Tag Archive: England


Lost and Grounded: Cool Bananas (England: Hefeweizen: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy, lemon colour. A pale thin white head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Chocolate air. Dried banana. All bran. Wheat. Banoffee pie. Lemon.

Body: Prickly peppery feel. Pineapple. Wheaty. Crisp hop character. Chocolate toffee. Dried banana. Apple.

Finish: Pine needles. Resin. Sulphur. Light pineapple. Cooking apple. Malt chocolate. Dried banana.

Conclusion: Ok. An interesting balancing act going on with this one. It is taking the prominent characteristics of both a weisse and a NZ hopped beer and is trying to isolate elements from them, and then combine them. A noble challenge.

Most obviously, from the aroma onwards, is the eponymous banana influence, It is almost banoffee like in the aroma, though it becomes more subdued, dried banana style in the body. At pretty much any point that you come to this is will be showing some of the banana notes that a hefeweizen is known for. The other weisse nots are still there as well, the peppery spice and wheaty character. They just haven’t been pushed to the fore as much as the banana sweetness has. The difference in balance gives a mild dessert like character to the beer.

The second element is how they choose to emphasise the New Zealand notes – I tend to know NZ hops for their big tart character but that is used here in a much more mellow fashion than usual. There are pineapple, cut apple and lightly tart notes that work as a freshness against the sweeter character. The light acidity slightly downplays the sweetness, mellowing the beer, making it much more pleasant to drink in the long term.

It is nicely easy to drink, doesn’t sacrifice the weisse on the altar of hops as too many do, but also doesn’t ignore the joy that is what they can get from NZ hops. I live seeing beers that manage to do this balancing act well.

I approve – YAYZ ANOTHER GOOD WEISSE!

Background: Ok, I like New Zealand hops and this has NZ hops. I like hefeweizens and this is a hefeweizen and I like banana notes in wheat beers and this is called Cool bananas. Seems like a solid pick. It helps that Lost and Grounded are fairly cool, a chilled bunch of people working at their brewery tap-house as well. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some Nightwish and chatting with mates.

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Beavertown: Alvinne: Tempus: Uptown Monk (England: Abbey Tripel: 9.3%)

Visual: Deep apricot skin. Small off white dash of a head. Semi clear and still body.

Nose: Peppery. Cane sugar to brown sugar. Rye crackers. Dried apricot. Crushed Blackpool rock.

Body: Smoke. Vanilla slices, but dry. Dry lemon. Light lime funk notes. Apricot. Tart notes – tart grapes. Vanilla yogurt. Orange. Cane sugar. Champagne.

Finish: Dry cheesecake. Rye crackers. Pepper. Darkly bitter. Malt chocolate drinks. Dry lime. Tart apples. Slight yeast funk. Vanilla and lemon yogurt. Champagne.

Conclusion: Oh, there is a shit-ton going on with this beer. On the front I seems to be a simple literary conflict – peppery spice rye versus a cane to brown sugar tripel style sweetness. An enjoyable pulp tale of beer rather than an intricate layered script.

Time brings funk influence and side characters of tart lime and drier lemon yogurt notes that explore further themes of the beer. In fact the beer in general has a drier, yet tart backing character that creates layered and complex characters that accentuates that initially simple base conflict. The peppery character expands into bitterness, showing the futility of attempts to map reality linier plotting while hanging a lampshade on its own beery progression.

Dried, fruit sugar apricot comes out – giving a nod to crowd pleasing simple beers but here deconstructing that in its contrast to the complex developments below, showing both funk and barrel ageing influence in equal share rather than being shunted to sub plots as the more simple beers would do.

It does however revel in its barrel ageing, gaining a champagne character that freshens your mouth, allowing for tart grapes to join; Here the subtext of the tart funk becomes the text, the funk joining the barrel ageing to make the beer’s theme plain to all.

Hopefully the above has allowed me to explain how complex this layered beer can be, and to illustrate its character to you clearly. It is unusual, deep and one I enjoyed very much.

Background: I have no clue why I wrote the notes like this – I mean obviously I was drinking, but due to the oddity of the beer I decided treating it like a book review seemed a thing to do. I have no reason, no excuse and no excuse would be accepted. Anyway, decided to leave the notes as is an upload them because, well it amuses me if no-one else. Anyway, this is a beer I grabbed from Independent Spirit before Christmas – as a heavy rye Triple aged in white wine barrels I figured a bit more time would not hurt it. Been a while since I had an Alvinne beer, even as a collab, but this should go some small way to correct that. Drunk while listening to some Testament again, no real reason, just did.

