Tag Archive: Vault City


Vault City: Emperor: From A Gaelic Sea Far, Far Away (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head. Opaque main body.

Nose: Caramel. Clean medicinal air. Clotted cream and strawberry jam. Dry peat. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Vanilla custard slices. Touch of tarry nature.

Body: Oily. Sweet. Jam. Chocolate liqueur. Liquorice touch. Honey. Oily peat. Praline. Lightly medicinal. Salt touch. Riesen chocolate chews. Heather.

Finish: Praline. Pecans. Medicinal mixed with vanilla. Custard. Riesen chocolate chews. Smooth, oily medicinal sheen. Vanilla toffee. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: The thing with heather honey, and with Islay barrel ageing for that matter, is that they can easily utterly dominate a beer. I’ve had so many ash tray and iodine beers, or so sickly sweet that they lost that imperial stout that is meant to be the base.

This beer manages to somehow balance those two very strong flavours and a huge base imperial stout and somehow keep it all balanced, and as a result have turned out something very special.

The base stout is chocolate liqueur like and yet on the aroma you could swear there is clotted cream and jam notes floating around in there. From the ingredients I can guess what causes the cream like notes, but I have no idea where the jam comes from.

The honey is sweet but against a more oily character that gives a more savoury touch so it doesn’t get cloying. Similarly the oily character makes the medicinal and peat note much more flavoursome than harsh and so enhances the beer greatly.

It is sweet still, with marshmallow like fluffiness, toffee around the base and praline high notes, but the Islay character of peat smoke and oil, as well as those medicinal notes just ooze throughout it – everything matches the other elements so well.

A masterpiece of an Imperial Stout – sweet, medicinal, big and yet measured in all the right ways.

Lovely.

Background: I’ve mentioned Emperor brewing a few times here, basically a brewer trying to turn out the best Imperial Stouts they can, and have a huuuuuggeee reputation. I don’t think they ever do solo beers, or at least any I have seen, they always seem to be collaborations. Vault City are another big name, better known for doing odd and experimental sour beers, but they turn out the odd big stout as well, of which this is one. It is made with …. **deep breath** Heather honey, vanilla, lactose, oats and wheat and was aged in an Islay whisky cask. Lot of stuff going on there. Grabbed this from Independent Spirit, I went with History Of Guns: Forever Dying In Your Eyes as backing music. First new HoG album for years and years so was happy to slap on in the background.

Vault City: Dark Fruits Bakewell Sour (Scotland: Fruit Sour: 7% ABV)

Visual: Thick, opaque dark purple to black cherry body. A creamier, lighter black cherry inch of head that leaves sud clumps.

Nose: Creamy black cherry to black cherry yogurt. Tart apple and tart black cherry. Brambles. Menthol creamy touch. Wet twigs. Tart grapes.

Body: Tart yet sweet red grapes over tart white wine. Vermouth. Menthol. Wet twigs. Almond rounds. Burnt cake sponge. Vanilla.

Finish: Pineapple sours. Black cherry yogurt. Light creamy touch. Tart white grapes. Apple. Sour black cherry. Tiny aniseed. Bitter peppery notes.

Conclusion: This is a rewarding and wine ranging beer – far from the simple sweeter sour I was expecting from the bakewell part of the name. In case it is not clear I mean that as a good thing.

Initial notes on the nose are all black cherry – ranging from initial sweeter notes, that soon descend into tarter notes. Very fruity with hints of wet twigs and the like in a very natural way.

The body pushes the sweetness to the side, with hints of vanilla and almond notes but they are only little grace notes over a tart dark fruit body. Under that is white wine flavour and dryness underlying it. There are darker, heavier notes at the core – still very naturally delivered and with lots of fruit to reward you. It is only wine like in the underlying notes and makes a nice contrast to the more natural fruit.

The finish is where real distinct white wine character starts to develop. It is still dark fruit touched but drier, with peppery and slightly bitter notes coming out amongst the twigs. A harsher underline to the whole beer but not unwelcome. Something that really helps show beery bitterness amongst the still unusual sour notes.

Quite thick in mouthfeel, yet refreshing from the dryness. Sweet edges but tart souled. Lots of fruit, and definitely sour while still being recognisably beer. I’m very impressed by this rewarding fruit sour experience.

Background: So, Vault city have been turning out unusual yet good quality beers for a bit now. While I have found myself getting a tad weary of gimmick beers recently, these tended to feel like solid beers that happened to have odd flavours and ingredients rather than just feeling gimmicky. Even though a bakewell sour is undeniably gimmicky. As does the Iron Bru beer I had that I tried from them. They still felt beer like. Which was nice. Anyway, so yeah a dark fruit bakewell inspired sour. From Vault City. Yep I’m in. One of the last beers I got from Independent Spirit before lockdown of doom hit the UK. Trying to keep my stash going as long as poss. Went with Nine Inch Nail’s two new free albums while drinking this. No lyrics, but wonderfully moody.

Vault City: Strawberry Skies (Scotland: Fruit: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy, with a bright strawberry red colour. Short lived white dash of a head.

Nose: Very fresh strawberry to strawberry yogurt. Lightly tart. Fresh apples. Mild use of hibiscus. Fresh white grapes. Melon.

Body: Strawberry. Light cream. Lightly acidic. Melon and apple. Fresh white grapes. Mild herbal notes.

Finish: Lemon cream. Strawberry yogurt. Melon and apple. An air of light hibiscus. Light cream. Vanilla. Banana.

Conclusion: Hibiscus usage in a beer that I don’t hate! Wooo! Finally! I think the thing that makes it work here, where is so often doesn’t elsewhere, is that it is used as a gentle backing note. It adds spice to an otherwise sweet beer – it has a definite goal to its use and achieves that. It isn’t the main event. Everyone who is ever thinking about making a beer with Hibiscus in it, pay note please.

So, with that out of the way … Strawberries, eh?

There is such very clean and fresh strawberry style on the nose. The beer is bright red on the eye, giving a wonderful visual experience even before you get into drinking it. The first impressions for this are spot on.

Sipping brings a more balances experience. Strawberries over a gently acidic and sour base – the freshness comes across more like fresh grapes than a sour lambic. It is helped by a slightly creamy mouthfeel than makes for a thicker feel and sweetness than you would normally get in a sour. Added into that a lovely sweet melon and apple notes well expressed makes for something that is recognisable as a (just about) sour beer, but very much towards the fruitier side of things.

The finish is the biggest surprise. Fresh and sweet but with sweet vanilla and banana notes making this quite dessert like over the creamier touch.

Through it all it is a fresh thing. Those cut apple, grapes and melon all keeping it feeling just fresh enough not to be sickly. It is not a heavy element, but it sticks around as a fresh note as the strawberry fades away, keeping the beer feeling clean, with the (and yes we are back to this) hibiscus as a spicy grounding and underlying of the whole experience.

Fresh, just savoury enough, fantastic use of strawberry with dessert like thickness from the vanilla and higher abv. An utterly awesome fruit beer. If you like strawberry, and fruit in general – grab it.

Background: I like strawberries. Rarely seem to work well in a beer for some reason. So, when I saw this strawberry sour from a brewery I had not tried before, I shrugged my shoulders and figured “What the heck, I’ll take the risk. So here we are. Also, I note after buying it also uses hibiscus which I, so far, have not had good experiences with in beers, so this was more of a risk than I thought. Also includes vanilla, which I have only encountered in a few sours, but seems to be a positive when I do encounter it. Not much else to add. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the Rotten Citizens Vol 1 EP – a mix of nicely dark sounding electronic tracks.

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