Tag Archive: Beer


De Halve Maan: Sport Zot (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.4% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed gold. Slightly hazy. Massive white, loose bubbled head that leaves lace.

Nose: Soft lime. Wheaty. Brown sugar. Light pepper.

Body: Gentle. Brown sugar. Golden syrup. Sports drinks. Glucose. Honeycomb. Oily bitterness.

Finish: Slight charred bitterness. Tannins. White sugar.

Conclusion: This, like the low alcohol version of Leffe, makes me think that there is definitely room for a low alcohol take on the Belgian Ale, but it still needs some tweaking before we reach the sweet spot.

The aroma for this is spot on though. It mixes sweet notes from a Belgian blond, that slight peppery character for the gentle spice elements often used in Belgian ales and a wheaty general Belgian character. Even better for first impressions is how it hits the eyes, It has that massive head that comes with many a good Belgian blond and looks the part.

The body carries through some of the sweetness and an initially decent mouthfeel, but,like many low alcohol drinks, that kind of sport drink glucose notes is rapidly evident. Then again, they do call this “Sport” Zot, so at least they are owning this element. It still is not the best character to have in a beer. Despite that its got a reasonable, if light take on the Belgian blond, but unfortunately a lot of this is lost as you go into the finish.

The finish is, well, not exactly rough but kind of charred and tannin notes touched in a way that is kind of unpleasant. It is kind of the subtle edge of what would be rough if it was more intense, but as is is just a bit of a let down.

So a beer that starts well, but gets worse the further you get into it. Not a write off, but definitely needs work to be worth getting.

Background: Low ABV beers! I would claim my concentrating on them recently shows that I am an old man, but the news assures me this is totally the thing with “the youth of today”. So I must be young at heart. Honest. Anyway, another one from Indie Spirit. I’ve had their standard blond unpasteurised, unfiltered and on tap at the brewery. Was pretty nice. So this has a lot to live up to. Incidentally, why are a bunch of the low alcohol beers called “sport”? I don’t get it. Though they do taste like sports drinks a lot of the time. Anyway… After thinking about Rise Against: Endgame in my last set of notes, went for it as backing music for this one. Awesome album.

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Tempest: Drop Kick (Scotland: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Thin white head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Sour. Musty. Pineapple. Passion-fruit. Flour. Tart.

Body: Tart. Soft pineapple and tart passion-fruit. Mild grapefruit. Slight chalk. Coconut. White bread.

Finish: Grapefruit. Slight chalk and flour. Passion-fruit. Coconut. Slight clean lager notes.

Conclusion: So, considering Dropkick Me Jesus was ok but not exceptional, it is interesting to find out that here in its low abv version it seems to have really found its place in the beer world. It is not quite as complex as the full abv version, but the nigh absent alcohol combines with the tart, easy drinking but hoppy character is a match made in heaven.

The tart notes area simple mix of grapefruit, passion-fruit and pineapple. It really catches that unusual passion-fruit flavour and feel amongst the tartness – resulting in a slightly musky, fluffy mouthfeel with the light acidity keeping it easy to drink. The general gist is a light tart character with a slight flour thickness of character giving a more beer like grip.

What is nice is that, despite the sour notes, the fruity elements feel distinctly like a hop character, making it feel much more beer like, rather than just being a spritzy kind of thing. I’d highly recommend it as a low abv choice – it is one of those rare beers that feel better for the lower abv. It makes it that bit easier going so becomes the super drinkable thing it was always meant to be. Good flavour and no worries. Even better late on some recognisable coconut notes come out, aping the original and giving gentle grounding.

One of the better low abv sour beers to have come out, which is a surprisingly hard fought category these days, and a good low abv beer in general. Very impressive.

Background: More low alcohol beer, and I was surprised to find out this exists – a low alcohol version of the sour IPA Dropkick Me Jesus. I generally enjoyed that one, even if it wasn’t perfect, so seeing this at Beercraft made it one to grab and try. Beercraft can be a tad expensive but their low abv selection is spot on. Not much else to add, too hot at the moment. I put on Louis Distras’ Street Revolution Ep while drinking – I need upbeat political protest tunes at the mo.

De Dolle: Stille Nacht (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 12% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Large white head with brown touches. Absolutely full of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. White sugar cubes. Orange sherbet. White, crusty bread.

Body: Orange sherbet. Lemon sherbet. Cane sugar. Candy floss. Bready. Toffee. Oily bitterness. Choc limes.