Verdant: Putty (England: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Huge white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Dried apricot. Custard. Fluffy hops. Light bitterness. Mandarin orange. Palma violets. Purple peppers. Light hop oils and resin. Aubergine. Flour.

Body: Oily – very oily in a hop oil way. Cream. Good bitterness. Resinous. Grapes. Kiwi. Apricot. Mandarin orange.

Finish: Aubergine. Kiwi. Milk. Good hop oils and bitterness. Apricot.

Conclusion: “Oh no, not another New England IPA hidden away under the Double IPA label” I thought as I popped this one open and poured it out. Woe is me. I was not really looking for a bitterness light, creamy beer. I wanted hop kick and big flavours.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry. This is great. Or more accurately – this is aimed directly at my preferences, which, given this is my subjective opinion, works out as exactly the same thing. This is great.

The initial aroma seems lightly fruity, but not special -which continued my first impressions that this was going to be be another light side of the New England style. The first sip though … oh that kick of so much hop oils, followed by more hop oils. The bitterness here is delivered mainly through that oily character, that only slowly subsides to reveal the fruity notes.

You do get the creaminess of the NE style here, but with a ton of hop character – while it is bitter that aforementioned oily character actually makes it more manageable. It is slowly building and easing rather than the straight up punch of crisper hops.

If I had to change one element, I would probably up the fruit hop character at the back, behind the oily hops. The fruit you already have is good, but sometimes it gets lost under the oily bitterness. Apart from that this is a wonderful, oily feeling, big flavour, great mouthfeel and bitterness beer. For comparison Snake Fear is similar, but with the better range of flavour that makes it that touch above. This is still pretty damn shiny though.

Background: I nearly didn’t grab this beer. I’ve had a few verdant beers and they have been ok, but never quite up to their rep. However the people at Independent Spirit sung this thing’s praises – mentioning that it was originally a one off batch for a beer show and considered the stand out beer of the show. So I succumbed and bought myself one. Big fan of IPAs and imperial/double IPAs so this thing is right up my alley. Drunk while listening to a random bunch of The Offspring tracks – while I still enjoy them I can’t help but notice certain things such as,well, blatant transphobia in the song” Don’t Pick It Up” and similar, questionable notes in other songs. A pity, but the past is a different country as they say. Hopefully they will have changed their views over the years. Hopefully.

Robinsons: Old Tom (England: Old Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown to mahogany body that is clear and still. Thick off white head.

Nose: Raisins. Port. Sherry soaked fruitcake to Christmas pudding. Earthy hop character. Slight chalk. Vinous – sour wine.

Body: Christmas pudding. Charring. Bitter chocolate. Sour red wine. Slight chalk. Earthy hops. Cherries. Peppery. Sour grapes.

Finish: Christmas pudding. Sultanas. Bitter chocolate cake. Earthy hops. Peppery bitterness. Sour grapes. Dry.

Conclusion: Whoop! I’m on an old ale roll now after a long time without – this coming fairly shortly after Marble‘s barrel aged old ale. This one is less challenging and less complex as a beer, but also comes in at less than half the price while still being a fairly complex one – which is a reasonable trade off. This is a beer from my early days of experimentation and it seems that it still holds up.

This is less sour than most of the style, with only a light sour note matched with a real Christmas pudding style heaviness as its solid core. Matched with that a similarly solid British style early hop character – with a peppery character as well as the earth, grounding with moderate bitterness.

However amongst that grounded character, against the sour vinous elements with it you get a big fruitiness – a sultana packed fruitcake character that make up a big wodge of the contrast, but even here everything is just slightly savoury with only a few sweeter hints. It is amazing how they can push the Christmas pudding without making it feel overly sweet and also having such low sweetness without the overall character feeling dull. For all the chalk notes, peppery and earthy notes it still feels like it is not pushing the grounding notes overly heavily and because of that it feels like a complex and rewarding beer.

It is not up there with the more experimental old ales that have come since, but looking back it it, it blows my mind that a beer this good and non standard is so easy to buy in the UK. A beer you can buy in the supermarket that is an old ale that gives easy access to a world of flavour that most beers in the same place will not reach. Good as an accessible gateway into something different and good as a beer in itself.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from a colleague – many thanks. Old Tom is a fairly common beer to find in supermarkets, so was one of the earliest of Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers that I tried. So this is a bit of a nostalgia drink here. I saw The Eels were on tour again this year – unfortunately nowhere near me – so put on the Beautiful Freak album – a bit of nostalgia for me again. It matches up, right?

