Jason’s Beer Amnesty

I like to think that I’m a dutiful friend. I am often asked to help people move house and I’m now very good at coming up with convincing excuses as to why I’m unable to assist. But try as I might I couldn’t come up with a reason not to help out Jason of Whisky Squad fame when he invited me along to his carefully named ‘Beer Amnesty’ to help reduce the number of bottles he’d need to take to his new place when he moves shortly.

JasonsBeer
Piccy by Jason

I arrived at the field of battle with a couple of donations of my own and was rather alarmed to see a neatly fanned out arc of beer, carefully arranged in alcoholic-ness order. The alarm was not due the neatness of arrangement or anything so simple, but more due to the middle beer clocking in at around 7%. Glasses were obtained, snacks were put within in easy grabbing distance and battle was joined. My notes are non-existant other than the names of the beers, so here’s a list along with what I remember:

  • Coopers Vintage Ale – Jason started us with a beer from his motherland, Australia. The vintage ale has a bit more to it than the regular Coopers Pale, which is a nice light ale, with a chunk of ‘leave me to mature a bit’ maltiness and a nice chunk of fizz. A good start.
  • Brewdog Zeitgeist – a black lager that has more in common with a mild than Asahi black. Good and malty with a light fizz.
  • Loddon Hullabaloo – the first of several that didn’t quite stick in my brain…
  • Brewdog Chaos Theory – I assume this was a stepping stone on the way to the Hardcore IPA, with less hops (but still quite a lot) and more rich maltiness adding up to a rather tasty beer. I still have a couple of these in the cupboard waiting for a rainy day – it didn’t set the world alight but I will be looking forward to drinking them.
  • Kernel White Ale? – I’ve tried it before and was rather pleased to have it again. It’s still a cloudy mix of wheat beer and ale with some nice citrus. I need to visit the brewery again soon to stock up.
  • Hook Norton 12 Days – The HN Christmas ale and one I tried at The Strongrooms after work recently. It’s got a lot of fruitiness to it (fruit gums and other fruity jelly sweets?) and a nice rich back that holds off from being a full on Christmas ale.
  • DaveExplodeyLondon Brewers Alliance Porter – I’ve opened one of my bottles of this and this one went the same: explode. It’s rather lively and we lost a chunk of the bottle as it tried to escape across the table (Dave took a more paranoid approach to opening his next beer, as the photo shows). However, the bits we did get in a glass were rather good – coffee and chocolate without too much sweetness.
  • Brewdog Prototype 27 – one of my donations. It’s definitely changed a little since I opened my first one, with less hops and much more sour fruit coming through. I wasn’t too keen, but it went down well with everyone else.
  • Monkman’s Slaughter – no memory of this one at all. I think it was one of the few that could mainly be described as ‘beery’.
  • Dark Island Reserve 2010 – the next year’s edition of my Christmas beer and still rather excellent. Big with coffee, dark chocolate, red fruit and rich maltiness. I think I liked my one better after a year of aging, but I’ve no clue if that’s just the batch or the time in the bottle. Even though it seems to have gone up to close to £10 for a 330ml bottle I think I might try and find out.
  • Brewdog Tokyo (12%) – one of the three Tokyo’s Jason brought and the only one we opened (the others accompanying him home at the end for reasons of palate fatigue). Unfortunately I don’t remember much about it, which is annoying as it’s the only one I’ve tried. Brewdog do seem to have stock in again, so hopefully I’ll grab one for myself soon.
  • Kernel IPA Citra – I’ve had the Simcoe IPA but this one blew it away – rounded flowery hops with a touch of lemony citrus combined with the usual excellence of the Kernel IPA. Another one for the shopping list.
  • Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore You – another donation from me and one that I rather annoyingly missed out on buying again recently when they made a second batch. Big and fruity with ridiculous amounts of hops, yet worryingly easy to drink until you fall over.
  • Aventinus Eisbock – strong and concentrated by freeze distilling (the process that Brewdog took a bit further when competing with Schorschbräu) this was a bit treacly in the glass with a very concentrated sweet beer flavour. Not my favourite.
  • X33 – brought back from Prague this was a scary thing. My memory was slightly going by this point but I mainly remember the fear.
  • Kernel Imperial Stout – Thick, dark, chocolatey – this was the LBA Porter with nobs on. I’m going to need a wheely bag when I next get to the Kernel brewery…
  • London Pride – I reckon this one had been in the bottle too long. Musty and prickly in a way that didn’t inspire enjoyment. While some of Fullers’s beers age well, Pride doesn’t. Which doesn’t matter as bottles of it don’t last long in my house anyway.
  • Brewdog Paradox Speyside – a whisky barrel aged dark ale that I rather like, although I’ve not tried the one matured in speyside casks – I’m not sure if they change the beer recipe, but every one I’ve tried has had a different flavour. This one had some nice fruit and a touch of whisky flavour that the other ones didn’t. I’d suspect that some of the whisky had been left in the barrel before filling but a) the excise man doesn’t like that and b) the Brewdog guys would have decanted it into their hipflasks before filling the casks.
  • Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16 – similar to the Paradox, this is Old Engine Oil matured in Highland Park casks that had previously held 16 year old whisky. I’ve written about it before but having come back to it I rather enjoyed it. Being able to taste the difference between the base beer (which I’ve found a few times since I first tried the Ola Dubh) and this has been very useful as it shows the rounding effect of the wood and the various sweet and savoury notes it adds. I’m still not sure that the price differential from 12 year old to 40 year old maturing cask is worth it…
  • Kernel London Porter – I tried this a few days earlier as the SMWS rooms in London now stock Kernel beer. It’s along the same lines as the Imperial Stout but with the sweetness dialled back a few notches. Dry and dark, much niceness.
  • Yorkshire Warrior and Yorkshire Moors – beery. Not bad, but didn’t stick in the mind.
  • Kernel Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale – shockingly this one also didn’t stick in my mind other than really liking it. Definitely one for me to find and try again.
  • Meantime Lager – with the room starting to flag we decided to move onto something lighter and this fit the bill perfectly as well as running us out of beers that weren’t hidden away to fight another day. It was light and had a definite taste of grain and hops, rather than the often found lack of anything interesting in a yellow fizzy beer. I can see why it was used in the most recent Hugh Dennis/Oz Clark road trip to insanity program to prove that lager doesn’t need to be boring.

