Tag Archive: USA


Deschutes: The Dissident: 2016 Reserve (USA: Sour Ale: 10.9% ABV)

Visual: Hazy cherry red. Thin off white head. Still.

Nose: Massive cherries and black cherries. Smoke wisps. White chocolate. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Oak. Vanilla. Buttery shortbread. Sherry trifle. Bourbon.

Body: Figs. Cherries. Apple pie. Pears. Smooth. White chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Vanilla toffee. Malt chocolate. Bourbon.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Raisins. Sour red wine. Port. Light oak. Figs. Gummed brown paper. Tinned tropical fruits.

Conclusion: Ok, going to have to take some time to unpack this beer – first impressions are a big, very sweet beer, barley wine in style more than a sour red. Considering the abv a big beer is unsurprising, but the sweetness did take me a bit by surprise. There are big chewy cherry notes, port soaked raisins – lots of dark fruits and even an unusual smoke wisp acting a a lead in to the second big element of the beer – the oak influence. The oaken notes themselves are fairly low – instead it shows itself as white chocolate, toffee, vanilla and tinned tropical fruit notes similar to what I expect from bourbon aged whisky. Together they are very big, very chewy, very flavoursome, but stills feels like a big barrel aged barley wine. Good but not what I expected.

Time exposes what was previously missing elements – a mix of malt chocolate and gummed brown paper that gives hints of the Flemish brown base. Even here there is barely any sourness or tartness, just light backing notes that gives a slightly more vinous feel backing the sweet notes and an even more chewy character. While not heavily done that light tartness and distinct gumminess final makes it stand out from the barley wine it otherwise feels like. Late on you start getting those odd flavour mixes you would expect from a more sour, acidic, beer – soft green fruit starts coming out along with sour red wine notes – all the odd flavours, but without the harshness.

Here, it now has all the sweetness and big flavours, all smoothly delivered, but with that slight freshness so that each sip feels now with renewed decadence. It is so dangerously easy to drink for the abv, you can feel the abv hinted at in the flavours, but it is so smooth you don’t care. The oak aged Flemish bruin and barley wine mash up you never knew you wanted. Very impressive. A decadent dessert treat for yourself.

Background: Grabbed this a short while ago from Brewdog’s guest beer selection – I figured as a sour beer of high abv it was unlikely to go off so could save for when I wanted something big and good – getting back from the China trip seemed to deserve something like that to welcome me home. This is a sour Flemish style bruin made with cherries and with 40% of the beer aged in French oak. I think the ageing varies year by year so your experience may vary with future years’ releases. I’ve tried Deschutes a few times at Real Ale festivals, and some of their collabs, but this is the first time I have done notes and tried them in an environment where I have not ruined by tastebuds beforehand. Drunk while listening to a mix of cheery Jonathan Young tunes – mainly Ducktales and the Zootropolis tunes.

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Full Sail: Wassail Winter Ale (USA: English Strong Ale: 7.2% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy red, or brown if not held to the light. Some carbonation. Large solid toffee brown head.

Nose: Cinnamon. Cherries. Caramel. Slight cream. Slight cloves and nutmeg.

Body: Nutmeg. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Warming vinous red wine notes. Caramel. Earthy bitterness.

Finish: Glacier cherries. Dry malt chocolate. Crushed peanuts. Cloves and nutmeg. Dry roasted peanuts. Toffee. Earthy bitterness. Sour red wine vinous notes.

Conclusion: This feels like a Christmas spiced dopplebock in a lot of ways – a quick search tells me it is a English strong ale – Michael Jackson’s book calls it an old ale – though that may have changed since the book was published. Any which way – definitely has some dopplebock like notes.

Anyway, this is a dry malt chocolate and dry roasted nut tasting base – smoothly deliverer and grounded by what feels like an earthy British hop style – a part that made me finally decide to list this as English Strong Ale style. A solid base, and one offset by slight caramel sweetness, but one that could have become wearing if not for the other two big influences.

Influence one is a vinous – sour red wine and sweet glacier cherries style set of notes – giving high sweet notes and vinous depth that makes for an interesting top and tail to the beer. This develops the more dopplebock like elements, bringing out rich raisin notes and Christmas cake imagery to this winter beer.

The other influence is the moderately used spice notes– a nutmeg middle, clove heaviness and cinnamon sweet spots. Again it really widens the range of the beer and is used heavily enough without dominating the beer.

Together it is very Christmassy, very solid. Very smooth and with a very good range. A medley of Christmas experiences – cake, wine and spice, all shown in one beer. Very high quality and well worth trying if you can grab it. Not a world best, but about as good as you can get without reaching those echelons.

