Tag Archive: My Favourites


Vault City: Strawberry Skies (Scotland: Fruit: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy, with a bright strawberry red colour. Short lived white dash of a head.

Nose: Very fresh strawberry to strawberry yogurt. Lightly tart. Fresh apples. Mild use of hibiscus. Fresh white grapes. Melon.

Body: Strawberry. Light cream. Lightly acidic. Melon and apple. Fresh white grapes. Mild herbal notes.

Finish: Lemon cream. Strawberry yogurt. Melon and apple. An air of light hibiscus. Light cream. Vanilla. Banana.

Conclusion: Hibiscus usage in a beer that I don’t hate! Wooo! Finally! I think the thing that makes it work here, where is so often doesn’t elsewhere, is that it is used as a gentle backing note. It adds spice to an otherwise sweet beer – it has a definite goal to its use and achieves that. It isn’t the main event. Everyone who is ever thinking about making a beer with Hibiscus in it, pay note please.

So, with that out of the way … Strawberries, eh?

There is such very clean and fresh strawberry style on the nose. The beer is bright red on the eye, giving a wonderful visual experience even before you get into drinking it. The first impressions for this are spot on.

Sipping brings a more balances experience. Strawberries over a gently acidic and sour base – the freshness comes across more like fresh grapes than a sour lambic. It is helped by a slightly creamy mouthfeel than makes for a thicker feel and sweetness than you would normally get in a sour. Added into that a lovely sweet melon and apple notes well expressed makes for something that is recognisable as a (just about) sour beer, but very much towards the fruitier side of things.

The finish is the biggest surprise. Fresh and sweet but with sweet vanilla and banana notes making this quite dessert like over the creamier touch.

Through it all it is a fresh thing. Those cut apple, grapes and melon all keeping it feeling just fresh enough not to be sickly. It is not a heavy element, but it sticks around as a fresh note as the strawberry fades away, keeping the beer feeling clean, with the (and yes we are back to this) hibiscus as a spicy grounding and underlying of the whole experience.

Fresh, just savoury enough, fantastic use of strawberry with dessert like thickness from the vanilla and higher abv. An utterly awesome fruit beer. If you like strawberry, and fruit in general – grab it.

Background: I like strawberries. Rarely seem to work well in a beer for some reason. So, when I saw this strawberry sour from a brewery I had not tried before, I shrugged my shoulders and figured “What the heck, I’ll take the risk. So here we are. Also, I note after buying it also uses hibiscus which I, so far, have not had good experiences with in beers, so this was more of a risk than I thought. Also includes vanilla, which I have only encountered in a few sours, but seems to be a positive when I do encounter it. Not much else to add. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the Rotten Citizens Vol 1 EP – a mix of nicely dark sounding electronic tracks.

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.

Daftmill: Summer Batch 2008 (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light gold. Fast, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Light. Limes. Sugar dusting to honey. Light menthol. Vanilla toffee. Light oak. Water adds light peppermint.

Body: Very smooth. Sugared orange. Vanilla custard. Creamy lime. Fudge. Smooth caramel. Shortbread. Water makes creamier and adds more toffee.

Finish: Sugar dusting. Pencil shavings. Vanilla fudge. Cake sponge. Water adds choc toffee and white chocolate.

Conclusion: I’ve mentioned before that I am not the hugest fan of lowland whisky. It is ok, and I have run into some good expressions, but it is not usually my first pick. Therefore this is a bit of a shock in that it is bloody lovely. So lovely that, after missing doing notes on it once, I hunted it out to try again and this time bring my notebook!

It is super smooth – the alcohol gently coming along with a bit of a menthol air, but generally it has that Irish influenced (I presume) triple distilled smooth character. What makes it different is that it has a good level of vanilla toffee and fudge sweet grip that makes it that tiny smidge thicker than a normal lowland.

It shows remarkable subtlety , with orange and lime soft fruit notes, and a bit more caramel grip that pops up at a few moments, again giving it just that touch more grip and thickness, all dusted down with a light sugar touch.

