Advent Beer – Old World Russian Imperial Stout

According to the BrewDog website, this beer is just Rip Tide in 660ml bottles, that was made exclusively for a US chain. However, it’s got a slightly different ABV to Rip Tide and from what I can remember tastes far, far better than Rip Tide ever did. I think they’re only selling a small amount through their online shop, so if you want some, you’d better hurry, as I doubt it’ll last that long. It was a last minute decision to add it to the Advent Beer list, mainly as I didn’t get my hands on it until a couple of days before December.

It poured jet black in the glass, but in reality it was a really, really, really, really dark, near impenetrable brown. A tan coloured head was easily formed, but didn’t last long, dropping to a covering and then a ring round the glass. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting a beer with slightly more legs, just a bit thicker and more unctuous, it didn’t stick to the side of the glass as much as I was expecting.

The nose was all coffee, thick sweet malty coffee, with chocolate round the edges. At least that what I initially thought. By the time I got to the bottom of the bottle, the nose was all treacle, thick, sweet, pungent treacle.

Unsurprisingly, it was full in the mouth. It also had quite a bit of carbonation initially, almost too much, as it did get a bit bubbly in the mouth. The bubbliness did decrease the longer it sat in the glass though, but for a beer that isn’t bottle conditioned (at least I could see or taste any sediment), it was bordering on too fizzy. Flavour wise it was quite intense, with lots of treacle, molasses and hints of coffee and chocolate and a lingering sweet treacle after taste. There might also have been a touch of smoke, right at the back, just fleeting; although I may have been imagining it.

  • RateBeerBrewDog
  • Old World Russian Imperial Stout, 8.2%, 660ml

It was nice, really nice, I liked all the treacle and molasses. I suppose you could say that it was a touch sweet, but personally, I think that might be classed as nit picking. I’m glad I have another bottle, I just hope it’s slightly less bubbly.

Advent Beer

I’m quite annoyed. On Tuesday a load of posts on this blog were missing, vanished, disappearing into the ether. I luckily managed to recreate them via Google cache and wrote a couple of new posts, one detailing what had happened and the other the list of my advent beers. So imagine my surprise this morning, to find that both the explanation and advent beer list posts were both missing. In their place, the original missing posts and their comments were back, but it meant that I had to recreate this list from scratch, as I couldn’t find a cached copy on line. My hosting company hasn’t responded to my query about why it’s happened yet, which is most unlike them, hence my annoyance.

Anyway, it’s December, that means that it’s time to do some more advent beer. Last year I modified the list half way through, hopefully I wont be doing the same this year, but I am going to Paris this weekend, so some French beer might suddenly appear next week. So without further ado, here’s the beers on my advent beer list, they will be drank in some sort of random order, that days beer being pulled from a hat.

Does Familiarity Breed Contempt, Or Is It A Safety Blanket?

Way back at the end of July, I won a Don’t Drink Hophead t-shirt from Dark Star via Twitter. The idea appeared to be to get people wearing the t-shirts at GBBF, as some sort of reverse psycology subversive stealth marketing. One thing I didn’t expect I’d get while wearing it was abuse from other GBBF punters. Most of which was good natured, I have to say, but there were a few people who made it be known, in no uncertain terms, that they thought Hophead was shite.

Their complaints seem to be along the lines of it’s not what it used to be and this got me thinking. I came up with three possible reasons for their complaints, one, the beer has actually changed for the worse over time. Two, they have drank so much of it, that they have now become so used to it and are thus ambivalent toward it. Three, they have under gone some level of Lupulin Threshold Shift and can’t taste the hops anymore.

Let’s look at each of these points, firstly, has the beer actually changed for the worse over time? I doubt it, but like all real ale, it’s susceptible to variations in malt and hops from year to year, so I would think the recipe gets tweaked every now and again to compensate. It’s also at the mercy of pub landlords and we all know they can fuck up a perfectly good beer and make it taste like shite. However, I really doubt Dark Star would deliberately modify one of their flagship beers to make it taste worse, as it just doesn’t make good business sense.

Secondly, have they become ambivalent to it? I know that I go through phases of drinking certain styles of beer or certain beers, but then I want a change and I don’t go back to those beer styles or beers for ages, if ever. Take BrewDog Punk IPA, I’ve drank loads of it, it’s still the beer I’ve checked into more than any other on Untappd. It’s not a bad beer, but I’m just so over it, it doesn’t excite me anymore, that coupled with their legendary consistency issues and knobend (IMHO) marketing and I’d rather spend my money on another brewers beer.