Background: An American beer? As part of my China trip? Yep, found this in a supermarket in Chengdu and memory told me it was one of Michael Jackson’s 500 beers. I checked when I got back, and I was right! Go me! Before I get too full of myself though, the supermarket had another Full Sail beer that was also one of Jackson’s 500 picks which I did not remember, so missed a chance to grab. Stupid me. Anyway, drank this on a cruise down the river – had to ask the staff for a fridge so I could chill it as the room didn’t have one by default. Due to being a solo traveller I had to share the room with another traveller – a Chinese man who spent a lot of time walking around in his boxers and rearranging his junk. So, yeah, a …unique background to doing these notes.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 1 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Standard whiskey barrel with #3 char)

Visual: Very dark reddened bronze.

Viscosity: Very fast sheet of streaks.

Nose: Thick and full of alcohol. Rye crackers and brown bread. Honey. Aniseed. Treacle. Light prunes.

Body: Honey. Charring. Slightly dry back. Rye crackers. Water makes more honeyed and smooth. Slight dried apricot. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Alcohol. Rye crackers. Honey. Slightly rough. Charring. More honeyed with water. Light mocha. Slight cloying sour cream note. Slight sulphur air.

Conclusion: This is – well – the most pedestrian of the 5 experiments I would say. It matches the more simple description of the process it went through – a more charred standard barrel – by being a very stripped down whiskey/bourbon compared to the complex language and layers of the others. A baseline I guess – the base experience that the other experiments build off.

Neat it is very much rye crackers touched with honey backing – pretty much the base bourbon concept but with none of the frills. At this point it is also a tad alcohol touched which doesn’t help it.

Water does help to a degree – it takes out some of the alcohol and lets the honey notes seeps over the harsher charring; It still has a bit of sulphur and other harsh notes – stuff that work with bigger whiskeys or bourbons, but feel off notes here.

It is … sub optimal shall we say – feels a very basic bourbon, with a few off notes. Not one I would recommend – especially considering the equivalent price you are paying for the set of the experiment bourbons as a whole. There is hints of some good stuff, and some mocha notes in the finish which are nice – but generally it feels very generic, with a few points letting it down.

To give it a more positive spin – this is the base, it lets you see how the other experiments develop in relation to it. As itself, it is not much, especially for the cost, It is only really useful as a benchmark to see how the other experiments differ.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, just more charred – so is probably the most normal of the experiments. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is the largest one, so I could spend a bit more time with it.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 11 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Original Barrel: Inserts for used wine barrels. High mocha)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Lightly milky coffee. Tiramisu. Some alcohol. Toffee. Salted lemons. Water adds menthol.

Body: Orange cream. Peppery. Peppermint. Some alcohol. Shredded wheat. Slight sour tang. Orange jelly sweets. Water adds honey and menthol.

Finish: Alcohol. Peppermint. Orange cream. Lime tang. Water adds menthol and mint. Slight milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, like the no 5 whiskey/bourbon I tried before this, this leans towards a more traditional bourbon but with one unusual element that comes out.

What you have here at the base is a sweeter, slightly orange cream touched bourbon – fairly normal, albeit with more alcohol feel than normal.

What comes out, especially with water, is a slightly peppermint to menthol character – a much fresher set of notes than usual. If you need a comparison I would say it comes in kind of similar to Johnnie Walker Green, to my hazy recollection of last time I tried that – however the menthol notes don’t seem to mesh quite as well to the bourbon style as they did to that blended whisky take.

It is odd that that peppermint style freshness is what stands out, as the aroma was quite coffee touched, which made me think that this was going to be similar to experiment 10 – while, admittedly the coffee does come out in the finish, for the most part the coffee really doesn’t seem to have much influence here. A pity.

It’s not terrible, but the twist and the main bourbon don’t mesh in a way that enhances either side. So, interesting, but one of the weaker experiments.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, with wine barrel wood staves put in for extra oak influence, and charred for mocha styling. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the larger ones, so I could spend a bit more time with it. Drunk while (still) listening to Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks – yes, I did this one immediately after doing notes on experiment 5.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 5 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% BV)

(Whiskey barrel 3: Standard whiskey barrel. #3 char with a cuvee cube tube.)

Visual: Deep bronzed to red.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Rye crackers and pepper. Caramel. Water adds more crackers and some brandy cream.

Body: Warming. Cherries. Oak. Honey. Vanilla. Slight alcohol dryness. Water makes much more cherries. Slight fudge. Aniseed.

Finish: Charring. Treacle. Dry. Oak. Slight menthol. Water adds cherries. Slight brandy cream. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is a more standard bourbon/Whiskey than the last two I tried, but still has a few twists in its tail. First impressions are a honeyed bourbon with charring, oak and similar peppery notes. Nothing bad but also nothing unusual.

