Tag Archive: England


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.

Lost and Grounded: Apophenia (England: Abbey Tripel: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to apricot. Thin white to off white head. Fast small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Buttery shortbread. Cane sugar. Light fluffy hop character. Toffee popcorn. Crushed orange hard sweets. Light crumbled brown bread.

Body: Sweet orange hard sweets. Palma violets. Custard. Crisp hops and moderate bitterness. Slight grape and kiwi. Slight sour green fruit tang and gherkin.

Finish: Orange hard sweets. Cane sugar. Moderate custard hops bitterness. Kiwi fruit. Slight gherkin. Buttery shortbread.

Conclusion: Ok, this works for me far more than the more highly reputed collaboration with Verdant and Cloudwater Belgian ale that they did. I think it is because this wears its Belgian roots far more openly.

While this is a tad smoother than your average Belgian tripel, it still has that raw cane sugar sweet edges and a great deal of sweet fruit esters. It differs in that it has a more defined hop character – the custard sweetness and light bitter hops mix in a way that actually calls to mind the excellent Saison Dupont, without losing the base tripel style. The hop use brings in more green fruit, but unlike most beers these days, it isn’t dominated by the hops so to hurt the benefits of the base style. Instead it just adds rounding notes that mix with the sweetness to give a real old fashioned sweet shop set of imagery.

Another twist is the buttery shortbread style it has, making for a thicker backing feel, yet also a subtle smoothness to the raw edges. Everything feels like it is respecting the style, but also expanding so not to be beholden to it.

Finally it adds a slightly more sour note – kind of in slight sour grapes to mild gherkin in expression, which brings a gentle twist to the middle and finish – its something that really offsets the sweetness, and is responsible for it never seeming sickly despite the cane sugar style. Since Tripels can be very high level sweetness this slight reining it gives it a lot of room to add more layers to it.

I’m genuinely impressed by this – new craft style hops being gently and not excessively used; A saison dupont influenced take on a tripel, and a bit more to boot. Just different enough, just respectful enough – a corker from Lost and Grounded.

Background: For some reason I always get the words Apophenia and Acedia mixed up – Well, I say for some reason – it’s because I first heard both those words because they were the names of History Of Gun’s albums. Which I used great self control and did not listed to while drinking these as a very obscure in joke to myself. Because I have self control. Instead I put on a bunch of different takes on the Mirrors Edge theme song – because I am still a massive geek. Anyway, grabbed this at Independent Spirit – they brought it to my attention as an example of L&G playing with Belgian yeast so thought I would give it a go.

Verdant: Cloudwater: Lost and Grounded – Loral and Ardi (England: Abbey Tripel: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy tropical fruit juice looking with a large, loose, bubbled, white head.

Nose: Peppery. Light hop character. Apricot. Slight smoke. Brown bread.

Body: Apricot. Banana. Light custard. Smoke. Bready bitterness. Yeastie. Puff crisp thickness. Peppery.

Finish: Smoked meat. Some bitterness. Crushed Blackpool rock. Pepper. Slight floral air. Palma violets. Mature cheese and cheese puffs. Dried apricot. Peach.

Conclusion: A very grounded beer for a Tripel this one. Well by the end it is. At the start it seemed like it was going to be another fruity hop explosion beer. Not a bad thing in general, but very overused at the moment and can make a lot of beer styles seem very similar, losing the wonderful range of the beer world. So, glad that it turns out to be something different going on here.

What gave me that impression, that it would be a IPA style hop fest is 1) That the cloudy colour really makes it look like the NEIPA style that is all the rage right now and 2) The fresh burst of apricot hops early on. Thankfully there is a lot more ot this beer than first impressions would suggest.

The peppery, Belgian character is there backed by that cheese puff crisps and mature cheese notes that I associate with the Belgian yeast. It gives a lot of weight to what initially seemed to be a simple beer.

Does it work? Well you get juicy hop fruitiness and some hop bitterness matched with the aforementioned Belgian characteristics laid across a custard sweet malt base. It is nice, but I have to admit, feels less than the sum of its parts. The hops and the yeastie notes kind of work, but also seem to create a slightly muggy centre below that. Not terrible, just the dried fruit and peppery character matched with the yeastie notes combine to make things a bit overly clinging in the middle, just slightly wearing.

So lots of good parts, not bad overall, but doesn’t quite mesh everything together to create something better than the individual elements.

Background: Took a while for me to find the name of this – it is tucked away on the side of the can. An odd promotional choice, maybe they were just really ashamed of the pun? Another beer where I was unsure on beer style to use – it pushes itself as a Tripel, which makes sense with the abv so that is the style I listed – however it is closer to a standard blond Belgian ale in a lot of ways, just heavier hopped. Anyway – this is made with Ardennes yeast and dry hopped with Lorcal, Simcoe and Centennial. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to a bit more of the varied sound that comes from Miracle Of Sound.

