Tag Archive: England


wild-beer-co-billionaire

Wild Beer Co: Billionaire (England: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate caramel brown head.

Nose: Salted caramel. Malt chocolate. Cocoa dust. Bean paste.

Body: Toffee. Chocolate fondue. Slight moss. Slight oily cooked fish skins. Savoury tofu middle. Slight subtle pickles.

Finish: Chocolate milkshake. Toffee. Tofu. Bean paste. Lactose. Fudge.

Conclusion: Well, this is quite the savoury (Well probably umami, but I’ve never really felt quite qualified to describe that taste), yet sweet also mix. The base stout has all the extra thickness that enhances the Millionaire style. It gives a very solid chocolate, salted toffee and fudge base. No real bitter notes but manages to not push itself to sickly sweet despite that. The lactose instead gives a very chocolate fondue to chocolate milkshake effect.

The savoury elements though are what make it stand out. Initially there wasn’t much in the way of these more unusual flavours – There was a slight moss and lichen taste but over time as the beer thickens a bean paste and tofu flavour (the tasty kind not the shitty bland kind) comes out. It gives nice solid weight to the beer, and as time goes on, those lovely savoury flavours take up a more and more central place in the beer.

It is very solid and far above the already decent Millionaire – it uses the large heft of a 10% abv beer to give it all the weight it needs to pull off the slightly unusual elements. The individual elements are not really distinct, but instead combine together to make an overall feel of the elements in a very different beer.

Very much enjoyed this – both as a beer in itself and as an unusual take on the imperial stout. The exact opposite of the sickly sweet style that seems so popular these days and oh so much better for it.

Background: I’m confused – Wild Beer Co made the beer Millionaire, then Gazillionaire – now Billionaire. Now I know Gazillionaire isn’t really a number, but it sounds bigger than Billionaire, it just does – so it seems an unusual progression. Anyway, this is a bigger version of Millionaire – to a degree – it is made with lactose, sea salt. Caramelised miso and tonka beans. Which sounds both odd and fucking awesome. This was drunk while listening to some Louis Distras, and was done shortly after starting the DLC areas of Dark Souls 2. I earned a treat is what I am saying. Not finding main Dark Souls 2 that hard currently, but the DLC areas are nicely brutal. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

theakston-old-peculier

Theakston: Old Peculier (England: Old Ale: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Inch of creamy brown froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Lightly nutty. Earthy bitterness.

Body: Cherries. Light earthiness. Malt chocolate drinks. Slight sour back. Vinous red grapes.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Light vinous grapes. Lightly earthy. Cocoa dust. Peppery.

Conclusion:Another beer in the “earthy hops doesn’t have to mean dull” category. We have very specific categories these days. Anyway, here we have a fruity, lightly sour, old ale touched with vinous notes and then stamped with a good chunk of earthy hoppiness.

It is a good mix – used well the earthy notes grounds (no pun intended) the beer. It takes what could be a very heavy beer, an enjoy one then leave it be beer, and turns it into a soothing beer you can have a couple of. Still not a session abv beer, but one that is that mid point between session and heavy duty. Now, this does mean that it isn’t as deep and rich as a lot of old ales. Then again, as referenced, it also has a lower abv that most of those, so it really isn’t fighting for that niche anyway.

It feels like the child of an earthy bitter and an old ale – both share that slight sourness, but the old ale gives the fruitiness and more vinous character that makes this really enjoyable. It straddles the two styles – concentrates on the middle ground rather than aiming to challenge too much – but out of mainstreams ales this is one of my old reliables.

Possible it is because it is a mainstream beer not afraid to push that light sourness and old ale character. Posisbly it is because it matches those tart vinous notes while still keeping the solid British earthy ale influence that makes it refreshing rather than heavy duty. Any which way it may not rock the stars, but for what it aims to do and the market it aims at it is something very nice. It is a beer that is easy to find and does it solid and I very much enjoy it for that.

