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When Albert met Kate (the really great Kate)

As you may know I am very fond of my Belgian friend Albert who has been a welcome companion on dark winter evenings and early morning train rides. On this particular journey from the south coast all the way up to York it was particularly wise to bring along one of the illustrious and extravagant Albert family, Kabert (11.5%abv). The result of my favorite and most sturdy of Belgian brewers De Struise‘s expert blending of Kate the Great and Black Albert, laid down in port barrels in 2011 to become an exquisitely indulgent Russian Imperial Stout.

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Opening the bottle with excitement as a little  unctious thick brown foam oozed down the side, the aroma was almost enough to disguise the cesspit stench of the Cross Country train’s ever-overflowing toilet. Rich dark malts,  beery yeast and brown clumps of sugar with ripe red berries. My hands are slightly sticky from the side of the bottle, the beer is so voluptuously thick like treacle. The flavor is incredibly full and immediately alcoholic in the most warmingly delicious way. The dark malts compliment the lively black cherries and raisins and there’s a sprinkle of nutmeg spice. So sweet and smooth. I never fail to be impressed by this series of beers. Even the label, featuring an ornate crest of mythical beasts alongside the signature ostriches, gives this ale an air of pomp and majesty reminiscent of the early albums of Queen. Albert I am privileged to be your audience once again.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Stouts, Winter Ales

 

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It’s not rocket science but it is a craft!

I’ve been finding myself staring into space a lot recently. It’s so awesomely huge that it makes my head hurt to think about it too much but thankfully I have beer so it’s never too stressful. It’s been hard not to think about space, what with real-life Major Tom Chris Hadfield hitting the news with his performance of Space Oddity actually filmed on board the International Space Station! Then the amazing opportunity came up on Kickstarter to back the first publicly accessible space telescope, Arkyd and have a ‘selfie‘ sent up and photographed. In space! Then another opportunity on Kickstarter to support the fantastic band Ananamaguchi in their quest to make even more mind-bendingly colorful beepy awesomeness. What do they have to do with space? See their latest video Endless Fantasy and prepare to be impressed.

Joining the Space Race

Joining the Space Race

I was very excited when brand new Bristol brewery Rocket Science Craft Ales got in touch to see if I wanted to try some of their new beers. Well since they have such a cute logo how could I refuse. After a long day in London seeing the V&A’s exhibition celebrating the original Space Oddity, David Bowie, it was fitting to open a nicely chilled bottle of the IO (6.5%ABV) to unwind. Named after one of the moons of Jupiter studded with over 400 active volcanoes, this American IPA has a lot to live up to. It’s unfined, unfiltered and unpasturised so it’s about as back-to-basics as brewing gets. In the glass, it’s cloudy dark amber – not what I was expecting – and the aromas are fresh, sharp citrus and slightly sweet honey with a touch of pine. It’s a surprisingly really accomplished American-style pale for such a young brewery – the bitter lemons and grapefruit really hit the taste buds hard making the mouth water and the dryness at the back is so crisp, The acidic pineapple brings a touch of tropical sunshine and there’s a little sweetness in the aftertaste like sherbet lemons.

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I was most excited about the Jet Black (5.4%ABV) since it’s a Cascadian Dark Ale which is one of my current favorite styles. I’m fairly particular about Cascadian Darks and very few fit the bill for me. This was a very promising pour, jet black like it says on the bottle with a lovely lasting whispy head and an aroma like a charred hedgerow. The dark malts give a burnt crust characteristic to the fabulously bitter hop but it’s lifted by a delicious fruitiness, like a playful cocktail of lychee and cranberries. This is perfectly balances with deliciously bitter dark chocolate – think of your favourite bar of 80-85% cocoa solids studded with crystals of burnt brown sugar. The finish is wonderfully dry with a bitter-sweetness that’s so moreish. I think I’ll be strapping on my jetpack and blasting off to Bristol very soon – I gotta get stocked up on these! Impressive for such a new brewery!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Black IPA, IPA

 

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Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2013

Last week I fulfilled a dream of many beer geeks and jetted across to Copenhagen, Denmark for the second edition of the Copenhagen Beer Celebration hosted by the esteemed ‘gypsy’ brewer himself, Mikkeller. This was a rare opportunity to sample beers from a wide selection of the best breweries in the world today. Our tickets were for the Saturday afternoon session and, between 18:00 and 23:00, all the beer we wanted was ours for the taking. Getting off the flight and going for our train into the city that afternoon, I was already geeking out, spotting t-shirts and stickers and jackets depicting brewery logos everywhere I looked. Some I’d never even heard of. Having checked into the hotel and dumped our cases, we made our way across town clutching Google Map directions, but we kinda knew when we were in the right area. The folks staggering out of the previous session and lying on the pavement gave it away.We had arrived.

