Monday 3 November 2014

Beer Tasting: By the Horns Samba King

The first beer of the evening is By the Horns Samba King. This World Cup-inspired beer is a "rye blonde ale brewed with Brazilian lime and lemongrass". That's a fairly ambitious ingredient list, but I'm happy to say that the brewers pulled off a very nice beer.

The lime and lemongrass really carry the beer from beginning to end. The aroma has a lot of lime zest, a bit of lemon rind and some grassy, citrusy hops. It's not overly sweet but there is a nice doughy, biscuity sweetness that serves as a decent base of operations for the exotic additions. The bitterness is mostly grassy but you also get some juicy citrus aspects as well. The body is light and the carbonation massages. The beer has a grassy finish with oily citrus, light zippy lemon-lime, and some further pale bread sugars.

The lime and lemongrass could perhaps be scaled back slightly so that they are more like accents rather than the main attraction, but that's just a minor qualm. Overall it's a nicely refreshing and well crafted beer. (Score: 3.6/5.0)

Monday 18 August 2014

Beer Tasting: Fourpure IPA

If I were to give a Most Improved Beer award for the year to date, it would go to Fourpure IPA. When this beer first hit the shelves last November it was fairly pedestrian stuff. The original batches were somewhat jammy and bready, the hop character a bit leafy and piney. It was OK beer but it wasn't exciting.

Last week I got a few freshly-packaged cans and, wow, this beer has improved dramatically. Where the aroma was once muted and simplistic, it's now juicy and vibrant, with a dynamic citrus fruit character. The flavor follows along well with the malts now playing a supporting role (they were more of a lead back in the day) and the hops just singing out. There's lot of juicy grapefruit and tangerine, some bitter pine, light oils, and a clean mineral edge that cuts things off well, leaving you with a grassy, lightly floral finish. It's quite a wonderful beer. I'm blown away by the improvement. (Score: 4.1/5.0)

I really have to hand it to the Fourpure guys. According to them, they haven't changed the recipe dramatically since the first batches came out, but have instead improved their brewing practices and processing to better utilize the hops. I'm happy to say their efforts have paid off tremendously.

A fellow beer geek recently compared Fourpure IPA favourably to Ballast Point Sculpin, which is extremely high praise for an IPA, especially when it comes from a guy like Andy Parker, who's tasted (and brewed) his share of IPAs. (Ballast Point is a San Diego-based brewery and their Sculpin is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of the IPA style.) I would agree with Andy that this beer is well on its way to greatness.

Well played, Fourpure. Keep up the good work.

Friday 1 August 2014

Beer Tasting: Five Points Pale

In the glass today is Five Points Pale, a 4.4% beer brewed with amarillo, centennial and citra hops. Five Points, based up in Hackney, has a tight core range consisting of this pale ale, a porter, a red ale, and a recently-launched IPA. They have also put out an experimental brett porter, which was quite good.

I've had this beer twice before, once from cask and once from bottle, and each time I enjoyed it. This bottle today, though, doesn't fire on all cylinders. It pours mostly clear gold with a frothy, white head. The nose holds a bit of citric orange, some grainy pale malts, dirty hay, wet leaves. The flavor is lightly sweet with pale bread, bitter grain husks, slight grass, orange rind, more hay. It's light bodied with fine, almost soft carbonation; the condition seems slightly wanting. Further gritty bitterness to finish, some astringency, hints of wood and grass, rindy citrus, some soggy white bread. The astringency lingers on the back of the tongue. There could be a bit of over-extraction in here or something. Overall it's still drinkable stuff, but given previous experience with this beer I expect more. (Score: 2.8/5.0)

Bottle came in a mixed case of beers from London breweries, from new online retailer London Beer.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Beer tasting: The Kernel India Pale Ale Citra Galaxy Mosaic

Each of the three hops featured in this beer on its own makes for a fantastic IPA; indeed, Kernel has made a world-class single-hop IPA using each, with the IPA Citra being arguably the brewery's best known beer. Put these three hops together, though, and the outcome is all but guaranteed to be good.  