Big Drop: Pale Ale (England: Low Alcohol Pale Ale: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear with a thin off white head and some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Grapefruit. Soft lemon. Fresh. Vanilla. Grapes. Apricot. Cake sponge.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Lemon fresh. Cake sponge. Light chalk. Prickly hop feel. Passionfruit. Dried apricot.

Finish: Light chalk. Lime cordial. Fluffy hop feel. Popcorn. Vanilla. Moderate hop bitterness. Grapes. Cake sponge. Kiwi.

Conclusion: This is described as a pale ale, and it definitely has the level of hop usage you would expect from that style, but for some reason the body brings a character that reminds me more of golden ales.

That body is, incidentally, what makes this beer really stand out. It is a lower than half a percent abv beer but still manages a gentle cake sponge gripping texture which matches well against the prickling hop feel. Most low alcohol beers really have to assault you with the hops to get over the lack of texture that comes with the low abv, but this manages the grip amazingly well.

That body means that this can use the hop flavours in a more nuanced way – with soft fruitiness, a huge range of those fruits coming in from aroma to finish, eschewing the more brutal hop assault.

It is very easy to drink. It uses refreshingly crisp bitter hops rather than bracing hops, continues the refreshing theme with lovely citrus flavour and that aforementioned cake sponge body gives it that natural beery feel – far more than you would imagine it should be capable of.

A great beer for pretty much any time – as a beer in itself it is a solid beer, as a low abv beer it is great. This is up with Mikkeller’s low abv efforts, and that is a high compliment.

Background 1,500 beer notes done! With the number of great beers I had done in the past for special numbers of tastings I was unsure what to break out for this one. So, in a moment of contrary nature I decided to go with this one – a low abv beer from the comparatively new “Big Drop” brewery. I’ve had this a few times over the past six months when I was having a dry day and have been enjoying it – so against expectations of some big booming high abv thing I decide to go the other way and examine what can be done at the low end of the spectrum. Another beer grabbed from independent spirit. This was drunk while listening to some Nine Inch Nails – mainly as I am watching the new Twin Peaks and was surprised to see the band on there – got me in the mood for their tunes again.

Marble: Castle Of Udolpho (England: Old Ale: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate frothy beige head.

Nose: Sour grapes. Sultanas. Sour apple. Vinous. Sour red wine. Oatmeal biscuits. Wheat.

Body: Oily. Malt drink. Nutty. Lightly bitter oils. Slightly chalky. Plums. Slight fizzy feel. Malt chocolate. Sour black cherries. Light charring. Sour wine. Cake sponge.

Finish Sour red and green grapes. Plums. Sour red wine. Madeira. Cloying notes. Sultanas. Gooseberry. Sour blueberry.

Conclusion: Oh old ale, I have miss you as a style. Not many people seem to make them these days. Or maybe I just miss them. That kind of cloying, sour, dark fruit beer that emphasises heavy character and class. They don’t tend to hit easy reward receptors, but take your time and they are lovely. Admittedly an acquired taste, but one I consider worth acquiring.

What I like here is that it has those thick, cloying sour notes all the way through – not acidic fresh like a lambic but heavy sour grapes and sultanas. The best, high concept description I can give of this is like red wine soaked plums and sultanas mashed into an oatmeal biscuit then blended and drunk. Yes, exactly like that.

There are sweeter notes, but they are light releases, short lived bursts – usually Madeira notes or slight sweeter fruit – but generally it is thicker charactered. There are some darker grounding notes, such as slight charring or slight chalk -but not heavily so. It seems the brewer knows that too many of those notes would break the balance on this which already demands a lot from the drinker. Instead they push savoury nutty and oily notes that seep in along the sour notes – grounding them but still letting the important dark fruit elements free to do their work.

The vinous notes from the barrel ageing are so closely intertwined with the base beer I find it hard to say where one ends and the other begins. They definitely bring more fruitiness, but the booming character of Pinot Noir now ties its wagons to the more sour characteristics of the old ale. It expands the range of flavour but does not alter the base character. A definite example of barrel ageing done well. A great return to the old ale style here.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a few months now – as a big beer I felt it would last. This one is a beer named in reference to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho – not a book I’ve read, but as a fan of the Gothic tales I should possibly check it out some time. More importantly this beer is an old ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which sounds good by me- Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can usually identify by taste. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Genitorturers -Flesh Is The Law. I’ve been meaning to check them out more since I was first introduced to the band by the Vampire: Bloodlines video game, and later by Diamanda Hagan’s reviews (Hail Hagan!), but only just got around to grabbing some music for myself. S&M themed heavy industrial tunes may not be to everyone’s taste, but if that sounds good to you – check them out.

