Tag Archive: USA


Founders: Lizard Of Koz (USA: Imperial Stout: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Medium sized frothy brown head.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee vodka. Sugared blueberry pie. Chocolate syrup. Treacle. Light liquorice. Black and red cherries. Coconut macaroons. Nougat.

Body: Sherbety lemon. Tart blueberry. Chocolate fondue. Light aniseed. Glacier cherries and sultanas into fruitcake. Nougat. Liquorice. Slight prickling alcohol. Bourbon.

Finish: Blueberry. Sweet milky chocolate. Vanilla fudge. Fruitcake. Nougat. Slight prickling alcohol air. Light nettles. Light charring. Golden syrup cake.

Conclusion: Whelp, this is a very sweet one and a spirity one at that; A combination that creates an odd but not unpleasant contrast – and definitely tells you that this is a very big beer that you have in your hands.

Right from the off you get the blueberry nestled amongst heavier, syrupy chocolate and treacle flavours – however even against those heavy flavours there is no mistaking the blueberry pie character. A similar thing comes as you take a sip – distinct sweet and lightly tart berries amongst a deep, thick, syrupy sweet imperial stout base. What is unusual is how the bourbon ageing shows itself so roughly – the traditional vanilla does show itself in the aroma, but in a very spirity way; Once you get to the main body it is very much raw bourbon spirit coming through , or even some blended whisky style – rather than being a subtle influence on the beer you can really taste the bourbon itself.

Around that set of big notes there goes manage to be a good chunk of more subtle notes – coconut to nougat notes float in the aroma delicately – though only a thicker, chewy nougat survives through into the heavy body. Similarly a mix of cherries becomes heavier, stodgy fruitcake flavour when it reaches the body. The aroma works the subtle notes, the body brings the force.

Together? Well it is a tad raw – lots of sweetness, lots of tells to the alcohol weight, lots of spirity character; Enjoyable as hell, but refined it aint. Maybe some time ageing will sooth that out. Right now it is fun but very rough around the edges. It definitely uses the blueberries well, but the use of oak ageing feels too overt. Still good, but unbalanced as fuck and stupidly sweet. Make of that what you will.

Background: I nearly grabbed this in Germany – I had seen it there and thought that the odder Founder’s beers don’t turn up very often so it may be worth grabbing. I decided against it and instead grabbed some more local beers that I just could not get in the UK. Good thing as well – The week I returned to the UK Independent Spirit got it in. The amount of times I grab beers abroad only for them to turn up for the first time in the UK weeks later, I was glad to dodge that curse this time. Anyway this is a blueberry, chocolate and vanilla infused Imperial Stout that has been aged in bourbon barrels. Which sounds awesome I have to admit. A big beer like this needed big music, so I shoved on some Meshuggah! Oh yeah!

Belching Beaver: Orange Vanilla IPA (USA:IPA: 6.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow with a large white mounded sud head.

Nose: Bready hop character. Vanilla. Light orange juice. Slight pineapple. Slight tropical fruit smoothie.

Body: Orange juice. Caramel. Fudge. Vanilla toffee. Tart pineapple. Slight syrupy centre. Moderate hop character. Slightly creamy. Dried apricot.

Finish: Orange juice. Some cream. Good hops and bitterness. Tart pineapple. Slight grapefruit. Vanilla yogurt. Some greenery. Bitterness rises over time.

Conclusion: This very much does what it says on the tin (Or says on the bottle in this case). Lots of orange juice – a kind of bitty fresh orange juice take in fact – then flavoured with a matching big vanilla sweetness that becomes slightly creamy, or even slightly syrupy over time. These notes are matched to a crisp hopped IPA that becomes deeper, oilier and more bitter over time. So, you definitely get what you came for.

On the good side – It does have depth beyond just that with a solid caramel to fudge base that comes out in the gapes in the fruitiness. It also has tarter notes from pineapple to full on tropical fruit smoothies adding more depth and range to what could have been a one note beer.

On the bad side – it does have a slightly artificial and syrupy sweetness to the core. The vanilla can come across akin to the cheaper and more syrupy sweet beers. It doesn’t ruin the beer, but is an unwelcome addition at its heart.

