Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 25- St. Bernardus Brouwerij Christmas Ale

Good evening all, and Merry Christmas! I didn't drink that much this time round- in fact, I didn't even get to open the Mikkeller Red/White Christmas magnum that I bought for the family due to mutual fatigue in the aftermath of a titanic dinner- so in lieu of a compilation post I quickly chose something festive from the cellar to bring this year's advent calendar to a fitting conclusion. The offering in question is Christmas Ale, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale from St. Bernardus Brouwerij (Watou, Belgium). Because my family opted for champagne or wine I've got the entire 750ml bottle to myself, so at least I can savour this bad boy for the rest of the evening. Hope everyone had a great day, and I'll be resuming the regular service of sporadic reviewing from tomorrow! Also, let me take the opportunity to thanks anyone who read the blog during 2012, and here's to another year of great beer in 2013. Review after the pic....


Christmas Ale (10.0% ABV) pours a dark brown colour with a thick, creamy white head that maintains itself well throughout the course of drinking. The aroma is rather Christmas-centric, with marzipan, yeasty phenols, blackcurrant, raspberry, allspice and some caramelised sweetness in the background supporting everything. None of the aromas are particularly powerful, but they are balanced very well and don't show any dominance. The Belgian yeast character and candy sugar have their usual complimentary interplay on show, whilst the fruits add a slight tartness to help break up the proceedings. The spice in the background (mainly cinammon and cloves) gives the beer a satisfying Christmas flair without overpowering the other aromas, which can sometimes be a problem with Christmas-oriented offerings. The taste delivers more intensity, with blackcurrant, phenols, caramel, Brett-style funk, marzipan and a noticeable amount of chest-warming alcohol during drinking and in the finish. The fruits deliver a pleasing amount of tartness along the sides of the mouth, which is amplified to some extent by the subtle presence of yeast extract early on in each sip. The phenolic Belgian yeast character works well with the slight sherbety funk, and soon afterwards the sweetness comes through to offset the aforementioned funk and diversify everything. The finish is slightly dry and has a light hop profile, whilst the alcohol burn lingers on long after drinking. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy and the beer is well-carbonated, which compliments the flavours on show and takes away some of the initial power quite nicely. Overall, this is a great beer with a decent Yuletide twang that works well with the fruity sweetness and boozy intensity- definitely recommended!

Until next time....

Monday, 24 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 24- AleSmith Brewing Company Speedway Stout

Good evening all. After a nice Christmas Eve hanging around in Dartmouth and Bantham, it's now time for the final official 2012 advent calendar post. I'll probably do a post tomorrow compiling all of the beers consumed over the course of Christmas Day, but I consider this to be the true chequered flag review because the bottle came out of a cardboard door that I constructed over a month ago. It's Speedway Stout, an Imperial Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company (California, USA). I had this beer during the summer at The Craft Beer Co. and enjoyed it immensely, so hopefully it'll be as good as I remember! Thanks for coping with the daily posts for another year, and I'll be back tomorrow for the last hurrah. Review after the pics....



Speedway Stout (12.0% ABV) pours a very dark brown colour with a thick brown head that settles to a thin film over the surface of the beer. The aroma is very rich, with slightly astringent coffee, caramelised sugar, cocoa powder, lactose sugar and some dark fruits (particularly blackcurrant) lingering in the background. The coffee is immediately apparent, with that familiar biting quality that it seems to impart when present in large quantities, but the nose soon becomes accustomed to it and allows the other nuances to come through. The sweetness isn't overly intense and coalesces very well with the subtle blackcurrant, whilst the lactose sugar lessens the impact of the other aromas and creates a mocha-like sensation when the roasted aspects of the coffee become more apparent. The taste delivers everything that the aroma promised and more, with coffee, chocolate sauce, yeast extract, caramel, licorice, aniseed, burnt toast, blackcurrant and some booze residing in the background supporting everything. The fruit and coffee come along almost immediately, delivering some tartness along the sides of the mouth that seems to be amplified by the chest-warming power of the alcohol, and once this initial power has subsided there's scope for the darker/burnt flavours to come through in varying degrees. Despite not being barrel-aged, it takes on a bourbon vanilla oak quality midway through drinking, complimenting the darker flavours that are present during the finish. The mouthfeel is on the thick side and the beer is well-carbonated, which helps to offset some of the bitter dimensions during drinking. Overall, this is a great imperial stout with a pleasant amount of coffee, some well-balanced tart flavours and a decent kick of alcohol backing everything up. Not as good as the first time I had it, but still well worth trying if you're a fan of coffee stouts with more Nigel Tufnel-oriented potency.

Until next time....

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 23- De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht

Good evening all. In what seems like the blink of an eye we're only a couple of days away from the big day, and Day 23's door serendipitously revealed the final bottle that I brought back with me from my Brussels holiday earlier this year- it's Stille Nacht, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from De Dolle Brouwers (Esen, Belgium). This bad boy has garnered a lot of positive feedback over the years, so when I saw it in De Bier Tempel I knew I had to get a bottle for the festive season; it's also one of the rare Christmas-oriented offerings present in this year's advent calendar. Really looking forward to this one, so let's get straight into the review after the pics....



Stille Nacht (12.0% ABV) pours a hazy amber colour with a short-lived thick white head that settles to a thin film over the surface of the beer. The sediment in the bottle is quite loose and so some of it managed to find its way into the glass despite careful pouring. The aroma can only be described as "Christmas in a glass", with marzipan, candied fruits, candy sugar, light yeasty phenols, toffee apples, cinnamon and some rich sweetness residing in the background. The general aroma is reminiscent of a diluted Quad- the spiciness from the yeast isn't as intense and the candy sugar provides lighter, sweeter fruits. There's also some Brett-style funk in the background that mingles very well with the sweetness and fruitiness, and there may even be some faint citrus fruit hoppiness somewhere in the mix. The alcohol is noticeable to an extent, and can burn the nostrils slightly if the beer is inhaled too deeply. Despite this, it's pretty amazing stuff so far! The taste isn't quite as nuanced but delivers a lot more intensity, with candy sugar, phenols, grapefruit, funk, caramel sweetness, brambles, yeast extract and a decent kick of booze during drinking. The yeast character isn't overpowering and so allows the candy sugar and fruit to come through, whilst the funk creates a slightly effervescent backdrop that compliments the fruity tartness. The alcohol warms the chest quite significantly and doesn't cloy on the palette, making the finish seemingly endless. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which is ideal for the flavours on show and offsets the power of the alcohol. Overall, this is a quintessential Christmas beer with enough alcohol to warm up even the coldest soul, and a panoply of rich sweet fruits that mimics after-dinner pudding perfectly. Highly recommended, this is a truly fantastic beer that I'll definitely be seeking out again next year.

