Tag Archive: My Favourites


Lervig: Toasted Maple Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12 % ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dash of a grey head.

Nose: Liquorice. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla.

Body: Treacle. Marshmallow. Maple syrup. Very thick. Toasted teacakes. Vanilla. Light butterscotch. Fudge. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Maple syrup. Liquorice and blackcurrant hard sweets. Chocolate liqueur. Vanilla. Molasses. Light charring. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, between this and the Barley Wine I had recently Lervig are really wooing me back into the fold. Why did I ever doubt them?

I have to admit the first impressions weren’t in its favour. While it had lovely toasted notes in the aroma they were matched and quickly overcome by masses of liquorice. As I think has been established over the years, I don’t mind liquorice in moderation, but I think when it is overused it can ruin a beer.

So, I was nervous as I went in to take the first sip aaaandd – this thing is intense! It is thick as heck, frothy and syrupy, but just about manages to not do those elements to excess. There is a toasted teacake breadiness as just a hint under the thick maple syrup and treacle notes that make up the main stay with other, softer, notes coming out over time. The vanilla beans and smoothness makes it feel like a barrel aged beer, but without the loss of intensity and weight that ageing sometimes brings

The finish bring in the heaver contrasting notes. The liquorice comes back, tied now to blackcurrant notes in a hard sweet like fashion that keeps in manageable. There is a light charring and sweeter notes that slowly fade out into bitter cocoa. That bitterness is just what is needed to keep such a heavy sweet beer manageable.

This has a very distinctive feel – half way between toasted marshmallows and toasted teacakes in a super thick beer. It has a distinctive flavour as well with the maple syrup very evident while not being too dominant. It is distinctly rewarding with huge complexity and manages to feel barrel aged but without the drawbacks.

A great beer then.

Background: Grabbed this a while back – basically saw the words “toasted” and “maple syrup”, followed by “Imperial Stout”, and grabbed it. Since I grabbed it I started becoming less enamoured with Lervig, then back totally into them again. I have been very changeable recently. Anyway, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – not sure what is going on with the can image – looks kind of like what would happen if Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four burnt to death. Don’t think that was the intended imagery. Anyway, put on The Germs’ MIA compilation CD. Really stripped down punk that I got into after hearing they were an influence on Bad Religion. Pretty fun, if kind of rough sounding.

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Lervig: Barley Wine 2017 (Norway: Barley Wine: 12.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small grey-brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vanilla, liquorice and fudge. Caramelised brown sugar. Treacle. Almonds. Light strawberry.

Body: Light charring. Chocolate liqueur. Heat at the back of the throat. Chocolate toffee. Brown sugar. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallow. Vanilla fudge. Light strawberry. Black cherry. Quality bourbon undertones. Sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Sticky toffee pudding and treacle. Fudge. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallows. Charred touch. Bourbon.

Conclusion: Ok this smooth. Has big flavour. Has evident but not overpowering bourbon ageing influence. Huge and rewarding range if you hold the beer on your tongue. We have here an entry for the fuck-yes-this-is-how-you-make-a-barley-wine contest. They were only allowed one word for the name of the contest so they cheated by using hyphens.

So, this is deeply sweet with sticky toffee pudding, treacle and chocolate liqueur at the base. It somehow has those very sweet flavours restrained so as not to become sickly – as would be very easy to occur with a barley wine of this type and strength.

I think that some of that restraint is due to toasted teacake undertones – bready but still slightly sweet matching but also grounding the flavours. Similarly a toasted marshmallow character gives some sweetness against light burnt notes that segue nicely into the light charred character into the finish.

All of this delicious character and I’ve not even touched on the bourbon influence yet. Early on it just shows in how damn smooth the beer is, then comes out in vanilla and fudge notes, then finally it shows in its rawest form in smooth but present actual bourbon spirit flavours – coming out as subtle elements beneath the rest of the beer.

