Tag Archive: Northern Monks


Northen Monk: Northen Star – Mocha Porter (England: Porter: 5.9% ABV)

Visual: Black. Moderate dark brown head.

Nose: Big bitter coffee. Charring. Smoke. Brown bread. Very bitter.

Body: Creamy. Slightly thin until it warms. Milky chocolate. Sweet milky coffee. Condensed cream. Soft treacle. More bitter coffee over time.

Finish: Condensed cream. Sugar dusting. Milky coffee. Milky chocolate. Slight treacle. Chocolate liqueur. Lactose. Bitter coffee and cocoa. Coffee liqueur.

Conclusion: Ok, I had to recalibrate my exceptions for this a few times while doing these notes – so, let’s look back at what we have and see how it all hangs together in the end.

First up – the aroma – bitter coffee as fuck. So, I thought I had a handle on this already. Let’s face it – it didn’t try to hide it – we have a super coffee dominated bitter porter on our hands. Job done. Notes over, right?

So, I took a sip. Then I took a few more as it too a few sips to build up – the first was a tad thin but it quickly gained a bit more weight and hit its stride as … well a condensed cream and milky chocolate sweet centre. WTF? So, nothing like what I expected. This actually initially comes in too sweet with sugar dusting style dusted over it. It was ok, but seemed a bit unbalanced in the completely opposite way to the aroma. So, erm, ok, and this then followed on into the finish. So, the aroma was the odd point, now we have it all worked out, right?

The thing is, after drinking a bit more, and letting it warm, the bitter coffee came straight back in – riding above over the sweetness. Not removing it, but squatting bitter coffee and cocoa into the heart of the beer. I’m now 90% sure this beer is just fucking with me.

So, here I am, at the end of the beer – what do I think? Well, it is a tad over sweet – almost milk stout style – but generally it is a good one. A slight more subtle use of the sweetness would have made it a great contrast to the very bitter cofee and would have been a better beer. As is the coffee is very well expressed, and so – yeah – kind of the uber coffee take on a milk stout. Interesting – not a favourite but interesting. As always, depending on how much that ideas sounds good to you will depend on how much you will like it. You mileage may vary and all that.

Background: This is the last of the beers my mate got me from Honest Brew‘s as a present. Many thanks again. I may have not been quite 100% in the zone as I went to drink this. I say that as I took out my bottle opener to try and get into the can. Anyway… Drunk while listening to Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile – good background drinking music, and not one I’ve gone to for a while.

Northern Monks: Drew Millward: Passion Fruit Lassi IPA – Northern Tropics (England: IPA: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Peach skin coloured body with a cloudy and semi opaque centre. Not much carbonation. A large, just slightly yellowed white bubbled head.

Nose: Flour. Crisp hop character. Light pineapple and bitterness. Mild passion-fruit and guava.

Body: Peach and apricot. Caramel. Natural yogurt. Vanilla. Thick. Guava. Dried passion-fruit. Some hop oils. Chives. Slight peppermint. Slight sour cream. Sweet fudge.

Finish: Thick yogurt. Slight mint leaves and chives. Some bitterness. Nana bread. Slight cloying sweet toffee. Mango.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unusual. On the unusual side this has a far thicker texture than most IPAs. It feels very natural yogurt influenced in both feel and taste. Nicely it is thick but not heavy, giving grip while still being pretty easy to drink in a kind of milkshake fashion. This styling also brings a slight sour cream and chives cloying note with a peppermint oddity mixed in – a mild note, but kind of refreshing as that. If I had to sum it up I would say that it has an element like this mint dips you get with your poppadoms in some restaurants.

So this has a thick base and some unusual fresh notes within that – they then layer that onto a more traditional big fruity character – passion-fruit, thick guava and some peach. It is slightly cloying in the thick flavour – very yogurt like still and very fruity – the extra grip and thickness pushes the level of fruitiness up without it feeling like just a fruit juice beer.

The thickness does have a few slight drawbacks though. One is that there is a strong vanilla sweetness to the middle of this – done in a similar style to what you would expect from bourbon barrel ageing. The problem is that the cloying thickness interacts with that in such a way that makes it a tad artificial, and well, cloying sweetness. It isn’t hugely off-putting, but does rise over time to become more dominant than I would like.

So this is fruity and thick – slightly unusual – with a little bit less emphasis on the vanilla mixing with the sour cream and greenery notes I think it would work better and be an excellent beer. Not absent , just a tad more subtly used. As is they do hurt the beer a touch, but it is still very enjoyable in its fruity and thick style.

Odd, and pretty good but not great.

Background: Another of Northern Monk’s Patrons Projects – number 4.01 to be exact by the can. This time with Drew Millward, about whom google tells me very little. Anyway, awesome can design on this one – one of the main reasons it caught my eye at Independent Spirit. So I grabbed it. I am fickle that way. I’m not 100% sure if this thing’s name is Northern Tropics, Passion Fruit lassi IPA, or possibly both. Anyway, I looked up what lassi is after drinking – it is a yogurt based drink with spices and fruit that is popular in India. Which suddenly makes a bunch of my notes make more sense – I knew it was yogurt based but not the exact nature. This was drunk while listening to Miracle Of Sound’s Level 7. I’ve finally bought my own copy of it rather than listening to the youtube version. Still good stuff.

