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#12BeersofXmas – Day Twelve

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Thank fupp, we’ve made it. 12 Beers down (almost) and then I can get back to skulling Skol rather than all this ‘craft’. After all, we only drink to get pissed anyway, right? What’s with all these weird beers with their odd names, silly ingredients and stupid prices – might as well jump on the bandwagon and brew myself, some gullible fool will buy it.

Of course, this doesn’t reflect my opinions, but the latter part of it is almost verbatim from a conversation I overheard at work, and a couple of years ago I might have had the similar thoughts if Mikkeller’s Spontanbasil had been offered to me. The sheer WTF reaction to this Beer, including from me, reflects how even within craft brewing there are still unexpected directions in which boundaries can be pushed, and while there are always horrendous failures there is also brilliance.

Spontanbasil falls into the latter for me. Tasting notes are almost redundant – it’s a Gueuze, fermented in Oak with fresh Basil leaves, so it’s tart, lemony, oaky and BASIL BASIL BASIL BASIL BASIL. BASIL. Everywhere. In the nose, on the finish, round the back, down the hatch. But, it’s not actually overpowering, just ever present. This was designed to pair with food, and I could pretty much pair it with every meal. Shredded Wheat and Spontanbasil, Cheese and Ham toastie and Spontanbasil, deep fried Mars bar and Spontanbasil. It’s a beer for entertaining, with friends or alone, try it with a pipe!

” ‘Are you going to Scarborough Fair – basil, basil, basil’ I knew as soon as I got a wiff of tonight’s offering I was gonna hate it. It tastes exactly like I imagined it would – like I should be in a dressing gown at a health spa drinking something green and funky to cleanse my innards. I can’t drink it as beer and certainly wouldn’t drink it even if it was good for me!”

I knew I should’ve got her a pipe for Christmas. I could drink this all night, if it wasn’t for the rather exorbitant price tag which is the only negative. Can’t wait for Spontanasafoetida.

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#12BeersofXmas -Day Eleven

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On day eleven, I’ve finally begun to feel slight Beer fatigue. I think, by and large, my choices this year have been good, but faced with the fifth sour, red beer of the period I’ve chosen to bring a sub off the bench. Burning Sky’s Flanders Red is almost certainly an excellent beer, but I need a change and so I’ve told Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU to take the tracksuit off.

I’m hoping for an instant impact, and the piney waft emanating from the bottle could melt candle wax, cure colds and revive a cadaver. Unsurprisingly, the bitterness levels have similar effects, although I quickly got used to them, and I wouldn’t say that the astringency is noticeably in excess of most big bottle double or triple IPAs. Big billing aside, and perhaps in contrast to the other ten beers, this is incredibly moreish and with a sip pale sweetness. Becky’s not normally into big IPAs, so I passed the glass and waited for her verdict.

“Another day ANOTHER beer! On getting my nostrils around this beer I liked it – it smells a bit fruity with a hint of sherbet. But alas it was less dib dab and more Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans (sly Harry Potter reference there!) – the flavour being ear wax! Not for me – again!”

Ah well, brutal honesty is what I’ve comes to expect and enjoy over the years. One more day to go, and Mikkeller will be making another appearance, with one of the year’s most talked about Beers.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Ten

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Christmas is now officially over, as I have to go back to work tomorrow. So if you could all cease having fun and enjoying yourselves until 5pm it would be much appreciated. However, it doesn’t mean the boozing will stop, and tonight’s Beer is the straight-up booziest of all 12 boozes. Booze.

Northern Monk have had a busy year, canning aplenty, releasing some really nice Limited Edition bombers, and generally coming all with all sorts of quality, unique creations. I’ve selected a recent release, XXXXX, which is a blend of Beers that they have barrel-aged this year. Normally I would try to keep this for at least 6 months prior to opening, but I couldn’t resist including something ultra-local on my #12BeersofXmas.