Background: Last of the beers I was given for Christmas by a college at work – many thanks! After a quick google I find out that is this not a misspelling in the name – a “Peculier” is an “ecclesiastical district, parish, chapel or church outside the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which it is situated.” Who says beer doesn’t help you learn? Anyway, I have been drinking Old Peculier for a while – it was one of those beers I enjoyed even before becoming a beer nut. Common opinion thinks that it used to be a heavier abv, thicker beer – which sounds about tight to me, though I have never been able to find anything to officially confirm or deny it. Possibly I just remembering as being bigger compared to everything else I drank at the time.

buxton-omnipollo-original-rocky-road-ice-cream
Buxton: Omnipollo: Original Rocky Road Ice Cream (England: Imperial Porter: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Slight head on pour which quickly vanishes.

Nose: Praline chocolate. Peanut butter. Marshmallow. Grated bitter chocolate. Vanilla ice cream. Condensed cream

Body: Silken chocolate. Peanut butter. Fudge. Chocolate fondue. Praline. Light rum and raisin ice cream. Madeira. Lightly chalky. Marshmallow. Vinous red grapes undertones.

Finish: Vanilla ice cream. Peanut butter. Marshmallow. Chocolate ice cream. Salted peanuts. Cocoa dust.

Conclusion: Ok, the marshmallow style is utterly nailed here. Seriously, it lands large with a fluffy mouthfeel and sweet taste. The whole Rocky Road imagery is shown with creamy notes layered over a solid praline to cocoa dust base. It is a solid, sweet – yet with a bitter cocoa backbone Imperial Porter. A very good start.

So, image wise, for its Rocky Road ice cream inspiration it does it brilliantly in a lot of ways. When chilled down the mouthfeel and flavour give a lot of vanilla ice cream style, without the low temperature hurting the vast range the beer brings.

The biggest departure from the theme is in how it deals with the nuttiness. This is massively peanut styled nutty, Early on it feels like a pure peanut butter stout. Now, yes, nuts are used in rocky road, but in my experience they are never this dominant. The other elements do earn their place though, balancing it better as time goes on. Even with the heavy peanut butter early on, as a beer in itself this is excellent – in fact better than most intended peanut butter stouts that I have tried – and over time the marshmallow and ice cream complexities rise around that. Even at the end of the beer the peanut butter dominates a bit much to be called a perfectly accurate rocky road beer, but it is a good enough call, and that does nothing to stop it being an excellent beer.

It is definitely on the sweet end of the dark beer style, it would be sweet even for an Imperial Stout, let alone Imperial Porter – very creamy, very thick – but the mix of bitter cocoa and savoury nuts gives it enough grounding that it doesn’t end up in the sugar shock range.

What really sells this is that the gimmick isn’t all the beer has, good as that is. As it warms subtle spirit and vinous notes come out. They are often still in an ice cream style – say rum and raisin impressions, but they turn what could be a gimmick beer into a genuinely good imperial porter on all levels.

I have a lot of time for this – it really lives the gimmick, with a few concessions which makes it a better beer. Very good as a sweet Imperial Porter up front, with a lot of complexity at the back. I applaud this fantastic beer.

Background: Ok I love rocky road ice cream and all similar desserts. So when trying to decide which of the “ice cream series” to try this one jumped right out at me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit it is made with cocoa nibs and lactose sugar. Also the image on the front looks like a walking green turd. But you can’t have everything, can you?` Drunk while listening to Brassick – Broke and Restless. Just found out they actually have an album out, but I never knew as I just kept track via bandcamp which didn’t list it – I must check it out.

wild-beer-co-breakfast-of-champignons

Wild Beer Co: Breakfast Of Champignons (England: Sour Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot skin colour. Settles to a thin white head a few seconds after pouring. Some dark sediment.

Nose: Sour. Chestnuts. Lemon juice. Dry. White pepper. Slight vinous and raisins undertones and dry Madeira.

