Thursday, 31 May 2012

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. Double Simcoe IPA

Good evening all. After a lengthy self-imposed hiatus I'm finally back! The exam season is over- along with my degree- so I'm now officially unemployed and awaiting the results of my finals. What better way to pass the time than by reviewing a load of interesting beers to make up for my recent lack of posting? Tonight's libation is Double Simcoe IPA, a Double India Pale Ale (DIPA) from Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (Pennsylvania, USA). Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of IPAs and DIPAs, and when I saw this offering resting in the fridges behind the bar at the Cask Pub and Kitchen a couple of weeks ago, I had to purchase a bottle to see if it lives up to its reputation. Now for the familiar words that I haven't uttered in well over a week- review after the pic....

Double Simcoe IPA (9.0% ABV) pours an amber colour with a thick white head that dissipates to a patchy covering over the surface of the glass, accompanied by a lazy stream of bubbles rising from the bottom supporting the head nicely. The aroma is composed of tropical fruits, citrus fruits, resinous pine, earthy/herbal notes, a slightly vinous quality and some mustiness/funkiness. With this much Simcoe on show the hop becomes very reminiscent of Motueka and similar new world aroma types, with the citrus fruits taking precedence and the pine and herbal aromas lurking not too far behind. Probing the aroma further brings up barley wine-style sweetness (caramelised and hoppy) and an aroma not too dissimilar to BBQ sauce (more specifically muscovado sugar). Very interesting stuff so far! The taste delivers more of the same thing, with the resinous flavours dominating the palette and the citrus fruits taking a back seat, accompanied by a caramelised sweetness and a grape aftertaste. The finish is certainly bitter, which is to be expected from such a large dose of hops, but it's not too cloying and the dryness invites more sips to be taken (which is always a good thing!). The earthiness is also not as noticeable in the taste as it was on the nose, and the alcohol content makes itself known with an ethanolic flavour that lingers after the initial hop burst has diminished. The mouthfeel is slightly thick and the beer is well carbonated, which cushions the blow from the hops slightly and creates a more balanced, well-rounded drinking experience. For a 9.0% DIPA it's immensely drinkable, which was an unexpected yet very welcome surprise. Overall, this is a fantastic example of a DIPA that would serve as a perfect introduction to the style. It packs enough hops to clearly differentiate it from the comparatively subdued American IPAs, but it doesn't overload the tastebuds with bitterness and still lets some of the malt base flavours permeate through. Highly recommended, I'd happily get this beer again in the future.

Until next time....

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Brouwerij St. Bernardus St. Bernardus Witbier

Good evening all. As a result of final exams and a variety of other academic pursuits, this blog has been laying dormant for the past week or so. However, tonight I've chosen to break my self-imposed blogging blackout as a respite from revision, with the intention of resuming normal service in less than two weeks. The subject of this much-needed break is St. Bernardus Witbier, a Witbier (Belgian Wheat Beer) from Brouwerij St. Bernardus (Watou, Belgium). I'm a big fan of German Hefeweizens, but looking back over my consumption history I can't really name any Witbiers I've had besides Hoegaarden Original and Hitachino Nest White Ale. What better way to rectify that than with one of the most highly rated Witbiers then? Let's see what all the fuss is about after the pic....

St. Bernardus Witbier (5.5% ABV) pours a cloudy golden colour with a thick white head that dissipates relatively quickly to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. Much paler than the German Hefeweizens that I'm used to, but it still looks good regardless. The aroma is quite light, with phenolic spice/coriander up front and immediately apparent, supported by cloves and wheat in the background among the yeast-derived aromas. It's very reminiscent of a saison but without the earthy, estery tones, and there's no real sense of the malt base behind the noticeable contributions from the yeast. Some bittering hops are also present, lending a slightly herbal quality to the nose. The taste continues this theme, with plenty of phenolic spice coming through during drinking accompanied by bittering hops, some malty sweetness and a slightly buttery texture in the finish. None of the flavours cloy on the palette, and there's also no bitterness in the finish. I certainly can't sense many characteristic wheat flavours during drinking, but they present themselves slightly in the aftertaste along with the remnants of the spice and the bittering hops. Some citrus fruits are also detectable towards the final stages of the beer, along with a larger injection of the wheat flavours. Altogether, this beer isn't far off from tasting like a Helles lager or a German Pilsner, just with a bit of phenolic spice added. Not a bad thing, but certainly not what I was expecting! The mouthfeel is quite light and the beer is moderately carbonated, which doesn't mask the subtle flavours and compliments the drinking experience very well. Overall, an interesting Witbier with lots of characteristic Belgian flavours and a subdued yet noticeable contribution from the wheat. I was expecting a bit more based on the reverence it appears to have garnered on the standard review websites, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable drinking experience. I'd still rather pick up a hefe in comparison to something like this, but it's definitely worth trying once!