I don’t know the details as to how many, or which, Beers have been blended to create XXXXX, but immediately I can tell that Peated Soul, a Scotch Ale collaboration between Northern Monk and Soul Rebel Brew Co is definitely one of them. The smoky, peaty aroma and finish couldn’t be from anywhere else. As for other possible ingredients, there’s some chocolate and coffee which bring Strannik to mind, and also a very minor note of tart fruit, so maybe a bit of Lust, a Strawberry and Hibiscus Saison, was added too.

Hoppiness is harder to detect, due to the smokiness, but there is a pronounced bitterness, so maybe some of the 822 Double IPA made it in, or more likely a touch of the recent City of Industry Black IPA.

Regardless of my amateur sleuthing, the resulting Blend is certainly powerful. Whilst the Peated Soul is centre stage, there’s more than enough complexity to warrant this being billed as a ‘Special Reserve’. I’m not a huge Rauch fan, but I’m finding it hard to put this down, and every sip reveals a different dimension and keeps you guessing as to the contents. Becky was less enamoured.

“Well this for me is a one sip wonder!! I’m assuming the XXXXX is in place of a big swear from the person who took the first sip. It smells like a log fire burnt out and tastes like a smoked pork sausage. Not for me!”

I didn’t really expect this one to be a winner for Becky, as even amongst hardcore Beer geeks smoky flavours divide opinion, but she’s been as game as ever and is always willing to approach every beer with an open mind. I certainly have enjoyed it though, and I’ll be scraping together the post-chrimbo pennies to get another one to squirrel away.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Nine

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Another day, another sour red Beer. Not that I’m complaining as such, but I could have planned the order of my choices a bit better. Final day with the parents today, and after the horrified reaction of my Mother to yesterday’s Almanac Dogpatch Sour, I’ve retreated from offering this one to her again.

Not that Wild Beer’s Beyond Modus (2014) is as face suckingly Tart as the Dogpatch Sour, although there is a Lambic like sweet dryness. Double Blended and Double Barrelled is the description on the bottle, and whilst that could also describe some toffs with a slightly larger than normal gene pool it sufficiently sums up the depth and complexity of the Beer as well.

Cranberry-red in colour, there’s a huge waft of Cherries from the pop of the cap onwards as well as a quite savoury, milky note whic reminds me a bit of Lassi. The Cherry flavours dominate, but red wine, oak and wild flowers also feature and adulterate the sweetness into a multi-layered Sour tongue twister.

“I do love a sour and this one doesn’t disappoint. I’m a fan of Wild Beer anyway so wasn’t surprised that I really liked it. I wasn’t 100% sure when I sniffed it – there was something savoury about it, like gravy and cranberry sauce combined. This may well be a result of the copious amount of Christmas dinners I’ve consumed over the last week! When I drank some though I got all the yummyness I like in a sour – fizzy, fruity and tingley on the tongue! Now I just need to work out how to distract Gareth while I guzzle the lot!”

Well, when there’s Beer in the room, I’m not easily distracted, and ill be finishing the rest of the bottle myself. Wild Beer never disappoint, and where Barrel-aging in particular is concerned, they are probably the UK’s leading producers of exceptional, densely flavoured Beer.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Eight

imageTonight’s Beer is eagerly anticipated, and my first from a Brewery whose Beer is relatively scarce in the UK. Today’s been the third consecutive day of present opening, and coupled with a bit of fresh air and a couple of pints I’m ready to go deep into something sour.

Almanac Beer Co is based in San Francisco, although they are currently Gypsy brewing, or as they term it ‘Partner’ brewing, and as well as a small core range they pride themselves on their Farm to Barrel range. The range is based around the principle of collecting the pick of local seasonal fruits and creating their interpretations of classic brewing styles around them. There’s currently 32 different Farm to Barrel variations listed on their site, so it’s clear this is serious business for them.

The beer I have tonight is Dogpatch Sour, a Flanders Red, brewed with Cherries and aged for 8 months in red wine barrels. Pouring well from the spiffy bottle, the colour is akin to Watermelon juice, and the Cherry aroma immediately fills my nostrils. Given that sourdough yeast was used in fermentation it’s not surprising that there is also a lactic twang in the finish, complemented by the acidic, vinous mouthfeel. Tonight’s volunteer is my mum, who’ll have a sip of anything Beery, but isn’t into this.