Finish; Candy floss. White sugar. Milky chocolate. Toffee. Odd, oily bitterness. Kind of kippers like oiliness, but not. Charred bitterness. Earthy bitterness. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. For the most part this is sugary sweet fluff. Which I enjoy they heck out of and I make no excuses for.

So, yeah, for the most part this is straight up candy floss, sherbet, cane sugar, crushed hard sweet and the like. You get the idea. Sugar shock, the beer. The thing is that isn’t the whole of the beer.

The tail end into the finish brings an unexpected and more subtle set of elements. A slightly oily bitterness, that is also kind of earthy and peppery. There is even some oily fish character that I was hesitant to add to the notes as it doesn’t 100% match but is the best description I have managed to get. It’s basically a mix of subtle savoury and slightly bitter notes that come in as a welcome experience after the big sugar shock before.

So, a stupidly sweet, candyfloss and cane sugar, rough edged high abv been with unusual subtle notes managing to make it a tad more than that. On a technical level it is unbalanced, and rough, lots of elements that I should hold against it, but I enjoy the heck out of it and keep coming back.

Make of that what you will.

Background: So, it is, what roughly six months from Christmas is either direction, right? TIME TO REVIEW A CHRISTMAS BEER! Yes I just like being contrary. Anyway, it is a strong Belgian ale so should have held up to the time fine. Grabbed from Independent Spirit a few times over the past months, this is the first time I pulled my finger out and did notes on it. De Dolle are a fun brewery that used to have issues with over-carbonated bottles exploding the liquid out on opening. Did not have that here thankfully, so I’m guessing they fixed that over the past decade or so. I put on the ever excellent and haunting David Bowie – Blackstar while drinking. Christmas!

Omnipollo: Prairie: Potlatch (Sweden: Saison: 7% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice colour. Utterly massive mounded white bubbled head that leaves lace.

Nose: Funky. Cannabis touch. Fresh dough. Sulphur. Crusty white bread.

Body: Peppery and lightly earthy. Oats. Slight lime. Milky. Muesli. Funky yeast character. Slight lime and gherkin.

Finish: Oats. Earthy bitterness. Sulphur. Peppery. Turmeric. Solid bitterness. Raisins. Muesli.

Conclusion: This feels like an old school, earthy, very rustic take on the saison. Now a quick google tells me that they used mosaic hops for this, which shocked the heck out of me, as this really doesn’t taste like it has those new fruity hop flavours in it. Everything comes across yeast funk, earthy character and grounding spice instead.

The aroma is fairly funky and kind of sulphurous, it isn’t as heavily present in the body but there is still some of that yeast funk going on, just in a more muted way. So, I enjoy a bit of wild yeast funk, and this is solidly funky, but I have to admit, apart from that I am finding it hard to get excited about this one.

Now, as time goes on more does come out, though still in the more earthy and rustic vein – there are also subtle raisin notes, which combine nicely with the milky and oat notes to give the impression of a funky , earthy, bitter saison bowl of muesli. Which is now a thing I guess.

A lot of the character seems to be in that funky feel, with the sulphur working itself in around the edges to give distinctive mouthfeel and flavour. It is hard to pin down, kind of steam beer like in mouthfeel I guess, but definitely there.

A solid saison but doesn’t do anything to displace Dupont or Fantome from the top of the saison mountain for me.

Background: This was recommended to me by the kind people of Independent Spirit – I took a look and Omnipollo are generally fun and weird , Prairie tend to make good saisons, and this is made with the excellent mosaic hop so I decided to give it a go. Apparently there are two version, a yellow wrapped one which is made in the USA, and this, the green wrapped version made in the EU. I put on Shadow’s Fall – Fallout From The War while drinking. Not their best album but still some solid metal tunes.

Northern Monk: Stigbergets: Garage: Insa: Patron’s Project 17.02 Ethel Tropical IPA (England: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark apricot. Very large yellow-white tight bubbled head.

Nose: Mango. Apricot skin. Light hop prickle. Light bitterness.

Body: Tropical fruit juice. Mango chunks. Slight sour cream twist. Creamy texture. Thick. Hop oils. Oily fruit. Passion fruit. Vanilla. Slight apple.

Finish: Sour cream. Mango. Moderate bitter hops. Slightly oily. Passion fruit. Slightly resinous. Slight flour. Peach syrup. Tangerine hops.

