Tag Archive: England


Big Drop: Sour (England: Low Alcohol Sour: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow and clear. Some carbonation. Short lived white head.

Nose: Wet cardboard. Lightly sour. Apple juice to cider. Wet rocks. Pears. Mild vinegar. Soft lemon.

Body: Tart and tingling. Soft lychee. Slight chalk. Mild cider. Cardboard. Mild vanilla.

Finish: Lightly bitter and charring. Vanilla. Touch. Lychee. Watery.

Conclusion: Chilled down this is fairly empty. It is lightly tart and tingling but without any real grip to it. It is watery with beer like elements floating within that. However for all it was as let down like this, there are hints of something else – slight cider apple and soft lychee notes – subtle flavours that are overpowered by the mild, but still rougher, chalk and charring notes.

So, with not much else to it, I decided to see if time and some warmth could make a difference then.

Warmth helps develop some body, giving it a slighter thicker touch that brings out soft vanilla and allows the soft lychee notes a bit more grip to work with. It is still a gentle beer, lager like it its dryness, with lightly tart and sour notes over that. Even with the aforementioned chalk and charring notes it is still gentle – no real rough edges here, which I will admit is an odd thing in a sour beer. Usually they are all prickly oddities and harsh but joyous notes.

There are light cider and light vinegar touches that would be harsher elements if they did not feel heavily watered down by the lightness of the rest of the beer. Now they are just slightly more acidic notes while gentle apple and pear notes are delivered over it.

Now warmed up it is reasonable – as mentioned a lightly sour touch over a dry lager feel with gentle tart fruit notes as the flavours. Sour beers are not a common entry in the low alcohol range, so for that I commend it – however recently Mikkeller did their low abv take on “Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse” and that set a new bar for low alcohol sour beers. So, while this is ok, dry, drinkable and refreshing it is not a patch on that low abv wonder.

Had cool this is very weak, with warmth it is ok but unexciting outside of its unusual place in the low alcohol drink range. So, ok, but with a lot of room to grow better.

Background: I tried this a short while ago, picked up from Beercraft, but did not do notes at the time. This time it was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I’ve been digging Big Drop’s low alcohol beers, especially their pale ale, and wanted to see how their sour did and how it has progressed since the first batch. Drunk on an otherwise non drinking night I put on one of Eels live albums – “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” while drinking – nice gentle tunes. Always like The Eels’ live stuff -each tour they play old songs in the style of their most recent album so it feels like a fresh experience each time.

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Deya: CGBW Export Stout (England: Foreign Stout: 7% ABV)

Visual: Black and still. Moderate creamy brown head.

Nose; Milky chocolate. Crushed cashew nuts. Cream. Ash smoke. Smooth. Mild smoked bacon. Milky coffee.

Body: Thick, slightly cloying sour cream character. Heavy. Creamy mouthfeel but not sweet. Milky. Muted cocoa dust. Slight chewy Reisen chocolate. Slight black-cherry. Honey late on. Vanilla fudge.

Finish: Sour cream and sour dough. Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Light chalk. Milky. Slight choc toffee. Soot. Nutty. Honey late on. Greenery,

Conclusion: This is a pretty savoury stout. Thick sour cream and sour dough feel, with a milky yet stodgy base underneath. Not what I expected from the aroma which was creamy and sweet mixing milky coffee and chocolate notes which are not representative of the chewy weight below.

Large mouthfeels do reveal some sweeter notes in the midst of the milky morass of the main body, but generally this is a bready, milky savoury thing that you feel you should come at with a knife and fork to enjoy. Really not sure what happened to the big cocoa character of the aroma.

Its ok but feels a bit staid – the milkiness is the biggest issue for me. It feels like an empty, neutral weight that doesn’t make room for the other flavours. It does open up a bit as time goes on though, I will admit, a honey sweetness and thickness that gives more grip to the smoke and cocoa notes that had problems finding purchase on your tongue before.