Until next time....

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Paulaner Brauerei Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb

Good evening all. I'm back with another beer review after taking a brief hiatus to dabble in modern music assessment (which, if you're interested, can be found here). The problem with a degree course winding down is that the stress levels are at the highest they've ever been and I never seem to get enough sleep to prepare myself for the next day, so I invariably end up shunning beer reviews in favour of simply relaxing and drinking the stuff. Today I wanted to get back into the swing of things, so I took a quick trip to Tesco which furnished me with a few new offerings, including the subject of this post- Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb, a hefeweizen from Paulaner Brauerei (Munich, Germany). I've tried this beer once before but can't remember it very well, so let's give it a proper review and see how it fares. Which, as always, is after the pic....

Yeah, I know it's not in a weizen glass. Just read the review!
Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb (5.5% ABV) pours a cloudy golden colour with a thick white head that retains itself well throughout drinking- classic hefeweizen appearance, always a pleasure to see! The aroma is quite subdued, with banana, yeast, some bittering hop aromas and a light sweetness in the background. Less of the herbal or spicy quality that hefeweizens can possess- the banana is the predominant aroma that comes through on face value, with subsequent draws unveiling more of the yeasty aspects and the malt-derived sweetness, which is very reminiscent of honey. There are also some faint orange/citrus tones that cut through the rest of the aromas just enough without being overpowering. The taste is more dynamic than the nose, with yeast, banana, cloves, orange and a sweetness similar to honey in the background. The finish is light and not particularly imposing, with some grape flavours residing in the aftertaste and the yeast adding a slightly dry element. However, this dryness does not command frequent sips of the beer, although the flavours certainly do! This beer is definitely not the most malty/yeasty hefeweizen out there, but it still brings along enough characteristic flavour to impress the palate. The mouthfeel is quite thick and the beer is well carbonated, with the odd bit of lacing present during drinking. Overall, a more subtle hefeweizen compared to equally popular examples of the style (Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen), but don't let that assessment imply that this beer shouldn't be spoken of in the same revered tones. It's very well-balanced and still has enough characteristic flavours and aromas to please any wheat beer fan, and would be perfect during the warmer months when, considering the atmosphere, yeastier hefeweizens or even a spicy Belgian Witbier would seem cloying. Definitely recommended!

Until next time....

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Flying Colors- Flying Colors CD Review

Good afternoon all. Coursework and viva preparation have managed to get in the way of any beer reviewing recently, but I've been listening to a lot of music to lighten the atmosphere and so I felt another album review would be appropriate. The last one seemed to go down well judging by the number of views, so hopefully you'll all enjoy this one despite my usual posts being more focused on fermented beverages. Mike Portnoy, former drummer for the progressive metal band Dream Theater, has been rather busy since he... parted ways with his esteemed cohorts of 20+ years, collaborating with a number of musicians, forming new bands and generally exploring the styles of rock music that shaped his approach to playing and composing during his formative years. One of these new groups is Flying Colors, a band that has no doubt provoked many invocations of the term "supergroup" since their announcement earlier this year. In all fairness, a quick glance at the line-up might be enough to justify the use of this dirty word- Neal Morse (Spock's Beard, Transatlantic), Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple) and Dave LaRue (John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, Joe Satriani) feature on keys, guitar and bass respectively, with Portnoy handling drums and newcomer Casey McPherson being tasked with vocal duties, although each band member also contributes backing vocals and instrumental additions in varying capacities. The fact that every member- bar McPherson- has worked with each other on numerous occasions in the past suggests a degree of musical familiarity that could take this project to another level entirely. Their debut album was released March 26, 2012 on Provogue Records, and the review is after the pic....

