Tag Archive: England


Wild Beer Co: Jambo! (England: Imperial Stout: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black with an impressively large and solid coffee froth coloured head.

Nose: Raspberry and cherries. Wheat. Cocoa dust. Fresh tart notes. Orange peel. Light cloves. Strawberry crème chocolate – Belgian chocolate style.

Body: Frothy. Tart black cherry and raspberry. Tart grapes. Bitter black chocolate and smooth Belgian chocolate mix. Bready backing. Rhubarb. Gooseberries. Milk.

Finish: Raspberry coolers. Milky and bitter chocolate mix. Gooseberry. Brown bread. Malt chocolate. Rhubarb. Black cherry.

Conclusion: You know, Imperial Stouts are big, big beers, that will not be news to most of you. It is a rare thing however for their flavours to get shoved to the back of a beer. Prepare your shocked faces. Here, it has been. The base, the chocolate you expect from an IS is there, and the bitter chocolate specially show top and tail. The heart of the beer though? The heart belongs to the tart fruit.

There is definite tart raspberry, delivered in raspberry cooler style – fresh and mouth refreshing, but that is far from the full story. There is distinct cherries – initially red and then into black cherry – there are even rhubarb hints. This beer uses the chocolate stout base as weight to allow it to go hog wild with the tart fruit.

The tartness leverages a contrasting milky character in the finish to balance the fresh air -a satisfying, if odd, mix. This isn’t a beer accentuated by fruit, this is a beer about the fruit – using the beer as a delivery method.

So, is it good? Yeah, pretty good. Not many beers like this are around, and less so ones this dedicated to the concept. Like many unusual beers, it is not super polished, so I would judge iy by how much you like the idea. Do you want a tart fruit led stout? One that can pushes tart grapes and gooseberry notes at the edges of a red fruit beer? Then this is for you. Otherwise, if you want a more standard Imperial Stout then this is not for you.

It’s that simple.

Background: While I used to rave about Wild Beer Co, these days I’m more split – they still turn out some excellent beers, but their experiments have been a bit hit or miss lately. Still, there are many brewers going with the standard styles – doesn’t hurt to have a few experimenters in there as well. This one is one of their more standard sounding beers – an Imperial Stout made with raspberries and cocoa nibs. Jambo is apparently a Swahili greeting. It has a very different meaning in some parts of Scotland. I won’t go into that here. Anyway, went for some Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to listen to – the heavier darker notes of it make it still my favourite of their works.

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Odyssey: Spottieottiehopaliscious Pale Ale (England: American Pale Ale: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Very cloudy lemon juice look with a yellow to white head of good size. Some small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Dried mango. Apricot. Lemon. Creamy. Light hop character. Cake sponge.

Body: Lemon. Gritty hop feel. Tangerine. Good hop character. Peach. Gritty bitterness. Cheese puff touch. Vanilla and light custard. Light syrup feel.

Finish: Lemon. Low level bitter hop feel and hop oils. Shortbread. Apricot. Cheese puff touch. Syrup.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ve had a fair few lemony and slightly creamy pales ales and IPAs recently, which were refreshing but kind of simplistic for the most part. I will admit on pour I thought this was going to be one of them, and it does share some characteristics. However it ends up very different. So, why does this lemony, creamy pale ale appeal to me so much when the others did not impress me that much?

Well, for one it has range – initially the lemon is the main characteristic, but after that you get full on apricot and peach taking over – so, over time you get progression in the beer and you can keep appreciating new nuances each time. The weight of the beer helps as well – the beer starts off quite clean, then a syrup thickness pitted against moderate, gripping, gritty hop character which really helps you get a handle on each flavour. Finally it has a slight funky cheese puff styling, giving just the slightest savoury offset. It all comes together to make a beer a world apart from all the other light, fruity, lemon dominated beers.