This, late on, addition does add a lot to the beer – still savoury led, it feels more open to exploration with bready, sweet, savoury and greenery notes coming out. Still can be a tad empty on some sips but generally good.

So, a slow starter but with good high points when it gets going. Not as stand out beer, mainly due to the weak start, but it does earn the time spent on it by the end.

Background:So, I listed this as being by Deya Brewing Co. Technically it is a collaberation with (deep breath) Gloucester Brewery, Prescott Ales, Hillside Brewery, Velvet Owl Brewing Co. and Favourite Beers for Cheltenham & Gloucester Beer Week 2018. That many names didn’t really fit on the line though so I went with Deya. Haven’t had a Foreign Stout for a bit so grabbed it from Independent Spirit – it is made with cocoa nibs, which is a fairly common occurrence these days. Also the profits go to the charity National Star, which is nice. Anyway, enough on that, heavy beer time, so heavy music time – went very retro with the self titled Slipknot album. Mock if you want as yes it is pantomime angry nu-metal, but I still enjoy it. Not everything needs to be a work of art. Sometimes you just want people in masks screaming over guitars.

Northern Monk: Slim Pickens: Patrons Project: 8.05: Raspberry and Honeydew Melon Kolsch Style Ale (England: Kolsch: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy yellow. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Medium white head.

Nose: Fresh raspberry. Fluffy hops. Vanilla. Melon. Slightly oily.

Body: Vanilla. Honey. Crisp and dry underneath. Hop oils. Mild tart raspberry. Fluffy hop feel.

Finish: Vanilla custard. Honey. Slight dry fluffy hop feel. Melon and watermelon. Hop oils. Fresh raspberry. Sour dough.

Conclusion: This definitely is more about the extra fruit flavours and less about the kolsch flavour characteristics, more using the kolsch style as a base for easy drinking style. It shows little of the moderate hop style or bitterness kick that I would expect from a kolsch. Which is fair enough, this is a bit experimental – I just needed to make sure I checked my expectations going in.

So, yeah it is honey sweet – and a I know honeydew melon was used in making this, but I don’t think it came from that, but more obvious is a gentle vanilla backbone. Though there is an extra thickness to the dry and very drinkable base that calls actual honey to mind – a nice extra character, mildly syrupy but smoothed by the beer. It is only a slight extra thickness but occasionally does work against the easy drinking nature of the beer. A trade off I guess, it isn’t bad at all, just slightly off being perfectly balanced.

Flavour-wise it rocks a tart raspberry character which helps offset that thicker sweetness – It is tasty and refreshing. The melon is less obvious but there are some clean flavours at the edges which seem to be it working its way in. So, a tasty beer and despite the few oily notes coming through still fairly drinkable.

The base kolsch shows itself mainly as a fluffy hop mouthfeel and light hop oils. The bitterness is low, the rest of the mouthfeel is dry – when it shows itself from below the other ingredients anyway. The hop feels adds a bit of an edge so it is not too syrupy, similarly the dryness helps put the brakes on the sweetness,keeping everything in proportion.

Overall a fairly simple, enjoyable easy drinking beer that doesn’t push its roots much but does use the extra ingredient very well. Not super polished, but it does the job for a beer in the sun. That I drank after summer ended.

Background: I have been seriously enjoying Northern Monk’s varied patrons projects – collaborations with a fairly unusual set of people compared to the standard brewers, so I tend to keep my eyes on the new ones. This one grabbed my eye due to being a Kolsch – an unusual style that doesn’t seem to get much craft beer experimentations. Kolsch is a beer made with ale yeast, but cold conditional like a lager usually creating a nicely hoppy and bitter but easy to drink beer. Slim Pickens make cider and mead and I’m guessing the idea of adding raspberry and honeydew melon to the beer was theirs. Vague also got involved – a magazine maker who I’m guessing were involved in the skateboard image for the label? I guess. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters. Something about modern politics is making me go heavy back into punk listening again. Can’t imagine what….