Body: Tart – tart apples. Slight chestnut. Light vinegar touch. Tart apricot notes. Slight floral notes. Generally nutty. Aniseed. Madeira. Malt chocolate. Grapes.

Finish: Lemony. Tart. Slight orange juice. Dried mushrooms. Petals.

Conclusion: OK, I am not quite sure what I was expecting from this beer. I mean, mushroom in a beer? I don’t really have much experience to extrapolate from here. No idea how it would alter the beer. Now I have it in my hands, I am still trying to work out what exactly it is I have got.

Well, what we seem to have is a lightly nutty sour ale. From my love of mushrooms in general I am happy to guess that the mushrooms provide the nuttiness. I’m going out on a limb here. Any which way. Not as wild and out there as you may expect from the beers base concept – let’s face it lambics can be slightly nutty in their sourness – so this sour ale isn’t too unusual in bringing more of that.

Generally it is a nice beer – Comes in with reasonable but not heavy sourness – more fresh than anything else for the most part – with occasional harsher vinegar notes. Gives the expected lemon and apple tart notes which become less evident as the nuttiness rises. It does have some unusual depth to it though – both on the nose and the body, just at the edges you may catch some subtle Madeira and vinous notes. Very subtle undertones, but nice to see they are there.

The tartness of the beer get soothed over time, late on you get much more predominance from the nuttiness and even some light malt chocolate merges in to give a very different beer to what you started with – though you never completely lose the tart base. It is a reasonable enough beer, but doesn’t feel too special – or even too unusual all things considered. It was an odd choice going with mushrooms as the extra ingredient, and it had resulted in the neither a terrible, nor an expectational beer – just a subtle influence on a competent sour.

Not raving, not complaining – an oddly standard sour.

Background: OK. Right. Erm. This is a beer made with mushrooms. So, yeah that is a thing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a beer made with Penny Bun to be exact – a wild mushroom that mankind has yet to manage to deliberately cultivate. Which is interesting. Was a tad nervous about it after Wild Beer Co’s lobster beer didn’t work out well – but finally decided to give it a try.

shepherd-neame-sainsburys-taste-the-difference-london-porter
Shepherd Neame: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference: London Porter (England: Porter: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of mounded brown froth.

Nose: Grated chocolate. Brown bread. Milky coffee.

Body: Bitter chocolate. Lightly earthy. Milky chocolate. Slight chalky texture. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness. Turmeric. Slightly chalky. Coffee cake. Light vanilla. Peppery.

Conclusion: We have been discussing (well, more correctly I have been monologuing about) earthy bitters recently. While doing so it is easy to overlook that, with the mass of easily available earthy hops in the UK, the earthy beer take has turned up in quite a range of styles over here.

This is a moderately earthy porter, though not dominated by that fact. The standard bitter chocolate and coffee notes you would expect of a porter are also there. However it is a lot more grounded than a lot of porters, with an earthy and peppery finish giving it a very savoury lead out. Also it gives it a bit more of a robust texture, rather than the smooth porter style it has a slight chalky texture and a rougher, but not unpleasant feel.

Over time the earthiness does become more present though – not a bad thing for the most part to my mind, but your mileage may vary. This has a lot of notes that I would associate with a more traditional bitter than a lot of porters, and that may not be up everyone’s alley. Apart from that it pretty much does the standard porter thing. I think if this was a cask real ale I would be giving it more time, the texture feels like it would slip into a cask beer nicely.

So, pretty simple for a porter but not badly done – the earthiness could be better used – early on the balance between it and the normal porter notes make it interesting, they grow and, while working for most of the beer, by the end it still isn’t bad but the earthiness does end up dominating and doesn’t let the porter notes flow well.

So, ok, but I would be interested to see what a more polished earthy porter would end up being like.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my mate Tony – many thanks. Shepherd Neame used to do their own beer called Original Porter which I thought was the same as this one – looking up online though their version seemed to be 4.8% abv or 5.2% abv depending on when it was brewed, so this must have at least a slightly different recipe. Broke out the porter designed craft beer glass for this. Don’t know really if it makes a difference but it is fun.

wadworth-6x

Wadworth: 6X (England: Bitter: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruby brown. Creamy inch of slightly browned froth that leaves suds.