So what downsides does it have? Well, I’m not a huge fan of liquorice notes in beer, and this does use it heavily early on , but a) it actually isn’t used half bad here and b) the liquorice notes left before they started to wear on me. Shockingly they were actually used to add to, not detract from the beer.

So, that is the worst I have to say, this is a great beer. Buy it. Drink it.

Background: I’ve had a few Lervig beers over the past year – some have been awesome, some have been ok but not stand out. I was beginning to think I was mainly grabbing them for the odd names and labels. However enough have been good that I don’t regret grabbing them. Decided to grab this to see how they do with the non hoppy beer styles – especially as this one has spent 12 months in bourbon oak. Put on Jack Off Jill – Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers – a mix of melodic, screaming, anger and sorrow in a gothic punk style. Such an awesome album.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection: Port Cask (Ireland Single Malt Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep honeyed gold.

Nose: Brandy cream. Christmas pudding. Plums. Sweet red wine. Pencil shavings. Cake sponge. Water makes lighter and brings out almonds.

Body: Very smooth. Raisins and sultanas. Creamy toffee. Cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Dry port. Dry fudge. Light orange crème notes. Water adds sweet plums and slight grapes.

Finish: Creamy. Sultanas. Christmas pudding. Madeira cake. Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Malt chocolate. Light menthol touch. Orange crème notes. Slight coffee. Water adds plums.

Conclusion: This is very good indeed – it has that full, rich, port aged character, yet still manages to keep the smoothness of Bushmills, and even hints of the lighter Bushmills spirit character under the heavy dark fruit notes of the ageing. It makes for a dangerously drinkable, yet heavy flavoured mix.

Neat it is a tad closed in character, but it is still good – showing a range of raisins and sultanas character, leaning into heavy Christmas pudding notes. There is a light sponge backing and over time slight rye whisky like notes comes out with spice and light orange crème styling – these are however, just light backing notes.

Water is needed to really open it up – but only the slightest tough – this is a very easy whisky to flood and ruin. However, just a touch of water really opens it up into sweet plum notes and also lets the base Bushmills feel and light green fruit to come out to contrast the heavier flavours. More-so than neat it also becomes smoother and easier to drink.

What takes it from good, to great is the subtle heavier backing notes – starting at vanilla toffee and going into malt chocolate before ending with mild roasted coffee notes. It is a subtle weight that lets the dark fruit notes have hints of heavier backing without sacrificing the smooth and light core. The aroma also carries a lovely brandy cream note, but it doesn’t follow into the body so much.

My only disappointment with this is that it isn’t a touch higher abv – at 43-46% abv this would have has a bit more play and room to use water and that would have made it awesome – right now the water becomes too much, too quickly and doesn’t give you room to experiment. Some room to play would have made it so awesome. Still bloody good.

Background: Another hard effort trying to get hold of this one. I adored Bushmill’s 12 year Caribbean Rum cask finish many years ago and was sad to see it vanish – sadder still that Bushmills seemed to move away from unusual ageings completely for many years. Thus this Steamship collection was right up my alley – espeically since I loved their earlier Sherry edition. Both are travel exclusive so you can only find them in airport duty free areas. I saw this on the way out to China, but knew there was no way a bottle would survive my three week holiday and return home – so ever since then I have been trying to get it, to find that every duty free my mates and I hit was too small to have it in. In the end The Celtic Whiskey shop saved my hide as it looks like they got the chance to sell some of it. So I grabbed it. FINALLY! So, fully port aged Bushmills , that is a new one on me. Put on AFI, Burials while drinking this. Mainly because “I hope you suffer” is Jimmy Havoc’s entrance theme in wrestling. I am shallow.


Verhaeghe: Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium: Sour Red: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red. Cloudy. Thin grey head. Still.

Nose: Red wine. Sour. Sour red cherries. Tannins. Vinegar touch. Gummed brown paper.

Body: Sweet cherries and glacier cherry notes. Black cherries. Tart apples. Vinegar. Acidic dryness. Vinous red wine. Madeira.