Until next time....

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 22- BrewDog Prototype Challenge 2012 Beers

Good evening all. It's time for another series of capsule reviews, as Door 22 revealed the new Prototype Challenge beers from BrewDog (Fraserburgh, Scotland). Following on from last year's selection are three more unusually named offerings, with the purpose being to sample each and vote for the one you'd like to be brewed during 2013. I reviewed one of the 2011 collection during the inaugural advent calendar, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they've managed to come up with this time round. Reviews after the pic....

Nuns With Guns



Style: Pilsner

ABV: 4.2%

Appearance: Pale golden colour, short-lived white head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass.

Aroma: Loads of grapefruit, hints of mango, malty sweetness, some sulfurous notes. Grapefruit smacks the olfactories from the start, has that Helles aroma as opposed to a Pilsner. Has some wet-dog funk to it after the nose has become accustomed to the hops. 

Taste: Biscuit malt, honey sweetness, some light grapefruit in the background during drinking, finish isn't bitter but has some hoppy remnants linger in the aftertaste. Seems like an incomplete lager, too thin and watery and the hops don't offset the sweetness enough.

Mouthfeel: Thin, very light carbonation. Doesn't compliment flavours particularly well.

Verdict: Very imbalanced beer, comes across as a rushed offering. The Imperial Pilsner that made a brief appearance in the bars over the summer was much better, it feels as if they just liquored it back to the appropriate ABV percentage to create this one. Not recommended.

Jack Hammer



Style: IPA

ABV: 7.4%

Appearance: Amber colour, short-lived thick white head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer.

Aroma: Grapefruit, pine, mango, malty sweetness in the background. Grapefruit very powerful at first, dies down a little bit once the nose has become accustomed to allow the pine to come through. Sweetness very much supportive. Some hints of orange become noticeable after a while.

Taste: Most of the flavour is almost overpowered by the bitterness, this certainly drinks towards those 200 theoretical IBUs! Pine manages to push through everything quite nicely, sense of alcohol (acetone, esters), biscuit malt, hints of tropical fruits but nothing significantly distinguishable. Finish is quite tart and contains some light grapefruit notes. 

Mouthfeel: Thick, decent amount of carbonation, compliments the amplified bitterness.

Verdict: Pretty intense IPA; flavours on the palette need to be more balanced as bitterness virtually eradicates any subtleties except for the resinous characteristics of the hops. Certainly a contender for general release, but it might be wise to dial down the IBUs slightly to allow for a more interesting and varied drinking experience.

Cocoa Psycho



Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.0%

Appearance: Jet black, thick dark brown head that settles to patchy covering over surface of beer.

Aroma: Cocoa powder, chocolate sauce, freshly roasted coffee, vanilla custard, banana, no sense of the alcohol. Very rich and chocolatey (Rogue Double Chocolate Stout immediately springs to mind), seemingly out-of-place banana smell is very similar to those pick and mix banana sweets, mixes well with the vanilla. Very interesting stuff, smells like a pudding/dessert.

Taste: Coffee, chocolate, caramel, custard, tartness during drinking that continues on into the finish, which is quite dry and has some toasty notes from the malt. Yeast extract, coffee, burnt sugar and slight oak flavour discernible through retro-olfaction, flavours aren't as intense or varied as the aromas. Aftertaste is primarily roasted malt and light grapefruit. Drinks very easily, although potential for the flavours to cloy means it's definitely worth sipping. 

Mouthfeel: Thick, moderate carbonation, works well with the richer flavours.

Verdict: Not so sure about this one; aroma showed a lot of promise but on the palette it can be quite unbalanced, and drinks more like a flavoured milk stout than an imperial stout. Has the potential to be a great beer, but the taste needs to deliver what the aroma suggests!

Overall winner- Jack Hammer- it's got the best combination of a sensible ABV percentage and a decent flavour profile, but it needs to be dialled down slightly to make it worth spending money on in a bar. BrewDog are definitely still capable of making very drinkable IPAs, as evidenced with the Hoppy Christmas that I had last night, so they should probably forego the mindset of trying to brew unnecessarily bitter beers and just create something palatable. Last year's Prototypes were all about reasoned, plausible beers (so much so that the majority were repackaged and sold throughout 2012), but this year's series smacks of excess and one-upmanship, and none were particularly impressive in the end. What a difference a year makes!

Until next time....

Friday, 21 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 21- Brouwerij de Molen Bloed, Zweet & Tranen

Good evening all. Thankfully the world is still relatively intact, so you can all celebrate the lack of the apocalypse by reading my thoughts on another beer from Brouwerij de Molen (Bodegraven, Netherlands). Tonight it's the turn of Bloed, Zweet & Tranen, a smoked stout that's been brewed with a plethora of malts including peated and Bamberger, adding an interesting spin to the usual dark flavours one would associate with a stout. I've had a couple of beers in this style before, so I'm looking forward to adding another from one of my favourite European breweries. Review after the pics....



Bloed, Zweet & Tranen (8.2% ABV) pours a ruby-tinged black colour with a lively off-white head that settles to a centimetre of foam over the surface of the beer. Straight off the bat the aroma is very reminiscent of brine/pimento olives, which seems to be a combination of the smoked malt qualities and the coffee notes from the roasted malt. Once this initial power has died down the two components become more distinguishable, allowing some chocolate and caramel sweetness to come through in the process. The meaty smokiness works well with the sweetness and usual stout aromas- certainly good stuff so far! The taste delivers more intensity, with smoked malt, coffee, chocolate, yeast extract, caramel, a hint of dark fruits and some light hoppiness during drinking and in the finish. The smoked malt conjures up Islay whisky flavours (peat, iodine), and is a natural bedfellow to the coffee and chocolate stout characteristics. As with the aroma the oily flavour is quite prominent at first, and once the palette has become accustomed to it there's a nice dose of cocoa to break up the flavours. Drinking the beer produces a light tartness along the sides of the mouth, but this isn't cloying and allows for repeated sips. The finish is quite light and slightly dry, with the usual hop-derived remnants residing in the background. The mouthfeel is quite thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which balances out the smokiness and compliments the flavours on show. Overall, this is a very decent rauch-stout that creates a good interplay between the different malt types, allowing them to either coalesce or display their individual characteristics throughout the course of the beer. Well worth trying, although I personally prefer similar offerings such as Evil Twin's Ashtray Heart or Mikkeller's Beer Geek Bacon.

Until next time....