Bone Machine: Green Machine (England: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to brown clear body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white loose bubbled head that leaves suds (The photo is after I let the head go down a bit if you can believe it)

Nose: Bitter hops. Pepper. Pine cones. Wheat. Zesty lime.

Body: Zesty lime. Mild gherkins. Milky main body. Peppery base. Tart pineapple. Greenery. Moderate bitter hop character. Melon.

Finish: Mild gherkin. Lime. Wheaty. Earthy hop bitterness. Brown bread. Melon. Resinous. Mild peanut butter late on.

Conclusion: Ok, this is indeed a “Green Machine” as the beer is named. I will give it an A++ for honesty in naming. From the tart end of the spectrum it comes in with lime, gherkin and such, to the more savoury end where it comes in with greenery amongst the hop oils – this is a very green tasting beer. It is very tingly feeling as well, calling to very fresh hops resulting in prickles of zesty flavour stabbing into your tongue.

The base has a dry touch and an attenuated feel but they’ve put a milkiness under that so it avoids the harsh, over dry character that some APAs run into. While that is good it does mean that the malt load feels slightly generic here – it relies on the hops to do the heavy lifting.

The hops do good work though. They bring moderate bitterness that then grows into quite the peppery and earthy bite. Against that is a nice tart pineapple set of notes that back the varied green notes mentioned before – it all results in something fresh and very zesty.

Oh, a quick digression at this point – pour this bloody carefully and give it a lot of time to settle. This thing froths up very easily and will fill the entire glass with head if you are not careful.

Overall this is fresh, has good bitterness, well used tart and green fruit flavours that leads out into heavy earthy and peppery bitterness by the end. It could do with a rework of the malt if they were to make it the complete package, but its still decent as is. A mouth tingling zesty take on an APA that will awaken your mouth.

Background: This was a bit of a whimsy pick up – I liked the look of the beer, the name brought the Pixies song Bone Machine to mind, and it was from a new brewery, so I grabbed a can. Actually, looking back, I totally should have put the Pixies on while drinking. Ah well, missed opportunity. Had put on Bad Rebellion – Stranger than Fiction instead as that band is an old favourite of mine. Something familiar and welcoming for drinking music. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

First Chop: Salford Red (England: Speciality Grain 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel to red. Yellow-brown moderate bubbled head. Clear body.

Nose: Fresh cut wet grass. Pine cones. Malt chocolate. Fresh mint. Menthol. Peppermint. Oats.

Body: Very herbal. Sage. Mint. General greenery. Orange crème. Peppery.

Finish: Orange crème. Pepper. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Ok, this is absolutely nothing like I expected. This is really, really herbal – minty notes, sage notes, fresh with a peppery spark. I have to admit I was expecting a hoppy amber ale, so that completely blind-sided me. Silly me, no?

Anyway, after I got over my shock I started recognising the more beer like elements under the greenery – soft malt chocolate notes and a creamy orange touch, as the beer warms they become more evident – nothing complex but closer to the expected amber ale notes in the malt style. By the end the sweet orange cream notes especially have risen to the challenge.

Still, that feels like a backing for the most part – a base for the high, herbal notes to dance upon. Does it work? Kind of. The favours are tasty, savoury and it tastes like something I would definitely enjoy if it was poured over some lump of lightly cooked meat on a dish. As something I am drinking in a glass? I will admit it is taking some time for me to get used to it.

I enjoy it, but in small doses. The herb notes last a looooong time after you have finished sipping and as of such I can’t say I was lining up to break open another one after I finished the can, but I did appreciate it while it was there.

Another one of those for the interesting rather than great pile, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting.

Background: Another one where I was unsure where to list this – beeradvocate calls it an Irish Red, ratebeer a speciality grain, from the can I was going to call it an amber ale. In the end the grain influence seemed the most notable element so I went with that. Odd, as the reason I picked this up from Independent Spirit was that I hadn’t had a good amber ale in the while. Oh well, will keep hunting for something that expresses that style well. Also this is Gluten Free for those that affects. Anyway, first encounter with First Chop, went old school With Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape while drinking. Picking out great albums I haven’t listened to for a while.

