Tag Archive: England

Hepworth: Pullman (England: Bitter: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Large mounded loose white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Lightly earthy and peppery. Orange skin. Perfume. Vanilla and cream. Cinnamon.

Body: Earthy, peppery bitterness. Lightly sour gummed brown paper. Creamy. Light creamy lime. Light creamy toffee. Subtle apple.

Finish: Earthy, peppery character. Gummed envelopes. Cream. Mild toffee. Very long lasting earthiness.

Conclusion: Well, this is definitely back in the earthier, peppery side of the best bitter. Oddly a style that I used to find dull due to overt exposure, but now seems like an interesting, intense burst in the midst of this wall to wall world of super fruity milkshake beers.

Weird how things change.

So, how does this do? Well it has a high level of dry, peppery bitterness which is the predominant front of the beer. There is a light touch of that sour, gummed brown paper feel that helps the drinkability in a lot of the well made best bitters, which is nice. Similarly it has a light, sweet, creaminess – a heavier note than the sour touch, but still nowhere near as predominant as the bitterness. It gives a subtle set of creamy fruit notes – very low and subtle, almost lost under the bitterness, but gives the slightest release from the earthy front.

It’s a decent balance – the sweeter cream is very understated but grows slightly throughout the beer so that the earthiness doesn’t get too harsh despite its heavy peppery and bitter kick.
It is a pretty well made beer, not world shaking but has enough variety to keep your attention during a pint. Not the best best bitter that I’ve had – but as something to have once in a while to revisit the earthy best bitter style, it is a welcome, well balanced bitter kick.

Background: Was up north visiting the family over Christmas again this year. As before they got in some beers for me. Many thanks. This best bitter was one of those. Not much else to add, you may notice things look a bit prettier in the background. Again, up north. I like the north. Anyway. Hope ye all had a good Christmas. Cheers.

Brass Castle: Kingdom Of The Sparkle Pony (England: Table Beer: 2.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale, just slightly hazy yellow coloured body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Massive white mounded head that leaves some suds.

Nose: Bubblegum. Cane sugar. Fresh brown bread. Crushed Blackpool rock. Fresh nan bread. Sugared orange sweets.

Body: Bubblegum. Yeasty feel. Candyfloss. Unleavened bread. Lime sweets. Sugared orange sweets.

Finish: Bubblegum. Soft banana sweets. Peppery. Brown bread. Candyfloss.

Conclusion: Darn it – I thought I had found my perfect beer when I heard the description for this. A moderate to low abv, so very sessionable. Candyfloss flavours and “Sparkle Pony” in the name. I was excited. Turns out it is ok, nothing special, and as you might expect it is a bit gimmicky. Darn it.

So, aye, it is ok. At its base it hs that drinkable, slightly bready and yeasty table beer style. Solid enough. It gets fairly lost under what comes next, but is still a solid table beer base.

Soooo, the candyfloss. Now I knew going I that the beer would be at least slightly gimmicky. It is a candyfloss beer for fecks sake, the question was how well was it going to pull off the gimmick? And this …. eh. It’s pretty bubble gummy – reminds me of Sorachi Ace hops in that way but without the additional lemongrass notes. Sweet in flavour, not syrupy, but a kind of dry sweetness that really lingers. It has varied sugared fruit notes that come out over time, but feels very, very artificial.

Which, ya know, candyfloss. What did I expect? I guess I was hoping it would be used with a more subtle touch. This is a very silly beer, kind of fun as any silly bit of fluff can be, but not really a good beer in that. It really emphasises the long lasting sweet notes, where a more present table beer character would have let the sweet notes sparkle more in comparison rather than wear out their welcome as they do here.

It is still a laugh. It does what it says on the tin, but is pretty flawed as a table beer as it doesn’t have any sessionable character, and suffers as anything else due to lack of depth. Ah well. A laugh, but a shallow one.

Background: Ok – I did not just grab this because it is called “Kingdom Of The Sparkle Pony”. Though that did help. Nor just because of that and the fact this is made with candyfloss. Which is ridiculous but also sounded kind of fun. It was also because of the can art, which was super cool. I am shallow. Yes we established that a long time ago. Anyway, this is a table beer made with candyfloss. Because of course. Didn’t want anything too heavy musically to go with this one, so listed to the Celeste: Farewell soundtrack. So much good music in that game and a perfect match for the beer. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Big Drop: Fyne Ales: Jam Session (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, lightly yellowed body. Thin white dash of a head. A small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Wholemeal bread. Fresh raspberry. Watery malt vinegar. Lightly chalky. Spritzy.

