Tag Archive: Magic Rock


Fierce: Magic Rock: Black DIPA (Scotland: Black IIPA: 8.3% AHBV)

Visual: Black. Massive chocolate froth brown coloured frothy head that leaves suds.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Chocolate dust. Slight charcoal. Bitter coffee granules. Mocha. Good hop bitterness.

Body: Good bitterness. Bitter cocoa. Slightly creamy mouth feel and taste. Kiwi fruit. Chocolate. Mild choc orange. Bitter hop character. Chilli seeds, with slight heat. Slight pineapple.

Finish: Chocolate dust. Bitter cocoa and chocolate cake. Bitter hops. Peppery. Earthy and turmeric.

Conclusion: This claims on the can to have pine, citrus and tropical notes from the hops. Not the set of words I would have picked I have to admit.

On examination there are fresher hop notes that could justify those descriptors, but they generally just put a general fresher, slightly easier drinking feel to a heavy, hoppy bitter BIPA.

The Black IPA side is quite balanced between the stouty and IPA styled notes – showing solid chocolate and roasted notes, but the bitterness feels IPA like bitterness, backed by the slightly bitter chocolate, but definitely the hops are the main bitterness maker here. A lot of BIPAs end up feeling like just a more roasted bitter hopped stout, but, in fairness to the can’s description, the fresh notes makes this definitely a Black IPA, not just a hoppy stout.

However I would say that more than those fresh notes this emphasises instead the peppery, earthy, chilli seed heat character to make it more grounded and warming. It is less showy than say, to pick a random example and definitely not just picking my favourite BIPA, Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. This feels more like a British IPA, made into a BIPA and with just a few American hop influences showing.

There is some sweeter chocolate character to offset, some creamier notes, which are welcome against the grounded hops. It is slightly creamy in mouthfeel as well – slightly fresh in taste over that – but at its core it is bitter hops, bitter chocolate and an earthy, peppery touch.

Very solid, very well brewed. Could do with more of the lighter notes it claims, but still a solid grounded BIPA. I wish there were more BIPAs, but I am happy enough with this one.

Background: Black IPAs! I freaking love Black IPAs for all I complain about the nonsensical naming convention. They seem comparatively rare at the moment, so I grab a new one whenever I can. Haven’t seen Stone Brewing’s Sublimely Self Righteous ale this side of the pond for ages. Beer shops, importers, whoever, pretty please get it back in again. Anyway, yeah I grabbed this mainly because it is a Black IPA, helps that this is a collaboration with Magic Rock who are decent. Anyway, went with the Algorithm: Brute Force for music to back this – techo, electronic, mathcore, whatever the heck they are tunes to again help burn off some energy in covid lockdown.

Tiny Rebel: Magic Rock: Citra Session IPA (Wales: Session IPA: 4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach colour. Moderate creamy off white head.

Nose: Apples. Soft peach. Cream. Creamy strawberry touch. Soft pineapple. Custards. Some sugar dusting.

Body: Bready. Gritty bitterness. Egg plant. Apple. Dry cake sponge. Milky.

Finish: Cake sponge. Sugar dusting. Gritty bitter hops. Apple. Egg plant. Creamy. Unleavened bread. Pepper.

Conclusion: This … is so close to being a kind of ok session IPA. Yes that is intentional damning with faint praise. With the exception of Beavertown’s excellent Neck Oil I just don’t seem to get along with session IPAs. They’ve proven to just not be my kind of thing. Thing is, that one that I do enjoy means I keep trying new ones in the eternal hope that I will find another one I enjoy.

(Update: I have just looked at my old notes, and there are more session IPAs there I enjoyed than I initially remembered. The bad ones must just really stick in my mind)

Now, the aroma on this one is actually spot on – Peach, soft apples, slightly creamy with a gentle hop character. It promises a gentle yet fruity IPA, but at a low session abv. That lying fucking aroma.

