Tag Archive: England


Hammerton: Crunch AF (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)


Visual: Very dark brown. Thin, off white, bubbled head.

Nose: Peanuts. Slightly musty. Fatty butter. Chocolate spread.

Body: Peanuts. General nutty character. Mild peanut butter. Fizzy mouthfeel. Chalky. Charring. Touch of sour cream.

Finish: Slight fatty butter. Light charring. Sour cream and chives. Peanut butter. Bitter cocoa. Cola bottles.

Conclusion: Stouts are very heard to do well as a low abv, mainly because a full abv stout tends to rely on being thicker and more malt led than most other beers, which are two things that a very hard to get right at a lower abv.

Now that is totally a good start to a low abv stout’s tasting notes eh?

Ok, let’s open up with what is usually the strongest point of a low abv beer – the aroma.

It is pretty good – a bit musty but clearly showing both peanuts and fatty butter, even if it doesn’t quite mesh the two flavours together to come across as peanut butter. It is close enough. Where there are cracks it uses a few chocolate spread like layers to paste over them.

The body has a similar slight musty feel to it, while also being a bit thin and chalky. It doesn’t set a good first impression. Over time more peanuts, or even at times peanut butter, grow. Though even late on there is an oddly fizzy mouthfeel, even if it isn’t as thin as it was early on. I’m not sure where the fizziness comes from, as it doesn’t seem that carbonated – I can’t attribute it to any one element, it just feels odd.

On the way out this beer is at its weakest, with slight charring and a kind of sour cream and chives note. It feels generally kind of artificial, which should not be a surprise in an peanut butter beer, but also in a way that doesn’t properly underline the whole experience.

It is kind of artificial feeling overall, again even for a peanut butter beer. Not bad, but feels odd. As of such I’m finding it hard to recommend. It is too musty and odd feeling to session and not enough in it to slow examine.

It is an interesting experiment but feels like a prototype for a better beer to come.

Background: Have been looking for some more varied low alcohol beers recently, and thankfully reality seems happy to fulfil this one specific wish. I found this one at Beercraft. They tend to the expensive side, even for craft beer, but they keep a very well stocked low alcohol selection that I like to raid. This one is very odd, being made with lactose, wheat, and peanut in order to try and make a low abv peanut butter milk stout. Think this is my first time with the Hammerton brewery, so nothing much to say on them. Went with Faithless: Reverence as backing music as I’m on a bit of a Faithless kick at the moment, Or poss just in a retro 90s place at the mo.

Elusive Brewing: Oregon Trail – West Coast IPA (England: IPA: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly less than clear, yellowed body. Medium carbonation and a medium sized centimetre of a white foam head.

Nose: Vanilla yogurt. Flour. Popcorn feeling bitterness and hops. Slight lemon sherbet. Generally quite clean. Bready as it warms.

Body: Good bitterness. Bready, doughy character. Peppery. Brown bread. Subtle grapefruit. Lemon sherbet. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Dry. Peppery. Harsh bitterness. Resinous. Sour dough. Dry lemon cakes. Vanilla fudge.

Conclusion: So, since it seems that the classic West Coast IPA is getting a bit of a resurgence, it is only right and proper that, after I have been calling for more of them, I at least drink some of them as well. So I did, and this is one of them. Naturally.

Initially this is very bready, and surprisingly sturdy with that, along with a slightly sulphurous dough like character – however with that said, this still brings the bitterness well, along with a peppery character, giving a recognisable west coast style hop character.

As it warms it becomes slightly drier, which makes it much more evidently West Coast, but it still has more of a bready weight than I would otherwise expect. I am used to a more clean and dry west coast, but this still utterly rocks the bitterness and the resinous character, so gets a lot of the basics right.

The citrus hop character promised is less evident. There is a gentle background of grapefruit notes and a slight sherbet lemon. Nice, but very restrained. It feels like a bit bigger citrus pop over the generally good base would really make this shine. While a bit over weighty in general, this has the attenuated bitterness set, and if a more fresh punch was there as a contrast the two would really set each other off well.

So, a nice bitter kick, not fancy, but it is an IPA that remembers to be resinous, bitter and hop forwards and I will never not respect that!

Background: I have been on a heck of a West Coast IPA kick recently, it is just me being rubbish at actually doing notes recently that explains why this blog hasn’t been awash with them. Thankfully, after a bit of time away during the height of the NEIPA craze, the West Coasters have started showing up again, giving me a lot to pick from. West Coast IPAs tend to be be drier, and more concentrating on bitter hops that their sweeter and more full malt bodied East Coast cousins. Which is fine by me. Elusive are a brewery I have only hit a few times before, generally good if nothing standing out as a must have so far. This was grabbed from the ever reliable Independent Spirit. Shocking I know. Music wise I went with a mix of Prodigy tunes while drinking, mainly from Experience and Music For a Jilted Generation. Classic tunes.