Body: Softly tart. Slightly fizzy feel. Chalk feel. Light tart raspberry. Watery. Slight watery malt vinegar. Yellow raspberry. Greenery.

Finish: Chalky. Cake sponge. Watery. Light raspberry. Lactose. Salty. Green fresh leaves.

Conclusion: This is, well, unusual. I would say that it doesn’t feel like it matches a gose, but since the explosion in new takes on the style over the past few years I really couldn’t say if it does or does not fall under one of them. It is just, a bit odd.

What it does is wear its many and varied ingredients on its sleeve. The watered malt vinegar sourness, the salt touch, acidic, lactose kind of thing. All stuff that gives a distinct mouthfeel despite a general wateriness, and does give a general base character that has a lot of the unusual notes you would associate with the more lactic goses. However as indicated the reason that it doesn’t feel much like a gose to me is that the main body is very watery and thin. All the ingredients have to work very hard against that to get across what gose feel it has.

The raspberry is surprising lightly used over that base – it gives reasonable tartness and some flavour, but not as dominant as you might expect. The raspberry is quite naturally done, but understated – it feels like a soft drink made with a few raspberries to give a bit of pep, but not much else.

It is ok, but feels very much like a non soda pop styled soft drink – one of those glass bottled small company soft drinks kind of things – rather than a beer. It even has that odd herbal note you get in a bunch of those drinks as they are made with a bunch of “Natural ingredients”. Similarly there is a chalk note that make it just slightly rough at the edges.

Its an ok drink, but not really refreshing, not really a good gose, not really impressive as a beer. It is just gently pleasing but not much else.

Ok, not really worth grabbing by itself, but ok as part of the four pack.

Background: Fourth and final of the low abv collaboration beer made by Big Drop to celebrate their 3rd anniversary. This one, a collaboration with Fyne Ales, is probably the most unusual – An attempt to reproduce the once nearly lost Germany gose style – but at 0.5% ABV. To do so they have a host of special ingredients in the brew – most notably raspberry flavouring, malt vinegar, sea salt, malic, tartaric, lactic and citric acid. I had to look up what some of those acids were. As before the four pack box was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Since we had one amazing and one good beer out of the batch so far (and admittedly one crap one) I was looking forwards to this. Music wise it was yet again time for Tool: Fear Inoculum. Such an amazing album.

Arbor: Faked Alaska (England: IPA: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark lemon to apricot. Large loose bubbled crisp head.

Nose: Vanilla custard. Crisp hops. Soft pineapple. Lightly peppery. Cut apple. Apricot. Vanilla fudge. Crushed melon Jolly Ranchers.

Body: Very thick. Melon jolly ranchers. Pineapple. Cut apple. Vanilla. Light hop character and bitterness. Bitty orange. Lemon.

Finish: Pineapple. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Low level hop character and bitterness. Orange. Melon. Lemon.

Conclusion: You know me, not a NEIPA super fan. This does have something though. Probably the super thick texture. There is a whole lot of grip to this beer, that gives even the restrained bitterness of the NEIPA a lot of staying power.

The sweetness is there, but reasonably restrained – giving a custard feeling mouthfeel but only moderate sweetness to match. Which is another element that makes the lowish bitterness work a lot harder than it would in another beer.

It is called a pudding IPA, but I’m not sure from this what dessert it is aiming for. I would guess baked Alaskan from the name, but I have never had one, and a quick google gives me a wide range of suggestions that I presume would taste nothing like this.

This is tart pineapple and lemon notes filled over soothing melon and apple, with low level hops and that super thick base.

Is that a Baked Alaskan? Maybe? Fucked if I know. Google seems to say no, but who trusts them?

This is super thick, tart hopped. Feels like an east coast style IPA, made super thick, but hoppped in a tarter take on a NEIPA style. It is pretty fun. Good tart hop usage in a way we don’t get enough of these days.

Good enough for me then, even if I may quibble on if this counts as an IPA after a few drinks are in me. It has enough hop bitterness and character that before that I would be happy to just accept it as a fun wee beer.

