Imperial Märzen and India Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin Citra

This Imperial Märzen was another beer that I’ve had hanging around from my July order with Out of all the beers I got in that box, this is the one I’ve been looking forward to the least. I’m not the biggest fan of German beers at the best of times, so I really wasn’t looking forward to an amped up version.

It poured an almost crystal clear coppery burnished amber colour. It would have been crystal clear, apart from a little bit of sediment that found its way into the glass. The tan coloured head was easily formed, but dropped to a patchy coveting very quickly. The nose was all super sweet sticky malt that reminded me of oranges, for some reason.

In the mouth it was huge, with sickly sweet notes working their way into every crevice of my mouth. There was the impression of alcohol burn at the front of the mouth, rather than any actual alcohol burn, although the front of my mouth was tingling for a bit after each mouthful. The after taste was all sickly orangey sweetness, that eventually tapered off and left the whole mouth drying out. I’m sure there must have been some hops added to this beer, but whatever flavour they added, was crushed under a tonne of malt.

I don’t really like Bock’s and I really don’t like Doppelbock’s, now I can add Imperial Märzen’s to my list of don’t ever buy again beers. I’m not saying it was a bad beer, I’m just saying that it’s not my kind of beer and while I didn’t like it, your milage may vary.

I decided to have the India Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin Citra after the Imperial Märzen, as I had an inkling that I’d be in desperate need of some hops. Although I have to say that I was a bit apprehensive, as I knew that this combination of hops would likely result in a beer that would be loaded with rotting mango and cat wee.

It poured a very slightly hazy orange amber, the haze being due to a bit of sediment getting into the glass. The vast, vast majority of the sediment stayed welded to the bottom of the glass though. A huge rocky off white head was easily formed, but dropped to a blotchy covering fairly quickly. The nose was as expected, with full on thick, pungent rotting tropical fruit notes and the odd wiff of cats piss.

It was full in the mouth and surprisingly smooth, probably because it ended up sitting for an hour and a half after pouring, before I got a chance to drink any. It didn’t appear to be terribly bitter, although there was a lovely bitter spike and prickle before the lasting bitter after taste. The tropical fruit flavours weren’t quite as in yer face as I was expecting, while there was quite a bit of the rotten mango and cats piss, I didn’t find it too off putting for a change. The after taste was all lingering juicy tropical flavours, with a touch of sweetness.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • India Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin Citra, 7.1%, 330ml

I’d not rush to buy it again, it has to be said, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d been fearing. Maybe letting it sit for an hour or so is the way forward, allowing the rotting mango and cats piss to evaporate off…

London Brick and Big Brick

I’ve had these bottles kicking around for a while now, they were part of an order I made with way back in July. London Brick was a collaboration brew between a load of London brewers and Dark Star, you can read about it here and here. Big Brick was London Brick’s bigger brother and another collaboration brew, which you can read about here.

London Brick poured a burnished mahogany colour, with a fantastic light brown head. The head stayed pretty stable at about a finger, as it was being fed by loads a wee bubbles. I’m struggling to describe the nose, it reminded me of that aroma you get with lots of crystal malt, not not quite the same. I’m not sure I got anything else to be honest.

It was pretty smooth in the mouth, with a lovely, just sweet enough, malty backbone that laid a perfect platform for the hops. The bitterness was perfectly pitched, just peaking above the malt in a medley of grapefruit and orange. The after taste was fantastically juicy and left lingering fruity notes fading away for ages. A totally brilliant beer.

Big Brick poured a similar colour to London Brick, but just a bit darker. While the head was a similar colour and just as easily formed, it didn’t last and dropped to a covering relatively quickly. The nose was an amped version of London Brick, you might be seeing a pattern here. It was very thick, pungent and vinous, with the rye notes pounding the nose.

For such a big beer, it was amazingly smooth in the mouth, at least at the start, then the bitterness cut in. It really rampaged through the mouth and brought some prickly malt with it. The balance between the malt and the bitterness was pretty good, with plenty of sweetness to balance out the immense bitterness. The wasn’t quite as fruity in the after taste as London Brick, I found it to be a bit dryer, but still pretty juicy though.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • Big Brick Collaboration Red Rye Ale, 8.9%, 330ml

I’m not sure why I’ve not got round to drinking them earlier. I think I was scared of them, as I’ve not really had any beers made with rye before and big red ales are really not my favourite style. As is normal though, I should have got round to them sooner as they were amazing, especially the London Brick. I can only think what it must have been like when it was fresh, damn my prejudices, damn them to hell…

Imperial Brown Stout London 1856

I had a tiny taste of this beer back in May, someone brought a bottle along to the Cambridge CAMRA Summer Beer Festival and it was passed around after hours. Even with just that tiny taste, I could tell it was a beer I had to get a bottle of. Luckily, I managed to get one from a few months back, when I put in an order for a load of Kernel beers.

