Tag Archive: Nøgne-ø


Saint-Germain Nøgne Ø Rhub’IPA

Saint-Germain: Nøgne Ø: Rhub’IPA (France: IPA: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear at first glance, but if held up light then the light reflects off light sediment within. Large white crisp bubbled head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Floral. Dry lemon. Light crisp bitterness. Lightly wheaty. Pineapple.

Body: Light tartness and bitterness mix. Subtle rhubarb that rises as time goes on. Pineapple. Slight granite edged base. Sweet peach syrup taste and texture.

Finish: Sugared rhubarb pie. Moderate bitter hops. Grapefruit touch. Dry unleavened bread. Lemon. Dried apricot and peach.

Conclusion: I have always been a sucker for a good stick of rhubarb, all the way back to my young ‘un days. My love of IPAs, well that came later – but it is still a long time allegiance.

So…

Rhubarb IPA anyone?

Well, it does have rhubarb and IPA – the tartness of the rhubarb working better with the hops here than the similar concept grapefruit IPA “You taste better when you are scared“. Here the rhubarb is a subtle but definite presence, and the bitterness also has a solid but not excessive kick. Even better, either from the hops, or from the mixing of the different elements, there seems to be a nice range of tart flavours – grapefruit and pineapple standing out, with some small fruit sugar sweetness behind. It isn’t the most efficient melding of flavours, but considering there is little out there like this for comparison, it works the rough edged bits well.

Now, under that, the base ale doesn’t work quite as well – there is a dry, kind of unleavened bread character- it isn’t too heavy mid body but works its way out into the finish where it doesn’t quite work. Maybe this was needed as a base for the other elements to work, but it feels out of place here and unnecessarily rough – it draws attention away from the better front elements.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer – and the peach syrup sweetness does help keep it at bay for some of the time, but it is a flaw, and a consequence that can come with doing something a bit unusual. So, yeah, it is an element that reduces this to just a fun odd beer rather than a high quality one. Don’t get me wrong, I am charmed by this and its tart to hop balance but on the technical scale it is far from a perfect 6.0.

Still, have fun with it – sometimes you don’t need perfection and a good old try will take you far enough.

Background: A brewery from France I had only run into as part of a Welsh collaboration beer, oh and Nøgne Ø. So a blend of new and exciting and old reliable. A good balance. I grabbed this from Independent Spirit as the idea of an IPA made with rhubarb juice intrigued me – I love rhubarb. I drank it election day as I saw the result predictions as by that point I needed a brew to commiserate. Ah well. Drunk while listening to the Gunflower’s New EP, and Miracle Of Sound’s Metal Up. Both punk and metal awesomeness. Oh, also I love the little swing tops that the use for the bottle. They are so darn neat.

Horizon Tokyo Black

Nøgne ø: Mikkeller: Brewdog: Horizon Tokyo Black (Norway: Imperial Stout: 16% ABV)

Visual: Black. Grey dust over it in the centre, and brown bubbles at the edges.

Nose: Real bitter chocolate. Real roasted nuts. Sour dough. Resin. Alcohol touch.

Body: Cherries. Chocolate liquore. Black cherry. Jelly babies. Bitter cocoa. Sugar cane. Orange liquore. Toasted tea cakes.

Finish: Bitter chocolate and milky coffee. Cream. Nuts. Alcohol air.

Conclusion: I was expecting to be mainly making jokes about this being a superfluous review, having already reviewed a different version of this. However, it turns out this is pretty different. This is heavier and darker, with more bitter flavours. It has some of the big sweetness, especially mid body where you get lots of fruit and jelly babies, but top end and tail it is much more raw bitter cocoa and coffee. It still had that noticeable alcohol air, but I think the heavier bitter emphasis helps offset that an makers for a better beer.

Here the sweetness mid body is a treat, not a sugar shock and, while it grow over time, the heavier sweetness doesn’t hit until the end when it is more manageable.

Overall this is a lovely imperial stout, like its Brewdog predecessor it could probably do with some time in a cellar to let the alcohol air lighten a little (I have tested with the Brewdog version, it works – two years in it was smooth as silky and lovely)

So a big gun of a beer, a bit alcohol touched, but apart from that a lovely mix of dark bitter chocolate and coffee, toasted tea cakes, dark fruit and jelly babies. Even better at 25ml it is the perfect size for beer of this strength. Now both versions of this beer I have had are excellent, but I will give the nod to the Nøgne ø version this time.

Which, considering my massive Brewdog bias, is saying something.

