Tag Archive: Arbor


Arbor: Tiny The Welder (England: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark yellow to caramel brown body. Two inches of caramel touched frothy head that leaves suds. Body is semi clear.

Nose: Pine needles. Light vanilla custard. Pineapple. Slightly resinous hop character and bitterness. Quite clean. Fresh cake sponge. Palma violets. Creamy peach. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Jelly babies.

Body: Big bitterness. Big hop character. Light charring and sulphur. Apricot and peach. Pineapple and grapefruit. Palma violets.

Finish: Peach syrup. Good hops. Growling low level bitterness. Pineapple. Custard. Pink grapefruit. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Ohh, this is a big one. While its name is (I am 90% sure) a reference to Pliny The Elder, I get the feeling that they aren’t trying to duplicate that beer as this is a very different beast.

Whilst dry, this doesn’t skimp on the malt load. It has slightly dry vanilla and custard that gives a sweet and yet well attenuated base that allows a real growling hop bitterness to get going over it. The hops and bitterness are high but not super brutal and the sweetness mellows the heavy hops, creating a flavoursome but not harsh character.

Beyond that it teases you with sweet apricot and peach hints, in that USA, mid 2K hops way, and then BOOM pineapple and tart but not overwhelming grapefruit. Big fresh notes over that sweet malt base – the drier base really giving the flavour room to roam. Love it.

It feels like a wonderful call back to the tart hopped big bitterness double IPAs that used to be omnipresent when I was first investigating the USA craft beer scene. Lovely malt use that is just dry enough, and just slight sweetness, aided by tart fruit notes with great hop character.

I adore this one. Now I hope it sticks around, and we see more beers like this so the style makes a comeback.

Get it.

Background: A few reasons why I grabbed this one. 1) Arbor have been pretty good as of late, showing both a respect older beer styles and a willingness to experiment. 2) The name is, I am fairly sure, a pun on Pliny The Elder, the very well reputed American beer, which amused me. 3) From that pun name I was fairly sure this would be an older school take on an American IIPA, which is exactly what I was looking for at the time. I went with Bodycount: Bloodlust as music while drinking – not really linked to the beer, just really been listening to No Lives Matter and the like a lot recently. This was another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Arbor: My Little Sabrony (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy darkened lemon juice. Crisp inch of white bubbled head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Wheaty hops. Dry grapefruit. Low to moderate bitterness. Vanilla. Cut apple. Mango.

Body: Peach and grapefruit. Vanilla. Slightly creamy. Good bitterness. Dry. Custard. Flour. Vanilla fudge. Peppermint. Lemon juice.

Finish: Soft peach. Peach melba. Custard. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Pineapple. Marshmallow. Apple. Grapefruit. Flour. Lemon juice. Tangerine.

Conclusion: This is a single hop beer? I could have sworn they would need at least a couple to get the range of fruit notes that this is showing. Also, this is an APA? It is dry I will admit, but with enough creamy malt use and large hops that I would have guess IPA if I had to. They are doing a lot with a little here.

It’s got the oddest (Disclaimer: I am using hyperbole, it is merely odd, not the oddest) mix of peach sweetness and grapefruit tartness – with both pushing at the same time without either being eclipsed. It has that dry, flour touched APA style and good bitterness, but also those aforementioned creamy, almost custard touches. A lot going on, with elements you would not usually find together working very well here. I think this is my first encounter with this hop, it is definitely the first single hop use I have seen of it and I am digging it a lot, and also digging the well used sweet and dry malt backbone it has behind it.

This is really good. The sweetness flirts with marshmallow and vanilla. The fruit touches on tangerine, pineapple and apple. So fresh, just sweet enough and so drinkably dry yet full. This is very rewarding, easy to drink and vaguely moderate in the abv to manage that.

This is a great APA. Buy it. Drink it.

Background: Arbor look a lot different in style to how I first encountered them, back on cask tap in the Royal Oak. Were decent even back then. This is a Sabro single hop beer. I have no idea about the Sabro hop. It does make for a good My Little Pony pun though. Also I am a sucker for any beer with a rainbow. So sue me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit of Bath and drunk while listening to Jack Off Jill: Clear Heart, Grey Flowers – always wonderful acid caustic tunes.

Arbor: Faked Alaska (England: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark lemon to apricot. Large loose bubbled crisp head.

Nose: Vanilla custard. Crisp hops. Soft pineapple. Lightly peppery. Cut apple. Apricot. Vanilla fudge. Crushed melon Jolly Ranchers.

Body: Very thick. Melon jolly ranchers. Pineapple. Cut apple. Vanilla. Light hop character and bitterness. Bitty orange. Lemon.

Finish: Pineapple. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Low level hop character and bitterness. Orange. Melon. Lemon.

Conclusion: You know me, not a NEIPA super fan. This does have something though. Probably the super thick texture. There is a whole lot of grip to this beer, that gives even the restrained bitterness of the NEIPA a lot of staying power.

The sweetness is there, but reasonably restrained – giving a custard feeling mouthfeel but only moderate sweetness to match. Which is another element that makes the lowish bitterness work a lot harder than it would in another beer.

It is called a pudding IPA, but I’m not sure from this what dessert it is aiming for. I would guess baked Alaskan from the name, but I have never had one, and a quick google gives me a wide range of suggestions that I presume would taste nothing like this.

This is tart pineapple and lemon notes filled over soothing melon and apple, with low level hops and that super thick base.

Is that a Baked Alaskan? Maybe? Fucked if I know. Google seems to say no, but who trusts them?

This is super thick, tart hopped. Feels like an east coast style IPA, made super thick, but hoppped in a tarter take on a NEIPA style. It is pretty fun. Good tart hop usage in a way we don’t get enough of these days.

Good enough for me then, even if I may quibble on if this counts as an IPA after a few drinks are in me. It has enough hop bitterness and character that before that I would be happy to just accept it as a fun wee beer.

Background: Ok, a NEIPA, or as this puts it a Pudding IPA. I will admit the promise of a beer made with vanilla, and citra, el dorado and mosaic hops got me over my dislike of New England IPAs enough to give it a try. Not had an Arbor beer for a while – they were very solid back before the carft beer explosion, so should be interesting to see how they are doing these days. Another one from Independent Spirit. I went with Garbage: Strange Little Birds while drinking. Still not given that album as much listening time as I should so this was a nice chance to put it on again.

Arbor and Buskers Lost In Translation

Arbor and Buskers: Lost In Translation (England: Belgian Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy caramel to brown. Massive caramel touched loose bubble head.

Nose: Wheaty. Passion-fruit. Mango. Mixed dry fruit. Caramel. Peach jelly sweets. Flour. Light hop character and bitterness. Cheese.

Body: Funky, cheesy feel – Edam and cheese puffs crisps. Lime hops. Moderate bitterness. Peppery and crackers. Muesli backing. Light vanilla custard. Bubblegum.

Finish: Cheesy- mature cheddar. Pepper. Funky yeast. Slight hop oils, hop feel and bitterness. Dried apricot. Passion-fruit.

Conclusion: Since this was packed with simcoe and mosaic hops I have to admit I was expecting this to be more bitter, and more fruity hop dominated. I should really have learned by now that reality exists purely to shatter my expectations. That is its only purpose. No I am not narcissistic, that would mean I had a flaw.

Anyway, this has some nice hop characteristics – including moderate bitterness, hop character and use of hop oils, but what really dominates it is the funky yeast character that gives a pepper backing and a mass of cheese laden crackers. Instead of a big Belgian style fruit hop bomb this thing delivers a savoury plate to sup and chew upon.

It is both a very good impression of the Belgian style – and a more unusual, less mainstream Belgian style at that – which is awesome – and also a beer, that within that mileau, does not stand out too much from the actual similar Belgian beers. Which is less good. It is a bit hoppier, a bit more bitter, and a bit more intense in that style. That is where it stays though – which is no terrible thing, that might be exactly what you want from the beer. There isn’t exactly a huge range of similarly funky Belgian style ales floating around. It just doesn’t quite have a twist that makes it stand out as a unique entity in itself.

To concentrate on the positives, this really shows what you can do with Belgian yeast, and while moderated in the impact, it does also show the nice character you can get from high alpha acid hops like simcoe. So a decent beer, with nice stylings. Also, one of the all time great bottle labels. Which as we all know is the most important thing.

So, pretty good, just not great. Except the label. Which is great.

Background: Yeah, I bought this because of the label. Come on, Super Mario Bros and beer, you cannot tell me that is not cool and expect me to believe it. From a quick google looks like Buskers is an Italian brewing operation, not run into them before, should be interesting. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s new album Shape Shift With Me. Solid so far, sounds a bit different to their usual sound. Let’s see how it grows on me. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Arbor Steel City Hopcraft Argy Bargy

Arbor: Steel City: Hopcraft: Argy Bargy (England: Barley Wine: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Black. Red hue at edges. Moderate brown head that is thin froth and large bubbles.

Nose: Thick ovaltine and malt chocolate drinks. Coffee. Alcohol tingle. Greenery and bitter hop character. Resin. Chocolate liqueur.

Body: Chocolate toffee. Bitter hop prickle. Thick treacle touch. Resin and hop oils. Chocolate fondue. Apples notes. Kiwi.

Finish: Riesen chocolate chews and fudge mix. Lightly woody. Chocolate fondue. Good bitter chocolate. Brown sugar. Gentle kiwi air.

Conclusion: Ok, this is one of those single minded but big in what flavours it does have kind of style beers. A smbbiwfidhkos beer if you will, as that will make it easier to say and comprehend.

It is thick, full of chocolate, resinous and moderately bitter. There, I just summed up the entire beer. But if I leave it at that I will not have done my job I feel. So I will go on.

The aroma is fairly gentle, but the body has that high level barley wine sweetness but done in a dark beer fashion, with many variants of similar but different chocolate style notes. It is probably the most barley wine feeling black barley wine that I have had, keeping that syrupy sweet character while shifting it to a darker style.

It also doesn’t push the hop character too hard. A lot of black barley wines seem to push that side, ending up like drier and higher abv black IPAs. Here it is happy to limit the hops to a resinous character which fits perfectly, and a little amount of green fruit on the flavour side as subtle backing notes.

Overall, while fairly one note, the green fruit does rise as it warms, and even simple as it is it does what it does very competently indeed. It doesn’t bother with any extraneous notes, just does what it sets out to do,

Sweet, simple and sorted. Not a world shaker but solid.

Background: Black barley wines are an odd one. I have found black barley wines I have enjoyed, but they often don’t seem really seem barley wine like to me. This one, from Independent Spirit caught my eye. I used to drink a lot of Arbor stuff but haven’t really done so for a while – they seem to have gone for a more craft beer look and style over the last bunch of years, so probably time for a new look. Drunk while listening to a bunch of old Warren Ellis’ 4AM music podcasts. Again, stuff I haven’t listened to for a while.

Pirate Badger Attacks
Brewdog: Arbor: Pirate Badger Attack (England: Black IPA: 7.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Large browned head.

Nose: Good hop character. Coconut cream. Sour white grapes with a sharp undertone. Slight white wine. Vanilla. Sour cherry sweets. Touch of coffee.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Good coconut. Sour grapes touch. Slight sour cherries. Malt drinks and digestives. Prickling hops. Light oak. Coconut cream. Kumquats. Cola sweets. light marmalade. Beef slices. Salted bagels.

Finish: Malt character and coconut. Reasonable bitterness but smooth feel. Dry. Slightly tangy. Dry beef slices.

