Tag Archive: Spice/Herb/Vegetable


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Winter (England: Vegetable/Herb/Spice: 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Massive browned head. Very lively to pour.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Choc limes. Earthy. Sweet, cloying apricot. Dessert wine. Pine cones. Orange rind. Paprika.

Body: Orange jelly sweets. Sour grapes. Cloying sweet wine. Treacle. Chives and other herbs. Mulled wine. Rye crackers. Liquorice. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Finish: Cherries. Dried apricots. Sugary sweet wine. Boiled bark. Mulled wine. Malt chocolate. Rye bread. Rock salt. Golden syrup. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Well, this is very much dedicated to the foraged elements conceit, but despite that remember to be a beer as well – a beer that is backed by a heck of a lot of vinous notes from the barrel ageing. They are trying to pack in a lot here, let’s see if it works.

The base feels closer to a dubbel than than the actual dubbel I tried recently for their 2018 Smoke N Barrels, though that isn’t saying much. By itself it feels more towards an ESB style malt character with chocolate notes coming out -however it is pepped up by rye spice notes and a liquorice element that makes it all feel more earthy and more ready to fit in with the foraged root character.

Onto that is layered the sweet, thick Sauternes wine notes that go from cloying stewed thick apricot to the sour grapes of a tarter wine, to a golden syrup like dessert wine style. It seems to have reacted here with the base beer to show off a real fruit sugar styling to the sweetness. Initially it felt intense and cloying, but soothed over time as the more grounded base worked with it.

The rooting around foraged style is actually a robust middle to this beer. It is oaken like stewed bark, matched with herbal and spicy notes. The spiciness blends nicely with the rye to create a robust, forest imagery filled, set of notes.

It is a weird beer. Lots of intense notes, lots of prickly notes, lots of elements that don’t blend in with each other, instead all struggling for dominance. However it is never dull and never bad. Not a favourite of mine, but probably the best of the rooting around series, and the best at showing what foraging can add to a beer, especially if you make it one element rather than the sole element.

Background: I left off grabbing this one for a while. The Rooting Around series, a series of beers made with locally foraged items, missed more than it hit in my opinion. However it was recommended to me on the Alcohol and Aphorisms Facebook page, so I thought, what the heck, why not? This is a beer made with rock samphire, Douglas firs, tonka beans, orange peel and a mix of oats, rye and barley in the malt bill. Then that whole mixed up mess was aged in Sauternes casks. This is either going to be great or terrible with a set-up like that. Put in Ozzy Osbourne again while drinking this, prefer the earlier years tracks on the album I think. Anyway, another one grabbed from my Wild Beer supplier that is Independent Spirit.

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Master Gao: Baby Jasmine Tea Lager (China: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Lager: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Thick yellow. High carbonation. White head.

Nose: Cake sponge. Mild brown tea. Shortbread.

Body: Honey and vanilla. Bready. Soft tannins. Cake sponge. Brown tea. Nutty.

Finish: Floral. Soft sweet raspberry bits. Vanilla. Nutty. Gentle tea notes and tannins. Dry tea bags. Lemongrass and light pepper.

Conclusion: I have to admit, since I was seeing this pretty much everywhere before I tried it, I was expecting … – for snobbish reason I guess – I was expecting this to be a fairly lacklustre beer. Stupid snob me.

This is a fairly solid lager – well, let me go into that a bit more as I may be misleading slightly. At its base it is a sweet honey and vanilla thing – good thickness of mouthfeel but by itself it would be a bit simple and a tad sickly over time. Hence why I guess I shouldn’t say it is a solid lager – as a lager alone it is a bit of a let down. So, why was a surprised by this? Well the base is solid in thickness, kind of cake sponge like, and it makes a good base that the beer uses well in playing with the extra ingredient – the tea!