Background: Some of you may be thinking “Hold on, haven’t you revived this before?” In which case can I be the first to say … holy shit you have a good memory. I have reviewed the Brewdog version of this, which has slightly different abv This is the Nøgne ø version, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. Anyway, broke this open with a bit of “Rise Against”, because I finally pulled my thumb out and picked up one of their CDs.

Dark Horizon

Nøgne Ø: Dark Horizon: 4th Edition (Norway: Imperial Stout:16 % ABV)

Visual: Black. Brown bubbles at the edge and dashes across the body.

Nose: Chilli/Green peppers. Coffee in a bitter and black fashion. Sour cherries. Fresh baked white bread. Subtle bitter red wine with sediment. Avocado. Slight sour tartness  touch.

Body: Caramel. Brown sugar. Treacle. Coffee. Green peppers. Madeira. Musky grapes. Spicy. Red wine and cherries. Bitter chocolate mixes with chocolate liquore. Almonds.

Finish: Bitter coffee, yet creamy. Cinder toffee. Madeira cake. Spiced cherries. Raisins. Tart grapes. A touch of chilli like heat.

Conclusion: Well…fuck. This is bloody amazing. Bitter. Coffee infused but with spiciness dark fruits and a mix of subtle red wine touches.

It opens with a bitter coffee and lightly spiced nose. Impressive, but hardly a hint of what is to come. The body is the thing. Bitter coffee and chocolate, it feels like it has been soaked in Madeira and bitter red wine. The slight spice is braced against that huge chocolate liquore and toffee sweetness.  It just feels so very full. Each element is present at the same time

With most complex beers they seem to shift from one note to the next, here it all seems full on all the time. The Madeira is infused into the cherries which seem to have been left in pepper seeds for the spice. Everything is mixed in together, nothing feels small.

The beer feels its abv, but it comes out in a spicy heat rather than a direct alcohol burn. Similarly warning, but not as off putting in other words. The texture is smooth and slightly viscous. The flavours, while all up front, are so numerous that you could be examining the beer to the last drop.  The wine feel and flavour is both subtle and yet omnipresent. To explain, it is not a distinct element of flavour but a mix of elements that call the varied wines to mind as you drink. The heavy and musky grapes mixing with sweet Madeira in the same breath.

It takes a lot to surprise me in the Imperial Stout race but this one did it. More full of flavour than most barrel aged beers, more drinkable than lower abv beers and more flavoursome than most beers full stop.

If you get the chance, drink it.

Background: Drunk at Brewdog Bristol.  The combination of odd triangular box and tiny bottle got me some odd looks, but considering the beer’s reputation I had to give it a try. From the box it sounds like they use coffee bean and Muscovado Sugar in brewing it. Half way through I was given a small glass of cold drip coffee to try, and I found afterwards that it set off the beer wonderfully making each note stand out much more obviously.  The pub had live music on at the time as well, combined with a lovely day it made for an excellent environment in which to enjoy the beer.

Band

Nøgne Ø: Imperial Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Good froth on pour. Creamy coffee head. Not a hugely long lasting head, but it does exist longer than most at this abv.

Nose: Strong roasted popping nuts character with a hint of sour cream at the edges. Chives.  Smoke and maybe an odd touch of peppermint?  Almost toothpasty? Definitely different. There is a very booze heavy blackcherry styling.

Body: Solid. Subtle bitter frothy chocolate. Slightly sherbet like lemon feel and taste. Nuttiness grows. Moderate bitter back.  Slight roughness to the texture. Some pepper and peppermint over time.

Finish:  Grain cereals. Bitter chocolate comes in lightly then grows in intensity. Dry dusty feel. Peppercorn.

Conclusion: Good thing this came in a big bottle. The first few mouthfuls I took had me confused. There was very distinct…flavour, and yes definitely….. flavour styled flavours. In other words I could not pin it down worth a damn. It had definite character but not one with an easily described shape.  Time helped move past that initial confusion.

Possible the confusion came, somewhat paradoxically, from its simplicity. The main body is robust, yet straightforward. Not a criticism, it treats its style with elegant simplicity. Anything extraneous has been stripped out.

Now some of you may have noticed the somewhat long list of elements I put for the nose, and may be questioning exactly what I mean by “simplicity”. Rather than attempt to answer this, or pass you off to Karl Popper for an intricate examination may I just reply thus. I said the “first few mouthfuls” , a reference which I hoped indicated I was talking about the main body. The nose is an altogether different and confusing beast, so I had hoped to put it off until later in the review.

So, that explained shall we start on discussing the aroma then?  Most of the oddities come from when you have chilled the beer. I mean, chives? Peppermint? I am not entirely sure that they disappeared as the beer warmed as opposed to me just getting used to their presence. Either way, they may not be the archetypal stout aromas, but I must say they were a fun change.  It well worth playing with the beers temperature just to see what it will do. Lets face it you can always let it warm back to its more standard stout styling.

