A beer that I didn’t expect, this one, appearing in my Christmas order from Brewdog as a replacement for one of the beers that they’d run out of. It’s a brew that was put together during a visit to Brewdog HQ from Greg Koch, Steve Wagner and Mitch Steele of the Stone Brewing Company (see the post on the Stone blog for more details), and is described as a double black Belgian IPA.
Stone are a brewery that I’ve been looking to grab something from for a while. I might have had something from them back in the days before I obsessively recorded everything I drank (what some might call ‘The good old days’), but they’ve been on my list ever since I heard about their love of making interesting craft beers over in the US. In particular I have a hankering after the Ruination, a beer that I missed out on by not going to this month’s Draft House beer tasting (extreme american IPAs…), their 100+ IBU hop beast, guaranteed to shred the taste buds and reduce any following beers to pale shells of their regular flavours. I like hoppy beer…
The Bashah is a really dark beer, eventually giving up a reddy brown hue if you stick a bright enough light behind it. It’s got some bitter chocolate malt notes on the nose, as well as a hint of hoppy bitterness, and sits quite thickly in the glass and mouth.To taste it has dark chocolate, coffee, oats and a concentrated wine fruit punch on the end of a burnt finish, as well as a big slab of hop bitterness running through the lot. A nice chewy dark beer, with hoppy IPA and chocolate malty dark ale combining to make an interesting beer, and something a little different from the regular Brewdog stable.
Black Belgian Style Double IPA 8.6%. Maybe available from a few online retailers who have a bottle or two left, but probably not.
Old Malt Cask 15 year old Bladnoch – A baby single cask bottle that I grabbed from The Vintage House a while back. The nose has white wine, a light savouriness and a hint of charcoal. The taste is sweet to start but quickly fades to lightly coloured wood, sawdust and a dry slightly fruity finish. Water brings out a light violet perfume, softens the sweetness and brings out a solid woody finish. Not as light as its lowland provenance suggests.
Sambrook’s Junction – Grabbed at The Draft House Westbridge after I a) not only said that I would turn up to the regular Thursday night beverages evening with my college drinking buddies but b) also suggested a pub. These are both very rare events. I rather like the Junction, having tried it at a couple of other places, but this was the best I’ve tried yet (which as it’s only a few minutes walk from the brewery and the hub for post brewery tour beers isn’t entirely unexpected). It’s a dark ale with a nice balance of malt and hops leading to a fruity, wine-like finish. Good.
York Guzzler – The second of the three beers on tap at The Draft House (I can’t remember the third, but it was something I’d already drunk lots of before). This was a golden ale with a big chunk of bitter hops, almost to the point of going soapy but not quite. It was nice and citrusy on the finish and I could have happily sat and drunk it all night.
Purity Pure Gold – Supped at The Bridge House (a pub that London.pm seem to like and that I need to return to) after Whisky Lounge (as drinking whisky all afternoon was obviously not enough). It seems that Adnams are putting Purity ales into some of their pubs, which is a Good Thing as this was a really nice light golden ale with a bitter citrus zing. I would normally have described it as ‘hoppy’, but was informed that the H-word (as well as malty, the M-word) has been banned as a flavour description by Melissa Cole of Taking the beard out of beer. I will try and obey from now on.
A couple this week, but first something that isn’t a tasting – I live on the site of the old London Guinness factory, which has since been knocked down and replaced with flats (including mine), some offices (including Diageo, the makers of Guinness) and a park with a lake in. It looks like either we’ve had a scary fungal boom or Diageo have kicked out the St Patrick’s day river dye a few days early:
On with the drinks, this week all beers courtesy of a trip to Borough Market, which was in itself an excuse to go to The Rake:
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10%, from Utobeer. Seasonally brewed from October to March) – Black to the point of almost total opacity (holding it up to a lamp did little but warm it up a little bit) and quite thick (it definitely has legs when swirled) this is most definitely a dark stout. Very sweet on the nose with a slug of alcohol. Thick and sweet on the taste with lots of chocolate malt, a hint of bitter dark chocolatey flavours and a nice bitterness at the end. Tasty but heavy.
Duchesse de Bourgogne [Wikipedia for those of us who don’t speak flemish] (6.2% flemish red ale from keg at The Rake) – I had a quick sampler of this before diving in and was glad that The Rake serve third pints. It’s very nice, but at the same time quite overpowering in both smell and flavour; not a beer that you can drink much of. On the nose it is Worcester Sauce and little else, as it is at first when you taste it. However, after a second sip you start to get used to the strength of flavour and pick up the rest – cherries, soft fruit and a little bit of bitterness. It is really rather good, although the strangely sour, salty sweet start might put many off.