Finish: Black cherry. Tart sour cherry sweets. Vinegar touch. Envelope gum. Light oak. Dessert wine. Strawberry.

Conclusion: I freaking love this beer. It is like some one took a Rodenbach Grand Cru, mixed it with sour red wine, added a hint of dessert wine to soften the edges just a touch, then filled it with varied cherries. In a way this actually does the concept of Rodenbach Alexander better than Rodenbach Alexander does.

Now, that said, it doesn’t have the almost holographic complexity built up from the layers of imagery that comes with the acidity of Rodenbach Grand Cru, nor the dedication to harsh edges those beers bring – but despite that it isn’t a beer to pull its punches. Under the sweet cherries and huge wodge of vinous notes there are vinegar and gummed brown paper notes that wouldn’t look out of place in the harsher Flemish reds and browns.

It has a lovely range of tart yet sweet fruit flavours with a dry acidity backing that accentuates the vinous feel. Under that is a hint, but only a hint, of oak. It feels like it deserves the term usually given to lambics – the wine of beers – red wine in this case. It balances between wine and beer brilliantly, between acidity and sweetness, fruit and gummy character.

One of the all time classic beers for me – unlike so many others that want to push the edge this one does not get lost in the pushing and remembers to be enjoyable and complex with that.

It you have not tried this one, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Background: I have had this beer many times, introduced family members to it in Belgium who loved it. Frankly I knew that, barring them having utterly messing up the recipe in recent months, that I was going to enjoy this before I started the notes. However, since I had not done notes on it, and I enjoy it so, I thought it would be cool to grab a bottle for tasting from Independent Spirit. This is a Flemish red that, last I checked, is aged on average 12 months. Put on a collection of Madness tunes while drinking this – they were probably the first band I got into many years ago and I still enjoy breaking them out every now and then for a bit of ska fun – much lighter and bouncier than my usual tunes.


Nomad: Saltpan Desert Gose (Australia: Gose: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice. Large white head over a hazy and still body.

Nose: Sulphur. Sour dough. Lime cordial to squeezed lime. Buttery shortbread. Straw. Flour. Butterscotch.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Lime. Buttery shortbread. Light salt. Light chalk note. Butterscotch.

Finish: Soft lime. Shortbread. Light salt. Key lime pie. Slight meringue. Flour. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: First up – yes I know butterscotch is generally considered to be an off note in beer, but here it is awesome, so I’m not complaining about that at all.

What this does right? – well for one it avoids the ultra salty, sweaty sock like interpretation of a gose which is fine by me. It instead goes for a softly sweet wheat interpretation that reminds me of the varied gose of Goslar. It has soft buttery shortbread, vanilla toffee and such notes (oh and butterscotch) that give a nice, but not heavy nor sickly, sweetness.

The sweetness is counterbalanced by a light lime character that gives just a slightly fresh character alongside a slight salt – showing the gose style without ramming it down your throat. While none of the flavours are heavy, it has what feels like a kind of lactose thickness – it is still easy to drink from the lime notes, but that extra grip just makes everything much more evident without being more intense.

Together, the light tartness makes it refreshing, the thickness gives it grip and the sweetness (again, including the butterscotch – I will defend it to the end!) makes it flavoursome and complex.

This is both a good call to the traditional gose, and good at adding in that lime twist. This is like a fresh, salted, lime covered piece of shortbread. On of the best gose I have had – easy to drink, yet full of flavour and grip. Lovely.

Background: I’ve been split on the gose style – a slightly sour wheat beer made with salt and spices. Some are awesome, some taste like sweaty socks. Having travelled to Goslar last year, I found that their interpretation was much more mellow than most other ones I had run into, being much more wheat beer like than most. Anyway, saw this – from a brewery in Australia I had not tried before, made with pink salt and desert limes, and I thought this might be one to my tastes. It was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Bayley and Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme songs on loop. No I did not get bored of them. They are awesome.

Tempest: Attack Of The Killer Crab (Scotland: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear body with many bits evident floating in it. Medium sized white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Thick hop character. Musty and slightly resinous hops. Lightly bready.

