Reviews and events

#12BeersofXmas – Day 9 – Holy Oak

After a few days of eeking out a share each of a 330ml bottle, we’re back in big bottle country tonight, and the beer that I am most looking forward to of this year’s selection.

Gigantic brew out of Portland, Oregon and had their fourth birthday earlier this year, they prepared to mark the occasion by flying Magic Rock’s Nick Ziegler out in advance to brew Holy Oak – a barrel-aged kettle sour designed to mimic a whiskey sour cocktail. The collaboration must have gone well as Gigantic made the return trip to brew Special Relationship – a Manhattan cocktail-style aged beer – earlier this year.

I didn’t get round to tasting Holy Oak when it was originally released, and I also thought that I’d missed out on a bottle due to my own inaction. Luckily, Becky noted my interest and picked a bottle up, which has been sitting in our kitchen waiting for the right moment. Which is now.

A satisfying hiss accompanied the popping of the cap, which is usually a good sign, and the beer poured with a thick dense foam. The aroma is obviously max bourbon, but also sweet citrus. The sourness of the beer is pronounced but it balances the oaky bourbon by providing a sugary, tangy hit on the aftertaste. Which isn’t to say that it is overly sweet – it’s designed to ape a Whisky Sour and does so to a tee.

Even the mouthfeel is spot on – slight hints of a thick creamyness, which I would expect from egg yolk in the cocktail – and it isn’t  light, throwaway like a lot of kettle soured beers are. It’s one of those beers that demonstrates it’s creator’s methods with extra layers. I’m very impressed, not only with the end result, but also with the level of thought that must have gone into the process. I think Becky is also pretty happy with this one.

‘It used to be that when Gareth had a sour he would ask me to try it then sit tittering at the expression of disgust on my face. Now however I know if the style of beer I’m trying is a sour that it’s pretty certain I’ll love it and this is no exception. Again another boozy number on the nose and the whiskey taste definitely comes through. Not sure I could drink more that one glass of this one as it feels really strong and is certainly hitting the spot tonight. I best stop now though or I’ll have a ‘Gigantic’ hangover again tomorrow.’

It’s fair to say I’ve certainly not been disappointed with Holy Oak, I’m a bit sceptical of beers that seem to be aping a different drink, but the success of both this and Special Relationship have shown that amazing results can be achieved.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 8 – Tsjeeses

Today’s selection is another Christmas themed beer, and we’ve gone back to Belgium for a beer by De Struise. Near neighbours to the monks at Westvleteren, De Struise are renowned for creating many well regarded beers, including Pannepot (more about that later in the week).

The story behind the name of this beer is that De Struise had been brewing Christmas beers for a few years without finding a good name, until one year the head brewer tasted the latest creation and exclaimed ‘Tjeeses, what a beer’. Nice story. The label also has an interesting reason behind the character’s shades, more info here.

The beer initially pours with a bubbly head, although all carbonation rapidly dissipates. The aroma reminds me of Madeira wine, as does the deep reddish brown colour. The beer is lagered on various fruits, and I’d hazard a guess that cherries and plums would have been used, given the bittersweet flavours. The alcohol does hit post-swallow but in a good way, and the aftertaste is nutty, with a bit of vanilla. I think with a bit more carbonation this would have been truly memorable, but I’m unsure if time in the bottle would help or not. However, for a Christmas beer this is hard to beat in terms of depth and flavour.

‘Yay I’m sober so actually appreciating this lovely beer! Looking at it in the glass you’d think it was brandy rather than beer and it’s very boozy on the nose. Lovely and warming like drinking a spirit. Unfortunately because it’s so good I’ve pretty much finished it before coming to write this but if you like a strong Belgian beer this will be right up your street. Just wish we had more!’

Another well received beer overall, seems like we’re having a pretty successful #12BeersofXmas this year, here’s hoping the next few days keep up this standard.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 7 – #MashTag 15

‘Hey guys, we’re #cool! Let’s source the recipe for a #new #beer #on #Twitter #using #hashtags #and #polls’. Was my reaction at the time to the Brewdog mashtag crowd-created beer. It all seemed a bit ‘hells yeah’ and ‘totes’, even for Brewdog.

But I am a rapidly aging cynic, and even though the combination of suggestions that were chosen sometimes seemed like a bit of a dog’s dinner, I’d seen the 2015 in a beer shop and picked one up anyway. A black barley wine aged on oak chips didn’t sound too bad, after all.

Vanilla beans were also an addition to the brew and they figure strongly both on the initial aroma and dry, creamy finish. The mashtaggers also decided that the beer should have an IBU level of 100, and while this has faded, there’s still a tingly bitterness to put a full stop to the oaky, smoky heart of this full bodied barley wine.

I know Becky occasionally enjoys a barley wine and I thought this would be a slightly different proposition for her to try. ‘The few barley wine beers I’ve tried I have liked but I wouldn’t say they’re my go to beer. I have been driving for five hours today then drinking for the last six so my contribution is going to be minimal! This beer does smell lovely, definite hints of coffee and vanilla. Saying that on the first sip it made me pull my ‘yuck face’. However the warmer it got and the more I drank the more it’s grown on me. It has a warm flavour and is smooth to drink.’

So maybe #-ing a beer together on Twitter isn’t such a bad idea after all. I’m still not sure if I’d enjoy the 2016 creation, but 2015’s was delicious.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 6 – Surt Til


I’m not really that bothered about getting boozed up on Christmas Day – far too much to do, games to be assembled, and massive amounts of food to be eaten. Things have died down a bit now though, so I’ve popped my second beer of the day.

Completing a hat-trick of To Øl selections is Surt Til, a sour table beer, designed to be a liquid equivalent of the pickled vegetables served alongside a Danish christmas dinner. As the blurb says, why eat your vegetables when you can take a drink? I’m inclined to agree.