Brewdog Devine Rebel Reserve (12.5% barley wine from keg at The Rake, who called it Divine Rebel) – A reddish ale with not a lot on the nose. However, it’s thick and malty with a big berrylike fruitiness (maybe overripe bitter peaches?), a slab of bitterness down the middle and a slighty fizzy flavour on the finish. It almost hides its strength but happily kicks you in the head. A tasty evening/life ender.
Stiegl Pils (Salzburger Pils) – an Austrian lager that I jumped on after a week of complaining that I couldn’t find Ottakringer (the beer of my formative years in Vienna) in the Austrian deli near work. It’s typically light gold and not as crisp as I was expecting, with a ricey flouriness and a chunk of sweetness. It quickly fades to a much sharper hoppy finish with little aftertaste. Not one I’ll be jumping to find again, but refreshing after a couple of rather heavy beers.
Some background – I like Brewdog1. I like them enough that I’ve even invested in them (closes 19th February) and not only because of the lifetime 20% off I now get on their website. I’ve yet to find one of their beers that I didn’t actively like and am, so far, very much enjoying the search. I’ve even ordered a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, although it hasn’t turned up yet as they haven’t made their second batch, which is one of the most expensive drinks I have ever bought. You might say I’m mildly obsessed.
This is the final bottle from the small stash that was meant to go to my stepbrother for Christmas – there is now a new stash for him sitting at work, a much safer place for beer to be kept and not drunk than next to my fridge. Anyways, I’m a fan of their Punk IPA (the beer that introduced me to the brewery, as given away at the first London Twestival) and grabbed this expecting more of the same – a super hoppy, crisp IPA. However, the ratcheting of the ABV up to 9% made me expect a bit more of a kick. Half of this assumption was correct. It has the kick that you expect, but instead of being accompanied by a crisp hoppiness it instead has the sweet tang of strong beer (hints of Special Brew) which almost obscures the bitterness of the hops.
The back of the bottle lists some figures about the making of the beer, ending with a “2 humans and 1 canine companion are relatively happy with the results”. I wasn’t. I really like hoppy beer and have enjoyed many strong IPAs but this one just comes across as a generic strong beer. It may be the most hoppy beer brewed in the UK, but it really doesn’t taste it.
My search for a Brewdog beer that I don’t like is complete, however they have still more for me to test and based on this one anomaly it would be churlish of me not to keep trying. I’d better get the new beer selection to my step-brother soon as I only have one bottle of Paradox left in the fridge…
Brewdog Hardcore IPA Brewed in Scotland, 9% One of their rarer brews, I got mine from (you guessed it) Utobeer
1: This is a vague reference to the William Gibson board that I posted to for a very short while before I became overwhelmed by the activity and promptly forgot of its existence. We all like Fuldog. This will make sense to 12 people, only 1 of whom may ever read this.
Christmas is traditionally a time of over indulgence and I am far from being someone who wants to buck tradition (any excuse). There may have been turkey, pies, bologneses and casseroles over the festive period, but much more importantly there has been booze. Here’s what I’ve been drinking:
My friend Mr Utobeer came through for me again, after an unplanned drop-in while wandering around Borough Market with Mondoagogo a few days before Christmas, and added to my bottle of Orkney Dark Island Special Reserve (left until after Christmas so as to be shared with people who love nice beer more than my family). Other than some bottles grabbed as a present for someone (as my order from Brewdog hasn’t been sent yet as they haven’t yet brewed one part of it – a bottle of the second batch of Tactical Nuclear Penguin) I also grabbed, and have since drunk:
Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 40 Reserve: I tried the 16 a few weeks back and discovered at the same time that they now did a beer matured in a 30 year old Highland Park cask. Then I went to the SMWS last week and was informed that they also do a 40, which they had a couple of bottles of at obscene prices. Then I found one at Utobeer for the scary price of £7.60. The verdict – much like with the 16 year old it wasn’t all that impressive. It was a marked difference from the younger barrelled beers, with more of a woody whiskiness than before, but still not worth the cost in my opinion. A really nice heavy dark beer still.
Brewdog Paradox: Isle of Arran: They may not have sent me my beer yet, but I still like the Brewdog chaps. And their beer. This, to continue a theme, is another whisky cask matured beer (Innis & Gunn have a lot to answer for) and one that I’ve tried before. I rather like the Arran distillery, producing some of my favourite SMWS whiskies as they have, and I really liked my last bottle of this that I tried. This one was slightly disappointing – not so influenced by the wood as the last one, but still a really good dark ale with more fruit and less vanilla than the Ola Dubh.
