Tag Archive: Bristol Beer Factory

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.

Bristol Beer Factory: Imperial Stout: Laphroaig Cask Aged (England: Imperial Stout: 9.5%ABV)

Visual: Black with a dusting and rim of beige suds but no real head. Viscous main body that leaves a beige trail where it passes.

Nose: Smoke. Rocks. Salt and peat. Iodine. Cherries. Roasted barley. Bitter chocolate.

Body: Milk chocolate. Medicinal. Salt. Coffee. Rock. Charring. Custard sweetness. Throat tingling. Toffee. Cloyed cream underneath. Frothy texture in the mouth if rolled around.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Medicinal again. Black coffee. Salt and wet rocks. Cloyed cream.

Conclusion: This is a beer that knows what it is.  Laphroaig is stamped straight through it. That medicinal, rocky, salty beast just floats above the body that once sipped is chocolate smooth and sweet. Unlike “Bitch Please” where the underlying beer was almost subsumed by the whisky, the beer and the whisky here complement each other greatly.

The whisky influence keeps your mouth clinical fresh between sips so it never builds up too heavy despite the force of the flavour. Here the solid nature of BBF’s Imperial Stout really pays off. The rough edges allow it to hold its own and even gives it room to push forwards the sweet chocolate and toffee flavour that makes a great counterpoint. This feels like the expression that the base beer was designed for.

So with that praise out of the way, does it have any problems? Well it is a harsh base beer and a harsh whisky put together in one glass. If you are not one for the rough edges then this beer is going to be too much of one style for your tastes. Similarly the combined tingle from the alcohol and medicinal style can be overwhelming if you are not used to it.

On the other hand. Sod it. I love that style and so this beer is right up my alley. The lovely sweetness and harshness mix perfectly in a rounded warming beer.  A great way to end the twelve stouts of Christmas.

Background: The last of the twelve stouts of Christmas, and I saved my most anticipated for last.  I’m a big fan of Bristol Beer Factory, especially their stouts and similarly I love Laphroaig whisky for its sheer booming nature.  It’s odd that more beers don’t use Laphroaig casks for ageing, unless people fear it will overwhelm the beers main character.

Bristol Beer Factory: Imperial Stout Aged In Glenlivet Casks (England: Imperial Stout: 10.7% ABV)

Visual: Black. On a fast pour it manages a coffee coloured set of bubbles that may or may not pass for a head.  Not much life on the bubbles even. Leaves a slight viscous brown trail.

Nose: Bitter coffee. That sour dough freshness. Apples. Custard cream biscuits.  Fruit crumbles toppings covered with sugar.  Vanilla doughnuts. Slight sour grapes. Barley husks and raisins.

Body:  Apple crumble. Bitter chocolate. Very slick. Good bitterness and light fudge.  White grapes. Frothy chocolate fondue. Teabags. Raisins.

Finish:  Chocolate gateaux. Fudge. Bitter chocolate. Almonds. White wine. The alcohol is more evident at this end.

Conclusion:  I was wondering how well the Glenlivet cask would stand up to this beer. I always think of the Livet as a lighter fruitier whisky, while this imperial stout is a harsh thing to fight.  A bit of a David and Goliath match up here.

Initially impressions are one of a smoothed out version of the Imperial Stout.  Main body is rich yet bitter. At the finish you do notice the alcohol more with an air that can’t help but remind you of the over ten percent abv and the years it’s spent lazing in the cask to achieve that. Unfortunately it’s mainly the alcohol hit not the whisky flavour that reminds you.

The whisky influence does seem subtle. There are sub notes to the beer of fruit and occasional wine like notes with sour grape touches.  The ageing seems more to have restrained the beers excesses rather than use the whisky flavour to massively expand it.

The reigning in and smoothness make for a much better beer though. It allows the bitterness to be present without getting annoying. In fact it seems like an actualisation of the intended difference between Yeti Stout and Oak Aged Yeti Stout.  While I never really got the oak aged Yeti the intent was to smooth out the beer and here, unlike the Yeti, the concept seems to have really worked.

Initially this beer was chilled and then allowed to warm to room temperature. The aromas and flavours shifted heavily during this time resulting in the laundry list like group of flavours listed above.