Overall it is a very juicy, lemon backed beer, that develops a wealth of fruit in the middle, a beer that uses hop bitterness but is not dominated by it. Easy to drink, but flavoursome and weighty. Again Odyssey manage to knock it out of the park with their hoppy beers. The only reason this is not in the “My favourites” section is because it is competing against other Odyssey beers.

A beer with too high abv to be technically sessionable, yet I still want to session it as it is a delicious beer.

Background: I think I spelt that right. I mean seriously, that beer name was written just to fuck with me. This is an oat infused APA made with Ekuanot, Simcoe, Columbus and Citra hops, then dry hopped with mosaic and simcoe. I knew none of this when doing notes on the beer – I looked it up after. That is a big set of hops. I very much trust Odyssey when it comes to hopped beers, so this was a nigh instant grab when it turned up at Independent Spirit. Decided to go for some big moody classic tunes for this as Odyssey beer deserve it – Mezzanine from Massive Attack.

Moor: All Dayer Deadpunk Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 3.5% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy yellow with middling off white head.

Nose: Brown bread. Quite fresh. Floral and lemon.

Body: Fresh lemon sorbet. Creamy vanilla ice cream. Pineapple. Brown bread. Prickly nettles. Slight dried apricot.

Finish: Brown bread. Mild lemon curd. Nettles. Mild guava. Vanilla. Peppery. Wheaty. Moderate hoppy bitterness.

Conclusion: A session IPA that is, for once, actually delivered at a session ABV. I haven’t brought this up too much, but most so called session IPAs are not really session abv for me – lower than a standard IPA yeah, but for me you need to be 4% abv or below to be genuinely a session beer. I will admit that very few beers keep to that these days, as abvs have ballooned a bit. This, at 3.5% abv, is nicely in the session bracket for me. So, with that discussion aside, how does it for flavour in this hard to master style?

Average. Which, compared to a lot of its contemporaries in the session IPA range, isn’t that bad. It is quite bready, which seems to be a common theme in session IPAs, but it avoids the excessive dryness that makes many of them wearing.

It also has a general lemon character to it – straying occasionally into fresher pineapple or more peppery finish at times. Not a huge range, but it does the job. Similarly the body is present in feel, and in malt flavour, but not exactly heavy. I guess it helps with the session characteristics but means it is much more average when you are having just the one.

As a session beer it isn’t stand out and it feels more like a lower abv APA than any kind of IPA. However it does do the job – The flavour works over several drinks and it has the abv to carry it.

Not a must have but does what it sets out to do, and is far from the worst session IPA I have had.

Background:Ok, I will admit it – I mainly grabbed this due to the whole “Brewdog trademark the word Punk in beer” controversy. Because I have listened to their arguments, and them pointing out some errors in reporting, and it still sounds bullshit to me to try and stop people using the word “punk” in beer. Seriously – limiting use of “Punk IPA” sure, just punk? Nah, sod off. So this beer, so named for, and made for, the Deadpunk festival amuses me. Also Moor make good beer, so that helps. So, I listened to some punk music when drinking it, right? Nah – still on a metal kick, so went with some Evil Scarecrow. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, yes again.


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Autumn (England: Brown Ale: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Moderate sized, short lasting brown to grey head.

Nose: Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Aniseed. Cinnamon. Slight wet twigs.

Body: Very lightly tart. Malt chocolate. Hazelnuts. Milky coffee. Figs. Praline. Slight plums as it warms. Tobacco.

Finish: Walnut cake. Malt chocolate. Coffee cake. Sultanas. Slight wet twigs. Figs. Port. Apples. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Once again Wild Beer Co’s seasonal range seems to get going as we hit the darker months, and with it the darker beers.

Despite the special twist of this beer being the foraged figs added, it is not hugely fig dominant – but they do their part. Instead the base brown ale does most of the heavy lifting here. The usual malt chocolate character is there, but here it is delivered in a nuttier fashion resulting in praline like flavours dominating the beer. It does feel slightly light in mouthfeel though – there is a slight tartness to the beer, probably brought in by the foraged ingredients, which seems to also slightly thin the beer. It isn’t a terrible trade off – you do get light apple notes beneath the darker figs and plum fruits, which balances out the flavour – but it is a slight minor off point.

