Tag Archive: Spice/Herb/Vegetable

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.

Brewdog Pumpkin Head

Brewdog: Pumpkin Head (Scotland: Spice/Herb/Vegetable: 5.1% ABV)

Visual: Amber gold. Large custard touched froth head. Clear body with no evident carbonation.

Nose: Pumpkin and cinnamon. Paprika. Light bitterness.

Body: Pumpkin and dry fruit. Malt drinks. Light pineapple and kiwi. Frothy feel. Kumquat. Moderate bitterness. Peach.

Finish: Pumpkin. Light hop bitterness. Dry. Malt drinks. Light tangerine. Kiwi. Cinnamon. Peach.

Conclusion: Ok. It tastes of pumpkin. I will admit to not being a huge pumpkin expert, but even I managed to work that one out. It is quite dry, well attenuated and, well, pumpkin. Everything I say after this paragraph, and I mean absolutely everything (within the same review of course) comes second to that.

I mean they try very hard to push more out there, or maybe I am just searching so hard that I start seeing things. Either way, there is a slight pineapple tartness, and some soft peach sweetness amongst the other notes rounding it out. Those notes however, I had to go looking for. What is much more immediately obvious is the spiciness.

Lots of cinnamon, touches of paprika, you can almost feel the spice grains ground against the tongue. While pumpkin is the most obvious element, spice is by far the longest lasting.

Altogether, hmm, well I think I like the idea of pumpkin beers more than I like actual pumpkin beers- However, given that, this is not a bad wee ale.

The combined level of spice and dryness would normally be a beer fail state for me, as the two elements together tend to do horrid things to my tastebuds, but the very subtle side peach and fruit notes actually keep this just on the drinkable side. It is basically a pumpkin beer, but with a wink at you as if it has more.

Not one I’d have often, but I am surprised how much I am enjoying it, all things considered. I wasn’t expecting much, and now, at the end of the beer, I am still having fun. You can do a lot worse than that.

Background: It is absolutely nowhere near Halloween. Therefore it is the perfect time to drink Brewdog’s Halloween pumpkin beer. I’m sure that made sense in a universe somewhere. Anyway, yes pumpkin beer. You don’t see that many in the UK, but the craft beer movement seems to have brought the trend over. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. Drunk while listening to some “Feed The Rhino” because when I find music I like I tend to stick with it for ages.

Real Ginger Ale

Kiuchi: Hitachino Nest: Real Ginger Ale (Japan: Spice Herb Vegetable: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy cherry red. Medium cinnamon to brown tight bubbled head.

Nose: Ginger. Cinnamon. Barley.

Body: Ginger. Toffee. Barley. Brown sugar. Cinnamon. Cherries. Brandy cream. Raisins.

Finish: Digestives. Ginger. Toffee. Raisins. Fruitcake.

Conclusion: This is indeed a ginger beer. A real one even. Despite the time it must have taken to hit these shores it still feels raw and fresh in its expression of the ginger. When you drink the beer warm that is pretty much all you get. Ginger. That’s it. It pretty much dominates.

Chilled down you get something similar to a British ESB or maybe a lighter interpretation of a Belgian dark ale backing it up; There is those cherries and raisins and other such dark fruit below the surface. So definitely another beer better chilled.

Man, I can remember back when I hated chilling beer, how times have changed.

Anyway, chilled I kind of dig this, a dark fruitcake and sweet brandy cream body under sharp ginger spice is a surprisingly good combination. Even with that it still isn’t the most complex of things, it still basically is an alcohol ginger beer, but they have used the extra abv to give it extra weight and depth. You can spend longer examining and enjoying it than with most of its ilk.

As it warms the ginger comes back to the fore, subsuming the more malty elements. Overall it wont convert a non ginger beer fan, but it is far more beer like than most and gives you a lot in trade for the increased abv.

Worth a try.