Vibrant Forest: Necropolis (England: BIPA: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Massive brown froth head with large bubbles.

Nose: Milky coffee. Crisp hop character. Pine needles. Wet wood. Kiwi and grapes.

Body: Walnuts and cashews. Slight sour cream twist. Kiwi. Lightly creamy. Creamy chococlate. Grapes. Pineapple. Toffee.

Finish: Sour cream and chives. Malt chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts. Slight hop oils. Praline. Grapes. Pineapple and custard. Bitter cocoa and hops. Chocolate cake

Conclusion: This is fairly low bitterness for an “India” prefixed beer – well low in hop bitterness anyway, it has a decent level of bitter chocolate character, especially in the finish, which makes up for the lack of hops kick.

However, for the most part we have a fairly sweet chocolate body, matched with a sour cream like twist contrast – in an old school Punk IPA style – backed up by light use of sweet green fruit and light tarter fruit notes.

The hops seem to all be working on the fruit flavour rather than bitterness, hop oils, resin or any of that stuff. It feels like the New England take of the Black IPA world, just with a lot more body than that would suggest.

That body is what makes the beer work – a good malt sweetness, with moderate range in those sweet flavours; More importantly than that it gives the fruitier notes grip with a solid mouthfeel. The light sour cream twist makes it feel different from the BIPA range and gives contrast to keep the sweeter notes from getting dull.

The beer doesn’t quite feel like a Black IPA – the fact it calls itself an India Black Ale seems a very good call to me as it balances the malt and the hop much more than the IPA style oft suggests. It is also worth mentioning that this is dangerously easy drink at the abv it comes in at – the smoothness makes you feel like you could session it. But you can’t. Just don’t. Please.

I’m very impressed – the easy drinking BIPA of great flavour.

Background: Independent Spirit have had Vibrant Forest beers in for a while now, and I keep promising to get around to trying something from this brewery. Also I haven’t had any Black IPAs for a while, so this looked like a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Incidentally the beer calls itself an India Black Ale, which seems like better naming convention than Black IPA, but I think the fight for getting general acceptance for that naming has long since sailed. Drunk while listening to more Nightwish – the album is bloody long so I’m giving it a few listens over to get a feel for it – seems to have quite a range of styles within it.

Wild Beer Co: Yokai (England: Sour Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear, pale, yellowed colour. Thin white head. Still.

Nose: Popcorn. Flour. Peppercorns. Lime cordial. Wet cardboard. Grapes. Slight yeast funk.

Body: Tart. Lime cordial. Lightly sherbety. Light chalk. Warming peppercorn sauce. Mild chilli. White grapes. Slightly oily – eel sashimi. Slight peach.

Finish: Tangy. Slight chalk. Mango. Mild chilli. Lime cordial. Yeasty funk.

Conclusion: This is a hard one to pin down. It is lightly tart, with slight yeast funk that suggest a hint of a Brett yeast kiss, but not more than that. It brings tart fruit flavours, dryly delivered; A kind of sweet peach meets tart lime cordial kind of thing. It could be that is just me trying and failing to describe the yuzu that was used in making this. Been a while since I last ran into it, so I don’t have it quite fresh in my memory. That lightly tart, fruity note is then set against a savoury backing – slight chalky dryness, and slight chilli warming with the peppercorn character.

Everything is done gently – a kiss of yeast funk, a light peppercorn warmth, a waft of tart fruit. It is a very unusual beer, but kind of refreshing in the tart and dry mix, matched with a satisfying, well they call it umami and who am I to argue with that, kind of character. It gives a slightly oily gripping centre to an otherwise lighter beer.

Unusual and nice. Kind of gentle, but satisfying in what it does.

Background: Ok, I couldn’t find the o with a dash over it to indicate a long o sound You can see it on the can, you know where it is. We are all happy with the pronunciation, right? Ok, cool. Been grabbing less Wild Beer Co beers recently as their hit to miss ratio on experimentation has been going down a bit, but this new canned release sounded pretty cool. It is made with yuzu, seaweed and Szechuan peppercorns. Now, the can says that this beer is inspired by the Japanese folklore – but Szechuan, and therefore Szechuan peppercorns, is from China. Which is odd. Maybe they still get used a lot in Japan – I frankly have no idea. It just stood out, having had my taste-buds blown out by a Szechuan hot pot in China this year. It was bloody warm, and turns out the guide had ordered us the mildest version available. Anyway – continuing the trend of drinking beer with classic music albums, put on the collection of The Prodigy Singles for this one. Yes I’m a 90s teen. Another one bought from Independent Spirit.