Conclusion: Fucking hell this is fruity – slightly dried fruit meets oily fruit in a strange but delicious clash. Now, I can find overly fruity IPAs a bit disappointing sometimes when they lose the beer side – especially in beers like this where a lot of actual fruit is used in the making. However, here they do not disappoint!

It is slightly oily, very slightly resinous in the finish with moderate hop character and solid bitterness – a decent beer character that is admittedly still a backing to the natural feeling fruit. The fact that fruit flavours are, in part at least, drier helps keep things feeling IPA like – even though the mouthfeel contrasts with syrupy and creamy style. It’s an odd effect – the taste isn’t super sweet, but that creamy, syrupy mouthfeel makes it feel like it is actually sweeter than it really is, creating an odd sensation as you drink. Nicely done.

Early on it is the fruit created fruit flavours that push themselves out to the front (ohh that is just a clumsy sentence, but stick with me here please), hiding the hop created fruit flavours behind them. Later on though the distinctly hoppy fruit character becomes more evident, especially in the finish. Up to that point I had been viewing the beer as a tad over fruit juice like, even with the hop bitterness, but this swooped in and nullified that flaw and giving another note to the end of the beer, a bit of interest as the intrigue of the earlier notes are starting to wane.

So, downsides? Well the sightly full on fruity and thick character may not be for everyone – definitely not a sessionable beer by any measure, even a second one may be a bit much. It is definitely a one at a time kind of beer.

Still, a lovely tropical fruit IPA that doesn’t forget the IPA side of the equation.

Background: So many things made this a beer I knew I was going to try. Northern Monk, especially their Patrons Projects have been on point so many times. Garage have been great in the few beers I’ve tried from them, and Stigbergets reasonable as well. So, yeah a hop forwards beer from them was definitely one I was interested in. This is made with El Dorado, Cashmere, Mosaic, Simcoe and Columbus hops. More than that they added papaya, passion fruit and mango. I’m not too much of a fan of over fruit juice IPAs but with the talent behind this I was hopeful they would do well. Also such a long name when you include all the collaborators and artists, which makes this a pain to type but doesn’t hurt the beer. This is another one from Independent Spirit. Went with the indie fun of Throwing Muses self titled album for backing music.

Omnipollo: Bianca – Blueberry Maple Pancake Lassi Gose (Sweden: Gose: 6% ABV)

Visual: Oozes out of the can on opening necessitating a quick(ish) pour. Black cherry red with a brighter deep black cherry red head.

Nose: Thick American style pancakes. Blueberry muffins. Strawberry. Creamy. Red berries. Pips.

Body: Sweet blueberry and black cherry. Lightly tart red grape backing. Thick and creamy. Sweet red grapes. Fresh apples. Toffee. Maple syrup.

Finish: Red grape juice. Thick pancakes. Slight dry wood. Light acrid dryness. Fresh berries. Slight salt water. Charring. Maple. Syrup. Tannins and dry teabags.

Conclusion: Whelp, this does what it says on the tin. Like, seriously spot on. But! Before we get into that, this thing is a tad energetic. When I popped open the can it instantly oozed out thickly, filling the rim and pouring over the lid over the can. It wasn’t quick or explosive, and I didn’t lose much, but be aware. It can be excitable.

Anyway, even within the loose and varied style guidelines that make up the gose, this is the least gose like gose that I have ever encountered. I don’t doubt that there is something recognisable as a gose used as the base – but damn if it is not overwhelmed by the many and varied ingredients added.

It is thick and sturdy, creamy but with thick American pancakes to muffins sweet bready feel that has been just utterly packed with tons of berries. The berries are not limited to the blueberries of the name, there are blueberries, red-berries, red grapes, black cherry and grape juice. It is fruity as heck, lightly tart in some places but generally just sweet fruit juice, enlivened by maple syrup sweetness.

The most gose like element is also the weakest element – the finish. It starts out similar to the body, but gains a welcome, slightly salty gose style pretty quickly. Unfortunately this builds and builds into a very dry, slightly charred, astringent and then finally acrid note over time. The beer definitely needs a less sweet note to underline the experience so it doesn’t get sickly – but the finish feels like it went too far in that direction.

It is very different, very fun and very sweet. Rough at the end, but for the rest of the beer it is super intense in selling its gimmick. Now, with all that said, it is bloody expensive, which means it is not one I can recommend lightly – you may want to think twice before jumping in, but while not perfect it is a hell of an experience.