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 20- De Struise Brouwers Black Damnation III- Black Mes

Good evening all. Clearly my advent calendar knows the world is going to end tomorrow, as behind door 20 is an unfortunately-named offering from De Struise Brouwers (Oostvleteren, Belgium); it's Black Damnation III- Black Mes, a version of De Struise's popular imperial stout Black Albert that's spent 3 months in barrels that once held Caol Ila Distillers Version 1995 whisky. On its own Black Albert is a great stout, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the barrel-ageing has done to this bad boy. Review after the pics....



Black Damnation III- Black Mes (13.0% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a lively brown head that settles to a thick halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is rich and luxurious, with coffee, chocolate, blackcurrant, yeast extract, burnt sugar, vanilla oak (similar to bourbon), a very subtle smokiness and some alcohol in the background. I was expecting the whisky to be slightly more prominent, but it seems that the characteristics of the barrel itself come through more, with the alcohol toned down and more reminiscent of bourbon than Islay whisky. The smokiness switches between peat and tobacco, and the nose becomes accustomed to it relatively quickly. The yeast extract and fruit mingle together quite well, and create a slight tartness that manages to balance out the darker aromas. The taste ramps everything up to eleven, with smoky whisky, yeast extract, tart fruits and some light chocolate and coffee in the background. The whisky is definitely more noticeable on the palette, and warms the sides of the mouth and the chest during and after drinking, whilst the fruity flavours mesh with this perfectly, offsetting the harshness with a light tartness that allows the iodine smokiness to come through after a couple of sips. Because of the sheer power of the other flavours on show, the usual roasted malt-derived chocolate and coffee is only discernible through retro-olfaction, providing a nice counterpoint to the tartness and whisky. The finish isn't dry and the whisky lingers on the palette, along with some light hop flavours. It's also probably worth noting that this beer doesn't drink anywhere near its double-digit ABV percentage, so it might be wise to exercise some restraint (despite how hard that may be!). The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, which means the flavours don't cloy too heavily and the whisky can come through relatively unimpeded. Overall, this is a very impressive Imperial Stout that builds upon Black Albert very well, balancing some reasonably intense peaty whisky with the base beer to create a very worthy offering in the De Struise library. I've only had two Black Damnation offerings including this one (the other being the Mocha Bomb), and I couldn't honestly rate one over the other as they both bring such different elements to the table. Definitely recommended, I'll have to seek out the others now based on their stellar trend so far!

Until next time....

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 19- De Struise Brouwers Tsjeeses Reserva PBA (Port Barrel Aged)

Good evening all. Almost on the home straight now, so it seems quite fitting and cyclical that tonight's offering is the sequel to the beer that started off this year's advent calendar- it's Tsjeeses Reserva PBA (Port Barrel Aged), a Saison from De Struise Brouwers (Oostvleteren, Belgium). As with the Bourbon Barrel Aged version, this beer is a barrel-aged reworking of De Struise's winter seasonal Tsjeeses, and has spent time in port barrels prior to being bottled. Looking forward to seeing how this compares to to the Bourbon edition, so let's get to it! Review after the pics....



Tsjeeses Reserva PBA (Port Barrel Aged) (10.0% ABV) pours a hazy amber colour with a thick white head that maintains itself well throughout the course of drinking. Despite careful pouring, some of the sediment still managed to find its way into the glass. The aroma is Saison-like, with yeasty phenols, earthy esters, malty sweetness, but also has some fruits residing in the background (both red fruits and light citrus fruits- clementine, orange). The fruits hit more prominently early on, with some vinous notes from the port barrel-ageing, but these soon retreat and the characteristics of the beer base become more significant. The spiciness of the yeast is very much at Saison level, and the sweetness isn't too overpowering. There's also some perception of the alcohol after a bit of time has passed, but again this isn't too overwhelming. The taste delivers some more power to the proceedings, with phenols, spice, yeast extract, a hint of port, blackcurrant, some caramelised sweetness supporting everything and a light grapefruit flavour in the finish. The main source of intensity when tasting is the fruity tartness that comes along midway through each sip; prior to this the beer base characteristics are at their most discernible. The yeast extract and hoppy notes come out towards the end of drinking and linger on into the finish, which isn't too dry and contains some burnt sugar flavours. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which compliments everything on show nicely. Overall, this is a very balanced and drinkable offering that I would happily have again, but unfortunately the barrel-ageing hasn't contributed a significant amount to the proceedings and so it seems a but unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Personally I'd rather just have the original Tsjeeses over this, and the Bourbon Barrel Aged edition is definitely the superior of the two. 

Until next time....

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 17 and 18- Brouwerij Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René and Brouwerij de Molen Tsarina Esra Imperial Porter

Good evening all. Following on from last night's epic tasting session, it's time for a dual review so that tomorrow I can resume the one-a-day beer reviews for the rest of the advent calendar season. Tonight's beers are Gueuze Cuvée René from Brouwerij Linedmans (St Pieters Leeuw-Vlezenbeek, Belgium) and Tsarina Esra Imperial Porter from Brouwerij de Molen (Bodegraven, Netherlands)- certainly a diverse selection, but I'm looking forward to the Lindemans offering in particular based on its critical acclaim. I'll resume the capsule reviews for this post to help with clarity, before returning to the usual method tomorrow. Reviews after the pic....

Brouwerij Linedmans Gueuze Cuvée René


Style: Gueuze

ABV: 5.5%

Appearance: Straw colour, slight haze, effervescent white head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer.

Aroma: Plenty of funk, cooking apples, bittering hops. Tartness isn't intense and whole thing is remarkably light. Some barnyard mustiness comes through after the initial aromas have subsided.

Taste: Cooking apples, lemon juice tartness, honey sweetness. Tartness hits along sides of the mouth but disappears before the finish, which is slightly dry and has some lingering hop flavours. Hint of wheat towards end of drinking.

Mouthfeel: Light, amplified somewhat by the tartness, barely carbonated.

Verdict: Great gueuze with a pleasing amount of tartness and a very high drinkability- well worth trying. Similar offerings include De Cam's Oude Geuze and Oud Beersel's Oude Geuze Vieille.

Brouwerij de Molen Tsarina Esra Imperial Porter


Style: Imperial Porter

ABV: 11.0%

Appearance: Ruby-tinged black colour, lively light brown head that maintains itself well throughout drinking.

Aroma: Coffee, lactose sugar, rich sweetness, light chocolate. Coffee is slightly astringent but compliments the sweetness very well. Not much else going on, but it's certainly what you would expect from an amplified porter.