Body: Creamy mouthfeel. Cake sponge. Grapes. Good hop bitterness and hop oils. Peach. Dried apricot. Mango. Light hop prickle. Thick hop feel. Resinous. Caramel.

Finish: Kiwi. Good hop oils. Dried apricot. High bitterness. Lightly bready. White grapes. Resinous. Fudge.

Conclusion: Ooohh, a nice, bitter, oily, resinous double IPA matched with sweet fruit flavours. Sign me up! This is right in my wheelhouse. There is sweetness from the malt, but it is offered up twisted and spanked by the oily hops to create a bittersweet sensation. The malt provides more a creaminess and thick mouthfeel than anything else, so everything else in this beer really grips.

To go back a moment, this is visually an odd one – not cloudy like the New England IPA style, and it definitely doesn’t taste like that style, but it has lots of floating bits in it that gives it a very odd look to the eye. As you drink the bits swirl around the glass, catching and reflecting the light. I was temporarily worried I had grabbed a bad bottle until I sipped it and found out that – nope – it still tastes great.

When I say tastes great, I mean genuinely great – I like the … sigh ok I’ll call it “dank” hop character. I love the oily and resinous style with big bitterness, but it uses the creamy mouthfeel and sweet peach, kiwi and grapes to punch through making for great contrast. This is a beer that loves balance – everything is intense, but it doing that it creates a fragile true between the elements that lets everything work without having to compromise either side.

We are early in 2018 and we already have the first truly great beer. An old school fruity, USA style double IPA with extra resin and hop oils. Just what you need when you are beginning to think you are getting blasé to the style.

Background: Been a while since I had a tempest beer, and this one’s name and art caught my attention – so it seemed like one to grab. It was only after I bought it that I worried that it may actually contain crab. Thankfully the “Vegan Friendly” label on the side made me fairly sure there is no crab in this. Unless crab got redefined as a vegetable recently and no-one told me. Which is fairly unlikely. I think. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy album – “Will To Power” – which I’m presuming is a reference to the original Nietzsche not the dickhead Nazis who appropriated and misused it.

Deschutes: The Dissident: 2016 Reserve (USA: Sour Ale: 10.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy cherry red. Thin off white head. Still.

Nose: Massive cherries and black cherries. Smoke wisps. White chocolate. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Oak. Vanilla. Buttery shortbread. Sherry trifle. Bourbon.

Body: Figs. Cherries. Apple pie. Pears. Smooth. White chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Vanilla toffee. Malt chocolate. Bourbon.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Raisins. Sour red wine. Port. Light oak. Figs. Gummed brown paper. Tinned tropical fruits.

Conclusion: Ok, going to have to take some time to unpack this beer – first impressions are a big, very sweet beer, barley wine in style more than a sour red. Considering the abv a big beer is unsurprising, but the sweetness did take me a bit by surprise. There are big chewy cherry notes, port soaked raisins – lots of dark fruits and even an unusual smoke wisp acting a a lead in to the second big element of the beer – the oak influence. The oaken notes themselves are fairly low – instead it shows itself as white chocolate, toffee, vanilla and tinned tropical fruit notes similar to what I expect from bourbon aged whisky. Together they are very big, very chewy, very flavoursome, but stills feels like a big barrel aged barley wine. Good but not what I expected.

Time exposes what was previously missing elements – a mix of malt chocolate and gummed brown paper that gives hints of the Flemish brown base. Even here there is barely any sourness or tartness, just light backing notes that gives a slightly more vinous feel backing the sweet notes and an even more chewy character. While not heavily done that light tartness and distinct gumminess final makes it stand out from the barley wine it otherwise feels like. Late on you start getting those odd flavour mixes you would expect from a more sour, acidic, beer – soft green fruit starts coming out along with sour red wine notes – all the odd flavours, but without the harshness.

