Advent Beer: What Did I Learn…?

December is but a long distant memory. While my focus has turned to other things, I keep mulling over some of the things I learnt from indulging in Advent Beer again.

If you can cast your mind back to December, I’d decided to do another round of Advent Beer, but this time with some constraints:

Some constraints though, the beer must be from UK breweries, come in a can and I can’t have tried it before.

Purely on the basis of the constraints, it was an all round success. All the beers were new to me, they were all British and they all came in a can. That’s probably where the success stops though.

It’s fair to say that the contents of the cans were a bit of a mixed bag, some were really good, some were pretty woeful. It just goes to show, it really is all about the contents of the packaging, not the actual packaging itself. There’s just a much shite beer in cans, as there is in bottles, cask and keg.

The biggest disappointment with the cans was sediment. Unlike glass, which you can see though, there’s no way to tell if there’s any sediment in the can. Thus it’s very difficult to know when to stop pouring. This caught my wife out when she poured a can of Magic Rock’s Wayniac and was very annoyed to find huge chunks of yeast floating around.

Given the current vogue for the yeast from Vermont, I’m not really sure what brewers can do to mitigate this. Printing a warning on the side of the can is a start, but if you can’t see where any yeast might be in the can, how can you pour carefully, without leaving a third of the volume in the can?

I really struggled with finding things to say and will admit to not enjoying myself near the end. Maybe it was getting behind with the write ups, maybe it was falling into the same old Police report¹ style of beer review. Either way, I think I’m pretty much done with reviewing beer on this blog.

I like drinking beer, just sitting back and enjoying it, letting the flavours and bitterness (or lack of) wash over me and adjust my mood. I don’t drink beer to try and identify every subtle nuance of flavour, or play guess the malt bill or hop variety.

I’ve said before that I just don’t have the vocabulary to communicate what I’m tasting, and I just end up not enjoying the beer, or the writing. So that’s it, no more Police report style beer reviews.

One positive thing to finish though. Getting Boak and Bailey to mention your blog post really does wonders for your traffic…

¹ Read Pete Brown’s excellent blog post Tasting Beer: Some Thoughts and Reflections, for what I mean about the Police report style of writing.

Advent Beer: Moor PMA

I was supposed to finish on Moor JJJ IPA¹, but due to my incompetence, Thirsty had run out. So Moor Pale Modern Ale for those with a Positive Mental Attitude is the finisher instead.

Given the name, I was expecting something ultra pale. Instead, it was more of a burnished copper, marmalade colour. The loose white head sat proudly, taking its time to slowly sink back.

I struggled to get much on the nose. It wasn’t that there was nothing there, I just couldn’t determine what it was. Maybe some slightly citric aromas, maybe a bit of biscuity malt, maybe.

Lots of body in the mouth, with a lovely prickly wave of bitterness to start. A solid, slightly sweet, malty backbone supported the bitterness, allowing it to sweep through the mouth. Lingering bitter orange flavours lead into the, slightly sweet and juicy, aftertaste.

As you would expect from Moor, the execution is spot on. Very drinkable, very moorish, very good.

¹ Yes, of course I’ve had JJJ IPA before. Normally from 660ml bottles, but also on cask occasionally. Damn you high strength beer duty!!!

It’s my blog though, and as I’d not had it for about four years, or from a can. I figured that would be the perfect beer to finish on.

C’est la vie, there will be other opportunities. Merry Christmas!

Advent Beer: BAD Wild Gravity

I’d not heard of BAD Co. (Brewing & Distilling Co.) before. So when I popped back into Thirsty for a last minute restock, one had to go into the Advent Beer selection.

Wild Gravity, is packaged in one of those wide mouth cans, which I really detest. I’m at home, not off camping in the wilderness, I do have access to a glass. The only benefit I can see, is if you get the lighting right, you can see into the can while you pour. So for a beer that says, unfiltered and maybe naturally hazy on the can (i.e. there’s going to be sediment), this is a plus point.

Having said that, it duly poured a clean and clear auburn marmalade, with a loose, just off white head. No sign of any sediment, or haze. The head dropped pretty quickly. There wasn’t much on the nose, possibly some marmalade type aromas, but nothing I could really pick out.

In the mouth it was pretty nice, subtle and balanced, rather than brash and shouty. Some prickly bitterness, on top of a solid malt foundation, started things off. It smoothed out quite quickly though, with both the bitterness and malt body dying off abruptly.