The body is kind of milky, but despite that it generally suffers from the overly dry and gritty feel that seems to curse so many session IPAs. The hops here are robust, if – as mentioned- gritty, but the beer feels kind of hollow at the core. Where is that lovely fruit complexity that the aroma promised?

There are some hints – apple notes, creamy notes, but generally a peppery, dry, unleavened bread kind of character dominates. This comes up so many times I have to ask…is this deliberate? Is this actually how the style is supposed to taste and I just don’t like the style, as seriously it does nothing for me.

Anyway, another sub optimal session IPA that promises so much and fails to deliver.

Background: The third of Tiny Rebel’s collaboration beer pack for their seventh anniversary. On opening up the back I find that there is a huge picture to colour in with the provided crayons. Silly, but it made me smile. Seriously need some smiles in the current political climate is all I’m saying. Anyway, I’m not generally a fan of the session IPA style, so, yeah bias warning on this one. Not much else to add, grabbed from Independent Spirit. Put on Slipknot’s self titled album while drinking – I had recently found out the lyrics to “Get This” were absolutely nothing like what I had been thinking they were over years of listening to it, so they were back in my mind.

magic-rock-cigar-city-wayniac-ipa

Magic Rock: Cigar City: Wayniac IPA (England: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy browned apricot. Very large yellowed white head of creamy bubbles. Lots of sediment as you pour the last of the can.

Nose: Fluffy hops. Light bitterness. Peach and apricot. Slight cucumber? Something quite clean in there. Malt drinks.

Body: Good bitterness. Kiwi. Peach and apricot. Caramel and toffee. Peach syrup. Malt drinks. Good hop character. Tart grapes and accompanying fresh feel.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Caramel. Peach. Light charring. Slight gritty touch. Sour cream twist. Toffee. Malt drinks. Light grapes. Light custard.

Conclusion: So, lot of IPA styles around these days, and with the option of big hops and big malt sweetness, they decided to go all out and shove both of them way up. Not a unique take, but a nice easy way to sum up the general feel of this thing. The malt base is a bit more gritty than usual for an IPA, giving a tad odd feel – more heavy duty and less easy drinking than normal.

For that unusual texture you would hope to have some big flavours in return – as grittiness by itself isn’t that appealing. Not a good look, you know?

This does give a lot on exchange for the oddities of texture – while not initially that strongly noticeable, the extra texture does give grip that really pushes up the bitter punch of this beer by the end. The fruitiness is equally pushed up big – the heavy malt influence means that it is less fresh than it would otherwise feel – though there are hints of that left – instead it is thick, slightly dry fruit; There is a huge range of green and peachy styled fruits – heavy and thick flavours.

There is also a metric (not imperial) shitload of sediment in this beer. I only noticed late on, as I kept pouring to refill the glass. It doesn’t hurt the beer at all when you add it in, it tastes just the same, it just looks odd.

So, overall – feels a bit weird, and a heavy one to drink – but very big flavours are given in exchange. A quirky, and with slight off elements, drink – but has a lot to make up for the weaker points.

Background: Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this collaboration was done with Wayne from Cigar City while he was in the UK. (I presume they mean Wayne Wambles – the brewmaster, but the site only says Wayne). Loved Jai Alai IPA so I presume Cigar City know what they are doing on this style. This was a bit bigger than normal at a 500ml can – so plenty of time to form an opinion. Drink while listening to the album “Visions” from Grimes. Lovely bright indie electro pop stuff. I was tempted to listen to E-rocks cover of “Maniac” and sing along replacing “Manic” with “Wayniac”. But that would be a tad eccentric even for me.

Magic Rock Un-Human Cannonball

Magic Rock: Un-Human Cannonball (England: IIPA: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep hazy yellow over ripe banana to bruised peach. Thin white bubbled head and some carbonation.

Nose: Mango. Dry. Dried apricot. Dried banana.