Here, it now has all the sweetness and big flavours, all smoothly delivered, but with that slight freshness so that each sip feels now with renewed decadence. It is so dangerously easy to drink for the abv, you can feel the abv hinted at in the flavours, but it is so smooth you don’t care. The oak aged Flemish bruin and barley wine mash up you never knew you wanted. Very impressive. A decadent dessert treat for yourself.

Background: Grabbed this a short while ago from Brewdog’s guest beer selection – I figured as a sour beer of high abv it was unlikely to go off so could save for when I wanted something big and good – getting back from the China trip seemed to deserve something like that to welcome me home. This is a sour Flemish style bruin made with cherries and with 40% of the beer aged in French oak. I think the ageing varies year by year so your experience may vary with future years’ releases. I’ve tried Deschutes a few times at Real Ale festivals, and some of their collabs, but this is the first time I have done notes and tried them in an environment where I have not ruined by tastebuds beforehand. Drunk while listening to a mix of cheery Jonathan Young tunes – mainly Ducktales and the Zootropolis tunes.

Heroes Beer: Cereusly +50DB IPA (Hong Kong: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Thin white head over a clear body.

Nose: Lemon. Gooseberry. Good hop character.

Body: Juicy. Kiwi. Solid bitterness. Hop oils. Big hop character. Vanilla toffee. Gooseberry and tart grapes. Lemongrass. Frothy mouthfeel. Bready middle.

Finish: Good, heavy bitterness and hop oils. Charring. Dried black tea to gunpowder tea. Lemon sherbet.

Conclusion: This, at the end of the trip, is the first big, utterly stand out beer I have tried. I make no secret for my love for big hops in an IPA and this has that in spades.

This opens up juicy and fruity, a slight pause of kiwi before hitting with the aggressive bitterness afterwards – The green fruit of the early moments quickly falls to bitterness, charring and gunpowder tea like notes which last a long time. Late body tart gooseberry and tart grapes comes out, a refreshing release of fresh character, before it descends back into bitterness and bitter tea in the finish. It is a roller coaster ride of peaks and troughs, throwing you between sensations and only slowly letting the vanilla toffee straights of the ride show through as moments to catch your breath.

It is raw edged, yet does not feel unpolished. An assault IPA that keeps you interested to the end. It even manages as much subtlety as such a raw, assault beer can, far more than the average beer this intense, which makes for a sense awakening but not single note beer.

The Jackhammer of Hong Kong, but, if I may say so – even more intense, and more complex. Hop heads in HK, check this one out – it is the one you are looking for. I seriously hope this gets a wider distribution so more people can enjoy it. It deserves it. A proper great, intense IPA.

Background: I hunted out the Kowloon Taproom to try some more Hong Kong craft beer, and it did not disappoint – all decorated up for Halloween, with the staff in costume. It is a fairly small place and filled up fast, but the staff were great, very friendly and so enthusiastic about their beer. Had a chance to chat with some patrons and tried a fair range of beer. Some seriously good stuff. This, promising to be a big IPA, caught my eyes instantly and so was the first beer of the night.

Garage Beer Co: Wild Beer Co: Snake Fear (Spain: IIPA: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very cloudy apricot with an off white heads. Looks bitty on the pour, which dispersers into the haze when settled.

Nose: Dried apricot. Resinous, sticky hops. Mashed banana. Light sulphur. Dried mango. Crusty white bread. Some bitterness. Traditional lemonade. Peach melba.

Body: Thick. Oily hop feel. Kumquat and purple peppers. Quite savoury early on. Dried mango. Mashed banana. Traditional lemonade. Custard. Peach melba. Bitterness rises over time.

Finish: Purple peppers. Oily, resinous hops. Moderate bitterness. Creamy lemon and lime. Light sour cream.

Conclusion: On first pur of this I sighed – seeing the cloudy pour I realised it was a New England take on the IPA style – so I was fairly sure I knew what I was in for. Another beer of low bitterness, lots of fruit, not bad but so very overused at the moment. That is what I was thought. Nope. Nothing like that at all. Bad pre-judging Alcohol Aphorist.

