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Posts Tagged ‘dark beer’

Horny Bull Stout

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.55

The second of the two Hillstown Brewery beers that I picked up in Ireland recently, this one following on from the bottle of Squealing Pig IPA from the brewery that I reviewed here last. This one is a beer that was originally a 12% abv. beer before being reduced to its current 7% abv. in subsequent batches but it’s still labelled as an imperial stout and that’s part of the reason I picked this one up. Like the bottle of Squealing Pig before it, this isn’t a beer that I’d seen on any of my previous trips to Ireland despite it being about since late 2014 but it does seem to attract fairly good reviews online and it was definitely one that I was excited about trying when I cracked the bottle open on Christmas Eve, here’s what I thought of it when I did.

Appearance (5/5): Quite a thick looking, black coloured beer that formed a large, foamy head that was domed shaped and almost overflowed the glass as I poured. It was a thick looking, light beige head that held well with little initial reduction in size for the first couple minutes before eventually settling as a centimetre and a half tall head that looked great.
Aroma (6/10): Not a huge amount came through initially with the nose, something that was a little surprising given the strength of the beer itself but there was some roasted malts and a subtle touch of alcohol in the early going. Towards the middle there was some lighter chocolate notes and a bit of caramel with some liquorice following on behind but it’s definitely a beer that could have been a lot stronger on the nose.
Taste (7/10): Thankfully the taste opened with more strength and flavour than the nose hinted at, there was some cocoa and chocolate to kick things off with a nice caramel sweetness bring things towards the middle. The beer seemed stronger with a touch of alcohol coming through alongside a few roasted malts and what was quite a creamy finish.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied with a slightly sweet feel that had some alcohol showing at times but was fairly well balanced for the most part. The body was softly carbonated and easy going despite the strength and the warming alcohol towards the end but it was nothing special sadly and I was definitely expecting a little more from it.

Overall (13/20): Quite a strange one from Hillstown here, the beer definitely opened lighter than expected for a beer that was 7% abv. and labelled as an imperial stout with the nose bordering on weak at points. Thankfully the taste was a little better with some nice cocoa and chocolate flavours alongside a caramel sweetness and subtle touches of alcohol to add a little strength and a slightly warming finish. The beer sadly wasn’t as exciting or varied as I’d anticipated and perhaps it lost something when it changed from a 12% abv. offering to it’s current 7% but it’s probably not a beer that I’d pick up again.

Brewed In: Randalstown, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Brewery: Hillstown Brewery
First Brewed: 2014
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 7.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Tesco (Enniskillen)
Price: £2.59

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Brewdog/Beavertown Coffee and Cigarettes

January 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.65

Released at the start of summer last year, this beer is a collaborative offering from Brewdog and London based Beavertown that I picked up soon after it was released but was purposely keeping to try over the holiday season, finally getting round to it on my last day off before starting back work again. A huge imperial stout that comes in at 12.% abv. and is aged in three different types of whiskey casks before being blended together again; Islay, Bourbon and Rye whiskey casks were all used during the brewery process with this one. The beer itself was one that I wasn’t too sure about picking up but it was one of the few I hadn’t tried from Brewdog when I was visiting their bottle shop so I decided to grab myself one for winter, here’s what I thought of it when I finally got round to cracking a bottle open.

Appearance (4/5): Opaque black in colour, this one looks like oil in the glass and is topped with a half centimetre foamy head that is a light brown colour and settles as a fine surface lacing after thirty seconds or so but is still pretty good considering the strength of this one.
Aroma (7/10): Quite a strong nose kicks things off here, there was plenty of coffee initially with a touch of chocolate backing it up and adding some sweetness to the equation along with subtle liquorice notes too. Around the middle the ‘cigarette’ side of things started to make itself known with some strong smoked notes and touches of wood coming through, a hint of oak showed itself here too. It was definitely a dark beer on the nose with some peat and warming alcohol aromas at the end, as well as some subtle vanilla sweetness.
Taste (6/10): Mirroring the nose, the beer opens with strong chocolate and cocoa flavours alongside a solid coffee taste that was slightly bitter. There was some alcohol showing soon after with the beer having quite a strong kick to it which made it seem boozy and warming then from about the middle on there was some wood and smoked notes coming through with some of the vanilla (or possibly coconut) sweetness from the nose carrying through as well. At the end there was a definite whisky taste with peat malts and some darker fruits coming through as well, most notably I got some raisins and plum but it was definitely the alcohol that dominated nearer the end.
Palate (4/5): A very strong, full bodied beer that was loaded with alcohol from the start and definitely lived up to its 12.1% abv. content although at least some of the alcohol was masked by the chocolate and vanilla sweetness along with the coffee bitterness and wood flavours but I felt these could have been stronger. The beer was a softly carbonated offering that was quite warming at the end and came with quite a strong kick to it but I was hoping for a slightly better balance to make it an easier to drink offering in truth.

Overall (15/20): Very strong stuff from Brewdog and Beavertown here, this one is a huge beer that initially opened with a lot of chocolate and coffee but was quickly followed by a tonne of alcohol alongside some wood and oak flavours; there was also quite a strong whiskey taste with peat malts and further alcohol showing towards the end. It was a difficult beer to drink, particularly with the wood and smoked flavours nearer the end and the fact that the beer didn’t have the best balance, something that I felt held this one back and prevented me from enjoying it as much as I have other imperial stout I’ve tried recently. It was quite a complex offering though with some rich touches and darker fruits towards the end but I felt the alcohol dominated too much and I doubt it’s one that I’d have again.

Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Brewery: Brewdog/Beavertown (collaboration)
First Brewed: 2017
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 12.1%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Brewdog BottleDog (Glasgow)
Price: £9.64

Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal

January 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.75

My sixth beer from Buxton now, this one a collaborative offering from them and the Baltimore based Stillwater Artisinal that I picked up from the Brewdog online shop back in April when it was heavily discounted. The beer is a one-off from the brewer that was released in late 2016 and is one that I’ve been saving for the Christmas period since it’s a relatively strong 10% abv. offering. The beer follows on from their Axe Edge as the first beer from Buxton that I’ll have reviewed here since June of this year, that one being a beer that I actually picked up alongside this one earlier in the year; the only other Stillwater offering I’ve tried was their collaboration with William Brothers for their Stravaigin Croft Saison that I tried way back in June 2013 which was an enjoyable offering so it should be interesting to see how they do with an imperial stout.

Appearance (4/5): Very thick and dark looking as it poured, the beer is pitch black and opaque with a centimetre tall head that’s medium brown in colour and foamy before it starts to break up slightly at one side after about twenty seconds or so but it’s a good start considering the strength of the beer.
Aroma (7/10): Opening with some roasted malts and a coffee aroma, the beer has touches of chocolate through it in the early going and is very dark with some alcohol notes coming through as well. It’s a semi-sweet offering that has some caramel malts and a little sugar sitting in the background with touches of smoke towards the end as well; a pleasant beer but slightly more alcohol showed than I’d have liked.
Taste (7/10): The taste was kicked off with some chocolate and roasted malts alongside a strong alcohol kick that carried on from the nose, there was some liquorice and sugars in there as well though. Towards the middle I got some of the smoke and wood flavours that were hinted at with the nose and there was a coffee bitterness further on that rounded things off nicely.
Palate (4/5): Quite a boozy, full-bodied beer that was thick and came through with a lot of alcohol showing, something that I’d have liked to have been better hidden but the beer was still a drinkable offering. It was quite a warming drink towards the end with a subtle bitterness from the roasted malts and coffee flavours as well as a caramel sweetness backed up by some sugars. It was moderately carbonated and the balance was okay, although as I’ve said there was perhaps a little too much alcohol at times.

Overall (15/20): Strong and boozy with a lot of alcohol showing but this one was also quite a complex offering that opened with some dark malts and chocolate alongside a caramel sweetness which gave it quite a rich, warming feel. I’d have liked a better balance with less alcohol showing but the beer was still a drinkable one with a few roasted malts that turned smoky with some wood flavours towards the end; definitely one worth trying, especially for the price I paid for it but there are better imperial stouts out there too.

Brewed In: Buxton, Derbyshire, England
Brewery: Buxton Brewery/Stillwater Artisinal (collaboration)
First Brewed: 2016
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £3.57

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.6

A bargain beer that I picked up from Home Bargains recently, presumably because the bottle was only a few weeks away from its best before date but it was still fresh enough when I cracked the bottle open. This one is a New Zealand beer that is brewed under contact at Brewdog here in Scotland but for the purposes of tracking them here, I’ll list it as a Yeastie Boys offering from New Zealand. It will be my first review here of a Yeastie Boys beer but I believe I’ve actually tried this one in the past without adding it here, the beer is also my eighth beer from New Zealand in total and my first since the fairly disappointing Monteith’s Southern Pale Ale back in June, coincidentally that one was another Home Bargains beer that I’d picked up. Originally released in 2008 as a seasonal offering from the Yeastie Boys and coming in at 5.2% abv., this one is not a stronger beer that sits at 6% abv. and is a year round offering as well.

Appearance (4/5): Quite a dark and thick bodied offering that was also opaque, this one is a black coloured beer that is still and topped with a centimetre tall head that manages to stick around pretty well over the opening minutes and has some nice build up of lacing around the edges too; the surface of the beer is well covered and it’s a good start so far.
Aroma (7/10): Slightly bitter with some nice hops opening things up alongside more of an earthy and nutty aroma, it’s still quite fresh though with pine and faint citrus. A little further ahead the nose seems darker with some cocoa and chocolate featuring alongside some sugars and a subtle tropical burst right at the end.
Taste (7/10): Starting quite fresh and lively with some subtle hops and pine coming through but it is definitely a darker beer come the middle with the chocolate and cocoa dominating and some earthy touches not too far behind. It’s not quite as bitter as expected from the nose but a few roasted flavours and hints of coffee some through with sugars and subtle sweetness towards the end; the beer seemed closer to a porter than black IPA at this point as well.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and definitely fresher and more strongly carbonated than anticipated, the beer opened with some subtle hops providing a light bitterness alongside some roasted malts and a sweetness from the sugar. It wasn’t quite as hop-filled as expected but it was a balanced offering that was easy to drink at least.

Overall (14/20): This one was a beer that definitely started well, pouring with quite a nice body and head before the nose came through with some subtle hops, pine and even some light tropical notes towards the end; there was a few darker malts and earthy touches at this point to though. Come the taste the beer decided to go in a different direction with cocoa and chocolate flavours dominating alongside some coffee and a few hints of sweetness nearer the end. It was a pleasant offering and one that I’m glad I picked up again, allowing me to give it a proper review this time but I’m not sure it would become one of my regular beers.

Brewed In: Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
Brewery: Yeastie Boys
First Brewed: 2008
Type: Black IPA
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Home Bargains
Price: £0.89

St. Andrews Mocha Porter

December 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.15

A random English porter that I picked up in Lidl the other day after stumbling across it for the first time in one of their stores, this one will actually be my second from the brewery and is a beer that follows on from the bottle of their Oatmeal Pale that I sampled back in the summer of 2014 but wasn’t overly impressed with. I picked this one up on a whim, mainly as it was one of the few in the store that I hadn’t already tried and because I’m partial to a decent mocha porter so I was hopeful that this one would be a slight improvement on the last from the St. Andrews Brewing Co. that I tried; here’s what I thought of it in the end.

Appearance (3/5): Quite a dark looking, opaque bodied beer that was black and topped with a thin, foamy head that was beige and started about a centimetre tall before fading to a patchy lacing that was more just a patch in the centre and round the circumference with little else showing.
Aroma (7/10): Opening with some earthy notes and a little coffee, the beer is dark and roasted initially but not overly pronounced. It’s a beer that slowly opens up with some grains and subtle chocolate coming through alongside hints of sugar and milky notes then some light bitterness seeing things out.
Taste (6/10): Similar to the nose in that the taste is kicked off with some coffee and an earthy bitterness that had a few grains showing as well. There was no sign of any sweetness this time around with the roasted malts coming through much stronger than before, masking the chocolate that I’d been expecting following on from the nose, and there was a lot of earthy flavours seeing things out.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied and quite bitter, it’s softly carbonated and a little sharp at points with the bitterness dominating as well; I’d like to have seen a better balance with more of the sweetness carrying over from the nose. Definitely not the easiest beer to drink, it was quite a basic offering but pretty much what you would expect from the style I guess.

Overall (13/20): Quite a standard porter, this one was definitely a bitter offering that opened with some milky notes and sweetness on the nose but turned to a much more earthy, roasted tasting beer when it came to actually drinking the beer. There was some grains and it seemed relatively sharp despite the soft carbonation but I was looking for something a little more if I’m honest.

Brewed In: St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Brewery: St. Andrews Brewing Co.
First Brewed: 2013
Type: English Porter
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Lidl
Price: £1.49

Harvestmoon Schwarz (369 of 1001)

December 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.6

One of my last few Japanese beers for a while now, this one being another offering that features in the 1001 beers list and is a bottle that I managed to pick up on my last day in Japan when I spotted it after two plus weeks of looking, finding it in a Liquors Hasegawa store in Tokyo Station before heading back to the airport for my flight home. The bottle I picked up appears to be a 2014 release from the brewery, one from a year that also seen the beer win a silver medal at the Monde Selection awards and this one also marks the fifteenth Japanese beer from the 1001 list that I’ll have reviewed here with the majority being beers that I tried in Japan and leaves another seven to go, although I do have a bottle of one of those still waiting to be tried soon.