Odyssey: Left Handed Giant: Left Handed Zombie (England: Amber Ale: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronze to amber. Large loose bubbled beiged head.

Nose: Peach. Pineapple. Grapefruit. Sweet fruit syrup and fresh fruit tartness. White grapes. Peach Melba.

Body: Lightly brown bread. Peach Melba. Good bitterness and hop character. Pineapple. Slight sour dough and chives. Light charring. Rye crackers.

Finish: Brown bread. Solid hops and bitterness. Light black pepper that grows over time. Sulphur and smoke. Peppermint.

Conclusion: Ok first up – no this is not as good as the showstopper that is the big brother of this – Imperial Hop Zombie Blood. Then again, what is? This is a less clean feeling beer – it has more notes that call towards the heavier real ale style, with bready notes making it a solid drink, with sulphurous notes mid to late on. It feels like a mild concession to make a more sessionable, more standard drinking ale style out of an intense beer, without losing what made that enjoyable.

Now, where it is most like its big bro is in the big bitterness it brings,and the big flavours with that. It bring sweet peach and tart pineapple, mixed with white grapes which makes this a right mouthwatering mix. That is set against that very robust, grounded, bready and slightly sulphurous base. It is an interesting contrast and works better than you would imagine. A very traditional feeling base with the fruit punching right out of the gaps.

It is heavy, almost rye tasting in style with some peppery character, but the fresh notes manages to keep it from getting wearing.

It isn’t a shining wonder like its big brother, but it also doesn’t feel like it is aiming for that. Instead it feels like a new world hopped, rye best bitter that is also an amber ale. Solid, tasty and one to have regularly- rather than a lot of similar beers that are great one offs but not one to have regularly. Not exceptional, but it hits its spots brilliantly.

Background: I learned something with this one. Mainly relating to the word dank. People have started referring to great dank hops a lot recently. Which confused me – as well, dank is “Unpleasantly damp and cold” which is not really something I want from hops. However after hearing a few uses it seemed to relate to those thick, oily, sticky hops. Which makes sense now after a bit of googling as it seems it probably comes from cannabis references – good sticky and oily cannabis being called dank in relation to the original usage. Also explains why everyone calls good memes “Danke memes” as a joke these days. Though it does not explain why and when meme changed so much from its original meaning. Then again that is kind of appropriate giving its original definition. Was completely out of the loop on Danke. Probably cos I’m an old fart now. Also I use muggy hops for a similar, though different style so I can’t really get on my high horse about using imperfect words to try and communicate an experience. Anyway, loved Imperial Hop Zombie Blood – so since this seems to be linked to that I grabbed this as fast as a could when I saw it in Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to a bit of At The Drive in – seems they are making a bit of a comeback now which is cool.

Wild Beer Co: Tepache (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold with a small white head. No evident carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. Dried banana. Slight funky yeast. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry. Cinnamon. Fresh white bread.

Body: Tart and fresh. Pineapple. Lactose. Nan bread. Cinnamon. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Quite thick mouthfeel. Orange zest.

Finish: Slight smoke. Flour. Pineapple – in a juicy and a tart fashion. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Dried banana. Fresh white bread. Funky yeast. Slight cane sugar. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This is both very unlike most beers, even most wild yeast beers, and also a good show of why I am glad that Wild Beer keep doing their weird experiments – even if they don’t all pay off.

This is very fruit juice led, tart pineapple and grapefruit just bursting out; The texture though is much thicker than that tartness would make you expect. It has a much more traditional beery mouthfeel than most wild yeast beers, and it leads to a beery feel to a not very beery tasting beer. There is a very lactose thickness and it mixes with the sweeter flavours to make a yogurt dessert style second string of flavour. Sweet strawberry to cinnamon notes come out, with light, yeastie banana notes in there as well. These extra notes match the more beer like notes and held bridge the gape between them and the tarter flavours – in doing so it manages to avoid any dissidence between the two halves of the experience.

It builds up the more beer like notes over time – lots of funky yeast notes rising that take a heady yogurt and tart experience and turns it into a very good beer experience. It takes banana like hefeweizen characteristics, cane sugar like Belgian blond high notes, fruit that is too tart to even call to NZ hops, but instead fruit juice like pure flavour, all matched with Belgian Wit style spice use and a milk stout like mouthfeel. This is pretty much the most beer influenced non standard beer that a beer can be. At this point I am just seeing how many times I can say “beer” in a set of notes. A very unusual drink, a very good drink and one well worth trying.