This was slightly disappointing, as a touch more late bitterness and body, would really have set the aftertaste up nicely. It was pleasant enough, with some bitter orange flavours that lingered. It just felt a bit flabby though, maybe as it was quite juicy, rather than it actually lacking any body.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this beer. After it had sat for a bit, the body did fill out, so take the muttering above, with a pinch of salt.

Having never heard of this brewery before, this beer is enough to peek my interest. I will be plucking a few of their other cans off the shelves in Thirsty next time I’m passing.

Advent Beer: Harbour Little Rock IPA

I’m always keen to try beer from Harbour. So when I saw this on the shelves in Cozzi & Boffa, I knew it had to make the Advent Beer selection.

It poured a slightly hazy chestnut brown, with a thick off white head. The haze appeared to be caused by minute suspended particles; it would have been a real looker without them. There was no mention on the can of any sediment, nor a warning to pour carefully.

There wasn’t much on the nose, just some subtle crystal malt type aromas. There was the feeling of hop aroma, but it was too subtle for me to pick up.

The first few mouthfuls were quite disappointing. Lots of slack crystal malt caramel type flavours and not a lot else. It wasn’t that it was lacking body, it was just quite mouth-watering, which had the side effect of making it feel a bit on the light side.

There was a quite a bit of prickle in the mouth, with the caramel flavours then asserting themselves. After washing out a bit, the aftertaste was quite long, with sweet caramel flavour and some bitterness.

It felt like the was a hole where the hop flavours should’ve be. The initial prickle, then all the sweet malt flavours, then where I was expecting the hop flavours and bitterness to show, there was just an absence.

Bitterness did build though, mouthful by mouthful, as long as they weren’t too far apart. There just wasn’t enough of it, especially with the finish being so sweet.

  • RateBeerHarbour
  • Little Rock IPA, 5.5%, 330ml

All in all, a bit of a disappointment, it was just lacking something. Hopefully with the arrival of Stuart Howe, Harbour will be back to producing the top quality beer in 2017.

Advent Beer: Rooster’s Ragged Point

This can of Rooster’s Ragged Point was the last on the shelf in Cozzi & Boffa. It would have been rude not too.

From a distance, it sat jet black in the glass. Just showing hints of deep ruby red, when held up to a light. The easily formed, tan coloured head dropped to a covering fairly readily.

The nose was intense. Lots of roasted malt flavours, predominantly chocolate, with hints of bitter coffee. It was hard to pick out any particular hop aroma, just a general, it’s been shown some hops.

The mouth feel was good, substantial, but still relatively light. Lots of roasted malt flavours, with chocolate, again, the mainstay. Rather than just being about the malt, the cheeks prickled with bitterness, causing some salivation. The juiciness and hop flavours combining to form a lingering bitter aftertaste, with hints of roasted coffee.

I really quite liked this beer; light, malty, bitter, moreish, accomplished.

Advent Beer: Northern Monk The Trilogy MMXVI: YEAST

Northern Monk’s Trilogy series is an annual series paying homage to the three pillars of beer: Hops, Malt, and Yeast. This is the last of the three and the one I was least looking forward too.

I was torn over this beer. It’s not a style I particularly like, I have to be in the right mood. That mood appears to happen once every five years or so. I’m not quite sure why this is, I’ve drunk loads of them in the past and enjoyed them.

Either way, I wasn’t in the mood.

It poured an every so slightly hazy, dark apricot jam, light marmalade colour. The tight white head looked solid, but dropped fairly quickly. The nose was quite fresh, with all the spicy ester aromas that you expect for this style off beer.

It was massive in the mouth, with an initial waft of carbonation, that parted to allow all the yeasty ester flavours to swamp everything. Sweetness reined. The yeast ester flavours lingering, like the last guest at a party, drunk and refusing to leave.

There may have been a tickle of bitterness in there, it was hard to tell. What was telling, was my reaction to drinking it. Gurning, is probably the most descriptive I can be.

After leaving it for an hour or so, it wasn’t quite so bad. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if my palate had adjusted, or the beer had mellowed. It was still sweet and estery, but now also had a slight juicy hop quality at the death.

Yes, it’s well made. Yes, it does what is says on the tin. Yes, loads of people are probably going to love it.

No, I wont be having another any time soon. The clue is in the name of the blog…

Advent Beer: Northern Monk The Trilogy MMXVI: HOPS

Northern Monk’s Trilogy series is an annual series paying homage to the three pillars of beer: Hops, Malt, and Yeast. This is the one I was most looking forward too.

The smell when the can was broached, was awesome. It poured a slightly hazy, apricot jam colour, with a compact head. The head was relatively hard to form and droped quickly back to pretty much nothing.