This beer pours hazy, rich orange-gold with a frothy, white head that settles into a cream. The nose is rife with dank, citrusy hops, piss, orange and grapefruit; this is vintage Kernel right here. Medium sweet flavor with sturdy pale malt structure that allows the hops to really come out and play. This guy is loaded with juicy citrus, sappy pine, overripe melon and papaya, tangerine, some lightly pithy grapefruit and dry pine needles. It's medium bodied with fine carbonation. Good and resinous to finish with outrageous citrus juice and ripe tropical fruits. Moderately bitter with notes of toasted grass and pine. Glorious stuff. This definitely takes me back to the early days of the Kernel, when they first started splashing on to the scene with their brand of clean yet still super dank IPAs. Ah, lovely. (Score: 4.1/5.0)

Saturday 5 July 2014

Beer Tasting: Beavertown Holy Cowbell India Stout

Beavertown recently put out another dark, hoppy beer. They call this one an 'India Stout', suggesting that it straddles the line between IPA and stout. I'm not sure why they wouldn't simply call it a black IPA, but I suppose that at 5.6% it's slightly below what could be considered IPA-strength territory. Nevertheless, this beer carries on the proud Beavertown tradition of making absolutely stonking roasty, well-hopped beers.

I can remember the first time I tried Black Betty - Beavertown's flagship black IPA - shortly after it came out back in November 2012 and being absolutely blown away by it. Beavertown hadn't really made a name for themselves at that point, so to have something that I considered world-class from a relatively unknown London brewery came as something of a surprise - albeit a very welcome one. Indeed, in the ensuing two years, the beer has made quite a name for itself and currently ranks, in a tie with two other beers, as the 8th highest-rated black IPA in the world, according to RateBeer. And at the same time, Beavertown has made quite a name for itself, rocketing into the craft beer collective conscious as one of the UK's top breweries.

The Holy Cowbell takes its place as Black Betty's slightly milder younger sibling, but by no means is it tame. It pours deep, black-brown with a thick, lasting beige foam head - it looks fantastic. There are heavily roasted malts in the nose, some burnt popcorn, cocoa, earth. The flavour is light-medium sweet with further hefty roasted malt character, some tar, burnt molasses, raisins, baking cocoa, burnt toast, rich earth and burnt pine. Medium bodied with fine, massaging carbonation and a chewy mouthfeel. It's well balanced to finish and it has dynamic dark, roasted malt character, plenty of bittersweet cocoa, some oily chocolate notes, scorched earth, burnt wood, some ripe and leathery dark fruits, and more resinous and burnt pine. This is an excellent beer, and there's loads of depth for being sub-6%. The mouthfeel, in particular, is truly exceptional. Basically, what you've got here is another superlative hoppy dark beer from Beavertown. Well done. (Score: 4.1/5.0)

Be sure to pop by Beavertown's new taproom, which has its grand opening today, 5 July. See our Events page for further information.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Beer Tasting: Partizan Pale Ale Mosaic Kazbek

Recently I tried another of Partizan's pale ales; this one uses mosaic (aka HBC369, and the son of USA's simcoe) and kazbek (of Czech extraction, derived from saaz). 

The beer starts rising out of the bottle once it’s cracked - a bit heavy on the carbonation, this one. It pours cloudy, orange-gold with a large, ever-expanding white froth head. There's great aroma here, with lots of fresh, juicy hops, grapefruit, tangerine stuff, pretty much what you might expect from the expressive mosaic. The flavor is moderately sweet with a bit of lightly tangy tangerine, slight rindy bitterness, orange juice, faint minerals and pine needles, mango, a bit of earth. Light bodied with lively, mouth-filling carbonation. Nicely balanced on the finish, with pleasant juicy hop character, lightly dried orange and tangerine, lemon peel, faint dry pale bread, some dried pine needles. Pretty clean overall. Shame about the carbonation, which distracts a bit. Otherwise, it's solid. (Score: 3.7/4.0)

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Dark Hopfler

In their never-ending expansion into new styles, Weird Beard has brought us Dark Hopfler, a beer that really doesn't fall neatly into any existing style category (not that it matters). This is a fantastic beer, with a depth of character that belies its impressively low ABV. Weird Beard calls it a 'dark milk ale', which doesn't necessarily do the beer justice. I'd say it's part milk stout (the sweetness and the roast), part black IPA (the hoppy edge), part mild (the low ABV). What would you call it?

The beer pours deep, black-brown with a large, thick, lasting beige cream head. It has a great aroma, with lots of burnt pine, dark chocolate, pleasant roasted malts. Light sweet is the flavor with nice overriding dark roast character, some burnt sugars, a bit of piney bitterness, subtle milk chocolate. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation. Finishes with moderate sweetness, earthy and burnt pine bitterness, cocoa, grapefruit. Extremely solid. There's a kit going on in here, and it smacks of beer much stronger than it is. This is like a black IPA-lite - a session black IPA, if you will. Whatever you want to call it, it's well executed and very tasty. (Score: 4.0/5.0)

Thursday 1 May 2014

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 12/01 Barrel Aged - Saison

The Brew By Numbers boys have been nailing saisons since day one so, as we head towards their 'Super May Day Celebration', it seemed only fitting to try out one of their newest saison creations.