Background: OK, this is another odd Wild Beer Co experiment- a beer made in the style of a Mexican drink that is fermented, but at very low alcohol – So they thought they would try a full on beer version of it. The original version is made from peel and rind of pineapples, piloncillo sugar and cinnamon. This is a beer that uses Mexican maize, wild yeast, cinnamon and cloves along with pineapple and lactose. While not all of their experiments work, I love that they do this weird stuff. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit again and drunk while listening to some excellent punk meets acoustic style tunes from Louise Distras. By the way, she is currently kickstarting to make a new album – so a signal boost – please check her out as I really want more music from her.

Downton: Pumpkin Ale (England: Spice/Vegetable/Herb: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy ripe banana to gold. Some sediment. Large mounded ice cream float looking off white head.

Nose: Pumpkin. Earthy hops. Cinnamon and coriander. Low but present bitterness.

Body: Earthy bitterness. Slightly peppery. Some pumpkin comes out if held. Greenery. Soft soil. Orange zest. Slight brown sugar.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy. Moderate bitterness. Paprika. Soil.

Conclusion: This is a fairly earthy beer, almost soil like at times. Not something I would generally associate with a pumpkin ale, but there you go. While pumpkin isn’t a super fragile flavour, it isn’t exactly a dominant one either. And here it really seems to suffer against the earthy bitter weight that this brings.

It is odd that the pumpkin gets such short shrift in the body as the aroma manages to push those notes very well – they just get lost very easily when you start sipping the beer itself. If you hold the beer on your tongue for a while it does start time come out, but basically you have to seriously dig to get the element to be anything but the lightest of notes.

So, as a pumpkin beer this is definitely a fail – but how does it do just as a beer in itself? Fairly dull; It is a soil dominated, earthy bitter – which, let’s face it, is a style that is hard to do in an interesting fashion – not impossible, just hard.

This is a bit dull, a bit leaden, a bit too much earth and too little pumpkin. As both a beer in itself and a pumpkin beer it is a let down. Avoid.

Background: This beer was kind gift from my work college Matt – Many thanks. He informed me that he had it for a while before giving me it, however looking at it the best before date is still way in the future so it should be ok. Then again,as a pumpkin ale I’m guessing this came out Halloween last year, so damn that must be a long best before date. I did wonder if this was the same recipe as their other Dial’s Pumpkin Beer but it did seem to taste very different despite the same abv. Anyway, in some act of insanity I bought the Afterbirth+ DLC for Binding Of Isaac in the latest steam sale. This was drunk after I finally managed to stop playing that stupidly addictive game. Why did I do it? WHYYYY? Anyway, drunk while listening to some Rob Zombie to keep in with the macabre atmosphere of playing that game!

Odyssey: The Cult (England: IPA: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot skin to brown – very dark for a New England IPA. Massive amount of darkened bubbled head.

Nose: Mashed banana. Crisp hops. Milky to creamy. Slightly bready.

Body: Good bitterness. Slight dill pickle and a prickly hop feel. Hop oils. Kiwi. Dried apricot. Muggy, thick hop centre. Slight sulphur. Slight toffee to caramel.

Finish: Dill pickle. Creamy notes. Kiwi. Good bitterness and hop character. Dry peach. Greenery. Bready. Sulphurous. Apples.

Conclusion: Whelp, this is pretty much unlike any other New England IPA I have encountered, which could explain why – in general – I quite like it. Man that sounds like I’m really hating on the NEIPA style – I’m not, I just think I haven’t quite found the one for me yet. Anyway…

From the New England side of the style we have the cloudy main body and with that an accompanying kind of milky character to the beer – generally smooth, but with a slightly rougher, wheaty styled gripping texture at times.

However unlike the generally low IBU NE beers that I have tried, this just shoves in ladles full of hop oils and thick, gripping, heavy and muggy hop bitterness. Which may be against style guidelines best I can tell – still as a bitterness fan I’m not going to complain too much.

This also tries for the big fruity character of the NEIPA style, though on the heavier and drier end of the scale; It uses kiwi, some sourness from a slight pickle like notes, dried apricot and peach. However while they are present they are always close to being subsumed by the oily, thick hop bitterness.

So, as I’ve said, I enjoyed it – for the most part – but it isn’t without flaws. The mugginess of the hops is up to an almost sulphurous level – which may add a bit of spice to the thing early on, but feels wearing and overly charred by the end. The huge oily hops end up overwhelming the other flavours and makes it a bit one note.

So, while I enjoyed it, most of the enjoyment was in the first half rather than the latter – it really could do with being a 330ml bottle at most – it feels too heavy going for more than that.

So – I did enjoy it, but it still isn’t selling me on the NEIPA style over the more traditional interpretations.

Background: Not been quite sold on the New England style of IPA yet, though I am getting a handle on what it is now after some beers and some research. Since Odyssey a) Do awesome IPAs and b) Did a Black New England IPA that was interesting, I thought I would give their standard NE IPA a try and see how it went. So I grabbed this from Independent Spirit, put some Svalbard on the playlist and sat down to see how things went.