This is full of thick hop oils and resinous character – “Dank” as the “Hip kids” say these days. Or maybe just people younger than me anyway. Hopefully actual kids aren’t drinking double IPAs. Single IPAs are the way to go until you are over 18, as is well and right. Also I don’t think the hip kids say “Hip kids” any more.

Anyway, apart from my age related breakdown – this starts slightly one note with savoury kumquat styling backing the resinous hops. This develops into a quite the range of dried fruit notes along with lighter citrus touches. Everything still feels heavy though – carries a lot of weight and sticky hop feel.

The thing is, the New England interpretation isn’t entirely absent either – there is a creamy character, the obvious visual aspect and the fruit character becomes recognisable banana and peach over time as they rise from the depths.

To my eyes it is the best thing to come from the New England IPA craze – it is influenced by it, but not beholden to it – takes the heavy, sticky hopped side of IPAs and matches it to the creamy NEIPA character.

An impressive creation of flavour and weight. If can find it, definitely try it.

Background: Now there are two things I tend to grab – Wild Beer Co stuff, and stuff from countries I’ve tried few or no beers from. So a Spanish brewery, Wild Beer collab was a must have. Plus the whole metal duck can pic was cool, if nothing to do with snakes nor fear. Unless you are afraid of ducks. Ducks are vicious shits so I can understand that. The can got a bit dented when being brought home from Independent Spirit – I had put it in with the Rodenbach Alexander and the wire cage around the cork had dented the can. I’m fairly sure the contents were fine, but decided to drink it as quickly as possible- just in case. It’s a hard life. Drunk while listening to Crossfaith – Zion – awesome, but I’m still disappointed I’ve not found a way to buy their Omen cover in the UK.

De Cam: Wilde Bosbessen (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Very deep, cloudy black-cherry red. Moderate burgundy fizzy head.

Nose: Massive horse blankets. Some sulphur. Brown bread. Pungent dark berries. Oats. Black-cherry. Smoked cheese. Smoked meat.

Body: Acidic. Smoked salami. Blueberry. Apples to cider. Smoked cheese. Brown bread.

Finish: Black-cherry. Cider. White wine. Red cherries. Slight yogurt. Smoke. Gooseberry.

Conclusion: Where to start on this one? From the first moment you could sense the aroma sloughing off from the body and seeping over the edge of the glass. From the first moment I smelled this, I knew it was going to be something different.

A lot of fruit lambics seem to trade off some of the base lambic character when giving the fruit full rein – but this one overflows with huge horse-blankets character, sulphur and smoked cheese. The last one is what really made me pay attention. The beer really ramps up the funk and throughout the whole beer it delivered smoked meat and cheese notes amongst the more the common tarter cider apples like notes. It pushed this big wet hair meets brown bread aroma. Which again is something I say as a good thing despite how horrid those words may seem.

So, yeah that base brings funk and depth, but what about the berries? You may think that since I am concentrating on the smoke, meat and cheese that the funky character brings, that the berries are taking a back seat? Nope. There is a real deep, muggy, thick dark berry character here -working from sweeter blueberry, heavy black-cherry to slightly soured berry notes.

You end up with such a complex lambic as the two sides combine – so muggy, thick and musty – yet in a good way. It takes a mix of flavours that normally clash and mix them together for a complex beer, underlined with white wine like notes and dryness that make it all just that touch easier to drink and makes for a genius drink.

Great. Just amazing.

Background: A mildly odd, but not unheard of fruit for a lambic time this time – wild blueberries. After De Cam’s last different fruit choice worked out pretty well I decided it was worth giving this a go as well. 40KG of fruit is added per 100 litres of young lambic. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit – their new beer selection is going from strength to strength – I keep seeing beers I mean to pick up later, but by the next week there are more news arrivals I want. Drunk while listening to a mix of Mclusky and their spin off band Future Of The Left, after they were recommended to me – odd, energetic cool stuff. Will have to listen more.

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