How Bad Can It Be…? Q.E. Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer

Elgoods Q.E. Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer

An Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer you say…? I’d be lying if I said that I thought it was going to be any good, but I’ll try anything once.

My Dad has a thing for cacti, so when my parents were visiting over Christmas, I took him to a local garden centre so he could expand his collection. On the way to the checkout, I decided to pursue their trivial local(ish) beer selection and spotted this bottle from Elgoods. You couldn’t tell it was from Elgoods when it was sitting on the shelf though, as the branding was completely different from all their other stuff; it was only upon reading the back label, that it became clear who’d brewed it.

It poured a pin bright golden yellow, with a fluffy white head. The head was one of those that struggled to get going and never really reached the size it should have got to, it also dropped to a ring round the edge of the glass fairly sharpish. On the nose, it was all apple flavoured Chewits; think Appletiser and you’re on the right track.

The apple was right upfront and personal in the mouth too, rolling around before eventually letting a few other flavours reveal themselves. I’m not sure about the vanilla, it might have been there, it might not; maybe a hint at the start of the aftertaste, but really faint. I did get quite a bit of wheat character, but it was a bit dusty and didn’t sit particularly well with all that apple.

  • RateBeer Elgoods
  • Q.E. Apple & Vanilla Wheat Beer, 4%, 330ml

I didn’t quite know what to make of this beer, I couldn’t decide between it being not my thing or it being an utter, utter abomination; I’m tending to the later though. In the vast, vast majority of cases, I’d rather my beer tasted of malt and hops, not of apple flavoured Chewits. To be honest, I’m really glad that I didn’t buy this myself, I slipped it amongst my Dad’s cacti and got him to pay for it, as I’d have been a bit annoyed if I had.

Yoga Chef

Stewart Brewing Yoga Chef...

It’s always nice to be offered free beer, and I especially like it when it comes from a brewery in my home town of Edinburgh (well, just outside Edinburgh if you want to be pedantic about it).

I didn’t know anything about Yoga Chef when I was first contacted, I just assumed it was another Stewart Brewing special. It turns out that the original brew was runner up in the The Institute of Brewing & Distilling Scotland, Young Members homebrew competition and the prize was to have it brewed and distributed by Stewart Brewing.

When the bottled turned up, the label totally reminded me of a photo shoot I did years ago for a friend. She was after some shots of herself in various Ashtanga Yoga poses, which was quite challenging, as I was using a 6”x6” medium format camera and her garden was a bit of a mess. We’re still friends, so I must have done an OK job…

Anyway, what about the beer? It poured a dark conker brown, with a compact tan coloured head, which didn’t last. It was relatively thin on the nose, with chocolate and mocha aromas. In the mouth it felt just shy of full bodied, I think there was just a slight lightness about it to start with, which gave that impression, rather than it actually being lighter of body.

It wasn’t particularly bitter, the main thrust was the coffee flavour, which also had hints of chocolate about it. This wasn’t some Espresso, Long Black or even Aeropress coffee hit, but some other kind with which I’m not familiar; as coffee for me is freshly ground, black and unadulterated, or it doesn’t happen.

I wasn’t really sure about it to start with, but after a few sips I was total sold. It’s a really nice beer and I’d be really chuffed if I’d brewed it. It does make me wonder though, just how close to the original homebrew is it? Did that have more of a coffee hit, or is it a faithful reproduction. It doesn’t really matter either way, as this large scale brew of it, is really, really nice. It’s definitely an Autumnal beer, perfect after a morning and lunchtime spent plucking apples in an orchard (I drank it a few weeks ago and have been slack in writing up my notes…).

Uncle Joe Russian Kvass

Beavertown Uncle Joe Russian Kvass...

I found Beavertown’s 100th gyle, Uncle Joe Russian Kvass, to be, er, interesting. It certainly appears to have divided opinion online, gathering mostly negative comments.

When I was handed a glass of Beavertown’s Uncle Joe’s Russian Kvass at The Rake after the Grand Final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, I had no clue as to what I was about to drink. I can remember blurting out, pickled eggs, as to me, it smelt and tasted just like a liquidsed pickled egg, not what I was expecting at all.