Taste: Caramelised sweetness, coffee, lactose sugar, roasted malt, some fruity tartness (blackcurrant), yeast extract. Some burnt sugar notes hit the back of the throat and can cloy occasionally. Hints of licorice, finish is on the dry side with some light hop flavours in the background. Alcohol is very well hidden, almost unnoticeable. Some cocoa comes out towards the end of the beer.

Mouthfeel: Thick, well-carbonated beer, works well with lighter flavours and doesn't get in the way.

Verdict: Solid beer, very smooth and light but still packs a variety of flavours. Fans of Evil Twin's Biscotti Break and Flying Dog's Imperial Porter should definitely give this a go, although the latter has a lot more sweetness compared to this offering.

Until next time....

Monday, 17 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 13, 14, 15 and 16- Two Mikkellers, one De Struise and a Kernel in a Pear Tree

Good evening all. I was pretty exhausted last night following an epic weekend of jamming and drinking Iron Maiden wine with an old 'Nam buddy, so I had no desire to review a load of beers in order to catch up with the advent calendar. Fortunately I'm feeling it tonight, so I'm going to review four beers now and do two tomorrow; by which point I should be able to resume normal service from the 19th up to Christmas Day. Tonight's beers are as follows; The Kernel/Brodies' India Pale Ale SCANNERS, De Struise Brouwers' Pannepeut Old Monk's Ale, Mikkeller's Monk's Elixir (Barrel Aged Red Wine Edition with Brett) and Mikkeller's Black (Tequila/Speyside Edition). For the sake of clarity I'm going to use the capsule review style for each beer, so at least you won't have to read as much this time round! Reviews below....

The Kernel/Brodies India Pale Ale SCANNERS


Style: India Pale Ale

ABV: 6.9%

Appearance: Hazy pale golden colour, inch of white head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass.

Aroma: Mango, grapefruit, acetone, caramel/honey sweetness.

Taste: Mango, grapefruit, peach, pine, very light coffee notes, decent amount of bitterness in finish. Sweetness during drinking, none of the flavours have particular dominance.

Mouthfeel: Slightly thick, light carbonation. Lacks that nice tight head and effortless drinking quality of most Kernel offerings.

Verdict: Not as amazing as I was expecting, particularly when considering the hype it's garnered recently, but it's still a decent IPA. Personally I'd rather choose any other Kernel IPA over this one, but it's still worth trying at least once.

De Struise Brouwers Pannepeut Old Monk's Ale


Style: Belgian Strong Ale

ABV: 10.0% ABV

Appearance: Dark brown, thick beige head that settles to a thin film over the surface of the beer.

Aroma: Candy sugar, plasticine, blackcurrant, marzipan, phenols, rich malt, caramel. Nice and luxurious yet well-composed and light, very similar to a Quad.

Taste: Dark candy sugar, yeast extract, fruity tartness, Belgian yeast character (phenols), caramelised sweetness, warming quality from the alcohol. As with the aroma it's very light, has some woody tones and fortified wine. No sense of alcohol during drinking but a nice hit during finish, sense of hops in aftertaste. Very Quad-like.

Mouthfeel: Thick, well-carbonated. Very smooth and interacts with flavours nicely. 

Verdict: Great beer; plenty of flavours on show, wrapped up in a very drinkable package. Definitely recommended.

Mikkeller Monk's Elixir (Barrel Aged Red Wine Edition with Brett)


Style: Quad

ABV: 10.5%

Appearance: Dark brown colour, thick white head that maintains itself well throughout the beer. Some lacing in the early stages.

Aroma: Plenty of brett funk, vinous, almost like a Flanders Red or an Oud Bruin with the lactic acid quality. Some sweetness from the wine, quite hard to discern anything else due to the power of the wine and brett.

Taste: Vinous, loads of brett, candy sugar, tart fruits, yeast extract. Very powerful wine and funk character, a light Quad profile in the background (malt, marzipan, subtle Belgian yeast).

Mouthfeel: Thick, beer is well-carbonated- compliments vinous qualities and funk power.

Verdict: Pretty intense offering- lots of stuff going on but the extraneous additions certainly take dominance. These can be a bit unbalanced and overpowering now again, but despite this the beer is certainly worth trying at least once as there's nothing else quite like it out there.

Mikkeller Black (Tequila/Speyside Edition)


Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 18.8%

Appearance: Black with a brown tinge, short-lived off-white head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass.

Aroma: Smoky/peaty whisky, plenty of booze, licorice, smoked malt, caramel, brown sugar. Very complex and carried a powerful alcoholic hit, some yeast extract, malt, dark fruits.

Taste: Tequila booze and alcoholic burn, caramel, smoke, alcohol hits along sides of the mouth and creates a harsh tartness/warming quality in chest. Licorice, burnt sugar, yeast extract, chocolate, tequila hits bottom of mouth heavily. Finish is relatively flavourless but alcohol continues on long after drinking.

Mouthfeel: Slightly thick, although volatility of alcohol thins it out slightly, moderately carbonated.

Verdict: Truly a one-of-a-kind beer- tequila barrel-ageing supplies a lot of alcoholic intensity whilst whisky barrel-ageing provides a nice smokiness which mingles with the base beer well whenever it manages to push through. Highly recommended.

Until next time....

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 12- Dark Horse Brewing Company Scotty Karate Scotch Ale

Good evening all. I was unable to fulfil my commitment to the beer advent calendar last night (as mentioned in this post) and was simply going to combine the two days until it hit me how exhausted I am this evening, so as a change of plan I'm doing yesterday's post today and will be doubling up the beers on my next post; which, as it turns out, will not be happening until at least Sunday due to prior engagements this weekend. So, before the epic 4-beer review post in a few days, it's time for last night's cardboard door- Scotty Karate, a Scotch Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company (Michigan, USA). This has garnered a lot of acclaim on the usual review sites, and it's also my first time reviewing/trying a beer from Dark Horse, so I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Review after the pics....



Scotty Karate (9.75% ABV) pours a dark ruby colour with an inch-thick beige head that settles down slightly but still maintains itself well over the course of the beer. The aroma is very light, with brown sugar, caramelised sweetness, red fruits, some light spice and some alcohol in the background that stings the nostrils on deep inhales. The subtlety of the aromas is quite startling at first, but it's actually quite nice to have a Scotch Ale that doesn't deliver loads of burnt/caramelised sugar immediately and lets the subtleties of the beer come through more. Light cinnamon and blackcurrant take over fairly quickly after the caramel sweetness has retreated, and soon after this the alcohol becomes the only significant aroma/sense that can be found. Fortunately, the taste delivers a bit more power and variety- caramel, brown malt, light spice, some red fruits and a light alcoholic hit towards the end of drinking. The whole thing tastes like a slightly sweet brown ale, with the burnt sugar fluctuating in intensity whilst the slightly darker malt flavours reside in the background. The alcohol imparts a slight tartness along the sides of the mouth during drinking, before punctuating each sip with a light hit to the back of the throat. The fruit flavours also amplify the aforementioned tartness and the finish is dry and relatively devoid of flavour, aside from some soy sauce and a bit of yeast extract. The mouthfeel is on the thick side and the beer is decently carbonated, and despite the almost double-digit ABV percentage the alcohol is only slightly warming and certainly doesn't prevent you from enjoying repeated sips of this beer. Overall, this is a pretty good offering with some nicely-balanced flavours, but unfortunately it lacks any significant power and so I personally wouldn't recommend it. Better examples of the style include Founder's Dirty Bastard, AleSmith's Wee Heavy and BrewDog's Dogma (new version).

Until next time....

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 11- Brouwerij De Molen Mout & Mocca

Good evening all. Day 10's offering is another bad boy from Brouwerij De Molen (Bodegraven, Netherlands); it's Mout & Mocca, an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee. I'm a big fan of coffee stouts, to the extent that I can still remember my first time trying Beer Geek Breakfast, so I'm definitely looking forward to this offering from one of my favourite breweries. As a quick heads up, tomorrow's review will join day 13's post as I am otherwise preoccupied tomorrow evening; hopefully you'll all be able to cope with this temporary disruption! Review after the pics....



Mout & Mocca (11.6% ABV) pours a brown-tinged jet black colour with a thick beige head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. The aroma is light but pretty amazing, with coffee, chocolate, lactose sugar and some light caramel sweetness residing in the background. I think I've finally identified that oily pimento olive aroma/taste that I seem to get with stouts and beers that utilise roasted malt- it's that slightly astringent aroma that comes along once a freshly brewed cup of coffee has cooled down a bit too much to drink. That exact aroma was what hit me as soon as I took the first inhale, but this mellows out soon after the initial burst and takes on the usual dark roasted qualities you'd expect. Despite the high ABV percentage there are no excessive alcoholic aromas; in fact, the whole thing has a very subtle aroma that is reminiscent of a milk stout with a healthy injection of coffee (or, in Ronseal terms, a mocha!). The taste is just as smooth, with coffee, lactose and candy sugar, booze, chocolate and some light sweetness rounding out the partial coffee bitterness. As with the aroma the coffee hits first again, but this time with the roasted character as opposed to the acridity; through retro-olfaction it remains on the palette throughout each sip, balancing out some of the flavours nicely. The power of the alcohol finally becomes apparent through drinking, but it's mixed in well with the other flavours and so isn't harsh or detracting. It still has the milk stout quality which makes the drinking experience very creamy, and the background roasted malt and accompanying flavours (chocolate sauce, a hint of dark fruits) are balanced in the mix perfectly. The mouthfeel verges towards the thick side and the beer is moderately carbonated, which compliments the coffee in particular very well. Overall, this is a fantastic coffee stout that deserves to be spoken of in the same revered tones as Mikkeller's Beer Geek Breakfast, Founder's Breakfast Stout and Southern Tier's Mokah. Highly recommended!

Until next time....

Monday, 10 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 10- BrewDog Tokyo Rising Sun Highland Edition

Good evening all. I'm fairly exhausted tonight after a day of jamming and composing, so it's taken a fair bit of effort to get myself interested in day 10's offering; quite a shame really when you consider what I found behind the cardboard door. It's Tokyo Rising Sun Highland Edition, an Imperial Stout from BrewDog (Fraserburgh, Scotland). This beer was brewed back in 2008 and then aged in whisky casks (either Lowland or, in this case, Highland) for 4 years. Considering that most barrel-aged Imperial Stouts spend between 6 and 12 months in casks before being bottled, this has all the potential to be pretty epic. Review after the pics....



Tokyo Rising Sun Highland Edition (13.2% ABV) pours a ruby-tinged black colour with a thick brown head that quickly settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is pretty intense, with plenty of whisky, yeast extract, caramel and some light coffee and chocolate in the background. The whisky and accompanying woody notes hit the olfactories immediately, and quite surprisingly manage to maintain this power over the course of the beer. The caramelised sweetness is rich and compliments the barrel-ageing nicely, and there are some dark fruits (mainly blackcurrant) that combine with the other predominant aromas fairly readily, creating a fortified wine smell. The taste capitalises on these aromas very well, with whisky, chocolate, caramel, yeast extract, a fruity tartness and some oily smokiness in the background. Because the alcohol power is predominantly in the taste as opposed to the volatility, the palette isn't cleansed as regularly as with more vapour-prone barrel-aged offerings, so the sweetness does start to cloy after a few sips. The whisky and fruity tartness work well together and help to offset each other to some extent, but the power of these flavours means the subtleties of the roasted malt are only partially discernible. Now and again the whisky seems to take on a smoky, almost peaty Islay character- particularly Laphroaig with the iodine-heavy palate- which lingers on in the slightly-dry finish with some yeast extract. The alcohol content might be high, but it's disguised very well and it never feels like you're drinking something this titanic. The mouthfeel is thin and the beer is lightly carbonated, which is perfect for a beer of this magnitude (both in terms of flavour and alcohol content). Overall, a great offering from BrewDog that combines the usual full-bodied sweetness of Tokyo with the power of the whisky cask remarkably well; the barrel-ageing hasn't created a better beer, but it has crafted a unique entity that's definitely worth trying if you can still find a bottle. A bit overpriced by most, if not all standards, but I have no regrets when the outcome is as good as this.

Until next time....

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 9- Uinta Brewing Company Anniversary Barley Wine

Good evening all. After waking up relatively late I took a trip out to the beach with my family to give the dog a run-around and feel the brisk power of the coastal wind, so it's fitting that day 9's offering is high in alcohol and rich in flavour. It's Anniversary Barley Wine, a Barleywine from Uinta Brewing Company (Utah, USA). Brewed to celebrate the aforementioned brewery's seventeenth anniversary, this particular bottle has had two years age on it since it was bottled, so I'm looking forward to it quite a bit already! Review after the pics....