Beavertown: Lazer Crush Alcohol Free IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Lightly hazy, pale and clear lemon juice colour. A very thin white head.

Nose: Flour. Light lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Kiwi touch. Dried banana.

Body: Iced tea. Lemon juice. Squeezed lime. Light prickly hop character. Vanilla. Dried banana.

Finish: Squeezed lime. Flour. Some wheaty bitterness. Dried banana. Moderate hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, this concentrates heavily on the fruit juice side of things it seems. It is basically a big burst of lemon juice and lime as a base, with some banana and kiwi notes at the side.

So, as you may have guessed, the first impressions are not overly beer like. This is heavily because of that fruit juice character, but is also backed by that common low alcohol beer character of an iced tea kind of feel to the whole thing. The only really beer like counterpoint is a vanilla touch to the base that hints at a malt character, and a wheaty hop bitterness that can prickle away. Nothing too heavy, but that moderate prickle does say “beer”, and does grow heavier in the finish.

So, in general not very beer like, it reminds me of a low bitterness New England IPA, but minus the more hazy look, and with all those noticeable low alcohol characteristics. So, with that established, is it any good?

It is, eh, not bad. The fruitiness is well expressed but the base lemon and lime is a bit generic. Though I will say the odder side notes do bring some interest out.

Overall it is a light bit of fluff, with a dash of beer style, but generally just a fluffy citrus burst. So, not really beery, not terrible, but just doesn’t really grab me as being more satisfying that just having a juice drink. It feels just like a hopped juice drink and not really special as that.

So, kind of average, does the job, but average.

Background: Saw that Sainsbury’s had another batch of new low alcohol beers when I was in there so decided to give a few a try. Beavertown tend to be pretty decent and are much easier to get hold of these days so grabbed this one for a quick go. Not much else to add, no music as backing this time, was doing notes as I chatted with friends. Hope you are all holding up ok in these still odd times.

Big Drop: Fat Lizard: Rye’d Said Fred: Juniper Rye IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly amber touched gold. Clear main body with not much evident carbonation, but a very large mounded off white head.

Nose: Rye crackers. Slightly watery. Peppery. Musty. Subtle peach.

Body: Grapefruit. Muggy bitterness. Brown bread. Slightly watery. Lemon cakes. Soft vanilla. Cream. Juniper.

Finish: Lemon sorbet. Sour dough. Peppery. Clinging hop feel. Some bitterness. Juniper berries. Smoke wisp.

Conclusion: This is an interesting mix. Initially it came across a tad watery when it was chilled down, but warming up up allowed it to open up in aroma and flavours, and also thicken up in body.

On the nose it is fairly rye led, not a heavy character but generally spicy and savoury with an emphasis on the peppery character. The body follows in a still spicy and rye style, but with tarter notes. Strangely the first tarter notes I got wasn’t juniper, but instead grapefruit like and fairly clean. As it warms it becomes creamier, smoother and more evidently juniper touched.

It has moderate bitterness in the finish, but is never really hop led. What hop character it does have is muggy and slightly leaden. There is a wisp of smoke there as well, which feels very fresh hopped, but I presume that isn’t the case here.

So the main play of the beer is lightly tart fruit versus rye spice. It is fairly gentle, which is unusual for rye led beers, but still enjoyable. It is a bit different from the usual low alcohol beers, and fills out the low abv with enough flavour for an easy drinking one. It is, again, not a special stand out beer, but is still a nice twist on the low abv fare.

A decent one that is well worth a try.

Background: The final of the four pack of collaboration beers from Big Drop. This one a collaboration with Fat Lizard from Finland. Another one I have not run into before, so this is my first experience with them. This seems an interesting one, not just a rye IPA, but also infused with juniper – which admittedly I’ve had mixed experience with in beers. It has a decently varied hop load with Azacca, Chinook, Citra and Magnum – the last of which seems to have turned up in most beers in this set. Don’t know if the pun of the beer name travels – it is a reference to the musical act “Right Said Fred”. Do people outside the UK know them? No idea. Went again with SOPHIE: Oil of Every Peal’s Un-Insides while drinking. This set was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I also grab alcoholic beers from them. Will do notes on those one day.