The first track, "Blue Ocean", starts off with a small section of informal studio chatter and laughter before the producer wishes the group "good luck", which sounds like a new band having a bit of fun and inviting the listeners to join in on the action. It's an interesting opener, and certainly more interesting than just kicking out the jams straight away. Coincidentally, this intro style and the subsequent shuffling snare drum build-up from Portnoy are very similar to the start of "Highway Star" by Deep Purple, although I'm sure this is purely superficial and not intentionally related. The song builds around this drum pattern, with Messrs Morse and Morse trading off licks on their respective instruments before McPherson gives us a taste of his very capable vocal style. Despite being more conventionally structured than his previous work, Portnoy maintains his percussive flair with plenty of off-beat accents and embellishments, adopting more of a Neil Peart role than in recent years by driving the song forward yet keeping the rhythmic elements vibrant with unusual fills and half-time allusions. These aspects are present in virtually every song on the album, but crucially they don't interfere with the instruments at the forefront and so are welcome additions. Another album theme that is introduced in this song is that of the epic, anthemic chorus- every track delivers pseudo-orchestral, harmonised vocal lines over whole-note ringing guitar chords and impeccably arranged backing vocals, yet the sheer power and conviction present means this dimension never gets old. Morse delivers a tasty solo that alternates between Dixie Dregs-era chicken pickin' and chromatic jazz-inspired shred runs, gradually built up using the intro as a template for development. The fading out of the elements towards the end of the song gives us the opportunity to hear the acapella harmonies introduced during the mid-section, acting as a fitting end to this first taste of Flying Colors. As first tracks go it's certainly up there with the best, as every member has a chance to shine (except maybe LaRue, who does get his own slap-bass interlude during "Forever In A Daze" that delivers more funk than DT's similar passage on "Breaking All Illusions" from their most recent album) without letting things become over-indulgent and incoherent. 

The album is noticeably absent of heavy, visceral tracks, with "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" being one of the only ones that fulfills the criteria with a bombastic opening, dirty classic rock riff and a stellar high-gain guitar solo from Morse. Even the post-solo transition to the rhythm section sans-guitar doesn't decrease the energy, and the rhythmic allusions from Portnoy during the final moments show why he's still held in such esteem in the drumming world. "Kayla", a personal favourite, is a powerful ballad that begins with a floating medieval guitar passage before segueing into 7/4 time for the verses, awash with Morse's arpeggiated chords and tonewheel organ stabs from the other Morse. The guitar solo on this track is particularly interesting- taken in two halves, it recalls the medieval feel of the intro for the first half and then, after some impressive round singing from the group, it introduces more unusual phrasing and some impressive alternate picking runs to create a pleasing dichotomy. Incredible stuff- I can imagine it would be an amazing experience live, as would the majority of the tracks on this release.

Honorable mentions include; "Love Is What I'm Waiting For" a song that evokes naive, Beatles-esque psychedelia with robust vocal harmonies, dreamy post-chorus minor chord progressions and a chugging yet surprisingly variable beat; "All Falls Down", with the "War Inside My Head" style frenetic drum intro, darker vocal style and pounding double bass- the shortest song on the album (and possibly the most overt display of technicality), but still a very good burst of metal-tinged rock to break up the softer tracks; and "Infinite Fire", where the band finally relents and lets the progressive nature of its components come through to indulge in a 12 minute epic that actually flows very well, resisting the urge to add unnecessary passages or to over complicate things, but still managing to create an ethereal musical experience with excellent replay value.

The problem with "supergroups" is that the initial excitement of hearing a number of technically proficient and  highly-revered musicians sometimes doesn't always last- in the past I've been known to incessantly listen to a release from a new "supergroup" only to lose interest a few months down the line, so I can't honestly say how long this group will hold my interest. All the makings of a great band are there, and they've shown with this release that they can craft dynamic, accomplished songs that, most importantly, are memorable and surprisingly powerful- both musically and emotionally. If they can maintain that level, or even go beyond it, they'll definitely be around for a long time.