That was 24 beers, so we decided to round things off with another Coopers Vintage while we digested pork scratchings, considered toasted cheese sandwiches and generally cogitated. If anyone else needs help reducing beverage collections to help with house moving, please let me know – I can always make room in my schedule.

Jason has also written up the various shenanigans over on his own blog.
In my previous post I declared ‘whisky deluge #2’, however a weekend of not drinking after a week that included an embargoed whisky tasting writeup (so as to keep the blind tasting bottles secret for the next few sessions) mean that the deluge has been cancelled. For now.

Quick Tastings

I was rather restrained over the Christmas period, with the combined fun of being on-call at work and spending most of my time asleep getting in the way of the drinkathon that normally accompanies the time. However, I did get to try a bunch of boozes and rather than go into my normally excessive levels of detail I thought I’d slip back into my old Quick Tastings post style, something that I seem to have forgotten to do in recent times.

(Yes, this is a tissue thin excuse for not being bothered to write my normal levels of obsessiveness, but give me a break, I’m still tired from all the sleeping)

Eurotrash 2BrewDog Eurotrash: picked up at the same time as my recent lot of Punk X, this is one of BrewDog’s prototypes that I hope appears more widely. It had the traditional BrewDog muddy hoppiness on the nose, but with an underlying sweetness that I wasn’t expecting. To taste it had a nice chunk of hops but was very much more a fully flavoured continental style beer – hints of Leffe and other big malty golden beers from the other side of the channel. It wasn’t quite as big as those beers, but was nicely balanced between hop bitterness and malty sweetness – one I’d like to get some more of.

Dark Island Special ReserveOrkney Dark Island Special Reserve 2009 – I picked this up for Christmas 2009 but forgot I had it and have had it sat on the side ever since waiting for an occasion to crack it open. I went for it on Christmas day this year and was very pleased I did – it was rather special. It poured very thick and dark, pretty much opaque even when held up to my brightest lamp. On the nose it was heavy, with Marmite, slightly squishy apples and warm orange peel. To taste it was clinging with defanged Worcester sauce (not quite so astringent or salty, but still big and fruity with a meaty umami behind that), braised red cabbage with apples and vinegar, and a finishing mineral note. It had notes of my favourite heavy beers of the year, combining the strange fruitiness of Gale’s Prize Old Ale with the chocolate notes of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and the bitter richness of Kernel London Porter. I just wish I’d bought two bottles…