The beer I tried last night is one of the first outputs of BBNo's barrel-aging program. The 12/01 Barrel Aged - Saison uses the Motueka & Lime Saison as a base beer (01/06 for anyone keeping score); it then spent a few months sitting in Burgundy white wine barrels.

As you can see in the photo above, this 12/01 is a very attractive beer. It pours mostly clear, bright yellow-gold, moderately effervescent with a sturdy, creamy white head. The aroma has a nice bit of juicy lemon, doughy pale malts, light straw, touches of white grape, and faint urine (thanks, motueka!). The flavor is lightly sweet and exceedingly clean, with dried hay, mild bitter white grape skin, slight herbal and grassy bitterness, some zesty lemon and lime. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation and an airy mouthfeel, it's quite easy on the palate. It finishes clean and crisp with more lime essence, some further grass and dried herbs, a bit of woody and tannic dryness, and lemon rind. It is highly drinkable and quite graceful. In its subtlety the beer certainly impresses. Though at 5.7% ABV it has enough heft such that it never comes across as overly delicate. It's fine work. This beer augurs well for the BBNo barrel-aging project. (Score: 4.1/5.0)

The 12/01 Barrel Aged - Saison, in addition to 14 other beers, will be available this weekend for the Brew By Numbers party. The action kicks off at noon on Sunday, 4 May, and you would be wise to get there early.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Beer Tasting: Bullfinch Citrageddon

In case you didn't know, black IPA (or cascadian dark ale, if you like) is one of my favourite styles of beer. While there are some people out there who misguidedly deride the style, I happen to think it's great (and I'm not alone). So I'm always thrilled to see London breweries take on this hoppy-cum-roasty hybrid. To date, many of London's best breweries have tried their hands at black IPA; offhand, the most notable successes I can think of have come from The Kernel, Partizan, Brodie's, Weird Beard, London Fields and Howling Hops.

This latest black IPA release from Bullfinch deserves a place among the list of Great London Black IPAs.

I picked up a bottle of the hyperbolically-named Citrageddon directly form the brewery. The beer pours deep black-brown with a thick, mocha cream head. The nose has lots of oily, dark chocolate, decent roast, hints of espresso and burnt earth. The flavor is medium sweet with robust but balanced overarching roasted malt character, prominent chocolate, low bitterness, understated ripening orange and grapefruit. Medium bodied with fine, massaging carbonation and creamy texture. It finishes with some gooey chocolate and resinous, lightly torched pine, a bit of dark bread, minimal bitterness, light charcoal, dark chocolate, slight licorice and raisin. There's some very nice depth here. This black IPA is neither excessively roasty nor hoppy and certainly not overy bitter - which is fine by me. Rather, it’s fairly creamy with lots of roasted malt and chocolate character, along with subtle citrus and dried fruits. It is quite approachable, especially given the strength. Very good work here. I would love to see a Mosaicgeddon or Simcoegeddon in the future. Fugglesgeddon would be fun, too. (Score: 4.0/5.0)

Friday 21 March 2014

A Visit to the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival

Going strong for 30 years.

Another year of the London Drinker Beer Festival came and went last week, marking the festival's 30th anniversary. For anyone who has never been, London Drinker tends to attract an interesting cross section of London's drinking populace. Given the festival's venue - the Camden Centre, just a few minutes away from Kings Cross - it requires little effort to travel there (assuming, of course, you're a Londoner who passes through central London). And so you see every type of drinker imaginable at this festival, from the pensioner types who really seem to enjoy the early sessions on Wednesday and Thursday (which have free entry); to the office types who find it a great option for post-work relaxation; to the beer geeks who know they will find good beer here.

London Drinker: where the CAMRA hardcore and the hipsterati intermingle peacefully.
"Bro, fuggles are in right now."

I was fortunate enough to attend the Thursday early session, so the crowds had not gotten too intense. In past years I have attended the evening sessions where you often need to wait in line just to enter the venue and then, once inside, it's difficult to move. I spent the bulk of my time last week working through the London - or "LocAle" - bar, trying out the newest wares from our local breweries. The best beer of the day, by far, was the Redemption Make Me Smile. While the beer itself was outstanding there's actually a nice (if sobering) story behind it. The beer was brewed in memory of Gerrie Stokes, a former CAMRA volunteer who passed away recently. The name of the beer reflects Gerrie's ever-positive disposition.

