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: 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.

Advent Beer: Alphabet A to the K

I’ve been sitting on this post since last Thursday evening, hoping for my thoughts to crystallise. They haven’t, so this post will concentrate on what’s in the can, not what’s on the can.

The beer poured a gleaming golden, with hints of polished amber. A Fluffy white head sat proudly on top, before slowing dropping. There wasn’t a lot on the nose to start with, maybe a bit of cereal maltiness, possibly from the oats¹. After it had sat in the glass for a while though, they were joined by some subtle orangy notes. It may have been my imagination, but I think there may have been vague hints of pineapple. Having said that, my wife though it smelt of decay and compost, so there you go.

The mouth feel was pretty nice, with lots of body, flavour and bitterness. The carbonation level was pretty good to, although it did effervesce slightly on the tongue. It was quite a muddled flavour, with nothing really asserting itself. Think generic, slightly orangy citrus, maybe a hint of tropical fruit, you’ll be in the ball park. Once it warned up, there was a lot more cereal flavour, which wasn’t entirely pleasant.

The level of bitterness leading into the aftertaste was probably my favourite bit, as it was quite assertive. The aftertaste lasted for a while, at least the bitterness lasted for quite a while. It was just a shame that the indistinct flavours couldn’t go the distance and died off. Once the bitterness had passed, the mouth was left with a, sort of, soft feeling; that’s the best I can describe it.

I quite liked the contents of this can, a bit more separation in the flavours and it would be a winner. What I didn’t like, was the artwork on the can, especially given the events going on in places like Aleppo and South Sudan. That’s a discussion for another post though…

¹ Yes, I did sniff our big box of porridge oats…

Advent Beer: First Chop SUP

This is the second Advent Beer from Manchester based First Chop. I has hoping that it would be better than the first.

A scant second, or so, after opening the can, it gushed. Not badly, but enough that I lost some of the beer. The nose was all stale carbon dioxide. That was it, nothing else.

So, a gush, stale carbon dioxide on the nose, things weren’t looking good.

As you might expect, it was over carbonated in the mouth too. The marmalade coloured liquid, exploding into bubbles the moment it hit the tongue. Unfortunately, the effervescence also took away a lot of the flavour too.

There was an initial hit of orangey bitterness, some biscuity malt and then the bubbles. Frothy and foamy in the mouth, it was hard to tell how much body the beer was supposed to have.

Subsequent mouthfuls brought out more flavour; a slight ashtray dryness, for instance. Flavours and mouthfeel, especially in the middle, were just stripped away by the bubbles.

The aftertaste, while short lived, was pleasant; slightly orangey and slightly bitter. It didn’t linger though, which was disappointing. Overall, the flavours appeared soft, as did the bitterness. Hard to tell when the beer just dissolves on the tongue.

I hope this this was just a duff can and not a bad batch. Especially as the can of HOP also had carbonation issues. So maybe it’s just slack QC at the brewery, or bad canning by the contractors, who knows. Either way, I’ll not be buying another to find out.

Advent Beer: Almasty MK X

Almasty are another brewery that are new to me, but one I’d heard good things about. It was a no brainer to add one to the Advent Beer selection.

Poured a clear, light marmalade, with a loose, just, off white head. As has been come the custom, I short poured to ensure no unexpected sediment made it in to the glass. I necked the remain of the can and it did taste like there was a bit of yeast in there.

It smelt good during the pour, with lots of hop aromas coming out of the can. Once it was in the glass, there was still plenty, which made for a nice change. Lots of bitter orange, citric type notes, which had a bit of depth to them.

This is a big beer, at least on the initial mouthfeel. Lots of body, thick with malt and hops, lots of bitter orange flavours. It died off quite quickly though. Given the initial taste, I was expecting a beer that had legs, with an aftertaste that would go on and on. It did rally a bit, bit never quite fulfilled its initial promise.

Having said all of that though, once it warmed up a bit, it did fulfil its promise. Lots of upfront bitterness, a pleasing prickle throughout the mouth, a lingering pithy bitter orange aftertaste. Just what was required after a hard session in the gym.