My Mate Nick’s Homebrew: Mr Martin, cow-orker and ginger bearded buddy extraordinaire, has recently started brewing and after discussing what he was doing to make his beer presented me with one of his first batch of bottles. I left it to settle for a while and then cracked it open on Christmas Eve. It was rather lively, needing several glasses to pour out into without overflowing with meringue-like head, and in true bottle conditioned fashion was quite sedimenty at the bottom, requiring some care in the pouring. It was very very dark and quite sweet – a definite hint of black treacle without quite so much of its burnt taste. I suffered none of the ill effects that homebrew is famed for and I also rather enjoyed it. The fluffiness and sweetness suggests that maybe it was bottled a bit early but it wasn’t the worse for it. I look forward to brew number 2. Hopefully I’ll get some more…please?
Realising a few days before Christmas that you have visiting wine loving parents and no suitable bottles on the shelf was a mild concern, as I’m a very lazy man who doesn’t like carrying things back from the supermarket. The nice folks at Naked Wines jumped in to save me with guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery if I ordered by 5pm the day before – I ordered at 4:45. The next afternoon the slightly harassed looking delivery man turned up, dumped my wine and ran away quickly – I think there were a few people who had the same idea as me. Anyways, combined with a few bottles contributed by my visitors I definitely have enough wine now, although still only 3 spare slots on the wine rack.
Milani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Naked Wine, Italy): My first out of the box and grabbed to match a spaghetti bolognese. I quite like Montepulciano and this was slightly disappointing – quite rough, although it did soften as it aired, without as much fruit as I hoped. However, a couple of glasses went in to the bolognese sauce and the rest of it went down quite nicely with dinner.
Vicien Syrah 2007 (Naked Wine, Argentina): Rolled into service when the first bottle from my case ran out prematurely, this was really quite good. A nice full Syrah with a good amount of fruit that got better as it breathed. I stoppered it and finished it the next day and it was still very drinkable.
Howcroft Estate Limestone Coast Merlot 2006 (Tesco, Australia): Grabbed from my step-dad’s wine rack due to the word ‘turkey’ being in the ‘goes with’ list on the back, this was a nice light Merlot, full enough to battle with the dark turkey meat as well as not being too strong as to drown out the (admittedly dry) white meat.
Hardy’s Varietal Range Shiraz 2008 (Sainsbury?, Australia): Another donation from the visitors, this one isn’t quite done yet, opened to provide some lubrication for dinner part 2 – the christmas pud (delayed until evening to allow some digestion of lunch to occur). It definitely needed some time to breathe, having a harsh edge, but it quickly softened (especially when poured through my newly acquired wine aerater [thankyou Dave’nLet] which worked much better than we had imagined) and was a nice, spicy, fruity wine, complimenting the pud better than expected.
I’ve had a Christmas uncharacteristically light on whisky, despite a trip to Milroy’s a couple of days beforehand. I stopped by to try and pick up a bottle of rye to make the Manhattans that my mum had demanded via SMS (she had already bought cocktail cherries specially) and found that they were out of everything but a £180 per bottle Rittenhouse. I turned that down and got upsold when I tried to buy a 70cl bottle of Buffalo Trace, coming away with a 1.75l bottle (with free julep cup). I also grabbed a bottle of 15 year old Glencadam, having liked the SMWS bottling I picked up a couple of weeks back. The Trace is a solid bourbon, smooth enough to go either in cocktails or be drunk on the rocks (something that I’ve done a bit too much of since picking it up). The Glencadam is interesting – similar to the production Arran whisky in a way that I didn’t expect, with a fizzy icing sugar start, but also with a thick wedge of rubbery niceness running through the middle. It seems that I subconsciously do know my taste in whisky and Arran and Glencadam slot into it.
I used Glenfiddich instead of brandy to ignite the Christmas pud – the fact that I consider Glenfiddich to be cooking whisky when not too long ago it was one of the best whiskies that you could expect someone to have on their shelf has been commented on. It is cooking whisky…
Anyways, a vaguely restrained christmas that should continue to be restrained through new year – I’m on call on New Year’s Eve and don’t feel like lugging multiple bottles of whisky down to Shoreham-by-Sea (where I’m going for a party), but I’m sure someone else will look after my boozey needs…