With this ingredient it is lightly floral, with dry brown tea notes and plenty of tannins – bringing a dry, nutty character to the sweet base, and a slight peppery spark to the finish. Together the ok lager base, and the tea influence become a satisfying beer – the slight sweetness of the base meaning that the drier tea notes don’t seem harsh. While most of the complexity comes from the tea it doesn’t push the element so hard it become overbearing – the thick sweet lager base shows through to make it evident this is still a beer.

So a lager that would have been weak without the extra element, but has become a remarkably solid drink with it – gaining just enough complexity to be worth a try.

Background: This was tried in Xi’an – I’d been hunting for a craft beer brewpub and failed to find it, so settled down in a more standard bar near the hotel. I’d seen this Tea Lager in a few 7-11s around Beijing, so decided to give it a try as one of the more common craft beers of the area. The photo came out way too dark, so I’ve done a bit of work in GIMP to make it more visible. Hope it looks ok.

Downton: Pumpkin Ale (England: Spice/Vegetable/Herb: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy ripe banana to gold. Some sediment. Large mounded ice cream float looking off white head.

Nose: Pumpkin. Earthy hops. Cinnamon and coriander. Low but present bitterness.

Body: Earthy bitterness. Slightly peppery. Some pumpkin comes out if held. Greenery. Soft soil. Orange zest. Slight brown sugar.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy. Moderate bitterness. Paprika. Soil.

Conclusion: This is a fairly earthy beer, almost soil like at times. Not something I would generally associate with a pumpkin ale, but there you go. While pumpkin isn’t a super fragile flavour, it isn’t exactly a dominant one either. And here it really seems to suffer against the earthy bitter weight that this brings.

It is odd that the pumpkin gets such short shrift in the body as the aroma manages to push those notes very well – they just get lost very easily when you start sipping the beer itself. If you hold the beer on your tongue for a while it does start time come out, but basically you have to seriously dig to get the element to be anything but the lightest of notes.

So, as a pumpkin beer this is definitely a fail – but how does it do just as a beer in itself? Fairly dull; It is a soil dominated, earthy bitter – which, let’s face it, is a style that is hard to do in an interesting fashion – not impossible, just hard.

This is a bit dull, a bit leaden, a bit too much earth and too little pumpkin. As both a beer in itself and a pumpkin beer it is a let down. Avoid.

Background: This beer was kind gift from my work college Matt – Many thanks. He informed me that he had it for a while before giving me it, however looking at it the best before date is still way in the future so it should be ok. Then again,as a pumpkin ale I’m guessing this came out Halloween last year, so damn that must be a long best before date. I did wonder if this was the same recipe as their other Dial’s Pumpkin Beer but it did seem to taste very different despite the same abv. Anyway, in some act of insanity I bought the Afterbirth+ DLC for Binding Of Isaac in the latest steam sale. This was drunk after I finally managed to stop playing that stupidly addictive game. Why did I do it? WHYYYY? Anyway, drunk while listening to some Rob Zombie to keep in with the macabre atmosphere of playing that game!

Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Spring (England: Spice/Herb/Vegetable: 3% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain to yellow. Short lived thin white head. Clear body with small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Herbal. Mildly minty. Slight lemon.

Body: Wet wood. Some bitterness. Sage and onion. Fizzy feel. Slight chalk. Bready. Somewhat empty. Crushed leaves. Cardboard. Mild apricot. Watercress. Light tartness.

Finish: Wet wood. Slight cardboard. Wet. Leaves. Slight granite. Watercress. Lemongrass.

Conclusion: Not the best start for this year’s Wild Beer Co’s set of themed beers. Last years smoked range was hit and miss, but when it hit it hit very well. This, the first of the foraged elements made beers, is really very empty and lower than the weakest of the smoked beer range they did.

There is a dry pale base, and a bit of greenery and … Well a kind of watery taste I guess and …erm that’s it. It reminds me of the Brewdog vs Flying dog set of beers where they attempted a pre hop IPA, except without any of the intensity.

The most this seems to manage is a kind of brown bread and watercress style, with a touch of lemon backing, and is about as exciting as that sounds. And I mean not very if you had problem breaking that code.