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

Visual: Pale lager yellow-gold colour. Small white head. Only a small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Soft pineapple and lychee. Soft kiwi and lime. Moderate hop character and low bitterness. Vanilla. Fresh orange juice.

Body: Chalky. Soft lychee. Fizzy feel. Dry malt character. Moderate hops and bitterness.

Finish: Fizzy. Chalk. Lychee. Moderate hop prickle and charring.

Conclusion: This doesn’t stand chilling down well – a light cooling works ok, but any more than that and it can get a tad rough, empty and temperamental.

Ok, that is jumping in at the end, let’s wind things back a bit. The aroma on this is very nice indeed – soft fruit notes like falling apart lychee and pineapple chunks make up the core with a few gentle green and orange notes around the edges.

Of that the soft lychee is the main element that actually makes it through to the main body, and this brings us back to the start of the notes, as this is where the issue with chilling comes in. A tad too cool and it just feels chalky, fizzy and rough. The gentle flavours seem to need at least a little warmth to give them some grip.

Warmer it still has a rough touch, but it feels more like a hop bite than an off note, which lends a reasonable “beer” feel to this low alcohol drink. So, it is ok, not as good as the rest of the fantastic new wave of low alcohol beers that has come recently, but its gentler take on flavours is interesting. A lot of low alcohol beers go as big and booming as they can to compensate for the lack of abv body. Going for a gentle tart and citrus touched beer with a light hop bite is a commendable goal to go for to make something different.

It is not quite there yet. It is ok when warmer, but I hope they work with this one, as if they can master it, it will be a very welcome entry in the low alcohol range.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Healthy low alcohol drink day. Thankfully low alcohol beers are actually good these days, which makes life so much easier for beer fans like me. I’ve had a few bottles of Thornbridge’s low alcohol take but not really examined it, so after grabbing a few more bottled from Independent Spirit I decided to properly put it under the microscope. Put on The Germs for listening to while drinking – been a while since I’ve pulled out their stripped down, real DIY punk tracks for a listen.

Northern Monks: Amundsen: Monocromicon: Patrons Project 14.02 (England: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of coffee froth coloured brown head.

Nose: Light tart cherry. Milky coffee. Cocoa dust. Smooth. Cake sponge. Tofu.

Body: Tart cherry sour sweets. Tart black cherry. Condensed cream. Milky chocolate fondue. Tart apple sweets. Sweet grapes, both red and green. Chewy. Vanilla toffee. Plums and figs.

Finish: Tart apple sweets. Twigs. Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Tart cherry sour sweets. Slight bitter coffee. Milky.

Conclusion: This is interesting, I spoke in a previous set of notes about tart fruit notes in a beer making them feel slightly light, This has tart cherry sweets notes and tart apple sours notes a plenty, but the base beer is still hugely thick, creamy and sponge style chewy against that. It is a fight of flavours and feel that in the end comes out as a victory for the drinker.

What would be lightness in another beer comes across here as smoothness instead – while chewy and creamy the beer doesn’t feel super weighty because of that smoothing influence. At the base of the flavour is a bitter cocoa take on the imperial stout, a nice robust element so that the jelly sour sweet fruit notes aren’t sickly and artificial feeling due to a bit of bitterness behind them.

It is a wonderful worker of a beer, solid imperial stout bitter cocoa and slight coffee base, giving creamy and sweet thickness that then allows the unusual sour fruit sweet notes have a chance to work, and it is that little twist that makes the beer stand out.

The use of the sour fruit sweets character is great, it doesn’t overwhelm the imperial stout character, it just adds. The base imperial stout shows some dark fruit character already and it takes that and enhances it into a fresher, brighter style.

So, down side ? Well it may not be as heavy beer as some would like, as mentioned it is smoother rather than heavier, but it still packs some weight. That is about all I can call as possible criticism.

