Quite a rare, pretty hard to find offering here and the final review of a beer I tried in Cuba now, I was mistaken in thinking that the Plaza Vieja Negra was the last but I’d forgotten about this one. The beer is one that I struggled to find out anything about online and I’m not even sure the name of the brewery but I’ll list it under Cervecería Princesa for the purposes of tracking here. All I do know is that it is brewed in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba and not Holguin like the majority of the islands beers; namely them from the Bucanero brewery. The beer is one that I found at a roadside café while travelling by collectivo taxi from Cienfugos to Vinales at the end of last year, the precise location I’m unsure of but it was about forty minutes from Vinales and it was the only place I managed to find the beer on my travels. I can’t imagine this is a beer that many people outside of Cuba have tried and as such I’m glad I stumbled across it, in the end it wasn’t too bad for a cheap Cuban beer picked up at a roadside stall – it was certainly better than expected but still not great.
Appearance (3/5): A really clear, light golden colour that bordered on amber and was topped with a large, three centimetre tall head that was white and surprisingly foamy looking. There was some initial lacing on the sides of the glass and retention wasn’t too bad either.
Aroma (4/10): Quite cheap on the nose, this one was skunky and came through with some early notes of hay and basic adjuncts. I detected some biscuit malts around the middle and there was a faint bitterness in there too but the highlight was the hints of sweetness and vanilla that came through nearer the end. It was an interesting beer on the nose but still seemed quite basic despite the touches of vanilla in there.
Taste (5/10): Hay and corn open things up here alongside some basic bitterness and a bland, almost cheap malty base. There was some biscuit flavours around the middle and the odd touch of maize before the vanilla from the nose made a second appearance in the taste with a little citrus backing it up. There was definitely more to it than I’d been expecting but it was still far from an exciting offering.
Palate (2/5): Quite a thin and somewhat bland beer, this one featured some light bitterness at times and seemed a touch warmer towards the end. It was definitely a basic, cheap offering but it also seemed quite clean. There wasn’t much in the way of carbonation really but the touches of sweetness coming through were welcome additions.
Overall (9/20): Quite a strange beer and whilst still a basic offering, it was slightly more complex than I’d been expecting going in; the touches of vanilla in particular being a surprise. There was the usual lager adjuncts coming through alongside some biscuit malts but the citrus towards the end of the taste was quite nice to see. Definitely one that I enjoyed more than I thought I would and it’s worth trying if you can find a bottle but it’s not likely I’d go hunting for it again, even if I was in the Pinar del Rio area of Cuba again.
Brewed In: Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Brewery: Cervecería Princesa
Full Name: Princesa Clásica Cervesa Clara
Type: Pale Lager
Serving: Bottle (350ml)
Purchased: Caféteria & Comida Criolla (Pinar del Rio, Cuba)
Price: 1 CUC (approx. £0.78)
A first beer from Grunting Growler for me now, a local bottle shop based in Glasgow, Scotland and one that has recently started brewing a couple of their own beer. This is a beer that I was given as part of a gift set as a Secret Santa gift at work recently and I opted not to wait until Christmas before cracking the bottle open; a review the other beer in the pack, The Growler, will follow at some point in the near future. This particular bottle, a lager brewed with orange and ginger, is one that instantly appealed to me when I opened the box and I’m interested to see how it rates. Sadly I don’t really know too much about the set-up of this brewery really, other than that they make use of the facilities at Drygate Brewing across the city to make their beers; their website doesn’t really provide much details either.
Appearance (4/5): Qutie a light, almost watered down amber that is semi-clear looking but is topped with a pretty nice looking, foamy white head that sits about a centimetre tall and leaves plenty of lacing on the sides of the glass. There isn’t much head movement in the early going, it just sits there for the opening minute or so before fading ever so slightly nearer the centre of the surface but maintaining good height around the sides.