Generally – pretty good and it does the idea very well. It does have a few artificial notes that keeps it only as pretty good. Not a world shaker then, but you can’t fault it for working its gimmick.

Background: A new brewery on me, this caught my eye at Independent Spirit as I wanted something IPAish but this being made “Natural flavours” to bring out the vanilla and orange, whatever that means, made it sounds bit different. They are more open about the hops – mosaic and citra – which is a nice combo to open up with. This was drunk just after finding out that I needed to replace all my photobucket links as they don’t allow linking any-more – so needed a pick me up. Drunk while listening to Against Me! – Black Crosses.

Angel’s Envy (USA: Bourbon/ Whiskey: 43.3% ABV)

Visual: Quite deep gold.

Viscosity: Slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Minty. Peppery. Banana candy sweets. Rye crackers. Banana syrup. Spicy red wine. Light cherries. Vanilla. Topical fruit. Water adds pear drops.

Body: Big. Orange crème. Dry raisins. Madeira. Water adds banana and pear drops and light Blackpool rock.

Finish: Butterscotch. Peppery. Brown bread and rye crackers. Orange crème. Madeira. Dry raisins. Rum soaked fruitcake. Water adds pear drops and dried banana along with hints of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Right – I really do like this one – it feels like a mix of traditional bourbon vanilla and rye characteristics matched with the unusual fruity raisins and dry spicy wine notes. At this point it feels like a sherry aged bourbon (Yes I know legally you can’t sherry barrel age bourbon, run with me on this one) – and like that I definitely enjoyed it.

However this is not just a good, but in fact an excellent whiskey and what makes it that is it feels like a whole host of traditional sweet shop notes have been mixed in with that – notes of pear drops on the light end, chewy banana sweets for thicker notes and a sparkle of Blackpool rock sweetness above that – lots of lighter and sweeter notes than adds a real easy going character into the bourbon style. It is a huge contrast but not in a way that creates any unpleasant dissonance of character.

This has so many subtle, interesting notes around the solid bourbon like base, and sherry aged whiskey highlights – and these are then subtly enhanced again by adding a drop of water. It calls to mind high quality bourbon, but playing with a range of complexity that normally it would not be allowed to handle.

An excellent whiskey/bourbon – one that I genuinely recommend you grab if you ever get the chance. It has been a few years between tries for me, and I hope it is not that long before I can try it again.

Background: OK, a quick explanation first on why I put both bourbon and whiskey up above. In most fashions this is a bourbon best I know, but, again as a far as I know, legally bourbon has to be aged entirely in fresh casks. This has been aged in port pipes for about 3-6 months after initial maturation, so I think it is technically not bourbon. Any which way – yep – an experimentation that I approve of. I first tried this years ago during the “Road Trip Of Awesome” in America, but did not do notes at the time. So, when I saw that it was in Independent Spirit’s “Mediocre Whisky Tasting” line-up I was a very happy bunny (Disclaimer – I am not actually a bunny). As before this was done in a more social environment, so my notes may be a tad more scattershot that normal – apologies.


Crooked Stave: Petite Sour Blueberry (USA: Sour Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot to gold with a darker reddish centre. A rim of white bubbles for a head.

Nose: Tart. Acidic cider. Brambles. Twigs. Slight sulphur. Slight bubblegum. Blueberry pie. Dried apricot.

Body: Tart. Quite dry. Slight cardboard. Sour lager characteristics. Lemon in a sherbet style. Ribena. Slight cherries.

Finish: Lemon juice. Slight oak. Dry blueberries. Slight cardboard. Lager like notes. Sour cherry sweets. Slight menthol and slight vinegar.

Conclusion: Ok, unlike a lot of sours, this really doesn’t do too well if you chill it down. While the aroma still had a lovely mix of fruit, cider acidity and light wood notes, the body initially came in very lacking when chilled. It felt like a sour lager with very little fruit character. Now, I mean the idea of doing a sour lager is an intriguing proposition, and I have no idea if it could actually work if done right – but here it was not that great, and also not what I was looking for in this beer.

There is a sherbety lemon style to the beer though, which leads into tarter lemon juice flavours – so it wasn’t entire lacking, but at this point I was feeling severely let down by the beer.