Arbitrary rating: 8.5/10

Track Listing:

01. Blue Ocean
02. Shoulda Coulda Woulda
03. Kayla
04. The Storm
05. Forever In A Daze
06. Love Is What I'm Waiting For
07. Everything Changes
08. Better Than Walking Away
09. All Falls Down
10. Fool In My Heart
11. Infinite Fire

Favourite Tracks: Kayla, The Storm, Forever In A Daze, Love Is What I'm Waiting For, Infinite Fire

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Summer Wine Brewery Lime & Coriander Saison

Good evening all. Today I decided to travel up to London to acquire a few bottles from the Utobeer stand at Borough Market and generally kill some time walking around one of my favourite cities. I even had time to pay a visit to The Draft House Tower Bridge, where I finally tried Camden Town Brewery Wheat for the first time- absolutely stunning wheat beer that could easily be mistaken for a classic hefeweizen, it's that good! Of course there was also time for a half of Camden Ink after my food, and I left for Guildford with a bag full of new bottles and a feeling of complete satiation (both food- and beer-wise). Tonight's blog post concerns one of the bottles I picked up- Lime & Coriander Saison, a Saison from Summer Wine Brewery (Holmfirth, Yorkshire). This brewery has been garnering a lot of positive feedback over the last few months, and today I decided to pick up one of their offerings to see whether the hype was justified. Review after the pic....

Lime & Coriander Saison (6.0% ABV) pours a golden colour with a thick white head that retains itself well throughout drinking. There's plenty of lacing present and a very generous stream of bubbles constantly supporting the head- looks fantastic already! The aroma is very similar to a traditional saison only more subdued, with some mustiness, a herbal quality, some spiciness from the coriander and a light bittering hop aroma. The lime is very noticeable on the first inhale, retreating somewhat in subsequent draws but still present among the hoppy aromas. The coriander provides aromas that are very reminiscent of yeast-derived phenols and earthy esters, except without the volatility that gives these qualities enhanced body in traditional Saisons. It reminds me of a slightly spicy lager on the nose, with the hops and slightly sweet malt aromas juxtaposed against the herb additions and the lime acidity adding an extra dimension to the proceedings. Interesting stuff, not overpowering but enough there to fit the intended style. Tasting the beer brings up more of the spiciness and lime acidity, accompanied by a malty sweetness, grassy flavours and some bittering hops in the background. The finish continues the spice encountered during drinking, with the lime tartness coming through more substantially without the malt and hops getting in the way. The use of the coriander to replicate the Belgian yeast spiciness is definitely interesting, but without the phenols acting as a medium for the spiciness and to add more body, the flavours can cloy on the palette after a while and can seem one-dimensional. The mouthfeel is quite light and the beer starts off heavily carbonated but diminishes in the latter stages of drinking. Overall, a good attempt at replicating the characteristic flavours of a Saison, but unfortunately it can taste a bit thin without the phenols and the other yeast-derived aromas and flavours that make this beer style so unique. Regardless, it's still got a solid malt base, a good balance between the herbal additions and the earthy qualities of the hops, and it is a very drinkable beer. I don't think I'd get this again, but I would definitely like to try more offerings from Summer Wine in the future based on the unanimously positive feedback I've read over the last few months. Worth a try, but it's probably best to stick with the more authentic examples of this style. 

Until next time....

Friday, 4 May 2012

Flying Dog Brewery Gonzo Imperial Porter

Good evening all. Thanks to everyone who read my contribution to this month's Session, it was great fun to write and as always they really help to put this obsession into context! I wasn't going to review the star of tonight's post as I've had it many times before, but in the end the desire to flex my assessment muscles was too great to resist. Therefore, tonight's beer is Gonzo Imperial Porter, an Imperial Porter from Flying Dog Brewery (Maryland, USA). This beer used to be readily available in the UK, along with Doggie Style Pale Ale, towards the end of my second year at uni, so along with BrewDog Punk IPA this offering was certainly one of my first experiences with "craft beer"- seems only fair to subject it to the reviewing treatment then! Which, as always, can be found after the pic....

I assure you that I won't be biased by the awesome Ralph Steadman artwork!
Gonzo Imperial Porter (9.2% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a thick brown head that settles to a thin halo of foam around the inside of the glass. The aroma consists of chocolate, licorice, yeast extract, dark fruits, citrus fruits, roasted malt and a nice burnt sugar sweetness in the background. The chocolate hits first with aromas of syrup and cocoa powder, which are surprisingly rich and dark even in the presence of the other aromas. The hoppy citrus fruits combine with the chocolate to give a black IPA feel to the beer, whilst also conjuring up memories of barley wines when the sweetness becomes more apparent. The alcohol isn't overpowering and only slightly vaporises into the nose to accompany the other aromas, despite the high ABV percentage. Definitely on the sweeter side of the stout spectrum, it's great stuff so far! The taste is similar to the aroma, with dark fruits, coffee, some chocolate and a caramelised sweetness in the background accompanied by a dry, papery aftertaste in the finish. The dark fruit flavours (blackcurrants, raisins) are quite fleeting, and the alcoholic presence is definitely more apparent on the palette compared to the nose, but after the roasted malt flavours have subsided the aftertaste kicks in and adds a slightly unsavoury element to the beer with some grapes and the aforementioned papery dimension. Every so often the flavours combine to give an Asian sauce flavour, similar to Hoisin, which is understandable given the sweetness and the piquant fruits from the roasted malt. The mouthfeel is slightly thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, which compliments the hop-derived fruits and supports the darker flavours very well. Overall, an interesting porter with a healthy injection of fruity hops set against characteristic roasted malt flavours. It's immensely drinkable despite the high alcohol content and is very well-balanced. The unusual aftertaste is something I've never come across with this beer before, so I'm going to chalk it up to having a bad batch and I won't let it affect my decision to purchase it again in the future. Definitely recommended!

Until next time....

Session #63: The Beer Moment

Good afternoon all. This month's session is hosted by Pete Brown over at Pete Brown's Beer Blog and concerns an abstract concept- "The Beer Moment". I read the announcement when it was released back in April and was taken aback by its ethereal nature, thinking that it was typical for only my second session to have to actually weigh in on my interpretation of this intangible idea. 

For me, the beer moment can occur at any time, in any location that serves beer- be it cask, bottle or keg- and with any number of people present. It's that moment when you step into a pub and see something that you haven't tried yet, something that makes you quicken your pace to the bar as you suddenly can't process anything other than sampling this unique and exciting offering. It's that feeling you get when you walk into the kitchen, open a drawer and pull out your bottle opener, anticipation heightened as you place it over the cap and commit to sampling something new. You could almost see it as a debased from of the classic thought experiment of Schrödinger's Cat- with the contents still inside the bottle, obscured from proper view and the critiques of the senses, how do you know if it's going to be fantastic or disappointing? Simple, indulge in that "beer moment", that occasion when everything is completely new for a second. Of course beer can be divided into styles and each one has a series of characteristic aromas and flavours which defines it, but the number of ways these styles can be interpreted is mind-boggling, as is the number of potential ingredients that can improve a beer or even render it undrinkable. I'm not saying that every "beer moment" is a success, and of course external factors such as price can occasionally add bias to our assessment of these moments, but that alone is enough to fuel the desire to experience these moments as much as possible.

Every beer that I consume is like a microcosmic relationship to an extent, and just like any relationship there are moments that will live with you for years to come and moments that you'd rather forget. Despite this variability, the average person still wouldn't sacrifice the opportunity to have something special just because of a few negative experiences. The "beer moment" is similar to this idea- something you've read about and developed an affinity for before you've even had the chance to meet it formally could become a regular feature in your house, or it could be wildly disappointing, leaving you wrought with confusion as to how you could let yourself betray your senses so frivolously. I feel that my argument may be becoming as abstract as the initial point, but I will still continue to feel this way about each "beer moment" for the duration of my drinking life as, without it, I wouldn't see the point in drinking in the first place. If you had asked me to define a "beer moment" two years ago, my response would've been far less rambling and I would've tried to argue the merits of over-consumption over the enjoyment of the beverage, but clearly that opinion has changed. In the end, the sheer variety on offer and today's unprecedented level of brewing prowess means I'll never be short of a "beer moment" in the future, and that's a great sentiment to be able to express. 

Until next time....

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Brouwerij Huyghe (Marks & Spencer) Belgian Cherry Wheat Beer

Good evening all. Last week I was in Marks & Spencer and noticed that quite a few of their repackaged beers are brewed by the prestigious Meantime Brewing Company, so I picked up a bottle of their Raspberry Wheat Beer and found it to be very well-balanced and thoroughly enjoyable. Fast forward to today, and with the positive experience of last week still on my mind I made a visit to the M&S in town to peruse the other offerings they have and hopefully pick up some interesting bottles. One that made its way into my basket was Belgian Cherry Wheat Beer, brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium. If that name rings a bell, it's because this brewery is more commonly known for producing the popular beers Delerium Tremens and Delrium Nocturnum. As a result I'm expecting good things as the Delerium offerings instigated my passion for Belgian beers, so let's see what this has to offer. Review after the pic....