Ok, I am being a bit too harsh – if you let it warm there is a very subtle fresh tartness there that rises up, but it is faint indeed. Also, for all they don’t do much with it, the base is very well brewed – dry, and well attenuated as a low abv beer – it is just that virtually nothing is added to that, be it hop, spice, flavours from the leaves, etc. They should take this base and use it for something with a bit more umph.

So, has just enough to save it from being a drain pour, or being added to the vile putrid filth tag here. It isn’t that bad, but is is very basic. Maybe some light lemon, light pineapple, but really doesn’t add enough to make it worth having

Just a very empty beer.

Background: Last year Wild Beer Co did four seasonal smoked and oaked beers. This year they seem to be doing four based on foraged elements close to their brewhouse. This, the spring entry, is a low abv, ultra pale ale made with leaves and buds of Beech and Linden trees, and a large percentage of rice in the mix. I was unsure how well this would work, but figured I’d give it a go – if it works out nice I always like a good, lower abv beer. Drunk while listening to the awesome Jack off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars album.

Wild Beer Co: Spicy Crowd (England: Spice Beer: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Some carbonation. Moderate white bubbled head.

Nose: Sharp lime. Sulphur. Lime cordial. Damp bread. Bombay mix. Fresh nan bread. Mild garlic. Peppercorn sauce. Boiled eggs. Ginger.

Body: Lime. Pepper. Kiwi. Watery texture. Prickly hops and greenery. Lime cordial. Bready backing. Peppercorn. Boiled eggs. Light dried apricot.

Finish: Lime cordial. Lots of black pepper. Musty hop character. Dry feel. Chai spice. Mint leaves. Bready.

Conclusion: Ok, sometime a spiced beer is basically a big wet bag of spice, owing little to the beer, and lots to the spice. This is one such beer. Basically this tastes like spiced lime cordial mixed with an American Pale Ale. Not a very standard beer then. It is, however, hard to say which of the many spices is most dominant.

Initially a Bombay mix and a Thai spice style really push out in the aroma, with ginger developing over time. So, very much a mix of spiced curry house styles. The body though is more peppery and touched by greenery – less well defined but with more intense flavours. That is odd as the actual body feels watery in mouthfeel, which is a wild contrast to the more intense flavour.

Finally the finish is into a chai spice and mint leaves style – soothing night drink style to send you to sleep with. The only common thread between the three parts of the beer is the lime cordial used everywhere.

Beer wise, it has that dry APA character- bready and with slightly muggy hop bitterness, but little else. While I am not overly taken by this beer, for what they are doing the dry APA style seems a good choice. It makes the spice very visible and yet manages to have a body that doesn’t make it overpowering.

As a beer it just feels like a grab bag of spice with no real theme or coherent character – and the lime cordial notes are over present without adding that much. Not a horrible beer, but not really leading anywhere – just a lot of spice floating around.

Not the best show of what Wild Beer can do.

Background: So, the second of the beers Wild Beer Co put out to promote their crowdfunding for a new brewery. Again this was grabbed at Independent Spirit. This is the odder of the two beers, being a pale ale made with galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, peppercorns and birds-eye chilli. As of such, I feel it is more representative of the odd stuff that Wild Beer co regularly comes out with. Anyway this was drunk while listening to more of the madcap, over the top metal that is Evil Scarecrow.

Brewdog Chili Hammer

Brewdog: Chili Hammer (Scotland: Spice IPA: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear yellow. Lots of carbonation but only a small white head.

Nose: Pineapple. Fresh. Slight musty hop character. Chilli seeds. Apricot.

Body: Apricot. Moderately dry. Light brown sugar, then a chilli kick. Chilli seeds and chilli powder. Moderate heat. Light custard and vanilla sweetness. Light tart character. Mango and peach.

Finish: Dried apricot. Chilli seeds and chilli powder. Medium warmth. Pepper and dried beef. Smoke. Bitter hops.

