Halloween Special Part Two

Monday, 31 October 2016
Halloween Special Part Two
Monday, 31 October 2016


So it's the spooky day itself and time to review the last two beers in my monstrous selection;

Beer Name: Black Wych

Brewer: Wychwood, Oxfordshire, UK

Date Sampled:  31st October 2016

ABV: 5.0%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

Wychwood were actually one of the first brewers to welcome me into the world of ale; I remember one Christmas my Dad receiving some bottles of Hobgoblin as a present and him letting me have a taste. I won't disclose how old (or young) I was but it's safe to say that my taste buds had not yet developed into what they are today. I did not demand another sip that Christmas!

Black Wych is described on the Wychwood website as "a dark mysterious spellbinding porter." Well they certainly make it sound like a beer fit for Halloween.

Sadly it left me a little underwhelmed... less Blair Witch and more Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

It looks the part in the glass, with a jet black pour and a caramel coloured head however from the nose onwards it fails to excite, with an aroma almost evenly matched between roasted malts and an almost soap like floral perfume.

The taste is again dark malts with little complexity, followed by a slightly nutty aftertaste. It isn't overly bitter and nothing lingers for any discernible length of time.

Black Wych isn't a bad beer but with the quality of stouts available I'm afraid I won't be racing my broomstick back to Wychwood any time soon.





Beer Name: Kujo

Brewer: Flying Dog Brewery, Maryland, USA

Date Sampled:  31st October 2016

ABV: 8.9%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

That's better! Kujo is simply a great coffee stout that, much like it's namesake, is not to be trifled with!

In the glass it looks innocent enough, with the jet black colour and mocha head that you'd expect in a coffee stout.

But the nose does give you a hint of what's to come, with vanilla, toasted malts and coffee battling for attention.

When you first sip Kujo it's got a lovely flavour balance, with the vanilla and coffee following through from the nose. But then it bites you like a rabid dog, with heavy black treacle and hints of liquorice snapping at your ankles before settling down into a boozy bitter finish.

Kujo is not subtle, it has a lot of big flavours but they work so well together that this is a coffee stout I will definitely go back to.

Who's a good boy then!?!



Halloween Special Part One

Sunday, 30 October 2016
Halloween Special Part One
Sunday, 30 October 2016

Following on from my review of Pumpkin Ales, the other fashion at this time of year is for beers featuring 'spooky' labels. The choice is huge, with no real rules in evidence in terms of what sort of beers can be placed into monstrous packaging.

Featuring in this two part roundup are a selection of beers purchased from Beer Gonzo as well as some grabbed from local supermarkets.

Beer Name: Nightmare on Bold Street

Brewer: Mad Hatter Brewing Company, Liverpool, England

Date Sampled:  30th October 2016

ABV: 5.3%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

This Milk Stout from Mad Hatter is very very good. It's pour is everything you'd expect from such a beer; jet black, thick and with a mocha coloured head.

It has a wonderful nose with coffee being the dominant feature, supported by notes of vanilla and hints of nut; it's like smelling a warm slice of coffee walnut cake with a scoop of ice cream!

It has a beautifully smooth mouthful which you'd be forgiven for describing as luxurious.

On tasting this beer is an absolute belter. The coffee from the nose carries through strongly, although this time with a roasted depth to it. Then the sweetness comes through, which along with the chocolate pushing in has you feeling like you're drinking a posh mocha topped with marsh mallow. Then just as the sweetness threatens to be too much, a cacao bitterness finishes everything off.

There will be some who find this too sweet but I personally loved it and thought it was beautifully balanced and that it delivered on a lot of levels. It's another great stout.





Beer Name: Lil Devil

Brewer: Alesmith Brewing Company, California, USA

Date Sampled: 30th October 2016

ABV: 5.75%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

Lil Devil is a Belgian Style Pale Ale from San Diego brewer Alesmith. In the glass it's a slightly cloudy amber colour with very little head; it almost looks like a glass of wine!

It's nose is hoppy, yeasty with a hint of coriander and the mouth feel, despite being thin bodied, is pleasing with a nice level of carbonation.

From the nose I wasn't super excited about this beer but it's actually pretty easy drinking. The coriander from the nose is still present but is far from overpowering. Instead the combination of citrus zest and banana bread offer an interesting and appealing flavour profile.

This style of beer will never be my favourite but Lil Devil is actually very easy drinking and if I saw this out and wanted a break from my usual choices I'd definitely give it another go.