I’ve also drank loads of Thornbridge Jaipur and I now ration it, so that it doesn’t go the same way as Punk IPA. If I’m in Waitrose, which I’m not that often anymore, then I might buy one if I see it, but gone are the weeks of drinking it endlessly. So it’s perfectly possible that these people have drank so much Hophead, or had too many duff pints, that they’ve become ambivalent to it and in some cases quite anti the beer.

Finally, could these punters have suffered from the mythical Lupulin Threshold Shift? While this last point is slightly tongue in cheek, it’s certainly possible, as one of the most vocal abusers works in a Cambridge pub and I know he’s a bit of a beer geek and has tried all sorts of exotic beer. Maybe Hophead is now too subtle for him and he craves more bitterness, more ABV or more of something else. Having said that, he was highly critical, scathing and negative about practically everything, so you have to take these things with a pinch of salt…

For the record, I’ve only ever had a half of Hophead, it’s not a beer I’ve come across very often, in fact, I think I’ve only ever seen it for sale twice. I really liked it and I can see why lots of people hold it in such high esteem. I’d love to try some more, but I always feel that I’m missing out on something if I don’t try beers I haven’t had before. There’s something to be said for the familiarity of a certain beer though, a know quantity, especially with some of the shockers you end up trying in your quest for the next great beer.

Bailey, of Boak and Bailey fame, commented on my bemoaning of Free Houses that serve the same beer as tied pub in the same locale. He relates a tale of locals haranguing the Landlord:

And, a bit of insight – we were in the George Inn at Middlezoy in Somerset last year where the landlord had gone to a lot of trouble to get local beer from Moor, Butcombe and (I think) RCH, but was being harangued by his regulars: "Get London Pride on!"

He explained that it cost more for him to buy, had to travel a long way and that he liked local beer.

They didn’t care. "Get London Pride on!"

This got me thinking again, while familiarity can breed ambivalence and contempt, maybe it can also act as a safety blanket. Bailey’s comment reminded me of an incident at my wedding, I’d gone to the trouble of getting in a couple of polypins of beer from the local Milton Brewery and was quite chuffed to have some decent beer to offer the guests. I told my parent’s next door neighbour, who I’ve known since I was a child and so was a guest, as I know he likes his beer. I was shocked at the time by his reply, as he said he’d rather just have a few pints of John Smiths, as this is what he drinks down the pub on his weekly outing with his friends.

To him, the constant nature of John Smiths is a safety blanket. He goes out once a week and knows that the few pints he has, will all be the same and will all taste the same as they did last week and the week before that. If they choose to go to another pub and it serves John Smiths, he knows it will taste the same there, he has his safety blanket. He’s not interested in trying different styles of beer, chopping and changing between pale and hoppy, stouts, lambics and the like. Maybe he doesn’t want to run the risk of having a bad pint, he’s only out once a week after all, so just wants to enjoy himself with a known constant.

I used to have a regular beer too. When I was a student at Heriot-Watt, I lived just off Leith Walk for a year and we used to frequent Robbie’s. The round was two pints of Scrumpy Jack and a Harviestoun Ptarmigan and we were in there so often, we didn’t need to ask, just a nod and the drinks were poured. I couldn’t tell you what other beer they sold, I only had eyes for Ptarmigan 85/-, as it was called back then. I don’t go to the pub often enough to have a regular beer anymore and the pubs I like to frequent, don’t normally have a regular beer either, which suits me just fine.

I started this blog because I’d got stuck in a rut, I was drinking the same old beers at home, week in week out. I suppose drinking them week in and week out was a safety blanket of sorts, I knew what I was getting. However, I can’t remember the last time I had a bottle of Adnams Explorer, Fullers Discovery and Wychwood WychCraft at home. I wouldn’t say that familiarly bred contempt, I’ve just moved on, my tastes have since changed.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say with this blog, I feel like I’m rambling, so I think I’ll try and conclude.

Just because one person likes to drink John Smiths at the exclusion of everything else, doesn’t make them a bad person who has no taste, they just want something different from you and me. Also, just because a beer tastes different to how you remember it, doesn’t necessarily meant that beer has changed. Our tastes can change over time, the change can be quite subtle, or happen in a heart beat. Just because we no longer drink a certain beer due to our tastes changing, doesn’t suddenly make it inferior or bad, just different.