A beer of two halves, or maybe more correctly, a beer of two temperatures. It was a bit disappointing, until it warmed up bit, then it was rather good. On the basis of this beer, I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for more from Almasty.

Advent Beer: Wild Weather Plain Sailing Weather

I was intrigued by the label, what impact would the kaffir lime leaves have? There was only one way to find out.

It poured a surprisingly light, crystal clear golden colour, with a frothy white head. For a beer that is supposedly, unpasteurised, unfiltered and contains yeast (at least according to their website), this was a good start. The head dropped relatively quickly, but didn’t disappear completely.

I’m really going to struggle to get across what this beer smelt and tasted like, I’m really not sure how to describe it. It’s also probably best to clarify that I’d finished a seriously hot plate of patatas bravas about an hour before drinking this, the lingering effects may very well have skewed things.

There was surge of aroma when the can was opened, but I couldn’t tell you what it smelt of, other than it was aromatic. It felt like there was a nice bit of upfront bitterness, before what I thought must be the kaffir lime leaf flavour piling in and taking over. It coated the mouth, in a similar fashion to a Thai coconut curry. That feeling you get half an hour, or an hour after finishing a really hop one.

There wasn’t much respite from this mouth coating feeling, each new mouthful just washed away the feeling briefly, before it exerted itself with more vigour. It also finished sweet and then got even sweeter as the aftertaste petered out. It really needed some honking bitterness, or acidity, to cut through and provide some mouthwatering pucker.

I just couldn’t pin down what it tasted of, there was nothing I could put my finger on. No citrus, I certainly didn’t get any lime, at least, none that stood out and shouted LIME. I just can’t describe it. The best I can do, is to reiterate that it left me with the same feeling, as if I’d recently had a Thai curry.

After drinking it, I had a look at the website, mainly to get the relevant links. I had a quick read of the description and noticed that this beer contains Sorachi Ace hops, which makes perfect sense. I’ve always got that mouth coating feeling from a beer heavy with Sorachi. I totally didn’t peg the flavours and mouthfeel as being those from Sorachi, which is a bit surprising, as it’s very distinctive.

It wasn’t unpleasant, just not really my cup of tea, I can’t see myself buying another.

Advent Beer: Magic Rock Wayniac

Sometimes when you crack open a beer and take a big drink, you can’t help but smile.

After I’d poured the Magic Rock Wayniac in the glass, I had to stop and have a think. Only twenty four hours earlier, in the my notes, I’d been slating the way Magic Rock Hypnotist looked. Wayniac look pretty much identical, but for some reason, it looked more appealing. Go figure the human brain.

It poured a similar murky marmalade, with a similar, compact off white head. It also had a similar whoosh of hop aromas, charging out of the can the moment it was opened. That’s where, for me at least, the similarities ended.

Where Hypnotist had been flaunting dank, Wayniac was all the dank. Dank to the max, with a hint of citrus peeking round the edges. Maybe it’s the dimpled mug, but you still had to take a lung full to full appreciate it.

The mouthfeel was big, with lots of malt body, but not at all cloying. A lovely tingle run through the mouth, with touches of juiciness round the edges, which lead on into the lingering aftertaste. Bitterness build throughout, subtle citrus, hints of allium, and just general mouth coating dank hopiness. The aftertaste was all juicy, thick, bitter marmalade and went on for ages (like an hour after finishing it).

The first taste had me smiling, as I knew it was my kind of beer. The smile didn’t really leave my face. Finally, an Advent Beer I really, really like.

It would also appear to be the kind of beer my wife likes too. She got passion fruit at the death (I told you she was better at this than me) and I nearly didn’t get it back. It was one of those situations where you get told off, because you only bought one for yourself.

I might have to pop back into Cozzi & Boffa and see if they have any left…

Advent Beer: Magic Rock Hypnotist

Magic Rock Hypnotist and Wayniac, are the main reason I decided to undertake Advent Beer blogging this year. Time to find out if it was worth it…

Magic Rock Hypnotist is certainly the murkiest beer so far. It sat, opaque, a dirty marmalade in colour, with a caramel tinged, compact head. It didn’t look particularly appealing, if I’m being honest. At least it didn’t look like some of these new fangled beers that look like glasses of Tropicana.