Appearance (4/5): Pitch black and opaque looking, this one was very dark with a thin head that sat about half a centimetre tall and was a light beige colour, fading to a thin lacing after a minute or so with some break up around the edges too.
Aroma (6/10): Quite an unexpected nose from this one, there was a lot of roasted malts and dark notes in the early going with far more smoke than anticipated too. Further on there was a coffee bitterness that had a subtle sweetness sitting behind it and some dark, rich smells before a hint of caramel featured towards the end and some grains rounded things off.
Taste (7/10): Caramel malts and a nice sweetness kick things off with the taste, there was a lot of roasted malts and grains not too far behind though with most of them carrying over from the nose. It was again quite a rich beer with some chocolate and earthy flavours around the middle then some of the smoke from the nose making itself known. Towards the end some wood flavours and a little cocoa featured with further sweetness from some vanilla pods seeing things out alongside hints of coffee bitterness.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied, bordering on full at times with a thick feel and plenty of smoke featuring through. This one was a dark and rich offering that was dry towards the end and had plenty of bitterness, mainly from the coffee and roasted malts but it was balanced with some sweetness in there as well thankfully and wasn’t too hard to drink.

Overall (14/20): This one turned out to be quite an interesting offering with nice variety to the beer and a good balance too that helped make it relatively easy to drink. It seemed like it was a stronger offering than the 4.5% abv. on the bottle but this was mainly down to the complexity of the beer rather than any strong alcohol flavours but it was quite a dark and smoky beer too. Further on and some nice sweetness helped to balance things out with the beer, some chocolate flavours featuring to help out but it was the vanilla pods that contributed most in this respect and kept things interesting through; a solid effort and one worth looking out for if you’re in Japan but probably not a beer that I’d go searching for again.

Brewed In: Maihama, Chiba, Japan
Brewery: Roti’s House Harvestmoon Brewery
First Brewed: 2000
Type: Schwarzbier
Abv: 4.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Liquors Hasegawa (Tokyo Station, Tokyo)
Price: ¥518 (£3.43 approx.)

Big Black Berry Chew Chew

December 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.6

A second Fallen beer in quick succession and one that follows on from their Grapevine pale ale that I reviewed here recently, this one however is a slightly stronger beer that comes in and 10% abv. and is labelled as a “salted caramel, blackberry and blackcurrant milk stout” which certainly isn’t a style of beer that you see very often. I spotted this one in a local bottle shop alongside the brewery’s raspberry version of the beer and was tempted to pick that one up as well but opted to see how this one goes before grabbing that one as well, so hopefully this one turns out to be as good as the last beer from the brewery that I tried.

Appearance (4/5): Dark ruby with an almost purple hue in places and topped with a quarter-inch foamy head that took a fairly aggressive pour to form and is a light brown colour with purple hues through that as well. It is patchy towards the centre but I don’t have too many complaints given the strength of the beer.
Aroma (8/10): Surprisingly fruity to begin with, there is obviously a lot of the blackcurrant and blackberries coming through in the early going with a subtle hint of cherry too. The beer seems fresher than I’m used to for an imperial stout with some good sweetness and tart notes in the early going as well. There are followed up by the salted caramel advertised on the can as well as some lighter fruits that give the beer a juicy aroma to it. There’s some milky notes further on with some darker malts and roasted notes seeing things out but it’s a lighter smell than expected from such a strong beer with the fruits dominating for the most part and it is certainly something different too.
Taste (7/10): Slightly darker than the nose with lactose and milk flavours coming more to the front alongside the berries from the nose and the blackcurrant too. It’s again sweet and fresh, very juicy too with and little caramel towards the middle that only added to the sweetness before some of the tart from the nose started to come through and eventually eclipsed what was showing on the nose. Again it was an unusual beer for an imperial stout and definitely something different to what I’m used to, it was enjoyable as well which was nice but I’m not totally convinced by it in truth.
Palate (3/5): Medium bodied and definitely a little lighter than you would expect from a 10% abv. beer but at least it wasn’t a thin offering. The beer was fruity with some nice sweetness and tart showing in both the nose and the taste plus there was good variety to the beer whilst the balance wasn’t too bad either; it was perhaps a little too sweet at times but it remained drinkable throughout anyway. Despite coming through at 10% abv. and being labelled as an imperial stout, the beer was surprisingly light on alcohol flavours and grain, the rest of the fruits seemingly masking the alcohol content completely.

Overall (14/20): Quite an unusual beer here, this one is labelled as an imperial stout but at times seemed closer to a sour or fruit beer with plenty of blackcurrant and berries coming through in the early going, accompanied by some caramel and milk flavours but both of these definitely seemed to take a back seat to the fruits. The alcohol content of the beer in particular was well hidden and it was surprisingly easy to drink, although the sweetness did seem a little overdone at times sadly. It was a varied beer with a lot going on and it was unlike anything I’d tried before but I’m not convinced that it would be a beer that I’d rush back to again I’m afraid since there is already a lot of better imperial stouts out there waiting to be tried.

Brewed In: Kippen, Stirling, Scotland
Brewery: Fallen Brewing
First Brewed: 2017
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Can (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
Price: £4.80