So, a good Imperial Stout which benefits from the ageing in subtle ways. In a way I am disappointed the Glenlivet was not more obvious. It seems like a high quality Imperial Stout rather than a good example of oak ageing an Imperial Stout.  In that way it seems a beer of similar quality to the BBF Ultimate Stout. It shares that beers smoothness and good range of complexity, plus has a nice set of fruit notes. Unfortunately the high price, low availability and high abv means that it doesn’t have quite the same niche it fits as the Ultimate Stout and so while it is a beer I enjoy it’s not quite one I would hunt out as often as Ultimate Stout.

A good, but not obviously whisky, Imperial Stout.

Background:  Bristol Beer factory are the great stout producing brewery that made the Twelve Stouts of Christmas” set of which this is one. In fact this is one of the last two. I have been saving the big gun whisky aged beers until last. This one was drunk whilst listening to Spektrmodule 6.

Bristol Beer Factory: Bristol Stout (England: Stout: 4% ABV)

Visual: Black with the occasional red highlights if held to the light. Small sheen of greyish bubbled head.

Nose: Liquorice. Slightly tarry. Almond slices. Bitter coffee and sough dough balls.

Body: Bitter. Sour dough. Touch of charring and slightly chalky in the middle.  Touch of fish oil right at the back. Wholemeal bread.  Slightly astringent and tannins at the back. Green nut freshness.

Finish: Bitter and charring. Touch of earthy hops. Light treacle touch.  Bitter chocolate. Hazelnuts. Chalk.

Conclusion:  Memories. Ah memories. Odd wee things. For one thing I’m fairly sure I used memories as an introduction to review before but I cannot find the review for love or money. So I’m using it again.  For another thing I tried this beer a few years ago on hand pull cask. Now I remember this as being an absolute stonker of a stout.

Now I’m not sure of its faulty memory, the difference between bottle and cask, or just the range of beers I’ve encountered over the past few years but I return to find it still good, but not as exceptional as I remembered.

It’s a very nice beer, lays on astringent touch to the back, a bit of harshness mid body with chalk and charring then that odd sour dough touch I’ve noticed in a lot of BBF stouts.  Keeps you on your toes to say the least.

It also has some of the slight sourness that I noticed in the hazelnut stout. Now back then I presumed it was the nut influence, but since it turned up in this one as well I must presume it is a core element of the beer that had just been emphasised by the addition of the nuts.  In fact here in its toned down version is much more manageable and enjoyable. You get the nut flavour but much more as a balanced element,

So since I am laying on the high praise, in what way then does it not hold up to my memory? Well the mid body does not quite have the thickness I remember of the cask version. It could be the bottle vs cask thing, but it does mean the flavour isn’t quite as present mid body.   Also the flavour ties itself more towards the charring edge of the spectrum than I remember and it sometimes feels it need a touch more working against it.

All in all a good stout, and I am probably being unfair comparing it to my rose tinted memories. I will say of the mainstay BBF stouts though I do find the milk stout is the superior of the two for a better range of flavour and also it seemed to stand up better to my memories of the cask version.

Still this aint a bad wee stout for all that.

Background:  Bristol Stout was the first stout I had from Bristol Beer Factory  (No 7 being I think the first BBF beer I ever tried) and was responsible for a lot of my early interest in  BBF.  This bottle came with the 12 Stouts of Christmas so it seemed like a good time to get reacquainted with it.

Bristol Beer Factory: Chocolate Stout (England: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown to black. Small but frothy coffee cream coloured head.

Nose: Dry grated chocolate flakes. Bitter and with a touch of bitter coffee. Slight dry teabags. A fruity freshness to the edge.

Body: Smooth and decent thickness.  Bitter chocolate. Hint of honey. Creamy malted milk. Light chocolate orange hints. Light pineapple touch.

Finish: Rich chocolate fondue and cream. Light bitterness below.  Touch of tea again.  A freshness, almost citrus in the air. Maybe grapefruit.

Conclusion: I can’t quite tell if this beer is elegant in its simplicity, or has rich subtleties that blend so well to create the pleasing illusion of simplicity.