Posing with my cute festival glass

Posing with my cute festival glass

We were issued with cute little stemmed tasting glasses and told to help ourselves but it was tough deciding where to start! There was way too much choice so I started with Stillwater Lower Dens (6%ABV) and made my way around the hall to peruse the stands. One of the nicest things at a beer festival like this one is meeting the brewers or at least people associated with the brewery and hearing them talk so passionately about the beers they’ve brought I loved the team from Boxing Cat who had come all the way over from Shanghai. Their King Louie (8%) which had been aged in bourbon barrels was insanely rich and complex and one of my favorites of the day. The team were so friendly and really wanted to talk about their beers and the brewery, which I learned was named for the brewery cat Louie who used to look like he was boxing when he chased butterflies (unfortunately now no longer with us). I also loved the very smiley team from Westbrook from South Carolina and their spicy, chocolaty treat Mexican Cake (10.5%ABV).

Unfortunately, I  completely missed the 3Floyds stand, I believe because there were too many people around it to actually see it, so I missed out on the legendary Dark Lord! In fact, 3Floyds were the first to run out of beer – for some reason I hadn’t expected this to happen (yes they make some of the highest rated beer ever) so next year they’ll be my first stop. Luckily we happened to be in a huge hall packed with so many amazing breweries I was spoilt for choice!

How will I get this in my suitcase?

How will I get this in my suitcase?

It was great to have a flat ticket price which included all drinks rather than using a token system – it took me the whole 5 days I was in the country to work out the Danish money so cash would have been a  disaster! I felt like a kid in a candy store, wandering wide-eyed from one stand to the next clutching my little glass and marveling at all the wonderfully creative brews. I’m glad that the festival glasses were so small so I could try lots. A lot of the beers were pretty strong and as you can see in my list below, I didn’t drink many that were below 10% so even 1/3rd pints would have been disastrous. The trends I noticed around the hall were barrel-aging (OK that’s been popular for a while) and saisons and lambics, two styles I have only recently started getting into. I’m not sure whether I especially noticed these as they are still relatively uncommon here in the UK. Mikkeller brought a particularly exceptional lambic Spontandoubleblueberry (8%) (imagine trying to say it after a few drinks) which had a pretty disturbingly purple color and a super-serious sourness.

So was it possible to choose a favorite amongst such a stellar line-up? Possibly not but a few stand out in my mind. One of my top picks was actually from Siren who hail from the not-so-exotic Berkshire; ‘Chai Love You a Latte’ (6.5%ABV) is a spice-infused version of their breakfast stout Broken Dream. I initially loved the cute name but the flavor was a pretty close match to the hot-cross bun chocolates I love which Hotel Chocolat bring out every Easter. I also rate Against the Grain Bo & Luke (13%ABV) quite highly – the guys on the stand were great which helped but they had brought over a port barrel aged version of this Imperial Stout which was fabulously smoked. Then of course there was the Anchorage tripel, The Tide And Its Takers (9%ABV) which had an amazing citrus sourness and totally lived up to its reputation as an outstanding beer.

Of course, our trip to Copenhagen was more than just the CBC – I’ll be following up to tell you how we got on at the Mikkeller block party and whether the two bars are worth a visit. For now, I’ll leave you with a list of the beers I sampled:

What Bierebelle drank:

Anchorage: A Deal With the Devil (17.3%ABV)

Brewdog: Abstrakt AB13 (11.3%ABV)

Mikkeller/Brodies: Big Mofo Stout Blueberry & Danish Liquorice Edition (10.5%ABV)

Against the Grain: Bo & Luke (Port Barrel Aged) (13%ABV)

X-Beeriment: Brett the Elder (Berry) (9.3%ABV)

X-Beeriment: Agent Coopers Delight (10.5%ABV)

Siren: Chai Love You A Latte (6.5%ABV)

Siren: Oi! Zeus! (11.4%ABV)

Cigar City: Cheers! (10%ABV)

Firestone Walker: Double DBA (12%ABV)

Jester King: Funk Metal (8.2%ABV)

Hoppin’ Frog: Hop Heathen Imperial Black IPA (8.8%ABV)

Boxing Cat: King Louie (Bourbon Barrel Aged) (8%)

To Øl: Liquid Confidence (12.3%ABV)

Stillwater: Lower Dens (6%ABV)

