Tag Archive: Art Brew

Art Brew: Black Cherry Chocolate Porter (England: Porter: 4.8 ABV)

Visual: Very dark, cloudy brown to black. Thin brown head with white edges.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Light charred bread. Smoke. Lightly nutty.

Body: Subtle black cherry. Gunpowder tea. Malt chocolate drink. Black forest gateaux. Milky coffee. Smoke.

Finish: Slight earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate. Slight black forest gateaux. Slight milk. Tea. Pepper.

Conclusion: Ok, tea notes. I did not expect tea notes to come out in this. Now, checking the bottle’s label as I write I notice that I shouldn’t actually be surprised as it turns out that it is literally made with black cherry tea. I have to admit I did not know there was such a thing. Still this tastes of that – black cherry and, well a kind of gunpowder tea set of notes. Ok, it isn’t an exact match but it is close enough.

The black-cherry varies between subtle notes backing the porter, and heavier black-forest gateaux notes that are much more up front. It is generally nicely present but without being super dominant, with occasional pushes towards either end of the scale.

The base porter pushes a nice bit of milky coffee and milky chocolate but it isn’t super present. The fruit notes seem to lighten it a touch in mouthfeel so it doesn’t have the usual thicker and creamier porter texture. Flavour-wise it helps compensate for this with a slight wisp of smoke, possibly from the tea, which gives more grip – but generally it feels like just the tad thicker texture would really help this boom.

Still, it is a comparatively easy drinking, moderate if not low abv, dark beer that matches the porter coffee notes with just enough black-cherry to give a fruity to dark dessert edge to the beer.

While it could do with a few tweaks it is balanced beer between easy drinking and able to be appreciated for its depths and works well as that.

Background: ART BREW! I still have a soft spot for this lot. In my early days in Bath I used to drink so much of their stuff at the Royal Oak. Times change, and Art Brew vanished for a while, but since they have returned I have picked up a few of theirs every now and then to see how they are doing. This one caught my eye as, well black cherry is often a very nice note in the darker beers, so I was intrigued by a porter that emphasised it more strongly. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this is made with cocoa nibs, black cherry tea, chocolate malt and lactose. For some reason they put lactose in all caps. I presume because of potential intolerances, however I am head-cannoning that they were just super excited about brewing with lactose and used cap lock to show that to us – the readers. That is what I do. Put on Night Wish – Dark Passion Play while drinking. Well part of it. That is one long album.


Art Brew: Pale (England: English Pale Ale: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark apricot towards brown. Thin off white head.

Nose: Malt chocolate and toffee. Fresh pineapple. Dried apricot. Fruit sugars. Peach. Light milk. Pumpkin.

Body: Moderately bitter. Moderately earthy. Light peach. Prickly hop mouthfeel. Toffee backbone. Soft lemon sherbet. Pumpkin. Slight peach syrup. Soft pineapple.

Finish: Solid earthy bitterness. Malt toffee. Soft pineapple air. Good hop character. Soft lemon cake. Pumpkin. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is a nice mix of things. The initial impression was a fairly earthy hopped English Pale Ale/ Bitter kind of thing. It was solidly earthy with good bitterness and a solid toffee malt backbone. Nothing fancy, but well done and the bitter, earthy British beer is a take oft overlooked these days.

Over time it really rounds out though. The first tell is a very soft pineapple note that freshens up the aroma, and then the body. The soft peach and apricot sweet notes come out and slowly pushes the earthiness into the background – though it still comes back for a solid kick in the finish.

It isn’t a super shiny beer, but it works at giving a solid kick up front as it leans heavily into the traditional British bitter style, then soothes into a gentle American pale hopped style that lets you relax with the rest of the beer. At a super sessionable 3.2% abv the earthier front and gentler back work very well indeed. It doesn’t get heavy, but doesn’t get dull, and that is a hard balance to get.

Very solid, calls to the old but uses the new. It isn’t going to turn up in anyone’s top 50 true, but … that isn’t the point of it. Let’s just say that this is not my first bottle of it – it brings you back and is enjoyable pretty much any time. It has a very well deserved place in the drinking range because of that.

Background: Ahh, Art Brew. Their beers are old friends of this blog, and I try to drop back to them every now and then. In this case to a session abv Pale Ale. Fairly simple name, and fairly simple concept. I felt like trying a beer that would hopefully concentrate on just being a good beer, rather than any flashy conceits or ingredients. Let’s see how that goes. Another one from Independent Spirit. I put on Svalbard’s bloody awesome It’s Hard To Have Hope while drinking. Seriously metal fans – great crunchy metal and socially relevant lyrics – you want to check this one out.