Conclusion: The first stand out beer of the collaboration fest. This is malt drink heavy in style, like a malt drink made with coconut milk and infused with a balanced hop character. It sooths and sparkles in equal measure.

There is a lovely relaxed feel to the coconut backed by the low level, slightly tangy and tart elements that keep the malt drink heavy style from getting leaden. Now the balanced character does mean that it doesn’t have one stand out shining element, and its abv is dangerous for such and easy to drink beer. However these elements can be easily overlooked in exchange for what is effectively coconut milk and hopped ovaltine.

Yes, I know that sounds odd, live with it.

Now, there is plenty of other play under there, if it was just the single trick it would wear out its welcome quickly. There is sour cherry and cola sweets roiling with the tart touches, and the hop character imparts some fruit and Kumquat flavours in the more muted black IPA style. It is an oddity, yet a balanced one, worth having to intrigue yourself. I initially thought I couldn’t have many of this, and that even the tart edge wouldn’t keep the malt from getting too heavy, however from the time I spent with it I realised it has excellent progression as a beer. As the already mentioned elements slide out you start getting salted bagels and dried beef slices like elements in the finish savoury touch that gives it more time to play. I only had a third so I couldn’t say how it works in the long run, but it definitely seems to have legs.

A satisfying beer with many layers by any measure.

Background: Collab Fest 2013! Every Brewdog bar collaborated with a local brewery to make a beer for the fest, resulting in a grand total of twelve beers released over one weekend. So, what could I do? Normally I limit myself to two of three reviews in a session, but these would only be on for the weekend. So, for you, my readers, I sat in one eight hour stint, drinking thirds, with a glass of water and a chapter of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone between each drink to help clear my palette. I suffer so for you. This was the third beer of the day, an imperial brown coconut IPA. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer, and with Brewdog Bristol being my local, not an unbiased actor on their beer, though I try. Ratebeer list this as a black IPA, which I will go with, though it shows heavy deviation from expectations of the style, I don’t have any better category to go with. It was the strongest in abv of all the collaboration beers, and I noticed Bristol gave it by far the biggest and prettiest logo on the wall board.

Bristol Brewers United: Smoked Porter : Bristol Collaboration 2012 (England: Porter: 6% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown with a red hue if held to the light. Dustings of vanilla froth coloured head that is more froth than bubbles. The head leaves a coffee cup side like trail as you drink.

Nose: Smoke. Rye bread. Dried beef jerky. Slight roasted elements.

Body: Very malty. Toffee and vanilla at the back. Smoke. A charred undercurrent and occasional liquorice trick.  Slight jelly like fruitiness with pineapple chunks. Slick and thick texture that comes slightly oily.

Finish: Slightly oily. Roasted and with a lot of smoke. Slight medicinal touch. Bubblegum. Still highly malted.

Conclusion: So do many hands make light work, or do too many cooks spoil the broth? Or other clichés.

Also, holy shit, how many breweries exist in one sodding city, and they all managed to get together to make this? Impressive.

The beer really shows the influence of the varied brewers involved.  It feels like new school fruity hops, an old school roasted base, very smooth character, restrained smoke and slight oiliness, all combined into an amazingly easy to drink pint.

Put it all together and, well, I have to say I’m impressed. The flavour is sweet but balanced by the roasted elements and smoke. It’s very BBF in its mix of old and new elements. There is a very solid sweet malt base which they build everything else off. This allows the smoke to be layered upon, and even just the very slightest Island medicinal character in the finish to keep you on the toes.  Very, very restrained though, more a hint that a full element so don’t let that put you off if that’s not your scene. The main elements are the sweet and smooth.

It is a restrained enough beer that you could manage a couple without being sickly, but it is still full of flavour.  It is a sign of the more old school brewers influences that this seems very well designed to take full advantage of the real ale and cask style to give a distinctive full bodied character.

Overall, yeah, if you can try it, do. It is extremely good.  Maybe I am being biased by the fact that it is such a big collaboration, or maybe by the fact that it is such a limited run. I can’t promise I’m not being influenced by that, all I can say is I really enjoyed this beer and I hope you do to.