Anniversary Barley Wine (10.4% ABV) pours a dark amber colour with a thick white head that quickly settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. The aroma is classic barleywine, with resinous hops, candy sugar sweetness, grapefruit, mango, a significant maltiness and a slight awareness of the alcohol content in the background. The hops come across as very piney at first, which compliments the burnt sugar sweetness very nicely, but soon after this the citrus/tropical fruit notes come out and diversify the proceedings. There's a hint of yeast extract and some rich malt, with the alcohol hidden behind everything and manifesting itself as a light acetone smell. The taste delivers much of the same- grapefruit, resin, mango, caramel and a subtle alcoholic burn in the back of the throat. The hops remain resinous until the finish/aftertaste, where they transition into a light grapefruit flavour that helps to offset the bitterness that starts during drinking and lingers on until the next sip. The alcohol is more prevalent on the palette and creates a tartness that amplifies the hop bitterness, whilst the caramel sweetness has mixed success balancing this twin-attack on the taste buds. When the flavours coalesce they create a general flavour of dark fruits, possibly even going as far as diluted fortified wine. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is lightly carbonated, which works well with the alcohol content and the power of the flavours on show. Overall, this is a great barleywine with all the hops and malty sweetness you'd ever want- a true winter warmer that's perfect for this season. Definitely recommended, I can't attest for fresh offerings but it sure tastes good with some age behind it!

Until next time....

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 8- AleSmith Horny Devil

Good evening all. Today I drove out to Plymouth to walk around the Christmas market and do a bit of shopping, but despite the carols and the pre-fabricated snow-capped huts I'm still no closer to replicating that Christmas spirit I've felt in previous years. Maybe tonight's offering will change that- it's Horny Devil, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from AleSmith Brewing Company (San Diego, California). This beer has been brewed with coriander and a Trappist yeast and has garnered a lot of critical acclaim over the last 10+ years, so as usual my expectations are high; add to that the suggestively interesting name and we should be in business with this one! Review after the pics....



Horny Devil (11.0% ABV) pours a golden colour with a wispy white head that quickly settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is very light, with spicy phenols, coriander, apricot, marzipan, biscuit malt, candy sugar and some bittering hops in the background. It has that usual aroma of a Belgian beer interpreted by an American brewery (another prime example is Stone/Dogfish Head/Victory's Saison Du Buff)- the power of the yeast is relatively subdued, and it smells like the brewers raided their spice cabinets and whacked the contents in in an attempt to get something vaguely resembling phenolic spice. Forgive my potentially-harsh criticism, it's just something that I've observed with the few Belgian-inspired American offerings I've had in the past. Once the nose has become accustomed to the spice and the slight fruitiness, it quickly starts to smell like a Helles lager with the characteristic honey-sweetness and bittering/noble hop background. The taste delivers more of what I was expecting, with plenty of Belgian yeast character, coriander, apricot, funk and some caramelised sweetness. The phenols hit the palette immediately along with the coriander spice, and as they start to diminish the funk and light apricot tartness becomes the focal point. The sweetness is constantly in the background, balancing out the spiciness and funk nicely. Despite the high ABV percentage the alcohol is very well hidden, and this beer is as drinkable as any authentic Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The mouthfeel is slightly thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, with the yeast creating that usual creaminess and effervescing carbonation that you would expect from a Belgian beer. Overall, this is a pretty decent offering that I wasn't too impressed with at first, but the more I drank it the better it became. The lack of initial aroma led me to believe that this would be a sub-par offering, but fortunately the flavours I encountered during drinking were enough to make me retract this opinion relatively quickly! Maybe I overchilled it initially, but with each sip the Belgian character became more prevalent and it was soon elevated to the same levels as offerings like Duvel, Delirium Tremens and De Dolle Arabier.  Definitely recommended, but if you haven't already then try the aforementioned offerings and a few more authentic examples before giving this a go. 

Until next time....

Friday, 7 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 7- Brouwerij De Molen Hemel & Aarde

Good evening all. Another imperial stout has graced me with its presence on day 7, and it's fully appreciated amidst this frozen season. The offering in question is Hemel & Aarde from Brouwerij De Molen (Bodegraven, Netherlands), a veritable bad boy that's been brewed with peated malt from the Bruichladdich distillery to add an extra element to the proceedings. I've had this bottle in my collection for at least a year and a half, so I'm hoping that this has improved it to some extent. As if that wasn't enough to fuel my anticipation I'm also a massive Islay whisky fan, so the inclusion of peated malt is something I can definitely get behind. Review after the pics....



Hemel & Aarde (9.5% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a light brown head that settles to a thin coating on the surface of the beer. The aroma is pretty intense, with peat smoke, caramel and some very light roasted malt contributions (chocolate, coffee) residing in the background. The sheer power of the peated malt virtually obscures all of the other aromas at first, but once the nose becomes accustomed to this it's slightly easier to pick out other components. The caramelised sweetness supports the peated malt so well that the two are almost indistinguishable, and in the background the coffee and chocolate add some nice nuances to break up the smokiness. The taste delivers some more variety, with peat, coffee, chocolate, yeast extract, dark fruits, licorice and a warming boozy quality. Whereas in the aroma the peat dominated, on the palette it's more forgiving and retreats relatively early on to allow the other flavours to have their say. The booze provides a fair bit of tartness along the sides of the mouth- which seems to amplify the perception of the dark fruits (raspberry, blackcurrant)- and continues into the finish with a light burn at the back of the throat. Because of the power of the other flavours, the coffee and chocolate are most noticeable through retro-olfaction, with a partial reprisal during the finish once everything else has died down. As is the case with most imperial stouts the finish is relatively flavourless, save for some light hop-derived grapefruit and some random remnants (yeast extract, caramel, peat smoke). The mouthfeel is on the thick side and the beer is moderately carbonated, which works well with the peatiness and alcohol content. Overall, this is a great offering that utilises the peated malt very well to add a different but very complimentary dimension to the usual imperial stout flavour profile. Sometimes the peated malt can overpower the other aromas and flavours,  but this isn't too common and when all the flavours are balanced it creates an amazing drinking experience. Highly recommended!

Until next time....

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 6- BrewDog AB:11

Good evening all. Behind tonight's cardboard door is AB:11, a Barleywine from BrewDog (Fraserburgh, Scotland). This is part of BrewDog's ongoing Abstrakt series, and has been brewed with ginger, brambles and chipotle peppers. At the time of writing it's raining like a beast and it's been consistently cold throughout the day, so I'm looking forward to the warming qualities of this quite a bit! Review after the pics....