Background: Ok, a NEIPA, or as this puts it a Pudding IPA. I will admit the promise of a beer made with vanilla, and citra, el dorado and mosaic hops got me over my dislike of New England IPAs enough to give it a try. Not had an Arbor beer for a while – they were very solid back before the carft beer explosion, so should be interesting to see how they are doing these days. Another one from Independent Spirit. I went with Garbage: Strange Little Birds while drinking. Still not given that album as much listening time as I should so this was a nice chance to put it on again.

Big Drop: Salt: L’il IPL (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow to grain coloured body. Good sized off white bubbled head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Wheaty hop character. Peppery. Bitter. Crushed pepper seeds. Crisp. Lime. Lemon sherbet.

Body: Clean vanilla. Lemon sherbet. Crisp mouthfeel into fluffy later on. Moderate bitterness and hop character. Soft lime. Palma violets.

Finish: Peppery. Lemon sherbet. Good hop prickle. Slight hop oils. Quickly growing bitterness. Soft lime. Fluffy vanilla popcorn. Kiwi. Late on tannins and teabag notes come out.

Conclusion: Ok, this may actually have topped Big Drop’s Pale Ale as the go to for best low alcohol beer. It’s got a lovely clean lager feel, with none of the odd, chemical feeling notes that some low alcohol beers have.

The crisp, easy drinking style comes through with some soft palma violet notes that call to the hop use of the European lagers, and similarly a touch of hop oils with it. It makes for a fine base over which the heavier IPL hop weight is laid.

While this has a simple set of flavours from those heavier hops – a mix of lemon sherbet and lime notes are the most obvious fruity character – this light touch provides room for a solid hop feel and bitterness that prickles the tongue. It is lightly peppery in a way that adds to the urge to take another sip to deal with that hoppiness. Very drinkable.

In most lagers this hoppy encouragement to sip again would be as dangerous as it is enjoyable – but since this is 0.5% abv this is perfect to have as many as you want!

Now, late on there is a slight tannins and teabags like note that gives away the low abv, but generally this is a nigh perfect low alcohol IPL for session drinking.

This needs releasing as a stand alone beer right now.

Background: Third of the four low abv collaboration beers Big Drop did to celebrate their third anniversary. This India Pale Lager is a collaboration with Salt, who are epic at hop forward beers. Big Drop are epic at low abv beers so, yeah, I was excited for this one. The box of beers was grabbed at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Garbage – Bleed Like Me. Not their most famous album, but one I have a soft spot for.

Hackney: Evil Twin New York: Nightowls (England: Imperial Stout: 14% abv)

Visual: Black. Still. Large creamy, caramel brown head.

Nose: Creamy coffee. Fudge. Cashews and hazelnuts. Praline. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Very creamy and thick. Creamy coffee. Toffee. Vanilla yogurt. Mocha coffee. Hazelnut coffee.

Finish: Milky chocolate to chocolate milkshake. Creamy coffee. Chocolate mini rolls. Some alcohol feel in the air. Bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: This is 14% abv. Wait, what? Really? Ok, I should have guessed. It is super thick and that needs a good sized malt load, and accompanying abv, to manage. Beyond that, if you are looking for it, there is a distinct warming alcohol air to the finish. But generally it feels neither boozy nor burning.

The other hint was that my handwritten notes look like shit because I am drunk. That should have been a clue. I am such a lightweight.

The definition of the coffee flavour in this is exceptional. It is well rounded, showing of a huge range of subtle notes that can often be lost in a heavy beer and without going the uber bitter route of some coffee stouts. It is up there with Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel for the sheer clarity of the coffee notes. Beyond that the creamy coffee that is its mainstay it flirts with a more mocha influenced take and hazelnut coffee take as it mixes with the stout flavours. Now, in general it does lean towards the sweeter take on coffee, but I will admit I prefer that look in my beer over the very straight bitter coffee take.

The sweetness does have a counterbalance – oddly enough the main balance is a well developed chocolate set of notes. While some are sweet and milkshake style, there is a bitter cocoa dust underlying it that mixes with the more bitter end of the coffee notes to ground the huge, thick, sweet imperial stout.

Outside of the wonderfully expressed coffee I will admit it not the most wide ranging stout for flavours, but its wonderful use of the coffee more than makes up for that in my opinion.

A single minded base, with a few concessions, but huge and epic flavour. I utterly love it.

A genuine contender for Beer Geeks Brunch Weasels crown and a must get if you like coffee.