Conclusion: I really can’t get much more detail for my notes from this – I’m sure there is more to it – in fact on early sip there is a distinct fruity, hoppy character that really shows the Jack Hammer base is there. It is just that before I can put words to it the chilli rushes up and kicks everything else away. It is like a race against time to try and decrypt the beer on each sip. Which is my way of apologising for the slightly simple notes this time.

Time does help with this – you can get acclimatised and a bit more balance comes into the game. I’ll see what I can do with this.

The main surviving hop fruitiness is a light tart and apricot character – most of the actual, brutal, Jack Hammer bitterness is fully subsumed under the chilli. By the time the finish rolls around you start getting some complimentary hop bitterness, but not much.

The base under that is pretty dry, which always contributed to the harsh kick of Jack Hammer – it didn’t get in the way of the harsh notes. It is the same here but more so. Over time you can get soft vanilla softness, backed by a slight sweet peach character but it is subdued.

I was unimpressed initially, but time to acclimatise, and a bit of heat to let the aroma start coming out, leads to a bit more balance. More fruit coming out means that the chilli doesn’t seem so harsh, and the beer doesn’t seem so one note. In fact by the end of the beer it is actually quite juicy, which is very surprising – the Jack Hammer base fruity hops really start doing more in the second half of the beer. I guess it is a testament to what a beast that base beer is that it can, eventually, rise to match such intense chilli flavour.

So, like Neon Overlord before it, it is not overly my thing. However, despite weak first impressions, I think this ended up the more impressive of the two through sheer weight of flavour.

Background: As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Then again, I am not a huge fan of chilli beers so it probably evens out. I probably only even grabbed this as it was a Brewdog beer and I tend to enjoy their stuff. Grabbed directly from the Brewdog Store, this was drunk while listening to the Ramones Anthology – some old school punk for the self proclaimed punk brewery. Anyway, this is one of this year’s many Jack Hammer variants – the original being a highly popular very hop bitterness heavy IPA. This, as you may have guessed, is the chilli added variant.

Brewdog: Neon Overlord (Scotland: Spice IPA: 7.3% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to grain. Small white head. Clear body with moderate carbonation.

Nose: Fresh mango juice. Chilli seeds. Quite fresh. Slight fresh banana. Mild hop character. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Mango chutney. Slight sulphur.

Body: Mild warmth up front, builds quickly. Mango chutney. Poppadoms. Stewed apricot. Chilli hits back of throat on swallow. Stewed banana.

Finish: Wholemeal nans. Chilli seed and warmth. Green peppers. Mango chutney. Slight smokey barbecue sauce and beef.

Conclusion: Not sure if time has mellowed this, or if my tastebuds have adapted to it. I had a can about two weeks back and it kicked my teeth in with chilli heat. Now it is survivable even for a chilli wuss like me. Also I think I chilled it a tad longer this time, maybe that helped?

The main base seems pretty dry and unobtrusive – either that or there is a base there and the residual heat has just overcome it. The heat starts off fairly gentle up front, but can still kick at the back of the throat on a swallow. While I am not a big fan of chilli heat, I do love the flavour you can get from chilli (For example, huge fan of chipotle when cooking, but really need to be careful with how much I add). Here the actual chilli flavour mainly comes late body and into the finish – it comes in a slightly smokey, slightly meaty set of notes. Either that or it is a result of a slight sulphur character the beer has, but for now I’m attributing it to the chilli.

Any which way, the main flavour for the beer is instead the mango – delivered in a very mango chutney way. Then again, between that and the nan notes in the finish I wonder if I am being slightly psychosomatic here and giving everything a kind of curry house element in the description due to the ingredients. Apart from the mango there is a general stewed fruit character but nothing else is particularly well defined.

I am a bit split on this, and yes it is due to the chilli – with the chilli character most of the subtle notes of the beer are lost – It is a brash kicking beer, though admittedly that is kind of the point of it. Criticising it for that would be like criticising clowns for not being funny. That is the point.