The nose was immense, thick with piney, resinous, citric hops. An undertone of prickliness, gave hints of a potentially aggressive mouth feel. This didn’t materialise, as it was actually quite soft in the mouth, with just a tickle of carbonation.

This beer is all about the hops, and boy did it deliver. The bitterness built, and built, then like a big wave breaking, the mouth was flooded with thick, bitter, citric flavours and bitterness. The cheeks prickling, the tongue and base of the mouth, throbbing with the thick bitter tang.

It wasn’t quite one of those hefty Olde English marmalade aftertastes, it was a touch too sweet and juicy for that. Although it did last and the more you drank, the longer it lasted and the heftier the flavours became. I could still taste it an age after finishing; I love it when that happens.

It didn’t feel like it drank to its strength, it felt like you could neck it quite easily. Then you’d have another mouthful and it felt huge and thick and sticky and all of its strength.

Each mouthful was a pleasure. You could argue that it was a touch sweet, but that would be nitpicking; I’d buy another in a heartbeat. Very, very tasty and dangerously drinkable. Phwoah…

Advent Beer: Northern Monk The Trilogy MMXVI: MALT

Northern Monk’s Trilogy series is an annual series paying homage to the three pillars of beer: Hops, Malt, and Yeast. I have all three and decided to start with MALT, an Imperial Porter, brewed in collaboration with De Molen.

It poured an almost impenetrable black in the glass, with hints of brown at the edges when held up to a light. A thick, rich, light brown head, formed slowly and dissipated relatively quickly. A quick swirl of the glass brought it back though.

For a beer that’s sole purpose is to showcase malt, it completely, unexpectedly, smelt of malt. Thick, rich, chocolate, coffee, stewed fruits, the whole gamut of hefty malt flavours. None of your lightweight biscuity, cerealy aromas here.

Massive in the mouth, the kind of beer that requires swishing around the mouth for a bit, before swallowing. Soft, smooth and subtle, with no one flavour jumping around. Everything just blending together, the result, unequivocally better than the sum of it’s parts.

That was my initial impression. Once it warmed up, the finish started to become sweet, very sweet. Lots of vanilla flavours as well, which added to the sweetness. With no real bitterness, it did get a bit sickly towards the end.

It’s the kind of beer that requires contemplation, demands it even. The kind of beer that requires a big sofa, a cold winters day and a roaring fire; I had to make do with one out of three. Other than finishing a bit sweet, it was pretty good. Looking forward to trying HOPS next.

Advent Beer: BrewDog Black Hammer

My once yearly purchase of beer from the Scottish Brewery.

I have my reasons for not buying beer from the Scottish Brewery. They have a place though and are now pretty well known, even by non-beer drinkers. I do feel the need to try one occasionally. Mainly so I can point out to which ever non-beer drinking friend has brought them up, that they could do better. Mainly by going here, here, here or here and buying something more interesting, something you can’t get in every supermarket.

Evidently this is a variation on their regular Jack Hammer, which I’ve had once, in 2014; I didn’t think much of it according to Untappd. It poured a really dark mahogany, rather than jet black, it is a Black IPA after all. A loose (ish) tan coloured head formed slowly and dropped back to half a finger quite quickly.

The nose was thick with hops, positively reeking. Dank C hop aromas spilling out of both the can and glass. The same C hops provided a massive wave of prickly bitterness in the mouth. This upfront bitterness, was overwhelmed pretty quickly, by massive sweet coffee and chocolate roasted flavours. The segway wasn’t nicely integrated, it was quite a discordant change.

More dissonance followed, with the change from all that cloying roasted malt, back to the aftertaste of astringent C hop flavour. The brutality of the flavour change did lessen slightly as the beer warmed up, but it was pretty unrelenting. As was the sweetness; you’d think a beer with a theoretical 200+ IBUs would be searingly bitter, not cloyingly sweet.

It wasn’t that it was unpleasant, it was just far, far, far too sweet. The aggressive hops just couldn’t cope with all that dark malt. Who knows if it’s the beer, or just shoddy warehousing by Tesco. Either way, that’s my annual Scottish Brewery purchase done and dusted. Back to buying something more interesting…

Advent Beer: Five Points Pils

Sometimes you just don’t need to write about a lot about a beer.

This one poured pale, with a loose white head. The nose was all grassy noble hops.

In the mouth, it had good body, with a nice level of up front bitterness. There was quite a lot of cereal flavours, which I’m not the biggest fan of. The aftertaste was crisp and bitter, with noble hop flavours.

Other than the cereal flavours, it was pretty damn good. As much as I’d love to try it on keg, this would make a cracking summer BBQ, or camping beer.