If I were to make a point though, I suppose it’s that everyone is different and wants different things from beer. Just because someone wants something different from you doesn’t mean their wrong, or that you’re wrong. I don’t think there is a right and wrong when it comes to beer, just a difference of opinion.

My opinion? I’ll be drinking Hophead at the next available opportunity. I’m a sucker for reverse psychology…

Hardcore IPA versus I Beat yoU versus I Hardcore yoU

Ever since I first tried I Hardcore yoU, I’ve wanted to try it and the two beers that it’s made from in one sitting. As luck would have it, I had one bottle left of the second batch and when the Bacchanalia got hold of some I Beat yoU the other month, I finally had my chance to do a head to head.

I picked up a bottle of relatively fresh Hardcore IPA from Sainsbury’s, but it tasted maltier and less astringent than I remember. Not that it wasn’t bitter, just not as totally full on as I was expecting. There was also quite a bit if alcohol burn too, maybe I was a bit dehydrated, but it just didn’t seem like the beer I remember it to be.

I’ve had I Beat yoU before, Brasserie 4:20 in Rome had it on draft when I was there last December. The nose was massive, with really powerful and in your face crystal malt and resinous hops notes. It started off relatively subtle in the mouth and then a monstrous wave of malt and bitterness swept all before it. There wasn’t really any alcohol burn like the Hardcore IPA and it had far more bitterness and mouth prickle.

I’ve liked I Hardcore yoU since I first tried it and I’ve always thought it was a better beer than straight Hardcore IPA. It smelt of crystal malt and resinous hops with hints of grapefruit round the edges. Again it started off quite smooth in the mouth and then a massive aggressive prickliness slammed through and left juicy grapefruit lingering long into the aftertaste.

I’m not sure what happened to the Hardcore IPA, I hope it was just a one off. Although it could be the the infamous BrewDog batch to batch variation has finally struck Hardcore IPA, alternatively it might have been due to Sainsbury’s not storing it properly, who knows. On this totally unscientific tasting, I have to say the it feels like I Beat yoU brings more to the party than the Hardcore IPA does. I might try and do this again next year, if they release some more I Hardcore yoU. It would also be fascinating to be able to try all three from keg as the same time too.

AB:06

While it sat black in the glass, it was noticeably dark brown during the pour. A large tan coloured head was easily formed, but dropped relatively quickly to a patchy covering. There didn’t appear to be much sediment in the bottle, so I poured everything in, which I don’t normally do, but there really was hardly any.

The nose was huge, you could smell hops during the pour. At first I thought it was just full of citrus notes, but then there was a load of resinous notes that came through. After a few swirls of the glass, it all got a bit muddled with no one aroma taking precedence. There was also the merest hint of a coffee or chocolate type aroma as well.

The mouth feel wasn’t quite as big as I was expecting, it didn’t drink like a beer of it’s ABV. There was quite a bit of mouth burn though, especially through the after taste, so while it felt quite light in the mouth, the ABV did made itself known. The very subtle hints of the coffee or chocolate I detected on the nose were again present, although I think it was definitely more a chocolate flavour than a coffee one, as there was a definite chocolateness to the after taste.

While there was quite a bit of bitter astringency up front, it tailed off quite quickly and left a bit of a void before the after taste. It felt like there wasn’t enough taste from the malts, the chocolateness was too subtle, it needed to be bigger to fill the gab between the initial bitterness and the alcohol burn of the after taste. I think this beer would have benefited from either a few more flavour hops, or bags more chocolate malt.

Over all I think this beer is flawed, the bitterness at the start is not balanced by the malt and the mouth burn from the after taste is too severe.

The Session #52: Beer Collectibles & Breweriana

This months Session is being hosted by Brian Stechschulte at All Over Beer and the topic is Beer Collectibles & Breweriana

The SessionAfter missing the last couple of sessions due to various reasons, my heart sank when I saw the topic for this months topic. I’ve always associated breweriana with sad old men trading faded beer mats, or rather obsessive geeks who fill their houses with empty cans. I know this is a terrible generalisation, but the only stories you ever see in main stream media seem to back up this view, see this article as an example.

