Reviews and events

12 Beers of Xmas – Magic Rock Brewing Co. – Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady

Placed just behind my beer box in the Kitchen, lurking with malevolence, appearing unlabelled in the low light, this bottle has sat biding it’s time for over a year now. Add the 10 months of barrel aging prior to bottling and we have a beer that’s well into the terrible twos. Weighing in at 660ml and 10.5% abv, this is a hefty beast and one befitting it’s name.

Without a description from me, you’re already picturing a dark brown, light proof appearance. Even held up to the overhead light, there is nothing seeping through the glass aside from the few bubbles in the wispy head. As expected, a strong, sweet, bourbon aroma rises, as well as chocolate and liquorice. Quite thin feeling initially, there is a sizzle on the tongue after a roll around the mouth, and a long finish full of caramel, vanilla and coffee beans.

This edition is the 2013 release and was aged in Wild Turkey barrels before bottling. My knowledge of Bourbon is limited, but I do recall that Wild Turkey was a favourite of Hunter S. Thompson, and there is something ‘Bat Country’ circling around this beer. Rye notes could be a characteristic inherited from barrel aging, a spiciness is definitely present.

I’m going to savour the rest of the bottle now, but I’m glad I waited this long.

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12 Beers of Xmas – Rogue Farms Marionberry Braggot

‘Barkeep! Two Marionberry Braggots for me and my mule’

If, like me you have no idea what a Marionberry or a Braggot is, then be prepared for my effort at Edutainment. The less than humble Marionberry is apparently a hybrid Blackberry developed in the USA in the 1950’s, and is described as the Cabernet of Blackberries – bold, complex and juicier than it’s parents. Braggot is a variety of Mead, originating in Wales, brewed with Honey and Hops and Malt..

Thanks Wikipedia. I’ll donate two dollars one day, I promise.

Rogue have generously experimented and brewed this beer for our pleasure under their Rogue Farms imprint. Being a fearless, and to some extent, clueless beer adventurer I returned home from Bierhuis in Ossett with this despite having no idea what it was and despite a heftyish price tag. It’s made with some sort of berry, it’s some sort of beerish drink – how bad can it be?

It’s certainly ‘complex’. The colour is initially a dark pink, before foaming and settling into a dense, opaque purple. A smooth sweetness on the tongue gets bitterer, with a cranberry juice dryness. Rogue’s own beekeepers collected the Honey that is infused into the brew, and most of the Hops and Malts were also grown on the Rogue farms estates. Whilst I can certainly taste the Honey and the Rebel hops on the finish, it’s the bitter, earthy tartness of the Marionberry that comes to the fore.

While the abv of this beer is relatively high at 11.4% , it’s midrange compared to my previous selections but it tastes boozier than the others I’ve had in the previous days, with a whisky like after aroma that warms the sinuses.

While I wouldn’t spring for another bottle of this, it is certainly an interesting and challenging beer, it does have a Cabernet quality to it and it’s vinousness is something that wine lovers may appreciate.

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12 Beers of Xmas – Maisel – Maisel and Friends – Marc’s Chocolate Bock

Grooooo…flagging a bit now! 9th day in and I’m ready for a day off from quality beer. Never thought I’d say that! It may have been the monstrous burger I ate earlier, but I’m struggling to bring myself to open this one. Anyway, here goes…

Pouring a rich, dark brown, the initial aroma is of a good single malt whisky and and mulling spices. A rich, full roast malt flavour is followed by a dark chocolate bitterness, but without a cloying sweetness. The notes (assuming my basic German hasn’t faltered) say that this is the Brewer’s bittersweet interpretation of Irish stouts, and it certainly comes across in the mouthfeel and finish, with the more traditional toasty Bock characteristics also present.

Despite my initial beer fatigue, I’m enjoying this, and as I pour the final third of the bottle I wish I’d had it earlier in the week. A day at work awaits me, so I fully expect my enthusiasm to have returned by 5pm tomorrow.

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12 Beers of Xmas – St. Bernardus Abt 12

Finally, a night in, just me and the wife for the first time in a week. Scary film on, beer opened.