Much to my surprise, one of the party at The Rake offered me a full bottle of the stuff, if I wanted it. Of course I said yes, free beer, is free beer after all. I have absolutely no idea who the chap was, not even his name. I’d just like to thank him though, it was very kind, I owe you one. All this meant that I got to try a load more of it, at my leisure, in an environment where I could sit back and try and figure out what the beer was all about.

I’d decided to wait until drinking the bottle before looking up what a Kvass was supposed to be, so one night after work, I cracked the bottle open and sat back. It poured a dusky, slightly hazy marmalade colour, with no head whatsoever. I thought it smelt of slightly eggy mild pickling vinegar, my wife was adamant that it smelt of burnt toast though. It was pretty flabby in the mouth, while there was a bit of body about it, it was also quite watery, so didn’t feel like it was up to much. The taste was also a bit like pickling vinegar, pickling vinegar that had had a few hard boiled egg yolks blended into it.

Beavertown Uncle Joe Russian KvassHalf way down the bottle my resolve crumbled and I plucked my copy of Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing off the shelf and looked up Kvass in the index. Sure enough, there’s a recipe for brewing your own in there and it proved once again that my wife’s sense of taste and smell is far, far superior to mine. It turns out that Kvass is brewed with rye bread (that’ll be where the toast was coming from) and can have various other things in it, like raisins and lemon juice, depending on which bit of Eastern Europe it’s being brewed in.

After reading the description of what it was supposed to have in it, it was immediately obvious that some of the sharpness in Uncle Joe was coming from lemon juice; the brew day blog makes for interesting reading (you’ll need to scroll down a bit). Having said that, I stand by my pickled egg comments. So think lemon juice soaked pickled eggs and toast soldiers. While I didn’t find it as unpleasant as that sounds, I can imagine that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; in fact it’s not, see here.

Boak and Bailey reckon that Kvass might be next years big thing, if this beer is any indication of what we can expect, then I hope they’re wrong. While it was interesting and not totally unpleasant, it’s certainly not a beer that I want to be trying again anytime soon. I’d like to mark this one down as a one bit of sour beer bandwagon jumping too far, which might be a tad unfair, but I suppose that depends on if they brew it again and improve it, or if it’s a genuine one off.

I was trying to embed some tweets in this article, but for some reason they’re not being loaded. They may appear at some point…

Fat Sprat

I’ll start this by saying that I’m not a big fan of mini casks, as drinking eight odd pints of the same beer one after the other, isn’t really my thing. I can see the attraction for a party though, especially if you have three or four of the things with different beers in them. Since Adnams were kind enough to send me this mini cask of Fat Sprat for review and I didn’t have any parties planned for the foreseeable future, I just had to man up and get on with it.

You’d have thought that with the eight and a half pints that I managed to squeeze out of the mini cask, I’d have had plenty of opportunity to study and analyse this beer and make copious notes. I should be able to regale you with exacting details of how it sits in the glass and how it tastes, but I didn’t take any notes. I was too busy knocking back pint after pint, with a massive cheesy smile on my face, as this isn’t a boring brown beer, this is a brilliant brown beer.

It’s ridiculously drinkable, with a lovely malt backbone that supports a fantastic level of bitterness. With bags and bags of flavour, that lingers long into the slightly drying after taste, it’s such a tasty beer. I urge you to hunt it out, evidently it was on at The Red Lion in Histon the other week and I imagine The Castle Inn will have some at some point. Or, you could just buy some from the Adnams online shop, you’ll be glad you did.

Native Britten

It turns out, that this year is the centenary of renowned composer Benjamin Britten. Evidently he was born and spent the majority of his life in Suffolk, so Adnams have produced a beer to commemorate the occasion. It’s billed as a golden wheat beer with banana and citrus flavours, a lightly herbal aroma and a sweet, dry finish and features both honey and thyme, along with all the usual beery ingredients, and features three different labels.

It certainly seemed like a tale of three bottles, but I suppose that was all about time and place more than anything else. The honey and thyme flavours in the first bottle were initially very subtle, but the thyme really dominated the more I drank. The second bottle wasn’t subtle and was just all thyme, while the third bottle had far more of the honey in the flavour and thus seemed better balanced.