Background: Ok, I mainly grabbed this as it is a collaboration with Evil Twin, who are awesome. Even if it is the New York branch which did the disappointing GOAT beer. Anyway, this is a huge 14% abv imperial stout made with coffee. Ok, so coffee imperial stouts are far from an unusual thing these days, but I still had high hopes for it. Went with a bit of metal for background music – Shadow’s Fall : The War Within. Big music for a big beer. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Big Drop: Harbour: Going Swimmingly – Hibiscus Saison (England; Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold and clear body. Medium sized white head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Strong herbal character. Hibiscus. Slight stem ginger. Sage.

Body: Hibiscus. Slight ginger. Peppery. Slightly watery. Slight wood shavings. Slight fluffy popcorn. Vanilla.

Finish: Watery. Ginger. Hibiscus. Chinese stir fry. Wood shavings.

Conclusion: This is really spicy and herbal. Like REALLY herbal. The base beer has a fluffy feel, but is generally kind of watery and weak – not capturing the saison character too well.

It lacks anything to back the herbal notes, and because of that they utterly dominate, to the detriment of the beer. The hibiscus is super evident – it is gently peppery behind that – the main counter note is a kind of dry wood shaving notes that doesn’t exactly suit it.

It feels like drinking a jar of water that has been poured through a spice rack. I can’t enjoy it. The spice doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t feel beer like. It definitely doesn’t feel saison like. Even within the spice it doesn’t do anything that brings them together in a harmonious whole.

So, a real failure in my opinion. A rare one from Big Drop. I think this needs a complete rebuild from ground up if they intend to do any more saisons.

Background: The second of Big Drop’s third anniversary collaboration beers. This one, as the name may indicate is a saison made with hibiscus. Looking at the ingredient list it is also made with pink peppercorns, coriander seed, and juniper. So, a lot going into this one. Hops wise they went with my old friend, sorachi ace so I am hoping this will be an exciting beer. Anyway, as always Big Drop’s beers are 0.5% and so made for doing notes on an easy drinking day. Always good. I recently finished watching the utter soul breaking anime series that is Puella Magi Madoka Magica, so had a bunch of music from that as a background to my drinking. Because I obviously wanted a reminder of my soul being torn in two. People who have not watched the show may be googling it now, and on seeing the images, may think I am joking. I am not. That show is great and utterly gut wrenchingly draining to watch. Oh, also the beers were bought from Independent Spirit BTW.

Big Drop: Fourpure: Big River Black IPA (England; Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. A ruby touch to it if held to the light. Large mounded froth, beige coloured head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Malt chocolate drinks. Bourbon biscuits. Bitter coffee. Slight lactose.

Body: Bitter. Charring. Greenery. Malt chocolate. Roasted nuts. Doughnut dough. Bitter hops. Slightly gritty. Slight tannins and teabags. Bitter coffee.

Finish: Bitter cocoa dust. Bitter hop character. Slightly dusty. Teabags. Kiwi. Slight pineapple. Cigarette ash.

Conclusion: Ok, they did it – a decent, low alcohol Black IPA. Note I said decent, not great, but right now that is still seriously impressive.

Initially this suffered very heavily from the thinner texture you get with the low abv, but somehow it manages to build up over time to a decent tongue clinging bitter beer. Definitely better after the first few sips – so give it some time so it can get going.

When it has built up it pushes a lot of cocoa, bitter coffee and decent hops, instead of the bitter charring cling that you get on the first few sips. A definite improvement. Those early moments are a big part of why I say this is only decent, but when you get past that there is a lot to enjoy – if still not perfect.

This leans more towards the bitter stout like take on the BIPA style rather than the fruitier IPA with a chocolate base. Now I will admit I prefer it the other way around, but this still has some fruit showing through – predominantly in the finish where you get a slight fresh set of notes.

There is still that tannin and teabag style that I see in a lot of low abv beers, but here a lot of the roasted character helps offset that nicely. So, a decent BIPA, a remarkably impressive one for the abv. Could so with some tweaking, but generally an impressive take.

Background: It is Big Drop’s 3rd anniversary! So they released a box set of four collaboration beers. As always the beers are 0.5% abv or lower. I swear Big Drop are doing a solid chunk in keeping me from dying from alcohol poisoning. Good job! This, a collaboration with Fourpure, is a black IPA. Don’t think I’ve seen an alcohol free(ish) BIPA before. Should be fun. Went with Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues as music. One of those rare albums with not a bad track on it. The box was grabbed from Independent Spirit. They are a very common appearance here.