Northern Monk: Double Heathen (England: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very hazy to cloudy apricot. Moderate off white head.

Nose: Pine needles. Resinous hops. Passion fruit and dried mango. Banana. Moderate bitterness. Thick.

Body: Thick fruit juice texture. Guava. Banana. Creamy bitterness. Moderate hop character. Dried mango. Custard. Pineapple. Dried apricot.

Finish: Solid bitterness. Lightly creamy and light custard notes. Mango juice.

Conclusion: Ok, this doesn’t sit neatly at either of the usual ends of the DIPA spectrum. The base isn’t a super dry, out of the way, leave everything to the hops style DIPA – but neither is it a super sweet, making heavy with the malt to contrast the hops style beer either. OK, there is a lot more range to DIPAs to that, but they tend to cluster somewhere around those two extremes in my experience.

So we have something in-between – the base feels fairly dry, especially on the way out, but you can still really taste and feel the base with custard like sweet notes. It straddles the DIPA line.

Similarly it straddles the hop line. Nor a beer of unrelenting bitterness, not one of super fresh fruit. It is fruity, don’t get me wrong, but in a dried fruity, musty thick kind of way – lots of thick flavour – with enough sweetness to deliver what would otherwise be quite the drying flavour profile and backed by juice guava notes. Never one thing or another, never leaning too far in any direction, it trades everything off to create a big and satisfying IIPA.

It really does work. While its style straddling method means that it never hits the pure high notes that you can get by going all in with one interpretation, it also means that it doesn’t tie itself to the flaws of any one take either. It feels like, as long as you like a bitter beer, and can deal with big abv – and let’s face it, what IPA fan does not? Then you can just dive into this and enjoy it. Very good, and it is not afraid to show some musty, slightly rough edges – it doesn’t polish off the edges that makes a beer charming. This brings together so many good IPA element that I can unashamedly recommend it as a proper job done good. A fine IIPA.

Background: I’ve been trying a few new breweries recently – I’ve tried going for more standard, less experimental beers so to get an idea of what their main beer’s quality are like. After a few meh beers, I’ve decided to revise this policy – so I grabbed this big DIPA from Independent Spirit– not a standard beer, but none of those weird extra ingredients – should make a nice balance of showing brew techniques while still allowing me to enjoy some bigger beers. Hopefully. After going old school with Prodigy for music before, going even older school for this one with some Madness. Probably one of the first bands I ever really got into. Good times. The can lists this as a nice 70IBU. Should be bitter enough for my tastes.

Northern Monks: Real Junk Food Project: Wasted (England: Saison: 6.7% ABV)

Visual: Dried apricot coloured. Massive yellowed mounded bubbles for a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Wheaty. Buttery shortbread. Pear. Gingerbread. Spiced pumpkin.

Body: Smooth bitterness. Vanilla toffee. Rustic yeastie character. Cheddar. Light hop character. Light pepper. Custard. Apples. Dried apricot. Pumpkin. Malt drinks.

Finish: Pear drops. Puff crisps . Croissants and butter. Light pepper. Light hop bitterness. Custard. Malt drinks.

Conclusion: I love the idea for this beer, love the bottle image, love that they used food destined to be chucked it away to make it. So… Do I love the beer itself?

It it seemly a Saison Dupont inspired beer at its base, with quirks brought on by the special ingredients. That is a pretty high bar to try and clear. The Dupont influence can be seen in the custard to vanilla toffee back, with crisp hops used over it. Very smooth, though nowhere near as well done with the hops as the quintessential Saison Dupont – but the sweet soothing malt base part is very competently done.

The unusual ingredients are mixed in the quality of their influence. You can see the pear influence top and tail, but it is pretty absent mid body – it is more of a subtle influence on everything else than a stand out element by itself. For the croissant, well, I’m not sure if it is the base beer and I am just mistakenly attributing it, but there is a fresh croissant kind of character – half way between a wheat beer and buttery shortbread is the best was I can describe it. Any which way it feels spot on for the croissant influence.

It has a very smooth, very drinkable character – nothing hard edged here – the hops and bitterness are very restrained. The character manages to to not be too clean though due to a funky, kind of cheesy, character – odd as on the bottle they list they use champagne yeast which I would not associate with this character, but whatever they did gives the Belgian character well.

So, on the good side – it is smooth, easy drinking, catches the farmhouse ale style, but due to its quirk sit is a bit different. For flaws – well despite the quite varied notes I’ve listed, most of them are just at the edge of the beer sensations – at its core it is actually kind of simple. It isn’t a massively rewarding beer experience to examine and dissect. So overall, good idea, nice easy drinking beer, not much more than that – nowt special but no complaints.

Background: OK, this one just fascinated me, a beer made to minimise waste – made with pears, croissants and brioche that were going to be thrown away, spent hops and malt donated, yeast reused and glass recycled. It is a neat idea, so I grabbed it from Independent Spirit for drinking and examining (and from my side the bottle will be recycled once more!) Drunk while listening to Clonic Earth – the almost white noise mixed with discordant and ambient sounds made for a nice unusual background for this unusual ale.

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