Time and warmth does bring out a bit more – some blueberry finally comes out – a bit more funk and oak as well. However this does remind me of something I touched upon recently. Often the most commonly used fruit for sours – the raspberries, cherries, etc – are picked because they work well. Blueberry isn’t super rare, but it definitely isn’t one of the standbys – and this beer feels like the reason why. There is some blueberry character to this as it warms, but even like that it doesn’t bring enough flavour to hide the soured lager like flavours below. This is especially a problem in the finish, and hurts the beer a lot. The body shows through a lot with this fruit, and it doesn’t have a a high quality enough body to make that work.

Warmed up more it does have moderate sourness, and kind of a cider character, but nowhere near enough a solid enough base to be deep and worth examining, and with not enough fruit to make that special.

A bit sub par – not terrible, but, especially considering the cost of this, you can get far better. Feels a too petite beer does this sour.

Background: Never tried any Crooked Stave – if this beer is anything to go by they tend to be quite expensive. Anyway, this was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit -other alcohol providers are available. You don’t see many blueberry sours in my experience – blackcurrant is not uncommon (or cassis I think it is called for Belgian sours) – but not blueberry, so I thought I would give it a go. Drunk while listening to some epic, over the top, theatrical metal with Evil Scarecrow!

green-flash-cellar-3-blanc-tarte-barrique

Green Flash: Cellar 3: Blanc Tarte Barrique (USA: Sour Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Dry and lemony. Light pepper. Cheese puffs. Orange rind. Pomegranate. Heather and light smoke. Mild Madeira.

Body: Quite tart. Apples and tart cider. Crushed meringue. Vanilla. Passion-fruit and pomegranate. Quite smooth. Light cheddar. Lemon juice into lemon curd. Madeira cake. Tart white grapes. Subtle raisins. Dry white wine.

Finish: Sweet cider. Vinegar touched notes. Sweet meringue. Smooth Madeira. Dry oak. Light ginger. Jiff lemon. Orange juice. Tart white and red grapes.

Conclusion: On first sip I was nearly ready to, well – not write this off but, file it under the interesting cider like beer but without much depth cupboard. I have oddly specific mental cupboards. Sue me.

Damn I am glad that I took a bit more time to get to know the beer. I am doubly glad that, at 750 ml, there was plenty of time to get to know it.

Initial notes are a mix of tart apples and sweet cider – quite dry on the feel despite the sweet notes that pop up, and the vanilla contrast it holds. There is a bit more to it, a few nice fruit notes underneath. It is pretty nice at this point – not too sour, but fairly – some feel of the spice used rather than any immediate flavour, but overall refreshing.

What changes it from that level is when the more subtle notes come out. Underneath everything is a Madeira cake and raisin character, while at the high end tart grapes and white wine character make it sparkle. This takes from a good but standard beer to one that travels a journey – one that goes from dry and sparkling, through the fresh cider like notes, to subtle soothing dark fruit and wine. Never is any element isolated, each managed to bleed through slightly to the others – but each one has its time to shine and show off.

You end up with a beer with just enough acidity to hit the back of the throat and remind you, but that is as harsh as it gets. In return it gives plenty of flavour, a soothing but rich experience. The bottles says they aim for a lambic like ale, and while it does not feel overly close to that, it manages to be an excellent distinctive sour in itself.

Background: 2016, batch 1 it says. So hopefully they will do future batches of this. Drunk 2016, so without additional ageing time. Also says 14 IBU. I love it when they give you all these extra details on your beer. Anyway this is sour ale, intending to call to the lambic tradition that has *deep breath* Seville orange peel, Chinese ginger and grains of paradise – it was then aged for between 12 and 36 months in red and white wine barrels. Damn. Anyway, first time doing notes on Green Flash beer – think I have tried them on tap at Brewdog pubs before. Drunk while listening to The Prodigy – Music For Jilted generation. Going a bit old school for a while it seems. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit of Bath.

Black Market Deception

Black Market: Deception (USA: Golden Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: White head on pour that very quickly vanishes. Hazy apricot fruit juice colour body. Some carbonation.

