Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Evil Twin Brewing Ashtray Heart

Good evening all, and Happy Halloween. What better way to commemorate a distorted version of an ancient harvest festival than by reviewing a beer? Tonight's offering from the damned is Ashtray Heart, an Imperial Stout from Evil Twin Brewing (Copenhagen, Denmark). As if tonight wasn't spooky enough, I've got an unfortunate announcement to make that should sufficiently chill your bones. I'm afraid that unforeseen circumstances have forced me to take a month long hiatus starting after this post (the unforeseen circumstances being my current lack of a job and therefore money to purchase and review new beers). At the moment I have enough bottles left in the cellar to cover most of December, so I shall save those for my second Beer Advent Calendar and sensibly abstain from opening anything until that time. With that in mind, enjoy tonight's review and see you all again in a month! Review, if you dare, after the pic....

Ashtray Heart (8.9% ABV) pours a jet black colour with a thick, bubbly beige head (think inside of an Aero bar) that settles to a centimeter of foam over the surface of the beer. The aroma is incredible, with plenty of smoked malt, coffee, chocolate, caramel, soy sauce and some toasty notes in the background. The smoked malt hits immediately and doesn't diminish throughout drinking, which is nice as I usually find the most initially-prevalent aroma starts to fade into the background as the nose becomes accustomed to it. The chocolate smell is like cocoa powder and mingles well with the coffee, whilst the soy sauce adds a slight piquancy that compliments the smokiness. Now and again some hop aromas come through (grapefruit), and there's also an oiliness that reminds me of jarred pimento olives, replacing the soy sauce from time to time. It's not a particularly offensive aroma, just the first thing that came to mind as it occurred. The taste is quite unusual due to the inclusion of the smoked malt, with coffee, chocolate, yeast extract, bittering hops and a nice smokiness that persists throughout drinking. The oiliness present in the aroma returns with a slight vengeance during drinking, but only in the taste as opposed to the mouthfeel- it lends a tartness that is fortunately balanced nicely by the smoked malt. Once the initial impact of the flavours has decreased, a  taste reminiscent of foritified wine becomes apparent, which compliments the darker flavours from the roasted malt well. The yeast extract comes out in the finish/aftertaste, which is unsurprisingly quite dry with some hop-derived grape flavours lingering furtively in the shadows, and some pangs of tartness around the sides of the mouth. The mouthfeel is thick and the beer is moderately carbonated, no complaints there! Overall, this is a great modification of a well-known beer style, with the smoked malt adding plenty to the proceedings whilst also letting the usual nuances and flavours come through when needed. Very well-balanced and not overly rich, it's another winner from Evil Twin. Highly recommended.

Until next time....

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dark Star Brewing Co Belgian IPA

Good evening all. I'm back again with another beer review, and this time it's a relatively recent offering from Dark Star Brewing Co (West Sussex, UK). It's their Belgian IPA, brewed with a Belgian yeast strain and US hop types in tribute to the La Chouffe brewery, creators of one of the best Belgian IPAs in the world today. Dark Star seem to have slipped off my radar in favour of other UK breweries in recent months, but hopefully this offering will change that! Review after the pic....

Belgian IPA (7.2% ABV) pours a copper colour with a short-lived white head that settles to a thin halo around the inside of the glass. There's some very light lacing in the early stages of the beer, but it's certainly not as carbonated as I was expecting. The aroma is very interesting and packs more of a Belgian punch, with  grapefruit, mango, phenols, spice, some light sweetness and a hint of acetone in the background. The hoppy fruits are pretty powerful at first, mingling with the sweetness and spicy yeast to give that characteristic Belgian IPA aroma you'd expect from something like Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel or even Duvel Tripel Hop, but soon retreats to the background, leaving the malt and yeast on show. Some acetone is noticeable every so often in the background, but this doesn't spoil the overall experience. The taste delivers much of the same, with grapefruit, phenols, mango, caramel and a nice bitterness after drinking. The fruits taste and feel quite juicy, whilst the sweetness continues on into the finish where it offsets some of the bitterness from the hops. This bitterness hits close to the end of drinking, mainly in the back of the throat with some tartness around the edges, and can cloy after a few sips. The mouthfeel is light and the beer is moderately carbonated- probably the only negative thing about this beer is the lack of carbonation, leading to the cloying bitterness and sickly-sweet background taste after repeated sips. Overall, this is a nice example of a Belgian IPA, delivering some fresh hop flavours and balancing them well with the Belgian yeast spiciness. If only it had the wispy, almost sparkling carbonation of the more authentic stylistic offerings, then it would be perfect. Recommended, but probably worth trying side by side with any of the aforementioned beers to see what it's missing.

