Tag Archive: Bristol Beer Factory

Bristol Beer Factory: Vanilla Milk Stout (England: Sweet Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Quite the fizzy hazelnut brown head which is small and quickly diminishing.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Quite fresh lactose character. Really rich. Toffee. Slight thick cream. Milky chocolate.

Body: Caramel and vanilla. Milky coffee.   Moderate bitterness. Toffee. Slight sherbet lemon and a hint of fizz to the texture. Only a hint mind you. Some nuttiness and milk chocolate.

Finish: Milky coffee. Bitter. Vanilla and toffee pavlova. Roasted nuts.

Conclusion: If there was one thing Bristol beer Factory does well, its stouts.  Thankfully they do a lot of things well, but still, especially stouts.  Unlike a lot of the craft scene they really excel in the full range of stouts, not just the Imperial Stouts which usually get the most attention.  This is a good honest sweet stout, the slightly more unusual end of the stout scale.

This variant on the already excellent milk stout makes full use of the vanilla to slightly sweeten it and bring out the toffee and caramel notes. This makes an already impressive and easy to drink milk stout much more rounded.

Some will find that it’s ratcheting the sweetness up a bit far for their tastes. Me, I’m loving the extra umph it brings, and there is a good solid bitter and roasted nuts holding at the back. Present but not intruding.

To find flaws, and thus not gush embarrassingly, the texture is a tad fizzy at time when a smoother play would work better. Also as referenced before it is maybe a tad sweet, but this is Yahtzee Croshaw level nitpicking here. A more likely flaw seems to be that the twelve stouts of Christmas is going to make me look very long and hard at what exactly goes on the “My favourite” tag, as if it keeps up this way the list may end up a tad stout heavy and I have tried so hard to keep a good balance of styles.

The twelve stouts are off top very good start with this great sweet session stout.

Background: One of the twelve stouts of Christmas released by Bristol Beer Factory. While I have tried their Milk Stout and Ultimate Stout before, this is the first of the new beers from the pack I have tried. As is evident from the name it is a tweaked version of the highly rated milk stout, having added, yes vanilla into the mix.  Frankly, stouts tend to be where BBF excels so I was looking forwards to this.

Bristol Beer Factory: Bristol Vintage 2011 (England: Barley Wine: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: A simple cloudy reddened brown. Lovely tight bubbled head of a reddened peach colour. The head leaves quite a trail as the beer subsides.

Nose: Crisp. Fruitcake and rum. Malty chocolate. Cinnamon dusting. Reminds me of a Christmassy hot chocolate. Apricot or possible peaches and cream. Touch of cappuccino.

Body: Solidly bitter. Subtle dried apricot. Creamy texture. Slightly pineapple hopped. Lots of malt running through. Slight sour dough back. Subtle bitter coffee.

Finish: Dried apricots come through strongly. Lots of bitterness then light peach. Dry English hop character. Unsweetened bitter chocolate. Dry oak.

Conclusion: It’s a rare beer that is better in bottle than cask, but I think we just found one.    I had the cask version a few weeks ago and found it ok, but uninspiring.  Because of this the bottle ended up congregating at the back of the beer cupboard for a while.

So now, I dig it out to give it another try, bottle style.  The difference was immediately obvious, The aroma was so much more rounded and bold.  This alone led to looking at the beer in a different light.

The body itself wasn’t quite so different. A reasonable set of flavours but slightly indistinct in the differentiation between them.  The finish then comes in heavy with the bitterness and oak.

It’s a heavy beer, the texture is great and creamy but the flavour gives it this slightly gritty bitterness for grip.  The character bears well for potential ageing, though I feel possibly at a slight loss of clarity in its youth. Still a lot of promise. Light apricot coming through which is currently a background noise but will hopefully come more centre stage as the bitterness fades.

However I digress in this musing. I have a beer in front of me now damnit. A definite burst of fruity flavour characterises the beer, with a lot of hints to American IPA style, but matches to a traditional English Strong Ale like character in the main body, and a heavy oak influenced finish. Definitely benefits from room to warm, despite the American hoppiness it responds well like the traditional English beers to warmth.

So for now, I would say an average beer on cask, good but in need of a bit of polish in bottle, and Ill tell you in a year or so how the bottle I’ve tucked away does with ageing. Don’t let the musing fool you though, it’s unpolished but still heavy duty and tasty, just slightly raw.

Background: Bristol Beer Factories thousandth brew. So of course I hunted this down as soon as I could find it as they are a great brewery. Shortly after buying it I found it on tap, so grabbed a quick half for comparison as referenced in the tasting notes.  Five malts and four hop varieties used, aged in English oak.  According to ratebeer this is a Barley Wine. I would not have called that, but since I don’t have a better suggestion right now I’ll go with it, but I will try to confirm if that is right.  This was drunk whilst listening to Spektrmodule.