Body: Hugely juicy, yet with dry undertones. Banana. Lychee. Peach in syrup. Hop oils. Thick. Low level hop oil bitterness. Toffee.

Finish: Very full of lychee. Resinous. Peach. Key lime. Tart white grapes. Pineapple. Hop oil bitterness slowly builds. Very long lasting.

Conclusion: Wow, the aroma on this in no way hints at how booming it is going to be. The aroma is quite muted, with some dry fruit – not bad, but very restrained. There is no hop bitterness or even, in general, any hop feel, just subtle fruitiness.

Then you take the first sip and – boom! There is still no real bitterness, or much traditional hop character, but the fruit level just explodes. At this point there isn’t even much evident from the malt base, just a slight hint of a drier character under the massive amount of fruit, but that is about it.

However, the fruit, wow. Lychee, lots of lychee. Peach. Key lime. Sweet syrup and tart notes mixing in delicious ways – the sweeter mid body leading out into the tarter notes that last long into the finish. And oh does that finish last, I can take an age between sips and still those fruit juice notes cling.

Warmth does let a slight toffee base show itself, but it isn’t really the thing this beer is about. The body feels attenuated just enough to let it slip out of the way, but still have just enough base to really let the fruity hops explode. The more traditional character builds up over time and it both gives the body a bit more grip and makes the finish last even longer – it builds up more in a hop oil fashion than a crisp hop character, and gives an oily bitter character.

With the thickness of texture and flavour it often feels like a stewed fruit IPA, yet it still has that aforementioned dryness, especially in the finish, so it doesn’t get sickly and cloying.

Frankly an excellent IPA – juicy yet dry backed – well made with big flavours without needed to be a bitter hop bomb. Excellent and distinctive. I am always nervous approaching massively hyped beers like this, as you can find an average beer buoyed up by its rep, or a good beer that feels like a let down compared to its reputation. This, however, is great and well worth trying to find.

Background: I nearly didn’t get to try this. I missed out on a chance to sample it last year, and this year the shops sold out before I could grab a bottle. Thankfully someone mentioned that Colonna and Hunter had it on tap. So I grabbed my review kit and ran over to grab it. Apparently the most expensive beer C&H have had on, and they had special 1/6th glasses for it. I went for a half, because if you have the chance, you might as well. I don’t do many “In the field” tasting notes these days, when I am out with friends I try to be more social, as the more extended notes I do these days take a while to do. This, however, was a special occasion.

unhuman cannonball notes

Magic Rock Salty Kiss

Magic Rock: Salty Kiss (England: Gose: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Some floating bits. White bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Shortbread and gooseberry.

Body: Fresh. Gooseberry. Lightly acidic. Lemon. Light salt. Vanilla sweetness. Apples.

Finish: Grapes and pineapple. Salt touch. Sulphur. Lime. Dry and slightly musty. Apples.

Conclusion: Simple – effective, but simple. This won’t win any awards for the widest range of taste sensations – Mainly light gooseberry, lightly salty, squeezed lime and vanilla. That is the main set, and frankly most of the set. The whole thing is delivered quite lightly – in fact when cool it felt watery at times, so I didn’t have high hopes that this was going to do well by me.

It actually holds up better than I expected – while never complex it gains more citrus notes, with the lemon coming through and the general feel building up nicely. It does feel kind of musty behind the tart front end – however overall it is refreshing and has just enough hint of it’s beer character because of those off notes. That mustiness and sulphur doesn’t quite work with the beer, but call to the more real ale style which actually helps make it feel like more than just salty fruit juice.

I still would find it hard to rave about it, but it is oddly compelling. The saltiness is done just enough to add an edge and really encourage further drinking, and the tart fruit is easy going and thirst quenching.

For from perfect, yet somehow I feel if I see it on tap I’ll probably grab a half to wake up the taste buds in the middle of a session – so it can’t be all bad.