Background: A collaboration between (deep breath) Bristol Beer Factory, GWB, Bath Ales (Which oddly, is in Bristol), RCH, Zero Degrees and Arbor Ales. That is some serious talent there.  I had to do some ringing around to hunt this down. Many thanks to James, the manager at The Salamander, who contacted me to let me know that it was on cask. (As of today it is available, there’s not much of it so if you want to try it I would advise going right away). Due to not having my camera on me at the time the photos are from a set taken on BBF’s Grain Barge – thanks to my mates for help with that one.

Arbor Ales: Free Style Fridays 2: Approved (England: Imperial Stout: 7.0% ABV)

Visual: Black. froths up nice but ends up with just a beige dusting and rim instead of a full head. When swirled the beer leaves a viscous brown sheen.

Nose: Lots of roasted barley. Light oak. Milk chocolate. Good but not overpowering hop profile. Vanilla toffee.

Body: Bitter. Burnt wood. Bitter coffee. Cloying cream. Some roasted nuts. Nettles and hops. Touch of apricot.

Finish: Very bitter with a growling hop character. Charring. Coffee. The bitterness really lasts.

Conclusion: I’m a sucker for a good piss take. This beer weighing in at a measly and non society fabric threatening 7% abv had a good attitude and a great roasted aroma.

It’s a beer with a tingling heavy hop character. The beer label advises against chilling and damn are they right. For all the heavy character of the beer if it is even slightly chilled it seems to thin leaving just the hop character and the rest of the flavour vanishes skipping straight to the bitter finish.  Yes I completely ignored the advice on the label initially. It’s always worth tinkering just in case.

So after I let it warm back up I returned to a more interesting beer.  It’s a more flavoursome beer this way, though still not varied in its flavour range. The bitter coffee and hops are its mainstay.  Considering the abv and what I assume to be very liberal hop use I will admit I expected a little more variety. It is worth swilling the beer around on your tongue a bit as that brings out some nice apricot touches and lets you feel the smooth texture.

I have mentioned before that I tend to butt heads with heavily hopped stouts, and it takes an exceptional example for me to get along with them (though when they are good they can be exceptional) so I will say I was impressed that despite the heavy hopping they kept the beer very drinkable.  It kicks out the bitterness nicely without it getting sticky and sickly. That is no mean feat and an element a hell of a lot of brewers get wrong.

So a nice balance of aggressive hopping to drinkability. Great aroma and ok if not particularly varied main body. I am on the fence about this beer. Every now and then it does seem unexpectedly thin; then again every now and then the apricot burst comes out just right and really sells the beer right.  I’d say it’s a fun, if slightly flawed beer, but it has enough chutzpah to push it through its flaws. Not bad at all in the end analysis.

Background: Ok, this one may need some explanation.  Here in the UK our Tory overlords have decided that after years of screaming out against nanny state interference in peoples lives, now that they were in power it was fine time to indulge in some nanny state interfering in peoples lives but against things they dislike.  Like that evil commoners drink – beer.

So they introduced a cheap tax rate for beers below 2.8%, and added a fucking mental rate for beers over 7.2% ABV. Now I’m a big fan of our NHS, and the way it is comparatively hard to fall between the cracks here by ending up out of a job over here, and all that costs so I canna complain about paying tax. What I complain about is this attempt to manipulate the beers towards lower abvs. Sod it, last time this happened is when we ended up with 3.8 % abv as the expected abv for beer and moved away from the bastard huge beers of the past.  Beer style variety is good, and that needs a viable range of abvs.

So here we have an Imperial Stout at 7.0%, and thus as it says, not considered evil by the Tories. Arbors Ale’s “Approved”. I admit. I bought it just because of that sardonic attitude. I am that shallow.

No I don’t like the Conservative Party. Why do you ask?  Oh the beer is a heavily hopped stout by the way made as part of one of Arbor’s more experimental batches by the way. Maybe I should have paid more attention to that in those paragraphs I just wrote.