It poured an impenetrable black, with a decent tan coloured head. The head dropped fairly quickly to just a very thin covering and left good legs down the glass. The condition looked fantastic, tipping the glass led to a lovely stream of tiny bubbles racing backup to the head. The nose was huge, with massive thick oily, coffee flavours streaming from it.

The mouth feel was big, as you’d expect from a beer with kind of ABV, with massive flavours and an after taste that just kept on giving. There was lots of coffee, but not in the same way that a coffee stout would give you, far smoother and with far more chocolate in the mix. The after taste had a touch of alcohol burn, but nothing severe, it was mainly just smooth chocolaty coffee that lingered and lingered and lingered.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • Imperial Brown Stout London 1856, 10.1%, 330ml

I thought this was an absolutely stellar beer, find it if you can.

Goudenband 1998

Open It! is there for those bottles that are set aside for a special occasion which invariably never comes. It’s for those bottles that take pride of place in the cellar but never end up getting opened before sadly being replaced by shiny new bottles. It’s for that one beer you’ve been waiting to open but just didn’t know when to open it. Or, it’s just for sitting down and opening something different, something you’ve always wanted to try or something brand new.

I managed to pick this bottle up from after they tweeted that they’d found a case hidden away in the depths of their warehouse. I’d shared a bottle with a friend last year, after working at Cambridge CAMRA Beer Festival. He said that if I ever saw any for sale, I should buy as much as I could afford, so I didn’t. I have another bottle in the beer cupboard and I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to withstand the temptation to drink it.

This bottle opened with a very quiet, pfzt. I was almost worried that there wasn’t any carbonation left, as the cork had come out far, far too easily and looked a tad on the skinny side. I needn’t have worried though, because when I started to pour, it became obvious that there was still some life left in it. I did managed to form a head, of sorts, but I had to drop the beer from quite a height and the resulting foam didn’t last very long and dropped to a few blotches fairly quickly. This just left a glass of polished mahogany coloured beer, that transformed itself into a magnificent burnished Amber when held up to the light.

The nose was incredibly complex, exactly what you’d expect from an older beer, rich vinous notes edged with a sweet malty sourness. The taste was similarly complex, with some sourness up front that lasted right through till the after taste. Different tastes were intertwined with the sourness, but unlike the sourness they were fleeting, fading in and out. I’d try and describe them, but to be honest I really don’t have the vocabulary to do so, I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but there you go.

This was a seriously complex and mouth watering beer, that certainly didn’t drink like it was a 8% ABV. I’m now not sure how long to keep my other bottle, drink it and savour it, or keep it and see if it becomes even more complex…?

The Golden Pints 2010

Originally I was going to do my own round up of the year, I didn’t do one last year as I felt that I’d not been blogging for long enough. This year I felt that I had drank enough to have some thoughts I wanted to share, but then Andy and Mark posted about The Golden Pints. So I decided to combine my thoughts and The Golden Pints categories for this post, hence why I’ve given my top three beers and then a few highly recommendeds.

Now, I don’t normally hold much truck with lists and stuff, they are very personal after all and never seem to align with my view of things. So take this lot with a rather large pinch of salt, it’s only my opinion at the end of the day.

