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Lemke Imperial Stout

May 12, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 4.25

Very likely the penultimate Lemke beer that I’ll be reviewing on this site for quite some time now, this one is the fourth of five beers from the brewery that I managed to sample when visiting Berlin last month and stopping by two of the brewery’s brewpubs in the Mitte area of the city. This one is by far the strongest of the five beers that I managed to try and it follows on from the review of their Hopfen Weisse, Original and 030 Berlin Pale Ale beers that I added here previously. This offering an imperial stout from the brewery that comes in at 11% abv. and is one I managed to grab a bottle of when leaving the bar on my first visit with a view of sampling it at my hotel at some point over the weekend, I also wanted to grab a bottle of their double IPA by never quite got the chance; maybe next time though.

Appearance (5/5): Really dark brown looking, bordering on black with an opaque body that is topped with quite a thin, half centimetre tall head that covers the surface well. The texture is a foamy one that also looks thick with no break up in the opening few minutes which is quite impressive given the strength of the beer; it looks quite still in the glass too.
Aroma (8/10): Quiet a strong and dark beer as expected, there was a good combination of caramel and darker malts to open things up with some touches of alcohol not too far behind but thankfully nothing too strong. Towards the middle some dark fruit notes started to emerge, I could detect some cherries and prunes with some plum and raisin in there too, all of which added some nice sweetness to the beer. It was a relatively complex offering from the brewery with oak and some hints of vanilla down the stretch; a good start.
Taste (8/10): Again opening quite sweet like the nose, there was a lot of dark fruits in the early going here with the prunes, plums and raisins from the nose all featuring and coming out strongest initially. These flavours were followed by some cherries before a chocolate aroma featured near the middle with some coffee and roasted malts backing it up. It was again a complex offering with some light alcohol and caramel flavours coming through at the end to see things out.
Palate (4/5): Medium to full-bodied but quite a strong and smooth offering, this one opened with a lot of warming alcohol but thankfully feel short of overpowering the beer. It seemed relatively complex with more sweetness showing than expected thanks to the combination of dark fruits showing throughout. The beer also had a pretty good balance and proved quite easy to drink with moderate carbonation coming through as well; it’s a difficult beer to fault really.

Overall (17/20): This one was another pretty nice beer from Lemke, it opened as quite a complex offering with a solid combination of darker fruits and malts coming through that were backed up with a subtle alcohol taste but thankfully not a lot. There was some caramel sweetness and touches of vanilla in there too, some oak not far behind which all worked well together and gave the beer a nice balance. It was a pleasant one to sip away at with the smooth body and variety of flavours helping this considerably; great stuff.

Brewed In: Berlin, Germany
Brewery: Brauerei Lemke
First Brewed: circa. 2013
Type: Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Brauhaus Lemke am Alex (Berlin)
Price: €5.00 (£4.20 approx.)

O’Hara’s 20th Anniversary Imperial Stout

February 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.7

My eleventh beer from the Carlow Brewing Company now and what I believe will be my ninth under their O’Hara’s banner. The beer is a limited release that has been available since around March of 2016 as a 20th Anniversary Imperial Stout to celebrate twenty years since the original brewery was founded back in 1996. I stumbled across this beer while I was visiting Armagh in the north of Ireland last month and quickly picked up two bottles, trying one the next evening while keeping a second to age and see how it tastes at a later date. Labelled as a complex brew with rich coffee and chocolate notes, the brewery mentions that the taste should continue to develop for years and I’m hopeful it will prove to be a good decision in picking up two bottles. This one will be my first imperial stout from the brewery but I have tried two other stouts from them previously, their O’Hara’s Leann Folláin dry stout which I reviewed here back in July 2015 as well as trying their excellent, flagship O’Hara’s Irish Stout numerous times over the years so this was definitely one I was looking forward to going in; here’s what I thought of it.