I can see why, even past its rarity, this is so prized. It isn’t auction flipper prices level good, but for standard prices it is an amazing lowland. Water brings out even more, with a heavier chocolate notes. Well I say heavier, it is still super smooth, but just again a touch heavier that the sugar dust front and vanilla touch thicker backing it has neat.

Unfortunately it seems the lowland I find I can whole heartedly recommend is the one that is hardest to find. Darn it! Smooth, just touch of sweet weight, graceful subtlety. Amazingly easy to drink, but so rewarding. I love it.

Background: So … people who follow my twitter (both of you) may remember I put up a post saying I had not done notes on this. So may be wondering how come these notes are here. I first ran into this at an Uber whisky tasting where I had not brought my notebook as I was just chilling that night. It was amazing. I then found out that The Hideout had a bottle of it in. So I had to run over to do full notes on it. See. Easy. Until the uber whisky tasting I had not even heard of this distillery – it is a comparatively new one, and does an absolutely miniscule output each year. Web sites crash as people try to get hold of bottles, so I am spoiled to have had multiple chances to try it. This was bottled 2019, from being distilled 2008. Not much else to add. The Hideout is awesome.


Bokkereyer (Aka Methode Goat): Framboos Vanille 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Bright cherry red, with only a thin white rim of bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Very fresh and very natural smelling raspberries. Toffee and vanilla notes. Soft strawberries. Cream.

Body: Soft mouthfeel. Tart apples. Creamy raspberries. Very fresh and distinctly natural raspberry. Slightly dry. Peach.

Finish: Fruity fresh raspberries. Vanilla. Cream. Tart apples. Very clean. Peach notes. Grapes. Mild tannins. Oak. Oats.

Conclusion: OK, wow, the is fruity. Now that should not be a shock, ir is a Framboos – a raspberry lambic – but I have found that while a lot of Framboos have that tart raspberry character, they often loose a lot of the fresher and sweeter elements of the fruit. None I have encountered have had quite such a full on expression of the full range of the fruit as this has.

It is fresh, mouth-filling and tart, and really expresses the flavours. I think it may be because of the vanilla beans adding a sweetness and creaminess that not just restores oft lost elements of the raspberry, but also works well against the tart apple notes of the lambic base. It makes for something very easy to drink and rich in flavour. From somewhere peach notes come out, combining with the raspberry and creamy to make this almost like a peach melba lambic, and that is just exceptional. (Note: Yes I did double check this isn’t one of the lambics they had that actually had peach in). It keeps the tart flavours, but none of the heavier horse blanket notes you see with a lot of lambics. A touch of tannins, but that is it. A very different and smooth take.

The main call to a more traditional lambic base is in the finish – here it is dry, with some oats, oak and such like. It gives a more recognisable beer and lambic character to something that is a bit away from a traditional take on the style, underlining it and emphasising everything that came before by its contrast.

Wonderfully fresh, fruity but without being fruit juice like. The tart lambic is restrained but still unmistakable – this is possible my favourite of the Framboos I have encountered. The vanilla smooths the edges but does not diminish the quality or complexity.

An exceptional beer.

Background: This is a mix of one, two an three year old lambic with a mix of three types of raspberry and made with Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and bottled January 2019. Before this I had just known Bokkereyer by reputation of quality and their rarity, so reading those words gave me an idea of why this tiny brewery was making such a fuss. There were six different bottles available to try at the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival at the Moor Tap Room, and I quickly decided this one was one I wanted to try. I say Bokkereyer, as that was how they were listed, but a quick google tells me the brewery has changed its name to Methode Goat, though I can’t find why. I’m guessing a big brewer and a trademark court case threat. Anyway, was super excited to try this at the end of the festival, and had tried to pace myself so I could try to do it justice in the notes.

Red Breast: Lustra Edition (Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold with fast, thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Brandy cream. Rich sherry. Pencil shavings. Warming alcohol. Brandy snaps. Honey. Spirit soaked raisins. Water makes lighter and citrus touched. Lime notes.