Clynelish 14 Year OldClynelish 14 Year Old – picked up from Waitrose as my Christmas whisky this didn’t get much of a look-in on the day itself, although it has become my new favourite hipflask whisky now that I’ve run out of Longrow Cask Strength (which I need to find some more of). As is usual at Christmas it was sillily priced at £25 (I also picked up some The Glenlivet 18 and Aberlour A’bunadh batch 31 a few days later for similar prices – no more whisky buying for me for now) and is definitely worth more than that. On the nose it has the traditional Clynelish waxiness, with brine, sweaty boiled sweets, creamy vanilla, leather and a touch of meaty smoke – my note says ‘burning beef?’. To taste it’s initially sweet turning to sour wood by the finish. There’s vanilla, mint, menthol and sour sugar to start, and unripe red grapes and tannic wood to finish. Water adds more sweet and sour fruit to the start as well as a prickle of white pepper. Again, my slightly drunken notes add ‘more lemony if you burp’. I’m pleased with this bottle and it’s on my list of things that I should always have in the house.

Boisdale MortlachBoisdales Mortlach – this is one I tried after the The Glenlivet tasting with Caskstrength, which I found to be rather pleasant. On a random wander into The Vintage House I saw a row of bottles of it hiding in their rather excellent independent bottlings selection and for £37 couldn’t really say no. On further inspection I noticed a familiar name on the back of the bottle – Berry Brothers and Rudd’s Doug McIvor, as they selected and bottled this for Boisdales. It’s the colour of golden syrup and the nose continues that feel with salted caramels backed up with a hint of smoke, shiny polished wood and lemons. To taste it has a big sweet caramel with raisins, cinnamon and allspice, balanced by unripe grapes and wood polish. The finish is short with sour wood and a hint of smoke. Water doesn’t change much, bringing out a little more sweetness and lengthening the finish. Easy drinking and very tasty, I suspect some more of this maybe sitting at the back of my cupboard soon waiting for next Christmas.

Hankey BannisterHankey Bannister 12 Year Old – part of a Christmas care parcel from Lucasz over at the Edinburgh Whisky blog on behalf of Inver House. This is part of a range of blended whiskies that are now distributed by Inver House, although not all that easy to find in the UK, that stretch back to 1757, when Hankey Bannister & Co was founded in London to provide drinks to the locals. The 12 year old is the second in their range, with their Original sitting beneath it and 21 and 40 year olds above it. I’ve had a look and can’t find it easily available on the web in the UK (although TWE have the 40 year old available for £360 per bottle…), but it pops up abroad and in duty free from time to time. On the nose the 12 year old had acetone, pear drops, muddy smoke, apples, vanilla and a underlying meatiness. To taste it was quite delicate, starting with a quick burst of pine and moving through tannic dryness to fruity sweetness and a light creaminess. The finish was quite light and long with sweet wood and digestive biscuits. Water didn’t reduce the flavour very much and brought out more red fruit fruitiness and creaminess. It has the nose of a blend and is easy to drink like a blend but doesn’t have a heavy graininess like you get with some blends. Not stunning, but not bad.

anCnoc 16 Year old – anCnoc (with crazy capitalisation) is the brand name that is now being used by the Knockdhu distillery, also owned by Inver House, to distinguish it from similarly named Knockando. On the nose it has pink foam shrimps, refreshers and vanilla, with a slightly sweaty salty note behind the sweetness. To taste it was astringently woody with fizzy sherbert and woody vanilla leading to a sugary woody finish. It could take a good chunk of water bringing out sour Skittles, more creamy vanilla and a big sweet and sour fruitiness. I wasn’t a fan of this neat, but water brought out the some balancing sweet and sour fruit that I rather liked.

Anyways, welcome to the new year and here’s to twelve months of interesting imbibing.

Many thanks to Lucas and Inver House for my Christmas parcel. There were also a couple of Old Pulteney samples, but as I’ve written about those before and there’s a Twitter tasting coming up soon I’ve left them to one side for now.

BrewDog Euro Trash
Prototype golden ale/blonde beer, 4.1%. Not generally available.

Orkney Dark Island Special Reserve 2009
Orcadian dark ale, 10%. Not generally available.

Clynelish 14 Year Old
Highland single malt Scotch whisky, 46%. ~£30 from Master of Malt

Boisdales Mortlach 1991 (17 years old)
Speyside single cask single malt Scotch whisky, 46%. ~£37 from The Vintage House

Hankey Bannister 12 Year Old
Blended scotch whisky, 40%. ~£25 from Loch Fyne Whiskies

anCnoc 16 year old
Single malt Scotch whisky, 46%. ~£40 from Master of Malt