Best UK Draught Beer
  1. Thornbridge Bracia
    I had this at the Euston Tap the day after they opened, it was truly magnificent and while I’ve only had a ½ pint, it stood head and shoulders above anything else I had this year.
  2. Thornbridge Seaforth
    Supposedly an all English version of Jaipur and on this tasting in January, better than its stable mate. Utterly sublime…
  3. Thornbridge Kipling
    Beer of the festival at the Cambridge CAMRA summer beer festival and just about as perfect a beer as you can get for an early summers evening in a crowded tent.
Honourable mentions
Hopshakle Resination, Oakham Chinook, Thornbridge Raven
Best UK Bottled Beer
  1. Thornbridge Halycon 2009
    It took me a while to get hold of, but once I did, I bought every bottle I could find. Only one other beer has come close all year, including foreign imports.
  2. Moor Fusion
    The only beer to render me utterly speechless this year. I couldn’t take notes, I was so blown away…
  3. Marble Dobber
    You can keep your Punk IPA and your Jaipur, this is now my "go to beer".
Honourable mentions
Hardknott Infra Red, Hardknott Æther Blæc, Moor JJJ IPA, Cambridge Moonshine Transforming Tomorrow
Best Overseas Draught Beer
  1. Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra
    Stole my heart when I was in Rome earlier in the year and when I went back recently, it was just as good.
  2. Mikkeller I Beat yoU
    To be honest, it could have been any one of about 10 Mikkeller beers in this slot, but this was the last beer I had in Rome recently and it was an absolute hop monster.
  3. Grassroots Broken Spoke Blackened IPA
    A massive US West coast style IPA, but black. It messed with my senses and tasted sublime. Could have been any of the three Grassroots beers I’ve tried this year though, all of them were spectacular, the Rye Union Porter especially.
Honourable mentions
Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout, De Molen Rasputin, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Bernard Unfiltered, Hornbeer Black Magic Woman, Birrificio del Ducato Bia IPA, Birrificio San Paolo Ipè (Extra Hop)
Best Overseas Bottled Beer
  1. De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666
    Possibly the best beer I’ve had this year. Along with the Thornbridge Halcyon, it stands head and shoulders above everything else.
  2. Stone Arrogant Bastard
    I waited 13 years to try it after first seeing an (empty) bottle, it was so worth the wait.
  3. Mikkeller Single Hop IPA Simcoe
    Like drinking liquidised lychees, I’d have drunk more if it wasn’t so expensive and hard to get hold of.
Honourable mentions
Birra del Borgo Duchessic, Saison Dupont, Jandrain Jandrenouille IV Saison, Odel IPA, Dogfish Head Paolo Santo Maron, Hornbeer Oak Aged Cranberry Bastard, Nøgne Ø Porter, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Rogue John John Dead Guy Ale
Best Overall Beer
So hard to choose between Thornbridge Halcyon 2009 and De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis 666. But if I really had to choose between the two, then only as I had more of it, Thornbridge Halcyon 2009.
Best Pumpclip or Label
Anything by Marble.
Best UK Brewery
  1. Thornbridge
    They’ve produced the best UK beer I’ve had this year.
  2. Marble
    Catching Thornbridge up fast, Dobber is sublime.
  3. Moor
    I just wish I could get a moor regular supply…
Honourable mentions
Hardknott, BrewDog, Adnams, Fuller’s
Best Overseas Brewery
  1. Mikkeller
  2. De Molen
  3. Birra del Borgo
Honourable mentions
Grassroots, Nøgne Ø, Rogue, Stone, Hornbeer, Amager
Pub/Bar of the Year
  1. Brasserie 4:20, Rome, Italy
    Possibly the best pub in the world and fantastic food too.
  2. Bir & Fud, Rome, Italy
    The best pizza I’ve ever had, all washed down with lots of amazing Italian craft beer.
  3. Ma ‘Che Siete Venuti a Fà, Rome, Italy
    Could also lay claim to being the best pub in the world, it certainly has the nicest landlord I have ever met.
Honourable mentions
The Euston Tap, London; Cask Pub & Kitchen, London; The Cambridge Blue, Cambridge
Beer Festival of the Year
  1. Cambridge CAMRA Summer beer festival
    Only as I’m now a fully paid up member of the foreign beer bar team…
  2. The Cambridge Blue Winter Festival
    Thornbridge Jaipur, Seaforth and Raven were all on sparkling form.
Supermarket of the Year
Independent Retailer of the Year
The Bacchanalia, Cambridge
Online Retailer of the Year
myBreweryTap and BEERMerchants
Best Beer Book or Magazine
Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher
Best Beer Blog or Website
  1. Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile
  2. The Reluctant Scooper
  3. Real Brewing at the Sharp End
Best Beer Twitterer
The HardKnott’s (@HardKnottDave and @HardKnottAnn); it’s like a Twitter soap opera…
Best Brewery Online
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Orval with chips ‘n’ mayo
In 2011 I’d Most Like To…
Continue to try new and interesting beer and widen my horizons by trying new styles and retrying those styles I think I don’t like.
Open Category: Best Landlord
Manual from Ma ‘Che Siete Venuti a Fà
Within two minutes of meeting me was giving me free beer across the road in Bir & Fud. On subsequent visits, he opened things like Cantillon Zwanze 2009 and gave me bottles to bring home. The nicest beer person I’ve met all year.