Aroma (7/10): Fresh on the nose in the early going, there is definitely some of the orange mentioned on the label with some nice citrus notes in there backing them up. I got a nice touch of the ginger too and thankfully it wasn’t as strong or overpowering as expected, hopefully that is something that continues onto the taste. There was a little bit of spice coming through nearer the middle and some earthy malts before a couple of subtle hops featured. Throughout there was some subtle hops and grassy flavours making the odd appearance and overall the balance seemed good, although the ginger was still probably the strongest smell in there.
Taste (8/10): Opening up in a similar fashion to the nose, the first thing that hits you is the orange flavours with a little bit of citrus and maybe even some pine backing it up here. The ginger from the nose wasn’t far behind and same through a touch stronger without overpowering, a pleasant surprise. There was a little more sweetness coming through this time too, I got some decent sugars and strawberries with a few other nondescript fruits pushing forward to give the beer nice complexity. It was certainly an interesting one and unlike anything I’ve had before which is always nice.
Palate (4/5): Quite balanced throughout which I wasn’t expected, the ginger and spice was definitely the most noticeable but neither overpowered at any stage as I’d expected them to. There was some nice sweetness with the taste and the beer was well carbonated too, coming through with a decent tang from the citrus and plenty of fizz. It was an easy one to drink and came through surprisingly complex with some nice variety to it as well.
Overall (16/20): This one was quite a surprising beer and one that went down a lot better than I’d expected, I was anticipating an interesting beer given it boasted both ginger and orange on the label but I was impressed with how well-balanced both flavours were. There was a good complexity to this one with some nice hops and even some strawberries coming through nearer the end, plus the beer seemed quite fresh and lively throughout; an excellent beer and one I’d happily go back to again.
Brewed In: Glasgow, Scotland
Brewery: Grunting Growler (Brewed at Drygate Brewery)
First Brewed: 2016
Full Name: The Grunter Orange & Ginger Lager
Type: Premium Lager
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Grunting Growler (Glasgow)
The fourth and final offering in Brewdog’s 2016 single-hop, ‘Ace of’ series that has seem them release three previous offerings over the course of the year; the first being their Ace of Simcoe offering that was launched at the end of February and has so far been the best in the series. That one was followed by their Ace of Chinook and Ace of Citra offerings, the Chinook turning out to be an okay beer and the Citra being one to forget in my opinion. I’m hoping that this one is a beer to end the year on a high with from the brewery but since the last two in the series haven’t been anything special, I’m not overly excited about this one although it was nice that they spaced the beers out over the course of the year rather than releasing them all at the same time. Like the Ace of Chinook, I will be reviewing a bottle of this one that I picked up from a local Glasgow bottle shop a couple of weeks ago and despite the fact session IPA’s don’t really scream Christmas beer, I’m hopeful this one will go down relatively well. It’ll be interesting to see if this Ace of Hops series is one that Brewdog continues into 2017 or whether they will despite to change things up slightly and give another style of beer a turn.
Appearance (4/5): Quite a clear looking amber colour but it’s also quite light looking, sitting with a quarter centimetre head that is foamy and white in colour. Head retention is okay with not much movement in the early going and there is even a touch of lacing stuck to one side of the glass but eventually it does start to turn a little patchy, breaking up around the one minute mark.
Aroma (6/10): Quite fresh and full of citrus, there is some orange and lemon opening things up here alongside touches of pine and grapefruit which give the beer a lively, exciting nose to start. There was some pineapple around the middle with the odd touch of caramel that made the beer seem more like a regular American IPA as opposed to the session IPA I was expecting. Unfortunately this doesn’t hold up quite as long as I would have liked and things started to weaken a little from the middle on wards with a weak tropical aroma and some biscuit malts rounding things off; it still came through as quite a nice beer on the nose but I’d have liked something a little stronger down the stretch.
Taste (6/10): Opening with some early pine and citrus flavours helped this one got off to a great start but like the nose things faded soon after thanks to some lager type malts coming through unexpectedly and distracting from the tropical fruits that followed. There was some mango and pineapple coming through with touches of caramel following alongside the earthy bitterness that the malts provided and that seemed a little stronger than normal for the style. There was some background hops and a few biscuit malts coming through soon after but the beer didn’t quite manage to recover sadly.