They all poured a crystal clear, classic brown bitter colour, with a slightly off white head. There was nothing about the appearance that indicated that they were going to be so interestingly flavoured. I suppose the only comparable beer I’ve had was Saison du’Buff, which was like drinking a liquidised herb garden. These were more like drinking liquidised savoury thyme crackers. Different, and both too much, but strangely moreish at the same time.

My wife commented that the flavour reminded her of the coast and all the wild plants that grow along it. I’d quite like to know how Adnams do that, as I get a similar thing when I drink Spindrift. Anyway, this is a limited release beer, so you won’t find it in the supermarket, you’ll need to head to the Adnams online store if you fancy trying some.

Thanks to Adnams for sending me a few bottles to review.

Free Beer Politics on the Radical Road

Ah free beer, nothing tastes quite like it. The last couple of months has seen a bit of a storm on the subject, with various blogs venting their frustrations at the actions of others. The topic also came up at the recent European Beer Bloggers Conference and it was quite entertaining to read all the hand wringing tweets about if it was OK to accept and blog about free beer and what you should do if you thought the beer was poor or bad, especially in light of the majority of the atendees having taken the MolsonCoors Scholarship.

I don’t go out looking for free beer, as I’ve always felt that it would compromise my reviewing of it. I’ve also tried to indicate those beers I’ve been sent with their own category, so it’s easy to identify those reviews and thus apply a free beer filter when reading them. Having said that, I’ve not given every free beer I’ve had a glowing review, but then you have to remember that this is my personal opinion, it’s not fact.

Beer is like art, we don’t have to agree with others on what beer is good and which isn’t, it’s perfectly fine to have your own opinion that is diametrically opposite to everyone else. We don’t all have to like pop art or neo-expressionism anymore than we all have to like Rauchbier or Greene King IPA. What we should all agree on though, is that as beer bloggers, we don’t try to dupe our audience with unethical reviews where we laud false praise on mediocre beers in the hope that we’ll get more free beer in return. After all, the truth will out…

I’ve been meaning to write about this stuff for a while and was finally nudged into doing so by this tweet from Stewart Brewing yesterday:

I was offered a free bottle of Radical Road a while back and jumped at the opportunity. You don’t tend to see Stewart Brewing beers down this way and all those that I’ve tried have been during trips back home to visit my parents. The box also had a couple of their other beers in it, Coconut Porter and Cauld Reekie, neither of which I’d tried before. So a massive thanks to Stewart Brewing for sending me these.

I think I drank the Coconut Porter while it was a bit on the cold side, as I didn’t get any coconut, it was silky smooth for sure though. In my defence the fridge was set to eight degrees, but a faulty controller had it much, much colder; in fact it bottomed out at minus fourteen a few days later, I’d removed all the beer by that point though. The Cauld Reekie was a glorious glass of interesting roasted flavours and one I’ll be hunting down next time I’m home.

But what of Radical Road, their new 6.4% Triple Hopped Pale Ale? It poured a slightly hazy amber colour, that cleared as it warmed up slightly. The loose white head didn’t last and dropped to a few thin patches fairly quickly. I was expecting a bit more on the nose, there were slight marmalade notes, but I was expecting a bit more of a bouquet. It was really quite full bodied and filled the mouth with sweet, slightly marmalade, malt flavours. The slight carbonation stopped the sweetness from getting sticky and that coupled with the wonderful bitterness really balanced the beer well. The bitterness were never too much, but enough to prickle the insides of my cheeks and leave a long lingering juicy bitter marmalade aftertaste. I really, really enjoy this, just my kind of beer.

It sort of reminded me a bit of Adnams Innovation, but with slightly more bitterness. I’d love to try the two side by side, so I hope that they don’t wait too long before brewing it again…

Advent Beer – Special

This is the last of the dusty unloved bottles that Ed at the Bacchanalia gave me for free. I have to say that I’ve been pretty impressed with the bottles of Sharp’s beer that I’ve tried so far. It’s just a shame that we never really see anything other than Doom Bar round these parts and then only once in a blue moon.

It poured a auburn brown, with a slight orange hue, at least that’s what it appeared to be to me. the head was off white and easily formed, but, it was formed from rather large bubbles and thus didn’t last. In just a few minutes, it had dropped to a few patches and then a few minutes later, to a ring round the edge of the glass. I didn’t get much on the nose, if I’m being honest. there was maybe some of that general bottle conditioned musty, yeasty type aroma, but it wasn’t very strong.