It is a great imperial stout, a different imperial stout and a superbly crafted imperial stout. It stands out even in the packed range of high quality imperial stouts as it is so different and yet still awesome. Grab it.

Background: Ok, I love the name, artwork, Death metal style logo and Necronomicon reference in this beer. It is also an imperial stout made with Cherry, Muscovado, cocoa and tonka beans. There was no way I was not buying this beer. It even comes with codes to listen to Nomasta metal tunes. Not heard of Nomasta before, but went to their band-camp page and had a listen while drinking. This was another one grabbed at Independent Spirit. It is also my second time drinking this beer, did it first time without notes and liked it so much I grabbed another can to do notes on.

Wiper and True: IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance IPA: Collaboration Series 14 (England: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown, with visible sediment bits floating within. Thin off white head.

Nose: Palma violets. Fresh blackcurrant. Lime cordial. Black-cherry jam. Cake sponge. Light hop character. Strawberry.

Body: Palma violets. Cake sponge. Blueberry. Blackcurrant cordial.

Finish: Lime cordial. Blackcurrant cordial. Cake sponge. Palma violets. Light earthy bitterness. Slight rocky to charring notes. Pepper. Sage and generally herbal.

Conclusion: This doesn’t feel super IPA like, it owes more to the special ingredients and seems to just use the IPA character as a dry drinkable base to work from, albeit with a bit of cake sponge weight from the malt load.

The blackcurrant is tart and gives a lovely, natural tasting, fruitiness but that tartness the fruit brings make the body feel a tad lighter with it. You do get a lot for that trade off though – the flavours are fresh, backed by light herbal notes for some range.

While it is a good set of flavours it does feel like the base beer could pull its weight a bit more as the berry character is very dominant. What I do like in though is a subtle palma violet sweets style character, an element that adds a kind of noble hop like character throughout the whole beer. Now I know violets were used to make this, but I’m fairly sure violets don’t taste like the sweets palma violets. I think. Amy which way I love this slightly odd, sweet note and what it adds to the beer.

I have to admit I would like a slightly brewed up, slightly higher abv version of this. Something to give a bigger body to contend with the thinning the blackcurrant brings – but, I am still enjoying this as it is. Slightly light but still a drinkably dry body, nice fruit tartness and light herbal complexity really works for the beer overall.

So, it could be improved on, made to be a great beer , but as is it is solid, different and still worth drinking.

Also IDLES fucking rock.

Background: So, Wiper and True are rock solid with their beers – love them, The Kernal of the south west in my opinion. Loved them for ages. IDLES, the band, I only found out about within the past few months but now love also – their new album that this beer is named after is a work of anger and emotional vulnerability that spits in the eye of toxic masculinity with a mix of the Clash and post hardcore punk. So yes I was going to buy this when I saw it at Independent Spirit. Anyway this is an IPA made with hibiscus, blackcurrant and violet. Ok, not what I expected – as you can probably see from the bottle they list IBU, hop choice, malt choice, all the info you need to know about the beer, which I always appreciate. So I put some Spice Girls on while drinking this…juuuust kidding, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, natch.

Unity: Quorum Brune (England: Belgian Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Brown/ Moderate brown bubbled head with lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cardamom. Black pepper. Chives. Paprika. Very spice led. Greenery.

Body: Cardamom. Malt chocolate. Menthol touch. Liquorice touch. Light chalk. Milk chocolate. Light yeastie character.

Finish: Mint leaves. Menthol. Malt chocolate. Chives. Milk chocolate and milky coffee. Some yeast character. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This opens up overwhelmingly dominated by the spice side of things and it isn’t a good look. The cardamom notes are interesting, but intense. Most interestingly they seem to interact with the rest of the beer to create a wider range of spice notes. However, as always I feel that spice should be an element of the beer, not the whole beer as this first appears.

Time helps it find its feet. It has a gentle malt chocolate to milk chocolate body with a light dash of Belgian yeast funk. The spice is still fairly heavy. But now more mint to sage in how it comes across. The balance is better, it is still heavy on the spice but the base beer shows itself reasonably.