At only 3.5% ABV, Make Me Smile punched well above its weight class. The hop character of the beer was dynamic and juicy, with lots of tangerine, lemon and payapa. Delicate, sun-kissed pale malts provided structure to the hoppy menagerie, and the beer finished with mild bitter grass and straw, which gave it satisfying quench. It's the kind of beer best drank by the gallon rather than the pint, and it certainly put a smile on my face as I drank it amidst the ethereal sunbeams of an unseasonably bright March afternoon.

Those are actual beams of sunlight; this image was not Photoshopped.

There were a handful of other standouts. I quite enjoyed the East London Brewery Wheat Porter, which had a nice, layered chocolate and dark fruit character to it. Although, truth be told, I couldn't detect anything especially 'wheaty' about it. Perhaps there was more toasted bread character than you might find in a normal porter but beyond that, stylistically, it was a normal porter. I also liked the Twickenham/ Kissingate Nooksack, a fairly sweet, strong pale ale (or American pale ale, if you like) marked by ripe lemon, melon and pale, bready malts. 

Also worthy of mention is the Hop Stuff Saison. This was an ambitious beer that didn't completely hit the mark for me, though it was still an interesting beer. The lemon thyme, rosemary and sage additions came through in abundance, to an extent that I found them heavy handed and dominant. Saison, as a beer style, can mean different things to different people, but to me one ought to be, above all, subtle and drinkable. I found elements of the Hop Stuff Saison to enjoy but overall it lacked balance. I'll reiterate that I like the ambition and creativity this beer represents; but the execution wasn't completely there.

Once I had had my fill of London beers (it does sometimes happen) I sauntered over to the non-London bar and tried a few more. The Strathaven Craigmill Mild really impressed me with its depth; lots of roast and chocolate notes packed into this 3.5% tipple. The Great Oakley Delapre Dark also provided some diversion with its woody bitterness and aged, leathery fruit character.

All in all it was another successful visit to the London Drinker, and my early afternoon session further reinforced my belief that drinking four pints of beer before 3pm is a terrific idea. Congratulations to North London CAMRA for putting on another solid festival. 

I'll leave you with a few more photos that I hope capture the spirit of the London Drinker. 

His brow furrowed, the CAMRA volunteer speedily calculated change owed to the waiting punter.

Great technique. 

This guy looks like he knows what he's doing.

Windsor & Eton Guardsman: always a good option.

The Joy of Cask Ale.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Beer Tasting: Hackney Brewery Dark Lager

Most off-licences are pretty boring when it comes to beer. But Broadway Wines, right on Broadway Market in Hackney, offers a decent range of beers, highlighted by some local breweries such as London Fields and Hackney Brewery. My most recent visit to this offy yielded a new Hackney Brewery beer: Dark Lager. (I also snagged a killer Cypriot pale lager. How could I not?) Hackney Brewery seems to have a somewhat limited distribution of its bottled beers but it's nice that one can get them locally.

So, dark lager. Off-hand I can't think of too many other examples of this style getting made in London. Camden has definitely done one but, aside from that, dark lager (or amber lager, or vienna...) is mostly unmined territory. And fair enough as it's not an especially sexy type of beer. It's not as crisp as a straight pilsner and it's not as hearty as a stout. I enjoy a nice dark lager probably more than the next guy but I've never found myself desperate to drink one.

This dark lager from Hackney carries on the style's tradition by being perfectly drinkable though not terribly exciting. It pours clear brown with a frothy, quickly fading beige head. There are lightly toasted dark malts in the nose with subtle dry chocolate and scorched earth. Light to medium sweet, the flavor holds smokey dark malts, a bit of burnt earth bitterness and well-toasted wholegrain bread. Medium bodied with fine to average carbonation, it's fairly low-impact stuff. Reasonably well balanced to finish with moderate roasted malts, more sugary and charred toast, earth, ash, faint burnt leaves, rocks and just whispers of burnt toffee. It is an interesting beer, pretty well balanced overall and easy to drink. It was fun to try.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Beer Tasting: By The Horns Morning Glory Breakfast Stout

I recently tried a bottle of the By The Horns Breakfast Stout, which I picked up from the brewery. It's a good all-around beer and certainly ticks all the boxes you would expect of a stout. It doesn't have a ton of depth but at 5.4% ABV I'd say the focus here is more on drinkability than life-changing complexity.

The beer pours rich, black-brown with a thick, creamy mocha cap. There are lots of well-roasted malts in the nose, some char, hints of blackberries. The flavor is lght to medium sweet with strong roasted malt character, some scorched earth, tangy berries, baking cocoa. Medium bodied with fine carbonation and creamy mouthfeel. Fairly dynamic on the finish, further dark, tangy berries, sturdy roasted malts, dirt and bittersweet baking cocoa. Good one. (Score: 3.6/5.0)

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Sierra Nevada at Craft Beer Co. Islington: A Recap

We learned a few things from the Sierra Nevada event last night at the Craft Beer Co. Islington, such as:

1. Londoners get pretty excited over Sierra Nevada. Just look at how many people showed up. To be fair, Sierra Nevada is a fantastic brewery, and the brother (Steve Grossman) of the founder (Ken Grossman) was at the event last night. Steve only spoke for a few minutes but I guess he was around to speak to the punters one-on-one if anybody wanted. Given the crowds I couldn't be bothered to make my way through the chaos to reach him. In case anyone's wondering, Steve is standing by the beer fridges in the photo below (i.e. the second quadrant).

That's a very busy pub.

2. The Craft Beer Co. Islington lacks adequate ventilation. I suppose enough rabid drinkers will steam up any pub; suffice it to say, there were enough drinkers present last night.

3. Sierra Nevada doesn't always hit the mark. I tried their Two Headed Ruthless Rye last night and, to be frank, I was not a fan. That said, three of my drinking companions also got halves of this rye double IPA and one of them quite enjoyed it, while the other two thought it was just OK. Perhaps my days of loving any 10%+ ABV double IPA are simply behind me. But I just found the Two Headed a bit too aggressive in terms of both the alcohol presence (it's 10.4%) and the bitterness, which consisted primarily of extremely abrasive pine.

It took me a while to finish the Two Headed.

4. Tom Cadden: legend. (But I guess we already knew that.)

The Tom Cadden Stamp of Approval.

5. The Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken's Ale is drinking rather nicely at the moment. This imperial stout came out almost exactly four years ago when Sierra Nevada was celebrating its 30th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, they brewed a series of beers featuring guest brewers, including American beer luminaries such as Charlie Papazian, Fred Eckhart, Jack McAuliffe and, in the case of the beer at hand, Fritz Maytag. At four years old, this beer is certainly showing some signs of its age (namely, moderate oxidation), but there are definitely some interesting elements. I got lots of dark, dried and leathery fruits, bittersweet baking cocoa, sturdy roasted malts and overarching burnt wood. If you happen to have a bottle I would recommend opening it sooner rather than later. Many thanks to Paul for sharing.

Good beer.

All in all I had fun last night. It was certainly a shame that the original shipment of beers for the event froze in transit (and were thus not drinkable) but the replacement line-up definitely kept people happy - I gather that by the end of the night only the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was left standing.

Until next time.

Monday 3 March 2014

The Week in Beer

There's a lot of beer stuff happening in the coming week. Without a bit of planning, you might not be able to make it through. Here's a little road map to help.

Wednesday 5 March: Brodies Tap Takeover at The Rake. The event is scheduled to kick off at 5pm and the available beers will include:


London Fields Pale Ale
Bethnal Green Bitter
Hackney Red IPA
Shoreditch Sunshine


Hackney Red IPA
Dalston Black IPA
Hoxton Special IPA
Chinook Bacon IPA
Awesomestow IPA

Thursday 6 March: Rest day.

Friday 7 March: Mikkeller Tap Takeover at the Kings Arms. Bring your drinking boots if you want to tackle this list:

American Style (Prairie Collab) 
BA Big Worster Chardonnay 
Chill Pils Yuzu
Cream Ale 
I Hardcore You (w/ BrewDog) IIPA
Illegal Mikkeller
Jackie Brown Brown Ale
BA Orange Yuzo Glad I Said Porter Grand Marnier
Simcoe IIPA
Wheat Is The New Hop Wild Yeast IPA
BA Årh Hvad!? Grand Marnier

Saturday 8 March: Siren First Anniversary Party at the Craft Beer Co. - Clerkenwell. There will be a great range of beers including several of the classics plus a couple debuts:

Maiden 2013 (Barrel Aged)
Maiden Barley Wine Base Beer
Limoncello IPA
Calypso Sour - Dry hopped with Citra
Das Soundwave Cask - Soundwave brewed with German Hops
Flying Dutchman - Our Collaboration brew with Evil Twin
Seven Seas Black Wheat IPA
Broken Dream Cask & Keg
Undercurrent Cask & Keg
Sound Wave
Liquid Mistress

Sunday 9 March: Rest day.

Monday 10 March: An Evening with Sierra Nevada at the Craft Beer Co. - Islington. SN ambassador Steve Grossman (brother of brewery founder Ken Grossman) will be on hand, as will some 12 offerings from the brewery.


Good luck all.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 08/01 Stout - Export Strength

I got this bottle way back in the early days of Brew By Numbers' existence; the bottled-on date is 06/02/2013, so the brewery had been running for about three months or so at that point. And, as such, this bottle has had plenty of time to develop.

Since this beer's debut, BBNo have put out a few iterations at varying ABVs; this one clocks in at 7.4%. It pours deep brown-black with a huge, lasting beige foam head. The aroma is quite dynamic, with plenty of well roasted malts at the core, surrounded by baking cocoa, some dark fruits and toasted bread. It has a medium sweet flavor with rich, slightly bittersweet cocoa, restrained charred malts, some raisins, chocolate cake, light flinty minerals, some dark bread and milk chocolate. Medium to full bodied with average carbonation and an exceedingly creamy mouthfeel, the beer is a delight on the palate. The finish has just a touch of alcohol warmth, followed by lots more richly roasted malts, baking cocoa, moderate scorched earth bitterness, ash, slight tobacco and further chocolate cake. Rich and complex, this beer is also impressively well balanced and drinkable. If you happen to be sitting on a bottle of this beer that was released in early 2013, I would drink it now because I cannot envision it getting any better than this. It's really quite exceptional.
(Score: 4.3/5.0)

Monday 17 February 2014

Beer Tasting: The Kernel Pale Ale Motueka+

I had this bottle at home just a few days after picking it up at the brewery. It pours mostly clear gold with frothy, pure white head. The aroma is nice and outrageously inviting, with some bready pale malts, a bit of semi-ripe tangerine, orange and mango. Light to medium sweet is the flavor with pale, lightly dry bread, touches of pine, orange, citrus rind, hay. Light bodied with fine carbonation, the beer practically drinks itself. The beer finishes with restrained pale bready sweetness and quenching citrus fruits, grapefruit, orange rind, sticky pine, faint grassy bitterness. Lovely stuff. Stupidly drinkable. This is The Kernel on form. (Score: 4.1/5.0)

Sunday 16 February 2014

Beer Tasting: Beavertown Quelle Saison

Beavertown has taken a few swings at saisons in the past (previous efforts include Bramley Apple/ Barley Champagne, Dark Saison, Hara-Kiri and Chili Lime, to name a few) but the Quelle is their most straightforward attempt yet. And, if you ask me, it is also perhaps their most successful, although the Dark Saison was quite impressive as well. So, good effort to Beavertown for showing they've got the basics down. This beer would certainly be a nice addition to the standard roster.

The Quelle Saison pours well and cloudy yellow-gold, fairly effervescent, with a lasting, virgin white froth head. There's zesty citrus in the nose, namely lemon and orange, with hints of pine needles and grass. The flavor has light sweetness with a bit of pale wheat bread, spicy yeast, mellow grassy bitterness, juicy lemon and tangerine, light citrus rind. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation, it is a very approachable beer. Moderately dry on the finish with further wheat bread, cleansing minerals, melon, lemon, grapefruit, slight grassy bitterness. A delightful saison. Exceedingly drinkable with nuanced character. There could be a bit more complexity but for a first go this is nice. (Score: 3.8/5.0)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Hackney American IPA

Bottom line, this is a malt-led IPA that varies quite significantly from the current wave of drier, more hop-forward beers currently coming out of most new-age London breweries.

I sourced this bottle from Kris Wines.

It pours perfectly clear (also a way to set yourself apart from many London breweries!), pale amber with a frothy, off-white head. The aroma has lots of bready malts, hints of creamy toffee, and ripe orange. The flavor is medium sweet with a dominant malt character, some doughy brown bread, lightly toasted sugars, subtle toffee, mild ripe orange, melon. Light to medium bodied with fine carbonation. Sweet finish with further bready malts abounding, berries, caramel, orange, faint grapefruit, more melon. It’s tasty stuff and certainly malt-forward. If you like your IPAs on the sweeter side and not overly stuffed with hops, this could be your beer. (Score: 3.5/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 02/03 Golden Ale - Mosaic & Saphir

I picked this bottle up at the brewery. It pours hazy gold with a creamy, off-white head. The aroma holds tangerine, lightly doughy pale malts, some citrus rind. Light to medium sweet flavor with bready pale malts, orange and tangerine, touches of flinty yeast and a bit more rindy bitterness. Light-medium in body with fine to average carbonation. Mellow resinous hops to finish, some pine needles, orange, semi-dry pale malts, subtle minerals. Very tasty, easy drinking pale ale. (Score: 3.7/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Strawman Rype

I bought this beer from the illustrious Kris Wines. It pours lightly hazy orange-gold, quite effervescent (as the photo shows), with a moderate, frothy white head. The aroma has basic pale malts and some tangy citrus. The flavor is medium sweet with bready pale malts, hints of dough, orange and tangerine, touches of plastic and pine needles. Light to medium bodied with fine to average, creamy carbonation. Sweet on the finish with moderate bitterness, some hay and more pine needles, hints of alcohol and plastic grass, more doughy pale malts, orange merengue. Drinkable but could do with a few tweaks I think. (Score: 3.3/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Pressure Drop Pitt the Elder

Here's a beer that I think got very limited distribution. I picked this bottle up at the Cock Tavern but I don't recall seeing it anywhere else. The beer pours deep, oily black-brown with a moderate, rich mocha head. The aroma is quite dynamic. The elderflower punches through with its green pepper notes, then you’ve also got well roasted malts, milk chocolate and hints of tangy, ripened dark cherries. The flavor carries on nicely, with moderate sweetness, a bit more spicy elderflower, ripe green pepper, silky chocolate and toasted bread. Light to medium bodied with fine, creamy carbonation, the feel of this beer is spot on. It finishes lightly oily with mellow earthy bitterness, ripe berries, milky chocolate, soft roast, florals notes and subtle chocolate cake. Wonderful stuff. Really well integrated. One of Pressure Drop’s most mature constructions to date. (Score: 3.9/5.0)

Thursday 16 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Ellenberg's Stout

I've tried each of Ellenberg's beers (at least the six I know of) and they've all been pretty decent. It's not a brewery you see around London as much as others, but you can generally find bottles at Kris Wines, which is where I got this one. At 3.8%, this is not an especially heavy stout; however, there's quite a lot of charred malt and earthy hop character here, perhaps a touch more than the sweetness can withstand, which may make the beer more bitter than some drinkers might like.

The beer pours clear, red-brown with a huge, billowing cappuccino head. Seriously, this was the kind of pour where you start pouring and the glass immediately fills with about 90% foam. Anyway, after about 10 minutes I got a proper-looking beer; that photo doesn't lie. The aroma has lots of charred malts, roast, burnt bread. The flavor is lightly sweet with lots of earthy bitterness, charred wood, burnt marshmallows, subtle baking cocoa, charcoal, dirt. Light bodied with very lively carbonation, even after the 10-minute wait the beer is still excessively carbonated. There's light sweetness to finish, with further bitterness of earth and charred malts, some bittersweet baking cocoa, dirt, filter coffee and a bit of grainy, burnt bread. The over-abundance of carbonation is a shame because it really impedes the beer’s character. Once the carbonation settles down, though, you can taste a lot more of the nuances here, and the beer is quite good. Conditioning issues aside, it’s tasty stuff. (Score: 3.5/5.0)

Monday 13 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Little Things That Kill Batch 3

Packed full of Cascade, Centennial and Nelson Sauvin, this is the most recent iteration from Weird Beard's Little Things That Kill series of low-ABV pale ales - or session IPA, if you like. This one is far and away my favourite, and it clocks in at 3.4% ABV. The hop character is clear and expressive and balances perfectly against the restrained pale malt sweetness. Seriously, to achieve the kind of hop depth that's present here while keeping the beer drinkable and not overly bitter is no mean feat. Upon reflection, this isn't only Weird Beard's best Little Things That Kill beer, it is (in my opinion) their best overall beer to date. If you see a bottle, buy it and drink it immediately because I would imagine the nuance currently present in the beer will fade away quickly.

Tasting notes:

Pours clear gold, lightly effervescent with a sturdy, frothy white head. The aroma is unbelievably gorgeous, loaded with pithy grapefruit and lightly pissy nelson; it actually brings to mind something from Hill Farmstead, like their Walden (4% ABV, hopped with Motueka, Amarillo and Simcoe). Light sweet flavor with delicate, lightly dry pale malt sweetness, upon which the hops do sing. Just lots more grapefruit pith, lemon rind, pee - I love it. Light bodied with fine carbonation. Perfectly balanced to finish with mild pale, biscuity malts, faint pine needle resin, more grapefruit pith, faint tangy tangerine and lemon. Gorgeous. This is far and away this best beer I have had from this brewery. (Score: 4.4/5.0)

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Some of London's Best

I had a friend visiting town recently, a former Londoner, so to honour his presence he and I (and one other fella) worked our way through a line-up featuring some of London's best breweries. It was a great way to pass an afternoon. First I'll give you the quick and dirty summary, with just a sentence or two on each beer along with its overall score. If you want, you can then read further elaboration on the top scorers below.