Art Brew: Doppelbock (UK: Doppelbock: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large Carmel brown touched looser bubbled creamy head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Grated chocolate. Roasted nuts and cashews. Vanilla. Creamy.

Body: Hot chocolate. Black cherries. Grated white chocolate. Marshmallows. Chalk touch. Sour cream and chives. Moderate earthy bitterness. Treacle touch. Vanilla toffee. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Bitter cocoa and earthy bitterness. Cashews and roasted nuts. Coffee cake and chocolate cake. Chalk.

Conclusion: While it takes a few moments to build up, this is actually a pretty robust and heavy beer – it just sneaks up on you rather than jumps out at first sip.

It is not that it hides things though – there is a creamy, thick hot chocolate vibe from the get go, but it uses that to sneak up a Trojan horse of bitter cocoa and earthy British style hops in under your guard.

There is also a slightly rough chalk character, but thankfully that doesn’t make as much impact. However time makes a fool of the expectations that the heavy front gave – light marshmallow and vanilla toffee notes slightly soften the beer back again. It is still big in the earthy and chocolate bitterness but more manageable and enjoyable, especially with hot chocolate and marshmallow imagery mixing.

By the end it has an enjoyable balance, possibly leaning a bit heavily on the earthy notes, but a fairly solid beer, if nothing too out of the ordinary. A slightly more earthy interpretation of the doppelbock style that is good but not exceptional.

Background: Decided it was time to return to Art Brew again, they were my go to on cask for many a year when I first moved to Bath so I still have a soft spot for them. Don’t think I’ve seen a Doppelbock from them before, so this is going to be interesting. Played some The Royal They while drinking – a band I had just been introduced to via Welcome To Nightvale. This was another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Art Brew: Anarchist Party Bitter (England: Bitter: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy caramel brown. Large creamy head in coffee froth form. Some suds around the edge as you drink.

Nose: Malt choc orange. Crushed peanuts. Light fresh citrus.

Body: Treacle. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Moderate hop bitterness. Caramel. Thick. Brown bread. Prickling feel. Hop oils. Subtle peach. Creamy.

Finish: Choc orange. Good hop character and bitterness. Charring. Peanuts. Brown bread. Hop oils. Gritty. Golden syrup. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a no nonsense big beer. Big malt, big hops, big mouthfeel. It has a real thick caramel to treacle base with choc orange hints – the mouthfeel is really thick with even some syrupy hints amongst the character.

For the hops side, the aroma hints at more fresh notes than the body gives – it starts with moderate bitterness and builds to a mix of impressive roughness, hop oils and hop flavour. Then, over time, more subtle creamy hop flavours of peach styling comes out with a real grounding nutty character beneath that.

So, with the exception of the creamier end of the hop notes late on, this is fairly full bore all the time! It pretty much uses that higher than normal abv to create a base that can punch your taste-buds repeatedly for a good long time.

So, not subtle at all, and so doesn’t have those extra elements that makes an all time great for me, but it has that enthusiasm of a beer than is going for exuberance over fine detail and gives a full flavour assault with that. Approach with caution and enjoy the intensity.

Background: How to list this beer? It says a bitter, but the abv and hop use is a bit high for that style. Possibly English Strong Ale, as a vague catch all style. Possibly IPA with the hop use, but I am trying to avoid falling into the same trap that those red/brown/black/white IPA listings do by putting everything hoppy under IPA. Ok, sod it, I’ll use my general rule of a thumb, list it as the brewery describes it unless you have good reason to do so. So, bitter it is, with some reservations. Anyway, – Art Brew – a local Brewery and one that I have a soft spot for as it used to be tied with the Royal Oak back in the day – spent many a night drinking there. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to more of Mclusky – Mcluskyisms. You will probably see that a lot in the near future – it is a massive 3 CD thing so I have a lot of tunes to get used to – lovely discordant, angry, almost surreal at times tunes.

Art Brew Christmas Tree Beer

Art Brew: Christmas Tree Beer (England: Spice Beer: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy toffee brown body. Large slightly browned creamy mound of a head that leaves lace.

Nose: Aniseed and pine cones. Earthy touch. Lime. Lightly creamy. Dried apricot.

Body: Aniseed. Peppercorn. Thai curry. Very spicy. Gherkin. Light vanilla toffee. Coconut. Pine needles. Creamy mouthfeel. Cinnamon. Dried apricot.

