Tag Archive: England


Rok Soba: 777 Lucky AF Tripel (England: low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. No evident carbonation. Thin grey white head.

Nose: Brown sugar. Squeezed orange. Golden syrup.

Body: Thinned down golden syrup. White sugar. Iced tea. Bubblegum. Lightly chalky. Brown sugar.

Finish: Iced tea. Brown sugar. Orange juice. Chalk touch. Banana chewy sweets.

Conclusion: I see what this is trying to do. That is always the best opening for a set of notes isn’t it? Really makes you think that the following paragraphs are going to be praising what a top notch beer it is, no?

A lot of tripels tend to have a feeling of high residual sugar, which is present here. I presume from adding sugar or similar directly to the beer to make up from lack of malt? Maybe? The can lists sucralose which I presume is it – I dunno, not a brewer myself but this level of raw sweetness is very unusual in a low alcohol beer.

Any which way this is very sweet, with lots of brown and white sugar notes. On the good side the beer even manages to call to the fruity esters that turn up in a lot of Belgian beers. It is a, slightly artificial admittedly, set of banana and orange notes, and some very artificial bubblegum notes behind that. I don’t think the bubblegum was meant to be part of the theme, but it isn’t actually bad.

The issue comes with this beer, that, even more so that for a lot of low abv beers, this is very iced tea tasting, and even looks kind of iced tea like. So, what you end with when you mix that and the good points is something that tastes like an over sweetened iced tea rather than a tripel beer.

So, while it does have calls to a tripel it really fails to sum up what makes that beer enjoyable, and fails to present a decent alternative with what it does do.

It isn’t actively horrible, if I may damn it with that faint praise, but basically it tastes like very sweet iced tea. Which, if you want that, is fine but I kind of wanted a tripel and this isn’t that, despite those fruity notes which I will praise.

Ah well, a bold experiment at least.

Background: Originally I thought this was just called “Lucky” but everyone online seems to list the 777 from the art as part of the name. Which seems just like confusing label design to me, but what do I know? Rok Soba seems to be a whole thing with festivals, clothes and such, drinks seem to be a side project and from the can it looks like this was contract brewed in Belgium. Anyway, another one grabbed as part of a low alcohol batch from light drinks as the idea of a low abv attempt at a tripel amused me. Went back to the great Svalbard: When I Die Will I Get Better? As music. Top notch album.

Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing: Lager Day Saints (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly yellowed body. Moderate amounts of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white mounded head.

Nose: Flour. Soft vanilla yogurt. Cake sponge. Slight chalk. Vanilla toffee. Dry marshmallow. Slightly dry overall. Slight gherkin note as warms.

Finish: Light sweet pineapple. Flour. Lightly milky. Slight fruit syrup. Vanilla toffee. Light chalk. Popcorn feel. Slight cake sponge.

Conclusion: This is very fluffy, slight dry and slightly tart yet sweet. I will admit that was not what I was expecting from a lager, not even a low abv one, so give me a few moments to realign my assumptions and come back with fresh eyes.

Ok, here goes.

Ok, well this isn’t really refreshing despite the light tartness and dry main body, which is odd. There is a flour touch along with a fluffy feel that makes it slightly mouth clinging to drink so works against any more refreshing notes.

The pineapple combined with the flour and light cake sponge notes actually make me think a bit of pineapple pizza when I drink this. Sans the tomato part natch. I didn’t say it was a perfect match. It is however, not what I was looking for in a beer. It isn’t that this is horrible, more that I drink this and think “Why does this exist?” It doesn’t hit any need I have for beer, or drink in general. Considering how many beer styles, and in fact drink styles that are out there which I enjoy it really should have managed to hit one just by accident, so missing every single one is quite the feat.

As it warms the tartness gains a gherkin touch which is odd and really doesn’t fit. I keep feeling that it isn’t so much that this is badly brewed per se , more that it is assembled from a random bunch of flavours that don’t mesh together. I think they made what they intended to make, I’m just not sure why.