Body: Smooth, but warming. Honey and toffee. Sugared orange sweets. Madeira cake. Brandy cream. Custard slices. Spicy sherry. Fig rolls. Sweet chocolate liqueur. Water adds soft lime, soft orange and lot of caramel.

Finish: Fudge. Spicy sherry. Madeira cake. Slight chocolate. Slight oak. Orange jelly sweets. Choc toffee. Spirit soaked raisins. Water makes much more chocolate and choc orange and brings out honey.

Conclusion: This is smooth, but so big! So sweet, but with spicy sherry keeping it grounded. It has so much of the Irish pot still whiskey mouthfeel evident, that lovely smooth but robust character, here expressed in a richer and fuller way than I have previously seen for a Red Breast.

Neat it is full of different spirity notes – brandy cream mixed with honey, and the time in a Oloroso sherry cask has given it lots of sweet and spicy sherry notes here. It very full on for such a smooth dram. Here, taken neat, I love it. Such a rewarding spirit flavour, with (again spirit soaked) dark fruit notes that feel like they belong to a heavier whiskey but are delivered so smooth,

With a touch of water this becomes even creamier – full of caramel and fudge notes. The honey notes that existed in the neat whiskey now is accompanied by a host of sweet notes to fight against the spirity character. Like this I love it! Smooth as silk, matching big sweetness and creaminess with everything that came before, just mellowed out. So very rewarding.

More water makes it lighter, allowing some of the more traditional Irish whiskey elements to come through – most notable some light and smooth citrus notes. Now all the elements are toned down for an easy drinking citrus, but still chocolate and sherry touched thing. Gentle orange notes mix in to bring out choc orange joy late on. So, yes, like this I love it.

Such a good whiskey all the way through. I recommend it without hesitation.

Background: Ok, first up – the background of the box describes this as having an “Endless” finish. I have tested this empirically and the finish has, as you may have guessed, ended. The lying toerags. Anyway, that aside, this is a version of the single pot still whiskey that has spent time in American and European oak before being moved into Lustra’s first fill Olorosso sherry casks. Been enjoying revisiting Red Breast recently so this very much caught my attention when I saw it in Independent Spirit. Was fairly warm again when I was drinking this. I hate the heat, so had fans on all around trying to keep the air moving. Went with Getter – Visceral for music while drinking.

Lervig: Infinite Timelines (Norway: IPA: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy yellow. Large white head that mounds up. Moderate small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Creamy. Peach. Slight hop oils. Slight rye crackers. Slight pepper spice. Pumpkin. Lemon cakes.

Body: Mild lemon curd. Middling bitterness and hop character. Moderate hop prickle. Creamy pineapple yogurt. Banana milkshake. Hop oils.

Finish: Good hop character. Custard sweetness and good bitterness. White grapes. Slight pink grapefruit. Banana. Tangerine. Mild oily notes.

Conclusion: This beer has made me ask, what even is a NEIPA these days? I ask, not just because I didn’t realise this was a NEIPA when I bought it, and now I am really enjoying it, so obviously I need to mentally work out a way it is not a New England IPA so I can happily drink it while keeping up my anti NEIPA snobbery – No, there are other reasons as well! I’m just wondering where exactly the line is between a New England IPA, and all the other takes, as, well this is pretty atypical. Also awesome, maybe for me because it is atypical.

It probably doesn’t really matter. Style guidelines are just that, guidelines, a way for us to have a rough idea what it is we are getting, not some straitjacket of execution. It will still bug me. Because I am silly. Hey, at least I’m honest. On this matter at least.

The main thing that made me think about this is how it hits the eyes. It is slightly hazy, but nowhere near as cloudy as usual. I have to admit I thought that was one of the defining elements of the style, so I was already a tad confused here.