“Oh dear I’m really not sure about this beer. Took me a while to realise what the taste reminded me of then I suddenly remembered – a really sour cider & I think my tongue will take a time to recover. Sorry Gareth but this really isn’t one for me!”

I’m off to the Pub now for the evening, hence the early post, but I’m already wondering what I can have that will match up to this. The sourness is powerful with this one, and it’s certainly a contender for top Beer of the series.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Seven

imageBoxing Day. For us that usually means a long drive, this time from Yorkshire to Kent. Three Beers were packed for days Seven to Nine, plus a couple of extras, in full knowledge that fridge space would be at a premium. Unseasonably mild weather too, so I’m either going to have to eat everything or drink late in the evening. Luckily, tonight’s Beer is fine to be served just below room temperature, so I’ve stuck it on the exterior window ledge.

Beavertown’s Barrel Aged Moose Fang is an imperial India brown ale, aged in Armagnac barrels, with Cacao nibs, Orange zest, and frankly, all shorts of shiz. Brewed in collaboration with Bellwoods Brewery of Toronto, it comes in a slightly odd sized half-litre bottle with a bit of Moose Ultraviolence on the label.

Pouring with a rapidly vanishing head, there’s a gentle carbonation, flavours of Figs and Dates backed up with the Cacao/Orange choco zing and a deep warmth of Cognac/Brandy on the finish. Nothing overly harsh on the palate however, and it drinks well for 10% abv. Pretty impressed with this overall, which is to be expected when Beavertown are involved. India brown ale is probably one of favourite styles at the moment, and the extra process and ingredients give this a complex edge on top.

As I’m back in the Kentish coastal hood for a few days, I’ve roped my Sister into giving us her thoughts on tonight’s Beer.
“The initial aroma reminded me of the Christmas pudding I had soaked in brandy and recklessly set alight the day before. As I sipped, I received a hit of spice which quickly turned to a caramel warmth – not as cloying as the chocolates I have spent today scoffing but sweet all the same. The aftertaste and mouthfeel put me in mind of a chocolate stout or bold red wine. I’m not a regular real ale-r but I really warmed to this one. Fangs for the taster (oh come on, it’s Christmas!).”

As you can see, the mirthfulness runs in the family! Another winner all round, and with something extra special to look forward to tomorrow, it’s been a good Christmas for Beer.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Six

imageTonight’s Beer is Evil Twin’s Freudian Slip, a Barley Whine. Christmas Day has knackered us all out and along with bellyache, I’ve now got Downton Scabby to contend with. Thank the baby Jebus for strong Beer.

Anglo Mania set the bar high the other night for the style, and first impression on the pour is of a Beer with sharper corners. Teak in colour, slight piney aroma but with a pointed bourbon finish, it’s less refined and more acidic than Wednesday’s Beer. Which isn’t to say it’s less enjoyable, but it’s not one I’m racing through.

Bit of a swill, and some Vanilla and Cardamom notes are released on the tongue, but honestly it’s a bit more one-note than the other Beers I’ve had since Sunday. Becky was also not overly impressed.

“Probably the worst evening for me to have to formulate an opinion on anything! My Christmas morning starts with a Buck’s Fizz and goes down hill from there so I’m already a bit pickled. On sniffing this one it’s not dissimilar to last nights offering but it’s like the ugly sister. On taking my first sip it reminded me of the reaction of my two year old little girl to vegetables and I nearly exclaimed ‘YACKY!’. This is one of the drinks that I’ll add to the list of beers that make me gurn in disgust. Less of a Freudian slip and more a Freudian gip!”

She’s not joking, she is a bit pickled. My boozing today has been restrained, but even so I’m a bit tired of this two-thirds of the way down. Never mind, I’ve got ten cans of IPA in the fridge to revive me.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Five

imageToday has been my first day off from work of the Christmas period and it’s safe to say I’ve already indulged a bit. Christmas themed play, followed by Steak and a Pint at lunch, final Beer shop of the year and Cheese and Mince Pies for tea.

