Tag Archive: Sour Ale


BioNoc’: Asso Di Coppe Impombera (Italy: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red. Clear body. Thin dash of a reddened head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cherries. Tart raspberry. Clean. Light twigs. Tart. Blueberry.

Body: Dry. Tannins. Brown bread. Yellow raspberries. Black cherry and red cherry. White wine. Gooseberry.

Finish: Full and tart raspberries. Astringent. Light wood shavings. Gooseberry. Yellow raspberry. Jammy blueberry.

Conclusion: This is dry, almost wine like and matched with a very fruity take on a red wine in how it uses the berries, matched against a crisp, kind of lambic like take on a sour base character. Initially the beer is slightly closed, but as you get used to the dryness it really opens up into a range of tart fruit. Until that though, well it isn’t Cantillon level mouth puckering but it is very well attenuated.

The fruit pushes the raspberry tartness up front, with a darker set of black cherry like fruit notes and such making for a sweet but still refreshingly tart backing note. Time lets a more jammy sweetness come out, making fuller notes that had been hinted at before. The aroma especially hinted at sweeter notes that only really develop in the body later on.

This is very good, initially dry and wine like, later on full bodied and, erm, wine like but a different kind of wine. Always fruity giving a good range of fruit notes from raspberry, through puckering gooseberry and into sweeter cherries. Only slightly closed a for a short while, and for the rest progressing in delicious and fascinating ways.

Very much worth getting your hands on, this is a treat of a fruit sour.

Background: Second and final bottle that I brought back from the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival at Moor’s Tap Room. This is from a brewery I have not encountered before, but was highly recommended, and looks to have had a few awards so I decided to give it a go. I googled what an Impombera was and ended up very confused. Anyway, by googling the beer I found out it is a raspberry sour, so I presume at least one of the many variants has a raspberry style fruit. Had just picked up Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind so put that on as background music. Had heard it was a return to form and, yeah it is amazing, heavy and brutal. Thought I was slightly going off Slipknot but nope, I am back in.

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Double A Brewing: Autre Chose (Russia: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Darked apricot gold. A centimetre of bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Horse blankets. Oats. Musty. Brown bread. Peppery. Cake sponge.

Body: Bitter almonds. Cocktail bitters. Brown bread. Tart apples. And cooking apples. Dust-ball bitterness. Cake sponge. Oily.

Finish: Dust-balls. Charred oak. Bitter nuts. Cocktail bitters. Tart apples. Sour apples. Oily. Dried apricot. Vinegar at back of throat.

Conclusion: This is quite thick and musky, with a lot of charred bitterness going on. It is oily, got a lot of nutty bitterness, resulting in a lot of savoury and hard edges notes in this apples based sour beer. Not what I was expecting and a tad rough.

So, ok, lets put that to one side and look at the rest of the beer. This opens up with that kind of horse blanket aroma that gueuzes so often have, giving a nice first impressions – however I will note that the rougher notes that put me off come in fairly quickly after with a rough grab bag of various notes. Ok, so I didn’t manage to put that element aside very long. It’s not my fault it is all over this beer.

I gave it some time to settle, to see if we could dig a bit more out and time brings a thicker cake sponge like body weight, that similarly gives the base apple character a bit more weight, which is pleasant. It doesn’t bring much range with it unfortunately – some apricot notes, with those fruit sugars, but generally it is fairly simple behind the roughness.

I want to like this, cognac ageing is usually my jam, and French oak is generally interesting – and let’s face it, it is a sour beer from Russia, I want it to be fascinating. However it is rough edged, simple and with a kind of vinegar burn at the back of the throat. It feels like I am wading through all that to get at the elements that are more worthwhile.

Not my best introduction to Russian sour beer.

Background: This was picked up at the Arrogant Sour beer festival at the Moor Tap Room. It caught my eye as a sour beer that came out of Russia, something I have not encounterd before. Googling doesn’t seem to give much info on this, even when taking advantage of google translate, so is the best I could find out. This is a sour ale aged in French Oak miked with cider that has been aged in an oak cognac barrel. Interesting mix. Went with Gogol Bordello – Trans-Continental Hustle for background music while drinking.

Stavio: Birrozzo Pinotto 2014 (Italy: Sour Ale: 7.5%)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Rim of white bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Musty and thick. Dry sultanas. Light charred oak. Dry Madeira. Earthy Pinot Noir. Dry apricot.

Body: Smooth. Raisins and sultanas. Earthy. Plums. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Slight sour dough. Thick mouthfeel. Strawberry.

Finish: Plums. Earthy and mild spice. Coriander. Sour dough. Dry. Sour red wine. Tannins and tea. Strawberry. Slight acidic freshness.

Conclusion: I think this is the first beer of the festival that comes under the heading of a well made beer, but not one for me. It is very smooth, yet nicely chewable – so the mouthfeel is nicely balanced. It is dry, with lots of the earthier side of a European Pinot Noir and rumblings of darker notes below. I can appreciate it on a technical level, but something about that means that it just doesn’t grab me. I’ll have to examine more and try and work out why, please indulge me on this.

Even with that said though, it is not like I actively dislike this, I am finding a lot to examine here. There are subtle strawberry notes, dried apricot, light spices. I can 100% see how this could be someone’s favourite beer. There is so much depth, slight acidic dryness and a heavy, earthy style.

I think that it is that earthiness that, for me, does not work. I prefer the more booming, fruity, New World Pinot Noirs compared to the more earthy European versions, and so here it feels like the earthy taste gets clinging. But that is a personal thing not a problem with the beer. It is especially notable in combination with the dryness, which adds to the harsher elements. What I can say on the positive side of things is that the middle of the body gives some sweet release from that – this is where the fruit notes balance the earthiness and there I can start to get into this.

So, very well made, and feels like it should be really good, but not quite for me. As always I hope I have given enough information here for you to know if it is for you.

Background: Another beer tried at the Arrogant Sour Beer festival at the Moor Tap-Room. Was a bit unsure as the booklet description said that this was Cedar aged, however it was right next to an entry called Birrozzo Cedro that said it was Pinot Noir aged. A quick check confirmed the two entries has been mixed up. Also confusing is the abv. The label said 7.5% abv, the booklet 6.5% ABV and the Cedro was 6.8% abv so it wasn’t just those being mixed up. Anyway, a Pinot Noir aged sour. Let’s go!

Alvinne: Oak Aged Cuvee Sofie Kweepeer Quince ( Belgium: Sour Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale apricot. Thin white bubbly head.

Nose: Mashed apricots. Sour. Dry white wine. Grapes. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Sharp lemon.

Body: Very sharp. Yellow raspberry. Vanilla. Sour jelly sweets. Tart lemon curd.

Finish: Tart. Sharp lemon. Quince Rakia. Dried apricot. Yellow raspberry. Sour jelly sweets. White wine. Marmalade. Sour lemon curd.

Conclusion: Fuck me, this is sharp. Ok, after a few sips I acclimatised to it, and it became a pleasant tart and sour thing, but that first mouthfeel was a heck of a shock to the system.

I’ve only had quince in quince rakia, so I probably don’t have the best yardstick for comparison here (delicious though that rakia may be) to say if this tastes much like the fruit used. The fruitiness in this tastes like yellow raspberries meets mashed apricots meets tart lemon curd. So, possibly that is actually what quince tastes like and if I had tried it I could have saved myself a heck of a lot of words there. Any which way it is very fresh, very citrus and very enjoyable.

Super tart, super sour, this is carefully smoothed out at the edges by vanilla notes and a slight white wine dry character, into light, sweeter marmalade notes in the finish. It stops it from being just a flat out sour assault, and, considering my response to that first tart mouthful, for that I am very welcome. With those rounding notes it is still mouth puckering, but very enjoyable, if slightly single minded as a sour ale. It doesn’t change too much once you get over the initial shock, but the beer is fairly different from most others on the market, so I kind of welcome that for once.

So, initially a shock and may seem overwhelming for those who aren’t super into their sours, it does soften a touch into tart and rewarding fruity sour character (which may or may not be predominantly quince).

I would easily recommend this to any sour fan who are not shy of the tarter end of the spectrum and want something a bit different from the usual fruit experimentation. I very much enjoyed this.

Background; There area lot of words on this label, and I will admit I am unsure of which are the name and which are descriptors. Looking online there seem to be a lot of different versions of Cuvee Sofie, so I’ve played it safe and listed as many as I could here. So, this is a sour beer, foeder aged and made with quince. It mainly caught my eye as I tried a quince rakia in Belgrade and very much enjoyed it. So a sour beer made with the fruit sounded right up my street. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, and I put on Genitorturers – Flesh is The Law to listen to while drinking. S&M themed industrial metal turned out to go very appropriately with the very sour and tart beer!

Rulles: Tilquin: Stout Rullquin (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Fizzy. Inch of beige head.

Nose: Fresh apples. Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Malt chocolate drinks. Dry white wine. White grapes.

Body: Tart apples. White wine. White grape juice. Fizzy. Raisins. Madeira cake. Fizzy cola bottle sweets. Slight creamy character. Pear.

Finish: Chocolate liqueur. Lemon on pancakes. Apple juice. Cherries. Madeira cake. Banana yogurt. Cherry coke. Charring. Brown bread. Pear drops.

Conclusion: This is more dominated by the lambic than I ever imagined it would be. Only one eighth of this is lambic. It seems a little lambic goes a heck of along way! Visually this seems very stout heavy, albeit one that pours a bit quicker than the usual viscous beasts do. Taste wise though it is tart and dry white wine at the front, mixed with fresh apples and sour grapes that are layered over the darker centre.

The darker notes are never hidden, but generally they play second fiddle to the tarter notes. There are chocolate touched, such as you would expect from a stout, but more than that are the dry raisin notes and the madeira cake elements. It is still fairly dry, but darker and sweeter that those first impressions. The stout like elements are biding their time, coming out more to play late on, developing into a definite presence in the dry, slightly spicy and dark fruit filled finish.

Time and warmth allows a slightly better balance between the two to come out- though nothing seems to save the muted aroma up front. It still feels fresh, pushing pear drop notes and such, but now the darker – though still tart – notes feels spread throughout the whole beer rather than being just hidden at the back. Cherry notes, tart and fresh, mixed with chewy cola bottle fizzy notes.

It ends up a sour but balanced beer mixing tart fresh to dark fruit character. It takes that almost holographic complexity you get with sour beers and matches to a dry, spicy solid core and chocolate liqueur streaks. It is not a must have, but these lambic and something else mixes stand out as a bit different and this one is good enough that it is worth a try for that.

Background: This was another one bought in the big batch of sours I grabbed a couple of weeks ago, and definitely is the most unusual of them. I don’t see much De Rulles stuff in the UK, so that was a big plus – add into that, that this is seven eighths De Rulles Brune and one eighth one year old lambic to make a sour stout kind of thing and they definitely had my interest. So, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, using a glass given by my sister – replacing my one of that type of glass that I accidentally broke. Many thanks craft beer sis! Put on some Ramones for background music. Not my favourite punk band, but still good for a listen and definitely respect for the influence they have had.

Mills: Picture Pot (England: Sour Ale: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Solid lemon juice. Inch of white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Tart apple. Crisp. Some bitter hops and fluffy character. Shredded wheat. Yeast funk. Sulphur. Brown bread.

Body: Apples. Gently fizzy. White wine and grapes. Chalky touch. Pears. Vanilla. Slight cream touch in middle. Dried apricot. Lychee. Pineapple.

Finish: Tart grapes. Slight chalk. Champagne. Lychee. Pears. Cider. Yeast funk. Apricot. Twigs.

Conclusion: Who would have thought that beers that taste kind of like cider would have enough entries for me to consider that a sub-genre now. Yep that is definitely a thing now and this is another cider tasting beer, albeit with a good chunk of lambic influence to it.

This is at the smoother end of the cider style in the taste – tart but very easy drinking – especially considering the touch higher than usual abv. It has a just slightly crisp and gently dry take on the style in its influence.

At its base there area lot of tart pear and apple notes – pretty obvious considering all the cider (and ok, yes pear should be perry) references I am making, but I thought I would just make it explicit. However on top of that the hops seem to carry a decent chunk of the work here.

Initially it only shows as a slightly bitter, fluffy hop aroma. However over time a dried apricot, fresh lychee and tart pineapple hop set of notes come out of the body. This gives a much more beery feel to a very cider influenced drink.

It’s easy to drink, mouth freshening and the mix between sour beer and fruity hops creates a welcome experience that never feels simple. In fact the moderately higher abv is actually quite dangerous considering how easy this is to drink.

Mixing lambic, cider and hops ain’t an easy task, but this does it very well. Well worth grabbing.

Background: Mills seem to very much about their sour beers, and have been pretty interesting so far. This one is a mix of three brews, dry hopped with whole leaf hops. Had fairly young so to experience the hop character influence more predominately. Only had a month or two, and decided to break it open as part of the recent cornucopia of sour beer and lambics picked up. This was one from Independent Spirit. I put on the Roadrunner United album to listen to while drinking -a lovely range of metal tracks from collaborations from many of Roadrunner’s finest.

Big Drop: Sour (England: Low Alcohol Sour: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow and clear. Some carbonation. Short lived white head.

Nose: Wet cardboard. Lightly sour. Apple juice to cider. Wet rocks. Pears. Mild vinegar. Soft lemon.

Body: Tart and tingling. Soft lychee. Slight chalk. Mild cider. Cardboard. Mild vanilla.

Finish: Lightly bitter and charring. Vanilla. Touch. Lychee. Watery.

Conclusion: Chilled down this is fairly empty. It is lightly tart and tingling but without any real grip to it. It is watery with beer like elements floating within that. However for all it was as let down like this, there are hints of something else – slight cider apple and soft lychee notes – subtle flavours that are overpowered by the mild, but still rougher, chalk and charring notes.

So, with not much else to it, I decided to see if time and some warmth could make a difference then.

Warmth helps develop some body, giving it a slighter thicker touch that brings out soft vanilla and allows the soft lychee notes a bit more grip to work with. It is still a gentle beer, lager like it its dryness, with lightly tart and sour notes over that. Even with the aforementioned chalk and charring notes it is still gentle – no real rough edges here, which I will admit is an odd thing in a sour beer. Usually they are all prickly oddities and harsh but joyous notes.

There are light cider and light vinegar touches that would be harsher elements if they did not feel heavily watered down by the lightness of the rest of the beer. Now they are just slightly more acidic notes while gentle apple and pear notes are delivered over it.

Now warmed up it is reasonable – as mentioned a lightly sour touch over a dry lager feel with gentle tart fruit notes as the flavours. Sour beers are not a common entry in the low alcohol range, so for that I commend it – however recently Mikkeller did their low abv take on “Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse” and that set a new bar for low alcohol sour beers. So, while this is ok, dry, drinkable and refreshing it is not a patch on that low abv wonder.

Had cool this is very weak, with warmth it is ok but unexciting outside of its unusual place in the low alcohol drink range. So, ok, but with a lot of room to grow better.

Background: I tried this a short while ago, picked up from Beercraft, but did not do notes at the time. This time it was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I’ve been digging Big Drop’s low alcohol beers, especially their pale ale, and wanted to see how their sour did and how it has progressed since the first batch. Drunk on an otherwise non drinking night I put on one of Eels live albums – “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” while drinking – nice gentle tunes. Always like The Eels’ live stuff -each tour they play old songs in the style of their most recent album so it feels like a fresh experience each time.

BFM: Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien: 2015 (Switzerland: Sour Ale: 11% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red brown. Hazy. Lots of small bubbled carbonation and a thin off white head.

Nose: Gummed brown paper. Sour black-cherry and sour red cherries. Cider and perry. Booming red wine. Fruitcake. Tart. Lightly woody.

Body: Acidic. Perry/pears. Cider. Caramel. Gummed paper. Twigs. Raisins. White wine. Cardboard. Blueberry. Light waxy sheen. Dry fudge.

Finish: Red cherries. Fruitcake. Fresh. Raisins. Dry cake sponge. Tannins. White wine. Blueberries. Cardboard.

Conclusion: This feels like Rodenbach Grand Cru’s more easy going, but still prickly, cousin. Initially it comes across fruity and sharp with acidic, and almost but not quite Rodenbach like vinegar, notes. It soothes over time from that more prickly front to reveal a complex drink if you let it open up.

Early on is the cider like acidic notes that you would expect from a sour, albeit it with the less expected, but not completely dissimilar, pear perry notes. These are matched with gummed paper and light vinegar notes that call to the harsher Flemish bruins – tidy, but not unexpected.

This soothes into a softly caramel backed tart character over time, and soothed down it not shows itself to be brimming with fruit. It isn’t always the fruit you would expect though. The aroma always promised cherries and red wine from the oft, but the fruit was slow to develop in the main body, and when it does develop it is very different to that. What you get is blueberries, raisins and lots of similar darker fruit rather than the red roaming aroma. Still good stuff, just not what was expected.

The red fruit does come out a bit in the end though – with red wine and similar fruit coming in the finish that gives a little pep on the way out. Along with this development a light waxy touch adds to the body – calling to the Biere De Garde style that the body references ( though since that literally means beer to age I’m not sure if that is an intentional style reference, or just saying that the beer is aged…) . Any which way it gives a bit more grip to the beer, and a bit of variety in the feel that adds to the experience.

It is well set, calling to tarter, more acidic and harsher Rodenbach Grand Cru style notes but soothes into toffee and sweeter fruit against a more lambic like set of twigs and white wine notes. Not a beer that is always 100% on point – there are some off, cardboard like notes, but pretty much any sour seems to walk the tightrope over such risks. More approachable that Rodenbach Grand Cru, but still brings its own rewarding style. Very much worth trying.

Background: So, a quick google tells me BFM stands for Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes. Which admittedly doesn’t tell me much, but at least now I know. Taking a look online also told me there have been many vintages of this, some barrel aged, others I’m not sure of. Anyway, that is the 2015 vintage and I grabbed it from Independent Spirit – they have had it for a while but I have always been wary due to the ten quid plus price tag. Still, it had a good rep so eventually I wavered and bought it. It was way too warm as I broke this open from its chilled bottle, so I put on some Andrew WK to try and keep my party spirits up. Pretty much worked.

Northern Monks: Patron’s Project 11.01: Rhubarb Sour: Made In The Dark (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Reddened apricot. Cloudy. Large off white and slightly yellowed head.

Nose: Dry and tart. Turmeric and tannins. Dry rhubarb. Cooking apples. Strawberry.

Body:
Without Popping Candy: Gentle rhubarb tartness. Red Grapes. Hop Oils. Light vinegar notes. Plum. Strawberry. Turmeric.

With Popping Candy: Similar but with popping feel in your mouth. Rhubarb and custard sweets. Raspberry hard sweets. Oilier and thicker. Lightly creamy.

Finish:

Without Popping Candy: Apples. Rhubarb. Tart sheen and lightly oily. Brown bread. Plums. Earthy notes. Lightly creamy.

With Popping Candy: Sweeter. Blackpool rock. Strawberry.

Conclusion: Initially I though that the popping candy I got with this was defective. You see I put it on my tongue aaand .. nothing happened. So then I took a sip of the beer to go over it. Nothing happened. I then took a larger mouthful and held the beer in my mouth and … nothing happened. Then finally the little fuckers started popping. If you are wondering why I am eating sweets and drinking, well, I kind of explain in the background. Kind of. As much as it can be explained.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself here. So, they recommended trying the beer with the provided popping sweets, which I eventually did, but I decided first to do some sips au naturel and compare the beer from before and after. Because that is the kind of rebel I am.

As a stand-alone beer it is a solid enough sour. The rhubarb is there, there is a decent thickness, but not so much it gets sticky. It shows both the tart and earthy side of the rhubarb, along with some darker fruit notes and a nice oily hop sheen.