AB:11 (12.8% ABV) pours a dark brown colour, verging on black, with a thick beige head that gradually settles to a light coating over the surface of the beer. The aroma is light and characteristically sweet, with caramel, brambles, grapefruit, coffee and some lingering alcohol in the background that slightly stings the nostrils when inhaled deeply. The usual barleywine sweetness and hoppiness is somewhat subdued, allowing the brambles to come through relatively unimpeded, but there's still enough caramel and tropical fruits to keep things interesting. The chipotle and ginger don't make much of an impression on the olfactories, and there's a distinct aroma of roasted malt that brings with it some coffee and licorice notes. So far it's nice, but not as stellar as I was expecting when considering the track record of the Abstrakt series. Fortunately the taste delivers more power, with ginger, brambles, booze, fortified wine and some light grapefruit in the finish. The ginger is noticeable through retro-olfaction and delivers some satisfying spice notes during drinking, which compliments the tartness of the brambles nicely. Some light bitterness and an alcoholic burn swiftly follows, leading to the finish which has some fruity hop remnants and a medley of flavours (fortified wine, roasted malt, burnt sugar sweetness) popping up. Towards the end of drinking the flavours coalesce and the beer resembles a Belgian Quad but without the usual yeast-driven spice and phenols. The alcohol sneaks up on you during drinking, and this is definitely one to sip slowly over a couple of hours if you hadn't guessed already. The mouthfeel is on the thin side and the beer is lightly carbonated, which definitely compliments the higher alcohol content of this bad boy. Overall, this is an interesting adaptation of the barleywine style; the usual sweetness and hop impact are more subtle than I would've liked, but the ginger and brambles add enough to just about compensate for this and the darker malt seems to round out the overall experience. Not my favourite Abstrakt offering or barleywine by far, but it's still worth trying at least once.

Until next time....

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 5- Mikkeller George! Barrel Aged (Bourbon Edition)

Good evening all. Day 5 has brought more cold weather to the South West, so the offering behind tonight's cardboard door is rather serendipitous; it's George! Barrel Aged (Bourbon Edition), an Imperial Stout from Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark). This bad boy started off life as regular George! before being put into bourbon barrels for 6 months, and comes in a 25cl bottle so you already know it's going to pack a decent punch. Weighing in at an epic 12.12% ABV, I'm hoping it will help me deal with the cold! Review after the pics....



George! Barrel Aged (Bourbon Edition) (12.12% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a short-lived dark brown head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass. The aroma is amazing, with bourbon, licorice, chocolate, brown sugar, coffee and dark fruits, enveloped by the volatility of the barrel-ageing. The bourbon hits first with the usual woody vanilla notes and the accompanying alcoholic power, and never really relents throughout the course of the beer. The more subtle aromas compete for attention and pop up randomly, with the most common being the chocolate and fruits (mainly blackcurrant, and possibly even a bit of raspberry). The whole olfactory front is very rich, and has the dark candy sugar/marzipan sweetness of a Belgian Quad but with a nice boozy edge; damn good stuff so far! The taste is just as complex, with coffee, chocolate, bourbon, licorice, candy sugar, burley/perique tobacco, caramel and some raspberry. The bourbon is just as powerful as it was in the aroma, but lets up earlier this time and allows the other flavours to make themselves known. The raspberry flavour is surprisingly tart, but this works well with the booze and the roasted malt contributions. The chocolate and coffee are only noticeable through retro-olfaction, which also produces some burnt toast notes in the background. The power of the alcohol effectively cleanses the palette, so once this has subsided the only thing remaining in the finish is the bourbon and some light tartness. Towards the end of drinking, when the carbonation is at its lowest, some yeast extract and fortified wine flavours come through. Although it can be garnered from the alcohol content, this is definitely a beer to be sipped and savoured; saying this, it's still very drinkable and none of the flavours cloy. The mouthfeel is slightly thick and the beer is lightly carbonated, which is perfect for a beer of this strength and intensity. Overall, this is a fantastic beer that benefits immensely from the bourbon barrel-ageing, creating a myriad of balanced flavours in a very drinkable package. Highly recommended, and probably one of the best barrel-aged stouts I've had in a long time. Similar beers include Mikkeller's Black Hole BA Bourbon and Port Brewing's Older Viscosity.

Until next time....

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 4- Haandbryggeriet Fyr og Flamme

Good evening all. Day 4 has brought an offering from Norway in the form of Fyr og Flamme, an IPA from Haandbryggeriet (Drammen, Norway). Haandbryggeriet have garnered a lot of positive reviews in recent times and yet somehow I've only had one of their offerings in the past, so what better way to change that than by sampling one of their best? This particular beer is the brewery's interpretation of De Molen's Vuur and Vlam, and has been brewed with three hop types and Maris Otter malt before being bottle conditioned. Sounds promising, so let's get to the review after the pics....



Fyr og Flamme (6.5% ABV) pours an amber colour with a very lively white head that maintains itself well throughout drinking; there's also some lacing during the early stages. The aroma is light and fruity, with mango, peach, grapefruit, resin and some caramel sweetness in the background supporting everything. The power of the hop-derived fruitiness isn't particularly significant, and I'd go so far as to say that it resembles a pale ale as opposed to an IPA, but it allows the beer base to come through more which is a pleasant surprise. The taste delivers much of the same, with grapefruit, orange, peach, biscuit malt, caramel and a subtle bitterness that lingers in the finish. The flavours are just as subtle as the aroma, with the citrus fruits coming along first but quickly giving way to a brief appearance from the malt, before the bitterness washes over everything to leave behind some grapefruit notes. The aftertaste is reminiscent of a dry martini with gin botanical flavours popping up now and again. The mouthfeel is moderately thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which would've worked nicely with a slightly hoppier beer but still compliments the flavours on show with this offering. Overall, this is a decent beer with a good amount of characteristic hop-derived flavours balanced in a very drinkable package. I don't know if it's inherent to this beer or if I decided to drink it too late, but it definitely could've done with more hop power to warrant the IPA label; despite this it's still good enough for me to recommend. Would definitely like to try it fresh though to see if it truly deserves the acclaim!

Until next time....

Monday, 3 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 3- Brouwerij Emelisse White Label Imperial Russian Stout Sorachi Ace

Good evening all. It's already Day 3 of the Beer Advent Calendar- how time flies when you're drinking! Behind tonight's cardboard door is White Label Imperial Russian Stout Sorachi Ace, a Russian Imperial Stout from Brouwerij Emelisse (The Netherlands). This beer is part of their White Label collection, an ongoing series of limited-release beers utilising different brewing techniques and unusual recipes. I had the White Label Imperial Russian Stout aged in Ardbeg barrels during the summer, which was pretty incredible despite the potential for personal bias as I am a massive Ardbeg fan, and by the name alone this is shaping up to be just as interesting. The Sorachi Ace hop can be found in single hop IPAs and even saisons, but using it in an RIS is certainly one of the more unconventional applications I've come across. Will it be able to penetrate the usual richness of an RIS and contribute something different to the proceedings? Review after the pics....