Finish: Thai curry and coconut. Very long lasting spice. Seven spice jars. Pine needles. Lightly earthy.

Conclusion: Ok, I should have expected this – it was predictable from the fact that they put an entire Christmas tree in while brewing, but still… Damn this is spicy as hell. Forget mulled beer, or mulled wine, this has stolen all the Christmas spice and made it the most stereotypically Christmas beer around.

Therefore it is inevitable that I don’t really get along with it. It is mainly because I like spice to be an addition to the beer rather than the main thrust of the beer itself. This really have very little to back up the spice, very little intrinsically beer like characteristics. The main texture is creamy, calling to the more mainstream interpretations of bitters. There are a few other calls to the beer character, the most recognisable is the apricot sweetness that contrasts the spice. It is a weak and easily missed note but it is there.

The main flavour is a mix of Thai curry and aniseed. It is probably the aniseed that is what killed my interest in it, I very rarely get along with strongly aniseed flavoured beers. So, best I can say is that if you love spice and love Christmas then you will get along with this like a house on fire, as that is 98% of the beer.

However it really is not for me.

Background: Ok, this is my concession to Christmas, the most Christmassy of Christmas beers – a beer brewed with an entire Christmas tree in it. Also, a brew from Art Brew, who have been long time beers to appear here so I am always glad to see them back. Good times. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to New Model Army. Ok, ok, and Merry Christmas to all all who celebrate it. A good day to everyone else.

Art Brew Aged IPA

Art Brew: Aged IPA (England: IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Orange with amber hints. Some small bubble carbonation. Massive off white mounded head that left lots of lace and suds.

Nose: Ginger. Crisp wheat. Lemon. Brown sugar.

Body: Earthy and bitter. Light orange. Mild brown sugar. Vanilla. Smooth. Toffee. Dill pickle and lime prickle. Ginger.

Finish: Earthy. Paprika. Soil. mango. Pineapple. Zesty orange. Malt chocolate. Bitter. Slight cane sugar.

Conclusion: What the fuck is that head? I swear I tried to pour carefully. This is a touch of a lively one boys and girls. Also, are they trying to cram every Art Brew beer I have ever tried into this thing? There is a Spanked Monkey IPA ginger notes, and ,well, IPA notes – there is a heap of lovely vanilla like IBeer, sweet notes, earthy feeling hops and subtle American fruit notes.

Lots going on.

Initially it comes across as only a simple earthy bitter IPA – odd considering it was made with four USA based hops, and even as the rest of the beer grows that earthiness remains a stubborn characteristic of the finish – feeling very Brit soil hop IPA style.

But the rest of the beer does grow – the soft main body texture becoming layered with fruit and the robust toffee backbone becomes the mainstay of the beer, with light spice and ginger notes giving a gentle warmth to the whole experience. Oh and a touch of vanilla. Did I mention I love the vanilla heavy IBeer?

It, far all that, feels closest to a Brit styled IPA. For all the American fruit flavour, the ageing seems to have led to a diminishing of the brash hop forward characteristics but kept the soil notes. However in exchange it gains a very smooth character and a very good range, even becoming very sweet by the end as the toffee body takes centre stage.

It isn’t setting the world alight but it has a whole host of elements I love (*cough* vanilla. Ibeer) and all mashed together into a satisfying beer that keeps your attention to the last drop.

Background: Welcome back Art Brew! these guys were one of my regular pints back when I started doing notes, they’ve had their ups and downs over the years, but they are back again now. I had to grab this one, Art Brew back, doing a one year aged IPA (An unusual style to age) and one of only Sixty bottles. Yeah, I grabbed it. from Independent Spirit, to no ones’ surprise. Drank while listening to the Gunflowers EP and some Shadows Fall: Fallout From The War.

Baby Anarchist

Art Brew: Baby Anarchist (England: Mild Ale: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Reddened brown, massive ripe banana yellowed head. This beer pours very enthusiastically and leaves lots of sud rings.

Nose: Eggs. Sulphur. Hops. Funky yeast.

Body: Bitter. Malt chocolate. Pineapple. Cadbury’s crème eggs centres. Red wine notes at back, Cherries. Vanilla. Lemon sherbet and apricots.

Finish: Bitter hops. Eggs and mayo. Popcorn. Lots of dry bitterness. Malt drinks. Light citrus tartness and dry earthy hops. Vanilla. Crab apples.