What I mean by this is that the stout delivers a lovely smooth chocolate experience.  A cut just between bitter and creamy, delivering very much so on the promise its name offers.  This is the seeming simplicity.

However when I pay close attention there seems to be other notes enhancing the experience.  A honey like sweetness and a very subtle tropical fruit touch that keeps it fresh and flavoursome.  It refreshes your taste buds as you sip keeping the experience fresh.

The elements are subtle beside the chocolate experience but seem intrinsically to its enjoyment.  The almost hidden nature of those notes means you can enjoy the seeming simplicity, or dig deeper to understand how it keeps so fresh.

Thus my confusion.  The simplicity seems to hide the amount of effort put into making it effortlessly enjoyable.  So a fine beer, delicious and set well to be drinkable for a good while without getting dull. A beer with a lot of joy to it.

A simple idea done well and I do not doubt the skill it took to make it so.  Good job.

Background: Another of the twelve stouts of Christmas.  So far they had been an eclectic but fun range, going from interesting to awesome.  Bristol Beer Factory is one of my favourite of the English breweries these days for their solid and varied range.

Bristol Beer Factory: Hazelnut Latte Stout (England: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Black and easy pouring. Not much of a head. A dust coloured rim on the beer is all you get.

Nose:  Nuts. Slightly sharp and acrid Sour dough. Mint tea and pistachio nuts.

Body: Pistachios and hazelnuts. Sour dough. Bitterness mixes with cream cheese.  Milky coffee and a touch of Soya milk.  Roasted main body and dark bitterness. Slight milky chocolate.

Finish: Tannins and nuts. Cream cheese and chives. Bitter with a bit of greenery.

Conclusion:  Talk about dedication to a theme. This really exalts in the green and nutty flavours of hazelnuts.  There’s that fresh but slightly acrid kick, the nuttiness and full flavour.

By comparison to the nuts influence the coffee is a slightly muted back which mixed with slightly soured milk flavours.  It really is very different to anything I expected, and the stout had to work very hard to fight its corner in flavour.

Initially the almost pistachio level of green nuts flavour seems to dominate the mix, so it takes a lot of acclimatisation. (Ok, ok that’s not a real descriptor I know. It’s my best way of referring to those slightly green flecks you get surrounding nuts in the shell. They always seem to have this really odd, but kinda cool taste)

When you have got used to this barrage of oddities you come to realise the very mouth drying puckering at the end makes the beer very moorish as you are tempted into another sip to end the thirst you just gained from the first mouthful.

All the flavours it has make themselves very present; the finish is a pure hit of its nutty glory at the end.  This is going to make it a crowd splitter. All the flavours are hammered home to an intense degree.  In fact I’ve noticed they do that a lot with the twelve stouts of Christmas, there doesn’t seem to be half measures on a theme.  If you like it, you’ll love it. Otherwise this will not be in any way fun for you.

I started off reticent on this one, but it has earned my respect.  Different, sharp, heavy in every flavour yet drinkable.  Its flavours are not easy drinking, but the beer is.  A beer that possibly should not work, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Background: Now two thirds of the way through Bristol Beer Factories 12 Stouts of Christmas with this version of their milk stout made with java coffee and hazelnuts.  I’m saving the big guns, the two whisky aged stouts, for last, but wanted a bit of a lighter abv beer to kick off Monday. This seemed to fit the bill. Drunk while listening to Spektrmodule

Bristol Beer Factory: Imperial Stout (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Heavy black. It pours smooth and has a slightly viscous sheen where it passes. Smooth and loose bubbles for the head, but not much of it. The bubbles only cover about half the pint, with the rest a light coffee shimmer.

Nose: Roasted nuts.  Roasted nuts. Lactose, yet matched by solid bitter coffee that is the mainstay of the aroma.  Slight cream cheese and chives under that.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Very smooth texture. Very bitter. Burnt toast. Still a cloying cream element. Light coffee influence.

Finish: Really bitter chocolate into dry milky coffee. Very heavily roasted coffee beans. Walnuts.

Conclusion: A lot of bitter stouts these days come with a heavy hop character that can really get sticky. The thickness of stouts can make the hops grip far past their welcome.  This bad boy is a bitter stout, but brings it in with what feels a much more natural yet heavy bitterness.