I’ve been racking my brains for the last few weeks trying to work out if I have any breweriana or not. To start with I was pretty sure I had none, but now I’m not so sure, here’s a list of what I think I’ve got around the place:

  • Box of assorted beer festival pint glasses, each carefully wrapped up in paper to avoid damage
  • Castlemaine XXXX beer mat that a friend mailed from Australia instead of a postcard
  • Two Milton Brewery pump clips from the two poly-pins of beer we had at our wedding
  • A, now, empty 1L beer bottle from U Fleků that I brought back on the plane, when you could still do that, after a weekend away in Prague
  • A Thornbridge pint glass that I liberated from The Euston Tap, it was actually given to me by Tim Anderson, the winner of Master Chef when I asked if I could have one
  • An empty 2.2kg tub High5 Energy Source, that is currently three quarters full of branded bottle caps

I started off thinking that I wasn’t a collector of any beery paraphernalia, but now I’ve listed everything I’m quite surprised by how much stuff I’ve got hanging around not doing anything. If I am a collector, it’s more of an unconscious collecting, rather than a proper planned out hobby. I doubt I’ll ever reach the geeky heights of people like banker Nick West, my wife would never let me for starters. I can see me hoarding to occasional item though, especially when it has a bit of sentimental value.

Edit:
I’ve just remembered that I also have one of those finger shredding BrewDog key rings. Plus I have a Flying Dog Raging Bitch and a Brooklyn Lager keg clip, which I’m going to turn into key rings.

Edit:
As I read everyone else’s contributions to this months session, I keep remembering things I’ve got, or things I’ve done in the past. During lunch I remembered the key rings, see the edit above, then reading a tweet from BeerReviewsAndy, I remembered that I also have empty bottles of BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink The Bismark!. They sit on a shelf in my shed, the one I do all my homebrew in, probably as a reminder to not be sucked in by marketing again.
https://twitter.com/#!/BeerReviewsAndy/status/76632712693288962

Then when I read Brian Stechschulte’s contribution, I remembered that I used to collect beer bottle labels when I was a student at university. I did it to remind me what beers I’d drunk, I had quite a collection and was even scanning them into stick on my website. That was way back in 1996 and it’s not something I’ve done for years. I did find a load of the labels last Autumn, they were stuffed in between the pages of a book on how to learn Italian. Looking at them brought back lots of memories, like the time I shared a couple of bottles on a train from Milano to Padova with an Italian solider on his way home for some leave.

I said earlier that I didn’t think I had any Breweriana and that I didn’t collect anything. I find it quite funny that I’ve actually been collecting breweriana of one form or another for practicality my entire beer drinking life without realising it.

IPA is Dead…?

Yet another post that’s been hanging around for over a month. BrewDog’s IPA is Dead was a four pack of singled hopped IPAs featuring the Citra, Bramling Cross, Nelson Sauvin and Sorachi Ace hops. Each of the beers was brewed with the same base recipe, hopped to 75 IBU and “massively dry hopped” with one of the afore mentioned hops. It was a small batch limited edition release that probably wont be repeated, but I know where there is at least one four pack left and I’m quite tempted to go buy it for the weekend…

This post is less about reviewing these beers as it is about trying to understand what each hop imparts on the base beer. It’s in a similar vein to the post I did a while ago, about the Mikkeller single hop beers. So here are my thoughts:

Sorachi Ace
I didn’t think it smelt of much, just a hint of the weird lemony bubble gum flavour. The bitterness was all at the back-end of the mouth and taste. It was very fruity, but bizarre in that the actual taste is almost indescribable. It was a weird lemony bubble gum that was really sweet. I found it to be just odd.

Citra
Masses of thick, pungent tropical fruit with a distinct sharp cat piss undertone. The bitterness seemed to be more in the middle of the mouth, with a massive lingering after taste. The taste was really thick, almost overpowering and too much. It wasn’t a subtle tropical fruitiness, was too thick and muddled for that.

Bramling X
The nose was quite subtle, but there’s a definite freshly cut hedgerow type aroma. The bitterness was quite up front and rolled through the mouth and was quite prickly as it washed through. The after taste was all fruity black hedgerow berries, with touches of woodiness.

Nelson Sauvin
Smelt like a toned down version of the Citra, as it has a similar thick, pungent tropical fruit thing going on, but minus the cat piss edge. Taste wise it was the same, thick and pungent tropical fruit. The bitterness wasn’t as forceful as the others and was quite smooth and subtle, although there is a bit of mouth tickle. The after taste was very juicy with hints of passion fruit.

For me the stand out was the Bramling X, it was really, really nice and I’m going to have to find a recipe that I can show case this hop in. Both the Citra and Nelson Sauvin were a bit of a let down, they were just too pungent and thick for me. I’ve tried better single hop beers with these hops from other brewers, it just might be that, for me at least, 75 IBU is too much for these hops to carry on their own. Finally the Sorachi Ace was just bonkers, I really don’t know how to describe it properly. I’m not sure I’ll find a use for this hop in any of my homebrews, but it was good to get a chance to try it in on its own in a beer.