On its own points it balances well – you get the mango, you get the chilli – the base is drinkable, dry and gets out of the way fast. So, does what it says, does that well, doesn’t do much else. Not overly for me, but not one I would avoid, despite the chilli being higher than my preference. Could do with more chilli flavour, less chilli heat in my opinion, but I would nearly always say that. Guess it isn’t aimed at me. *shrug*

Background: Lovely can for this one, grabbed directly from the Brewdog shop. This is an IPA made with Habanero chilli, coriander seeds and mango. I like chilli for the flavour, but am terrible with the heat so I don’t tend to have many chilli beers, but I like Brewdog’s stuff so decided to give this a try. As the previous line may indicate, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. To offset my weak heat resistance to chilli I had some milk on standby. Drunk while listening to Crossfaith: Xeno – with the neon imagery of their videos it seemed to match.

Time and Tide Root Of All Evil Beetroot Hefe

Time and Tide: Root Of All Evil Beetroot Hefe (England: Spice\Herb\Vegetable: 8 % ABV)

Visual: Deep cherry red with strawberry colour laced massive bubble mounded head. Hazy body.

Nose: Paprika. Wheaty and peppery. Slightly fresh air. Mild strawberry notes.

Body: Vanilla fudge. Strawberry. Wheaty and peppery. Smooth feel. Light carrot. Light beetroot. Cloves. Light earthy notes. Roots.

Finish: Strawberry. Mild beetroot. Fudge. Mild bitterness and hop character. Cinnamon. Carrot. Turmeric.

Conclusion: Ok, hands up, who expected this to be fucking horrible? Ok, now this is a text based medium, so you can’t see, but I assure you my hand is up right now. So, why did I buy it? Well, I don’t mind beetroot, so I had nothing too bad there, and frankly this looked like a beer to be “enjoyed” in the same way you enjoy Sharknado 2. or Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. By enjoying how bad it is and taking the piss.

So, erm, it is actually pretty good. I’m genuinely shocked. It feels much more malty than I would expect for a hefeweisen based beer, and that gives it quite a level of vanilla fudge backed against the wheaty and slightly peppery character from the hefe. The backing seems to be what makes the beetroot an interesting note rather than a dominating one. There is none of the real intense beetroot flavours I was expecting, instead it gives a dry spicy earthiness, and mild use of the more recognisable beetroot notes. With the sweetness they even seem to mix to give what feels like a very predominant strawberry characteristic. Very nice, especially to offset the dry spice.

In fact, now I think about it, between the spice and the peppery character this actually feels closer to a Belgian Wit that has been brewed up to 8% to give a more malty character, than what I would expect of the German hefe. Though I will admit the wheat character still does have some calls the German hefe feel, along with a moderate hop bitterness that you wouldn’t often see in the Belgian wit interpretation.

Overall, yeah I dig it, like a spicy Belgian Wit boosted with subtle root vegetable character, and with big malt balancing sweetness that keeps it all together. Possibly the most surprisingly satisfying beer I have had this year, if not longer. I wouldn’t just recommend this as a fun gimmick, it is one I could see myself having just as general drinking if I found it on tap. A very good beer that uses its unusual elements well.

Background; Listed at 30 IBU this canned hefeweisen is made with beetroot. Which is pretty much the reason I grabbed it. Found at my usual beer haunt of Independent Spirit. Drunk while listening to The Algorithm: Brute Force. What else can I say? It is a beetroot beer.

Stone Monkey Paw Juli Goldenberg 24 Carrot Golden Ale

Stone: Monkey Paw: Juli Goldenberg: 24 Carrot Golden Ale (USA: Spice Beer: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Thin white head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Carrot. Coriander. White grapes. Dry but slightly fizzy. Dried lemon.

Body: Fizzy. Orange sherbet. Tart. Carrot. Golden syrup. Vanilla. Spicy bitterness. Dried bay leaves? Juicy grapes. Custard. Raisins. Plums. Cinnamon.