Nose: Caramel. Lemony hops. Creamy. Light turmeric and orange peel.

Body: Earthy. Caramel. Slight liquorice. Thick. Popcorn hop styling. Corn Pops cereal. Malt chocolate. Chalky over time.

Finish: Corn pops cereal. Vanilla. Earthy character. Caramel. Orange.

Conclusion: I talked recently about earthy bitters and the value thereof – this is the other way an earthy bitter can go. It doesn’t have the slight sourness I associate with a good sessionable bitter; Instead it goes for a much sweeter malt base. It goes bigger and more malty, and with that it seems it brings out more flavour from the hops as well. Some fruity lemon and orange float out from amongst the earthiness.

It is easier to get into than the Black Sheep Bitter as it has that immediate sweet hook – but without the light sourness I found that the earthiness got wearing more quickly.

It is a fairly standard beer, gets chalky over time, which can be used well, but here is again slightly wearing. So, it starts off pretty good with the sweetness and the nice fruitiness with balanced earthiness – but that earthiness and chalkiness gets a bit one note by the end.

It feels like it needs something to make the good qualities last, something normally provided by the light sourness. It doesn’t have a bad opening for a sweeter styled bitter, but can’t keep the game up. Ok, but by the end is just doing the minimum I would expect from a beer of this type.

So, not a great ale. Ok to start, even slightly good, but a rough end.

Background: Quite a quick set of notes this one – This was a beer given to me by a colleague at work – many thanks. This used to a be a regular pint in my early twenties at our local, so some fond memories. Also people keep punning its name as sick sex. Because of course they do. That is all.

black-sheep-ale

Black Sheep: Black Sheep Ale (England: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed brown. Clear. Still. Small grey head.

Nose: Earthy. Caramel sweetness. Palma violets. Sulphur.

Body: Slight fizzy feel. Nettles. Earthy notes and palma violets. Lightly sour. Light chalk. Soft vanilla back. Light cherries. Sticky brown envelopes

Finish: Dry roasted peanuts and chestnuts. Earthy notes. Light bitterness. Palma violets. Sticky brown envelopes. Turmeric.

Conclusion: You know, earthy bitters catch some shit. They get overlooked so much. I can see why – they aren’t bursting with tropical fruit. They don’t have huge malt sweetness to sooth. They are work-a-day beers. Not to mention they are, by definition, earthy. That is a hard sell. No one likes the idea of drinking earth, right?

The thing is, while it isn’t going to set the world alight, when done right a bitter has a slight sourness, very mild but just there, that makes it refreshing. It is why they are so good as a work-a-day pint.

This is one of those beers that does it right. It is earthy, with that slight sour refreshing note – and in a unique element for this one, matches that with a kind of palma violet cleanness to the whole thing – if that makes sense. Also, if it doesn’t make sense. It makes the earthiness feel less wearing over time, which solves what is oft a flaw of those type of bitters.

Now, it is pretty one note, a one trick pony; It never changes from that beer it is at the start, but it balances itself well – even using a slight vanilla sweetness and slight chalk grounding to polish the edges. I’m not going to rave about it as a beer – I’ve yet to run into a solidly earthy bitter that can make me rave about it. That may be your breweries challenge for 2017 if you are reading this and want to take a run at it. This does do the job though.

Not fancy, but hopefully from my meandering writing of the past few paragraphs I have shown why I’m glad beers like this exists, even if they are an oft overlooked style.

Background: Second in my “Sheep” themed tasting notes. An intentional theme. Honest. Anyway, this s part of a Christmas gift from a workmate. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to the latest Spektrmodule podcast. Black Sheep brewery is actually close to where I used to live once up North. Never visited it though. Possibly should do that one day. I am minorly biased towards the North for beers, cos I love the North, but try not to let it affect me.

magic-rock-cigar-city-wayniac-ipa

Magic Rock: Cigar City: Wayniac IPA (England: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy browned apricot. Very large yellowed white head of creamy bubbles. Lots of sediment as you pour the last of the can.