Tonight, I’ve got for a big bottle of St Bernardus Abt 12. Brewing at the St Bernardus site in Watou has a relatively recent, yet interesting history. The premises were originally a Monastic Cheese factory left vacant by Monks returning to France following the end of unfavourable attitudes to Monasticism there, and brewing began in Watou following a decision by the Trappist Monks of Westvleteren to licence beer production under their name. The Westvleteren agreement came to an end in 1992, but production of the same recipes continued under the St Bernardus name.

So, with Westvleteren beer being frequently mentioned as amongst the best in the world, how does their near neighbours’ Quadrupel taste? The beer pours dark and stormy, with a lively head that soon dissipates to a bubbly froth. Spicy on the tongue with a tingly, dry finish, it has a dandelion and burdock sweetness but  also a boozy, warm aftertaste. Not having been able to access any Westvleteren, I can’t make a comparison, but St Bernardus beer reaches near the peak of brewing greatness.

St Bernardus’ motto is “Heavenly Nectar within Reach”, and as opposed to Westvleteren and other hard to get but highly regarded beer, their range is within reach of most of us. One of the strengths of a beer that is to be considered truly great is that it should be obtainable. We’ve all had one off tastes of a fantastic, mind blowing brew that we’ve never had another chance to try, and while the legend and memory of that beer is to be cherished and reminisced over, a sign of true greatness is something that stands out after repeat tasting, time after time.

For me, this is one of those beers.

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12 Beers of Xmas – Gouden Carolus Christmas

Had enough Christmas yet? Have you?! For me the festive season is pretty much over now. Work looms on Monday, I’ve got no NYE plans and 2015 looms over me. There, now I’ve cheered you up, let’s talk about Beer, baby.

Tonight’s offering is Gouden Carolus’ Christmas jollop, not having tasted their regular offerings before I have no comparisons to make’ nor insight into how they usually roll. I picked this up on a whim while visiting the Bottle Shop in Canterbury and I’ve subbed it in to my 12 beers in an equally whimsical fashion.

Enough whimsy, let’s drink it. This pours a dark ruby red, lovely aroma of liquorice and aniseed, slightly thin but with a warming finish and a good spritzy young tickle. 8 out of 10 Santa points.

Enough bollards from me, hope you had a good one, we’re on the home run now.

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12 Beers of Xmas – To Øl – Mine is bigger than yours

Stuffed. Eaten loads. Including about 5 slices of chocolate mousse pudding cake thing. Dropped off and startled awake by my laughter slapping my legs and laughing at me…not sure if a large glass of Barley Wine is the best idea.

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But it is Christmas so off I go, cap popped! The glass fills, and the increasingly opaque mahogany beer kicks out a sweet aroma. It may just be the leftovers but it smells like Christmas Cake and Grand Marnier. A lightly carbonated mouthfeel, it’s smooth and strangely creamy and belies the 12.5% abv. That familiar fruity flavour is present but also cocoa and a slight smokiness. Absolutely no alcohol burn, which you’d expect from seasoned cuckooers like To Øl.

So, halfway through and not a disappointing #12BeersofXmas yet. My favourite so far is probably the De Molen Amarillo, although tonight’s selection is pushing it close. Might be changing up the remaining choices when I return to Leeds tomorrow after a very productive visit to the Bottle Shop Canterbury.

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12 Days of Xmas – Brouwerij Girardin – Gueuze (White Label)

It’s Christmas Eve! The street is quiet, we have returned from the Pub and put the bubba to bed. Something light and fizzy will set the evening off and luckily I have a Girardin Gueuze chilling outside under the clear night sky.

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This is the White Label version, so Oude Gueuze but filtered, resulting in a sufficiently tart but not overly complex sourness. The aroma is marmalade and sherbet with a passion fruit bite. This is a great Gueuze to incorporate into a session and I’d recommend it, but for a more serious sour profile I would get a Boon mariage parfait or something from Cantillon.

I hope your Christmas Day goes well, and that this lottery ticket was a winner…

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