Until next time....

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Kernel Export Stout London 1890 and London Brick Red Rye Ale

Good evening all. It's been a while since I last reviewed some beer, so yesterday I decided to bust out the pad and write down some tasting notes for a couple of offerings from arguably the best brewery operating in London right now, The Kernel. The first was Export Stout London 1890, a Stout based on a recipe from the aforementioned year, and London Brick Red Rye Ale, a massive collaboration between The Kernel, Dark Star, Redemption, Zerodegrees, Brodies and BrewWharf, utilising rye and copious amounts of Simcoe, Centennial and Cascade hops. Both of these sound very promising, so let's get on with the reviews after the pic....

Export Stout London 1890 (7.4% ABV)

Appearance: Jet black (slight brown tinge), short-lived thick beige head that settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer

Aroma: Very rich; coffee, chocolate (which combine to create mocha aroma), lactose sugar, slight sense of dark fruits, caramel. Initially dark fruits and sweetness hit first, with coffee and chocolate becoming very apparent shortly afterwards. Port/fortified wine, yeast extract, some licorice. 

Taste: Roasted malt, coffee/chocolate duality, caramel, yeast extract, dark fruits, has a slight tartness during drinking that disappears before finish. Most of the flavours are only detectable through retro-olfaction. Slight hoppy background to finish/aftertaste, with some spiciness around the sides of the mouth. Alcohol not very noticeable, but still requires sipping due to occasional power of the flavours. Has a "creamy" finish with some lingering chocolate and a hint of blackcurrant. Relatively dry but not warranting regular sips. Almost tastes like a barrel-aged stout every so often.

Mouthfeel: Slightly thick, moderate carbonation. Works well with slight tartness.

Verdict: Solid stout with plenty of different flavours and aromas occurring at the same time, though it doesn't take much to separate and enjoy them separately. Out of the three stouts I've tried from this brewery, this is probably the best so far. If you can still find a bottle, it's well worth trying (this particular bottle was in my cellar for around 5-6 months beforehand so its availability may well be non-existent by this point). 

London Brick Red Rye Ale (7.3% ABV)

Appearance: Cloudy blood orange colour, thick white head that dissipates slightly with some early lacing

Aroma: Mango, grapefruit, peach, caramel sweetness, some orange notes, slight resinous/piney aroma. Citrus fruit aromas decrease in intensity relatively quickly, with malty sweetness becoming most consistent. Lingering fruit aroma is similar to ripening fruit, very fresh and pithy. 

Taste: Mango, massive grapefruit flavour, nice hop bitterness, quite juicy on the palette, passion fruit, caramelised sweetness. Rye comes out after drinking, finish isn't dry and fruit flavours linger on for quite long afterwards. Bitterness can cloy in back of throat during drinking, but there's enough sweetness from the malt to balance this. Tastes very fresh as with all of The Kernel's hop-driven beers. Some resin in aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Thick, moderately carbonated. Compliments drinking experience perfectly.

Verdict: Great reworking of the amber/red ale style, with plenty of that fresh hop character that makes The Kernel such a preeminent brewery. The rye adds a nice dimension to the proceedings, and all of the flavours are well-balanced and supported by optimum carbonation levels. Definitely recommended, get some whilst you can. In addition, my personal favourite out of the two that evening.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully the capsule review format made things easier to digest. I'll try not to let so much time pass between now and the next review!

Until next time....

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Meantime Brewing Company Chocolate Porter

Good evening all. Tonight's beer is Chocolate Porter, a Porter from Meantime Brewing Company (London, UK). As the name rightly suggests, this is a porter with a nice dose of chocolate added to compliment the darker flavours from the roasted malt. This is certainly not a new thing in brewing, but when it's done correctly it always creates a great drinking experience. Anyway, enough with the background stuff, let's see how Meantime's offering fares after the pic....