Mikkeller: Spontandoubleblueberry (7.7%ABV)

Anchorage: The Tide and its Takers (9%ABV)

Mikkeller: X Barley Wine 2006/2013 (12.9%ABV)

Westbrook: Mexican Cake (10.5%ABV)

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Festivals, Memoirs of a Bierebelle

 

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Arrogant Ales

Wow guys it’s been a while hasn’t it! For some unknown reasons I’ve been finding it really difficult to find the time to blog recently. Maybe it’s that the prolonged winter hasn’t done a lot to inspire me to write but spring has sprung and I have a pretty awesome year ahead. The highlight of the beery year (so far) comes as early as Saturday May 4th when I’ll be jetting off to Copenhagen to Mr Mikkeller’s fabulous Copenhagen Beer Celebration which promises to be a massive party featuring a who’s who of the greatest brewers working across the world today. It’s motivation to get drinking some of those beers I have stashed away just in case there’s anything worth bringing back. There was extra motivation to break into one of my special bottles today when the OH dropped a camera lens on the bottle of Stone Double Bastard (11.2%ABV). Don’t worry – the lens was somehow fine but the bottle cap was somehow slightly loosened so, since the seal was broken, we just had to drink it. Oh well. I’ve taken these here lucky taste buds of mine on quite an adventure since I started this blog. The first full-on American Strong Ale I tasted was Stone Arrogant Bastard which was possibly before I started blogging and it stuck in my mind as a benchmark for full-on over-hopped bitterness and big flavours – not to be messed with. However, a lot of beer has flowed since then and I

Arrogant like a Sauce Boss

Arrogant like a Sauce Boss

recently revisited the Arrogant Bastard. Although it remains a well-made and tasty ale, it didn’t blow me away as it did the first time round. So would Stone deliver the next big hit with their Double Bastard? According to the website, the IBU count is actually classified and the blurb from the label promises much. Well the good news is this bastard has every right to be arrogant – this bad boy has swagger. The deep golden color is almost sunset red topped with a wispy white hint of foam. The aroma is dark malts and deep burnt caramel with a little spice. The flavor is a real wake-up for the tongue, starting with roasted malts in spades and delicious candy sweetness, then diving into devilishly deep bitterness offset by a little berry fruit and a hint of wood. It packs a punch whilst staying well-rounded, balanced and complex.There’s only a tiny burn at the back which has a rum-like warmth. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how it shines through in the Double-Burn Habanero sauce (pictured as part of the unholy ‘trinity’ of hot sauce) when I find an excuse to open that – maybe it’ll have a run-in with a falling Tupperware and then of course I’ll have to try it!

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Winter Ales

 

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Wild thing

The apple of my eye!

The apple of my eye!

As a lover of apples and a hater of cider, I have often wondered why somebody can’t just make an apple beer!? Then I chanced upon Unibroue Ephemere (5.5%ABV), a candy-cane sweet Belgian style apple ale last October and found that I was right – apples can make a good beer! Unfortunately this was over in Vancouver and the brewery is in Quebec so there’s little chance of finding it over in the UK. I’d almost lost hope on another apple ale until I spotted the Wild Beer Co‘s Ninkasi,(9%ABV) a very strange beast named after the ancient Greek goddess of beer. It’s a Belgian-style saison with New Zealand hops, wild yeast and Someset apple juice. If this all sounds rather zingy for you, be warned that champagne yeast is added at secondary fermentation to take the effervescent bubbles up to the next level.

Whilst I love a pretty bottle and noticed this one partly due to it’s striking appearance, I soon realized it may not have been a good idea after all. The regular metal lid was coated in wax which had been elegantly allowed to drip down the sides but there’s just one issue with this. When the wax is solid and the beer inside is potentially pretty lively, wrestling with a tough seal is a fast-track to a very beery kitchen. Eventually we ran a sharp knife around the edge and then held our breaths in anticipation as the OH gallantly prized open the lid. Thankfully disaster had been avoided. Now the main  challenge was in pouring the damned thing using the good old ‘pour half an inch then wait for the head to top the glass then subside’ method. But what a sensational saison. They were right about the bubbles! The rustic aroma has a hint of the apples and the taste is so unbelievably crisp and dry you can almost taste the crunch – there’s definitely a hint of champagne-ness. It doesn’t have the typical flavor one would expect from New Zealand hops; there’s a lot of bitterness and a hint of citrus but the tart apple is the star of the show here. It”s a world away from the candy apple Unibroue Ephemere which makes me wonder where else brewers can go with delicious apples.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Saisons

 

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Squeal Piggy!