Belgian Cherry Wheat Beer (3.5% ABV) pours a cloudy red colour with a thick pink head that maintains itself well throughout drinking. There's a bit of lacing present in the early stages of the beer, and apart from that it looks like a standard fruit beer. The aroma is composed of cherries, phenols, cloves and bananas, with everything backed up by a noticeable sweetness that almost feels synthetic due to the fruit additions. Naturally the cherries hit first, with the cloves from the wheat combining with this aroma to create a herbal, spicy quality that is enhanced slightly through the Belgian yeast. Every so often the aromas coalesce and remind me of plasticine, which sounds unusual but it must be due to the combination of the sweet cherries and the spicier aromas from the wheat and the yeast. The taste is just as sweet, with cherries, cloves, some spiciness and a slightly tart sweetness during drinking and in the finish. The cherries bombard the palette with a subtle puckering sourness, with only the cloves coming through as the predominant wheat-derived flavour. The spiciness is very subdued but functions as a partial counterpoint to the sweet/sour sensations from the fruit additions. The sweetness is borderline sickly after a while, but the first few sips are pretty incredible and immediately made me think that this would be an ideal dessert beer. It doesn't quite have the acidity to cleanse the palette as with lambics or Flanders Reds, but could still compliment puddings with similar flavours very nicely. The finish is slightly dry and tart, with the cherries lingering on the palette nicely and creating small pockets of tartness long after drinking. The mouthfeel is not overly thick and can actually be quite watery despite the beer being relatively well carbonated, which is even more surprising considering the lack of filtration- fortunately this doesn't detract from the experience too much. Overall, an interesting concept for a fruit beer that reminds me a lot of offerings like Bacchus and Timmermanns, but with some characteristic wheat beer flavours and a nice background spiciness that adds a different dimension. I would've liked these aspects to have come through more during drinking as the sweetness can be quite cloying after a while, but as it is it's a solid beer that would be perfect outside on a hot day or with a fruity dessert. Definitely worth trying once, but I probably won't be getting this again in the future.

Until next time....

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Company Iniquity

Good evening all. Please excuse the recent period of inactivity- I moved back up to Guildford on Sunday to start the final month of my degree and since then I've been reacquainting myself with 9am starts, coursework and exam preparation. As a result, my output over the next few weeks will unfortunately diminish in comparison to the previous month, so savour every post as they'll most likely be few and far between. Tonight I'm having a beer that combines two of my favourite flavour profiles in beers, namely dark roasted malt and fruity, resinous hops. It can only be Iniquity, a black IPA from Southern Tier Brewing Company. This brewery has graced the blog a couple of times in the past, so let's see how they fare with this relatively new beer style. Review after the pic....

Iniquity (9.0% ABV) pours a very dark brown colour, verging on black, with an off-white head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. Not a lot of head formed during pouring but it still looks good. The aroma is characteristic of a black IPA, with roasted malt, citrus fruits, resin/pine, caramel, some chocolate and a light awareness of coffee in the background. The hops hit the olfactories first with the duality of fresh citrus fruits and resinous/piney aromas, and once the nose has acclimatised to this sensation the roasted malt begins to make itself known by gradually enveloping the hoppy aromas with chocolate and coffee. There's also a significant oaty presence, reminiscent of Ready Brek in a strange way! Despite the elevated alcohol content, I'm not getting a lot of boozy aromas on the nose, only every so often with a slight ethanol aroma vaporising from the glass. The taste brings out a lot more of the roasted malt character in comparison to the aroma, with light coffee, chocolate and yeast extract balanced against the hop-derived fruits and pine. The sweetness is also more pronounced on the palette, with burnt sugar and caramel coming through during drinking and in the finish, which is dry and fruity with some of the roasted malt flavours lingering slightly in the background. The hoppy fruits are more subdued but still manage to push through the darker flavours, although the hops themselves impart no bitterness to the finish so I'm guessing this beer was predominantly dry-hopped. The mouthfeel is quite light and the beer isn't overly carbonated, which compliments the dark flavours whilst still elevating the hops. Overall, a very good example of a black IPA, although this beer is certainly more subdued than more recent offerings that I've sampled, particularly with UK breweries such as Magic Rock (Magic 8 Ball), Windsor & Eton (Conqueror 1075) and Moor (Illusion). This certainly isn't a negative point though, as it allows the roasted malt flavours to come through whilst still allowing the pine and citrus fruits to deliver the all-important aspect that makes this beer style so different. Definitely recommended!

Until next time....