Big Drop: Hop Notch: Fläderlätt Elderflower (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold body with a large white head that leaves suds – along with moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Grapes. Elderflower. Slight honey. Light fluffy hop character Flour. Fresh white bread.

Body: Elderflower. Elderberry. White grapes. Slightly tart. Flour. Fluffy hop character. Vanilla. Moderate bitterness. White bread.

Finish: Elderberry. Low but present hop character and bitterness. Tart grapes. Peppery. Pineapple.

Conclusion:Ok, yep definitely elderflower in here, or possibly elderberry. I definitely have a different mental image for both, which seems to match to what they should taste like, but I am aware I could be full of shit. It’s not like I shove a bunch of flowers down my gob regularly to check.

Anyway, a very berry influenced beer in flavour – lightly tart, with some tart grapes and a general fresh, clean feeling to it. It is a real palette cleanser of a beer for the most part, but then, after your mouth has been freshened it then lays down its own beery layer. That layer is a fluffy, flour and hops feel that is moderate but not excessively sticky. It is kind of slightly sweet, with some higher vanilla notes, while also bringing weight to the character.

The flour like, nicely bitter hops stop it from being a super refresher of a beer, as they hang around a long time – but overall I feel it benefits the drink by giving it a good solid beer character so it doesn’t end up feeling like an elderflower soft drink.

It is not super complex, but it does its base idea well in a fresh, beery, easy to drink way that goes down easy. It is welcome and fits its low abv perfectly with its drinkability. I could do with having a few of these to hand for general drinking.

Background: Third of the beers from the second low alcohol collaboration box. This uses Mozart hops, which are apparently a new experimental UK hop which should be interesting. I presume it is made with elderflower – the ingredients list “Natural Flavouring”. Anyway, a tart aimed IPA, should be up my street. Hop Knotch is from Sweden, or so a quick google says. A new one to me. Went back to the ever classic At The Drive In – Relationship of Command for drinking music. Because it is great. Anyway, another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Big Drop: Einstok: Arctic Beach Coconut Stout (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still and opaque main body. About a centimeter of browned head.

Nose: Coconut. Milky chocolate. Almonds to marzipan. Hot cake sponge.

Body: Milky chocolate. Lots of coconut. Cake sponge. Mild iced tea. Occasional light black cherry. Good texture – fluffy cake sponge like. Slight sulfur.

Finish: Clean. Coconut. Almonds. Light charring. Light bitter chocolate. Iced tea.

Conclusion: Ok, you all probably know by now that I love coconut notes, and this is a literal coconut stout, so I have to love it, right?

Well, love it may be too strong a choice of words, but in general, yeah, this is my jam. The coconut is super present in a very clear, slightly dry way. So, in case you hadn’t working it out yet, make sure you are a coconut fan before coming in on this one as it DOMINATES!

The main body is fairly simple. Basically working moderate chocolate and heavy coconut. Chilled down it is slightly, but not overly, thin. A it warms it gets a surprisingly fluffy cake sponge kind of thicker texture which really helps the stout feel.

As always the aroma promises waaaay beyond that the body can deliver. Lots of thick cake sponge and almond to marzipan like notes. Somehow the air itself has a wonderful thickness to it. One day we will get a low abv beer that manages to live up to wonderful aromas like this.

For now I’m just happy this is decent. Not really complex, but has a bit of nuttiness and a few hints of other flavours that show it is trying. On the down side there are occasional tells to the low abv in iced tea notes, but the darker beer style means that they are rare.

An ok low abv stout that utterly rocks the coconut and so pushes itself higher than it would otherwise.

Background: Second beer tried from Big Drop’s second world Collaboration box – the Nordics. This one is done in collaboration with Einstok. I’ve had a couple of their beers before. Nothing stand out but nothing terrible. This one definitely caught my eye as a stout made with coconut. I adore coconut notes in my stouts. Looking at the can this was made with Magnum hops, which seems to be a common choice for their non hop led beers, as well as lactose, cocoa nibs and, of course, coconut. Had been playing the free 5th chapter for Ultimate Doom – known as “Sigil” recently, so went with Buckethead’s soundtrack for that as background while drinking. That version of Doom: Sigil cost’s around seven pounds, unlike the midi sound version which is free – but the tunes are awesome and well worth it.

Sharp’s (Molson Coors) : Doom Bar Zero (England: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Reddened brown. Moderate beige head. Clear main body. No real evident carbonation on the eye.

Nose: Walnuts. Crushed peanuts. Lightly earthy.

Body: Chalky. Nutty. Walnuts. Charring. Subtle toffee. Dry treacle. Earthy. Prickling. Mild savoury cream core.