Background: We all know why I bought this right? The long list of Blueberry Maple etc etc. It sounded weird enough I had to give it a try, even though it was more than a tad pricey. From a quick google it seems there are a lot of beers in the Bianca series. Wonder if there is one of just the base gose, as that would be interesting to see. Any which way, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes – Blossom. Still utterly epic, utterly huge tunes.

White Frontier: Northern Monk: Garage: Whiplash: Slow Runnings (Switzerland: Brown Ale: 4% ABV)

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

Nose: Roasted, nutty character. Coffee cake. Light lactose. Subtle toffee.

Body: Good, lightly creamy, mouthfeel. Cashew nuts and green flecks from the shell. Slight chalk. Bitter cocoa.

Finish: Charcoal touch meets bitterness. Cashew nuts. Nutty bitterness. Roasted character. Coffee cake. Slight malt chocolate.

Conclusion: This is pretty roasted, leaning heavily on that for the character rather than going either towards a sweeter or lightly sour brown ale style. It seems to be walking the middle ground shall we say. So, does it work well?

The mouthfeel is slightly creamy, along with a touch of lactose to creamy flavour, which gives a decent weight and feel for the 4% abv without getting too heavy. So the basics are down pat.

Flavour-wise, apart from the roasted, nutty flavours, it keeps to the more savoury or bitter rounding notes – subtle cocoa and coffee cake for example. There’s a few unwelcome rough elements amidst that, including a kind of charred, charcoal note at times in the finish, but generally it is solid.

So solid, but not really standout – I think the problem is that for everything apart from the roasted character it feels slightly indistinct. There is flavour, but not well defined. It is relying in the nice feel and general gist of the flavours to get along, but it doesn’t give anything for you to really get into.

Decent enough but pretty middle of the road. I’m still glad I had it as you don’t see as many new brown ales these days, at least in my experience, but it isn’t one to draw new people to the style.

Background: Ok, new brewery on me – White Frontier (and one of their collaborators – Whiplash) – so that caught my eye. I don’t see many coming out from Switzerland. Got a lot of trust for Garage and Northern Monk though, so that made me confident I was in safe hands. In fact, that is a lot of collaborators on one beer! You don’t see many craft brown ales, so that caught my eyes as well. So a lot of interest going in. Was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with some lighter indie to pop tunes for this – Honeyblood – Babes Never Die.

De Halve Maan: Straffe Hendrik Heritage 2017: Scotch Whisky Oak Aged (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to brown. Thin grey dash of a head. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Raisins, sultanas and malt loaf. Light medicinal alcohol. Cheap blended whisky.

Body: Creamy. Plums. Smooth. Brown sugar. Vanilla. Caramel. Brandy cream. Slight medicinal alcohol. Tannins. Liquorice. Cherries.

Finish: Fig pudding. Plum. Fruitcake. Slight brandy cream. Bourbon and rye whiskey. Salt touch. Tannins. Herbal spice. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, what type of scotch whisky was this barrel aged in? I genuinely have no idea. It has a definite general whisky character, vanilla notes from the time in the oak that makes me think more of bourbon ageing than scotch, then there are some medicinal notes that call to Islay but could just be the higher abv showing itself, then finally what seem like Highland style sweeter notes. I give up. No idea.

Anyway, the beer itself! Massive in flavour, but generally smooth. Initially rich and sweet with huge lumps of dark fruit and fruitcake – a very dessert beer at this point.

The alcohol, or possibly the influence from the barrel ageing, does give a slight rough blended whisky edge – but generally the extra highland feeling weight adds a lot to the beer, helping to break up the creamy richness, and in general it feels like the time in the barrel has helped contribute to the smoothness of the beer in a way that more than offsets the slight rougher edges.

Late on oak, tannins and spice come out – an unexpected, odd savoury grounding to what had been up to this point a very sweet beer. In fact, by the end you get a sweet burst on each sip that settles into a very long lasting savoury spice finish which makes for very satisfactory progression.

Now, it is a tad rough edged, but complex and delicious – the alcohol and the barrel ageing react perfectly but still let though and awesome quad that deserves respect.

Background: Had this around for a while, waiting for a good time to break open. Not since 2017 though, I’m nowhere near that patient. Not had standard Straffe Hendrik for bloomin’ ages so not able to directly compare what the oak ageing has done, but should still be interesting. Also, for all my googling I cannot find what whisky barrel was used to age this. Ah well. I visited the Halve Maan brewery while in Brugge, very pretty, lovely view of the city and you get some unfiltered unpasteurised beer – so all good! This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Bad Religion. Yes I was pissed off with recent politics again and wanted some smart punk tunes.