Nose: Menthol. Coconut. Crushed peppermint leaves. Slightly sour. Quite floral.

Body: Fizzy. Coconut water. Chalky. Slight cardboard. Squeezed lime. Slight wheat character. Vanilla. Dried apricot.

Finish: Coconut. Watery. Squeezed lime. Wheaty. Dried apricot.

Conclusion: Ok, this was to be part of my attempt to drink more normal beers. A plan to return to beer styles I had not done for a while. An American style blond ale, a good simple beer. A bit tweaked up with lime and coconut sure, a bit of a craft twist, but generally a robust solid style that I have mainly overlooked recently.

Well, that didn’t work out.

This is very coconut dominated, and I do mean utterly dominated – slightly chalky as well but it tastes pretty much like that coconut water you can buy in a supermarket. There is somewhat of a beer texture, but most of the blond ale character is utterly lost. Which is a bit of a disappointment.

Ok, lets ignore my expectations, take another look and take it as it is, not what I expected it to be. Well, it still is a tad watery, tad over chalky. There is some nice dried apricot that gives it some much needed extra depth. However, as a whole it feels that if you took away the coconut you would have pretty much nothing left. With a few exceptions I hold that a beer should be able to stand on its two feet even without special ingredient. They can be dominant, but you should never feel they are making up for a weak base beer, which is how this feels. Add to that, that even with the coconut it is not really very pleasant, so that requirement for a good base beer goes double for this.

It is odd, as I love coconut flavours in beer, but it needs to be just a complementary element, not the only element.

So, overall, a very sub par beer. Too little in the base and the extra ingredients don’t have enough to them to make it worth drinking. So, not what I expected, and not a good beer aside from that. Avoid.

Background: Hard to choose beer style for this one, the can says Blond Ale, made with lime and coconut. The flavour is so dominant that I was tempted to go with what ratebeer says, which is a fruit beer. However my tendency in a pinch to go with how the brewer describes it won out. So blond ale (or golden ale in this case for ease of tracking) it is. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit as it was a new brewery on me, and I thought going for a pretty normal blond ale would be a good pick after so many odd beers recently. I wasn’t expecting the coconut to be so dominant I will admit. Continued the Godspeed You! Black Emperor kick on this one with “Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend” – a darker ,more haunting album, but still good drinking music.

Stone: 6th Anniversary Porter: 2016 Encore (USA: Imperial Porter: 8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large moderate froth browned head.

Nose: Cinnamon and wood chip dust. Smooth chocolate shavings. Bitter cocoa powder. Smoke and hazelnuts. Choc orange. Smoked beef.

Body: Sherry trifle and bitter cocoa. Smoke and smoked bacon. Brown bread. Hop bitterness. Slight sour cream. Brandy cream. Malt chocolate. Madeira. Roasted character. Light choc orange.

Finish: Smoked bacon. Bitter cocoa dust. Light oak. Smoke. Slight hop bitterness and roasted character – bitterness rises over time. Rum soaked raisins. Blended whisky air.

Conclusion: It really is obvious that Stone Brewing love their hops, so much so that even their porter feels stuffed full of hop bitterness. Thankfully that isn’t all they bring to the game – for one the body is pretty smoothly done, and with that the hop bitterness doesn’t cling – so despite the high bitterness and high abv it doesn’t become painful as thick and sticky hoppy dark beers can do.

The main backbone of the beer is a bitter cocoa to malt chocolate fest – very solid, and again smooth enough to not be bracing instead pushing high quality chocolate flavour. It is subtly rounded by smoked bacon flavour, which, let’s face it – there is very little that doesn’t make better. It gives extra weight without needing a thicker beer, and does that without needing to be dominant. It just lurks in the beer, waiting for the chocolate to fade out, then it rises up to fill the void.

That ideas sums up a lot of this beer – nothing is in a rush; Notes rise up and fade as and when they wish. If you hold the beer long enough then new notes, or old notes resurging are always there waiting to reward you. This feels like the epitome of a slow enjoyment beer. It doesn’t want to rush and neither should you.