It felt quite lively in the mouth and was borderline for just turning into a mouthful of bubbles the moment it hit the tongue. So you could say it was a touch over carbonated. At first I thought it was a bit dull, that there wasn’t really anything going on. I thought about it for a bit and let the beer come to me and reveal itself, after all Sharp’s are known for balanced beers, I wasn’t expecting a hop bomb or anything.

After leaving it for a bit, it had just come out the fridge after all, it revealed itself in all its glory. A lovely biscuity malt base laid the foundations for a nice fruity tingle of hops. The main flavour appeared to be a subtle bitter orange kind of thing, at least that’s what my brain was telling me it was. Although I think it might have been slightly more complex than that. The after taste was lingering and juicy with a nice bitterness, that meant you could still taste it minutes later.

It was very nice, with wonderful balance between the malt and hops; never too malty, never too bitter and ridiculously drinkable. I imagine that it’s pretty special indeed, when served from cask.


Copyright (c) Hunter's Brewery, used without permission...

It feel like an age since I was at the Grand Final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, which I’ve still not got round to blogging about. While I was there, the delegation from Hunter’s Brewery in Devon kindly gave me a brick of their beers, featuring two each of Crack Shot, Half Bore, Hunter’s Gold and Pheasant Plucker. It was really about time I got round to drinking them and blogging about them.

To be honest, I think the reason that I’ve not had them earlier is due to the fact that I really didn’t get on with, Full Bore, their beer that made the final of the competition. I suppose that I thought that they would all be in a similar vein, overly malty and sweet. I really need to get over these prejudices and start enjoying beer for it being beer…

Hunter's Crack ShotI didn’t realise that these were all bottle conditioned, that’ll teach me not to read the label, again. I didn’t really notice any sediment in the bottle of Crack Shot and it was only while chucking the Half Bore into the glass that I realised my mistake. Anyway, here’s the notes that I jotted down for each beer.

Crack Shot poured a burnished copper amber colour, with a decent, slightly off white head. The head didn’t last and dropped to a thin covering fairly quickly. There was a yeasty hint to the nose, at least, there was a note that reminded me of yeast. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot going on, maybe a bit of malt, but nothing I could pin down.

It was quite lively in the mouth, but not overly carbonated. If anything, I thought the body was a touch on the thin side, but it didn’t really detract. It had a subtle marmalade taste to it, with a drying after taste. It wasn’t particularly bitter, but there was a subtle fruitiness from the hops that balanced the malt well.

Hunter's Half BoreHalf Bore poured a near crystal clear copper colour, with just a bit of yeast haze due to the pour. The head was huge during the pour and nearly jumped out the glass. It didn’t last though and dropped to a few patches after a while. There really wasn’t anything on the nose, maybe a hint of malt, but that was it.

It was quite lively due to the bottle conditioning, with quite a bit of prickle in the mouth before any flavour arrived. It wasn’t that it felt thin, but it had a slightly watery edge to it. I couldn’t detect any honey, which normally leaves a particular flavour behind, it was just fruity, from hops rather than malt though. It wasn’t particularly bitter, well balanced you could say, but the after taste did have a hint of hoppy bitterness about it.

Hunter's Hunter's GoldHunter’s Gold Poured, not a golden colour as I was expecting, but a coppery brown. The head was easily formed, but disappeared completely after a few minutes. I did rinse out the glass between this and the Half Bore, which might have had something to do with it. I didn’t really get anything on the nose, maybe a fleeting hint of hops and yeast, but fleeting at best.

It had a good body about it, with a bit of a prickle from the carbonation. It had an initial malty taste that then turned fruity, before a slightly thin drying after taste. Again, it wasn’t particularly bitter, but there was more hop flavour than malt flavour in the after taste. There was also a bit of a yeasty flavour going on too, even though I’m pretty sure I poured this one clean.

Hunter's Pheasant PluckerPheasant Plucker Poured a deep ruby brown, with a very poor off white head. The head didn’t want to form at all and I had to pour from quite a height, to get any sort of head going. What head I did manage to coax, was formed of very large bubbles and didn’t last long at all. There wasn’t much on the nose, my initial thought was that there was a fleeting hint of plums.