Palate (3/5): Light medium bodied and fairly fresh to begin with, this one came through with less carbonation than expected but it definitely wasn’t flat. There was a slight tang from the citrus coming through and I got faint sweetness from the caramel malts however the most noticeable thing about this one was the earthy bitterness that started around the middle and persisted from then on.
Overall (13/20): This one was a beer that started very well indeed, particularly early on with the aroma but sadly things started to fade from then on and the nose weaken somewhat thereafter. There was some pleasant tropical fruits and a little pine in there to keep things interesting but I was expecting something a bit more from this one but again a session IPA lets me down. Overall this series of beers from Brewdog was an interesting idea, albeit one that has been done multiple times before, but it was definitely an underwhelming bunch of beers; the sole exception being the Ace of Simcoe that kicked the series off.
Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
First Brewed: 2016
Type: Session IPA
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
Quite an interesting beer this one, I was given it by family members returning from Liverpool at the end of last year after they picked a bottle up in one of Liverpool’s two cathedrals. The beer is a honey beer offering that is brewed by the two cathedrals in the city, the only in the UK to do so and although I’m not normally a fan of the style, this is definitely a beer I was looking forward to trying prior to opening it up. I actually sampled this one over the Christmas holidays and am only getting to finish the review now but sadly it wasn’t the best of beers. It’s one that is brewed by representatives of the brewery (or possible just under contract from them) at the Mad Hatter brewery in Liverpool but turned out to be a bit too sweet for my liking; a common theme with this type of beer. Anyway, here’s what I thought of it when I tried it towards the end of last year.
Appearance (3/5): Pouring a golden amber with a fairly clear body, this one is topped with a half centimetre head that is white and quite foamy looking. Retention is fairly poor for the style though, turning quite patchy after about fifteen seconds but leaving a little more build up at one end of the surface. There is a few fine bubbles rising up through the beer as well but it’s not a particularly impressive looking beer sadly.
Aroma (6/10): Semi-sweet on the nose initially, something I’ve come to expect from honey beers but thankfully it wasn’t overpowering straight away. There was some sweet malts and a little sugar backing the sweetness up, the promised honey starts to come through quite strong soon after though. There was some earthy hops and a faint touch of citrus coming through as well but as expected it was the honey that dominated on the nose.
Taste (6/10): Following on well from the nose, there is again an early sweetness and the honey comes through a little quicker this time around but it’s not overpowering in the early going. I got some earthy malts, a few grassy touches and the usual background citrus too but again the honey was the main flavour with this beer. There was some sticky flavours towards the end of proceedings and a light bitterness off the back of this before some sugars and a subtle helping of earthy hops rounded things off nicely.
Palate (3/5): Medium to light-medium bodied but a very sweet beer thanks to the abundance of honey coming through in the taste and the smell; despite this there was a nice balance to the beer for the most part through. There was some earthy bitterness showing at times and I got a slight tang from the citrus that started to come through nearer the end; it wasn’t a particularly hard beer to drink though but it could have done with being just a touch less sweet.
Overall (13/20): I’m never overly excited to try honey beer in truth and this one is a perfect example of why, it definitely wasn’t a bad offering but it was just that bit too sweet for my liking; that being said, it didn’t overpower or come through as sickening at any point either. The balance wasn’t too bad with this one, all things considered anyway, although there could have been more variety nearer the end and it would have been a better beer as a result.
Brewed In: Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Brewery: 2 Cathedrals (Brewed at Mad Hatter)
First Brewed: circa. 2016
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Liverpool (England)
A bit of an odd one now for what will be my first beer from Arrogant Brewing but one that follows on from the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale I had in March 2013 as well as the Arrogant Bastard Ale I reviewed the next month. The reason this is my third Arrogant Bastard beer but only my first from the brewery is because the beers were originally brewed under by Stone in California but since 2015 this line of beers has been brewed independently from Stone. Although still based in California, Arrogant Brewing is somewhat of a gypsy brewery and the beers are now brewed in collaboration with other breweries around the world, including Brewdog in Scotland which is the reason I was able to grab a bottle of this one recently. The beer is one of about three year-round Arrogant beers and is actually one that I tried earlier this year in a Brewdog bar but wasn’t to sure about which is one of the reason I decided to order a bottle online when last placing an order.