oharas-20th-anniversary-imperial-stout

Appearance (5/5): Quite a thick, dark beer that is black in colour and comes with an opaque body. There was a one and a half centimetre head on top that was foamy looking with the odd bubble near the centre. Head retention was quite good, particularly for the strength of the beer and there wasn’t much movement or reduction in size over the opening minutes really. Eventually losing about a third of its initial size, the head manages to leave some nice touches of lacing on the sides of the glass as I started to drink the beer.
Aroma (7/10): Slightly fruity on the nose initially, there was a sweet-smelling beer that opened with some cherries and a hint of plum coming through alongside an excellent helping of chocolate and plenty of darker malts. There was some coffee notes nearer the middle of the beer and I got some touches of spice too but further sweetness was added thanks to some vanilla and oak notes. Despite being a beer with quite a high abv., this one didn’t have an overly strong nose but there was some burnt sugars and roasted notes that brought things to quite a nice close.
Taste (7/10): Opening with quite a lot of milky notes and some lactose, there was a definite milk chocolate taste to this one in the early going with some touches of liquorice in there too. I found this one to be quite a creamy tasting beer that featured some pleasant coffee flavours towards the middle, although they seemed a little subdued when compared to those from the nose. There was again a hint of spice and some darker fruits coming through towards the end, hints of plum and cherries featuring alongside some raisin and figs before the vanilla from the nose seen things out. It’s quite a nice tasting beer but I’d have liked it to come through just a little bit stronger really.
Palate (3/5): Quite a creamy beer that came through quite balanced and smooth with a medium body that could perhaps have been a little fuller. There was touches of spice nearer the end of the beer and it also turned out to be slightly boozy at that point too, something not unexpected for a 10% abv. beer. There wasn’t quite as much complexity to this one as I’d have liked in truth but the balance was nice enough and carbonation wise the beer sat somewhere around moderate; the sweetness being the most memorable things about this one in truth and something that got stronger as things went on.

Overall (14/20): Quite a nice beer overall without being a standout, although to be honest I was probably expecting more from this considering it’s a 20th anniversary beer from the brewery. It opened with some nice sweetness thanks to the sugars as well as some dark fruits then later on some vanilla but it definitely wasn’t the strongest tasting beer, something I wasn’t expecting to say about one coming in at 10% really. It had quite a smooth, creamy feel with milky chocolate dominating the taste but it could have been darker and more complex. It’s one that I’m still glad to have picked up and tried but I’m hoping the bottle I’m ageing turns out to be better than this one.

Brewed In: Muine Bheag, County Carlow, Ireland
Brewery: Carlow Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2016
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (375ml)
Purchased: The Wine Store (Armagh)
Price: £3.99

Hel & Verdoemenis Bourbon B.A.

February 3, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.45

My eleventh beer from the De Molen brewery, this one hot on the heels of their Hemel & Aarde offering from the 1001 beers list that I reviewed recently and another that I bought at the end of 2013. This particular beer is a bourbon barrel aged edition of the brewery’s Hel & Verdoemenis imperial stout and was initially released in 2013, although the original Hel & Verdoemenis dated back to 2008. The bottle that I’ll be reviewing here was bottled in November 2013 and has been aged since then since they brewery mentions on the bottle that the beer should safely keep for twenty-five years. Aged in bourbon barrels, this is one of a number of variants of Hel & Verdoemenis available and it’s one that I cracked open just after New Year when visiting Ireland; it’s also the last De Molen beer I had of those I’d been ageing but hopefully I’ll pick up another few in the near future.

hel-verdoemenis-bourbon-b-a

Appearance (4/5): Obviously quite a dark beer one but not overly thick as it was poured, it’s a very dark mahogany that is almost black. There wasn’t much of a head to the beer, even after an aggressive pour with only a tiny bit of foam lacing around the circumference and nothing in the middle of the beer; I guess that’s to be expected for an 11%, 3-year-old beer though.
Aroma (7/10): This one kicked off with quite a strong nose initially, lots of oak and smoky notes come through in the early going alongside a dominant bourbon aroma. There’s a definite alcohol presence from the start with touches roasted malt and to a lesser extent some chocolate with most of the sweetness coming from the darker malts & sugars but some vanilla sneaks in as well around the middle. Towards the end there is some toasted bitterness and a few darker fruits but the bourbon definitely comes thru strongest.
Taste (7/10): Plenty of bourbon opens things up but it’s a touch lighter than with the nose, probably thanks to the darker malts and chocolate being slightly more pronounced here. There was a lot of roasted malts around the middle that impart an earthy bitterness on the taste. Following this, I got some peat and the odd vanilla flavours that added to the strength of this one. Towards the end some alcohol grains appear but it was at least a touch lighter than the nose with dark fruits, mainly cherries and a touch of spice seeing things out.
Palate (3/5): A very strong, full-bodied beer with moderate carbonation and a lot of alcohol showing thanks to the bourbon barrel ageing process. There is a light sweetness running through the beer that helps with the balance some with some sugar, darker fruits and vanilla but it was still difficult to drink at times. Nearer the end things start to subdue a little and become more mellow once the beer opened up more but I’d definitely have enjoyed it more had it been lighter.

Overall (13/20): Definitely a strong one from De Molen, overly so in my opinion and quite a hard one to get through as a result of the overpowering alcohol taste from the bourbon. There was a lot of peat and dark malts featuring through with the odd grain thrown in for good measure but the balance definitely wasn’t as good as I’d have liked. Some dark fruits featured at times but I found them more subdued than expected and there was no sign of any hops, although the fact that the beer was three years old wouldn’t have helped that any. The aftertaste was a lingering one with some coffee and an earthy bitterness rounding things off and while it was an okay beer, it’s not one that I’ll find myself going back to again; perhaps I’d have enjoyed it more if I was into whisky but sadly this wasn’t a beer for me.

Brewed In: Bodegraven, South Holland, Netherlands
Brewery: Brouwerij de Molen
English Name: De Molen Hell & Damnation Bourbon Barrel Aged
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 11.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. (Glasgow)
Price: £7.50

Cocoa Psycho (2)

February 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.4

A milestone 300th review of a Scottish beer now and what will also be a rare  re-review of a beer that I’ve already tried now, this one is a beer that I originally tried back in September 2013 and wasn’t really taken by but decided to give it another chance as my palate has changed some since then and I’ve come to appreciate imperial stouts more. The beer in question is Brewdog’s Cocoa Psycho and is one of the most highly rated Scottish beers so it’s only fair that I give it another go. I actually picked this bottle up back in May 2015 and aged it for about a year and a half to see if that had much impact on the flavours as well. Here’s what I thought of the beer at the second time of asking.

cocoa-psycho

Appearance (4/5): Quite thick looking and pouring jet black, the beer is opaque and almost oil like in appearance. There’s quite a dark, tan brown head to the beer about half a centimetre tall that fades to leave a small amount of lacing around the edges of the glass; pretty much as expected for such a strong beer.
Aroma (8/10): A touch more subdued than I remember, this one opened with some nice chocolate malts and a few hints of sweetness alongside plenty of toasted malts. Closer to the middle I got some caramel that added to the sweetness before some coffee and darker fruits started to come through; mainly some plum and dates along with some cherries too. There was a hint of vanilla following on from this with some subtle hops in there as well to give the nose a nice balance.
Taste (9/10): Opening a bit stronger than the nose, there was a roasted malt taste that came through with slightly more sweetness than the nose and was followed by some vanilla, oak and background caramel flavours. Towards the middle the chocolate from the nose appeared and was again quite strong, the darker fruits coming through next with the plums and dates from the nose featuring alongside some raisins and cherries. The beer was a great tasting one with some cocoa and a hint of coffee bitterness towards the end and some dark malts seeing things out.
Palate (5/5): Quite thick and full-bodied, this one had soft carbonation and was quite crisp with a semi-dry feel. There was plenty of sweetness throughout and the balance was a good one too, the sugars and darker fruits working well with the more bitter, roasted flavours. The beer was also quite an easy one to drink despite being a 10% offering, some faint boozy touches and a slightly warming feel did feature at the end but it was smooth and very drinkable.

Overall (18/20): This one, although similar, was a much better version of the beer I tried a couple of years ago but the is down to the fact that I’m more into this style of beer than I was back in 2013. The balance of the beer seemed a lot better this time around and it was a very smooth, drinkable offering that combined the darker fruits and sweetness with the roasted malts very well, hiding a lot of the alcohol content in the process. I really enjoyed this one at the second time of asking and will definitely pick it up again; excellent stuff and one I’m glad I gave a second chance.

Brewed In: Ellon, Scotland
Brewery: BrewDog
First Brewed: 2012
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £3.50

Hemel & Aarde (340 of 1001)

February 2, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.5

My tenth De Molen beer now and the first since their Op & Top bitter back in April, this one is a smoked imperial stout from the brewery that I picked up sometime back in 2013 and have been saving since then given the bottle mentions that the beer can be aged for up to 25 years. I grabbed this one from the original Good Spirits bottle shop in Glasgow a couple of years ago alongside a couple other strong De Molen beers and this one was among the picks of the bunch since it also features on the 1001 beers list. Hemel & Aarde, which translates to Heaven & Earth in English, will be my eighth Dutch beer from the list and mean that I will only have another five to go after this one although one of those five, Borefts Stout which is another De Molen beer, appears to have since been discontinued and it looks unlikely that I’ll be able to get my hands on a bottle. A strong, smoky offering that is brewed using the most heavily peated malt in the world from the Bruichladdich distillery on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, the bottle I tried was a 2013 vintage (bottled on the 14th May) from the brewery that came in at 10% abv. and was cracked open at the start of January this year; here’s how it help up after three and a half years.

hemel-aarde

Appearance (4/5): Jet black with an opaque body that formed a thin, bubbly, tan brown lacing around the edges of the glass after a while but it took quite an aggressive pour; I guess that’s to be expected with a three-year old, 10% abv. beer but it wasn’t too bad-looking.
Aroma (7/10): Strong and quite smoky, the beer had a lot of dark chocolate and plenty of roasted notes in the early going that fell just short of overpowering. There was a strong oak presence to proceedings with some vanilla adding a little sweetness too before some sugars appeared. Around the middle there was a lot of malted peat and earthy notes coming through alongside tonnes of smoke that was just a little strong for my liking.
Taste (7/10): A very strong and very smokey beer with the malted peat flavours coming through a lot earlier and aggressively with the taste before a little chocolate and subtle sugars followed on behind. The vanilla from the nose featured here as well and I got more of the earthy malts towards the middle but the pear certainly dominated before some oak and toasted bitterness seen things out.
Palate (3/5): An incredibly strong, almost overpowering offering that was quite peaty and bitter with tonnes of earthy malts in there too. There was a little sweetness off both the vanilla and sugars but it remained a dark, heavy beer with fairly soft carbonation after aging for so long and a definite alcohol presence towards the end too that made the beer quite a boozy one.

Overall (14/20): Strong stuff from De Molen here, this one was a very aggressive and almost overpowering imperial stout that was very malty, coming through with plenty of earthy flavours and a lot of peat. The dark malts show the show here with a little vanilla and sugar backing them up but everything end up being just a bit too strong for my liking and the balance wasn’t the best either. It remained very much a drinkable beer that got better the longer it had to open up and develop but sadly I can’t see it being one that I’d go for again; perhaps if I enjoyed my whiskies a little more than I’d have appreciated this one better.

Brewed In: Bodegraven, South Holland, Netherlands
Brewery: Brouwerij de Molen
First Brewed: 2008
English Name: De Molen Heaven & Earth
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 10.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. (Glasgow)
Price: £6.00

Speedway Stout (338 of 1001)

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.55

Another very special beer now, a bottle of AleSmith’s classic Speedway Stout and a beer that I’ve been on the lookout for since spotting it on Brewdog’s online shop a couple of years ago only to discover it was completely sold out. This has happened a few times now so when I spotted it was available in mid-October of last year I decided to quickly order some before they were gone. The beer will be my fourth in total from AleSmith, the second of which that also features on the 1001 beers list and amazingly it will also be my second Speedway Stout offering; I managed to find myself in a Brewdog bar in Glasgow in February and the Vietnamese Coffee version of Speedway Stout was on-tap that day so naturally I ordered myself a glass and it only made me want to try the original version all the more. This one will be my first bottled AleSmith beer since trying and thoroughly enjoying their excellent Horny Devil around Christmas 2014 (although I took a while uploading the review here as I recall). I’ve also been lucky enough to try a bottle of their AleSmith IPA in the past (also featured on the 1001 beers list) and that was another that I loved so I’m sure Speedway Stout will continue the trend and be another excellent AleSmith beer; here’s hoping anyway. The beer is probably the one of those I have cellaring that I’ve been most looking forward to trying and I was actually in two minds about opening it up, with part of me considering keeping it for another year or two before trying but temptation got the better of me. In addition to aging well, the beer is another highly rated one online with it currently ranked as the 8th best imperial stout and the 11th best beer overall on RateBeer whilst BeerAdvocate has it as the 97th best American double stout as well as naming it as their 225th best beer overall.

alesmith-speedway-stout

Appearance (5/5): Jet black with an opaque body and quite a creamy looking head that was part foamy, sitting a medium brown colour. Retention was a lot better than might have been expected for a 12% abv. beer with it starting about a centimetre tall before halving in size over the opening minute then eventually turning slightly patchy without breaking up completely; a very impressive looking beer overall.
Aroma (9/10): Quite a strong beer on the nose as expected, this one opened with some solid coffee notes and plenty of darker malts coming through alongside some roasted one and a few hints of roasted bitterness too. It’s not quite an overpowering aroma but it doesn’t let up either, there is some strong chocolate smells around the middle with brown sugars in there to add a little sweetness as well. Further on I got some background vanilla notes with touches of cocoa and the odd darker, almost ripe fruit showing itself too; most notably some raisins and dates. Right at the death some of the alcohol starts to show as well but it’s hidden better than I’d been expected.
Taste (9/10): Matching the nose well, this one opens with plenty of coffee alongside a solid malts bitterness and roasted flavours.  There was the cocoa from the nose with some earthy malts backing it up before some of the vanilla started to show itself nearer the middle and worked well alongside the sugars to add some sweetness to proceedings. Touches of butterscotch also made an appearance with the taste, coupled with some oak and light, smoky flavours before a bit of the alcohol started to show nearer the end but it definitely didn’t dominate. The taste was rounded off by some darker fruits, the raisins and dates again present alongside some figs and plum this time too; excellent stuff.
Palate (4/5): Medium to full-bodied, this one had quite a rich, thick feel to it and it was slightly sweeter than anticipated without it becoming sickly. There was a lot of darker malts that added to the roasted bitterness of the beer and there was a lot of depth and complexity to this one too. The mouthfeel was quite a crisp, semi-dry one that had fine carbonation and went down very well, the alcohol content being well masked until right at the end.

Overall (19/20): Great stuff from AleSmith again here and a beer that was every bit as good as I’d hope for going in; it was definitely worth the wait in cracking this bottle open. The beer was kicked off by a lot of darker, roasted malts and coffee flavours but it was also a touch sweeter than expected thanks to the sugars and chocolate, but also the darker fruits and vanilla that featured too. The beer was quite rich and complex with good carbonation and only a little of the 12% abv. showing nearer the end of the nose and taste, something that helped the beer down very easily. The beer was very much a moreish offering with some dry touches nearer the end and some subtle darker fruits coming through to keep things interesting at times.; I really enjoyed drinking this one and it seemed to go down slightly better than the Vietnamese Coffee edition that I tried on-tap last year; an excellent beer that you definitely need to try, it’s one that I’ll be on the hunt for again now.

Brewed In: San Diego, California, United States of America
Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2002
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 12.0%
Serving: Bottle (750ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £15.25

Brewdog Hinterland

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.0

A review of what was the penultimate new Brewdog beer for me at the end of last year now, this one was actually a beer that I ordered from their online shop back in 2015 but seeing as it was an imperial stout, I opted to cellar it for a year before seeing how it had developed. Despite being a Brewery that is famous for their ‘big beers’, I can think of only a handful of imperial stouts that I have tried from Brewdog (although part of that has to do with me holding on to so many of their Abstrakt offerings) so this one is long overdue. Originally released in September 2015 as a limited release, there was also a barrel-aged version of the beer available through the brewery’s Equity for Punks referral scheme that makes it quite a rare one so I had to make do with this one; here’s what I thought of it when I cracked it open between Christmas and New Year a couple of weeks ago.

brewdog-hinterland

Appearance (4/5): Jet black in colour as it pours, there is a foamy and tanned coloured head on top that starts around half a centimetre tall before fading to sit as a thin, patchy lacing on the surface of the beer; there is a rim of lacing around the edges of the glass too but it is nothing special to look at I’m afraid.
Aroma (8/10): Dark on the nose with some sweet vanilla notes and a little fudge to help balance things out a little, there was an almost milkshake like aroma to this one with lactose and a but of toffee coming through soon after. It was quite a strong beer on the nose initially with the expected dark fruits and a combination of berries coming through towards the middle. Nearer the end I got a hint of coconut and a couple of roasted malts to see things out; it was different at least and quite enjoyable too.
Taste (8/10): Opening with plenty of vanilla flavours and some dark malts as well, this one had a lot of chocolate in the early going too. This was followed by some of the coconut from the nose which seemed to feature earlier here and there was some background coffee flavours too. Towards the end there was a couple of roasted malts and touches of oak but everything was well-balanced and fell short of overpowering the senses.
Palate (4/5): Medium to full-bodied, this was quite a sweet beer from the start with a lot of vanilla and even some coconut coming through, something I hadn’t expected going into this one. There was quite a thick, almost syrupy feel to the beer but it was also quite wet and smooth with a surprisingly good balance too. The beer had soft carbonation levels and was very easy on the way down as a felt, with the alcohol content of the beer hidden well expect for the odd touch right at the end; great stuff.

Overall (16/20): Quite a sweet, almost subdued version of an imperial stout with some nice coconut and vanilla flavours stealing the show here. The beer was semi-bitter with some pleasant roasted malts and a good balance but it was surprisingly easy to drink for the style and perhaps not quite as complex as I’d have liked. It was still a very enjoyable beer with some nice berries and darker fruits around the middle, I’d have preferred something just a little stronger at times though but it’s definitely a nice beer from Brewdog and a shame it’s a one-off from the brewery.

Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Brewery: Brewdog
First Brewed: 2015
Type: Imperial Stout
Abv: 9.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Brewdog.com
Price: £3.80