Advent Beer: Export Stout London 1890

Of the four The Kernel beers that I bought from BEERMerchants, this was probably the one I Was looking forward to the most, I have a soft spot for this kind of beer. I have since picked up a couple of other The Kernel beers from Sourced Market at St Pancras station and evidently one of them is supposed to be sensational, it will have a hard job to beat this beauty though.

The Kernel Export Stout London 1890It poured almost totally black, with only the merest hint of brown at the edges when the glass was tilted at an angle. A good tan head formed relatively easily and dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. The nose was immense, full on dark chocolate and coffee, with some roasted notes dancing round the edges. It was quite hard to not just sit there with my nose in the glass.

The mouth feel was huge, the taste seemed to wash over every nook and cranny and filled my mouth with the most amazing flavours. There was a thread of alcohol that was in the initial taste, that while swamped by dark chocolate and roasted coffee, reappeared for a brief encore at the end. This beer wasn’t so much about the slight alcohol notes and big body, it was all about the dark, dark chocolate and bitter roasted coffee. The aftertaste was all pure bitter coffee and it lasted for what seemed like an age.

This is the best Kernel beer I’ve had to date, it’s stunning. It was so moreish, I was having trouble drinking it slowly enough to savour. If you’ve been thinking about buying any of The Kernel beers, then just do it and make sure you buy a bucket load of this one, highly recommended.

Infra Red

This is the first Hardknott beer that I’ve written about, but it’s not the first I’ve drunk. I had a bottle of Æther Blæc earlier in the year, but I really wasn’t in the mood to take notes, which is a shame as it was truly, truly excellent (I have more and will blog about it soon). I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this one, but as it was such a small bottling run, I had to get some mail order from, as no where else had any. Don’t despair though, they have recently brewed some more and my local shop, The Bacchanalia, took a delivery of some on Thursday (as did various other outlets throughout the country).

HardKnott Infra RedIt poured a deep reddish brown, with a light brown loose head. The head dropped relatively quickly to a covering. The smell reminded me of Stone Arrogant Bastard, there’s quite a heavy crystal malty kind of aroma, but it’s also backed up by some heavy hop action.

The first bottle wasn’t as full bodied as I was expecting, it felt a bit too thin in the mouth, although the further I get through the bottle, the less I noticed it. I’ve since had a second bottle and to be honest, I think I was being over critical of the first one. They both had a definite malty backbone with an almost roasted biscuity edge and the same kind of tongue tickle that you get from Arrogant Bastard. There was bitterness, but it wasn’t overpowering and although it lingered, it wasn’t maybe as much as the tag line on the bottle would suggest.

To be honest, I really, really liked this beer and I’m really glad there is a local source where I can go and buy loads of it. It’s probably going to be in my top three British bottled beers of the year (look out for that post). It’s a must track down and try, as far as I’m concerned

Pale Ale Centennial and India Pale Ale C.S.C.

The Kernel is a small London based brewery, that has been going for just over a year. If you follow the blog-o-sphere or the twitterati, then you’ll have definitely heard of them, as they have a very good reputation. It was this reputation that made me seek out some of their beers, which I bought from, unless you live in London, mail order is probably your only chance of getting hold of these.

The Kernel Pale Ale: CentennialFirst up was the Pale Ale Centennial, which poured a crystal clear pale gold with a loose white head. The head took a while to get going and dropped back to a covering fairly quickly. It didn’t smell of much to be honest, which might be due to it coming straight from the shed and thus quite cold.

It was very smooth in the mouth, with a nice weight to the body. It wasn’t as bitter as maybe I was expecting, but it had a nice grapefruitiness to it. The whole thing was nicely balanced and subtle rather than in yer face.

The Kernel India Pale Ale C.S.C.Next up was the India Pale Ale: C.S.C., the hops used were Centennial, Simcoe and Chinook, hence the C.S.C.. It poured a clear light copper burnished gold, with an easily formed loose white head. the head dropped relatively quickly to a covering. Again, I didn’t really get much on the nose, maybe a touch of malt.

It had quite a full bodied mouth feel, with an upfront maltiness that was quickly replaced by the hops. A nice resinous bittiness washed through the mouth leaving a nice citrus juiciness behind.

Of the two I preferred the India Pale Ale: C.S.C. I felt it was a bit more aggressive with the bitterness and hops, although I for my tastes, they could both do with being shown a few more hops. Both were good though and I’d definitely buy them again, in fact I’m in London on Sunday and might see if I can pick some up.