Background: I have joked for a while that the more simple the name of a Hitachino Nest beer, the more likely it is to be good. Pale ale and Amber ale were more fun for me than Ancient Nipponia. This then misses the chance to drop the word real and just call itself “Ginger Ale” for a better chance of success. The ideal Hitachino Nest would probably just be called “beer” or maybe would have a blank label. Anyway, this was a gift from my mate Matt – many thanks guv. This was drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, you know, for cheery times.

English Roots

Wild Beer Co: English Roots (England: Herb/Spice/Vegetable: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Fairly dark black cherry red. Thin dash of coffee cream head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Earthy hops.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Parsnips. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Light cherries. Earthy. Slight soil character. Cinnamon. Bean sprouts. Jelly sweetness.

Finish: Bean sprouts. Earthy. Malt chococlate.

Conclusion: Traditional, yet different. Which seems to be pretty much the Wild Beer Co. way This is an unusual one, and yet offered up in a very traditional cask real ale style for once. The base ale, to me at least, tastes slightly like a real ale version of Scarlet Fever. (Which also exists best I know)

It is very smooth and creamy, but what makes it so unusual is the very evident vegetable characteristics that come through from their main twist of odd ingredients. You can really taste the rootiness with parsnip, bean sprouts and earthy hops all in the flavours (though on checking only bean sprouts doesn’t seem to be an actual ingredient). It is like a brewed up vegetable stew.

Surprisingly that description is of a beer that is actually quite nice. Soothing and a bit of a meal in a glass kind of thing. There is counterbalance with sweetness below, all cherries and toffee. It takes time to rise up, the first few mouthfuls are all about the vegetables, but when you need it a mix of dark cherries and sweetness rises up to take the reigns.

Overall a quite grounded but tasty beer, different and with quite a few subtle complexities to it. Its unique characteristics are far from sessionable, and I cannot see it being a regular ale – either for the brewers to make or for introducing into a nights line up. However it is fun and different and worth trying for that, if not often.

Background: Another case of disagreeing with rate beer on beer style. They list it as a stout. It is made with acorn, parsnips and oats which in my mind makes it the most blatant vegetable beer that ever existed. Unusually for Wild Beer Co this is a cask ale – I’ve seen one or two of their beers in this format, but usually they are very keg orientated. I tend to try whatever I can of Wild Beer co’s stuff as they tend to be both high quality and experimental. This was tried at Bath Brew House on a night out with mates.

Cool As A Cucumber

Fyne and Wild: Cool as a Cucumber (England: Vegetable Saison: 2.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow brown with large tight bubbled head

Nose: Mint leaves. Rustic yeast. Light hop bitterness. Cucumber. Straw. Peppery.

Body: Cucumber. Whole grain crackers. Mint. Menthol. Nice moderate bitterness. Pepper.

Finish: Light hop bitterness and dry feel. Cooling. Cucumber. Crackers. Mint. Radishes.

Conclusion: Ok, odd, then again I could have guessed that going in. Very cucumber filled, which reminds me of those god awful summer pimms drinks that people make. Except this is good, and without pimms. Ok the link might be slightly tenuous.

It is a very different beer to most, though you can taste the base saison throughout with its light hop bitterness and funky yeast character and light pepperyness. However the main play of the beer is the cucumber and mint that dominate, so no, not like any beer I have had up to this point. Very savoury, the mint and rustic character makes me feel like it was brewed with the run off of a lamb dinner.

Very refreshing, very summer and all mild smoothing flavours. Seriously I just couldn’t see myself drinking this in winter, it just wouldn’t fit. It is very tasty, which surprised me as I am not generally a big fan of cucumber. This is just bitter and rustic enough behind the refreshing character. I wil say that, by itself, it is not quite the session beer it wants to be. The abv may be perfect and it does have a decent range of flavour, but the elements can get a bit old by ¾ of they way through the 75cl bottle.

What I am thinking though, is that if you add a bit of food in this may be sorted, just something to break it up a bit and let it earn its place again. (I personally kept the summer theme and tries some ice cream which worked ok, but I’m guessing something more savoury like mini sausages, crackers or the like would be better)

So pleasant and interesting, innovative as hell. As a beer on its own it can get samey fast, but as an accompaniment to food it should be spot on. A beer of distinct purpose and time, and does not sit well outside of that purpose. Inside it however it explores a niche that many others have overlooked.