Background: A gooseberry gose. Interesting – made with gooseberry, sea buckthorn and sea salt in collaboration with Kissmeyer Beer. I think I am starting to get a handle on the gose style, having had ones from the terrible salty water tasting, to the interesting to the genuinely excellent and fruity with salt backing. So, this, with its awesome canned artwork, was one to try. grabbed from Independent Spirit. A phrases I say a lot. Drunk while listening to some Carcass. I am quite the metal kick at the mo.

Siren Beavertown Magic Rock Rule Of Thirds

Siren: Magic Rock: Beavertown: Rule Of Thirds (England: IPA: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apricot. Thick white bubbled head. Cloudy centre.

Nose: Pineapple. Crushed biscuits. Resin. Kumquat. Dry mango. Lemon juice. Moderate hops prickle. Dried apricot.

Body: Big bitterness. Sharp pineapple. Grapefruit. Some toffee and digestives. Light gritty feel. Elderberry.

Finish: Pink grapefruit. Good hops. Digestives. Big bitterness. Pineapple. Elderberry.

Conclusion: Some IPAs wake you up with bitterness, this, instead goes straight to the tart citrus trip.

It never hides it, never even tries, as soon at the bottle cap pops off – bam – pineapple – sharp as can be. There is a ton of citrus fruit in the aroma – a huge mix, but when you go to the first sip, it is straight back to pineapple. Well pineapple and grapefruit. Even cold it has a nicely gripping texture, not thick so much, more something that really grabs the taste buds and lets the citrus shock and awaken.

It is interesting, as despite definitely being about the citrus shock, it actually has quite a big bitter character as well. Despite being big when you see it, you only actually find it every now and then. The main place is in the finish, though it is very obvious in your first few sips, before the citrus has really got a hold.

It is like it does have huge hops, but half the time it vanishes rapidly as soon as the tartness hits, meaning that you only notice it when you are paying attention.

The malt base, slightly toffeeish, also nigh vanishes for most of the time. It shows a few hints top and tail, almost just showing up so it can say its there.

The tartest IPA I have had for a while, and an impressive wave of what I would guess holds a chunk of NZ hops in its IPA action. One note, but it is one hell of a cool note.

Background: So, a mix of the three IPAs from their respective breweries. Pretty good breweries as well. So I grabbed a bottle from the rapidly diminishing pile at Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to Ulver: Shadows Of The Sun. Which I still hold is one of the most beautifully haunting albums ever.

Magic Stone Dog

Stone: Magic Rock: Brewdog: Magic Stone Dog (Scotland: Belgian Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Banana to gold. Small white bubbled dash of a head. Some carbonation. Hazier with the last of the bottle’s pour.

Nose: Orange peel. Light funky yeast. Soft lemon. Gingerbread. Passion fruit late on.

Body: Light prickle. Slightly sour grapes. Cheesy puffs yeastiness. Spritzy. Slight greenery hints. Dry passion fruit. Kiwi.

Finish: Cheese puffs. Spritzy first, then dry later. Coriander. Clean alcohol touch. White wine. Passion fruit. Turmeric.

Conclusion: I am 64% sure this should have a white wine barrel aged variant. Ok, admittedly that is barely above average certainty, but both white wine barrel ageing, and light beer barrel ageing can be a bit of a shot in the dark. For example Everyday Anarchy did not feel like it benefited much from the wood. However, here, this beer not only distinctly calls to its two inspirational elements, that of a rustic saison and a hoppy pale ale, but it also has distinct white wine like characteristics. I would just be intrigued to see what adding to that would do.

It is an interesting mix already, especially considering that my favorite saisons tend towards the hoppy end of the spectrum anyway. Here however it uses the hops differently, giving more soft fruit from the American hops, though often in a drier style than usual. The saison funkyness is gentle, the spice similarly so. It all gives just a gentle spice warmth and a slight earthiness, along with very small greenery notes.

The wine I mentioned before shows in a spritzy clean white wine like feel, and slight sour grapes mid body, fruity but tangy.