The balance show in the mediating between the heavier tobacco notes up front, and the smoother barrel ageing influenced vanilla notes at the back, all resulting in a very comprehensive ranged brown ale. Frankly this is a beer that puts all that “Boring brown ale” stuff in its place.

If it managed to take the light tartness without the hit to the texture then this would have been perfect. As is it is a solidly complex brown ale that uses the special ingredients subtly and well. You can do a lot worse than that.

Background: Now this, the third release of Wild Beer Co which is made using locally foraged items, really caught my attention. For one thing its base beer is a brown ale, a nice style, oft accused of being boring, and not used enough these days. Next up is the special elements foraged – figs, fig leaves and fig branches. I’m a big figs fan, so that sounded right up my street. Finally, this has been aged in bourbon casks, which should give a bit extra smoothness and flavour. Overall something I was looking forwards to. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah. Still just basically going on a metal kick for drinking times.

Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Summer (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed lemon to apricot. Massive white head that settles to a more manageable level quickly.

Nose: Funky. Oats. Horse blankets. Slight floured dough. Lightly acidic. Rose petals.

Body: Tart. Lightly lemony. Flour. Slight wet wood. Vanilla. Acidic pear. Cherry late on, slight burn at back of the throat.

Finish: Wet wood and acidic lemon. Sherbet lemon to traditional lemonade after that. Gently acidic pears to perry. Slight cherry pocked biscuits. Sour black cherry late on,

Conclusion: I wasn’t sure what to expect for this one, and for the first half of the beer I wasn’t sure what I had got – however it kind of came together by the end.

Initially it seems a simple, mildly sour, Belgian yeast style funk-o-tron of a beer. Disclaimer: Funk-o-tron is not a real beer style. Yet. Give it time. Anyway, mixed light lemon to pear notes with a bit of funk to a mildly acidic back and some slight wet wood. It felt pretty generic in the sour category – not much to stand out in a beer that is very unusual in its set of ingredients and brewing process.

Late on you start to see the influence of those odd introductions, from rose petal aroma notes, to cherry pocket digestive notes, to more raw wood influence. It isn’t blatant, but there is a soft cherry and floral note to the beer showing what they were aiming for with it.

With beer with odd ingredients it can be hard walking the line – too blatant can overpower a beer with off notes – Of The Sea comes to mind for that flaw, so maybe it is best this takes the gentle touch. However if it is too subtle you might as well not use them at all.

Here, well the ingredients add a nice touch, but neither the base beer nor the odd twists really stand out – as a sour it is pretty meh. The extra notes are nice but don’t make it a must have.

A gentle sour that doesn’t really sell its gimmick, but does give it a bit of subtle extra depth. Ok, ya know, but unexceptional.

Background: Yes I know summer has been and gone. I’m behind the times as always. This is the second of the “rooting around” series of beers made with foraged local elements. In this case a sour beer using branches, buds, leaves and blossom from a cherry tree, then aged in Modus Operandi barrels. Wasn’t 100% sure this would work, but liked the cherry blossom imagery, and I’m a fan of Wild Beer Co in general so grabbed it from Independent Spirit. Noticed I had some Terrorvision on my mp3 player – used to be a big fan back in the 90s so slammed on some of their tracks as background drinking tunes.

Odyssey: Deya: Beautiful Blueberry (England: IPA: 6.6% ABV)

Visual: Deep red brown. Raspberry yogurt looking small bubbled head. Cloudy to opaque main body.

Nose: Green hops. Resinous character. Greenery. Blueberry. Fresh cut apples. Raspberries.

Body: Creamy. Hop oils. Blueberry yogurt. Moderate bready bitterness. Greenery.

Finish: Good hop character. Some bitterness but not heavily so. Greenery. Brown bread. Blueberry. Slight gherkin sour note. Resinous.

