Tag Archive: Boxcar


Deya: Boxcar: Crocodile King Barley Wine (England: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach skin to gold. Moderate yellow white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation to the body. Some streaks of sediment visible from the pour.

Nose: Honey to mead. Golden syrup. Blueberry touch. Light earthy hop prickle. Golden Grahams cereal. Nettles. Light chalk touch. Peach. Cake sponge. Apricot.

Body: Vanilla. Peach syrup. Honey. Hop prickle. Very syrupy. Custard. Apples. Blueberry. Vanilla cake sponge. Thick alcohol tingle. Treacle. A mix of brown and crusty white bread. Apricot. Orange juice.

Finish: Toffee liqueur. Boozy alcohol air. Cake sponge. Licorice touch. Blueberry. Crusty white bread.

Conclusion: This is made with lots of English hops, and for once that doesn’t mean “tastes like soil”. There are flavours I recognise from single English hop beers, but also this shows a lot of influence from flavours I would normally attribute to older school USA hops, but more on that later.

Anyway, with the hop talk pushed to later – this is big! I know, shocking for an 11% abv barley wine, they are notoriously so subtle normally. This is straight up honey and golden syrup style early on into vaguely more restrained vanilla and toffee liqueur mixed with custard as you get into it. It is thick and syrupy from the aroma through to the mid body. It is very sweet but shy of becoming actually sickly. Now, mid body is where the weakest element of the beer hits – a dry, slightly rough alcohol character. In an 11% abv beer some alcohol tells are expected, and in fact sometimes welcome, but this shows itself in a quite raw way that doesn’t really work well.

To look on the bright side this does mean that the later end of the beer expresses the sweet notes in a more dry way which helps ground the beer – but even with this taken into account it isn’t the best element for a beer.

Now if it stopped here it would be a decent, if slightly rough in the middle barley wine.

So, those hops, huh?

There is a low level hop prickle, and a touch of earthiness which may be what came to mind when you heard this was made with English hops, but after that is a layer of blueberry, touches of apple and the like. I don’t know what exactly was used to make this but the blueberry reminds me of what you can get from Bramling Cross when it is used right. Then, there is a layer of apricot and peach hops, stuff that I would normally attribute to USA based hops, from the wealth of those notes that used to exist in mid 2000s USA IPAs. So, since this is made with British hops I’m guessing that it comes from the big malt sweetness interacting with the hops, but however it is made it is a nice note.

The hops add a nice extra touch, not something that dominates, not ignored, just adding some layers to that super sweet malt body.

So, it has some issues handling the alcohol, but has a lot to offer to offset that which I appreciate. A pretty darn nice barley wine that has just a few issues.

Background: Boxcar, Boxcar, Boxcar, I know that brewery name. Why do I know that brewery name? **Searches this site** Ah that Best Bitter they did that was pretty good. I swear sometimes I only do this site as it makes up for my memory being shit. Anyway a Deya Boxcar collaboration – a Barley Wine emphasising English hops. Fair enough, that bitter I mentioned used the hops well while keeping a call to traditional styles. This should be interesting. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went back to teen years for the music – with Republica’s Live At The Astoria album. Still got a soft spot for that band. As is to be expected, teen years tend to leave an impression.

Boxcar: Mills: Best Bitter (England: Bitter: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Slightly hazy main body. Beige touched thin head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Malt drinks and crushed malt biscuits. Light orange zest. Lightly earthy. Caramel. Apple.

Body: Caramel and toffee mix. Orange skin. Lightly earthy. Hops prickle. Choc limes. Nettles. Light grapefruit. Moderate bitterness.

Finish: Choc orange. Orange skin. Caramel. Grapefruit. Peppery. Malt chocolate drinks. Earthy. Tart grapes.

Conclusion: Man, this isn’t what I think of when I think of a best bitter. Ok, correction, it somewhat is, but also heavily isn’t.

Why are things so hard to explain? Probably because I drink. Anyway, let’s give this a go…

This has a solid caramel to toffee base, which is in line with what I expect from the style, but delivered sweeter and more evident. I can see how a lot of places are listing this as an ESB with the heavier malt sweetness.

More notably best bitter like, this has the earthy, slightly pepper bitterness and hop character. Initially milder than I expected, giving the malt a lot of room to show, but it gets more present as time goes on, leading into a very earthy filled finish.

What makes it more unusual is that it leans more into the hop fruitiness – most best bitters have some fruit notes, but generally they are subtly used. Here it starts subtle with orange notes, but gains apple and grapefruit freshness. These are especially evident early on but struggle against the late earthy character as it sinks back into more traditional best bitter stylings.

It gives some range and progression to the beer without fully sacrificing the base bitter – it makes for a refreshing yet earthy bitter with just a touch of sourness. A lovely dash of a few extra layers over a traditional take. Nice.

Background: You don’t see many of the newer small brewers do Best Bitters these days. It seems to be a style that has fallen out of fashion with the new wave of brewers – though it is still fairly easy to find existing examples in real ale pubs so it is not like it has gone away. Still, that made this catch my eyes, and I quickly grabbed it. I know Mills better for their sour beers, and I don’t think I’ve grabbed anything from Boxcar before, so it is one I was really not sure what to expect from. Went with Arch Enemy: Will To Power for music while drinking. Mainly as their tour has been delayed due to the Coronavirus and I wanted to listen to them. This was a beer grabbed from Independent Spirit after I got back from India.

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