It’s odd, all the elements are eclectic, but blended together it feels very easy to drink, and yes is very gentle. It is hard to pin down exactly – it feels very fresh up front, very dried fruit on the tongue, but finishes earthy and spiced.

For what seems to be the craft beer definition of session (because I refuse to accept any beer over 4% abv comes under an actual definition of session beer) it is a lovely session saison style beer, the flavour just never gets old because of that progression it takes.

It doesn’t win my heart in the way that Dupont or Fantome‘s Saisons have, but its twists means it is its own distinctive thing. It feels like you can have it on its own, to complement food, it is an anytime beer. Which should not be taken literally. Don’t drink and drive for one REALLY OBVIOUS EXAMPLE! But generally it is a beer you can enjoy any time you have a beer, and that is a good thing to be.

Background: Belgian Ale is such a generic beer description. This is an attempt at a mix between a saison and a Pale Ale. The guy at the bar was absolutely raving about it just before I picked this up, so I had to work hard to manage expectations. Anyway, is it just me or is the label on this very restrained for a Brewdog beer? I think it may be part of their maturing image as of late. I guess it had to come, they are the big dog of the British craft scene these days, and the rebel look doesn’t quite fit as well when you are the big dog. Still, if it is the way they are going I will miss the insane over the top labels. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was drunk at Brewdog Bristol whilst waiting for mates to turn up.

Strongman

Magic Rock: Strongman (England: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Loose large bubbles make up a thin head.

Nose: Sherry and raisins. Pineapple. Dried apricot. Toffee. Custard. Gin. Light oak. Plums.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla slice. Fudge. Port. Caramel. Pumpkin and passion fruit. Plums. Peach. Spicy red wine – mulled spice. Cinnamon sticks. Malt loaf. Golden syrup.

Finish: Shortbread. Drying. Glacier cherries. Touch of grapefruit. Spicy red wine. Molasses. Gin air. Cinnamon. Custard.

Conclusion: Can a beer be too smooth? Because this is bloody smooth. Complex as all hell, but as indicated by the opening question, so smooth that every now and then the beer just seems to lose its grip and thus its delivery of flavours. You still have the flavour there, just, but it just seems to float evanescent just above the taste buds, like an angel unable to touch the earth as it walks.

Now that does sound like a remarkably critical opening, so let’s back up a moment. How much does this beer have going on within? Answer – lots. There is a serious amount of citrus fruit hop character, lots of malt sweetness with toffee and caramel, then darker fruit underneath, then finally spicy and wine aged influences of flavour. It is huge in flavour and they all mix brilliantly. The ultra smooth texture, which can be a flaw a times, also works so that all the flavours slip alongside each other, no element having to fight the others for its place.

Back on the flaws though, for a such smooth texture the beer does have a surprisingly high alcohol presence, a gin like alcohol air that crowds around the other elements. It is almost separate from the rest of the beer, and as such quite unwelcome.

Now, despite the beer advising it should be drunk chilled, warmer is distinctly better for this beer, both the weaker elements decrease noticeably when close to room temperature and better still the citrus aroma becomes more prominent. There are still elements of the flaws, but the extra grip when warm makes for a much bigger, if slightly less smooth, beer. It is a trade off, harsher feel in texture but better as a beer for flavour.

In the end, despite its flaws, the fact that it is such an amazingly complex fruity barley wine, with admittedly rough edges or smoothness issues depending on temperature, means that I can really enjoy it for the sheer amount of play it has. With the toffee elements I could swear it has been bourbon as well as Amontillado aged, despite knowing better.

A few loose elements, but good.

Background: This is the 2013 release of Strongman, aged in Amontillado casks. Magic rock initially didn’t impress me that much, but the more I have tried of theirs, the more they have earned my respect. This was picked up from Independent Spirit a few months back but I’ve only just got around to drinking it. Drunk with a friend to share the large and strong beer, this was drunk while listening to a bit of old school Faithless. For those of you who haven’t guessed, I am once again taking a break from the collab fest write ups, to share some other breweries reviews.