Conclusion: This said to pour carefully and it wasn’t bloody kidding. Despite my careful efforts the head filled nearly half the glass with froth on first attempt. The first impressions, well first impressions after finishing the pour, were that it was slightly odd of aroma. There is quite an eggy sulphur tone that I’m not a hundred percent sure if it is an intended part of the beer or a mishap. Sulphur can be used as an interesting element in moderation, but it feels out of place here.

The main boy packs a good bitter punch and some nice tart notes that calls to the British interpretation of a brown ale, however overall it doesn’t really come together. There is a lot of elements, some citrus, some tart, some malt drinks, lots of hops, lots working in the beer, but none are really particularly prevalent and they don’t come together into any real narrative of experience.

Ok, there is one character throughout the beer, the fairly rough edged hop character, but it doesn’t have much charm to it. You can get some nice apricot and lemon flavours late on which helps, but you can’t rely on them. What is most fun is probably the back notes, the vanilla, chocolate and the like, but they never last long enough against the hops to catch the imagination.

Not terrible, tries so hard and pushes out so much, but a disappointing return to Art Brew. Guess I’ll just have to sink my sorrows with the beloved I Beer. Ah well.

Background: Art Brew used to be one of my regular brewers beers, back when they ran the Royal Oak. Back then the Oak was bloody awesome, and my usual hang out. Last I checked it was still ok, but had nowhere near the rotation of taps, nor as good atmosphere as back when Art Brew ran it. Ah well. Still, now you can get them bottled from Independent Spirit, it seemed a good time to return to the old friends and experience them anew. Drunk while listening to some History of Guns….again.

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.

Art Brew: Happy (England: Golden Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear amber gold, thin white bubbled sheen over the still body.

Nose: Prickly hop tingle. Apricot. Grapes. Distinct sour styling.

Body: Gooseberry. Slight tartness. Apples and apricot. Slick, not heavy on the bitterness. Pineapple.

Finish: Slight dry bitterness and charring with gooseberry notes at the sides.  Slight salt touch. Orange. Planed wood.

Conclusion: You know, this is the kind of beer I would normally describe as “cheerful”, but with a name like “Happy” you would probably think I was taking the piss, so I’d probably best start elsewhere.

Still, it is definitely aiming for the summer refresher style, with the emphasis on a slight tartness rather than on the bitterness.   Notably brings a lot of sharp fruit flavours to the game.  Considering the medium nasal tingling from the hop aroma I was expecting a much hoppier beer (A happy hoppy beer maybe) but the bitterness mostly vanishes during the main body only to return at the finish, where it tries to pretend it has been there all along.

Fresh and sour, it is kind of nice and somewhat eclectic.  The finish doesn’t quite tie in with the rest of the beer though – it seems to actively work against the freshness which is a pity.

I hate to say it, but it really is a cheerful if unexceptional beer.  Weak at the end, but a happy beer until then.

Background: Drunk in the beer garden whilst chatting with a violinist was warming up for a folk night. There were quite a few smokers out, which lead to some problem trying to get a decent tasting note, but in the end I managed to find a place without horrid aromas getting in the way.  Art Brew has a few stand out beers, I Beer being the most notable, but are generally a solid if unexceptional brewery.

Art Brew: Blackcurrant Stout (England: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown black with a very thin layer of browned bubbles.

Nose: Blackcurrant, slight fruit acidity and gooseberry sourness. Bitter chocolate and slightly chalky.

Body: Lots of blackberry, blueberry and slight milk chocolate mix with apple juice. It’s very sharp and fresh initially. Slight coffee touch. Chocolate cake. Very smooth and slightly sweet middle with a small amount of bitterness backing it up. Faintest hint of liquorice.

Finish: Blueberry, sour grapes, blackberry. Slight apple tartness and a light charring to the air.

Conclusion:  Much as I love a good stout, they are very rarely well suited for a session. With a tendency towards strong flavours and high abv, they tend to be best nursed and enjoyed slowly.

This is a bit different from the pack then.  Packing in the fruit flavour it really adds a new element to the stout flavour with massive sweetness, and more importantly, a tartness that makes it oh so easy to drink.

The stout elements are solid, and pretty much in the middle of the expected range. It really is the fruit that makes this so immensely enjoyable and a bit different.

As an examination beer it is ok, but as a session drink it’s a great job done good.

Background: I’d had this beer earlier in the week and enjoyed it so much I decided I had to tasting note it.  Art Brew id pretty much the locals main thing to have on tap, and seem to be getting quite a handle on their craft as of late, and started bringing out a few odd experiments.  Oddly rate beer lists this a retired brew, which is demonstrably false.

%d bloggers like this: