Tag Archive: Speciality Grain

First Chop: Salford Red (England: Speciality Grain 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel to red. Yellow-brown moderate bubbled head. Clear body.

Nose: Fresh cut wet grass. Pine cones. Malt chocolate. Fresh mint. Menthol. Peppermint. Oats.

Body: Very herbal. Sage. Mint. General greenery. Orange crème. Peppery.

Finish: Orange crème. Pepper. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Ok, this is absolutely nothing like I expected. This is really, really herbal – minty notes, sage notes, fresh with a peppery spark. I have to admit I was expecting a hoppy amber ale, so that completely blind-sided me. Silly me, no?

Anyway, after I got over my shock I started recognising the more beer like elements under the greenery – soft malt chocolate notes and a creamy orange touch, as the beer warms they become more evident – nothing complex but closer to the expected amber ale notes in the malt style. By the end the sweet orange cream notes especially have risen to the challenge.

Still, that feels like a backing for the most part – a base for the high, herbal notes to dance upon. Does it work? Kind of. The favours are tasty, savoury and it tastes like something I would definitely enjoy if it was poured over some lump of lightly cooked meat on a dish. As something I am drinking in a glass? I will admit it is taking some time for me to get used to it.

I enjoy it, but in small doses. The herb notes last a looooong time after you have finished sipping and as of such I can’t say I was lining up to break open another one after I finished the can, but I did appreciate it while it was there.

Another one of those for the interesting rather than great pile, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting.

Background: Another one where I was unsure where to list this – beeradvocate calls it an Irish Red, ratebeer a speciality grain, from the can I was going to call it an amber ale. In the end the grain influence seemed the most notable element so I went with that. Odd, as the reason I picked this up from Independent Spirit was that I hadn’t had a good amber ale in the while. Oh well, will keep hunting for something that expresses that style well. Also this is Gluten Free for those that affects. Anyway, first encounter with First Chop, went old school With Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape while drinking. Picking out great albums I haven’t listened to for a while.

Brewdog: Slot Machine (Scotland: Speciality Grain :5.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry red. Clear with an inch of browned bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Choc orange. Lights nuts. Lightly creamy.

Body: Spicy, nutty and with malt chocolate. Peppery. Roasted nuts. Soft kiwi fruit. Vanilla. Toffee.

Finish: Cinnamon and dry ground spice. Coriander. Nutty. Rye crackers. Orange skin. Slight grapes and vanilla yogurt.

Conclusion: Hmm, giving this beer some time and with that some heat so it can develop, as chilled down this is really letting me down – however it has hints that makes me think it can do better – so let us see what some heat can do.

Initially this seems simple – nutty and spicy with a malt chocolate centre – a very middle of the road beer, with the grounding base but nothing done with this. I’m hoping that the fact I chilled this beer before I drank it just means it has been hiding the good stuff from me up to now.

So, how is it changing? Well it is more creamy, with some green fruit – also a touch more peppery, but the increased cream character easily balances that. Still doesn’t quite work – the sweetness comes with a vanilla character that starts as a pleasant vanilla toffee, but ends up a cloying vanilla yogurt style by the end – which is another savoury note that seems dull against the rest of the background.

It feels like it is overemphasising the grounding notes – the pepper, the yogurt, the roasted nuts – but with no high points against that. It has the roasted and bitter hop character, but few hop flavours to go with the IPA name it used. Instead it feels like a more bitter hopped Irish red. Not my thing – it feels leaden and so is not a beer I can recommend.

Background: Ok, usually disclaimer – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer and this was grabbed directly from the Brewdog online store. This is one of their new seasonal releases – they call it a red rye IPA – which is a whole mess of ideas. Basically a highly hopped amber ale made with rye to my eye. I really dislike how * IPA gets so overused these days – it seems to try and shove a wide variety of styles under one hat just due to them being well hopped. Drunk while listening to Praxis – Transmutation for some weird as hell backing music.


Brewdog: Casino Rye Ale (Scotland: Speciality Grain: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Some carbonation. Thin yellowed head.

Nose: Rye crackers. Dried apricot. Pepper. Brown bread baps.

Body: Bready. Pepper and paprika. Rye bread. Lightly creamy. Prickly hop character. Slight earthy note. Light apricot.

Finish: Slightly milky. Rye bread and pepper. Bready. Slight earthy. Mild malt drinks and nutty notes.

Conclusion: Fairly simple one this – the biggest surprise I got from it is that it is light gold. I am used to rye influenced beers being a bit darker on the eye. So on pour I was expecting something a bit more unusual.

Despite the lighter colour the rye still dominates the flavour of the beer. Lots of rye crackers and light pepper taste against a slightly creamy, but generally dry body. That is what you get dominating, for the most part, your drinking session with this beer. Drinkable enough but nothing to get the pulse pounding.

At 5% abv I know that I shouldn’t expect this to be a massive beer, however we do have a lot of complex beers around at this abv and lower. Frankly, despite a bit of abv inflation in the craft scene over the years – 5% is still above standard sessionable abv and should give plenty of room for some depth and grip. As is the flavour profile feels more appropriate for something aiming at the sessionable, easygoing end of the scale.

Outside of that you get an occasional apricot high note, but not much of that. More common is a malty drink and lightly nutty led set of low notes – which add to an already grounded beers style. However rather than added low notes, it feels like it needs a few more contrasting high and fresh notes, or some other contrast as it can rapidly start feeling a tad samey in the experience you are getting.

Not much else to say. Drinkable, bit basic – needs a bit more to it to make it work. Nothing terrible to complain about – just very average.

Background: Was not sure if I was going to grab this one. First, as Brewdog have released a lot of new beers recently, always releasing them one at a time, which makes mail ordering a pain. Second due to the gimmick attached to it. To try and promote their USA shares thingy, Brewdog were doing a gamble your shares promotion. Now, as someone who happily drinks beer, which if misused can be a bloody harmful habit, I feel a tad hypocritical criticising gambling for the damage it can do if people become addicted. However, just for me, and as me, my experiences with people addicted to gambling means such promotions leave a bad taste in my mouth. Anyway, looks like the whole promotion ran into some legal issues, and I was in Bristol – so grabbed a bottle from Brewdog Bristol. So, feh, trying it after all. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Anyway, listened to more Mobina Galore while drinking this – lovely punk energy with a touch lighter sound.

Brewdog Albino Squid Assassin

Brewdog: Albino Squid Assassin (Scotland: Speciality Grain: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy brown. Large coffee froth beige head.

Nose: Dried pineapple. Grapefruit. Understated. Pine needles.

Body: Peach. Cinnamon. Chocolate malt drinks. Coconut. Rye crackers. Sweet liquorice touch. Creamy. Moderate to low bitterness. Orange crème and caramel. Marshmallows. Apple.

Finish: Chocolate toffee. Slight spice. Shreddies. Black liquorice bits. Marshmallow. Charring. Higher bitterness. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Took me a few cans of this over a few weeks for me to get a coherent take on it. The first few cans were nice enough but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it.

The rye hit of the beer seemed to vary a bit depending on what time of the day I drank it and what I had been eating before, as is to be expected. For these notes I had not had food for a while before and had it early evening and here the rye seemed restrained and really let the rest of the beer open up.

Early on it still didn’t make it easy to get a handle on the beer as the aroma is pretty restrained. It doesn’t give much information and leaves everything up to the main body.

Thankfully the body rocks it well. I hate using the varied wildcard IPA names for the most part but this tastes (Deep breath) kind of like a brown IPA, but with extra rye spice. The malt base is caramel sweet, the rye spicy, and the hops give a very good range of sweet and fruity flavour. It isn’t that bitter for an IPA, and the sweet toffee very much tastes below its 7% plus abv. Dangerously easy drinking.

The finish following that is ok, but does let the side down a bit. There are occasional liquorice notes that are not well integrated and it is a bit spice heavy here. Not terrible though but not up to the excellent body.

Thankfully the mainstay of the beer is the body, so it manages to ride over those few weak final notes. It definitely doesn’t feel much like a traditional IPA, red, rye, or otherwise. It is more malt heavy with more hop flavour than bitterness. A general easy drinking and fun beer with a tad too high abv for the notes it brings.

Background: Love the artwork on this can, the name is pretty cool as well, if somewhat nonsensical. As opposed to all those other beer names which are actually short aphorisms on the nature of reality. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is described as a *grimace* red rye IPA. Red IPA, of course. I’d probably call it a rye amber ale myself, but rate beer goes with just speciality grain, which seems fair enough for this one. Anyway drunk while listening to some OCRemix stuff from Dynamite Headdy and Gunstar Heroes. I am a geek.

Wild Beer Co Hanging Bat Blackfriars Nanban Yadōkai

Wild Beer Co: Hanging Bat: Blackfriars: Nanban: Yadōkai (England: Speciality Grain Saison: 13% ABV)

Visual: Clear still apple juice.

Nose: Apple juice. Alcoholic raspberry trifle. Sake. Shaken up bag of liquorice allsorts. Light toffee. Fresh apples.

Body: Apple juice. Sake(Nihonshu). Shoochuu. Earthy base. Grapes. Vanilla. Toffee. Coriander and carrot. Bright raspberry pavlova. Apricot. Thick. White chocolate. Rye. Pancakes.

Finish: Banana. Shoochuu. Liquorice. Apple. Carrot. Raspberry spirit. Seaweed wrap. Lemon. Dry white wine. Dried apricot. Pepper.

Conclusions: Oh my, very interesting indeed. I’ve had issues with high abv saisons before (yes, best I have heard this is, at its base a saison). I have found them either too light, or the inverse, too alcohol touched. This beer is weird as fuck, but awesome.

This has very little of your traditional saison character – a slight rustic base and coriander notes, but the strength of it gives a far more viscous feel. While sake is listed as the inspiration for the beer, and that is very true for the flavours, I find the viscous feel puts me much more in mind of another Japanese spirit – Shoochuu.

It all works though – you get good quality sake flavours from both dry and fruity sakes. It many ways I can see calls to the sake I tried at the Sake Jam hotel in Kyoto, and that was fine quality stuff.

That isn’t the main element though – what you have lying under that is a very Wild Beer co apple cider calling to styled beer, matched with an almost liquorice allsorts and earthy base, bringing in contrasting vanilla and toffee sweetness with the higher abv.

The thickness really makes it hang together, the extra weight and Shoochuu style does give it a rough edge at times but, for me, I will happily take extra rough edges for extra complexity – and sometimes I even prefer a rough edged over polished charm as long as it can justify it.

So what do we end up with? A remarkable beer, to say the least, with tons of layers to examine. There is definite umami, with seaweed wrap notes showing up in the finish, plenty of nihonsu and shoochuu flavours of all kinds over a sweet and yet somewhat saison based beer – it is utterly different to most beers out there.

It’s abv makes it one to share, but its character in not dull even by the end of a shared bottle, if it was lower abv I could keep examine its intricacies for ages. If you can, try it, this beer is worth it.

Background: Ok where to start? Readers of my blog probably know Wild Beer co by know. Hanging Bat is a very new brew group I don’t know much about. Nanban is the masterchef winner Tim Anderson, and Blackfriars is a restaurant … I think. When I first saw “nanban” I thought it translated as “what number?” which seemed an odd choice, but then I realised there may be other readings as I was only seeing the hiragana, not the kanji. A quick search revealed that it can translate as “southern barbarian” which was the term for the first arriving Europeans, which makes more sense. Yadōkai was a term for a set of mischievous monks – a quick google indicates there is quite an interesting background to this, which I may have to look into later. The beer is made with flaked rice, saison yeast, sea buckthorn, yuzu juice, and two types of seaweed. Whew. This was shared with friends as we chatted and discussed the flavours. Bought at Independent Spirit, if you hadn’t guessed.

Buxton Brewdog Rough Cs

Buxton: Brewdog: Rough Cs (England: Speciality Grain: 5% ABV)

Visual: Amber to brown. Caramel touched thin head.

Nose: Brown sugar. Dry hops. Slight smoke, barley and pineapple.

Body: Prickly bitterness. Thick frothy texture. Touch of chalk. Toffee malt. Oatmeal flakes. Apricot.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Chalk. Toffee. Grapefruit touch. Pineapple. Charred touch. Dried raisins. Oatmeal.

Conclusion: This is a fun wee one, both exactly what a lager should be, and also kind of not. Ok, odd starting point, let’s break that down a bit.

On the awesome side, this has a lovely texture. Thick and frothy, the oatmeal really has given weight to this, and sometimes feels almost rye touched at times. The joy of this is pretty much as much about texture as it is anything else. The rough lead out after sipping, the big main body – it is always keeping things interesting in how it feels.

Unfortunately, possibly because of the huge influence of the texture, the big weight of feel, you find that the actual influence of hop flavours seems too light. There is mainly bitterness and prickle feel, but not much actual either traditional or craft lager flavours. There is some soft fruit you get behind, a light tartness, but the texture really seems to be the main point.

On the unusual, but neither bad nor good side, it doesn’t feel refreshing like a lager. Which is why I say is exactly what a lager should be (the awesome innovation) and not ( It really doesn’t have that crisp refreshing character). In fact in many ways it does feel dissimilar to expectations of a lager, some ways a good thing, others not, but different. The thing is the more it succeeds in one, the more it fails in the other, the feel and the refreshing seem to eternally be in conflict.

It makes for something that is easy to drink, but has presence, but if it is going to go that way I feel it needs to embrace it, if it isn’t going to be refreshing, use that texture to deliver a bigger flavour.

Even so, it isn’t dull, just could do with committing more to what it is – it is flavoursome in itself, if not in a huge range. What it does do is very different – not a sessionable lager, but worth a try.

background: Beer 8 of collabfest, and night was drawing in. Despite drinking a lot of water and taking breaks, it was at this point that I decided to draw day one’s limit at ten beers. Also at this point the guys from Wild Beer Co turned up and gave some samples, and a nice chat – plus posed for photos. Which was nice. Anyway, this is an oatmeal amber lager, and as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.


The Bruery: Rugbrød (USA: Speciality Grain: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to black. Large brown bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. All bran. Wheat. Earthy.

Body: Vinous. Sour grapes. Cherries and raisins. Port. Raspberries. Chocolate milkshake. Sugared shortbread. Fruitcake.

Finish: Madeira cake. Sour red wine. Glacier cherries. Malt chocolate. Choc orange. White grapes. Black cherries.

Conclusion: So I took a few sniffs of the beer after I had just poured it. Not unpleasant I thought to myself. Bit earthy. Bit light malt chocolate. Doesn’t say very much though, which is a bad sign for 8%. So I put on my “Prepared to be disappointed face” and took my first sip.

Holy Buttesticles. Where the hell did that come from? Like, what? Where? How. What? There is a very vinous beer that they hid in here. Malt chocolate and choc orange as a solid base, but that is just a launch pad for sour wine and grapes mixed against port and Madeira, then all mashed up with fruitcake and raisins.

It is just slightly soured, with an almost wine sediment feel at times. The mouth tingling sour grapes style is brought to heel by the solid robust malt when it looks like it is going to get too heavy. All together it is delivered with a very smooth character. The malt base is so easygoing that it almost decries the abv, while the vinous elements happily declare it.

It is kind of ESB styled, but both bigger and smoother. it is a bigger jump from Vintage Ale as Vintage Ale is from ESB, if that makes sense, and even if it doesn’t.

So, of the full package for an excellent beer, all it lacks is the aroma. The rest is delicious, with vinous, malty beery goodness. It is not the very best of the best, but it comes in just a shade below. It lacks the perfect package yes, but seriously, do not let that put you off. One small flaw does not a beer ruin. If you like big vintage ales then this is that and more. Enjoy it.

Background: I googled Rugbrød, apparently it is the name of Danish rye bread. That is my new fact of the day learned. This is my first The Bruery beer, I’ve heard their name come up a few times, and never with negative connotations, so I thought it worth giving them a try. Apparently this can be aged a few years. I can’t see a bottled on date so I have no idea how old it is. That is all.


Brewdog: Interstellar (Scotland: Specialty Grain IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. A caramel coloured medium sized head. No visible carbonation to the body.

Nose: Vanilla and pepper. Rye crackers. Hop bitterness. Toffee. Fruitcake. Pineapple.

Body: Spicy. Rye crackers. Cherries. Pepper. Rough feel. Raisins and fruitcake. Bitter. Vanilla.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Crackers. Bitterness. Vanilla. Raisins.

Conclusion: Hmm, I get the feeling this beer has potential, but, at this point I have to say it really doesn’t reach it. The thing is, there are such nice subtle notes of raisins and cherries mid body, mixed with bitter hops and a light pepper spice.

All of which ends up mattering not a jot for the most part of the beer as what you end up getting is a big dose of dry rye crackers flavour that ends up hiding most of the rest of the elements.

I mean, I get it, yes, it is a rye beer, and we should get some spice and rye from that, but when all it seems to do is keep from you the vanilla touched fruitcake that seems to lie below then it seems that the beer is hiding all the elements its should be showcasing. With more delicate rye spice this could be excellent, but for now that is just a beer in my mind, not in the glass.

Now, over time it seems to sooth out, and you start getting the beer that it should be, but even then the finish retains that harsh character that is overly drying and doesn’t reward you with taking your time with the beer. It is more forcing you to take another sip to get rid of the dryness rather than enticing you in.

Possibly the best element is the aroma, here the elements mix most pleasantly and here the beer promises the most. When the beer is on form you get moments that match that promise, balanced sweet toffee and spiced fruit, but even then the rough finish snatches it away from you.

Not a prototype that grabs me as it stands.

Background: Second of this year’s, or by the time I write this, last year’s, prototype beers. This one a red rye IPA. General buzz I had heard before drinking this one was that it was like a ramped up rye 5 Am Saint. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers

Big Red Dog

Brewdog: Hand Drawn Monkey: Jephers the Big Red Dog (England: Specialty Grain Saison: 5% ABV)

Visual: Cherry amber. Nearly no head to be seen.

Nose: Massive ginger. Lemongrass. Clean touch to it. Slight sulphur. Vanilla. Pomegranate.

Body: Ginger and spice racks. Slight blood orange. Quite tart. Light feel to it. Pepper. Musty berries. Vanilla.

Finish: Peppermint. Pepper. Wheat. Light spices. Pomegranate. Slight menthol and resin. Chilli seeds.

Conclusion: Ok, so yes, you put ginger in this. You very definitely put ginger in this. I mean, this is basically alcoholic ginger beer with a few knobs on. So is it worth it?

I would say it is actually slightly disappointing. Yes the ginger is plentiful and great, but the texture is far too light to push any of the other elements, instead giving just a light vanilla backing for the most part. You do get some lemongrass and pepper, but never with any real substance to it. Everything just ends up slightly insubstantial.

If you look for it there is orange there, but doesn’t weigh in half as much as you would hope, a pity as a good dose of that would be pretty much what the beer needs, it could have made it a bigger and far better beer. What else? Well the ginger warmth does mix with the pepper to give a good impression of chilli which gives it extra character if not range.

It still has some elements, a bit of resin and menthol, but it is the texture that lets it down, nothing can define itself as it should. Interesting but not a particularly good beer.

Background: Collab Fest 2013! Every Brewdog bar collaborated with a local brewery to make a beer for the fest, resulting in a grand total of twelve beers released over one weekend. So, what could I do? Normally I limit myself to two of three reviews in a session, but these would only be on for the weekend. So, for you, my readers, I sat in one eight hour stint, drinking thirds, with a glass of water and a chapter of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone between each drink to help clear my palette. I suffer so for you. This was the eighth beer of the day. The previous two women I was chatting with had left by this point and I had been joined by a group just back from the movies and was discussing accuracy flaws in a recent Tom Hanks film. Anyway, the beer, this was made with rye, orange, fresh ginger and pink peppercorn. On any other day that would seem strange. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

12 Hop Pale
Brewdog: 12 Hop Pale Ale (Scotland: Speciality Grain Pale Ale: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Thin white head.

Nose: Pineapple. Passion fruit. Light resin and nettle like hops. Skittles. Kumquat. Light jam on toast. Lights of bright fruit. Marmalade.

Body: Good bitterness. Frothy. Skittles. Drying feel. Apricot. Moerate hops. Dry malt character. Slight custard sweetness.

Finish: Dry. Passion fruit. Lemon and pineapple. Light resin and fluffy hop feel. Popcorn. Slight spice racks. Skittles. Bubble gum.

Conclusion: As I found with Mikkeller’s massive hop mash up beers, the more types of hops used doesn’t always mean a larger range of flavour. Then again it rarely means dull either. This continues the trend, the flavours often seem to struggle against each other but the end result is interesting.

Here the emphasis is on light bright citrus flavours and dry exotic fruit. A dry beer, and slightly spicy from the rye, it goes from the high bright flavours and grounds down into a very drying and spice touched finish. With the exception of that, it is hard to bring the disparate elements into a coherent narrative for this beer.

Still, you get very good hops and mix of good flavours, with the emphasis on fun rather than polish, which results in odd quirks and flavours popping up when you least expect them. It is a beer that keeps you on your toes with lots of apricot, passion fruit, skittles and other such elements popping up. The texture is maybe a touch too dry but that doesn’t stop it being fun.

Not a fine one for craftsmanship, more in the style of an improve jam session but with hops. I can live with that, just as long as it isn’t the only thing on the set list.

Background: Collab Fest 2013! Every Brewdog bar collaborated with a local brewery to make a beer for the fest, resulting in a grand total of twelve beers released over one weekend. So, what could I do? Normally I limit myself to two of three reviews in a session, but these would only be on for the weekend. So, for you, my readers, I sat in one eight hour stint, drinking thirds, with a glass of water and a chapter of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone between each drink to help clear my palette. I suffer so for you. This was the second beer of the day, a rye pale ale made with twelve different hops.

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