A bit of time taken and the first oddity comes out – a slight cherry sweetness that isn’t something I see often in bourbon. It is nice, and gives a slight Irish Whiskey style call – especially the sherry aged examples of such. An easy going spirit meeting the more peppery spiced bourbon.

Water brings this side out much more – more sweet cherries matched with slight brandy cream – a quite rich experience and one I enjoyed very much. As time passes the more traditional bourbon notes rise again to take centre stage, with the sweeter elements pushed to the side.

So, overall it has a slight showing of a good twist to a fairly standard bourbon. Fairly solid quality in general. If it managed to balance the sweetness with the bourbon style over a longer time scale this would have been well worth recommending. As is, its a nice twist but not a must have.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, with cuvee cube tube added for extra wood exposure, then given extra charring. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the larger ones, so I could spend a bit more time with it. Drunk while listening to Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks – still listening to the music Speech Development Records gave away for free digital download.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 10 (USA Bourbon\Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(1 French/American hybrid wine barrel 225L. Traditional with #25 toast profile)

Visual: Deep bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Full. Treacle. Pencil shavings. White chocolate. Light wood smoke. Toasted teacakes. Water makes more toasted teacakes.

Body: Light front. Orange. Peppery. Slight alcohol weight. Tinned tropical fruit. Milky mocha coffee. Lightly nutty.

Finish Toasted teacakes. Milky coffee. Milky hot chocolate. Light nuts.

Conclusion: Even with the small amount I had of this, the split between two distinctly different sides was evident. So, yeah, take everything here as a small first impressions.

Up front in the aroma and on the first sip this seemed fairly booming, but not an unusual bourbon – peppery, slightly smokier than normal in a woody way, and as mentioned, quite booming. Sipping brought a familiarly bourbon orange note in kind of creamy style so, solidly big, but not unusual.

Then the finish comes around and this is where it changes to style two. Milky mocha coffee, gentle and soothing, comes out – plus it returns to some toasted teacake notes that were only hinted at in the aroma, but held off being full developed until the end.

This part is very nice, very easy going, very soothing while delivering well developed coffee flavour. Even better as my sample was coming to the end this part started backing up into the main body, indicating it was probably going to play a bigger part as the drink went on.

I can’t add much more to the notes than that as I added a drop of water to what was left and that returned it to the more standard bourbon that it seemed at the start. So, a mix of two tales, but that coffee part is lovely – hope it would have had more of that if I had spent longer with it.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a barrel constructed from two smaller barrels, then given extra charring. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the smaller ones, so I presume was one of their favourites – as of such its more a first impressions than a full tasting note. Hope that is ok with all of you – thought it was still worth sharing as it is a bit unusual. Drunk while listening to some Warrenpeace as he gave an album away free for digital download – pretty cool so far.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: No 4 (USA Bourbon Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Experiment – Whiskey Barrel 3. Standard whiskey barrel #3 char with High Mocha Cube Tube)

Visual: Deep copper gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Sherry trifle. Sour mash. Vanilla.

Body: Sherry trifle. Treacle. Warming. A tiny drop of water adds fudge and sour mash style.

Finish: Treacle. Honey. Vanilla and white chocolate. Brandy cream. Sour mash. Tropical fruit. Slight sour grapes.

Conclusion: Just a short first impression for this one, but from what I have tried it looks to be a good one. While it keeps a sour mash feeling style that is one of the more well known bourbon styles it is a lot sweeter than most of those I have encountered. The base feels slight Jack Daniels like in the sour mash style, with lots of the oak influence, but everything else feels much closer to a sherry touched Irish whiskey to me. It has a very sherry trifle sweetness matched with white chocolate and vanilla you would expect from American oak.

Between the two it gives a very sweet dessert interpretation over a solid rustic feeling base. A mix of solid grounded weight and sweet high notes makes for what feels like like a very varied whiskey and bourbon mix of an experience.

After I finished it, the sweet air sunk into what felt like a remnant of brandy cream air hovering in my mouth, and then as that slipped away into charring and sour mash again before finally vanishing.

Ok, I think that’s all I can write about my brief encounter – first impressions – this one I could definitely spend more time with. Think it will have a lot of depth to dig out.

Background: This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, but has had heavily charred American oak placed within it to make for quicker ageing. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the smaller ones, so I presume was one of their favourites – as of such its more a first impressions than a full tasting note. Hope that is ok with all of you – thought it was still worth sharing as it is a bit unusual. Drunk while listening to Jonathan Young’s Disney rock covers playlist. Because of course.

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.

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