Similarly it ha a decent hop character in a way that I thought it was traditional for NEIPAS to shun – Slight hop oils, good hop prickle and middling bitterness. It feels generally like a bit smoother than normal IPA, if I had to pin down I would say closer to East Coast than any other take but not really matching any given definition – just a really good IPA. Nicely oily, but not heavy or “dank”, just definitely happy to use that part of the character.

Maybe it is the fruitiness that makes it a NEIPA. This is a super fruity mix – tangerine, pineapple, peach, lemon curd – lots of different notes that are delivered very cleanly so they come across as the fruit itself rather than a hop approximation of the fruit. There is some hop influence in the flavours, but if I had to compare them to anything I would say milkshake like. In fact, while not dominated by it, I would still say that this is a better milkshake IPA than 90% of the self named milkshake IPAs that I have encountered. A sweet banana malt base is the main part of it, and it helps everything else just slip down.

This therefore feels like it is not limited to any one particular IPA take, and I think that is why I love it. It takes the best from so many IPA takes and makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Lovely fruity, creamy and hoppy beer. Such a good IPA.

Background: This was a pretty random grab. Saw it at Independent Spirit, thought that Lervig beers had been pretty good to me so far, so picked it up. So as mentioned in the notes, I didn’t notice this was a NEIPA, one of my less preferred takes on the IPA style. It is made with rye and oats as well as the usual malt barley and hopped with Mosaic, and two I don’t know – Denali and Idaho 7. Went with a bit of Mclusky for some awesome, heavy but weird music to back it up.

Big Drop: Citra Four Hop Special Edition Pale Ale (England: Low alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Thin off white bubbled head.

Nose: Peach. Fresh cut apple. Cake sponge. Lime. Lemon sorbet. Very fresh. Light raspberry pavlova.

Body: Soft lime. Grapes. Slight chalk. Low to moderate hop character and bitterness. Slight peach. Tannins.

Finish: Chalk touch. Good hop bitterness and character. Soft lime. Cake sponge. Lemon cake. Apple. Dried banana. Tannins.

Conclusion: First up, the aroma on this is great. Lots of soft, fruity hop action. It is gentle, but lively in flavour. Here the beer is significantly different from the original Big Drop Pale Ale and all the better for it.

The body is more similar to its parent brew, still showing cake sponge, still a good use of hop character and soft lime notes. If you have been looking at the notes above you would probably expect me to say there is more difference than there actually is. The thing is there definitely are a range of different notes, it is just that they are not consistent, just occasional , pleasant, hiccups of flavour that pop in and out throughout the beer.

Now, the base, standard Big Drop Pale ale is one of my favourite ever low alcohol beers – this has a far better aroma, and a just slightly better body. So, of course, I love it. Again it feels like a very good beer, not just a good low alcohol beer – only some light tannin notes give away the low abv character.

So, yeah, if you get a chance to grab it this is an awesome low abv beer of character. If you can’t find it, the standard Big Drop Pale Ale is still flipping great and this isn’t so big a difference that you must hunt it out for this.

Still a nice twist on a a still awesome beer.

Background: I adore Big Drop’s Pale Ale. It is still possibly my favourite low alcohol beer, which has been getting to be an actual hard fought category over the past year, which I admit is something I never thought I would say. This is a limited version of the beer which I spotted at Beercraft. I don’t use them that much as they can be a tad expensive, but their low alcohol selection at the moment is fantastic. I put on Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues while drinking- still an utterly fantastic album.

Ardbeg: Drum – Committee Release (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Very clear and light. Mix of fast and slow medium sized streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy peat. Lightly waxy. Slight salt. Waxed fruit. Slight sugar cane. Fresh brown bread. Ripe banana. Banana leaves. Water adds nail polish and dried meat.

Body: Banana. Oily. Oily peat. Caramelised sugar. Rum. Palma violets. Water adds banana yogurt. Peat. Grapes.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Molasses. Cherries. Rum. Peat. Banana and banana leaves. Waxy. Pear drops. Banana custard. Fatty sausage.