White Label Imperial Russian Stout Sorachi Ace (11.0% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a light brown head that settles to a thin coating over the surface of the beer. The aroma is very rich, with dark fruits (including some light soy sauce fruitiness), yeast extract, chocolate, coffee, toasty notes, caramel and a resemblance to barrel-ageing, as if it had spent some time in bourbon barrels but without the usual accompanying volatility. It's quite hard to pick out the individual aromas with this one; none of them are particularly intense but they seem to gang up and bombard the olfactories from the first inhale. The dark fruits and usual roasted malt aromas hit immediately, but are soon supported by the caramelised, almost burnt sugar sweetness. There's no sense of any lemon usually associated with the Sorachi Ace hop; possibly a hint of bubblegum in the background but certainly nothing overt. The taste is equally as complex, with chocolate, coffee, licorice, burnt sugar, dark fruits and some bitterness during drinking and in the finish. The flavours are fairly dark and smoky, with the caramel sweetness on the burnt side and the hoppy bitterness coming along in two waves; almost immediately and masking the other flavours, and then as a reprisal towards the end of drinking, delivering some tartness along the sides of the mouth. The characteristic Sorachi Ace flavours are slightly more apparent on tasting, with a hint of lemon and some grapefruit in the aftertaste. The alcohol content isn't discernible either, so it's wise to exercise caution as this is a very drinkable beer! The mouthfeel is quite thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, which balances out the flavours on show and works very well in this context to create a smooth drinking experience. Overall, this is an interesting stout that treads the line between RIS and Black IPA nicely- plenty of bitterness, some rich roasted malt flavours, and an impeccably disguised ABV percentage all make this a worthwhile offering from another great Dutch brewery. Probably the only complaint is that the flavours of the Sorachi Ace aren't as apparent as the hop-derived bitterness, but this is understandable when considering the impact and power of the stout flavours. Definitely recommended if you can find a bottle, and I'll be seeking out more White Label offerings in the future.

Until next time....

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 2- To Øl/Mikkeller Sleep Over Coffee IIPA

Good evening all. It's time for today's advent calendar post, and the first of potentially many Mikkeller beers over the next 25 days. It's Sleep Over Coffee IIPA, a DIPA collaboration between To Øl and Mikkeller (Copenhagen, Denmark) that utilises espresso coffee in the brewing process to create an interesting DIPA/Black IPA hybrid. I'm a big fan of both of these gypsy breweries; virtually all of their output is fantastic, and even the less successful offerings still have some merit to them, so naturally expectations are high for this beer. Review after the pics....



Sleep Over Coffee IIPA (10.5% ABV) pours a cloudy orange colour with a bubbly head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer; there's also some lacing during the early stages. The aroma is unusual but very interesting, with coffee, grapefruit, mango, resinous pine, a light smokiness and a background smell similar to oily pimento olives. The olive aroma is something I've come across before (Goose Island Pepe Nero immediately comes to mind), but fortunately it's in the background and only becomes apparent once the main aromas pass. The coffee hits immediately and almost masks the influence of the hops, and they only become noticeable after a few inhales with the usual tropical fruits and some piney notes. No real sense of the malt/beer base either; some smoked malt seems to come along every once in a while but this might just be the coffee. Nothing much else to report regarding the aroma, but it's shaping up to be an interesting spin on the DIPA style. The taste delivers much of the same, with coffee, resin, caramel, grapefruit and a nice dose of bitterness during drinking and in the finish. As with the aroma the coffee is the most immediate flavour, but it doesn't let up as readily this time and so impedes the hop flavours until the finish, where some grapefruit and a hint of mango lingers on. Aside from this and the aforementioned coffee there's not much else going on, but this isn't a criticism as it makes a change from the usual DIPAs. There is some sweetness during drinking, and the bitterness can be pretty intense as expected, so it certainly ticks all the usual boxes! The mouthfeel is quite thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which is perfect for the flavours on show. Overall, this is another great collaboration between two Danish brewing titans; the coffee compliments the hop-derived fruits nicely, and the whole experience is a pleasant departure from the usual crop of DIPAs. Definitely recommended; similar beers include Mikkeller Koppi IPA and The Kernel Coffee IPA. 

Until next time....

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Beer Advent Calendar Day 1- De Struise Brouwers Tsjeeses Reserva Bourbon Barrel Aged

Good evening all, and what a difference a year makes. Today officially marks the one year anniversary of Misplaced Hours, and the day that I decided/was convinced to start recording my thoughts about beer. On that day I was an unemployed Chemistry student living in Guildford, and on this day I am an unemployed Chemistry graduate living in Devon; all I can say is at least I still have beer. The journey to this point has been pretty epic, with many fantastic beers, a few duds and a lot of great times with old and new friends, and fortunately I'm still enjoying the reviewing enough to continue the blog. So, without further ado, let's continue the tradition that started everything with day one of 2012's Beer Advent Calendar. Tonight's beer is Tsjeeses Reserva Bourbon Barrel Aged, a Belgian Ale from De Struise Brouwers (Oostvleteren, Belgium). This is a special bourbon barrel aged version of their winter seasonal Tsjeeses, which I had last year but unfortunately can't remember- hopefully this one will leave more of an impression! Review, as always, after the pics....



Tsjeeses Reserva Bourbon Barrel Aged (10.0% ABV) pours a dark amber colour with a thick white head that settles to a nice film over the surface of the beer. The aroma is quite subtle and well-balanced, with yeast extract, spice, phenols, funk, caramel, candy sugar, hints of marzipan and some toasty notes in the background. It's very reminiscent of a diluted Quad or even a Quad/Saison mix, with that characteristic rich sweetness and spicy/earthy Belgian yeast character, and is supported by the light influence of the barrel ageing very well. The bourbon doesn't evaporate or impart any significant aromas as with most barrel aged beers, just an awareness in the background that acts as a platform for the base beer's qualities to come through gradually. The taste is as light as the aroma, with phenols, candy sugar, yeast extract, dark fruits and a bit of marzipan in the background. As with the aroma, the bourbon barrel ageing isn't apparent through any particular flavours, but does seem to have diminished the power of the other flavours and rounded out the overall drinking experience. There is a bit of bitterness towards the end of drinking, but aside from this every sip is very smooth and certainly not indicative of the beer's double-digit ABV percentage. The mouthfeel is quite thick and the beer is well-carbonated, which compliments the flavours on display nicely. Overall, a great beer that's very drinkable despite the high alcohol content, but one that could've done with a bit more of the power that barrel-ageing (particularly bourbon BA) usually imparts. Recommended, and I'm certainly looking forward to trying the Port BA version at some point in the future (hint- it's in the advent calendar somewhere so it shouldn't be too long!).

Until next time....