Seriously, the main body of this takes the chocolate and coffee elements and ratchets up their bitter side.  Its like how when you first have unsweetened chocolate. That kind of jolt of pleasurepain as you acclimatise.  Yeah, that kinda thing was the beers first kick.

Add to that a cloying cream cheese and chive element that is laced throughout and a roasted character and you get a solid sturdy no nonsense imperial stout. There’s no real surprises. Ok, ok barring cream cheese and sodding chive which I will admit was unexpected. There are no other real surprises but the texture balances a smoothness of style with a grip to let the flavour get hold with consummate ease.  Then the beer just doubles down on its bitter elements as a matter of course.

On a technical level it is extremely well made, on a personal level it is a tad more bitter than I usual go with for with stouts. It’s a beer that I would enjoy very much to have a half of on tap. Considering the abv and strong flavours that would seem to be the perfect measure for it.  On Imperial Stout Vs Imperial Stout I probably prefers BBFs more Belgium style “Ultimate Stout”, as it has a bit of a smoother character and complexity from the Belgium take. This is more of a solid force forwards.

So, a well made beer, how much you like it will be determined by how much it’s straight up style and bitterness appeals to you.  Me, I’m not complaining, but will probably return to its Ultimate brother.

Background: One of the twelve stouts of Christmas.  BBF already had an imperials stout in their range – Ultimate Stout, but that was based on Belgium yeast while this is in the more traditional Russian Imperial Stout mould. BBF are always good with stouts so the journey through the twelve stouts of Christmas is a treat.

Bristol Beer Factory: Choc Orange Stout (England: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Really frothy fudge coloured head. The head is thin in depth, but thick in texture. It also leaves a coffee cup like remains around the rim of the glass.

Nose: Bitter coffee and coco dust. Overripe oranges and along with that a passing tartness.

Body: Thick textured. Heavy on the bitterness. Touch of liquorice. Chocolate orange lurks at the back.  Bitter cocoa. Slight milkyness and a touch of black cherry.

Finish: Chocolate orange. Milk. Still bitter chocolate and coffee hands in the air. Dry roasted peanuts and mandarin orange segments.

Conclusion: Not what I was expecting with this one. The choc orange term had me expecting a quite milky sweet stout with emphasis on terry chocolate orange style smoothness.

Obviously I was wrong.

The chocolate is the first distinct element main body, but it is in its raw unsugared version, all potent bitterness and bite.  This combines with the stouts bitter coffee styles for an impressive balance of bitter force against drinkability.

The orange is background element, feeling like actuall flecks throughout the beer for all its comings and goings.  It is at the finish that it dominates, and here it mixes the expected terry’s chocolate orange element on the tongue with bitter chocolate soaring in your mouth above it. There is then a river of tart orange juice flavour separating the two.

The result is a solid stout, but I am having a hard time deciding how I feel about it as the beer in my expectations clash against the beer in itself.

A bit more play to decide reveals that the orange touches almost disappear when the beer is chilled, when warmed slightly the orange juice almost separates from the stout to be come its own distinct element.  At no point does the orange flavours fully integrate. A strange oddity.

Id say that it does the job of defying expectations and being a solid stout. For that alone I’m willing to give it the time of day.  The beer does have reasonable staying power as the orange plays in different ways throughout the beer.

It is a beer I enjoyed, I have decided after much contemplation. It does not come in instantly enjoyable, but does earn that title over time. A beer you initially struggle with, but is distinctly its own thing, and does keep the fight between the bitter chocolate and orange well balanced if not integrated.

Bit of a tough one to get along with, but I can’t help but appreciate its unique stylings.

Background: Part of Bristol Beer Factories 12 Stouts of Christmas. Yes I am aware its New Years already and I’m only half way through.  BBF is a great brewery, especially on stouts. This version has had orange zest and juice added, and I presume cacao nibs as well like the chocolate stout.

Bristol Beer Factory: Chilli Choc Stout (England: Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pours black, but has a hint of red in the light. A fizz as it pours but an unusually shallow coffee coloured foam for a head.