For example – as time goes on first sweet sherry trifle and brandy cream like notes come out to sweeten up the beer, then later on blended bourbon notes come out as well. Of the two the sherry is the better addition. It gives and nice fruit and creamy side note that real adds some warmth and depth to the beer.

That final note – the blended whisky is pretty much the only weak point of the beer. Not terrible but it is slightly rougher and not as well integrated as the rest of the notes. Just a bit too raw spirity and rough – though it does only come out when the beer is warm, and is only a minor flaw… Therefore I have no problems recommending this to high heaven. The base is solid, the smoke works without dominating, and the extra barrel ageing makes it special. Definitely grab if you can.

Background: Ok, explanation time, this is not the Stone Porter brewed for their 6th Anniversary – or it is, it is brewed to the same recipe as part of their encore series for their 20th anniversary. Re-brewing old lost classic. This is their smoked porter, brewed to higher abv, more hops and conditioned on French and American oak. They lost a good chunk of it back in 2002 during brewing so it was a very small release. This, in 2016, was a bit easier to get hold of -grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. I am a big fan of Stone Brewing, especially their hoppy beers, which is at least 90% of their beers. They love hops. Drunk while listening to Garbage:Strange Little Birds, which if not as good as their first two albums, has definitely earned its place as a good, offbeat, powerful album.

Hoppin' Frog Karminator

Hoppin’ Frog: Karminator (USA: Doppelbock: 9.3% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy dark caramel to reddish brown. Moderate browned head. Some evident carbonation, but less than expected.

Nose: Massive port, raisins and fruitcake. Glacier cherries. Chocolate liqueur undertone. Malty. Toffee.

Body: Thick. Fruitcake. Marzipan. Sultanas and glacier cherries. Brandy cream. Toffee pavlova. Salted caramel. Light cloves.

Finish: Glacier cherries. Dried banana. Fruitcake. Raisins. Madeira. Brandy cream. Fudge. Salted caramel. Cloves. Honey. Brown sugar. Lightly peppery.

Conclusion: Well, this is a big one – in bottle size, abv and flavour. Very thick body – so much so that I would not have guessed it as a lager styled beer if I had not known. Mouthfeel wise it feels similar to the super smooth American take on the Belgian ale. Flavour wise it is half way between the dopplebock it is and a strong ale take on an ESB. It is huge.

The smoothness, the malt character and the subtle banana and cloves all shout top quality dopplebock. The fruitcake and port can be dopplebock notes, but the intensity of them is very ESB like. This isn’t a barrel aged beer, but with the Madeira and port notes coming out you could have fooled me. In fact the smoothness says barrel ageing as well – but no, this is all just from the craft of the brewers. Impressive.

As an experience this is booming, silky and fruity. It slips down easily but the varied vinous aroma and notes happily declares its abv strength where the alcohol feel does not. This isn’t a beer that replaces my beloved weizendopplebock Aventinus, but it feels like a not Weizen take on the same concept – and that makes it very appealing to me. it runs a similar set of notes, delivered differently and in a smooth American manner. It is a dangerous beer. Complex enough to drag you in, and the lager style makes it far too easy to drink. While it is booming there are subtle spice notes at the edges – and the yeast, though mainly clean, does add a few funky edges it seems.

A beer of weight and gravitas. Have it on its own, not as part of a session, take your time and appreciate it. Do so and you will be rewarded with an excellent beer. Definitely not a session beer in any sense, trust me on that. Treat this as you would a strong Trappist ale and it will reward you similarly.

Background: Haven’t had a dopplebock for a while by my memory. Which is admittedly poor due to drinking. So, this gave me a chance to break out the Aventinus glass again. Anyway, grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer shop, this is from the Hoppin’ Frog brewery – I’ve seen their large bottles pop up around a bit, but never got around to doing notes for one of them. So here goes a chance to change that. Drunk while listening to some Bratmobile and Heavens To Betsy – a bit of riotgrrrl punk fun. For some reason I near always listen to these two artists back to back. I blame “Gone Home”

Scuttlebutt Porter

Scuttlebutt: Porter (USA: Porter: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Dark brown at edges. Thin beige head.

Nose: Roasted. Nutty. Dry roasted peanuts. Creamy yet slightly dry. Praline and bitetr chococlate. Mild coffee. Slight sour cherries.