Conclusion: This is a very different mix to what I expected for this beer – in that the balance between the fruit and the base IPA character works very different to what is usually done. Now it has a heavy use of blueberry flavour, that bit I expected, what I didn’t expect is how it interacts with the hop use against it. I was expecting something creamy smooth, something that emphasised the fruit flavour over the hop bitterness – mainly I was expecting that due to the NE IPA craze at the moment. Nope. Nothing like that.

This dives straight into the IPA side of things – Hop oils, resinous notes, greenery lead and with brown bread touched bitterness. It has a dedication to the bitterness and hops that a lot of fruit IPAs avoid. It results in a clash of two big contrasting flavours in the beer.

Does it work? Not so much early on, more so over time. It isn’t the most complex Odyssey beer, instead it just seems to concentrate on its two big pillars of flavour – the berries and the hop character. Early on it is a bit resinous – a style I usually like but doesn’t work brilliantly with the blueberry character – it feels clashing rather that complementing and contrasting. Time helps, letting the fruit rise and lets the bitter hop notes meld better with them – it feels less prickly resulting in a still harsh, bitter but fruity beer. I’ve seen this described as a milkshake IPA and I would have to disagree with that. It does have some creamy notes, but it is a much more raw IPA than that – especially compared to the current trends in super smooth IPAs currently.

So, a little rough early on, but settles into a super fruity, super hoppy IPA as it goes – not perfect, and not Odysseys best, but neither of those are huge criticisms. Solid, and shows that a fruit beer doesn’t mean you have to go light on the hop character.

Background: Ok, by now everyone knows I love the Odyssey hopped beers, especially their IPAs – not run into Deya before so no opinion on them. However this blueberry infused IPA was one I grabbed quickly – in part as Independent Spirit only had a few bottles so I had to decide fast, and leant towards the grab a beer from Odyssey side of the spectrum. It rarely lets me down. Anyway, I put some Warrenpeace while drinking – probably my favourite find from Scroobius Pip putting up a bunch of free stuff on speech development records.

Northern Monk: Alefarm: Patron’s Project 7.01: DDH Saison (England: Saison: 7.0% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana coloured, high carbonation, hazy body with an utterly massive yellowed head that leaves lace.

Nose: Peppery. Key lime. Lightly earthy. Wet ropes.

Body: Bitter. Greenery. Peppery. Nettles. Key lime. Peppermint. Oatmeal and light milk. Vanilla toffee. Orange crème.

Finish: Vanilla. Good hop bitterness. Peppery. Slight mint. Hop oils. Mild dill pickle. Milky. Peppermint.

Conclusion: This is very full of greenery, very menthol touched – kind of within its aimed for saison wheelhouse, but also a bit unusual for the style. A good combo if done well, lets look into this.

It has the slightly rustic saison feel as the base – slight earthy and peppery notes. It is far away from the smooth, high hop matched with vanilla style of the quintessential sasion Dupont, heading more towards the heavier style; It does, however still have a slight smooth vanilla base under the other elements -giving slight call to that more recognised saison style.

That is the base then, but far from the full story – what really shows up is the amount of greenery and such notes this plays with. The label on the can wasn’t lying – be it crushed mint leaves, nettles or fresher peppermint this has lots of plant notes added to the earthy base. Very refreshing, very menthol clean along with the very robust hop bitterness. While a rustic styled saison is a very traditional take, this seems to take that idea and push it into a much fresher, more sparkling way that you would expect.

There are even some side notes just rounding it out – light orange and key lime citrus elements – ones that you see used a lot on the new wave of saisons, but here they are not up front. These new world hop notes are an addition to the base, not overwhelming it.

In fact, I have ranted recently about masses of hops being used to overpower interesting styles – this feels like a good example of the opposite – where matching craft style hopping to a traditional saison style manages to enhance both sides. Very distinct, its levels of greenery are not for everyone, but well worth checking out if that style doesn’t put you off.