So how is it with the popping candy? Well the first thing I noticed is that by itself the sweets seemed to have a slight rhubarb character of its own. The second thing is that it kept sticking to the bloody roof of my mouth in a lump. Anyway, once I started drinking I noticed it seemed a little thicker – I don’t know if that is just I am holding it longer, but it definitely felt thicker, creamier and heavier.

Apart from that it seemed very much the same beer – there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference apart from the performative aspect – which I think is the whole point of the beer. The drinking ritual it creates is fun – especially when the sweets finally start popping and you enjoy the drink amidst the feeling of impacts in your mouth. However, for all it is fun, I don’t think the beer is overly enhanced by it.

Then again, the base beer is pretty decent by itself. Probably The best of the rhubarb sours I have encountered. There is good rhubarb character, good hop oil thickness and good plum backing and nicely tart and earthy as previously said. I actually would be interested to see what happens if they ditch the sweets touch and just concentrate on re-brewing this a bit bigger and thicker as I think that could be an excellent beer.

Background: Ok, this is one of the odder beers I have done notes on. In fact that was pretty much why I grabbed it – it is a sour beer made with forced rhubarb, which sounds up my alley enough. It also contains a small packet of popping candy, tucked away in the beer’s base, to eat while drinking it, which is another level strange. Hence why I have two sets of notes above. I decided to first try the beer just as is, then add in the popping candy and see how it changed things. If you peal back the label you find underneath a guide to tasting this – which is in the dark, lit by a single candle, put candy in your mouth then take a sip. Now, I cannot be trusted near naked flame when drunk, so I did the closest I could. I tuned off the lights and lit the from only by the shine of my VDU, with the Fire Watch desktop background glowing out. Similar enough, right? Anyway, all this theatrics seems to come as this beer is a collaboration with Lord Whitney – so yeah, that explains a lot. To add to the mood I put on Ulver – Shadows Of The Sun to listen to. Still the most genuinely beautiful album I have heard.

Wild Beer Co: Dr Todd (England: Sour Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Thin off white head.

Nose: Thick honey. Peat. Smoke. Salt. Ginger. Chilli air. Marmalade. Wet rocks.

Body: Heavy. Honey. Salt. Chalk. Treacle. Smoke. Dry back. Ginger. Medicinal. Crunchy medicine tablets. Brown bread.

Finish: Honey. Dry beef slices. Medicinal. Salt. Crunchy tablets.

Conclusion: Ok, I can definitely see why the drink this is based on is called Penicillin if this beer is anything to go by. Under everything is a dry note, like crunched up medicine tablets, chalk backed by a medicinal Islay note. It it wasn’t such a terrible idea to take painkillers with booze I would imagine this is what it would taste like.

Probably. I, of course, have never tested that. That would be silly. Don’t mix booze and painkillers everyone!

The other element that stands out in this beer how how strong the special ingredients used show through; There is a ton of honey, and as indicated before the Islay ageing is really obvious -from the salt to the peat smoke, to the medicinal character, it is all there. Then there is the definite ginger influence that comes though into an almost mild chilli air at some times. Subtle this thing ain’t.

So you get a real honey sweet Islay whisky poured over the corpse of a thoroughly crushed paracetamol, into a beer and you end up with this. It is definitely interesting, and actually – for all the taste goes to the harsher end of the spectrum – it is also enjoyable. Not one to have often though. It feels like it is deliberately challenging you and daring you to still enjoy it.

Now you can step up to that dare and enjoy it, and it is worth it, but it is not a general drinking beer in any shape or form. In fact this calls to the feel of an actual complex cocktail more than any other beer I have encountered – if that is a good or bad thing is up to you.

Hard to get used to, but ultimately enjoyable – however the crunched medical feel and taste is for very specific occasions only and for very specific people only.

Background: Ok, so this was inspired by the “Penicillin Cocktail”. Something I have never tried so cannot really compare it to. To give you an idea, this is made with lactose, honey, lemon, ginger and then aged in Islay whisky barrels. This sounded like the type of experimentation in beer I could get behind, so grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit. Put on Scroobius Pip vs Dan Le Sac – Repent, Replenish, Repeat while drinking – a nicely dark edged spoken word to hip hop styled set of tunes that I though deserved returning to.

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