Comparisons: Bristol Beer Factory: Acer: Project Progress

Now this one is more of an addendum that a tasting note, something neat and unusual.  I’m glad I got a chance to try this one, one of fewer than seven hundred bottles.  This beer, BBF’s Acer has so far been a tap only beer, a fact that caused me much consternation when I found out due to the fact it uses the sorachi ace hop with which I am so enamored. In fact on the tour they kept it pretty damn quiet that they were playing with this thing, a bottled version of Acer. Considering how much I was bugging them about it that must have been no mean feat.  Apparently they have been having great trouble making the beer work in bottles, this, project progress is their first attempt which they considered worth releasing and is hopefully a sign of a full release soon.

Now visual wise this thing top trumps even the tap, the head is massive and sturdy  a ground lemon skin colour with a hazy lemon to apricot body when you do a full sediment pour. Aroma again knocks it out of the park, lots of the sorachi ace bubblegum and lemon with some pine and resin mixed in. Even a touch of unexpected strawberry which just made me go wow.

So two for two, not just matching the style of the tap version but if anything bettering it.  Now we are onto the being a picky little git part of the write up. The body is still pretty good and matches the style of the tap well, however it seems to need larger sips to get the flavour going.  When you take it on smaller sips it doesn’t quite have the punch, seeming more like a standard bitter than the lemon citrus and resin that comes on a mouthful.  The body always did tend towards the bitter base of the style, but I feel in the bottle it could maybe do with just a bit more.  Finally the finish is pretty spot match with a very dry hop finish, more lemongrass and the digestive biscuits come out massively. Lots of hop oil texture.  Only problem really on this emphasis is the body and finish work against each other for purpose. The more large mouthful body calls to a session ale, which matches the abv. The massive dry and hop oil finish would make me think of more a take your time beer.

Still, I am being sodding picky.   But heck, for something called project progress it’s probably the best time to be. Still it matches very well to the memory of the tap version, and its flaw in the body is mainly a slightly more emphasised version of my only real complaint about the tap version.

If they released it as is I would be very happy to have it available. If they manage somehow just to tweak it that touch I would quickly become ecstatic.  Here seeing what happens next.

Bristol Beer Factory: Indian Ink (England: Black IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Either very dark brown or black.  Head that manages an inch of froth with a rising mound of cappuccino colour in the midst.

Nose: Ground lemon and orange rind mix.  Bitter hops with a chilli tingle. Wheat influences.  Some milky chocolate and empty coffee cup remains. Jiff lemon and peach round it out.

Body: Growling bitter with a lime and lemongrass back.  Burnt malt. Apricots. Very smooth and milky texture.  Pineapple and orange.

Finish: Lemon Grass. Chinese vegetable stir fry. Charring and solidly bitter.

Conclusion: Black IPA’s are fast becoming a firm favourite of mine, despite the intrinsically absurdity of the styles name.  There just does not seem to be a bad example of the style out there ( Yes  I know I will eventually be proved wrong on this, and on that day I shall weep for my loss of innocence).

This is a particularly proficient take on the style, aiming as it is to make a comparatively easy to drink take on the style. I say comparatively as let’s face it, a black IPA without a hop growl to take your breath away just isn’t worth the name.

The smooth texture is attached to a body thinner than most of the style, with the high amount of fruit and especially citrus rocking the flavour it makes it so easy to drink.  Some of this style are masterpieces, such as Stones Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, however few are easy drinking, and fewer still can match ease of drinking with a decent punch of force and flavour.

Style wise then it pretty much goes head to head with Brewdog’s Equity For Punks 2011. Now EFP2011 is the better beer, on the other hand you can get hold of this beer without needing a minor miracle to find it first, which you have to admit is a massive point in it’s favour.

A seething mix of contradictions, but heck, what would you expect from something called a black IPA.  A quality fruit flowing beer of just enough force.

Background:  The free take away bottle from the BBF tour, this was a beer we had a lot of during the tour, so I thought I would give it a while before doing a tasting note so I can enjoy it fresh once more.  I’ve been enjoying black IPA’s since before I even knew there was such a thing, and was glad once I found the correct term for those hop ridden fruity dark monsters.  Bristol Beer factory in my opinion is a right treat and part of a thriving beer culture in Bristol.

Bristol Beer Factory: Acer (England: Bitter: 3.8% ABV)

Visual: Golden grain, with a just slightly yellow and toffee hued head.

Nose: Lemon grass, pineapple and orange. Light wheat hops and broken resin chunks. Grapes.

Body: Bubble gum. Bitter. Resin and hops. Slightly dusty. Hop oils and a subtle malt to the back.

Finish: Resinous with a bitter dry hop remain. More bubbles gum and lemon grass again. Touch of lime sweets. Slightly bread like.

Conclusion: So back to the Sorachi Ace hop for which I am insanely biased.  This brings its element very full on, emphasising the lemon grass over the bubble gum but both are very much in presence.

Now it’s interesting seeing the style difference when using this hop.  Compared to the mad freshness of the IPA is Dead version this seems a heavier set beer, with the thick texture that you expect from a real ale style.  Also there is more of the neutral hop oil characteristic backing it up, even if the more elegant sorachi ace flavours are at the forefront.