Finish: Chalk. Nutty. Charred touch. Dry treacle touch. Earthy. Fluffy hop feel. Moderate bitterness.

Conclusion: Is making a low abv take on a more traditional British bitter a thing now? I hope so. You don’t realise how much you wanted a beer style being done in a low abv way until a bunch land on your lap, like three buses arriving at once after a long wait.

Like the low abv Speckled Hen before it this has a pretty good mouthfeel. Though this has a less syrupy, Marstons like texture than The Speckled Hen did – aiming instead more towards a slightly drier and more prickly bitter feel, which I approve of.

The flavours are similarly towards a more traditional style – earthy in the bitterness, nutty in flavour, with a good hop fluffiness in the finish. Now, comparing it to my memories of the full abv version is going to be slightly vague, as it has been a while since I had one of those, but from memory, this seems to have less evident toffee sweetness – which makes sense given the lower abv. Also it seems less sulphurous. I am aware though that I used to mainly drink Doom Bar on cask, so this may be a bottle vs cask thing rather than a low vs normal abv thing.

It is a solid beer, earthy and dry enough to be very easy to drink. In fact if it was alcoholic I would call it dangerously so – but as it it slips down right.

Now it is nothing too out of the normal, but I am finding it better than all the similar low alcohol traditional bitters I have encountered so far. So, for now it fills the place in the line up nicely, and shows that there really is a place for more earthy alcohol free bitters.

Background: Yes I will do non low abv notes again one day. Blame covid. It is the reason for everything else bad so it might as well take this one on the chin as well. Anyway, saw this in Sainsbury’s and after my decent experience with low abv Speckled Hen thought I would give it a try. This is a surprising 0.0% abv beer, not even 0.5, so again I guess they probably brewed it then artificially removed the alcohol rather than brewed it as a low alcohol beer. Though that is just a guess. Doom Bar is a beer I am surprised I never did notes on the normal version. Short story of my experience. Initially found it very dull, but then one day boom – I had one that seemed so much more complex with sweet toffee under the sulphur. It was then I realised the importance of well kept casks and fast cask beer turnover. Most places I had it just were not treating it right as it was their token cask beer. Done well it was a satisfying pint. Went for SOPHIE: Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Sides again for music while drinking. Loving it.

Big Drop: Amundsen: Rush Rider Pastry Sour (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Light, clear yellow brown. Small bubbled carbonation in small amounts. Thin white head.

Nose: Fresh raspberry. Fresh strawberry. Jelly babies. Apple pie jelly centres.

Body: Slightly chalky. Danish pastries. Jelly babies. Cider.

Finish: Apple pie. Chalky. Gummy bears (Different from Jelly babies, yes?). Pears. Apple juice.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m split on this one. It is pretty unusual. Admittedly I’ve not dug much into the pastry sour scene, so maybe this is 100% normal there and not a big thing, but it is odd to me.

The aroma is full on Jelly Babies sweet, with fresh red fruit in a more natural way alongside those more artificial flavours. Soooo, pretty unlike any beer I have encountered. Very interesting, it isn’t very sour, nor even really pastry for the most part, but very dessert styled.

Chilled down the body is fairly empty and lightly chalky, with only a light sour characteristic and no real definition to it. Then again I find that issue common with a lot of low abv beers, as it warms it becomes more cider sour with those jelly baby notes coming through again. That said, it never becomes as rich and fruity as the aroma promises.

The finish returns to some of that apple pie centres and more jelly babies. Tart apple underlining it, but still chalky.

It is decent but the main two flaws, that being the charring and the lack of weight mid body, both give away the low abv. The aroma is amazing, and the finish lets the jelly baby and light sour notes roam, but the mid body just can’t seem to get the grip to really deliver. You are relying on the air of the finish for a lot of the fun. And it is fun, but the body should be doing its job as well.

So, yeah good aroma and very fun finish. This is a laugh, but sours seem to get especially short changed by less that 1% abv beers. Which is odd considering how many great sours there are on the lower end of the abv scale. So this is decent, fun, but not great.

Background: Low alcohol stuff! Man this is nearly turning into the low alcohol and whisky blog. Anyway, Big Drop, doing their second collab box with people around the world. This time with various Nordic countries – this one being with the Amundsen brewery from Norway. Though I will point out their first world collab box was with the UK, where they are based, so does that even count? Eh, probably, we are in the world, much as some people living here seem to hate to admit it. Anyway, this is a pastry sour, which is an odd concept to me, but seems a popular style at the mo. Looking at the ingredient list it is Magnum hopped, and has Malt Vinegar, Malic acid and Citric acid in its odd ingredients. Guess that is what is needed to get the sour style at low abv. I went with the Undertale Live Orchestra as live music again. It is a nicely quirky but chilled style that works well for drinking. The box of beers was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Big Drop: Good Things Irish Stout (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Good inch or so of mounded creamy brown head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Milky chocolate. Slight cream. Slight charring. Milky coffee.