Chocolate Porter (6.5% ABV) pours a dark brown colour with a bubbly off-white head that quickly settles to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. The aroma is pretty amazing, with dark chocolate, cocoa, roasted malt, caramel and some light bittering hop character in the background. Although none of these are particularly powerful they still deliver enough to impress, and the combination of aromas is very reminiscent of other well known chocolate stouts (Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Young's Double Chocolate Stout). As with most chocolate stouts the array of aromas is mainly restricted to the sweeter aspects of the chocolate, accompanied by minor elements of the beer base. There are also some yeast extract hints and even a bit of smoked malt- quite a specific collection of aromas, but you can't complain too much when it all smells this good! The taste delivers much of the same, with roasted malt, caramel, chocolate, dates, yeast extract and a noticeable hop profile in the finish. The chocolate is only apparent through retro-olfaction, whilst the roasted malt and its fruitier dimensions impact on the palette during the early stages of drinking, giving way to the sweetness and hops and their light grapefruit flavours. Towards the end of drinking some coffee also comes through, creating a mocha-esque flavour when combined with the chocolate, and there's also a developing tartness along the sides of the mouth that hits hardest during the last sip. The finish is dry and relatively devoid of flavour (save for some hop-derived grape notes), which is something I generally expect from stouts greater than 5.0% ABV and so this isn't much of a concern. The mouthfeel is on the thick side and the beer is moderately carbonated, which is perfect for the flavours on show. Overall, this is a great chocolate stout that can easily stand toe-to-toe with higher gravity beers in the same style, which is even better when considering the cost and availability of this offering compared to other popular examples. Definitely recommended, you can't go wrong with this bad boy!

Until next time....

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

BrewDog Hello My Name Is Beastie

Good evening all. You might remember that during August last year, BrewDog released an unusually named beer called "Hello My Name Is Ingrid", a DIPA brewed with cloudberries and the usual hop suspects (Citra, Nelson Sauvin, etc). Previously brewed only for the Swedish market, it was given an all-encompassing release a few months later and quickly became a personal favourite of mine. Over a year later and another DIPA with a weird name, this time with the addition of brambles. It's called Hello My Name Is Beastie, and naturally I've got high hopes based on how fantastic the previous version was. Review after the pic....

Hello My Name Is Beastie (8.2% ABV) pours an amber colour with a thick white head that dissipates relatively quickly to a patchy covering over the surface of the beer. The aroma is pretty standard for a DIPA, with resinous pine, mango, grapefruit and some honey in the background. Surprisingly there are some hints of malt every so often which I wouldn't normally expect with a DIPA, and the hop-derived aromas aren't as intense as they possibly could be considering the beer style. This does seem to be a trend with BrewDog's recent Imperial IPA offerings, e.g. Anarchist/Alchemist which, despite the high alcohol content and massive dry hopping regime, was quite reserved in both aroma and taste. The brambles are noticeable yet faint and there are also some notes of orange towards the end of the beer. So far, a myriad of different aromas presented with startling subtlety- let's see if the taste delivers a bit more power. Similar flavours are on show, with malt, pine, peach, mango, grapefruit and some honey sweetness. The hops don't provide much bitterness, but the brambles appear to have imparted a light tartness that compliments the other flavours well. The alcohol is dangerously hidden and the subtleties of the flavours mean there is no cloying, allowing for frequent sips. As with the aroma the flavours aren't particularly robust, but they're balanced and varied enough so that it doesn't seem to matter in this context. The mouthfeel is light and the beer is moderately carbonated- personally a bit more carbonation would've worked better but this doesn't hinder the experience too much. Overall, the inclusion of brambles in this beer is a nice twist on the DIPA style, and I could certainly see myself having this offering again. However, it pales in comparison to Hello My Name Is Ingrid, which is unfortunate as I my expectations were high considering its illustrious company. Definitely worth trying, but if you somehow have the opportunity to get some Ingrid then take it over this one.

Until next time....