Not for me, not actively bad, just I cannot see any reason to go to it at all.

Background: Didn’t know much about this one going in, had just seen a new brewery to me doing a low alcohol beer when I grabbed a batch from light drinks so decided to give it a go. The can says they are aiming for the Munich Helles lager style using a “unique yeast” and Hallertauer mittelfrueh hops. I really hope I spelled that right. I’d recently picked up Unleash The Archer’s album “Apex” and put it on as backing music, it is a wonderfully over the top concept album telling a sci-fi tale, so totally up my alley. Not much else to say here this time.

St George’s: The English – Rum Cask (English Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)


Visual: Pale greened grain. Slow, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Raspberry. Caramel. Strawberry pocked digestives. Honeycomb. Mild rum. Water adds sweet red wine. Lightly spicy. Light wisp of sulphur and smoke.

Body: Light front. Marshmallow. Raspberry. Alcohol builds up over time. Dry rice. Dry fudge. Caramel. Water makes slightly oily, but smooth and generally slick. Lightly spicy. Strawberry. Sweet wine.

Finish: Dry. Raspberry. Strawberry pocked biscuits. Dry red wine, spicy red wine after a while. Water adds glacier cherry. Slightly oily. Strawberry jelly. Toffee.

Conclusion: This takes some time to build up and get going, but while you are waiting for that it brings a lightly tart raspberry front in from the first moment to keep you interested. That tides things over while the lighter spirit gets a chance to build up some layers on your tongue so it can start delivering the rest of the flavour.

I’m guessing it is the rum influence that brings those raspberry notes, though that is an unusual one for a rum cask, but its the best explanation I can come up with. The more traditional, and spicier rum notes seem to wait until you add some water to show themselves.

The base spirit still shows some of that youthful edge that I have associated with the main “The English” releases – not too harsh, just a kind of neutral to rice touched alcohol character.

Time brings out more toffee, and some spicy rum character as it builds up the layers, but to get the motor really running on this whisky you need to add a drop of water.

With water the character smooths right out, with a slightly oily touch. There is still a kind of grain spirit to rice character in flavour, but the texture is lovely and smooth now. The rum really comes out here as well, with that previous tart raspberry character now overwhelmed by dark rum, red wine and spice.

I mean, even now it isn’t a huge, heavy flavour, but before the flavours were kind of fragile – so it didn’t take much to crush them. Now there is sweet strawberry notes, and more evident toffee that makes it a tad more robust.

Now it is a gentle, sweet thing – I think the barrel ageing is doing the heavy lifting but despite that the smooth red fruit notes are pleasant.

Not a must have, not polished, but relaxed and tasty.

Background: The final of three miniatures got that cover “The English” main range of whisky releases and the most unusual being aged in rum casks. It has been a long road to get here, with the St George Distillery turning out preview bottlings of their spirit over the years, and now we have their main core line releases. Since I sometimes try to theme music by the country of origin, but rarely do that for England as, well I live here, I decided to go with some English music and put on Pulp: Different Class. That was the reason honest, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to put it on again. Anyway, another one from Independent Spirit as the entire set was.

Elusive: Emperor: Imperial Morrisman – Double Chocolate Dry Imperial Stout (England: Imperial Stout: 11% ABV)

Visual: Black, still and opaque. Thin brown head.

Nose: Cocoa dust. Dry roasted peanuts. Sour cream. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Brown bread.

Body: Smooth. Chocolate cream to chocolate ice cream. Dry roasted peanuts. Light strawberry. Quite thick texture. Light alcohol presence. Choc peanut butter. Sour cream.

Finish: Chocolate ice cream. Dry roasted peanuts. Choc peanut butter. Strawberry crème. Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, a few things first – all linked to the abv. For such a high abv this sticks to a surprisingly simple set of notes and flavours. A lot of high abv beers really pile on the layers, showing off what the extra abv can do with complex flavours – which this does not. Similarly, for the abv there is remarkable little boozy presence or alcohol burn. It has a smooth, dry thickness and some subtle alcohol tells in the weight and air, but in general is very good at hiding the abv.