Tonight’s Beer is a more modest one than I’ve had so far this week, so hopefully i won’t be racked with indigestion tonight. Brewed for the 2014 Rainbow Project, Pogonophobia is a collaboration between Magic Rock and Evil Twin, designed as their interpretation of a Flanders Red.

Aged in Red Wine Barrels for 8 months prior to release, there’s a dry vinousness along with an oaky aroma and the requisite sour, tart finish. Mellower than, say, a Duchesse de Bourgoigne, and all the more boshable for it, I’ve finished my glass in about ten minutes. I’d like to say the extra year or so maturing in my kitchen had added a further dimension, but honestly, I thought the Beer to be well rounded and accomplished at first tasting, and should’ve bought a few more. Becky is similarly appreciative of tonight’s Beer.

“After days of some hardcore drinking I really didn’t feel like more beer tonight. However once I got my nostrils in the glass I changed my mind! I would say the smell is more wine than beer with the berry aroma. The taste is very subtle but again more fruity than beery and far too easy to drink. This one is my new favourite and my bestest – if there is a Santa he’ll be filling my stocking with Pogonophobia tonight!”

Sadly, unless Santa has an extremely comprehensive Beer cellar, he probably won’t be able to get one, so all the better we enjoyed it tonight.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Four

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Day Four already, and I’ve settled into the routine now – Dinner, Bubba to bed, and Beer. Tonight’s effort slighly delayed by wrapping, luckily everything I bought was boxed so no embrassing scrunchies required!

Nothing boxy about tonight’s Beer. Buxton’s Anglo Mania is a Barley Wine that fell into my usual pattern of Barley Wine purchases – bought, shelved, occasional wary glance followed by pondering if I should finally open it, shelved further until I have a reason to indulge. This is why I look forward to 12 Beers of Xmas.

Anglo Mania is a single hop, single malt Barleywine, bottled early autumn 2014 and left abandoned in my kitchen since early this year. Pouring with a surprisingly dense head, there’s notes of caramelised apples and candied citrus. Plenty of alcohol bite, but not burn, like a fortified wine with the edges smoothed. Sticky sweet and moreish, I could drink a bomber of this easily. I could tell this was another hit with Becky too, mostly because she’d half emptied the glass!

“Another one I expected not to like but was pleasantly surprised. This may come as a surprise but it took me back to my days as an alter girl and stealing the sacramental wine at church! It tastes like Madeira wine and honey and I could quaff it all day long! Amen!”

With a few other Barley Wines on the list, Anglo Mania has set a high standard, and I’ll be looking out for more on the dusty shelves of bottles shops, just in case.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day Three

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Christmas morning. Early hours. You’ve fallen asleep on the sofa after polishing off three Mince Pies, half a Carrot and a bottle of Imperial Stout that was left ‘for Santa’. A strange noise is coming from the TV screen, you wake to see interference, a figure appears, emerging through the screen…

It’s an Elf.

A terrifying Elf that looks like the lovechild of Andrew Castle and Lord Charles. The only explanation is that you drunk the whole bottle of Weird Beard’s Heaven Hill BA Sadako and this is a Ringu-esque night terror.

That’s because, this is the sort of Beer that will populate your dreams. It smells like a Pancake stack, dripping in Maple Syrup and Dark Belgian Chocolate sauce, with a frothy Mocha bitterness and a sweet Bourbon finish. With no burn or harshness but a definite hit of Kentucky Brown Gold. I didn’t have much optimism that Becky would like this one, but finally, a Stout winner!

“When Gareth poured this one out I’d already decided I wouldn’t like it. The look and smell of it were in line with the beers I usually avoid – I was however pleasantly surprised! There was no horrible bitterness, it’s smooth and yummy – almost like drinking a glass of port. In the words of Willy Wonka I think this one is Scrumdiddlyumptious!”

Hooray! And I agree, even if it doesn’t taste like Snozzberries. I’m almost done with the bottle now, and even though there is a serious richness it never overpowers the subtleties lent from Barrel aging.

Now, pass this review on to someone else, and pray they drink this Beer within a week.

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