Body: Slightly chalky. Bitter and slightly soured. Slight sour black-cherries. Slightly light when chilled. Thin malt drinks. Somewhat roasted. Bready.

Finish: Chocolate bread on brown spread. Light chalk. Bitter and charred. Popcorn. Bitter cocoa dust. Sour cream and chives touch. Smoke and burnt wood.

Conclusion: Pretty savoury for a porter this one is. There are nuts, bready character, a sour cream twist touch, slight smoke – It is low on sweetness and quite dry. Chilled it can come through a tad thin as well. It feels pretty attenuated for a porter, definitely a much drier experience than normal, with smokey notes filling the finish, rising up to fill the gap the lightness gives. Also in odd notes, there is even a slight sour character that comes through sour cherry style. All in all an odd take on the porter so far.

At first I thought all this may be because I had it too chilled – but I’ve let it warm over time, and while it no longer feels so thin, it still feels like an odd mash up of notes. The aroma promises a fairly standard, chocolate, roasted and coffee heavy porter – albeit a good one. The closest the body comes to a standard porter is the roasted character and a malt drink presence.

The flavours tend towards the harsher ideas, without being too harsh in the implementation, if that makes sense. Slight sour cherries, slight rough chalk, slight roasted notes – harsh but all slight. The biggest element is the smoke in the finish which is very present and mouth filling.

It all ends up feeling slightly neutral, but the harsher idea flavours means it doesn’t manage for easy drinking either. Too rough to be easy going, but too restrained to boom. It feels like a half way porter with no home to go to. Not repulsive but a very meh porter.

Background: Grabbed from Brewdog’s Guest Beer selection, this was a bit of a random grab – don’t know anything about the brewer – just felt like grabbing a more normal beer than all the weird oddities flying around these days. Sometimes you just want a beer made with malt, hops, water and yeast. Drunk while listening to some 8-bit takes on Bad Religion – because I love punk and I love fun chiptunes.

Stone: Mocha IPA (USA: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Pale caramel. Inch of browned bubbles and froth. Clear main body and good carbonation.

Nose: Distinctly milky mocha coffee. Crushed hazelnuts. Cocoa dust. Crushed coffee beans. Choc orange.

Body: Chocolate toffee malt drink. Vanilla toffee backing. A hop feel but little hop flavour. Pine needles and resin. Chocolate limes.

Finish: Big fudge and big chocolate. Choc orange. Hop prickle and popcorn hop feel. Light neutral hop flavour. Hop oils and resin. Chocolate limes.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Brewdog’s blond stout Abstrakt they did, number … AB 08 I think it was. Similar concept, only, oddly, this one – despite being a self declared IPA – actually feels closer to archiving the bright coloured yet imperial stout tasting goal. Albeit this is a roasted, hopped up stout, but , since hopped stouts is a familiar enough style these days that shouldn’t disqualify it.

Very big on the coffee, very big on the chocolate on the nose – The amazingly well expressed sheer clarity and complexity of the coffee on that first contact damn near blew my socks off. The level of toffee chocolate on first sip then burned those socks to ash so I could never put them on again. Wow.

Early on it is very stout, so much so that, while I enjoyed it, a small nagging part of me felt that it did not match its declared IPA name. As time passed that worry also passed. It was still very coffee, very stout, but the hop character rose, especially in the long lasting finish. It enters life as a stout, but it leaves as an IPA.

The only flaw then is that the flavours don’t really reflect the range of an IPA, just the hop character. Ok, it does make some concessions – the character of the chocolate can tend choc orange and choc lime, which I guess may be the hops. Generally though the flavour is stout, the feel is IPA.

A minor nitpick though. In concept, in how it matches its concept, and in general quality this is amazing. I can’t recommend it enough. A mind-blowing creation.

Background: Stone Brewing. IPA. Stone Brewing. IPA. I was fairly sure we were onto a good one here. This is an odd one though, an IPA (Or in this case IIPA) made with cocoa and coffee beans. Not your standard IPA addition. Anyway this was grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Drunk while listening to Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing. It seemed a nice blend of melodic and heavy metal for the time

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