So, with that dryness of character the sweetness from the mass of chocolate used to make it is actually very restrained – dry one might say. Though despite the restrained sweetness the chocolate is still very evident in a bitter cocoa character, and occasionally a sweeter chocolate ice cream flavour comes out to play for a while. There is a kind of sour cream backing, generally savoury but with that just slight sour twist. So overall the beer is heavy with flavour, and despite the chocolate, never really that sweet.

This then merges with the dry roasted peanut character to slowly transform into a choco-peanut butter big imperial stout. A simple note, well delivered for a consistent quality, very well made beer. Even now it is slightly dry in how the flavours come out, but smooth with it.

Now, early on there were some sweeter notes, even if they were never the most present items, and with it there was an unusual strawberry touch. None of these sweeter notes survive as that peanut butter choco character builds up a head of steam and just takes over the beer.

While comparatively simple for an imperial stout this big, it is brewed to perfection. The style is packed with utter classics, which is the only reason this isn’t getting a “My favourites” entry. It doesn’t quite match the current top set, but it is undeniably great.

Background: Emperor’s Brewery – a brewery I only know by reputation from people mentioning it at Independent Spirit – apparently very hard to get, and they concentrate on making amazing stouts and porters. Which explains why they collaborated with Elusive Brewing to make this. Since I am unlikely to find any of their own beers, this may be the closest I get to trying their stuff for a while. This is a brewed up version of a previous Elusive beer Morrisman, now made with even more chocolate. Or to go by the can, cocoa, chocolate, oats, wheat and vanilla. I went back to Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing for backing music, something big to go with a big beer.

Abbeydale: Wanderer West Coast IPA (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice at the edges to apricot skin main body colour. Thin, loose bubbled white head.

Nose: Lemon juice. Flour. Apples. Some prickly hop character and bitterness. Apricot.

Body: Peach. Good bitterness. Peach syrup. Apricot skin. Green feeling hop character. Slightly dry. Apples. Slightly resinous. Fudge.

Finish: Greenery. Good hop character and bitterness. Apples. Quite dry. Apricot skin. Slightly resinous. Kiwi. Crushed custard cream biscuits and a dry general custard touch.

Conclusion: I was surprised how cloudy this west coast style IPA was on the eye. Thankfully though there is no New England style IPA shenanigans going on here. It isn’t 100% in my preferred interpretation of of a west coast style, but it knows to make it bitter and kick a bit.

It is just slightly dry, not as much as you would expect from the style – there is a chewy fudge backing that shows the malt a bit more than usual, but still dry enough and it gives a base for a reasonably bitter and resinous character. Nothing too hardcore but, you know, bitter and resinous. That is what I am here for and they are doing the job right as long as they get that bit sorted, in my opinion anyway.

The bitter base is then a launch pad for a dry, apple character along with some dry apricot skin notes – a fruity but restrained experience. That said, there is a fruit syrup core to the whole thing that is sweeter and thicker than I would expect for the style, but despite that works pretty well here. It results in a sticky, fruity kind of hoppiness. Clinging but not so much that it gets harsh of dull.

While not a show stopper of an IPA this is a solid mix of bitterness, resinous character and fruitiness and does the job. It is just about dry enough for what I want, and gives a lot of flavour. Very solid indeed.

Background: Abbeydale used to be a brewery I knew for turning out more traditional ales. They seem to be experimenting a lot more these days. Their Wanderer series is bunch of different beers taking inspiration from things around the world – in this case the West Coast IPA which is a favoured style of mine. Single hopped with Citra, which is a classic of USA IPAs this was one I was hoping to enjoy a lot. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, I went back to the Animatrix album for backing music – I think I enjoyed the music from that even more than Animatrix itself.