Background: I had to check what was in this brew – the amount of leaves on the can made me think it was a cannabis beer. Which is totally a thing, but not a thing that I think is legal to see in the UK. Anyway, turns out it is not a cannabis beer, just a saison style beer made with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy hops. Good combo. It is made in association with Alefarm brewing, brewers from Denmark. This was grabbed from independent spirit and drunk while listening to some Mobina Galore – got into the band when they opened for Against Me! And they were darn cool.

Beavertown: Stillwater Artisanal: Skullwater (England: Belgian Ale: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Moderate white loose bubbled head.

Nose: Apricot and grapefruit. Hop bitterness and character. Soft lemon. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Custard malt character. Apples. Dried apricot. Nettles. Good hop character. Tart grapes. Lemon juice to lemon sherbet. Peppery.

Finish: Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Solid bitterness. Slight palma violets. Kiwi. Tart grapes. Custard cream biscuits. Wheaty. Vanilla. Apples. Peppery and cheese puffs.

Conclusion: I’m split. Half of me wants to dig into examining the depths of this. Half of me wants to rant about how nearly every unusual beer style seems to be hijacked by high hopped releases that are done in such a way to make them lose their distinct stylistic oddities that make them so interesting in the first place.

Ok, let’s go for the rant first. For the most part this doesn’t feel like a Belgian ale. The huge hopping instead takes front, with just some funky esters and Belgian smooth custard malt notes tipped the hat to the base style. I would like a few more beers that take full advantage of their base style

Rant over. With that done, there is a lot to enjoy in this beer. The closest call stylistic is actually probably a Belgian IPA due to the intense hopping, and boy does it use the hops well. Lots of lemon and apples notes throughout, with tart grapefruit floating over the aroma and dried apricot sweetness seeping into the body. All of that backed by big hop feel and solid hop bitterness makes this an intense flavour experience.

Despite my rant there is some slight Belgian influence and it does enhance the hops – it keeps a peppery grounding that helps give a solid layer that stops it just being a hop fest, and funky fruit esters help the hop fruit flavours to create more complex range. That is why, despite my rant, I still find it a damn good beer.

Style wise it even feels slightly Belgian wit influenced – between the lemon, the pepper and the akin to wheaty feel it actually seems closer to that than its claimed Belgian pale style. As time goes on though the funkier notes rise, easing some of my prior complaints as distinct cheese puff yeast feel gives real grip and Belgian style to the beer.

So, the beer has gone from making me rant, to impressing me. It is all hops early on, Belgian style late on. Ok, rant aside , this is bloody good.

Background: This is a dry hopped Belgian Pale – so I’m guessing either a pale ale made with Belgian yeast, or a Belgian blond ale. Any which way, the advice on the can is to drink fresh, so I broke it open the day I grabbed it. Think the cans had been available for less than a month, so still fairly darn fresh when I had it. Speaking of the can – as is usual with Beavertown the can design is awesome, and has raised areas giving a cool feel in the hand as well. This was picked up from independent spirit and drunk while listening to Crossfaith- New Age Warriors and Zion. On a right Crossfaith kick at the mo – the whole metal, electronic mash up style is very heavy and fun.

Kennet and Avon Brewing: Dundas Best Bitter (England: Bitter: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Very large caramel brown touched white mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty and peppery. Slight earthy touch. Light lime and greenery.

Body: Peppery. Lightly milky. Coriander. Solid bitterness. Brown paper. Light caramel. Light cream and orange backing ovaltine.

Finish: Coriander. Peppery. Slight sour tang. Wheaty and earthy. Moderate hop feel. Choco toffee malt drinks. Charred notes.

Conclusion: You know, on the first sip I had of this, I was ready to give it some shit. It comes in slightly light, dominated by a peppery chunk that made it seem rough edged. “Why?” I was about to whine. “Why is so hard to make a good best bitter?”

A few sips later I was instead nodding appreciatively – it is lightly earthy, and still definitely peppery, but the beer had balanced itself pretty quickly – there was now a gentle toffee sweetness backing it, but more importantly that slight sour, almost brown paper feeling backing character that makes for the more refreshing aspect of a well developed bitter. It has some grip now, where it felt light before, a slightly thicker texture that lets the hop character and moderate bitterness grab your attention without getting super intense.