A solid imperial stout, taking simplicity yet quality as its mission statement. I can’t complain. Very much bitter chocolate and roasted nuts take on the style, with a peppery flourish as its doffed cap to a new styling. Not epic like some Imperial Stouts can be, but solid as a rock.

Background: Drunk to unwind on a Friday night. Whilst I have only had it a short while the bottle labelling indicates that this is a year old.  Nøgne Ø have been pretty solid so far, with robust expressions of the style. Not much wild experimentation yet, but heavy in character.

Brewdog Mikkeller Nøgne Ø: Black Tokyo* Horizon (Scotland: Imperial Stout:17.2% ABV)

Visual: Opaque black. Quite a fizzy pour but no head results from it.  Leaves a brown sheen around the glass but the beer does not seem quite as viscous as you would imagine.

Nose:  Roasted walnuts, liquorice. Alcohol but not burning. Slight coffee beans. Wood fire. Blueberry jam and brambles. Gin. Lots of candy floss sweetness or possible even toasted marshmallows.  Toasted teacakes.

Body: Very sweet. Blueberry. Very distinct alcohol. Red cherries and sugar cane.  Chocolate fondue. Light coffee at the back, very smooth.  Lots and lots of cocoa. Oddly toasted crumpets.

Finish: red cherries and milk chocolate. Still distinct gin styled alcohol. Marshmallows and strawberry jam. Dry malt drinks. Toasted teacakes again.

Conclusion: It is a pity that the term sweet stout has already been taken for a particular variety of low alcohol stout because if it had not then it would have been the perfect descriptor for this imperial stout.  This is damn sweet, a mix of sugar shock and evident alcohol that comes with fruitiness and force.

Even on the nose there is alcohol on show, though without the burning sensation that comes from low quality examples of “extreme beers” (“Start the Future” I’m looking at you, you foul tasting piece of.. anyway) Throughout the rest of the beer though there is a significant alcohol punch, probably a tad too much, and I got the feeling very quickly that it is one that would benefit from a while in the cellar to smooth it off a tad.

However we are not talking about a hypothetical future beer, we are looking at the one in the glass in front of us. Even with the fire, there is a lot going on. Rich chocolate, some light coffee notes at the back and a huge range of sweet and fruit notes that frankly dominate the character.  With the chocolate and coffee it feels like good quality examples of the items as well, reminding me somewhat of the highly expressive range of coffee flavours in Mikkeller’s  Beer Geek Brunch Weasel in quality.

If it wasn’t for the over evident alcohol then this would easily be a showstopper, and I have a bottle ageing for a future retrospective to see if it lives up to its promise.  For now it is an insane sweet sugar sledgehammer of flavour that is very highly complex and sweet. Frankly it shouldn’t be possible to have this much subtlety behind so much force.  The especially odd toasted flavours (be it marshmallow, teacakes or crumpets) are welcome and completely unexpected.  A fine drink for slow inspection, in fact it would be an insult to try it any other way.

Well worth a bottle to cellar, and if you are impatient and have it sooner rather than later, well it’s still an impressive beer.

Background: Mikkeller Brewdog and Nøgne Ø are pretty much the big three of craft brewers from their respective areas and this is a collaboration beer based on their three respective massive stouts. When finished the stout has then been aged in whisky casks and on pure cacao.  Finally it gets put in a little cardboard box for some reason.  Maybe to allow the bottle privacy, I’m not 100% sure.  As a fan of the respective stouts this was one I was looking forwards to and gave a lot of time to enjoy.

I’ve quite enjoyed my encounters with Nøgne-ø beers, and have been meaning to try more of their products.  Thus it was with interest that I noted a mail shot coming around from R and R saying that James Clay would be the exclusive distributors in the UK for their beers.

Now after reading the announcement I was a slight bit concerned.  As most craft beer fans know, often the most interesting brews are the irregular, seasonal and one off entries that are where the experimentation shines.  I couldn’t help but notice that whilst they were taking over the main line up there was no mention of any of these more rare beers getting a look it, something quite worrying for what would now be the exclusive importer.

So I thought I’d send a message and see what the official word was on this state of affairs.  The news I heard back was promising, confirming that they would be doing seasonal and one off beer. Now of course due to the nature of these one offs, we have no more information at this time. Cost (Nøgne-ø beers are traditionally quite expensive) and how widely available they will be is the big issues, but at least it is the right noises coming out at this point.

Hopefully this will result in wider availability of the Nøgne-ø beers.  It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

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