The initial taste revealed a beer that had practically zero condition, it was as flat as a pancake. It was really malt driven, with hardly any hop character. The flavours were all malty stewed fruit, right from the initial taste all the way through the after taste. It needed more condition and more hops.

I have to say that I really didn’t get on with the Pheasant Plucker, as it was far too malty for my tastes. But then it might have just been a duff bottle, I’ll find out when I drink the other one. I quite liked the other three though, they were all perfectly balanced, if a little traditional with the varieties of hops that were used. I’ll probably not rush out and buy more, as they’re not really my cup of tea (the clue’s in the blog name). However, I’d happily drink them in the pub if I ever saw them. So if you’re a fan of traditionally flavoured, well balanced ales, check them out.

Advent Beer – Racer 5

A few weeks back I was in London for a recording of the BBC Radio 4 science show, The Infinite Monkey Cage. While I was there, I popped into Tap East, the new brew pub in the Westfield Stratford Centre. The main reason I went was to sample their beer, the second was to pick up a bottle of Racer 5, as I knew they had some. After a few pints of cask and keg, I was ready to be heading off, when Glyn offered me a drink. I declined as I needed to get going, so he gave me a bottle of Racer 5 to take with me, which was incredibly generous of him.

It poured quite a light amber colour, certainly lighter than I was expecting. Lots of US IPAs are chock full of crystal malt and quite dark because of it. I did get a bit of the sediment into the glass, which led to a few floaters, but nothing that really impacted; you’ve got to love clean US yeasts. The head was easily formed, although it dropped from a good finger or so, to a few foam islands fairly quickly. The nose was immense, quite a bit of crystal malt character, entwined with thick, pungent resinous hops, with fleeting marmalade notes hiding under everything else.

It was massive in the mouth, with an initial sweetness that carried on right through to the after taste, I wasn’t expecting it to be so sweet, I thought it would have been dryer in the after taste, but sweet it was. This beer is really a showcase for the hops, while there is some malt character to it, it’s quickly over powered by the resinous, grapefruit and mandarin flavours that rampage through the mouth. The after taste is lingering grapefruit, tending to marmalade, with a distinct bit of alcohol burn along the top of the mouth.

I’m very thankful to Glyn for the bottle, it’s a beer that I’ve wanted to try for a while and I’ll certainly buy more if I see it again. So that’s me finally caught up with the Advent Beer after the weekend in Paris. However, I’m off down the pub to night, so there might not be any Advent Beer tonight, which means more catching up tomorrow…

Advent Beer – Single Brew Reserve 2009

Last night along with the Cambridge Moonshine Second Quarter, I had Saturdays Advent Beer too. I didn’t pick it at random, as I didn’t want to end up with a big bottle of De Molen or one of the Hardknott’s. I want to enjoy these beers, not get rat arsed on a school night… This is another one of those beers that was sitting all dusty and unloved in a box at the Bacchanalia and which Ed was very generous in giving to me for nowt.

It poured a crystal clear burnished coppery brown, with a decent head. The head didn’t last though and dropped to a patch covering fairly quickly. There didn’t appear to me much sediment at the bottom of the bottle after the pour, obviously, you mileage may vary if you manage to find a bottle of this. I didn’t think there was much on the nose to be honest, vague hints of a marmalade type note maybe, but nothing much else.

It felt quite lively and effervescent in the mouth, at least to start with, as it calmed down a bit by the time I got to the end of the glass. If I’m being brutal, which I am, I found it a touch thin and a bit one dimensional. Now don’t get me wrong here, it was perfectly balanced and an absolute joy to drink, with juicy subtle flavours that were reminiscent of marmalade. While there may have been a brief hint of stewed plums at the start, it just tasted the same the whole way through the mouth and down the glass, there just weren’t any other intertwining flavours.

  • RateBeerSharp’s
  • Single Brew Reserve 2009, 4.3%, 500ml

It pretty much set out it stall at the start and that’s all there was, which I thought was a shame, as good as it was and it was good, I think it would have been spectacular if it had revealed a bit more…