Background: I have to admit my initial enthusiasm for this was lacking. Saison, ok that is good, low abv, that is good, made with mint and cucumber. Okaaaay. However it is a) From Wild Beer co (and Fyne Ale) an B) has been getting quite a good buzz around the blogosphere so I thought I would give it a go. It’s been timed well as my friends and I have been discussing exactly what makes a perfect session beer, and which beers would be that. So far we have decided less than 4% ABV, apart from that we are disagreeing wildly, with me calling to Artbrew I Beer, Moors Revival and Brewdogs Dead Pony Club, and others calling to Bellringer (Which I don’t rate) Still disagreement leads to better conversations. Anyway, this was picked up at Independent Spirit who have a beer selection that is getting better by the day.

Wasabi Beer
Daioh Farms: Wasabi Beer (Japan: Vegetable Beer: ? abv)

Visual: Dark lime green and very bitty. Frothy light green head that fills a good fifth of the glass and has darker green lines laced over it.

Nose: Ice cream. Lime jelly.

Body: Thick texture. Lettuce. Creamy. Brown sugar. Ice cream.

Finish: Dry spice rack. Slight warmth at back. Lettuce. Brown sugar. Light apricot?

Conclusion: I really don’t know what this beer is (See background for more details). It isn’t very wasabi influenced at all, except maybe the colour. Then again even the colour calls to mind dye rather than actual wasabi.

Quiet creamy textured in a way that reminds me of hub ale, and quite sweet. You only get a hint of wasabi in the lettuce like touches and a slight spice rack element in the finish. There isn’t any notable fire anywhere. If you hadn’t told me it was a wasabi beer I would not have guessed. I’d probably had thought someone had ditched spinach or lettuce in it.

So a beer that has by closest comparison a similarity to hub ale. That is a very bad sign. It is actually better than hub ale, a bit more flavour and sweeter, but that isn’t saying much at all and overall the beer feels very generic.

As my regular readers know I am a sucker for an oddity, so when I say the beer doesn’t even deliver that know that it really doesn’t. Heck, as I say, if you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have guessed the extra ingredient. Oddly if I had to list a high point I would say there is occasionally a light apricot touch in the finish. I have no idea where it came from, it doesn’t seem to match with anything else the beer delivers.

If you are at the farm, then you will probably, like me, be tempted to try the beer just to say you did. That pretty much is the only reason to try it. Adequate at best, any more honest description would have to call it far below sub par.

Background: Found at Daioh Wasabi Farms in Japan, this beer is a bit of a mystery. It is a beer made with wasabi, and from the fact it is served on a wasabi farm along with an insane amount of other wasabi products I presume it is local wasabi. However I’m not quite sure who exactly made the beer, there is no brewery, nor any abv listed. When I asked the person serving me said it was a Kirin beer, but considering he first said Asahi then glanced at the tap handle I am not entirely trusting his opinion. Best guess, it isn’t actually a beer brewed with wasabi, they have just taken another beer, maybe a Kirin beer, then dumped wasabi into it and served it. The large amount of sediment in the beer supports this vague guess that I’m passing off as a hypothesis. If anyone else knows differently please let me know.

In case you don’t know wasabi is a horseradish like vegetable that is used to add spice to food quite regularly in Japan. While I did not have hopes for the beer, my love of both wasabi and an oddity meant I thought it worth giving it a shot and a review.


Mikkeller: Dim Sum (Denmark: Spice/Herb/Vegetable:5% ABV)

Visual: Lightly bronzed. Large yellowed head.

Nose: Jiff lemon and pancakes. Coriander. Wheat. Subdued malt. Dill pickles. Dough. Pineapple and lime.

Body: Turmeric and coriander. Carrot. Squeeze of lime. Lemongrass. Solid malt underneath. Ginger. Touch of fruitcake and cherry.