Body: Roasted character. Dry. Chalk touch. Bitter coffee. Sour cream touch.

Finish: Charring. Bitter. Dry coffee bitter character. Bitter cocoa. Sour cream touch.

Conclusion: Ok, you may have seen the can – some of you may have even seen the text on the back of it. It is making some very obvious references to a certain beer from a certain brewery. Because of that, you may think that this is going to be the low alcohol take on the creamy keg version of Guinness. It is not.

Instead it is a, to my mind far more impressive, low alcohol take on the classic dry Irish stout style bottled Guinness and oh yes it has hit its target.

The normal tells of a low alcohol beer are nearly invisible here, in part due to the style choice, and of course due to quality brewing. The low alcohol notes normally evident, such as iced tea or isotonic drinks character are hidden easily by the charred and coffee notes. The dry character of an Irish stout also means that the thinner body of a low alcohol beer isn’t really a problem here. It feels nicely attenuated, and has a bit more weight than usual – though don’t go into it expecting anything too heavy. It has weight for a low alcohol beer, not for a big stout.

Now, I will admit it, the dry Irish stout isn’t my favourite of the beer styles. I find it too, well, drying for me. Shocking I know. Even with that said, this is a good beer, lots of coffee bitter notes, lots of roasted notes, hints of bitter cocoa though with no sweeter chocolate release, again probably a character of the style, not a flaw in the beer.

So, a decent Irish dry stout, even more impressive for the low abv. I enjoy it even though I am not a fan of the style, and, considering that it utterly nails the style, I have the feeling that if you are a fan of that, then this is going to rock your low abv world.

Background: For those of you who have not seen the can, the text on the back is “Good things do come to those who wait. But when tick follows tock, follows tick follows tock, we thought, hang on, toucan play at that game. And whilst we don’t want to harp on about it, it was a bit like pushing at an open gate: our AF stouts are some of the best in the world. So here’s our Irish Stout. “ Now, maybe I’m reaching, but there seems to be some subtle references in there. And by subtle I mean not subtle. At all. Anyway, more experimentation with low alcohol beers is always of interest to me, so I had to grab myself a few cans of this from Independent Spirit to give a go. Anyway, went with Miracle Of Sound: Level 11 for backing music again. We are in 2021 and A Long Year already sounds far too relevant again.

Big Drop: Kinzig Gateaux Stout (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. A grey/brown to off white head.

Nose: Black cherry to black cherry syrup. Chocolate dust. Black forest gateaux. Chalk touch.

Body: Slightly chalky. Iced tea. Slightly creamy. Charred notes. Slight blackberry.

Finish: Black cherry air. Lightly watery. Chalk touch. Mild cocoa. Slight coriander and ginger. Slight cream. Charring.

Conclusion: This is pretty much the opposite of the Speckled Hen Low Alcohol I had recently. This is all shiny and spectacle, with lots of class but really needs some more mouthfeel and weight.

The flavours are subtle, but the aroma is not. On the nose there are lots of black cherry and black forest gateaux that just floats out of the glass. Very dessert stout like, without being sickly sweet. Very nice.

The body comes in with the same flavours as the aroma promises, just lighter. It definitely needs to be somewhere around room temperature – when chilled down it loses 90% of the flavour. Warmer it has nice, if light flavours – similar gateaux character, with that iced tea like backing that is often a tell of low alcohol beers.

The finish has similar cream and dark fruit notes over a slightly chalky and charred underlying character that works well, but with the lighter body feels like it isn’t 100% needed.

This is reasonable, but definitely needs more body. If they can nail that, give the flavours some more grip, then this would be epic.

As is, it is ok, interesting, but light.

Background: I love Big Drop’s dedication to low abv beers, so have been trying as many of their products as I can. This is one of their seasonal range – coming in a larger can, and at a slightly higher cost, for something a bit different. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, I’ve had this one a few times already before doing these notes, and I put on IDLES: Ultra Mono again for backing music. Some emotionally open yet angry tunes. Kind of a mood recently. Not much else to add. Happy whatever you celebrate, or just a happy day to anyone who doesn’t.

%d bloggers like this: