find though, and probably even harder to make. This makes an interesting beer definitely, unfortunately pretty much everything that makes it a brown ale is lost in the process. It makes for a fun beer, but it doesn’t manage the far harder task of making an exceptional brown ale.

There are hints of malt chocolate drinks, but it is basically just a base – there are some good uses of liquorice as well, which is normally a hard sell for me but works here. I think it could be because of the tartness and spicy red wine notes, which means that the liquorice comes in as a dry back. However that is about it from the brown ale, there are no interesting takes on the base style. This means that the beer is going to live or die on its use of the special ingredients.

So, the special element – well you get touches of spicy red wine accentuated by tart berry characteristics There is quite the alcohol air to it, which actually helps here for once – giving a drying contrast to the tart fruit.

However, in the end it is a bunch of additions with no real base to add to – fun, oh yes fun, but when you get down to any beer…. Ok that would be a lie, many beers can be made competent with barrel ageing, berries and the like – but if they have nothing to build on then they aren’t really taking advantage of the opportunities brewing gives.

That doesn’t make it bad, it does make it spirity, spicy and berry filled but not in any way balanced or well integrated. A bit of a missed opportunity, but not a bad experience.

Background: Ok, Brewdog call this an Imperial Brown Ale (Specifically barrel aged with berries)- however as I mentioned in the notes I didn’t get much of the brown ale style, so I am happy to go with rate beer’s description of American Strong Ale. Broken open the day after the election results, as, yes, I was still miffed. As a result this was drunk while listening to some Against Me! Black Crosses. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Port Brewing: Older Viscosity (USA: American Strong Ale: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized chocolate froth brown head.

Nose: Thick bourbon. Caramel and toffee. Banana custard. Chocolate liqueur. Bitter chocolate shavings and chocolate sponge.

Body: Bitter chocolate cake. Slick and thick feel. Toffee and caramel. Bitter coffee. Slight bitter prickle. Slight spirit feel. Bourbon. Raisins.

Finish: Twix (aka chocolate, shortbread and toffee). Chocolate cake. Coconut meringues and, well, chocolate. Bourbon.

Conclusion: I guess I should give this a more rounded, and therefore fairer analysis than “Not bad”.

It’s not bad though.

This thing is very big on chocolate, like seriously big – it has sweet chocolate liqueur, bitter chocolate chunks, rough textured chocolate cake. This has a serious love of chocolate. It also is very big on bourbon. Very much influenced by the time in oak, spirity and with tons of caramel and toffee. For whatever elements it has it doesn’t do things by halves. Each element is rammed way up – the first feel is slick, but you soon realise there is thick viscous beer behind it pushing the powerful flavours.

Which, oddly enough, and slightly contrary to expectations, is why I only find it ok. It is all up front, and this means there is little surprise to the beer later on. Also it does feel a bit spirity and unrefined despite the smooth texture – the flavour is very good, but it doesn’t progress, it lacks the subtlety and range of many of its colleagues and competitors, and therefore does not become truly great.

The first few moments are where this beer really lived, there it is lovely, but by the end of the beer the lack of any variety means that it started to wear on me, Which is a pity as the notes it puts up front are excellent, and promises a special ale. The best I got progression wise was moving to a more raisin fruit beer, but that was about it.

I guess it is more a sign of the awesome state of the beer world more than anything else. A sign of exactly how high the quality bar is. because if this, which is a very nice beer, only seems ok, it is because I have encountered so many good beers. I imagine five years ago this would have blown me away.

High quality, but a bit brash and single minded, tad over spirity and lacking in progression.

Still, for all that, that one note it does it does very well.

Background: Older Viscosity, I’d heard of it a few times over the years. A beer from Port Brewing ( The USA style beer brewery also known as Lost Abbey for its Belgian style beers). Best I can tell there is a beer called Old Viscosity, which is partially barrel aged, this is the same but entirely barrel aged. This was picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Drunk while listening to White Crosses by Against Me! So far it hasn’t grabbed me as much as Transgender Dysphoria Blues, but it is growing on me.

Mashtag 2014

Brewdog: Mashtag 2014 (Scotland: American Strong Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Black cherry red. Off white dash of bubbles for a head. The body is clear with low carbonation.

Nose: Cherries. Bitter hops. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Orange crème centres in bitter chocolate. Liquorice. Brown bread.

Body: Barley. Thin when chilled. raisins. Malt choc orange. Glacier cherries and fruitcake. Bready touch. Fresh feel. Hop oils. Pink grapefruit.

Finish: Black liquorice. Raisins. Orange liquore. Bitter chocolate. Fruitcake. Barley. Light spiciness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: “This democracy? I think I’m sick of it. Constantly politicking chicken shit liberalists”. Ah, Scroobius Pip, always worth a quote. Anyway, so, how does this *ahem* democratic brewed ale hold up?

Well, I may have over chilled it just a tad originally. That sucked. The first few sips were very thin, which is bad for a 9% abv ale. However that was my fault, I left it in the fridge too long (Would you believe this is the same person who adamantly didn’t put beers in the fridge only a few years back? How times change.)

Anyway, leaving it to warm up gave me time to examine the aroma as it did so. Here, even chilled, it entices. Lots of cherries, bitter chocolate and sweet orange crème, grounded by a bready character.

By the time I had finished luxuriating in that the body was only slightly chilled so I returned. Fruitcake, cherries and raisins came out against orange crème filled chocolate sweets. Very much delivering what the nose promised, again with the bready touch which kept it from being sickly. Reminds my of some rye ales in a way, with a light dry spiciness.

There is a nice balance to the hop oil bitterness against a fresh feel. Your mouth feels clean after drinking, sparkling, despite the heavy dark fruit and chocolate flavours. As it warms more the sparkling feel starts to become more apparent as pineapple which leads out after the chocolate and orange finally fade. A mouth refreshing final element.

It really does show more citrus as it warms, and slightly more resinous, and it balances very well. It is shockingly easy to drink for a 9% abv ale – You get so much in it with the fruitcake against citrus against bitter chocolate and orange. It feels like a decadent chocolate box with extra hops.

When I started this review I wanted to make a few jokes about how direct democracy tends to suck donkey balls, but, here it appears to have worked. They have made a very proficient ale. Complex yet easy to drink red ale. So it has ruined my dreams of donkey balls jokes.

And that is your ad copy quote right there “…has ruined my dreams of donkey balls…”. and you can quote me on that.

A very nice beer.

Background: The second mashtag beer, a beer with various elements voted on by the public to decide what is made. This ended up being an imperial red ale brewed with global hops , blood orange and lemon and orange peel. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. As you may have got the impression in the review, I tend to favour representational democracy over direct democracy for many and varied reasons that are nothing to do with beer.

8 Wired Mighty Imperal Ale

8 Wired: Mighty Imperial Ale (New Zealand: American Strong Ale: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep cherry red. Dash of off white head. Head becomes larger and somewhat toffee edged when I filled up the glass with the last of the bottle.

Nose: Smoke. Smoked bacon. Fruitcake. Caramel. Shortbread. Thick. Cherries and cream.

Body: Thick. Salt touch. Smoked meat platter. Toffee. Very smooth. Lots of cherries and cream. Vanilla. Somehow rough edges right at its core. Oak.

Finish: Liquorice. Dry smoke. Drying feel. Light cream. Salt touch. Chocolate. Meat platter.

Conclusion: Now this is an interesting work. Smooth cherries, vanilla and fruitcake in a very layered, decadent silken style. Then, against that, there is a heavy oaken, salt touched and hugely smoked meat style that is actually quite punishing and thus utterly unlike the underlying sweetness.

So, that means the beer is a mess, right? Somehow, no actually. The layers, in their two distinct groups are layered carefully over each other. The weightier elements seem to sink through permeating everything over time. So the beer starts sweet but smoke touched and slowly builds to a rock salt and smoked meat crescendo.

That extreme smoothness of texture means that all the rough edges it has must come from the flavour and it certainly uses them well, mixing the flavours where they meet to create contradictory sensations.

The best part of the beer is the build up, the slow progression. About three quarters of the way in it peaks too early, and, while still good, the rest of the beer doesn’t have the same feeling of rich contrast or the promise of more to come.

So, 50% a beer of sheer joy and class, about 25% of peaked awesome, and 25% of merely ok. I’ll take that

Background: 8 Wired are probably my favourite of the New Zealand craft beer scene at this point, and that is a fairly skilled group of brewers. As is often the case, Brewdog’s guest beer section is facilitating my 8 Wired needs. Not much else to add to this one, was listening to Scroobius Pip’s/B Dolan’s Soldier Boy (Kill Em) while drinking.

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