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144 Roman Heads

February 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.45

My fourth ever beer from Slovakia now but my first since trying three beers from the country when visiting Bratislava back in 2011; it’s been a while. Amazingly this seems to be a country that doesn’t really export beers to the UK, something that is surprising given how many Czech beers seem to make it into supermarket here. This one follows on from the pint of Zlaty Bazant that I tried in Bratislava as my first Slovakian beer in about seven years, the other two from the same trip that I tried were draft servings of Kelt 10% and Šariš 11% Tmavý so this one will be my first ‘craft’ beer from the country as well; hopefully I won’t need to wait as long before trying another in future.

Appearance (4/5): An almost murky amber colour that was cloudy and topped with an oversized, foamy head that was off-white and started about two inches tall before reducing very slightly in size. It looks like quite a strongly carbonated beer as it’s poured but head retention is quite good at least.
Aroma (7/10): Quite a lot of hops kick things off here and there is definitely some grapefruit and pine opening the show with a solid helping of apricot following soon after. I managed to get some sour touches and a little citrus around the middle before some caramel malts and background fruits came through towards the end; there was some orange and grapes in there with a little pear too.
Taste (6/10): Quite bitter with a lot of pine and grapefruit hops in the early going, the beer is quite a resinous one with some tropical fruits showing as well; there was the apricot from the nose with some mango and peach in there too. It’s a strong beer with some apples, grapes and a little sourness around the middle with some citrus not too far behind. The malts are more hidden with the nose, I did manage to get a little biscuit towards the end but the bitterness drowned out most of the rest.
Palate (3/5): Quite a strong beer that was very hoppy and pungent at times, there was a lot of resinous pine and grapefruit kicking things off and I’d liked to have seen more malts to balance this out a little. The alcohol content of the beer was showing towards the end too, although only slightly and it remained drinkable throughout with a dry feel throughout and moderate carbonation.

Overall (15/20): Nice stuff from Unorthodox initially with a lot of hop bitterness on the nose with pine and grapefruit dominating alongside some background fruits. Further on there was some touches of sourness that I hadn’t expected and some sweeter malts started to come through; this carried over to the taste with more bitterness showing this time but the balance could have used some work in truth.

Brewed In: Bratislava, Slovak Republic
Brewery: Unorthodox Brewing
Full Name: Unorthodox 144 Roman Heads 20°
First Brewed: 2017
Type: Double IPA
Abv: 8.1%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Wee Beer Shop (Glasgow)
Price: £3.20

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Scuttlebutt Hoptopia

February 10, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.95

My fourth beer from a Washington based brewery and my second from Scuttlebutt, like the bottle of their Amber Ale that I reviewed last this one is a beer I picked up from Glasgow’s Wee Beer Shop in late January based on the fact that it was an American brewed double IPA and I was quite interested in seeing how it rated. The beers name did seem somewhat familiar when I spotted this one in the shop but it turns out that it wasn’t a beer that I’d ever seen before but just before opening it I was really hoping that it would turn out to be a better offering than the offering I tried from the brewery the day before.

Appearance (4/5): Medium amber with a slight haze to the body and foamy head that turns quite bubbly in texture after about thirty seconds but manages to hold relatively well with some good lacing stuck to the sides of the glass as well.
Aroma (7/10): Definitely not as hop-filled as you’d expect from a double IPA but the beer did open with some nice pine and grapefruit bitterness that was backed up by a pleasant sweetness from some biscuit and caramel malts; this also gave the beer a slightly American pale ale style nose in the early going which was interesting. Further on and there was some orange zest and light citrus featuring with a touch of sugar and some bread malts further on before some light bitterness seen things out. It was quite a subdued nose for the style but it came through with a pleasant aroma that I definitely enjoyed.
Taste (8/10): More bitter than the nose for sure with a lot of resinous pine and grapefruit kicking things off that was almost out of the blue when compared to the nose and very welcome. There was some orange and citrus flavours with a lot of pine following on behind which made the beer seem every bit the double IPA that I was expecting. Towards the end some of the caramel malts, biscuit and bread flavours from the nose started to come through and as a result some light sweetness was imparted on the taste, something that definitely helped the balance as things drew to a close.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite resinous with a lot of bitterness coming through from the start, the beer was a very dry offering as expected with a slight citrus tang around the middle and some sweetness further on. The balance was a good one, although the hop bitterness of the taste naturally dominated but it was still an easy one to drink and the alcohol content seemed well hidden too.

Overall (17/20): Great stuff from Scuttlebutt here, this one definitely started a lot more subdued on the nose than expected with only some light grapefruit and pine coming through but these seemed to be fighting to be noticed alongside the sweeter malts and biscuit notes at this point. Things changed with the taste though thanks to a lot of hop bitterness jumping to the front in the form of resinous pine and grapefruit flavours, there was also some orange following on behind before the sweet malts and biscuit seen things out nicely.

Brewed In: Everett, Washington, United States of America
Brewery: Scuttlebutt Brewing Co.
First Brewed: 2006
Type: Double IPA
Abv: 8.0%
Serving: Bottle (355ml)
Purchased: Wee Beer Shop (Glasgow)
Price: £3.10

Watt Dickie

December 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.75

A strange on this and a beer that I picked up approximately four years ago, not long after it was released as a one-off from Brewdog back in 2013. The beer is a huge 35% abv. offering that sits closer to a spirit than a beer but started life as an IPA before being freeze distilled and ending up in its current form that is somewhere between an imperial IPA and an eisbock. It is a ‘beer’ that I picked up when it was launched mainly due to the novelty of it and that’s part of the reason I’ve only just opened it now, it should at least be interesting but I’m not holding out much hope for it being a classic. It will be by far the strongest beer I’ve reviewed here so far but I have also tried Brewdog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin offering which comes in just a little lighter at 32% and that’s not exactly a beer that I’ve rushed back to try again either.

Appearance (3/5): Dark copper and very thick looking, this one pours with absolutely no sign of a head and is very still in the glass too; slightly disappointing but in truth it was as I’d expected given the high alcohol content of the beer.
Aroma (7/10): Huge alcohol notes on the nose initially, this one is slightly sweet with some toffee before some brandy type aromas and plenty of alcohol coming through. It’s got some peated malts and hints of sherry a little further on too with a subtle touch of vanilla right at the end; there’s a little more to it than I’d initially anticipated which is a pleasant surprise.
Taste (4/10): It took a while to build up trying this one, I wanted to give it some time to open up after pouring but once I finally took the plunge I was greeted by an initial sweetness that was very warming and loaded with alcohol, it somehow managed to seem stronger than the 35% abv. listed on the bottle upon first taking a sip. Once the initial burn passed, there was some sweet malts and toffee coming through alongside touches of brandy and sugar. It was a strong beer as you would expect but also one that was like drinking a spirit and it was definitely a beer to sip rather than rush through, sadly the taste didn’t seem quite as varied or easy-going as the nose was either.
Palate (3/5): Thick and very warming thanks to the abundance of alcohol coming through, there was naturally quite a kick to what was a relatively sweet beer and it was a difficult one to get through as well, I took much longer than anticipated for such a small serving of the stuff.

Overall (9/20): Very strong stuff and nothing like a beer in the traditional sense of the word, this one was a boozy spirit with tonnes of alcohol showing throughout and a warming kick to it was well. There was a little variety to the nose, something that I wasn’t expecting but the taste was pretty much what I thought it would be like going in with plenty of alcohol and a burning feel to it that dominated throughout. It’s one that I’m glad I’ve managed to try but I can’t see me ever giving it a second go, even if I manage to see it again somewhere in the future; dangerous stuff indeed.

Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Brewery: Brewdog
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Eisbock / Imperial IPA
Abv: 35.0%
Serving: Bottle (60ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £4.50 (approx.)

Minoh W-IPA (366 of 1001)

November 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.5

My first and final new Minoh beer that I managed to try in Japan now, this one being the only one of their beers to feature on the 1001 beers list and the one that I was most hoping to try from them during the course of my trip. The beer is a 9% double IPA that follows on from their Minoh Stout that I reviewed here recently. Initially released sometime around 2006, the beer became a regular from the brewery in 2008 and has been one of their most popular ever since; thankfully it is a year round offering as well which meant I was able to grab a bottle when I was in Osaka recently. Checking this beer off also means that I now only have to try another ten Japanese beers to complete those listed in the 1001 beers book, although sadly one of those appears to no longer be available now.

Appearance (4/5): This one pours quite a dark amber to caramel colour with an opaque body and some sediment floating about initially before settling at the bottom of the glass. The head was a centimetre tall one that looked frothy and was a creamy white to light tan colour that had excellent retention over the opening few minutes, holding much better than expected from a 9% abv. double IPA; there didn’t seem to be any movement or reduction in size over the opening five minutes and there was some nice lacing left on the sides of the glass as a bonus too.
Aroma (9/10): Quite strong with a lot of hops showing in the early going, there was plenty going on and this is what I’d been expecting from a strong double IPA with a nice combination of resinous pine and floral hops kicking things off. There was some citrus and a good helping of tropical fruits in the early going as well, I got some mango, apricot and grapefruit with a little pineapple not too far behind either. Further on there was some sweeter notes starting to come through with caramel and biscuit malts but it was a balanced, lively nose that I really enjoyed.
Taste (9/10): The taste matches the nose well with some strong pine and floral hops getting things going alongside some solid citrus flavours, although the beer wasn’t quite as pungent or resinous as it had been with the nose. There was some tropical fruits towards the middle with the mango and apricot from the nose being the dominant pair but the pineapple and some peach weren’t too far behind. Like the nose, there was a good amount of sweetness further on with the caramel and biscuit coming through a touch earlier this time around and some bread flavours featuring as well. It’s definitely a lively and hop-filled beer with some spices towards the end and a few further floral flavours as well; very nice stuff.
Palate (5/5): Well carbonated and almost a full-bodied beer, this one was very fresh and lively with a lot of hops coming through from the start to contribute towards a very bitter, resinous beer that went down great. There was some of the alcohol content coming through at points but for the most part it was well hidden and nothing seemed to overpower thanks to the excellent balance of the beer, the sweet malts and caramel working very well alongside the pine and floral hops not to mention the tropical fruits too.

Overall (18/20): This one was an excellent and highly enjoyable double IPA that grabbed my attention almost immediately thanks to the strong hops and resinous pine notes that greeted me opening the bottle. There was a lot going on with this one thanks to a combination of tropical fruits balancing well with sweeter malts and citrus. The beer was fuller than expected and quite varied too with good carbonation and the alcohol content was hidden well too. Excellent stuff from the start and a beer that I’m every glad I managed to find, it was definitely the best beer I managed to try on my trip to Japan and probably the best from the country that I’ve ever tried; a must try if you can find it and one well worth its place on the 1001 Beers to try before you die list as well.

Brewed In: Osaka, Japan
Brewery: Minoh Beer
First Brewed: circa. 2006
Type: Double IPA
Abv: 9.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Yamaya Nagahoribashi (Osaka)
Price: ¥410 (£2.72 approx.)

Out of Envy

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.35

A first beer from a Ushitora brewery now and one that I managed to try on keg at the very start of October, on my last night in Osaka at the Craft Beer Works Kamikaze bar in the city. I had a look for this beer at the time and couldn’t find much about it, from what I understand it is quite a new beer that was only released at the end of September so I’m glad it’s one that I managed to try while it was still fresh and new.

Appearance (4/5): Bright amber and slightly cloudy with a thin white head that was more a surface lacing than anything else but did at least leave some further lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (6/10): Opening with a lightly hopped aroma and some good citrus notes, the beer had touches of grapefruit coming through as well but wasn’t anywhere near as strong as I’d have expected from a double IPA sadly. There was some pale malts and touches of spice around the middle of the nose and a couple of background fruits seen things out but it was very weak for the style.
Taste (7/10): Thankfully coming through stronger than the nose, the taste of this one starts with a nice combination of citrus and grapefruit before touches of spice and a floral bitterness appear towards the middle. There was some pale malts a little further on with some a subtle bitterness seeing things out; definitely an improvement on the nose but not quite a must-try for me.
Palate (3/5): Sitting around medium bodied, the beer was very light on the nose but at least came through stronger with the taste despite remaining quite a basic tasting beer throughout. There was a pleasant hop bitterness with a good floral feel to it while it was also well carbonated but I couldn’t get over it being so light and, at times, so weak.

Overall (13/20): Quite a disappointing beer for what was a pretty rare Japanese brewed double IPA for me, the main problem with this one being how light it was on the nose and that was something I struggled to get over as I was drinking this one. The beer opened with some light hops and a grapefruit nose that had some floral touches backing it up but it never really got going until the taste. It was far too weak for my liking and quite basic too, although it was well-carbonated and the alcohol content was relatively well hidden but it’ still not one that I’d recommend.

Brewed In: Shimotsuke-shi, Tochigi, Japan
Brewery: Ushitora Brewing
Type: Double IPA
Full Name: #209 Ushitora Out of Envy DIPA
First Brewed: 2017
Abv: 8.0%
Serving: Keg (Half Pint)
Purchased: Craft Beer Works Kamikaze, Osaka, Japan
Price:‎ ¥750 (£4.97 approx.)

Cloudwater DDH Ella Ekuanot Pale Ale

July 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.8

A seventh Cloudwater beer for me now and my first since having a can of their Motueka Pilsner back in May, a beer that was fairly average at the time. I was looking forward to trying this one last week when I ordered it in my local Brewdog beer, mainly because I’ve had some great Cloudwater beers in the past and this one was only my second keg offering from the brewery; the other being their excellent DIPA v11 that I tried towards the end of January this year. This particular offering is a spring/summer offering for 2017 from the brewery and is another of their double dry-hopped beers that I’ve been hearing so much about of late. From what I’ve been reading online, this one seems to be a keg only offering from Cloudwater so it’s one that I’m glad I managed to try while it was still available and here’s what I thought of it at the time.