As a beer it seems fairly simple – malt chocolate notes, yeast funk, a little coffee late on but not a huge amount. Much as I find the spice use too heavy done, the beer really relies on it to give it some range.

So, it is an average beer that uses unusual spice slightly excessively. I’m not hating it, at least after the first few moments, but it lacks both complexity and subtlety. It seems to lose a lot of the joy that comes from the Belgian Bruin and the spice can’t fill that hole.

Background: What to list this as, ratebeer lists it as a an Abbey Dubbel but it seems a tad too low abv for that and not quite in style. Untapped calls it Belgian Brown Ale, which seems closer – I’m going with a more generic Belgian Ale for now. Bit of a cop out but it fits. Anyway, I’m always interested in other countries re-interpretations of Belgian styles so decided to grab this from Independent Spirit and give it a go. This is made with Cardamom and cocoa nibs. Drank while listening to Sabaton – Attero Dominatus, been a while since I listened and music that includes songs about smashing Nazis is always good for the heart.

Northern Monk: Wylam: Moobing On Up (England: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy opaque apricot. Large loose white head.

Nose: Peach. Apricot. Peppermint and menthol. Mild bitter hops. Hop oils. Palma violets. Resin. Vanilla.

Body: Resinous. Creamy peach. Peach melba. Oily hops. Dried apricot. Peppermint. Menthol. Grapes. Cream. Prickly hops underneath. Blood orange. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard.

Finish: Hop oils, seeping dark bitterness. Resin. Heavy hop bitterness. Grapes. Menthol and peppermint. Blood orange. Charring. Gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: Ok, this is cloudy, is it a NEIPA? Or at least a Tripel IPA style of NEIPA? If so I may have to temporarily revise my opinion of the style.

From the first moments of pouring it is oozing peach and apricot notes as the aroma seeps out of the glass. There is a kind of menthol, peppermint note that I was intrigued by, but simultaneously I was worried that it would get wearing over time.

I shouldn’t have been worried – while the fresh fruit notes are accompanied by those menthol notes as we head into the body there is a lot else in there to contrast it – from cream to blood orange notes. It is very fresh and fruit up front, but it hints at resinous elements and hop oils already, elements that are going to play a much bigger part as time goes on.

The bright, creamy front sinks into resinous, oily hoppiness – a slow progress that assimilates and overwhelms the menthol notes. It lets them be interesting at the start, but moves them out of the way before they can overstay their welcome. It does keep the fruit, but builds up the oiliness, and bitterness slowly so you don’t notice until it takes the front and it is kicking your throat out. In a good way.

Then it allows the malt through, soft sweetness with toffee and such balancing the now “dank” oily hop character. In the last few moments rougher notes come in – charring and gunpowder tea – what would be off-putting if they had arrived earlier but gives just a final pep as the beer is heading out. This beer is lovely, intense and with a huge range.

It is such a fine beer, that if the bullshit tabloid articles were true, would definitely be worth getting moobs to drink (or … foobs? Hmm, that probably doesn’t work. i tried for not assuming all beer drinkers are blokes, anyway …) . I am very impressed. So much so I am tempted to imitate the can and throw an unironic dab. It is that good.

Background: I missed out on “I Like To Moob It, Moob It” – a beer taking the piss out of the ill researched articles in papers about hoppy beers giving you man boobs. It sold out damn fast, and seems to have bloody good rep. So when I saw this brewed up triple IPA version, hopped with Citra, Ella, Vic Secret, Enigma and Topaz I figured it was definitely worth a grab. Though I nearly made a mistake – with it being high abv I thought it would be ok to sit a short while before drinking, thankfully I overhead in Independent Spirit that it had a short three month best before, so managed to drink it before it went out of date. From past experience I figure the beer would be fine, but I always feel I should try and do notes while the beer is still in date, to be fair to it. Since it is the 20th anniversary this year, I put on Garbage v2.0 yet again. Bloody awesome album.

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