Where the Shindigger Session had undertones of dank, Hypnotist was positively flaunting dank. Unfortunately, it was also flaunting an edge, an undercurrent of urgh. It took a while to place, but there was a definite lemony acidic edge to the aroma. This mingling with the dankness, wasn’t particularly pleasant.

It was all go in the mouth, starting with a nice tickle of upfront bitterness. Then a tartness washed through, causing massive salivation. This had the effect of thinning the mouthfeel, of making it feel watery and flabby. Luckily, when all hope was being lost, a load of malty caramel sweetness pushed through, filling the mouthfeel out a touch. A gentle bitterness led into a lingering, fruity, very juicy (read watery) aftertaste that went on for ages.

Watery marmalade was my overall impression, the intensity of which built with each mouthful. It’s was quite nice, once you got over all the juicy, wateriness caused by the tartness. Having said that, I’d rather it had been a bit more substantial, body wise, all the way through. The juicy, wateriness of it, while it might be refreshing on a hot summers afternoon, wasn’t particularly welcome on a dismally wet winters eve.

It was odd, the pleasure of each mouthful varied, depending on how much beer was in it. It was fine with small and large mouthfuls, but not so great with a middling mouthful. It left me confused and not sure what to think about it. If I hasn’t know that it was intentionally kettle soured, the tartness would really have thrown me.

I’m finishing this write up over twenty four hours after finishing the beer. I still can’t quite get my head round it. I still don’t know if I liked it or not. It is entirely possible that I like, and dislike it, in equal measure. Not sure I’d rush out and buy another can though…

Advent Beer: ShinDigger Session

The can of ShinDigger Session looked really pretty sitting on the shelves in Cozzi & Boffa. Nestled in amongst 500ml cans from world renowned breweries, I had to add one to the Advent Beer pile.

I cracked the can and whoomfff, a beguiling cornucopia of hop aromas shot out. They dissipated quickly, but first impressions were good. After a gentle pour, leaving a suitable amount in the can, it sat, an ever so slightly hazy, amber in the glass. The compact head, just off white, slowly sinking into the limpid liquid.

Keen to get a bit more of that initial aroma burst, I eagerly stuck my nose in the glass. I wouldn’t go as far as to say there was bitter disappointment. It did feel, however, that the vast majority of the aroma escaped the moment the can was opened.

It’s not that it had nothing on the nose, it did, what aromas were left were just rather subtle. If I described it as slightly peachy orange, with undertones of dank. Would that be Pretentious? Incorrect? Total bollocks? Is it an oxymoron to describe hop aroma as both subtle and dank?

My wife, who is far better at this nonsense than I am, didn’t get any orange. Pineapple and tropical was her opinion, she also agreed with the dank undertones. When I mentioned peach, she suggested that she could see where I was coming from.

In the mouth, it was relatively soft, no tooth enamel stripping bitterness here. It was bitter though, but mostly back loaded, with the aftertaste leaving a pleasing bitter marmalade type tang. It wasn’t particularly citric though, no real orange, grapefruit, or any other citrus fruit of note.

I could see where my wife was coming from with her pineapple and tropical comments. Think subtle pineapple cubes and you wont be far off. Although pineapple cubes slathered in peaches, would be closer to the mark. It wasn’t that there was anything distinct though, the flavours were mostly muddled together, rather than being easily identifiable. At least for my duff palate.

It was an intriguing beer, that didn’t reveal all its charm in one go. Flavours and bitterness grew gently, mouthful by mouthful. Gentle, is probably a good word to describe this beer. There’s no brashness, no shouting, just subtle layers of flavour, that gently win you over.

The fact that it was in a 500ml can and that the can was printed, was great, it really looked the part. It would probably be better when drunk without trying to analyse every mouthful though, just enjoying it for what it is. I really quite enjoyed it, and wouldn’t hesitate to buy another; I imagine it could be quite good from keg.