As always for this hop it is a lovely beer, though without the full punch of IPA is dead.  However while it does not take the crown for foremost showcase of the hop, it does make for a good sessionable ale, which the IID series could never claim to be.

So it’s a good hop usage, not a special celebration beer, but well done and a nice take on the bitter style which can so easily be a boring style when done badly.

Background; Drunk at the Great British Beer Festival. I had been at the BBF Brewery the week before where they mentioned that they did a Socarchi Ace hop beer, this beer that is, and since I saw it at the festival I thought it would be worth giving it a try. I do enjoy the sorachi ace hop, and will generally hunt down beers with it in to try.

It’s a common problem.  Anything far away looks cooler.  It’s why people spend a vast fortune heading to other countries to spend time looking at art museums, architecture and scenery, cooing all the while.  These self same people oft completely ignore the museums, architecture and scenery 5 minutes walk from their house.

All of which is a somewhat round about way of saying that after going on brewery tours in Belgium and Scotland,  I finally went over to the Bristol Beer Factory for a tour recently.

Continue reading

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

Visual: Opaque black, smooth pour that froths up brown but never settles into a head.

Nose:  Roasted hazelnut and peanut mix. Dry coffee granules. Slight gooseberry sourness and hints of alcohol force. Slightly salted at times. Overall very fresh however.

Body:  Bitter chocolate, smooth as silk mouth feel.  Black cherry or even black forest gateaux. Grape like elements at the back. The chocolate froths, almost like chocolate fondue at times. Tart apple, and a chocolate orange mix in subtly.

Finish: Molasses. Fudge. Still feels heavy at this point. Bitter chocolate again. Slight crab apple. Dry rough feel on the tongue. More roasted nuts.

Conclusion:  I’m starting to pity new entrants to the Imperial Stout field.  It’s such a packed scene, and so many brewers make it their flagship beer, pulling out all the stops and limits to make it a huge beer, regardless of cost.  In such a packed field, anything less than balls out insanity can find it hard to get noticed.

This then comes in at a restrained 7.7% ABV rather than some of the monstrous ABVs that exist in the range.  It is solidly in the bitter chocolate stout range, easily outdoing Southern Tiers Choklat Stout in bringing those lovely bitter chocolate flavours into play, even without dicking about with using actual chocolate. You can however feel that it is playing a very different game to that expected by the big guns of the field.   As well as the lower ABV it’s also noticeably less viscous.

This however does not reflect a lack of quality, just the different game it is playing, odd sour and fresh notes mix into it, making it refreshingly easy to drink for an Imperial Stout.  It’s this element that really shows how they are crafting this beer. The slight freshness and ease of drinking means it suits its 500ml package perfectly.  Most of the insane big Imperial Stouts work best at the 330ml package, and become sickly afterwards with 660ml bottles definitely working better shared. This despite being a heavy duty beer, makes itself work well on a full pint (or close enough) and doesn’t become wearing during any of its run. Heck I could have easily enjoyed a second bottle without the flavours getting dull.

A good middle ground then between the complex rich and heavy beer, that is freshened up for a pint pour journey, its bitter chocolate flavours coming through well.  A deliciously strong entry. For pure contemplation punch and flavour it may not knock off the big guns from their perches.  It will however carve out its own niche as an imperial stout to last, to take with cheese, meats and to play alongside their strong flavours.

About as good as you will get with an Imperial Stout without going into the insane beer territory, and top of the game in the specific niche it has set itself.

Background:  Bristol Beer Factory have always done well by me, strong on bottle or from cask, and their various stouts have always been an impressive part of their line up.  As such I was happy to grab a bottle of this to try.  I may criticise the craft beer scene some times for it’s occasional over obsession on the Imperial Stouts, but that is no fault of the style, which is a great one and one of my favourite styles.

Bristol Beer Factory: Milk Stout (England: Sweet Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Kinda black, with a caramel brown head.

Nose; Light ash and treacle, quite creamy and with milky coffee. Slight nuttiness, quite aniseed filled and obvious liquorice.

Body: Smooth texture, condensed cream dominates the flavours but not sickly. Treacle, liquorice and aniseed. Hint of black cherry and coffee.

Finish: Nutty, dry charring. Milk and milk chocolate. Slight sour fruit.

Conclusion: This is an amazing stout, lots of body, liquorice, chocolate and milky lasting finish. It does everything just right. Harsh edged at the extremis, but smooth and sweet in the core.

It’s got a heck of a body for its middling ABV, and seems like the treat of a nights drinking. In fact it’s taken so long to tasting note it as I usually use it to treat myself after I’ve already done a tasting note of two.

This beer is bonfire night beer treacle and spice, Christmas beer weight, and autumn nuttiness and milkyness. All in all a smooth seasons drinking.

Amy of the Royal Oak says “its Good”, and I would not wish to differ.

%d bloggers like this: