Currently ranked as the fifty-first best Baltic porter in the world according to the BeerAdvocate website, this one will be my ninth Polish beer and only my second offering from the country that appears in the 1001 beers to try before you die book, although I do have another three reviews of beers from the book to follow this one in the near future. Żywiec Porter is my second beer from the brewery of the same name and follows on from their flagship pale lager offering that simply known as Żywiec. That one was a beer that I first reviewed here back in late 2010 as the eighth beer from the 1001 beers list and my first Polish offering from it, just over six years later I’m finally trying another. This Baltic porter is my first new one from the list in a couple of weeks and takes my total to 343 beers from the 1001 but it’s also a beer that I’ve been on the look out for over the last few years because I felt I’d have a chance of finding it in the UK, as it turned out I had to travel to Poland where it appeared to be readily available but at least I’ve finally sampled it.
Appearance (4/5): This one pours jet black in colour and is opaque looking too but there’s not too much in the way of a head other than a thin white lacing that was patchy towards the centre of the glass. Most of the surface was covered though and the beer wasn’t a bad-looking one considering how strong an offering it is.
Aroma (7/10): Fairly dark on the nose with some good roasted notes opening things up alongside some nutty smells and less alcohol than I’d anticipated, although some was present at times. There was some faint toffee notes with a little caramel and sticky sweet aromas in there as well but nothing seemed to overpower thankfully and it was quite a balanced nose.
Taste (7/10): Sticky sweet malts opened things here, mainly a combination of caramel and toffee flavours jumped out at you first but some toasted malts and even some roasted ones from the nose featured as well. The beer was strong with plenty of sugars and the odd nutty taste coming through before some faint alcohol seen things out. It wasn’t the most complex given its strength but there was a nice taste to it and was also quite dark.
Palate (4/5): Medium to full-bodied with subtle carbonation coming through but it was quite an easy beer on the way down, this despite the fact that some alcohol was showing and it was also quite a strong beer throughout. There was a lot of sweetness from the start and the balance worked out to be a good one which was a bonus; very nice stuff indeed.
Overall (16/20): This one was definitely a strong beer, that much was clear from the start when a lot of toasted malts and some hints of alcohol start to come through but thankfully it wasn’t as overpowering as I had feared it might be. There was a nice amount of chocolate coming through in the early going with plenty of sugars but the balance remained good and the beer was definitely drinkable. Towards the middle and end some caramel flavours along with some toffee start to make an appearance and turn this one into a beer that’s not quite a classic but still well worth trying.
Brewed In: Żywiec, Poland
Brewery: Grupa Żywiec
Full Name: Żywiec Jasne Pelne
First Brewed: 1881
Type: Baltic Porter
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Oki Doki Hostel, Warsaw, Poland
Price: 9.50PLN (approx. £1.92)
This one was a new release back from Brewdog way back in the summer of 2015 but it was one that almost completely slipped under my radar after I wrongly assumed it was the same beer as the brewery’s Hop Fiction IPA that was released towards the end of 2014. That particular offering was a prototype beer that I reviewed in early 2015 and wasn’t particularly taken by so I opted not to have it again when I’d assumed it was released with a proper label later that year. As it turns out, the beer was tweaked some with its alcohol content reduced from 6.5% to it’s currently 5.2% as well as it changing from an American IPA to an American pale ale in the process. Today the beer is the spring seasonal from Brewdog and when I released it was a beer that I hadn’t actually tried I then made a point of picking up a can from the Glasgow BottleDog on my last visit and seeing how it compared to the original version that I remember, here’s what I thought.
Appearance (4/5): This one is very light bodied and looks more like a lager than a pale ale at times given its light golden colour that is incredibly clear looking as well. There is a few bubbles rising to the surface of the glass and the head was a fairly decent looking one initially with it sitting about a centimetre tall before it roughly halves in size. The texture of the head is a bubbly one with it eventually turning slightly patchy and although it certainly wasn’t as I’d expected colour wise, it wasn’t a bad-looking beer.
Aroma (6/10): Fresh and floral on the nose initially, there was also some nice citrus notes coming through alongside touches of melon and lemon. It’s not an overly complex beer on the nose but some subtle tropical notes some through, most notably grapefruit and peach coming through. Overall it was quite a zesty but there wasn’t much sign of any malts coming through thus far.
Taste (6/10): Citrus and grassy hops with a few floral touches and a solid lemon taste open this one up. There was some slight tropical flavours coming through with touches of grapefruit and peach in there. Like the nose the beer was relatively zesty with a little orange in there too but it was also quite fresh which was a plus.
Palate (3/5): Slightly thinner than I’d have liked, this one sat somewhere around light-medium bodied with a nice tang and quite a crisp feel to it. The beer had a lot of zest on top with a strongly carbonated feel to proceedings and a fairly fizzy body too. There was a nice floral bitterness from the start as well but the balance could probably have been better, the citrus seemed to dominate a little too much at times.
Overall (13/20): This one turned out to be a bit of a strange beer in that it was a modified version of the early Hop Fiction IPA from the brewery but ended up still tasting like an IPA to me really, there was no sign of the malts or sweetness I’d have expected from a pale ale. It was dominated by floral hops and strong citrus flavours that gave it a zesty feel whilst also being quite dry and strongly carbonated. There was some grassy hops and lemon coming through at times and perhaps it turned out a fractional better beer than the original IPA prototype version but it’s almost to close to separate them and I doubt I’d have either beer again; I definitely struggled to tell the difference between the two.
Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
First Brewed: 2015
Type: American Pale Ale
Serving: Can (330ml)
Purchased: BrewDog BottleDog (Glasgow)
My third review of a beer in Brewdog’s Born To Die series of beers and my first since late 2015 when I tried their 27.11.2015 edition on-tap at one of Brewdog’s Glasgow bars. The reason for me trying that particular version is because there was a slight recipe tweak between that and the original 04.07.2015 version that I’d tried earlier in the year, plus it’s always nice to try a beer on-tap as well. I’ve now decided to give the latest release from the brewery a fresh look since the abv. of the beer has been dumped up from its original 8.5% to 9.5% and I’m quite excited about that. The beer is probably my favourite Brewdog beer that’s not a one-off, special release and I usually try to get my hands on each new edition of the beer when it’s released; hopefully it’s still as good this time with the updated recipe.
Appearance (4/5): Medium amber in colour and quite a clear body, the beer is topped with a thumb-sized head that is foamy white but also has a couple of bubbles sitting on its surface. There was quite good retention considering the strength of the beer, only a slight reduction in size occurred initially and there was a lot of visible carbonation thanks to the fine bubbles that were rising to the surface throughout.
Aroma (7/10): Really fresh and with a lot of citrus in the early going, there was a lot of hop bitterness that featured some pine and grapefruit notes alongside a sticky sweetness. Hints of alcohol started to feature nearer the middle of the beer but thankfully some lemon, orange and pineapple notes managed to cover them for the most part before some sweet malts and biscuit flavours came through as well. Towards the end there was some further tropical fruits with the beer seeming fairly complex but not quite as strong as I’d expected given the previous offerings in the series from Brewdog.
Taste (8/10): Following on well from the nose, this one is again quite a hoppy beer with a lot of fresh flavours coming through from the start, the pine and grapefruit from the nose being quite pronounced but there was some tropical fruits coming through earlier this time too. The beer featured a nice combination of orange, lemon and pineapple with a little mango in there as well plus it was a touch stronger than the nose which helped things too. Around the middle there was some faint hints of alcohol that came through with a bubbly citrus tang and some oily hop flavours that were quite resinous before some light spice seen things out.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite tangy with an oily hop bitterness, particularly nearer the end of the beer. There was a strong, resinous bitterness to proceedings with a fresh, crisp feel and some nice sweetness from the tropical fruits. The beer was a dry one that had some prominent alcohol touches from around the middle on but nothing that was likely to overpower. The balance was also a good one with it going down easier than expected but I’d have liked to have seen the nose come through slightly stronger.
Overall (17/20): Quite a strong and very hoppy offering from Brewdog, just what I’ve come to expect from those in their Born To Die series of beers. This one opened with a lot of resinous pine flavours and plenty of grapefruit too before some hints of alcohol came through nearer the middle. It was also a fairly sweet beer from the middle on thanks to the tropical fruits and the citrus gave it a bubbly feel too; nice stuff from the brewery but I’m afraid it’s not quite as good as the last in the series I tried so hopefully the tone down the alcohol a little next time.
Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
First Brewed: 2017
Type: Imperial/Double IPA
Serving: Bottle (660ml)
My first beer from Poland’s Artezan brewery now and what will be only my eighth beer from the country in total, it follows closely on from the Samurai Rebellion from the Raduga brewery that I had previously. This one is the second beer that I managed to try on my recent trip to Warsaw and is one that I picked up in Brewdog’s Warsaw bar on my first night in the city. The Artezan brewery is one that was started by members of the Polish Homebrewers Association and is also one of the first craft breweries in the country, although I don’t believe many of their beers make it abroad all that often. Over the course of my weekend in the Polish capital I managed to find Artezan beers on-tap in almost every craft beer bar that I visited but I sadly only managed to try this and one other beer from the brewery, although luckily this one wasn’t too bad in the end.
Appearance (4/5): Quite a light beer with a golden-yellow to golden coloured body, this one is topped with a thin head that is white in colour and sits about a fraction of a centimetre tall initially; there is some nice lacing on the sides of the glass as well.
Aroma (6/10): Light hops on the nose initially with some floral ones coming through alongside touches of pine and a sprinkling of grassy hops. The beer is fresh smelling with some citrus in there, mainly lemons notes that hint at some further tangy touches though before some bitter hops bring things to a close. It’s definitely not the most complex beer out there but it was a pleasant enough one on the nose and it seemed quite fresh and lively at least.
Taste (7/10): Opening with a nice floral bitterness that matched the nose well, thus one had a combination of lemon and orange that was again relatively fresh and lively. The beer had some grapefruit around the middle with touches of pine backing it up and a couple of grassy hops in there for good measure too. It was quite an easy going beer on the way down with some hints of malt adding a subtle sweetness nearer the end.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied, maybe just a touch lighter than that but very lively and strongly carbonated with some fresh citrus adding a nice tang and some sweetness from the malts too. The beer was crisp and quite dry with a solid hop bitterness in there as well.
Overall (16/20): Quite a nice first beer from the Artezan brewery, this one wasn’t an overly complex offering but it seemed to be well balanced and came through nice enough; it was certainly the best Polish beer I’d tried up to when I ordered the beer. Coming through quite fresh and lively, there was some nice floral bitterness to go with the citrus tang and the odd tropical flavours or fruit managed to sneak in as well. It’s not an absolute must try from the brewery but I did enough it and wouldn’t be against having it in the future either.
Brewed In: Błonie, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
Brewery: Browar Artezan
First Brewed: 2015
Type: American IPA
Serving: Keg (Pint)
Purchased: Brewdog, Warsaw, Poland
Price: 15.20PLN (appox. £3.08)
My first Polish craft beer now and also the first beer that I managed to try on my recent trip to Warsaw, this one being a beer that grabbed my attention when I stopped off at the Cuda na Kiju bar on my first day in the city. The bar itself came highly rated online and the fact that they offered a ‘jasmine tea IPA’ on-tap was an excellent start to my trip, I quickly ordered myself a large glass. The beer is a product of the Raduga brewery based in the Polish capital and it’s not one that I’ve ever heard of before, although I’m no expert on Polish craft beer but I now at least know more about it than I did before visiting Warsaw.
Appearance (4/5): This one sits a cloudy, golden amber colour with a thin and foamy lacing for a head but with some additional foam stuck to the sides of the glass as well. The body is almost opaque thanks to the cloudy nature of the beer and the head does well to cover the full surface of the beer.
Aroma (6/10): Not overly strong on the nose, this one opens with some grassy notes and a touch of wheat that gave the beer the feel of a hefeweizen in the early going. There was some nice citrus notes and touches of hops too but these were more subtle than I’d have liked from an American IPA. Nearer the middle of the beer there was a strong aroma of jasmine tea which was slightly bitter too and came through more pronounced than I’d have expected despite the fact the beer was listed on the board as being a jasmine tea IPA. This was followed by an orange smell and some floral touches before a few lemons seen things out.
Taste (7/10): Opening with the jasmine tea from the nose which is again very strong and noticeable almost immediately, the beer is somewhat fresher than it was with the smell and there orange and citrus flavours are quite pronounced. A bitterness from the tea features nearer the middle and some lemon backs it up before a few lighter, mainly floral hops start to come through but it’s definitely the jasmine flavours that dominate.
Palate (4/5): Quite fresh and more lively than expected, this one was strongly carbonated and had a nice fizz to it as well. It came through relatively well balanced with some bitterness off the back of the tea but not enough to overpower it and towards the end there was a subtle tang from the citrus, all of it sitting atop a medium bodied beer.
Overall (14/20): Definitely an interesting beer with an unusual taste, there was a lot more jasmine coming through than I’d expected despite the style of the beer being a jasmine tea IPA; usually these types of beer only feature a tiny bit but this one was different. Unlike anything I’ve tried previously, the beer was enjoyable without being a classic but it is definitely one that I’ll remember and that I’m glad I managed to try; not bad for my first Polish craft beer.
Brewed In: Warsaw, Poland
Brewery: Browar Raduga
First Brewed: 2016
Type: American IPA
Serving: Keg (500ml)
Purchased: Cuda na Kiju, Warsaw, Poland
Price: 14PLN (approx. £2.83)
Another review of one of my homebrew offerings now, this one being the third such offering that I’ll have reviewed here and one that follows on from the bottles of 1 Hop and Wishaw Local #1 that I reviewed here way back in 2014; it’s been a bit of a wait between beers. This one is the first non-IPA that I’ve attempted to make and should fall under the American porter style since it’s a well-hopped chocolate porter. The name translates as ‘The Big Chief’ from Spanish it is one that I wanted to brew for a while but never seemed to find the time. It always seems strange rating my own beers but hopefully it won’t be such a long wait before the next one since I already have an imperial stout bottles that should be ready in a couple of months.