Could this be how we make beer for girls!

Could this be how we make beer for girls!

My word holy smoke we finally have the long-awaited Rogue Voodoo Maple Bacon Ale! We heard it had hit down at our beloved local beer emporium, Bitter Virtue and rushed down to grab a bottle before it all went, but would it live up to the hype? I’ve been a fan of Rogue Ales for a long time and beers such as the Mocha Porter and the Chatoe OREgasmic are a tough act to follow! With an ingredient listing including Cherrywood, Beachwood & Hickory Smoked Malts and Applewood Smoked Bacon I really really wanted this to live up to the hype and guess what…it actually surpassed expectations! Especially so after the bitter disappointment of Uncommon Brewers Bacon Brown ale and having read many an unfavourable review. I was concerned that I’d built myself up to be let down. It’s a collaboration with Portland doughnut crazies, Voodoo whose idiotic offerings include such delights as Cock & Balls and the Tex-Ass Challenge so you know this beer aint’ gonna be subtle whether that’s good or bad. I started to feel a little happer pouring it out of the bottle, seeing the joyful bright red sunrise colour but one whiff of that aroma confirmed my suspicions about the treat I had in store. What an enormously extravagant hit of maple sending me right back to Canada. The first sip has all of that maple sweetness, but then there’s the extraordinarily dirty smoke like you’re sitting downwind from a barbeque caked with burnt-on bacon that’s been cooking non-stop for 6 hours. Then you get to the salt. I would not be in the least bit surprised if you had enough of this to fill a pool, you would float in it like in the sea, although such wastefulness would be unthinkable. In fact, there’s so much sticky-sweet salty maple caramel I’m surprised it pours from the bottle so much like a liquid! This beer is massive and I suspect a bit like marmite. But more salty. You’ll love it or loath it. I love it. Don’t worry about horse in your lasagne and get some bacon in your beer

The rest of the haul from Bitter Virtue

The rest of the haul from Bitter Virtue

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Smokey

 

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What would your last beer be?

So I had actually thought that with all this cold weather I would find more time to get blogging. No chance! Christmas is hurtling towards us like it’s been shot from a catapult and this one may even be our last if you believe those Mayans and their crazy calendar. In fact, if the world ends on December 21st all of this running around the shops in a mad and crazy panic will all have been for nowt. Maybe the apocalypse will begin with War breaking out over the last Furby, Pestilence spread amongst cheerless shoppers shuffling through the over-crowded high-streets, Famine as the German markets close and we can no longer shovel down foot-long bratwurst and finally the Death of any chance of sobriety and sanity.

Torrent of awesome

Torrent of awesome

I’ve always been one to cut things fine but the deadline to finish my blogs about the exciting Craft beer from Canada could turn out to be pretty final so I’d better get on with it. Those guys at Elysian, located South of the border in Seattle, decided they would mark the End of Days with a series of 12 commemorative beers, one for each month of 2012. Their brief for their brewers was simple: which 12 beers would you brew if you knew they would be your last? Apocalyptic beer requires awesome artwork which was taken from comic book artist Charles Burn‘s fabulous Black Hole series. I was lucky enough to catch two of them whilst I was in Vancouver. The Maelstrom Blood Orange IPA was an amazing marmalade treat I enjoyed from the tap at the Alibi Rooms. The second one I got hold of was Torrent, a pale beet bock, at an off-licence and I was glad to have the bottle just for the artwork. Out of the bottle, it was the colour of the last sunset; golden red burning up the little fluffy white clouds with in glorious destruction. There was a definite beetroot aroma lifted with a touch of honey and the flavour was perfectly balanced and lightly malted with lots of proper, honest beetroot. Earthy, vegetal, deliciously bitter and incredibly dry at the end. As a beetroot juice addict, this would definitely go on my list of beers to drink as I watch the world burn!

If you brew your own brewer and like a little experimentation, the list of 12 is pretty inspirational. Which beer would you brew for the end of the world?

January: NIBIRU Yerba Mate Tripel

February: RAPTURE Heather Ale

March: FALLOUT Green Cardamom Pale Ale

April: PESTE Chocolate Chile Ale

May: RUIN Rosemary Agave IPA

June: WASTELAND Elderflower Saison

July: TORRENT Pale Beet Bock

August: MAELSTROM Blood Orange Ale

September: BLIGHT Pumpkin Ale

October: OMEN Belgian Raspberry Stout

November: MORTIS Sour Persimmon Ale

December: DOOM Golden Treacle Pale

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in bock, Memoirs of a Bierebelle

 

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