St George Distillery: The English: Smokey (England: Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed to grain hue. Thin, slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Dry. Dusty. Smoke. Crushed rocks. Pear drops. Water adds a brown sugar backing.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Oily. Dried beef slices. Crushed rocks. Sweet lime. Water adds fudge. Slightly more chewy texture. Apples. Raisins. Buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Ash. Smoke. Malt chocolate. Light praline. Lightly nutty. Water makes for slight sulphur and fatty butter.

Conclusion: Ok, this is much more enjoyable than the unpeated version. Mainly because, well, peat. Peat solves 76.3% of the world’s problems. As long as the problem is lack of peat.

(and the other 23.7% can be solved by more peat)

The base whisky under the peat feels just slightly more chewy than the unpeated version, especially with a drop of water. There is still some green fruit evident, a good chunk of vanilla toffee to fudge sweetness backing. Nothing stand out but a solid core to work from. The peat on top of that comes in a generally ashes, smokey and slightly dry way with a crushed rock quality to it. It feels like a lighter peat touch to an easy drinking dram rather than the more meaty, beefy and broth like of the heavier peated island and Islay whiskies.

Initially it seems ok but a bit simple, kind of like the bare minimum you would expect of a decent peated whisky. Nothing unpleasant but also nothing that really grabbed my attention. Even like this is is nicely smooth, with present peat use and a what feels like a lowland influenced base in its style.

Water make for an interesting change to that though. On the down side it adds a bit of a muggy set of sulphurous notes that don’t really fit with the smooth character but in exchange it brings in subtle notes of dark fruit that add a decent bit of complexity into the equation. It also adds a slightly fatty butter touch, if feels like that touch of water unlocks some of the advantages from this being non chilled filtered.

Water isn’t 100% a benefit to the whisky, but it does make it more interesting. This isn’t a must grab for me, but it is a huge jump up in quality from the unpeated version, and leaves me hoping that the final mini in the collection will be even better yet.

Background: Second of the three miniatures in this box set of new releases from the St George Distillery that I’m guessing will make up their main line up. This one is their peated expression, which made it instantly more interesting to me as a big peat fan. I made my “hate The English” joke last time, so that is my joke routine already wasted and depleted. Again no age statement here. After enjoying her new release recently, I went back to Laura Jane Grace’s previous solo album as music to back this – Still Alive. As before this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Black Sheep: Riggwelter (England: English Strong Ale: 5.7% ABV)

Visual: Light chestnut brown coloured body with reddened hues. Middling sized brown froth head. Still.

Nose: Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Crushed peanuts. Light caramel. Raisins.

Body: Liquorice. Lightly earthy. Cake sponge. Milk texture. Light ginger bread. Light prickling. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Light charring.

Finish: Gingerbread. Earthy bitterness. Greenery. Nutty. Bitter chocolate dust. Light milk. Bitter coffee remains. Peppery. Dry treacle.

Conclusion:This shows how earthy hop flavours, and even liquorice notes, both of which are so often a weakness in badly made beers, can be used in satisfying and robust ways.

I think a lot of it comes from the balance of the weight of the beer to its drinkability. This is weighty with a slight milky, creamy grip and thickness at the core but around that is a dry general bitter like feel. The slight dryness is what makes it easy to drink, the thickness adds enough to make the earthier bitter notes more manageable and less wearing that they can be in lighter beers.

There is a gingerbread and peppery spice throughout it – a savoury tingling set of flavours that complement the solid earthy bitterness well without contradicting them too much. It is a very traditional set of bitter notes but behind that the extra malt weight gives hints of dark fruit, raisins, and even manages to make that hint of liquorice feel like a welcome release rather than an off note. It makes for very much the heavier take on the traditional earthy British bitter.

If that earthy bitterness, even a strong ale take on such, does not appeal to you then this will probably not be one you find to your tastes. If, however it does not put you off then you may find, like I do, that this stands on the ideal point between a weightier ale, and a drinkable bitter. Old school but done right.