Finish: Bitter yet with a lemon zing. Bubblegum. Dry feel. Turmeric.

Conclusion: It is hard to decide if this is a beer that does its intended job without having some sushi and stir-fry to hand. I mean I can see that is has definitely been designed with Asian food style in mind, lots of lemongrass, with fresh lime and lemon zing cutting through. Mildly spicy, and definitely brings to mind the pan Asian food I have tried.  The thing I don’t know is if it will complement the food, or if having too many similar flavours will end up getting samey or overpowering, the lemongrass especially. It is very hard to say in theory.

Hold on, before I go any further I’m going to do an experiment with some stir fry tinkering. Cooking time!

Ok, I’m back. Hmm, it was ok. Now admittedly I’m not the best cook, nor the best at creating representative food of the Asian variety, but at least give me points for trying. The beer didn’t feel intrusive, the fresh elements worked well at cleansing the harsher elements.  The base texture was quite crisp and refreshing but had enough solid backing from the malt to make sure that the lemongrass didn’t become too heavy as I worried.  Didn’t seem to add a vast amount though. Maybe it was just my cooking.

Well, let’s look at it as just a beer then. (“just” I say, “just”..). Well, its still ok. Weird flavours which reminds me somewhat of the sorachi ace hop. Probably the lemongrass and bubblegum.  Normally I dig weird but seems a bit heavy on the grassy flavour, odd considering it didn’t seem too intrusive with food. It is not bad but I can’t see myself having it regularly, by itself it seems a bit unnecessary with the extra flavours not adding much.

Overall it is an interesting experiment, though if I’m eating out I am more likely to go with  nihonshuu or umeshuu (sake or plum wine)  than this as I rarely get a chance to try them. I wouldn’t complain if this to replaced Asahi and the like though.

The main problem is it is expensive for what it is. If it was cheaper it would be great to share with mates with some take out, as is it’s a premium product and doesn’t add that much.

Not bad but it doesn’t really grab its niche as well as it could.

Background: Another Mikkeller beer, this one apparently designed to go well with Asian food. It is made with lemongrass and coriander and was made with the aid of Henrik Yde Andersen who is a well respected Thai chef.  Drunk while listening to the album’s of the band Republica after I found out they were touring again.  Republica was a favourite band from my distant childhood, and split up before I started going to gigs, so that was pretty cool news.  As I have mentioned recently I am a big fan of Mikkeller in general and love the wild experiments they try. I have several friends much better at making Asian food than I am, if I ever get a chance to try the beer again with some of their cooking I will let you know the results.

Flying Dog: International Arms Race (USA: Spice and Herb Ale: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy amber with lots of orange to red bits within in. Fizzes up but doesn’t settle into a head. Quite a bit of carbonation.

Nose: Squeezed orange and ginseng. Herbal and minty. Ginger root. Sour grapes.

Body:  Marmalade. Bitter but sweet. Grapefruit juice. Herbal bitterness, maybe dill.

Finish; Good bitterness and greenery. Marmalade again. Tart pineapple.

Conclusion: Despite my Brewdog bias I have to say, in the international arms race Flying Dog have taken the crown.

Unlike Brewdog who, against type, went much closer to the traditional interpretation of the unhopped beers, Flying Dog have gone for this fruity, solidly bitter and fresh grapefruit in an American style solidly herbal beer.

Marmalade is definitely the base flavour, and brings recollection of Dalmore’s whisky range to mind. This beer, again in contrast to the Brewdog version, does at least bear a passing resemblance to the IPA style. Well if you squint a bit anyway.  The bitterness is solid, and the freshness tends towards the pineapple and grapefruit notes of a lot of American hops. Heck even the marmalade isn’t a million miles away from the heavy Apricot hop IPAs that seem all the rage in the USA.

That said it is still definitely its own thing, herbal and fresh with a shit ton of bits in it. Frankly I am impressed. It isn’t really an IPA, but there are enough calls to the style that I’m satisfied with this zero hop interpretation.