Appearance (4/5): This one pours a dark caramel to mahogany brown colour and it’s slightly hazy into the bargain, although it did look a touch lighter towards the bottom of the glass. The head was a nice one though, sitting just under a half a centimetre tall and foamy with a few bubbles sitting on the surface too. It was a light tan colour with a bit of break-up towards one side of the surface but on the whole it was a nice looking beer with decent head retention given the abv. of the drink.
Aroma (8/10): This one opens with quite a strong, sticky-sweet nose that features a lot of toffee and caramel aromas alongside some darker fruits; mostly figs, dates and plums featuring at this early stage. There was a touch of alcohol coming through that hinted at the bourbon from the barrels this one was aged in and this was followed by a sweet vanilla or butterscotch smell that had some oak notes backing it up. The beer seemed complex on the nose and there was quite a lot going on but thankfully the balance was a good one and there was a faint pine and citrus finish that hinted at a subtle bitterness too.
Taste (6/10): Kicking off from where the nose finished, this one starts quite sweet with a combination of toffee and caramel malts opening things up before being followed by a bourbon taste that was quite a bit stronger than the nose had hinted at but didn’t quite overpower. There was some dark fruits again with the figs and plums from the nose featuring here as well but also some raisins as well. Towards the end of the beer some further sweetness was imparted thanks to the usual sugars but also some of the vanilla from the nose before some pine, oak and citrus touches rounded things off completely.
Palate (4/5): A somewhat thick offering, this one sat somewhere around medium bodied and was definitely quite a strong beer from the start. There was a nice amount of sweetness throughout this one, initially thanks to the caramel and toffee flavours but also from the darker fruits and sugars that followed. There was a good balance to the beer as well, despite the relatively strong abv. and the bourbon flavours it was never a hard one to drink; it went down quite easily in fact and was enjoyable into the bargain.
Overall (14/20): Quite a nice one from Arrogant Brewing here, the beer was definitely stronger than I’d expected going in, despite the fact I knew it was an 8.1% beer when I cracked it open. There was a lot of bourbon and alcohol flavours around the middle of the beer and plenty of darker fruits helped enhance these flavours. I enjoyed the early caramel touches though and the vanilla sweetness that came from the oak was pleasant too. I’m still not convinced it’s a beer I’ll have again but it was a nice one to sip away at and I’m glad I got to try it.
Brewed In: Escondido, California, United States of America
Brewery: Arrogant Brewing
First Brewed: 2009 (Brewery since 2015)
Type: American Strong Ale
Serving: Bottle (355ml)
The third and final Taberna de la Muralla beer that I’ll be reviewing here and also the last review I’ve still to add from my trip to Cuba last year; likely my last review of a Cuban beer for quite some time too I’d imagine. This one is the darkest offering available at the Factoria Plaza Vieja brewpub in Havana and is probably also the darkest beer available in Cuba, certainly of all the Cuban brewed beers anyway. Like the Obscura before it, this is a beer I was really looking forward to hunting down and trying when I was in Cuba and perhaps I’d built it up a little too much in my mind because it definitely wasn’t as good as I’d expected, I actually preferred the Obscura to this one and was looking for something a little darker and malty from this beer. Still, if you find yourself in Havana then it is definitely a beer to go looking for as it’s sadly one of the better beers available in the country; something that’s more a reflection of the state of Cuban beer than on how good this one is though.
Appearance (4/5): I was expecting something a little darker but this one turned out to be a caramel amber that was reminiscent of the Obscura from the brewery and was again topped with a foamy white head that was bubbly around the edges. The body looked slightly hazy and head retention was okay as well, not a bad-looking beer so far.
Aroma (6/10): An earthy caramel nose opens things up here and there was some subtle hops following on behind that added some faint bitterness. The beer was quite dry on the nose and has a semi-sweet aroma to it with some darker malts but definitely not as many as I’d have expected. Towards the end some sugars featured and added a little to the sweetness but it could definitely have been a little stronger.