Magic Rock: Magic 8 Ball Chardonnay Barrel With Brett (England: Black IPA:  7% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small coffee head, mainly around the rim of the glass.

Nose: Very fresh grapefruit. Toffee. Lightly charred oak. Apricot. Grapes.

Body: Bitter. Hoppy as hell. Sweet peach. Juicy grape centre. Grapefruit. Caramel. Milky chocolate.

Finish: Charring. White grapes. Spicy rye. Bitterness and hops. White wine. Caramel and bitter chocolate.

Conclusion:  This beer arrived with perfect timing, being on tap just after I’d got some attention to the blog from a paper article on black IPAs. While I was still chipper about that I go to Brewdog and this little beauty is on.

It’s got all the bitterness you would expect and a lovely chocolate back. Despite the initial bitter assault that is beyond impressive you actually find the beer itself is smoothly textured. There is a really juicy fruitiness mid body, all grapes and peaches and you can really get your teeth into it. This makes a great balance between a beast of bitterness and a probably oak induced smoothness and easy to drink fruit juiciness.

Jonny at Brewdog Bristol advised that I grabbed this as my first beer of the session as it was nearing the end of the keg,. Normally I would go for lighter beers first, but I took his advice and thank him for it. I have never had a bad Black IPA yet, but the mix of fruit to bitterness makes this on stand out above the rest. It nestles nicely between the insanity of sublimely self righteous ale, and the easy drinking of Equity For Punks 2011. Not having tried the original magic 8 ball I can’t say how much was brought from the cask ageing but I suspect the grapes and freshness are it’s calling card.

BIPAs are good, this is great. Kicks you teeth in then gives you the flavour to make you forgive it.  Very nice

Background: I had to look up what Brett was. Turns out its that cool yeast used for a lot of lambics, sour ales, etc – full name Brettanomyces. Well that’s what  five minutes googling told me. It could mean something else entirely. This was found at Brewdog Bristol after their Magic Rock night and came highly recommended. So I drank it. Anything else would be rude.

Magic Rock: Cannonball IPA (England: IPA: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly bronzed gold. Good lemon grind coloured frothy head that is about half an inch of foam in size. There is visible but not heavy carbonation main body.

Nose: Resin. pine and grapefruit. Bitter hops mix with golden syrup cake.

Body: Solid malt with a huge hop oil bitterness. Lots of resin. Apricot. Fluffy wheat and hop texture. Pineapple. Slight dry white wine feel in a way. Touch of custard sweetness on large mouthfuls.

Finish: Resin, pine and fluffy hops. Significantly bitter. A very dry feel. Turmeric and hop oils again.

Conclusion:  This is a real stripped down hop delivery system IPA. A lot of American inspired IPA’s go the whole hog on the citrus route. This takes about one step in that direction then returns to the resin pine and hop flavours that make up its core.

It makes for a very dry drink, with only a dash of sweetness to go against it.  Id guess this has a solid but not excessive IBU, but the lack of contrasting sweetness makes it seem a lot more bitter than that.  Oddly the pine and resin influence gives it an almost woodland IPA feel. Maybe a lumberjack IPA. Is that a thing? It should be.

It does have a touch of sweetness, apricot style that it brings to the table, but that doesn’t disrupt the main flow very much. Id say that oddly the beer seems more bitter than hops if that makes sense. The bitterness seems detached from the usual hop characteristics that come with it.

Overall enjoyable if slightly earthy. Very stripped down, and down to earth. Competently made, and an interesting variant on the usual fare.  Slightly too simple to be wondrous though.

Background: I’ve been hearing a bit of buzz about the Magic Rock brewery recently, so when I saw this at Corks Of Cotham I thought it was worth picking up. I’m a huge IPA fan, though it is getting quite the crowded market these days.

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