- Partizan Saison Grisette Burgundy Barrel Aged: exceptionally well balanced with restrained citric tang, light doughy malt sweetness and touches of bitter hay. (4.1/5.0)

- The Kernel Biere de Table (Barrel Aged #4): elegant and well balanced, with delicate funk, tangy lemon and mellow wood. (4.1/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo: this is The Kernel on form. Pithy citrus with clean minerality and near-perfect balance. (4.1/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 01/05 Saison - Saphir & Lemon: a well constructed saison with notes of dough, wheat, yeast and citrus fruits. (4.1/5.0)

- Partizan Porter 6 Grain: a white-collar porter. Nicely complex with layers of toasted whole grain bread, dark chocolate and bittersweet baking cocoa. (4.0/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 05/01 IPA - Amarillo & Citra: juicy citrus abounds in the form of orange and grapefruit, with grassy and piney bitterness to balance out the hop profile. (4.0/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Cascade Pacifica Simcoe: highly drinkable American pale ale marked by its pithy citrus and and bitterness of lemon rind and pine. (3.8/4.0)

- Partizan Christmas Stout: lots going on here. Tangy cherries are present throughout, but then you also have dark chocolate, a bit of funky twang and a tannic quality, perhaps imparted by the barrel aging. (3.8/5.0)

- Weird Beard Decadence Stout: a blue-collar stout. Plenty of charred malts, baking cocoa, earthy bitterness and hard water to keep a man's man happy. (3.7/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 05/03 IPA - Amarillo & Mosaic: a solid offering but the malt backbone is a bit too pronounced for my tastes. (3.7/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Centennial Galaxy Nugget: tasty but the malts are breadier than in a typical Kernel pale ale and the citrus seems a bit jammier than usual. (3.7/5.0)

- Beavertown Stingy Jack: I wish it had been sweeter. There are good notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin bread in here but I think they need to be keyed off with a bit of sugar. (3.6/5.0)

As you can glean, my favourite beers were Partizan Saison Grisette Burgundy Barrel Aged, The Kernel Biere de Table (Barrel Aged #4), The Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo and Brew By Numbers 01/05 Saison - Saphir & Lemon. For those of you who don't know, I am a fiend for well-made low/mid ABV beers, and these four beers were right in my wheelhouse.

The two barrel aged saisons were somewhat similar. The Partizan offering pours clear, pale yellow with a foamy white head. The nose has mild lemon, white grape, minerals. The flavor is lightly sweet with mellow tang, mild pale dough, slight bitter hay and lemon peel. Light bodied with fine, spritzy carbonation. Very clean on the finish with restrained lemony tang, dried dough, pale malts, light straw.  It is delicious and effortlessly drinkable. The Kernel Biere de Table has a similar appearance: clear, very light yellow, mildly effervescent with a mellow, creamy white head. The nose is lovely, with lots of tangy lemon and some white grape. There is light sweetness to the flavor with a bit of woody bitterness, lightly juicy lemon, some straw. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation. Very clean to finish with restrained lemony tang, faint funky sweat, very slight grass, hay. Quite delicate and, as with the barrel-aged Partizan, super drinkable.

The Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo is classic Kernel, which is to say, I would rather drink it by the bucket than by the glass. It's all beautiful, pithy citrus in the nose and then it carries into the flavor with firm but secondary pale malt sweetness to hold it together. There is a flinty mineral quality that gives the beer a cleanliness that many pale ales lack.The finish is lemon and grapefruit pith with balancing, somewhat dry pale malts.

The BBNo Saison pours almost perfectly clear gold and quite effervescent, with a large, wispy white froth head. The aroma entices with lightly doughy malts, some wheat, hints of lemony citrus, bubblegum, perhaps some cardamon. Light to medium sweet flavor with doughy white bread, lightly tangy lemon, wheat, subtle spices, slight citrus rind bitterness. Light in body with lively, massaging carbonation. Dynamic on the finish with further pale bread, wheat, hints of lemon meringue, tangy citrus, vanilla and other mild spices, and slight hay bitterness. Exceptionally well balanced and drinkable, as a good saison ought to be.

Until next time.