Finish: Coriander. Carrot. Vanilla. Dry ginger cake. Bitter. Dried spice. Thyme and natural mint. Orange. Raisins.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m letting this one warm a bit as I write, so my thoughts may seem to suddenly change half way through depending on what happens.

Right now, chilled down, this is interesting but really syrupy sickly sweet. There is a contrast between that and the dry spice that mixes with the bitterness to give the low end notes. So you get a real sweet high end, and real spiced low end, but it feels like it needs a stable middle to tie it together.

At this point it doesn’t quite say carrot cake to me – it is too sweet for that – I always find carrot cake to work better when slightly more mellow than that – What is grabbing me at this point is that it has a really fresh, sherbety, orange element that really kicks. It is a note of freshness that the beer really needs. The vanilla, by contrast, seems to be what is pushing it into the overly sickly sweet style. This is one of those beers where a just slightly drier base would have pushed the concept a while lot better.

Hmm, time passes, the spiciness is more notable. The body feels more balanced with slight dark fruit coming out. The vanilla is still a bit pushy but it does work better here. Dry notes are more present and the spice lasts longer. Still not really carrot cake but more satisfying as a beer.

It manages to use spice quite heavily while not being one notes. It manages to make me which for a drier beer, then makes me happy when I get it. It does need the sweet elements it has, but I really think it needs to reign itself in with the vanilla as that is the main element that hurts it. Even aside from that this is a beer that needs sharing – both the sweetness and spice ends up feel wearing by the end of a 660ml bottle

So, overall, keep it only slightly cool and you have an ok spiced ale – a tad flawed but I like that it tries something unusual even if it fails to hit that. Unusual is its best selling point.

Background: This looked like a fun one – winner of the 2015 Stone home-brew competition. It is a Belgian style golden ale made with *deep breath* carrot, cinnamon, raisins and vanilla beans. Basically an attempt to make a carrot cake beer. Which intrigued me. Grabbed at Independent Spirit. Yes. Again. Drunk while listing to Erock’s David Bowie Metal tribute. Very cool.

Art Brew Christmas Tree Beer

Art Brew: Christmas Tree Beer (England: Spice Beer: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy toffee brown body. Large slightly browned creamy mound of a head that leaves lace.

Nose: Aniseed and pine cones. Earthy touch. Lime. Lightly creamy. Dried apricot.

Body: Aniseed. Peppercorn. Thai curry. Very spicy. Gherkin. Light vanilla toffee. Coconut. Pine needles. Creamy mouthfeel. Cinnamon. Dried apricot.

Finish: Thai curry and coconut. Very long lasting spice. Seven spice jars. Pine needles. Lightly earthy.

Conclusion: Ok, I should have expected this – it was predictable from the fact that they put an entire Christmas tree in while brewing, but still… Damn this is spicy as hell. Forget mulled beer, or mulled wine, this has stolen all the Christmas spice and made it the most stereotypically Christmas beer around.

Therefore it is inevitable that I don’t really get along with it. It is mainly because I like spice to be an addition to the beer rather than the main thrust of the beer itself. This really have very little to back up the spice, very little intrinsically beer like characteristics. The main texture is creamy, calling to the more mainstream interpretations of bitters. There are a few other calls to the beer character, the most recognisable is the apricot sweetness that contrasts the spice. It is a weak and easily missed note but it is there.

The main flavour is a mix of Thai curry and aniseed. It is probably the aniseed that is what killed my interest in it, I very rarely get along with strongly aniseed flavoured beers. So, best I can say is that if you love spice and love Christmas then you will get along with this like a house on fire, as that is 98% of the beer.

However it really is not for me.

Background: Ok, this is my concession to Christmas, the most Christmassy of Christmas beers – a beer brewed with an entire Christmas tree in it. Also, a brew from Art Brew, who have been long time beers to appear here so I am always glad to see them back. Good times. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to New Model Army. Ok, ok, and Merry Christmas to all all who celebrate it. A good day to everyone else.

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