Note: As seen in the comments, we have had a representative of Arbor Ales come past who says that the beer in the photo is not in fact Omega. Odd. In that case I have no idea what this beer is. I shall leave this review up as “Possible mystery brew” for now and if I come across the beer again I shall grab a half to compare. If the beer tastes significantly different I shall re review, otherwise I shall note it has been tried and found the same. Thanks to Jon from Arbor ales for the info

Arbor Ales: Ω (Omega) (England: Mild: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: A very dark reddish brown. A thin dash of froth for a head that leaves quite the rim around the glass.

Nose: Dry malt. Slight ash.

Body: Creamy and a touch of bitter. Malt drinks. The bitterness grows, as does the introduction of slight resinous traces. Some sweetness.

Finish: Dry hop bitterness and charring. Hop oils. Quite the hop air.

Conclusion: I have to blame my fellow drinker Will for picking this up. He made quite a satisfied noise on trying his sample, and so trusting him I picked it up sight unseen.

more fool I.

Yeah that’s never a good start to a review is it

It’s a texture really, creamy, resinous, kinda charred.  The texture is actually quite good. If you added some actual flavour in it would be sorted. I know it’s a mild, but this is kinda taking the mickey.

The flavour is bland and done in broad boring strikes. A nice touch of bitter and charring but not much else.

Kinda dull. I was far from disappointed when I reached the end of the glass. Sort of a real ale take on john smiths.

Background: Originally called Festival Mild, this new name, whilst far cooler, gives less hint of what it is.  I was wondering if it was a pun on Alpha acids being the main hop bitterness component but I can’t see any link in flavour that would tie that together. Unusually I had not tried a sampler before ordering this as a fellow drinker had grabbed a pint and made quite a satisfying “mmmm” noise when drinking, which I had taken as recommendation enough. This review took up the last pages of my current notebook.

Art Brew: Arbor Ales: Barley Wine (England: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Burgundy influenced brown with a light Carmel dash of bubbles that leave quite the trail around the glass.

Nose: light grapefruit and a toffee/caramel mix.  Touch of tangerine and fruit sourness.  Sometimes the sweetness turns somewhat treacle in style.

Body: Thick textured toffee and pineapple. Very sweet and hits instantly.  Fresh tangerine. Dry malt.  Thin sugar coating of chocolate eggs,  Glacier cherries.

Finish: Bitter and yet clashes with fresh grapefruit. Liquorice and malt drinks. A gin air from the alcohol.

Conclusion: Whilst putting a beer this high abv on tap is a brave move, Id say making a massive barley wine with a good dose of American style hopping then serving it in a very traditional style English pub is, if anything, even braver.  So, does it pay off?

Well, whilst I can’t say how well the pub will benefit but I can say it works well enough for me. Its ideal moment of grace is that first sip. Insanely sweet, lovely toffee and a hint of grapefruit. That first sip is a wonder.

Now if only you could frame that moment and make it last the entire beer then you would have yourself an all time great.  From the fact I am saying that means you can probably guess that it doesn’t quite hold onto that high,

Any sustained drinking leads to the alcohol and the weaker elements of the beer taking the floor from that lovely front.   Now if you take a decent gaps between sips you can offset that quite well, and frankly the abv pretty much demands that you take your time over it.  With this time and respect that lovely front shows itself again, so definitely don’t write the beer off.

It’s a very good beer, lots of massive flavour with just a few flaws holding it back, but it is still a heck of a beer.

Background: Found at the “Royal Oak”. Must say you don’t often find a 12%er on tap so I thought id give it a try. Art Brew have done a nice batch of beers with a fun bit of experimentation and Arbor have been solid enough so far that a collaboration seemed like a thing to try. Only a half pint drunk for obvious sodding reasons.  Note: the bottled version of this appears to be called “Double Trouble”, it may also have spent a little longer ageing.

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