Beer Name: Green Daemon

Brewer: Hopdaemom Brewery, Newnham, Kent, UK

Date Sampled:  30th October 2016

ABV: 5%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

As expected from a Kentish brewery, this Helles beer from Hopdeamon is clearly jam packed with hops.

It has a very traditional look, clear golden amber with a small white head. The nose is floral hops, tropical fruits and grassy sweetness and the mouth feel is medium bodied with a nice level of carbonation.

I will stress that this is not the most exciting beer that I've tried (some of the stuff on the market place right now is phenomenal) but what it does represent is a traditional English style ale done very well. The floral hoppiness from the nose is the dominant flavour, with subtle hints of tropical fruits followed by a satisfying bitter finish.

It's not the sort of beer I'm going to rush out to buy again but it is definitely sessionable, even at 5%, and has got me interested in what else Hopdaemon offers.






More Halloween beers to follow soon....









Bibble by Wild Beer

Saturday, 29 October 2016
Bibble by Wild Beer
Saturday, 29 October 2016

Beer Name: Bibble

Brewer: The Wild Beer Co, Somerset, England

Date Sampled:  25th October 2016

ABV: 4.2%

Serving Type: Can

Location Sampled: Home

It's a Somerset beer! As much as I love living on the South Coast there is simply no denying that a big chunk of my heart will always remain in the west country.

Growing up within a stones throw of the Somerset levels meant a childhood full of underage drinking and lots of cloudy cider. But as much as I still love that apple based elixir of long life, the world of beer has turned my eye for now.

So it has pleased me no end that there are little pockets of brewing excellence in and around the Somerset area that are taking the world of beer by storm.

The Wild Beer Co are leading that charge; who would have guessed that a little brewery from Evercreech in Somerset would be holding a tap takeover event in The Tate Modern? Their beers have garnered popularity across the board and they have drawn universal acclaim, not least for their participation in the International Rainbow Project.

Bibble is described by the brewery as their new everyday beer, a Pale Ale coming in at 4.2%.

It pours a hazy amber with a small white head which does not hang around.

The aroma has a resinous pine quality, but there are also hints of tropical fruits and fresh cut grass sweetness. It has a thin body, which is not unpleasant despite a slight oily feel on the tongue.

The pine and resin from the nose continues into the taste, along with bitter grapefruit and a pithy bitterness which carries through into the finish.

According to the marketing spiel on the can, Bibble is a word from old Somerset dialect meaning to drink regularly. Here Wild Beer have produced a Pale Ale which, whilst far from remarkable, is a very solid sessionable ale.

You leave me with a fridge full of this and I'll happily bibble, you can be sure about that.







Calypso by Siren Craft Brew

Thursday, 27 October 2016
Calypso by Siren Craft Brew
Thursday, 27 October 2016

Beer Name: Calypso

Brewer: Siren Craft Brew, Berkshire, England

Date Sampled:  25th October 2016

ABV: 4.0%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

Do Siren make any bad beers? Before starting this blog I hadn't tried anything of theirs. Since then I've had the Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake (amazing), Broken Dream Breakfast Stout (also amazing) and Liquid Mistress (yep, amazing!). From what I've tasted so far the reputation they have seems well deserved.

But surely Calypso would be a beer too far. I'll happily admit that sour beers are not a favourite style of mine (see my Rainbow Project post for confirmation of that) but keeping an open mind and hearing good things I figured I'd better take a trip out of my comfort zone.

I'm glad I did.

In the glass it's very different to what I've been drinking lately; it has a hazy appearance and it almost looks like a cloudy apple juice. The crisp white head dissipates soon after pouring.

The nose is relatively delicate but distinctive, with gooseberry and rhubarb tingling the nostrils and a slightly herbal perfume drifting somewhere in the background.

And the taste? Of all of the sour beers I've tried thus far it's my favourite yet in terms of balancing refreshing sour tartness without feeling like it's attacking the back of your throat. I'm no expert but my feeling so far with sour beers is that the way the beer feels, the way that it generates that mouth watering reaction is as important as the flavour alone and this is where Calypso shines. The gooseberry and rhubarb that follows through from the nose, along with the smooth light body, just makes your mouth feel good in the same way that a lip smacking homemade lemonade might. It's just so incredibly moreish.

In Calypso, Siren have done what I thought was impossible and made me want to explore the world of sour beers some more. Those guys really are magicians!







Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter by Buxton

Tuesday, 25 October 2016
Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter by Buxton
Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Beer Name: Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter

Brewer: Buxton Brewery, Buxton, UK

Date Sampled:  24th October 2016

ABV: 7.4%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

I'm not even going to try and apologise; it's another coffee beer! This time it's the turn of Buxton Brewery's Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter.

Buxton started life as a microbrewery back in 2008 and have made a name for themselves making top quality beers using the finest ingredients. I've heard great things about their brews so when I saw this coffee infused offering on the Beer Gonzo website I could not refuse.

As you'd hope from a coffee porter, it's a serious jet black in the glass and with a heavy pour produces a tasty looking mocha coloured head.

It has the most amazing nose; the coffee stands proudly to the front but you also pick up cacao, bourbon and thick sticky molasses. It really smells like a grown up drink.

Then when you sip it has a lovely thick silky feel that coats your tongue.

Right now you'd be thinking that the flavour can't possibly follow up on what has been promised so far?... you'd be wrong.

This porter has flavour by the bucket load; everything from the nose, especially the coffee, is still evident when you drink it, and the bourbon really comes to the fore in the aftertaste, leaving a warming smoky bitterness that lingers long after you've swallowed.

This hasn't got the sweet pudding like quality that something like Evil Twin's Biscotti Break offers, but Buxton have absolutely smashed it with this beer, producing a coffee porter that balances complex flavours into a beautifully balanced and easy drinking beer.

This is one I'd definitely buy again.







Holy Hoppin' Hell by Weird Beard

Monday, 24 October 2016
Holy Hoppin' Hell by Weird Beard
Monday, 24 October 2016

Beer Name: Holy Hoppin' Hell

Brewer: Weird Beard Brew Co., London, UK

Date Sampled: 24th October 2016

ABV: 9.5%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

Double IPAs! They are taking over, especially in the The States, and it's a style that is clearly becoming more and more popular. If you mention the words Heady Topper or Pliny the Elder to any craft beer aficionado and their eyes will widen and pools of saliva will gather at the corner of their mouths, even if they haven't tried them (which includes me). The hop heavy fruitiness that these American style DIPAs offer are proving increasingly popular and some UK producers are doing an excellent job at reaching (and sometimes exceeding depending on your own point of view) what is being done across the Atlantic.

Cloudwater's stunning DIPA series is the obvious example, but nearer to home I'm still raving about Southsea Brewing's Heavy Artillery to anyone that will listen.

The next one up for me to taste is Holy Hoppin' Hell, a DIPA from London based brewer Weird Beard. They only started brewing in 2013 and whilst I haven't seen any of their beers being sold in pubs locally to me, they are gaining a reputation for dropping hoppy masterpieces.

Holy Hoppin' Hell looks the DIPA part when poured, with a cloudy golden colour and a small white head that disappears rather quickly.

The nose is everything you'd hope for, with a heavy dose of mango and apricot dominating. It certainly entices you in!

On tasting the fruit does not follow through as strong as I'd expected, instead a booming bitterness cuts into the back of your mouth in a hugely satisfying way, which along with a beautifully silky mouth feel makes this a joy to drink.

Holy Hoppin' Hell does not offer the ferocious fruit burst that the likes of Cloudwater have become famous for, but in their own way Weird Beard have brewed a DIPA that brings huge hoppy goodness and delivers it in a less subtle but still very enjoyable way.

With the excellence already available in the world of DIPA's Holy Hoppin' Hell is no world beater, but that does not make it a bad beer. In fact far from it; I loved it and I'll definitely drink it again.





Happy Halloween - Pumpkin Beer Tasting

Sunday, 23 October 2016
Happy Halloween - Pumpkin Beer Tasting
Sunday, 23 October 2016

I've never been the hugest fan of Halloween; I mean I've never had anything against it but when growing up in deepest Somerset in the 80's and early 90's Halloween just wasn't a big thing. We didn't trick or treat, we didn't really do Halloween parties and any fancy dress was often just tagged onto the fireworks celebrations.

But as our culture has become more heavily influenced by America, Halloween has definitely gained some traction in the UK. Shops are stocked up with spooky items from September onwards, pubs and clubs have massive themed nights and supermarkets are full of frightening foodstuffs. Everywhere you look you'll see skeletons, ghosts and zombies. We're not even having a Halloween party in our house yet I'm writing this with a huge hanging paper spider poised above me!