The pour is lively, less ice man, more ice cream man, but the carbonation is just right. There are some salty notes and a bit of funk, but also a bit of a soapy, thin finish, which is not entirely unexpected for a table beer. The sourness is fleeting but crisp, with some typically savoury hints from the Mosaic.

Overall, this is a satisfying beer but not as moreish as Sur Yule. This was another of Becky’s choices for the lineup, and as she’s done most of the hard work today I’ve given her the majority of the bottle.

‘The only downside to doing the cooking is I sip all the booze I can get my hands on whilst chopping and stirring so I’m feeling a bit pickled! That being said I am once again regretting sharing my lovely To Øl beer with Gareth. Of the two I thought I would like the Sur Yule the best but this is divine. I love an easy drinker and this is incredibly quaffable. No flavours standing out it’s just clean and crisp and even (trying to make my contribution festive!). I could drink this all day long – I’m looking forward to getting my hands on more To Øl goodies in 2017!’

Hope you’ve all had a good day, and that you’ve got a fun evening planned.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 5 – Sur Yule


Christmas Eve means another Christmas beer, and another To Øl bottle. We are both slowly recovering from last night, and not much has helped soothe our heads so far – fry up, fresh air, fluids (both soft and beery) – all have failed. We’re just glad that we chose to go out on the 23rd rather than inflict this on ourselves on Christmas morning. I am expecting we’ll be up early.

Sur Yule comes in a handily sized sharing bottle, and has been chilling in the fresh air all day (fridge too full of food). A pale sour with Cherries, it has a light rose hue. Cloudy with a snappy but brief bite, it has hints of a Kriek but less intense.

Whilst year round I will enjoy every type of beer style, at Christmas where the focus largely isn’t on what’s in my glass, something like Sur Yule is ideally what I aim to have in the fridge. A beer that, for me, is relatively easy going, yet high quality, shareable and with enough zip to cut through the post-dinner fatigue. I’m pretty sure that Becky is going to share my enthusiasm here.

‘As soon as I saw the tweet from Raynville with a picture of this one I knew I had to have it! I’m yet to find a To Øl beer I don’t love and this is no exception. Just from the smell I knew I would love it. The cherry flavour definitely comes through but in a more subtle way than a fruit Lambic. It’s very suppable! Just gutted I did the kind and generous festive thing and said I’d share with Gareth. Next time no sharing!!’

The spirit of Christmas there. I’m hoping Becky is feeling slightly less stingy tomorrow when she opens a couple of the beery gifts I may or may not have got her. We hope you all have a good day tomorrow, and that Santa brings you something tasty to slurp.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 4 – Santa Gose F&#% It All


We’ve subbed tonight’s beer into the lineup, as we’re out and about tonight and a 3.5% Gose is much more of a sensible start. We’ll save the silliness for later.

To Øl has been one of our joint favourite breweries this year, and this Gose has been Becky’s favourite beer of the year. Her enthusiasm for it has been so intense that she’s even bought extra for friends of ours.

I’m also a fan, and although I don’t think this is anything amazing it hits all the Gose spots – lemon, salt, crisp – with a combination of extra fruit addition that doesn’t overarch the basic qualities of the style. Some Gose recipes are slightly over soured, and while I’m not a slave to the rule book, it kind of defeats the point of brewing something that’s main strength is it’s subtleties – Santa Gose keeps everything balanced, fresh and interesting.

‘As Gareth said To Øl has been a hit for us and by far my stand out brewery of this year – this beer in particular is amazing.  I’m a big fan of Gose to Hollywood but this is something else. It’s not as salty as some other gose style beers and is almost umbongo like in taste! Very clever twist on the Christmas style in that Santa has fucked off to the Bahamas so is having a fruity gose. You defintely get all the fruit flavours and I’d bet my bottom dollar they drink it in the Congo! I could wax lyrical about this beer all night but I must desist and trot off to the pub.’

Me too. Pettmans out.

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#12BeersofXmas – Day 3 – Bearded Lady Grand Marnier


Day three and the Pettmans have shifted to Kent, back in town for the bulk of Christmas. I’ve bought a box o’booze and today’s selection has been momentarily chilling on the rear window sill.

Recently re-brewed, this can of Magic Rock Brewing’s Bearded Lady Grand Marnier edition has been in the can for about ten months (I think) and I’m looking forward to seeing if the chocolate orange character remains, or if this has altered.

Becky is definitely not a fan of Stout, although she has found the occasional palatable example, and still happily persists at trying anything I open. Not sure if tonight’s beer will make a breakthrough or not – on opening I get aromas of orange as expected, although the initial taste is more liquorice. The texture is thick and luxuriant, velvety smooth but interrupted on the finish with some warm boozy vapours. There’s touches of vanilla to smooth the flow from glass to gullet, and while it drinks like a 10.5%er, I’m finding it hard to sip rather than slurp. Eminently drinkable. Has it made a positive impression on she who shall not be stouted?

‘Another attempt for me to find a stout I want to take on a second date….It started with a sniff (there’s a song in there somewhere) and I thought I was going to love this one. The chocolatey orange aromas made me think this was going to  be right up my street. But alas when I had a taste it made me pull my ‘stout face’ (again I can try to find an appropriate gif). It’s probably the least offensive of the stouts I’ve tried but still not for me. I shall persist on my stout mission (impossible)’.

Is stout one of those things people either ‘get’ or not? I suppose that could be said about the majority of beer I drink. Even as a fan, I think most stout, especially the stronger end of the register, is something that has very limited appeal to casual beer drinkers. I don’t really fetishise the Impys but this is an excellent beer and something that was the potential to win over the indifferent, but not tonight.

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