Old Punk IPA versus Punk X versus New Punk IPA

Well over a month ago, I did a three way head to head with the old 6% Punk IPA, Punk X and the new 5.6% Punk IPA. I was going to format it into a long post about the differences, but seeing as you can’t get hold of either the old Punk IPA or Punk X, I didn’t think it was worth it. Especially as I would really need to drink all three again to refresh my memory enough to pad it all out. So these are just the observations I made at the time:

Old Punk IPA
Poured a lovely orangey copper, with a huge white rocky head. Not the biggest of noses, maybe some hints of bitter marmalade, but not much. Big mouth feel, lots of marmalade notes, lots of bitterness and really, really nice.

Punk X
Poured a cloudy dull orange with a large fluffy white head. The nose is huge compared to Old Punk, loads of pungent tropical fruit, think over ripe mangoes. The mouth feel is fine, not as bitter as Old Punk, but bitter enough.

New Punk IPA
Looks pretty much identical to Old Punk, the head maybe didn’t last quite as long though. The nose wasn’t quite as thick and pungent as Punk X, it was subtler, but still miles more than Old Punk. Taste wise it was pretty similar to Punk X, the bitterness seemed to have more impact though, but unsurprisingly no where near the same levels as Old Punk.

Trashy Blonde versus Eurotrash

I was unsure about bothering to post this, but in an effort to get my blog moving again, I’ve decided what the hell… Eurotrash was a limited edition prototype release of Trashy Blonde that had been made with Belgian yeast. BrewDog released it around the same time as Punk X, so I’d had it for a while before getting round to doing a comparison.

They both poured a similar colour, although my Trashy Blonde had a slight haze, while the Eurotrash was crystal clear. Both sported fluffy white heads, that dropped relatively quickly to a ring round the edge of the glass. If I’m being generous, then the Trash Blonde had slightly more head than the Eurotrash.

To be honest, I didn’t really get much on the nose from the Trashy Blonde. There was maybe a hint of sweetness tinged with orange, but nothing much. The Eurotrash on the other hand, had definite Belgian yeast character, although it was quite subtle and you really had to sniff for it.

The Trashy Blonde was nice, lots of juicy malt backed up with a solid bitterness to keep it all nicely in check. The after taste was a combination of juicy sweetness edged with bitterness and is really quite nice.

The Eurotrash felt like it had a bigger body, there was also some Belgian yeast esters going on as well. However, it didn’t feel as bitter and there wasn’t the same lingering bitterness into the after taste.

The Trash Blonde just felt more fresh, juicy and zingy. While the Eurotrash was slightly fuller in the mouth, rounder on the edges and slightly less zingy on the tongue, while having some subtle Belgian yeast characteristics mixed in. I have to say that I preferred the straight Trash Blonde over the Eurotrash though. The freshness and zingy bitterness, coupled with the lovely lingering after taste did it for me.

AB:05

This is the latest in BrewDog‘s Abstrakt concept beer range. I was hoping for an improvement over AB:03 and AB:04, both of which I thought were a bit of a let down. This one was described online as drinking a liquid Bounty, so there was a certain amount of trepidation before opening it.

It poured very similar colour to AB:04, but not quite a limpid or oily and didn’t quite have the same legs. The head was much better than AB:04 though, even though it did dissipate to a ring round the outside of the glass after a few minutes.

I was quite confused by the nose, as I didn’t really pick anything up when it was freshly poured. There was a mildly dry, musty note, that vaguely reminded me of powdered chocolate. However, once it had warmed up a bit, there was some definite coffee notes, that had subtle wafts of alcohol weaving through them.

The taste was amazing, for my money miles better than AB:04. It had a big mouth filling body, with lots of richness and quite a bit of sweetness. But unlike AB:04, I found the sweetness to be pleasant, as it didn’t become sickly and overpowering.. The toasted coconut was subtle, almost undetectable, it was just there, but just round the edges as more of a subtle coconut sweetness. Mainly it was just like drinking liquid dark chocolate though, but unlike the AB:04, it was more of a bitter dark chocolate rather than a sweet one.

I thought this was absolutely stellar, definitely the best beer released under the Abstrakt banner so far. In fact, it’s the first Abstrakt beer that I’m actually quite gutted to only have bought four bottles of, I really wish I had a few more…