Odyssey: Simcoe DIPA (England: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large white head with a yellowed hue.

Nose: Pineapple. White crusty bread. Good crisp hops and bitterness. Light flour.

Body: Juicy peach. Brown bread. White grapes. Tart pineapple. Slightly dry back.

Finish: Hop oils. Palma violets. Brown bread. Moderate hop character and bitterness. Egg plants. Dry apple.

Conclusion: Ok, this is good, but surprisingly one dimensional. Ok, it is single hopped which may explain some of that, but Simcoe is an awesome hop and can usually bring an entire beer worth of flavour by itself. I am surprised to not see more range here.

Still, I’m opening up with too much negativity for such a well brewed beer – well attenuated to give a dry, but not drying, backing. The malt base is quite flavour neutral, just setting itself up as a well attenuated, dangerously easy to drink beer. It feels more like a slightly bigger flavoured IPA than a big malt DIPA – the mouthfeel is akin to “restorative beverage for invalids and convalescents”, and by that I don’t mean the newer version which Brewdog tinkered with and made not as good as before – I mean the sublimely awesome original version.

It keeps itself solidly fresh and with pineapple tartness for the most part. Early on there was a big juicy peach interlude which led me to expect more complexity but that was short lasting. Instead it plays the tart notes with savoury egg plant like backing and a good use of hop character – nicely bitter but without the booming bitter bite I normally expect with Simcoe.

Still, slight lack of complexity aside this has awesome dry drinkability and tart character and actually compares well with old school Restorative Beverage, even if it doesn’t quite reach those heights. Still a bloody good beer to be compared to. Dangerously easy to drink for the abv – is pretty good as a stand alone beer, and if they used it as a base to make a multi hop beer with? Well I think they could have something amazing on their hands.

Background: So, this is an Odyssey beer – yep. Hop lead which is their speciality – yep. Single hopped with the awesome simcoe hop – yep. Ok, this was a must have and grabbed from Independent Spirit as soon as I saw it. Basically I am a huge mark for Odyssey beers, so was hyped for this. Drunk while listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hyaena, an old album but comparatively new to me and I love the strange surreal sound to it.

Art Brew: Anarchist Party Bitter (England: Bitter: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy caramel brown. Large creamy head in coffee froth form. Some suds around the edge as you drink.

Nose: Malt choc orange. Crushed peanuts. Light fresh citrus.

Body: Treacle. Malt chocolate. Walnuts. Moderate hop bitterness. Caramel. Thick. Brown bread. Prickling feel. Hop oils. Subtle peach. Creamy.

Finish: Choc orange. Good hop character and bitterness. Charring. Peanuts. Brown bread. Hop oils. Gritty. Golden syrup. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a no nonsense big beer. Big malt, big hops, big mouthfeel. It has a real thick caramel to treacle base with choc orange hints – the mouthfeel is really thick with even some syrupy hints amongst the character.

For the hops side, the aroma hints at more fresh notes than the body gives – it starts with moderate bitterness and builds to a mix of impressive roughness, hop oils and hop flavour. Then, over time, more subtle creamy hop flavours of peach styling comes out with a real grounding nutty character beneath that.

So, with the exception of the creamier end of the hop notes late on, this is fairly full bore all the time! It pretty much uses that higher than normal abv to create a base that can punch your taste-buds repeatedly for a good long time.

So, not subtle at all, and so doesn’t have those extra elements that makes an all time great for me, but it has that enthusiasm of a beer than is going for exuberance over fine detail and gives a full flavour assault with that. Approach with caution and enjoy the intensity.

Background: How to list this beer? It says a bitter, but the abv and hop use is a bit high for that style. Possibly English Strong Ale, as a vague catch all style. Possibly IPA with the hop use, but I am trying to avoid falling into the same trap that those red/brown/black/white IPA listings do by putting everything hoppy under IPA. Ok, sod it, I’ll use my general rule of a thumb, list it as the brewery describes it unless you have good reason to do so. So, bitter it is, with some reservations. Anyway, – Art Brew – a local Brewery and one that I have a soft spot for as it used to be tied with the Royal Oak back in the day – spent many a night drinking there. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to more of Mclusky – Mcluskyisms. You will probably see that a lot in the near future – it is a massive 3 CD thing so I have a lot of tunes to get used to – lovely discordant, angry, almost surreal at times tunes.

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