Nose: Fluffy hops. Light bitterness. Peach and apricot. Slight cucumber? Something quite clean in there. Malt drinks.

Body: Good bitterness. Kiwi. Peach and apricot. Caramel and toffee. Peach syrup. Malt drinks. Good hop character. Tart grapes and accompanying fresh feel.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Caramel. Peach. Light charring. Slight gritty touch. Sour cream twist. Toffee. Malt drinks. Light grapes. Light custard.

Conclusion: So, lot of IPA styles around these days, and with the option of big hops and big malt sweetness, they decided to go all out and shove both of them way up. Not a unique take, but a nice easy way to sum up the general feel of this thing. The malt base is a bit more gritty than usual for an IPA, giving a tad odd feel – more heavy duty and less easy drinking than normal.

For that unusual texture you would hope to have some big flavours in return – as grittiness by itself isn’t that appealing. Not a good look, you know?

This does give a lot on exchange for the oddities of texture – while not initially that strongly noticeable, the extra texture does give grip that really pushes up the bitter punch of this beer by the end. The fruitiness is equally pushed up big – the heavy malt influence means that it is less fresh than it would otherwise feel – though there are hints of that left – instead it is thick, slightly dry fruit; There is a huge range of green and peachy styled fruits – heavy and thick flavours.

There is also a metric (not imperial) shitload of sediment in this beer. I only noticed late on, as I kept pouring to refill the glass. It doesn’t hurt the beer at all when you add it in, it tastes just the same, it just looks odd.

So, overall – feels a bit weird, and a heavy one to drink – but very big flavours are given in exchange. A quirky, and with slight off elements, drink – but has a lot to make up for the weaker points.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this collaboration was done with Wayne from Cigar City while he was in the UK. (I presume they mean Wayne Wambles – the brewmaster, but the site only says Wayne). Loved Jai Alai IPA so I presume Cigar City know what they are doing on this style. This was a bit bigger than normal at a 500ml can – so plenty of time to form an opinion. Drink while listening to the album “Visions” from Grimes. Lovely bright indie electro pop stuff. I was tempted to listen to E-rocks cover of “Maniac” and sing along replacing “Manic” with “Wayniac”. But that would be a tad eccentric even for me.

independent-spirit-left-handed-giant-black-angus
Independent Spirit: Left Handed Giant: Black Angus (England: Imperial Stout: 9.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Brown bubbles at the edges but only a thin grey dash at the centre.

Nose: Peaty. Wet moss. Brown bread. Smoked bacon. Slight medicinal notes. Cake sponge. Oily cooked fish skin.

Body: Bready. Creamy. Smooth chocolate. Light gin notes. Vanilla. Touch of sugared oranges and orange liqueur. Tart and creamy lemon mix. Chocolate strawberry. Milky coffee. Blue cheese. Nougat.

Finish: Bitter cocoa. Creamy lemon. Bready. Bitter coffee. Cream. Chocolate strawberry. More cocoa as it warms. Nougat and vanilla ice cream.

Conclusion: Terrible. Utterly Terrible. No, not really. Was just saying that to wind up everyone at Independent Spirit. Because I am evil. Anyway, cruel jokes aside – going into this I wasn’t sure if it was their Arran or their Fettercairn cask that was used to barrel age this. I thought the Fettercairn was more likely, as the Arran had only been bottled recently, but wasn’t 100% sure. So, now having sipped this (then confirming with the shop, but sipping is the important part) I am 100% certain it is the Fettercairn. It is unmistakable.

Anyway, will get to that later – as we have something a bit different to the usual Imperial Stout story here; However first we have the fact that up front is is exactly what you expect – A heavy, smoked Imperial Stout that booms, all peaty, forthright and meaty. Tempting, but no hint of the barrel ageing here.