Refreshing, a call-back to traditional ales, bitter and flavoursome. By its nature it is rough edged, definitely an unpolished gem, but a gem nonetheless and one with charm.

A definite winner of the arms race.

Background: Drank the Brewdog version of this a short while back, and as explained there these two beers were created as part of a competition to create and IPA style beer but without using any hops. This version uses bay leaves, rosemary, juniper, spearmint, elderflower and orange peel instead. Flying Dog are pretty easy to get this side of the pond, but for some reason I’ve never got around to doing a tasting note on one of them (Edit: I totally forgot, Snakedog IPA. Ok. Nearly never then.)

Brewdog: International Arms Race (Scotland: Spice and Herb: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Amber brown. Small off white layer of a head. Some small carbonation in the beer itself.

Nose: Sour berries, maybe elderberry. Slight mouthwash tang. Wet forest air. Peppermint.

Body: Peppermint. Quite fresh. Digestive biscuits. Slightly grassy and bitter. Twigs and leaves. Not quite ripe strawberries occasionally.

Finish: Malted biscuits. Peppermint. Grassy. Maybe lemongrass.

Conclusion: This is so unlike my expectations of a beer that I am still trying to work out how to actually judge it. Standard metrics just don’t seem to apply. Well at least we can say one thing, it is definitely not an IPA, so that is that one out of the way.

It its slightly sour and greenery filled, mainly sour berries in style.  There is a good bitterness from all the hop alternatives they used, though nowhere near IPA level. Also the whole thing leads into a slight peppermint toothpaste/ mouthwash element which comes in. Not heavily, but definitely odd.

It is probably closest in style to some of the Williams Brothers traditional styled beers, but feels odder still than them. It is refreshing, almost mouth cleaning, but is enjoyable despite that. I must admit part of me does consider that the enjoyment comes more from the usual experience than the beer itself however.

It is actually closer to those non alcoholic berry drinks you can get from some coffee shops than a beer. It has similar tartness of character and a refreshing nature that suits mid summer.

Frankly I applaud the madness that went into making this, and the experience of having tried it was a worthy one, but once I’ve used up my stock of them I don’t think I will miss them.

Background: Brewdog and Flying Dog have decided to do a little challenge. An IPA like beer, but without any hops, using just the old fashioned bittering agents such as berries, herbs and roots.  No where near the oddest thing they have done, but odd enough to get my attention. They both make a version of the beer, then at their pubs do a blind taste test to see which is better (Spoilers: Flying Dog won).  The Flying dog version is still in my cupboard and will be sampled later this week. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers.

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

Visual: Light golden brown. Thin white dusting over it.

Nose: Slightly musty, possibly pumpkin but at this point it’s probably psychosomatic. Light ginger.

Body: Ginger, dry malt. Pumpkin. Dried apricot. Lightly spicy.

Finish: Dry dust and light fruit sweetness. Light bitterness. Definite dried apricot and pumpkin. Ends very dry.

Conclusion: Now half way through drinking this I realized I had managed to forget what pumpkin tastes like. Thankfully I remembered by the end otherwise this could have been a somewhat embarrassing review. The beer did help a bit, what with it being the main flavour and all that.

I’ve heard a lot of pumpkin ales bring it in way too sweet.  Now this is a sweet beer, but more in a dried apricot way, and with a good chunk of dry malt in the finish to balance.  Definitely this calls more to the unsweetened basic pumpkin style, though without bringing any of the flavours in massively heavily.

The beer actually feels slightly ginger spiced, which reminds me of a very mild version of the spanked monkey IPA. Overall it’s pretty drinkable, and a little different from usual. At least different for the UK, I hear the USA has way more of these.  It’s not fantastic, and could do with more weight to the flavour, but not bad and quite nicely ginger and pumpkin fresh.

Background: I’ve always like the idea of a pumpkin ale, but you don’t see them much in these parts. Thus I was chuffed to see this on tap. Downton seem to be a brewery that delight at using odd ingredients for beers so it seems like a good match for their skills.

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