Garage: Cartoons (Spain: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Massive yellowed loose bubbled head.

Nose: Tart grapefruit. Pineapple. Wheaty hop character and bitterness. Flour. Slight banana.

Body: Good bitterness. Tart grapefruit. Stewed apricot. Subtle peach underneath. The hop character and bitterness grows rapidly. Slight vanilla. Subtle toffee. Slightly milky late on.

Finish: High bitterness. Prickly, bitter hop character. Peppery. Grapes into grapefruit. White bread crusts. Slight flour. Slight gherkin like sour twist. Dried banana.

Conclusion: Yep, that’s a hop kick. It starts off merely as a solid kick, but rapidly lays on the hop bitterness and punch to higher levels as it goes on. Very nice. There is nothing oily or resinous to it, just fluffy hop bitterness and kick delivered fairly cleanly. Old school(ish –old for USA style IPAs) hop use ya know, and I like it.

The fruity character has to work hard to get past the bitterness, but it just about manages to push through. It’s mainly grapefruit, tart and puckering. There are peach and apricot hints, even subtle banana, but don’t rely on them to be a major part of the beer. The tart notes are the main backing to the hop kick.

The malt body starts out even more out of the way. It isn’t an attenuated dry west coast style thing, it just isn’t really evident initially. Later on the slightly milky, slightly toffee notes show themselves and we have some welcome extra sweet notes in the latter half of the beer.

Its a rock solid bitter kick, tart styled IPA. Very little malt – lots of bitter hops. My kind of thing. It is kind of one track mind, but its just what I look for in an IPA so I’m not complaining.

Old school(ish) tart, hoppy, bitter fun.

Background: Sooooo, Garage did Snake Fear, an IIPA which blew me away, so I’ve had a hankering to see if they can make lighting strike twice. So when I saw Independent Spirit had more of their beers in I zeroed in on this one to grab. It’s pretty warm (for the UK) at the moment so I chilled these down nicely before I broke it open. Oh if the me from years ago could see me now. Chilling beers down. I am a monster in his eyes. This was drunk fairly late at night – I had been playing “Dead In Bermuda” and was convinced I was at the end of the game. Turns out there was about another two hours to go. Ah well, at least that meant it was cooler by the time I finally drank it. Went back to Crossfaith – Ex_Machina for music while drinking to give a bit of energy.

Big Drop: Brown Ale (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Reddened brown to mahogany. Clear main body with very small bubbled carbonation. Thin grey dash of a head.

Nose: Roasted. Nutty. Slightly chalky. Sour dough. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Nutty malt character. Brown sugar touch. Light chalk. Earthy touch. Slight sports drinks.

Finish: Light brown sugar. Charred wood. Mildly earthy character. Slight chalk.

Conclusion: This is a solid, middle of the road brown ale. Now that would seem like damning with faint praise, but this is rocking in at 0.5% abv, and because of that I can cut it some slack – managing to be an even middle of the road brown ale at low abv is impressive in itself. So sure, it doesn’t wow, but it is very much what you would expect from a brown ale.

As long as you don’t overly chill it down there really isn’t much sign of the lower alcohol content. There is just a slight glucose sports drink touch to the body. Now if you do over chill it, things get a bit more obvious. Like that the mouthfeel is much thinner, and loses a chunk of the flavour with it. So don’t do that, ok?

Had just slightly chilled it is a roasted, nutty and slightly earthy thing, with just a hint of brown sugar sweetness offsetting that. Everything a good brown ale should be,

It isn’t fancy or special but manages a good mouthfeel, beer like character and flavour, all without having to lean too heavily on the hops to do that like a lot of low abv beers do.

As of such I’m impressed. It may not be exceptional against a full abv brown ale, but it is bloody impressive for what it is and stands up as a decent enough expression in of itself.

Background: Big drop have pretty much established themselves as the masters of the low abv beer. So, I’ve had this one, their take on a brown ale a few times already. I tend to keep a bunch of low abv beers around for when I want an easy night. So I knew pretty much what to expect going in and was already aware I should not over chill it even though it is bloody warm again over here. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, which was drunk while listening to the almost b-move horror metal that is Sigh: Gallows Gallery.

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