Conclusion: This feels like the most unexpected of experiences for me. It is a tropical tasting Ardbeg. It comes in with such a punch of a peaty aroma, but then drops you into smooth (and yes still peat influenced) perfection behind. It punches peat out, punches out waxy and heavy, burnt brown sugar and oily notes. It feels initially like it is going to be one to punch your teeth out.

On that first sip instead it comes in with subtle waxy, oily notes below the peaty weight, and leaves a touch of room which is nigh instantly filled by the rum coming in. It floods in with spicy and dry notes backed by lots of burnt, caramelised brown sugar and even molasses like notes.

More than that, what makes this seem so utterly different is that it has so much banana character added into this – waxy banana, mashed banana, banana yogurt, banana custard. Lots of banana notes really selling the tropical imagery and working so well against the spicier rum notes. Very sweet, always present behind the oily, peaty character.

Heavy peat, heavy sweet, thick waxy mouthfeel, meaty weight. It has full Ardbeg weight but is so sweet, rum touched and vibrant behind that. This is a legend, so polished, weighing the Ardbeg character but unlike any Ardbeg I have tried before.

It is something I never expected – a dessert meets Ardbeg peat whisky. It is both different and amazing, If you get the chance, and it is not silly money, try it. Genuinely great

Background: Final of the five whiskies tried at Independent Spirit‘s Uber Whisky Tasting. Ok, there was a sixth bonus one, this was the last official one, ok. This is this year’s take on the annual Arbeg Committee Release and one I was very excited to try – a rum finished Ardbeg! Going for stupid amounts of money if you try and find it online now, I was so chuffed to see it in the tasting so I could give it a go. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

EDIT: This is the Committee Release version which is 52% abv compared to the standard release which I just found out exists and is 46% abv.

Lervig: Saskatoon Cheesecake Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Short lived brown head that settles quickly into a brown rim around the glass.

Nose: Blueberry. Cheesecake. Boozy. Raisins. Liquorice touch. Toffee liqueur. Raspberry.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. White chocolate. Cheesecake. Blueberry. Boozy. Malt loaf. Bready backing. Cocoa.

Finish: Malt loaf. Blueberry cheesecake. Bready. Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness.

Conclusion: This feels like it should be a white/blond stout. Getting the flavours you do but from a dark beer feels confusing, or at least partially. There are very obvious cheesecake notes, white chocolate notes. It isn’t overwhelmed by these notes but they are present enough that it leads to a very different experience to your standard imperial stout. Over that base tart, kind of blueberry but not, notes are layered. It feels kind of like a blue raspberry if that makes sense. I wonder if such a thing actually exists. Will have to google it.

So, as a result this is very much a dark fruit cheesecake beer, but against that are the darker standard imperial stout undertones. There are more expected cocoa notes and a solid bready base, even a slight earthy bitterness in the finish – lots of notes to add complexity and offset sickly sweetness.

So, it is just about recognisable as a standard imperial stout, mixed with lot of big blond stout notes, mixed with fruit desserts. It is so good. Like a lot of beers in this style it feels a tad “boozy”, heavy but not burning alcohol, which is fine by me, but a turn off for some – so be warned.

That extra boozy character does come with benefits though- a good mouthfeel, thick and tongue coating. The malt gives sweetness, but with bitter cocoa and tart fruit to contrast well. This really is a master-work of a high abv beer. Different to the norm, high quality, varied and shows the alcohol but isn’t dominated by it.

I whole heartedly recommend this. An excellent dessert beer that doesn’t forget the beer side of the equation.

Background: Saskatoon is a place in Canada, also a blueberry looking berry. I presume this is named after the second, though who knows, beers that taste like places may be the new big thing for all I know. My finger is not on the pulse is what I am saying. Anyway, Lervig have made some tidy heavy beers, and boy do I like cheesecake, so this jumped out at me when I saw it at Independent Spirit. Genuinely been feeling out of sorts this week with all the politics bullshit, so had on Marie Davidson – Perte D’identite for music that sounds as weird and disjointed as I do. Possibly not the best thing for my mental health but great music.

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