Background: When the parents came down to visit, as well as the beer from Christmas I mentioned in some previous notes, they also brought a box of Black Sheep beers for me. Many thanks again! Black Sheep are good brewery up north, named after the creator who was the black sheep that left the Theakston brewery to set up his own. Which makes sense. Anyway, this is one I had many times back in the old days, but had not revisited recently, so was looking forwards to trying it again. Went with Jack Off Jill again as backing music, Sexless Demons and Scars this time.

Big Drop: Waterslide IPA (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Moderate sized off white head that leaves suds. Reasonable amount of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Gooseberry. Cake sponge. Sponge hop character. Gentle bitterness. Sweet lime touch. Apricot touch.

Body: Prickly. Moderate bitterness. Kiwi. High hop character. Light greenery. Grapefruit. Very soft toffee. Fresh sour dough.

Finish: Good bitterness. Prickly hop character. Kiwi. Slight charring. Mild gooseberries. Gunpowder tea. Grapefruit.

Conclusion: This is a nicely bracing, quite clean bodied yet bitter IPA that is matched by some subtly used tart fruit notes. There is quite the wake up call from this low alcohol beer!

It is very prickly. The bitterness has a nice presence but that prickly hope character is what really defines it. Little needles of joy prickling into your tongue. They are closely linked with the bitterness, but separate enough that I considered it worth emphasising.

Now if that was all that was there it could get wearing or even overly harsh, especially in a low abv beer where the malt isn’t really there to balance it. So, with that in mind I am very glad for the gentle gooseberry and grapefruit fresh release. It is subtly done but brings a lovely tingling freshness, not quite mouth cleaning feel but has that air of tartness which, when combined to the bitterness, is why I call it a wake up call of a beer as it kicks that out at you.

There is a gentle touch of apricot as a high note in the aroma but unfortunately it never really comes out in the main body. Instead we get a balancing kiwi note that gives a solid middle around which the lighter flavours and hop prickle can dance – a core to the beer that allows everything else to work.

This is a lovely IPA that balances bitterness, freshness, gentle edges and prickly kick. Definitely a hit with me. Heck, despite being a low abv beer as it is, it comes closer to my taste in IPAs that a lot of the modern full alcohol IPAs!

Background: Another Big Drop seasonal release – this one for the Summer Season. The seasonal releases tend to be where I find the ones I really enjoy in their range, where they put out that tad higher quality – so I hope the same happens here. Coming in at 60 IBU they describe it as a “Southern Hemisphere & New World hop powerhouse”. This was grabbed from Beercraft as I once again raided their low alcohol selection. Went back to Laura Jane Grace’s recent release At War With The Silverfish for background music, it is a fairly short album but fits a gentle drinking session well.

Black Iris: I Push My Fingers Into My Pies (England: Imperial Stout: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thick brown dash of a head.

Nose: Apple strudel. Caramel. Marzipan. Toffee apples. Cherry bakewells. Liquorice touch. Strawberry yogurt.

Body: Thick. Slight bitter chocolate. Liquorice touch. Cherry bakewells. Golden syrup, Apple pies. Vanilla toffee. Toffee apple. Slight milk. Black cherry.

Finish: Sour dough. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Apples. Icing sugar. Strawberry cream. Bitter cocoa. Slightly bitter. Brown bread. Bitter coffee. Almond slices.

Conclusion: This is odd, in so many ways. Which, looking at the ingredient list, you may be thinking that this should not surprise me. However, even knowing what went into this it manages to express itself in unusual and unexpected ways over and over again.

The base stout is stodgy, with a kind of bitter cocoa but in a muted way. It is slightly bready in heaviness, slightly milky in the creaminess of the texture, so with these combined it is definitely a thick, chewy stout. Which makes it even odder that the elements of the base stout are so oddly muted. It is definitely present, definitely weighty but in a fairly bready nondescript way with bitter chocolate and coffee there but slightly lost.

So, with all that in mind, back to the oddness of this beer. I feel like the base described above is muted in a deliberate move to make room for the unusual ingredients and give those flavours room to roam. The thing is that while this has cherry and strawberry (and vanilla and almonds) in it, those are not the most evident flavours. So what does stand out? What is the first super evident note? Apple strudel. Yeah I didn’t see that one coming either. There is a super sticky apple filling style, sticky toffee, and every combination in-between. Nice, but deeply unexpected.