And then there's pumpkins. I've often enjoyed the annual carving but pumpkins for eating have never had the same popularity in this country as in The States. But now you can't walk up any high street without seeing numerous coffee shops selling seasonal Pumpkin Spice Lattes and websites, TV shows and magazines are full of recipes so that you can utilise the flesh leftover from your lantern carving.

I guess is stands to reasons then that the brewing industry would get involved and certainly in America at this time of the year there are a plethora of Pumpkin Ales to sample, a few of which are now making it over here to stand alongside the few offerings from UK producers.

So when in Bitter Virtue yesterday I picked up three different Pumpkin Ales to taste, to try and work out if the fuss was justified and to see whether it was a flavour combination that I could get on board with.



Beer Name: Stingy Jack Spiced Pumpkin Ale

Brewer:
Beavertown, London, England

Date Sampled: 23rd October 2016

ABV: 7.2%

Serving Type: Can

Location Sampled: Home


It has an attractive appearance in the glass with a cloudy coppery-amber hue and a small white head.

The nose is intriguing and with the nutmeg and cinnamon notes almost feels like your sniffing a mulled cider.

But then the mouth feel is slightly disappointing, with it bordering on the thin and oily. The taste left me a little muddled; the first sip suggested that this would be a complex and nuanced ale, with delicate cinnamon and a slight sweetness giving way to nutmeg, pumpkin and then a slight tartness. Then just as I was expecting the flavour to keep developing…. Nothing.  Just a slightly medicinal aftertaste that reminded me of red aftershock.

Had the beer developed as I’d hoped after the first impression then we could’ve been looking at a great autumnal drink; that initial ‘mulled cider like’ hit was comforting and I actually found myself wondering how this would fair if it were slightly warmed through. But then the lack of body and depth left me feeling cold and in hindsight, it was not an ale that I enjoyed.

This is the first Beavertown  effort that I’ve not lapped up and whilst I applaud the efforts to turn out something seasonal and different, this Pumpkin Ale is just not for me.

 
 
 


Beer Name: Pumpkin King

Brewer:
Brewdog, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Date Sampled: 23rd October 2016

ABV: 5.5%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home


This is a very appealing drink to look at; it is a clear coppery caramel colour with a white head.

It has a slightly floral nose, the hops are more evident than in Beavertown’s effort and there is a marshmallow sweetness working alongside the spices.

It’s actually pretty easy drinking; it’s a surprisingly light brew, with slight citrus notes cutting into the hops. The light carbonation gives it a mouthfeel not unlike a lager and it slips down pretty easy, leaving you with a slightly earthy after taste. The spices evident in the nose are harder to find in the taste but they are there.

I’m not sure what I was expecting with these pumpkin beers but this wasn’t it. Pumkin King does offer an unusual taste profile and is pleasant enough but if I hadn’t known before that it was a pumpkin ale then I certainly wouldn’t have guessed. It’s a great bit of marketing and is definitely a drinkable ale, but next Halloween I won’t be killing myself to get hold of another bottle.

 
 
 

 
Beer Name: The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA

Brewer:
Flying Dog Brewery, Maryland, USA

Date Sampled: 23rd October 2016

ABV: 6.7%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home
If there’s one thing you can say about all three of these pumpkin ales is that they all look great. This Pumpkin IPA from Flying Dog is the lightest in colour, but it still has the redness that has been consistent throughout this test. It’s another clear brew with a small head which dissipates quickly.
The nose is relatively delicate; the combination of candyfloss, ginger and cinnamon bringing back memories of funfairs, canivals and bonfires.
The difference between this and the other two pumpkin ales tasted here is that the base IPA in this brew is clearly evident; in my eyes it is the one that feels most like a good beer first with pumpkin then added to it. So whilst the pumpkin taste is evident, the dominant flavours are the hops, malt and then a good dose of bitterness. There is sweetness there, along with the pumpkin spice, but it is gently done and does not overpower what is a pretty good IPA.
Out of the three, I think this is the only one I would have again but, after tasting three different incarnations, it is safe to say that pumpkin ale is never going to be one of my favourite flavour styles. With so many good beers out there to try and so many flavour combinations that do work (hello coffee and stout!) I don’t think I’ll ever get to the stage that I pick a pumpkin beer over another, even if it is the 31st October!
 
 
 
 
 
 

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