Lost and Grounded: Running With Sceptres (England: Premium Lager: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Small bubbled carbonation. Large white mounded head.

Nose: Pineapple. Slight dill pickle. Crisp hops. Peach. Soft lemon sherbet. Slight hop oils and thicker hop character. Light toffee.

Body: Vanilla. Smooth. Good crisp bitterness. Soft peach. Palma violets and hop oils. Stewed apricot. Slightly dry. Slight strawberry yogurt undertones.

Finish: Buttery shortbread. Good bitterness and hop character. Hop oils. Light charring. Light sour grapes. Digestives.

Conclusion: This both is, and isn’t the beer I have been seeking for so long from my experience at BrizDram earlier this year. Yep, its open up the notes with a blatant contradiction time again. Give me a mo and I’ll explain.

From the fruity soft aroma I realised that this was the same lager that I enjoyed so much when I encountered it before – it has the same good hop bitterness and a gentle but aromatic mix of tart and sweet fruit. It is a wonderful welcome.

The body backs this up with a slightly thicker and creamier texture that your average lager, but still remaining a clean lager base under that with slight hop oils and a resolute bitterness against a fruitiness that is softer and lighter than the aroma promised. This lighter fruitiness and such is why I say it also isn’t quite the same beer as the one I tried before; Or more correctly, it is but had fresh as it can be on tap at the brewery it is – as you would expect – better. The fruitiness and flavour is just more evident and better.

Still, here it is still a good lager, using hopping well and balancing the traditional lager character with the craft style well. Basically the difference is that when had fresh at the brewery everything is turned up a notch – not to assault hopping levels, but everything is more evident and better defined.

I’m getting distracted – this is still worth trying, it carries just enough of the heavier, muggier hop character for some weight; Crisp hops used for drinkability. It brings hop flavour without forgetting that it needs the lager base. So, worth grabbing – however, if you are near the brewery when it is on – the definitely try it then, it is a whole different level of “yes!”

Background: I’ve been looking for a certain lager from Lost and Grounded for a while. During the Brizdram drinking event in Bristol, we visited the Lost and Grounded brewery and I had a brilliant lager, utterly brilliant. But I was drunk. And I forgot the name. So here we are now, with this beer grabbed from Independent Spirit. Let’s see how it does. This was drunk while listening to a random shuffle of Bad Religion tunes – hopefully seeing them live later this year, so was in the mood to listen to them.

Mill’s Brewing: Oliver’s Cider and Perry: Foxbic (England: Cider/Sour Ale: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apple juice – goes very cloudy on later pours. Large white mound of a head that quickly vanishes. Lots of small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Dry. Apples to cider. Vanilla. White grapes.

Body: Dry. Oaken. Fresh cut apples. Slight yeastie feel. Slight soft mushy apples. Apricot on later pours.

Finish: Tart grapes. Vanilla. Moderate oak. Moderate bitterness. Flour. Dry white wine. Fresh apples.

Conclusion: OK, I am moving outside my comfort zone by doing notes on this one, as it seems closer to the cider side of things than the beer side – albeit with some lambic style notes in there. Any which way, I’ll see what I can do.

It is on the very dry cider side, with only as little sweetness there in the middle. This then meets a white wine and oaken character akin to the drier lambics. So it is slightly tart, very dry but not especially sour, and has very little mouth puckering character considering the flavours.

Flavour-wise it mixes fresh cut solid apples with their softer, more mushy apple type. No I don’t know the names, unfortunately; My obsessiveness already has an outlet in beer and whisky so I don’t know all the apple names as well. There is also a vanilla sweetness to it that feels more beer than cider, one of the few sweet notes it uses.

It feels reasonable – if you handed me this and told me it was a cider I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise – thought with the heads up given, there is a kind of brett funky yeast character to it, and a slight beery thickness that cider doesn’t often have (in my limited experience).

It’s not one I would return to often, as cider is something I only have occasionally, but it does seem to do it well – a white wine to lambic feeling cider thing that is dry and fairly easy to drink.

Background: Ok, grabbed this one from Independent Spirit as it is, in my experience a unique one. Feel free to tell me if I am wrong on that one. It is a mix of brewing styles from beer and cider to create this – the closest thing to cider I have ever done notes on here. Lots of people ask me to do cider notes, but I’m not quite sure if I’ve got the knowledge or the language to do it justice. Anyway, this is made with the turbid mash method to make the wort in the style of a lambic, but the wort was fermented with Foxwhelp juice by cider lees in old oak barrels for eight months, then bottle condietioned for 8 more months. I had to google some of those terms. Drunk on a far too bloody hot day while listening to a relaxing mix of Ulver music

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