Now, I will admit, nestled away in the midst of this muted imperial stout of toffee apple strudel is , in fact, a 100% recognisable cherry bakewell set of notes. It is like there is a calm at the eye of the stout tornado and there the bakewell nestles. It is still slightly muted, not super sweet, but absolutely there are recognisable as the dessert they were going for.

So, I would say it is not great because of feeling slightly muted in a lot of elements, but it is far from bad. It is a lot, and I mean a LOT, a lot of often clashing elements but it is fair fascinating if not best set up. The base feels like it is muted, but the strudel and everything with it feels sickly. I’d say don’t grab if your main interest is the bakewell gimmick, as that is but a small part of this.

To be a really good beer it probably would either need a bigger use of the base Imperial Stout flavours, or more dedication to the bakewell gimmick – right now if feels just slightly underwhelming if interesting. So, not really one I would recommend but it is an enjoyable mess.

Background: I grabbed this one for a few reasons, but the main one being that it is a cherry bakewell imperial stout and the contrast between an imperial stout and a bakewell being combined in one thing intrigued me. To try and achieve this goal they used cherry and strawberry puree, vanilla pods, lactose and almonds. Another reason was the artwork which has a nicely spooky look in striking black and white. That cool design led to me picking some heavier music for drinking – Noctule’s Wretched Abyss – some Skyrim inspired black metal which went along perfectly. This is another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Shepherd Neame: 1698 (England: English Strong Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear caramel brown. Fizzy white head of moderate size but does not last long. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Light toffee. Light black cherry. Light chalk.

Body: Christmas cake. Light chalk. Odd mix of thin and chewy mouthfeel. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Slight sulphur. Walnuts.

Finish: Light chalk. Light liquorice. Brown bread. Christmas cake. Almonds. Slightly earthy. Greenery and sage. Dry marzipan.

Conclusion: I don’t know if the time in the bottle hurt it rather than helped it, despite this being bottle conditioned, but when I first took a sip of this it felt like something there wasn’t working. It felt a bit light up front. Now it was close to working, there was subtle toffee and black-cherry in the aroma, which is a good standby of an English Strong Ale, but those elements didn’t follow through into the body.

The body instead calls to Christmas cake, but with a savoury walnut like backing before heading out into an earthy and even more obviously nutty finish. Which all seems pretty appropriate as this was first bought at Christmas and – well Christmas cake is pretty obviously appropriate to that, and I can just about wedge the nuttiness in under that to claim there is some sort of thematic consistency going on here. Probably.

It feels light early on, which is a fair flaw – occasionally showing the weight this beer needs, but it was disappointing. As time goes on the layers seem to build up so it feels a lot more present at the end, which makes it much more satisfying. As said at the start, initially this felt like the time in the bottle had hurt rather than helped it, and it was very much that early lack of weight that was the most obvious tell of that.

So, how is it when it has had some time to build up that flavour and weight? Well now it is very nutty, which is ok but I do feel disappointed that the Black Cherry and the Christmas cake notes seem to have fallen by the wayside as they could really have done with some more play. In return there has been an increase in savoury greenery and earthy hop bitterness which does the job at rounding it out.

Overall, takes a while to get going, but solid when it does – nutty, earthy and very present. Not shiny and exciting but a solid enough beer to spend time with.

Background: This beer has had quite the journey to get to these tasting notes. It was originally grabbed by my family for when I was going to head up last Christmas. Anyway, so covid was everywhere, so I never went up north, but since my family don’t drink this style of beer they kept it until we could finally meet up. Many thanks! So, this is now fairly close to its best before date of November 2011, but as it is bottle conditioned hopefully that should not be an issue, or may even make it better. We shall see. Went with Garbage V 2.0 as backing music, because that album is a classic and thus should be listened to regularly.

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