This bold, booming front then soothes down into a creamy, lemony and orange influenced body – utterly shouting the Fettercain influence over the chocolate and coffee notes that you would expect. It wears the weight of the smoke openly, but ends up creamy and sweet heading out into a very different last note on the finish from the peaty smoke that welcomed you on the nose.

This develops even more with time and heat – the smoke style brings subtle blue cheese as it warms, which adds a well used savoury note to go with the sweeter creamy style.

The more traditional chocolate and coffee notes, while there, and more present when warm, actually feel more like a backbone for the more unusual notes to do their work. The smooth texture the barrel ageing brings has given a lot of room for the interesting notes to float. Often a smoother Imperial Stout can feel too light for me, but here it just seems to give room for the lemon,cream and such like to work.

You have a very competently made and very different beer here. Heavy up front, smooth out back with surprises in-between. Very good indeed, and I’m not just saying that to avoid getting barred from the shop.

Background: Bias warning: Independent Spirit jokingly said they would ban me if I gave this a bad review. I am 90% sure they were joking. Probably. Anyway, grabbed from the aforementioned shop this is their collaboration beer of which only 188 Bottles exist. It is a smoked Imperial Stout that has been aged in the cask that previously held Independent Spirit’s Fettercain whisky release. Drunk while listening to Massive Attack: Mezzanine. It is almost cliché by this point to love the opening track – “Angel” but it rocks, and the entire album is wonderful background atmosphere for drinking music.

wychwood-marstons-bah-humbug

Wychwood (Marstons): Bah Humbug (England: English Strong Ale: 5.0%)

Visual: Reddened mahogany brown. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Browned inch of a bubbled head.

Nose: Lightly roasted. Light nutmeg. Malt drinks.

Body: Caramel. Cinnamon. Light chestnuts. Slight chocolate, grows over time. Quite treacle texture and slight flavour as well. Soft vanilla notes. Nutmeg.

Finish: Cinnamon and nutmeg. Slight vanilla. Slight brown bread. Light oak notes. Soft treacle. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: This feels like your standard, non real ale, bottled ale – but spiced up for Christmas. Ok, went a bit “damning with faint praise” on that opening – but please do not read that too harshly, let me expand.

The base has that smoother feel that I find tends to come with pasteurised beers, with accompanying higher levels of sweetness. It has less evident texture than the real ale version which I have also tried, and a cleaner sweetness. Kind of a clean caramel and light treacle style backed by some vanilla. As is indicated in the opening that is kind of standard for this kind of beer, to my eyes at least. From the colour of the beer I would also admit to expecting it to be closer to the chestnut coloured bitter style of ale, as for that this seems a tad light on the bitterness and hop stylings. However on the malt side it matches exactly to expectations.

Instead of notable bitterness and some earthy work from the flavouring hops, this actually goes to work with the spices in the same space. Moderate but present – they call to Christmas with the nutmeg matched with cinnamon sweetness. It is a pleasant, slightly warming flavour – very gentle in intensity, but despite that the spice is the main flavour here. It is nothing out of the normal, but solid and matches the season it is picked for nicely.

Soothing malt base, moderate spice – no complaints, does what you would expect. Some people dislike the distinct feel and taste of the pasteurised beers, but it matches the spice usage here. As mentioned, I have also tried the lower abv real ale version – It has a better, more gripping texture – the flavours are less distinct, but in that have more subtle meshing between them and with lower evident sweetness. Either way it is a solid enough drink for the season, but not one to actively hunt out.

Background: Not sure if this still counts as English Strong Ale, as it is down from its old 6% abv of years gone by. However I’m not putting it under spiced beer as the cinnamon added to the beer doesn’t dominate that much in intensity and it doesn’t really match any other style cleanly. I had drunk the lower abv, real ale, take on this in a pub the day before, but this, pasteurised bottle version was provided by my family while I was back home for Christmas – many thanks!

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