Appearance (4/5): A semi-bright looking beer that was amber in colour and came with a cloudy body, topped with a somewhat disappointing head that was little more than a thin white lacing around the sides of the glass. There was a faint bit of lacing on the side wall of the glass too but beyond that there wasn’t a whole lot going on and the surface of the beer was quite patchy too sadly.
Aroma (7/10): Fresh with some pine coming through early on the nose, there was some touches of grapefruit and the odd tropical smell too, a combination of passion fruit, pineapple and orange all making an appearance at this point. A few solid floral hops followed towards the middle and the nose seemed balanced initially, I managed to get some citrus and a little sweetness coming through though before some mango and further floral touches seen things out.
Taste (7/10): The taste of this one matches the nose well and opens with some citrus and floral hops, there was a nice touch of pine showing around this point as well and the beer was definitely a fresh one. There was plenty of tropical flavours showing with mango, peach and pineapple all coming through along with some orange in there too. Following this I managed to detect a hint of further sweetness from some of the malts and there was the odd grassy flavour to see things out nicely.
Palate (4/5): Fresh and quite crisp, this one was a lively beer that came through with solid, fine carbonation and a nice tang in there from the citrus too. Throughout it was a relatively bitter beer with some dry touches nearer the end but for the most part it was a juicy, balanced beer that went down well.

Overall (16/20): Another enjoyable beer from Cloudwater, this one was a great sessionable offering that went down well and was both crisp and lively throughout. There was solid carbonation levels to the beer and the balance was good as well, a combination of tropical fruits working well with the sweeter malts and floral bitterness; excellent stuff and one that’s well worth trying if you get the chance.

Brewed In: Manchester, England
Brewery: Cloudwater Brew Co.
First Brewed: 2017
Type: American Pale Ale
Abv: 5.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
Price: £4.40

Brewdog New England IPA v2

July 14, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.75

A new release from Brewdog now and one that was only introduced by the brewery just over a week ago but it was one that I was eager to try so I made a point of visiting one of their bars and sampling it on-tap within a day of its initial release. The beer is a reworking of an early collaboration between Brewdog and Cloudwater brewing based in Manchester, their New England IPA which I consider to be the best beer that Brewdog has ever released so naturally I was looking forward to this one. The beer is an 8.5% abv. double IPA which comes in a fair bit stronger than the 6.8% of the original so I did have the fear going in that the quality would suffer like it did when the brewery increased the strength of their Born To Die beer earlier this year only to reduce it again with the next release in the series. I’ve only tried a few New England style IPA’s so far, mainly because it’s still a relatively new style of beer but it is definitely one that I’m a big fan of and I was hoping that would carry over to my first double IPA in the New England style with this offering; here’s what I thought of it when I tried it last week.

Appearance (4/5): Very hazy golden in colour with a yellow hue to it, the beer was quite bright and opaque looking but sadly there wasn’t an overly impressive head to it, all that was left by the time I placed it on the table was a thin, foamy white lacing that was turning slightly patchy but the colour was a nice one.
Aroma (7/10): Not an immediately strong beer on the nose given it was an 8.5% abv. offering but there was a good combination of citrus and pineapple to kick things off before more touches of tropical fruit appeared nearer the middle. Some subtle hops showed around this point too with a few juicy notes and touches of orange and lemon nearer the end. Overall it was a very fresh offering but one that I’d have preferred came through stronger than it did.
Taste (7/10): Starting in a similar fashion to the nose, the taste kicks off with a combination of citrus flavours that is mainly orange and lemon but with some pineapple not too far behind either. The beer was again very fresh with a subtle bitterness off the back of the hops throughout,  there was some juicy flavours and a few tropical ones sitting in the background too which all seemed slightly stronger than with the nose and as such were a welcome change.
Palate (4/5): Smooth and sitting with a medium body and a nice balance too, the beer definitely wasn’t as strong as anticipated for an 8.5% beer and for the most part the alcohol content was masked behind the subtle hops and the tropical, juicy flavours. There was quite a lively feel this one at times, likely from the citrus in the taste and there was moderate carbonation throughout but it was a little lighter than I’d have liked which stopped it from being as good as the original version in my opinion.

Overall (15/20): Very nice stuff again from Brewdog here and ordinarily this would be a beer that I would have loved but given it’s a reworking of the best beer I’ve ever tried from the brewery the bar is naturally set a little higher for this one. The beer open with a pleasant citrus taste that was backed up by some pineapple and the odd tropical flavour, the balance was good too and surprisingly little of the alcohol content was showing so the beer was easy-going and highly drinkable. The main disappointment for me was the fact that the beer was a lot lighter than expected, the nose in particular coming through weaker than expected and overall the original version of this beer was much better in my opinion.

Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Brewery: Brewdog/Cloudwater (collaboration)
First Brewed: 2017
Full Name: Brewdog vs. Cloudwater New England IPA v2
Type: Double IPA / New England IPA
Abv: 8.5%
Serving: Keg (Half Pint)
Purchased: Brewdog DogHouse (Glasgow)
Price: £4.28