Appearance (4/5): Really dark and opaque brown in colour, it’s almost murky looking and is topped with a large, foamy head that is beige and dome-shaped. Head retention is pretty good with plenty of lacing left on the side of the glass too and it had the odd bit of sediment in the body too, although not an excessive amount thankfully.
Aroma (7/10): Roasted malts and some subtle hops kick things off here, there was some touches of chocolate that were followed by some grassy aromas and a little citrus. It was semi-sweet but wasn’t an overly strong beer on the nose, at the same time there wasn’t any off-notes and it seemed quite nice thankfully.
Taste (7/10): Darker malts and some roasted flavours open things with some chocolate in the early going too. There was a subtle hop bitterness with touches of citrus and grassy hops before some sweetness and hints of toffee came through right at the end.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite smooth but perhaps just a touch lighter than I’d hoped for when brewing this one; it wasn’t a thin beer though and did manage to seem like a porter. There was hints of sweetness throughout, especially thanks to the chocolate but as well from the toffee at the end, with the beer also seeming relatively fresh and balanced.
Overall (15/20): This one was quite an enjoyable beer that managed to open up with some pleasant chocolate malts and some hints of roasted malts too, there was a general earthy feel to it at times with some hints of sweetness too. I enjoyed the subtle touches of hop that managed to come through and perhaps I’d consider adding a few more if I ever brew this beer again. It was a touch lighter than I’d have hoped for but it didn’t affect the beer too much since it proved quite easy to drink and is probably one of my better efforts thus far, maybe only the Wishaw Local #1 rating higher.
Brewed In: Wishaw, Lanarkshire Scotland
First Brewed: 2016
Type: American Porter
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
My fourth beer from the Robinsons brewery now and what will be mu first new offering from them since I reviewed their Iron Maiden Trooper beer back in the summer of 2013. The brewery is one that I’m quite familiar with given their beers are usually quite easy to find in UK supermarkets but I’ve not tried all that many of them and the one that I have tried haven’t really been that impressive. I decided to pick this bottle up when I spotted it in a Morrison supermarket recently, mainly based on the name but also because it came in a smaller 330ml bottle and was positioned amongst the supermarkets craft beer selection; only later did I find out it was a Robinsons brewed beer. The beer has been about in one form or another since 2015 and can be found as a cask offering coming in at 3.7% but I can’t imagine that it’s a version I’ll get to try anytime soon and I’ll be sticking to the bottled version for now; hopefully it’s a first good one from the brewery.
Appearance (4/5): Clear amber coloured but it does form a nice, foamy white head that has a few tiny bubbles dotted about the place as well plus head retention is pretty good with a little lacing on the sides and not much reduction in size from its original one centimetre height.
Aroma (4/10): This one opens as a very fruity beer with quite a lot of floral notes coming through initially alongside some citrus and an unexpected blend of strawberries and peach; the peach seemingly the most dominant of the two. There was some orange and berries soon after and it seemed fresh at times but also a little weird in truth, almost soapy and artificial at times. Beyond the fruits there wasn’t too much else to report except some basic English style malts before some further floral notes rounded things off; it’s not a bad-smelling beer but it was definitely a little odd and that ended up putting me off some.
Taste (4/10): Again quite a fruity offering although the taste was toned down a little from the nose but it’s still an incredibly floral tasting beer with a lot of berries and elderflower coming through alongside the strong peach flavours that carry on from the nose. Around the middle there is some citrus and the odd tropical flavours too but it’s also quite odd again and seems all over the place. Towards the end some touches of biscuit and basic English malts start to come through but for the most part the berries and the floral flavours drown them out.
Palate (2/5): Really floral with a lot of citrus adding a tang to proceedings in the early going but it’s also an overly sweet beer thanks to the huge amounts of peach showing in both the taste and smell. It’s not a very well-balanced offering but it comes through with a light-medium body and subtle carbonation. It’s a poor offering really and almost ends up undrinkable nearer the end thanks to the sweetness of the stuff.
Overall (6/20): Rubbish stuff from Robinsons here, this one was an overly floral and ridiculously sweet beer that was odd tasting from the start and smelt like a bar of soap at times. It was just about drinkable and no more, with very little else managing to make itself known over the top of the floral flavours and the huge amounts of peach that featured. I was so disappointed with this one that I ended up giving my second bottle away as it was pretty much drain pour to me by the time I made it to the end of the first bottle.
Brewed In: Stockport, England
Brewery: Robinsons Family Brewers
First Brewed: 2015
Type: English Pale Ale
Serving: Bottle (330ml)