Nose: Crushed sesame seeds. Crushed granite. Black coffee. Crushed green peppers and greenery. Empty coffee cup remains as well. Chilli is distinct on the deep breaths.

Body:  Bitter. Chilli heat and green peppers. Slight orange juice. Can seem slightly thin at times. Coffee and bitter chocolate. Black cherry.

Finish:  Green peppers and a warm chilli tingle evident at the back of the throat.  Light bitter chocolate. An edge of glacier cherry slowly emerges.

Conclusion:  This is the first disappointing beer from the twelve stouts of Christmas. Heck, it’s possibly the first disappointing BBF beer. Chilli stouts are an odd beast at the best of times though. Too much chilli and you get the De Molens style molten lava beer. Worse than that, too much chilli emphasis and you get the god-awful lager based Black Mountain Chili beer that I tried many years ago. By tried incidentally I mean survived, that beer was pure vomit.  Then on the other hand you can have too little chilli and then what’s the point of having it?

For this beer? Well it can feel murky at times. The base stout is solid, but somehow the chilli elements seem to make it seem thin and indistinct at times.  That is a pretty major flaw, however for all that I will admit the use of the chilli itself is well balanced. The heat is present and builds slowly without becoming painful. The problem is that the base beer doesn’t handle it well, falling before the chilli and losing definition in its flavour.  The stout is overtaken by the flavours of greenery and leaves much of the time unfortunately.

A pity, but it really needed a bigger beer to work. This just doesn’t have the umph to balance it.

Background: Part of Bristol beer Factories Twelve stouts of Christmas. This is about the half way point through the pack. I think. I’m losing count.  So far the stouts have been pretty spot on, and BBF tends to be great when working with stouts.  This stout is made with habanero chilli from the Upton Cheney Chilli farm apparently.

Bristol Beer Factory: Raspberry Stout (England: Imperial Stout: 7.7 % ABV)

Visual: Black with a dust of toffee brown head.  Its 99% certainly psychosomatic but during the pour the head seemed to froth lavender for a while.

Nose: Lots of really tart raspberry dominates. Sour grapes underneath and thick vinous touches. White grapes as well. Strong to the point of being almost lighter fluid aroma touches, but offset by so much fruit that it is not unappealing.

Body:  Roasted and bitter yet smooth textured. Breaks out into tart raspberry jam with white grapes mixed in again.  Very vinous influence. Raisins and figs.

Finish: Milky chocolate and coffee. Feels very fresh and tart if not actually raspberry filled. Big roasted nuts after awhile and bitter chocolate. Some plums and fig rolls.

Conclusion: Definitely a case of does exactly what it says on the tin. The raspberry is so obvious that even if you were down with the Christmas bug it would be evident.

I don’t know if it’s the base beer, the raspberry or a mix of the two but there is a definite wodge of vinous feel to this beer that is thick and rich.  The fig and plums almost definitely come from where the beer meets the fruit and brings in a wonderful second wave of flavour.  It feels weighty yet fresh and tart, a great combination.

The elements all combine to give the impression of an alcohol element that is very evident but not burning. The lighter fluid I referenced in the aroma section may be a slight exaggeration but this beer really puts its power at the forefront and that “Booziness” may be off-putting for some.

Notice how when I say some, I don’t mean me. I love the thickness, the almost jam like sweetness that the weight brings and the roasted and bitter elements that come after a few mouthfuls.

So hugely flavoursome and vinous. If completely lacking subtlety. It’s a sledgehammer of flavour here.  I think this beer will be crowd splitter. Its very big and obvious nature will put off some, especially combine with the noticeable alcohol. These very same elements will draw others to its flock.

Me, I’m firmly in the enjoy camp. It isn’t a masterwork, but damn it’s brash and fun. Considering how few beers can compete with the strong flavours raspberries bring this is very impressive that each element is evenly matched by the other.

Another high quality stout.

Background: Oddly listed as a standard stout on ratebeer.  However due to the reference to Belgium yeast and the identical abv, I think this has Ultimate Stout at the base which was blatantly an Imperial Stout.  As mentioned this beer is made with Belgium yeast and a shitload of raspberries.  Part of the 12 Stouts Of Christmas set which has been rock solid for quality so far.

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