Taste (6/10): Sweet with some nice caramel malts and the odd earthy flavour to kick things off, the beer is again quite dry with a slight bit of citrus showing but it definitely wasn’t a complex beer. There was some toffee and sugars around the middle but very little else of note; still it’s not bad for a Cuban beer.
Palate (3/5): A light-medium bodied beer with a semi-sweet feel to it, this one was quite dry and balanced which allowed it to go down relatively easily. It wasn’t a complex offering but there was some slight citrus adding a subtle tang to go along with a light hop bitterness that kicked things off.
Overall (13/20): A decent third beer from this Havana based brewpub but one that definitely wasn’t as dark or malty as expected; the anticipated roasted flavours were also missing sadly. The beer as a result felt closer to an amber ale than a dark lager but it was still enjoyable given how hard it is to find a decent beer in Cuba at times. While not as good as the Obscura from the brewery in my opinion, it was better than the Clara and is still a beer well worth checking out if you happen to find it in Cuba.
Brewed In: Havana, Cuba
Brewery: Taberna de la Muralla
Full Name: Taberna de la Muralla Negra
Also Known As: Factoria Plaza Vieja Negra
Abv: circa 4.2%
Serving: Draught (500ml)
Purchased: Factoria Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Price: 2 CUC (approx. £1.56)
Another interesting Cuban offering now, this one will be my second beer from the Taberna de la Muralla brewery in Havana as well as being my penultimate review of beers I tried whilst in Cuba towards the end of last year. This one follows on from the Clara offering from the brewery that I tried here previously and is beer that very little information seems to be available on; the abv. is unknown and it’s a beer that I’ll list as a Vienna style lager but I’ve also seen it listed as a dunkel and even an English pale ale. I tried this one towards the end of my trip in Cuba and although I found the beer easily enough, it proved a little more difficult to order depending on which waiter served you; the beer was occasionally known as the ‘dark’ beer of the trio with the ‘Negra’ the black beer but often when ordering the dark beer you were also given the negra. After a couple of attempts I managed to finally try this one and it wasn’t bad at all, although my opinion of it was likely influenced by the fact that it was my first non-pale lager in about two weeks so it was gonna to be good regardless. Here’s what I thought of it anyway.
Appearance (4/5): Caramel amber and quite cloudy as you’d expect given the name, the beer is headed by a foamy looking head that is white in colour and leaves a nice touch of lacing around the sides whilst covering the surface of the beer well too.
Aroma (6/10): Semi-sweet on the nose, this one opens with some caramel malts and a few hints of toffee that are backed up by some sugars and quite a malty base. There was a slightly astringent smell around the middle but a few fresh bursts of sweetness soon follow at it was relatively well balanced as well.
Taste (6/10): Opening with some light toffee and a sweet caramel taste that followed on from the nose well, this one was quite a malty beer that had plenty of sugars and the odd touch of citrus in the background which was somewhat surprising. This was followed by touches of vanilla and butterscotch towards the end but otherwise it wasn’t an overly memorable offering.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and fairly sweet with lively carbonation and quite a balanced feel. There was some freshness to the beer with a slight citrus tang too but it wasn’t overly complex despite it going down easily enough.
Overall (13/20): Quite an interesting one this and a nice beer in general, mainly because it was the first non-pale lager that I managed to try after almost two weeks in Cuba; it probably went down a lot better than it might otherwise have done as a result of this. It was quite a lively and fairly sweet offerings that featured a nice combination of toffee and caramel alongside the usual sugars and vanilla flavours, it also went down easily enough but I had been looking for something a touch more complex or memorable if I’m honest; still, this is definitely one to seek out if you find yourself in Havana.
Brewed In: Havana, Cuba
Brewery: Taberna de la Muralla
Full Name: Taberna de la Muralla Obscura
Also Known As: Factoria Plaza Vieja Obscura
Type: Vienna Lager
Abv: circa 4.2%
Serving: Draught (500ml)
Purchased: Factoria Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Price: 2 CUC (approx. £1.56)