So, now kind of answering my opening paragraph question, in a round about way – yes it is hard to make a good best bitter – and while this isn’t a showstopper it has a good mouthfeel, solid flavour and balances mild sweetness, good earthiness and a slight sour touch – all which combine to make it a solid beer for a session.

This, I think is what makes it so hard to do a good best bitter – here you have nothing super stand out, but everything in the right proportions. It manages to deliver a good beer and has had to do it without the crutch of being able to use high amounts of fruity hop, heavy amounts of malt, nor high bitterness. Instead it has had to use everything it can get out of restrained bitterness, malt and less showy earthy and spicy notes to give a complete experience.

It is hard because you are working with a comparatively limited selection of tools – if you push too much experimentation you lose a lot of what makes the style – and when done right it is unlike any other beer style – a very savoury experience in a lot of ways – a satisfying liquid meal of a drink. This isn’t the best of the best bitters, but it manages that and makes it a a good one.

Background: So, a quick google tells me this is gluten free. Huh, usually gluten free beers shout it more on the label, while this tucks it away on the back. Anyway …. the best bitter isn’t one that turns up very often in the new wave of beer scene, so when I saw this at Independent Spirit thought it would be cool to give it a go. Drunk while listening to more Warrenpeace – yep this was pretty much directly after doing one of the Jefferson Wood Experiment notes.

Deviant Dandy: Strange Brew Lawnmower Ale (England: Cream Ale: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Some carbonation. Massive yellow white head.

Nose: Slight gritty bitterness. Wheat. Lime. Dried apricot.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Light gherkin. Lime. Peppery. Brown bread. Milky. Sour cream. Reasonably thick mouthfeel. Dried apricot.

Finish: Moderate hops and bitterness. Milky apricot. Gherkin. Kiwi. Lime. Sour cream and chives.

Conclusion: This has two main sides to it – a moderately thick, slightly yogurt like, milky ale. A gentle thing with moderate hop use. Actually feels like a beer to go with a curry , so to sooth its heat with its milky feel. Now I know the beer doesn’t have …casein … I think is the element in milk that allows it to dissolve the capsaicin that makes curry hot, so it won’t actually do that. It just feels that way – hope that gets across the feel of the beer.

Anyway, I digress – the other side of the beer is a slightly tart squeezed lime to sour gherkin set of notes – fresh and prickly. It feels like a rougher impression of the fresher tart flavours you get from NZ hops – just more thick, clingy and tingly. Around that unusual element you get some more standard apricot style hops, but delivered in a thicker, more cloying dried apricot in natural yogurt kind of way. In fact the whole yogurt imagery keeps coming back with this beer.

Strangely, while the notes are thick, it doesn’t make the beer heavy or intrusive as you would expect. The flavours are an odd mix of sweet, tart, savoury, and sour – yet together they feel fairly gentle and sippable. In fact going back to the early imagery, it feels like a mix of those sides you get at the start in an Indian restaurant – the heavier dip, the milky creamy soothing dip, the sour dip and the sweet mango chutney. All mixed together in one beer – and not as bad as that sounds.

Generally this is reasonable – odd but not really remarkable at the same time. Easy to drink, but also with some weight to it. The oddest thing is that for all its unsusual flavours, when you have swallowed it, the actual flavours vanish pretty quickly – you have to take another mouthful to keep it going. So a weak finish, but generally not bad.

An easy one to drink, enjoy while you are doing that, and then forget,.

Background: This one was a bit of a random pick. I liked the can design, the name Deviant Dandy, and I wanted something a bit more gentle than usual. So a cream ale seemed like a good pick – think I have only done notes on one cream ale before, and have barely drunk more than a a few anyway, so good to do something different. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some of Extreme’s music on their youtube channel for a bit of glam rock fun.

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