Left Handed Giant: Double Dot Matrix (England: Imperial Stout:8.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. A cream brown cm of a head.

Nose: Cherry. Black cherry. Crushed chocolate bourbon biscuits. Creamy.

Body: Cherry liqueur. Black-forest gateaux. Vanilla cream. Cocoa dust. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Fudge. Black-forest Gateaux. Red cherries. Cocoa. Crushed peanuts.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a black-forest gateaux stout. BOOM. Notes Done.

Ok, I have to do more. It’s in my contract. A contract which I wrote for myself. To myself. I hate me some times.

This is very smooth, slightly creamy which gives a nice weight to it. There are hints of booze, especially in the finish. Nothing harsh, nor that thick boozy feel, just a pleasant reminder to be careful when drinking this. It is very cocoa to creamy chocolate bourbon biscuit at the base. It would be a smooth, satisfying, if lacking range, stout even without the special ingredients – making a good base for the rest to work from.

Layered on that is a lot of vanilla cream, vanilla toffee and some fudge style that adds sweetness and thickness onto that, combining to make a very creamy beer indeed. The base bitter cocoa keeps the sweetness in check though, so it all works out very well.

So, the cherries then. Actually initially a lot of it comes across as red cherry to cherry liqueur notes, all bright and such rather than the black-cherries actually used. The black-cherries still do their work though as the brightness dies down, mixing with the bitter cocoa, cream and such to give ….

A black-forest gateaux stout. BOOM. Notes Done.

If you use that to loop back to the start now this could end up an infinite review.

Anyway, a smooth and creamy stout, with great black-cherry usage. This is a spot on imperial stout that is dominated but not totally overpowered by its special ingredient. So very good.

Background: So far I have not been overly taken with LHG hoppy beers, not that they are bad, just that they have not entranced me. So I decided to try this to experiment more with their malt led side. Dot Matrix was a milk stout collaboration made with Stillwater. This is a brewed up Imperial Stout take on that. The stout is made with Cacao nibs, vanilla, black cherry and dextrose. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I went with a mix of Gogol Bordello tracks for music while drinking this.

Salt: Track: Tramshed DDH IPA (England: IPA: 7% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy peach to lemon juice colour. An inch of yellow/white bubbly froth for a head.

Nose: Pineapple. Crisp hop character. Flour. Soft vanilla. Soft peach.

Body: Big peach. A flavour like a non sour gherkin. Tart grapes. Lightly oily hops. White bread. Prickly hops. Slight nettles. Slight vanilla custard.

Finish: Peach. Apricot. Slightly oily and resinous character. Fluffy hop character. Slight bitterness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Ohh, this is a good IPA. The cloudiness made me worried it was going into full NEIPA mode, and would have none of of the lovely hop character I crave, but, despite the fact it it wears the NEIPA style fruitiness it also has a very pleasant hop character which pushes it closer to the other IPA styles. IMHO anyway.

It is very juicy, with peach, tart grapes and an odd gherkin/pickle like note but without the sourness. Kind of hard to explain, but it is a nice, more savoury note against the huge sweet fruitiness. But again, fruit aside, what makes it work is that hop character. Crisp and clean in the aroma. Lightly oily and resinous in the body, into a fluffy style with present but muted bitterness in the finish.

So, maybe it is like a NEIPA in a few ways, but different enough in the ones that count to me. Fucked if I know which style it actually falls under – the style guidelines don’t exactly match either way. What it does match is the good hop character to sweet fruit, and just a light pineapple fresh character. There is so much fruit that it feels like it matches just enough old school IPA to a touch of what actually works in a NEIPA to the benefit of both styles. It has a slightly dry take that makes me think of West Coast IPAs, while using a touch of vanilla custard malt styling that makes me think East Coast.

Any which way it is a lovely mix up of an IPA. Deffo recommended.

Background: My first experience with Salt was a good one – they managed to put out an impressive Session IPA. A style I’m often not a big fan of, so when I got the chance to grab a full on IPA from they I decided to give it a go. I had a slightly hard time working out who the collaborator was – from the small icon on the can it looked like it said “TAACW”. Turns out it is track. Guess that font doesn’t handle being shrunk well. Don’t think I’ve tried anything from them before – though with over 2000 tasting notes these days I will admit I lose track some times. No pun intended. Went back to Tool: Fear Inoculum for drinking music. It is sooo good. This is another beer grabbed from Independent Spirit.

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