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.

You Can’t Take It With You

In my last blog post I mentioned that I was going to spread my wings a bit and start trying more beer, rather than always going for the perceived best that a brewery makes. That would have been a smashing idea, if I actually had any money. Gone are the days where I could walk into the Bacchanalia and blow £70 – £100 a week on rare and expensive beer. I blame building an expensive extension to the house, the financial meltdown and the fact that everything seems to have got all expensive all of a sudden. Either way, I’m totally skint and the beer fridge is empty.

One thing I have done though, is lay down a load of bottles for a rainy day. As you can see from the photo, there’s quite a collection from various breweries. I’ve never really had a plan when it’s come to ageing stuff though, I’ve just chucked it in the cupboard and tried to forget about it. I’ve not really thought about how long things should be aged for and when they’ll be at their peak and ready for drinking. Some are pure experiments, like the Orval Project (more on that in a future blog post), but most have just been set aside for some unspecified point in the future.

"Death twitches my ear;
 'Live,' he says... 
 'I'm coming."
               ― Virgil

We’ve all seen Dead Poets Society and the numerous motivational quotes extolling us to Carpe diem, Seize the Day. So I’ve decided that it’s time to drink some of the stash, what rainy day am I waiting for? All those BrewDog Abstrakt bottles, why am I holding on to them when most of them are shite? I could drop dead tomorrow from an aneurysm, never knowing what that bottle of Marble Special 2009 tasted like. Unless I’m holding onto a beer for a very particular reason (that 750ml bottle of the original Hel & Verdoemenis 666 is for my 50th birthday for instance), it’s going to either get drunk, or have a date put on it for when it will be drunk.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, 
 find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their 
 island of opportunities and look toward another land. There
 is no other land; there is no other life but this."
                                             ― Henry David Thoreau

Why wait for a rainy day that might never come…? You can’t take it with you.

Brasserie du Mont Salève

As I mentioned in my previous Paris post, we did a met the brewer session at La Cave à Bulles with Brasserie du Mont Salève on the Saturday afternoon. We arrived after a couple of enjoyable hours in Brewberry, but could only stay for an hour or so, as we had to get back to the hotel to get ready for a black tie dinner.

The first thing that struck me about Brasserie du Mont Salève, was the branding. I think it’s absolutely superb, nice and clean and most importantly, consistent. I was also quite surprised at the range on offer, there was something like eleven beers available to sample, spanning a diverse range of styles. Quite impressive for a brewery that is less than two years old.

All the beers were good, some better than others. The stand outs for me being the Blanche, brewed with Citra hops and the Amiral Benson Nelson Sauvin IPA. Phil really liked the Barley Wine, but I think that we both liked pretty much everything we tried. After trying the range and having a few words with the brewer we headed on our way.

I have a big birthday later this year and my present to myself is a trip to De Molen’s Borefts beer festival. So I was very pleased to learn via a Facebook status update from De Molen, that Brasserie du Mont Salève would be attending this years festival. I’m really looking forward to meeting the brewer again and trying some more of their beer. Definitely a brewery to look out for while on your travels.

Mout & Mocca Non-Carbonated

I picked up this bottle last week from the Bacchanalia in Cambridge. At the time Ed said that it was non-carbonated, as that’s how Menno and his team like they’re Imperial Stouts. I had my doubts, but I’ll give most beers a try, which leads us to this post.

So do I like my Imperial Stouts with no carbonation? In a word, no. I really, really didn’t like it to start with, in fact I almost poured it down the drain as I had a Magic Rock Bearded Lady chilling in the fridge and it was far more appealing. It definitely improved over time, but it was just lifeless, missing that spark to lift and separate the flavours.

I don’t really drink anything other than beer and water, no hot drinks and definitely no coffee. To me, this was just too much like a cold cup of manky beery coffee, pretty much my nightmare drink. I think I’ll stick to Imperial Stouts that have a bit of life about them in future…

Advent Beer – List & Bedrog

Finally, only fourteen days late, we get to my last Advent Beer. It poured a jet black in the glass, with a monster dark tan head. The cork came out of the bottle with a very loud pop and for a moment, I thought I had another bottle bomb on my hands. It turned out to just be a bit lively and required a bit of a careful pour to get it all in the glass and jug. The head on the glass dropped to a very impressive finger thick, luscious lump of foam that lasted for ages and ages.

It was a tale of two beers though, as the first and second glasses, both smelt and tasted different. The first had far less woody character than the second, where as the second had hardly any head and looked pretty flat in the glass.

The nose was very complex, with lots of dark chocolate, wood and vinous notes. Similarly the taste was pretty full on to, and as I alluded to with the pour, the taste of the two glasses were quite different too. The first was all dark chocolate, with hints of coffee and not much in the way of barrel aging. The second glass was all wood, wood and booze, with chocolate fleeting round the edges.

It was very nice, very nice indeed.

Advent Beer – Ruig & Rood

De Molen’s’ Ruig & Rood is supposed to be an Irish Red Ale, what ever one of those is. It poured a real orangey amber colour, with a nice thick off white head. The head wasn’t quite white and wasn’t quite tan coloured, it was somewhere in between. It was also quite slow in forming and it took a bit of an energetic pour to really get going, but the head that formed was worth it. I was a bit worried that it would be another dud bottle, as there wasn’t really much of a phzzzt when I opened it, however, it turned out to be perfectly conditioned, which was a nice change.

It was full bodied, but didn’t quite feel like it was nine odd percent, even though it felt quite large, it still felt easy to drink. When I first tried some, I thought there was a fleeting hint of smoke, it wasn’t here on the next mouthful thought, so I thought I might have imagined it. For the vast majority of the bottle I didn’t taste it again, except for another couple of fleeting moments. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be there or not, but it did add a bit of an extra dimension when it appeared.

Mainly thought, it was just sweet, malty, juicy orangy type flavours, that lingered and lingered. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was a very nice beer and didn’t really get boring, even thought it really was, just all sweet orangy flavours.

Advent Beer – SSS 1914 Triple Stout

All the Advent Beer blogs should have been up before Christmas, but shit happens, quite literally. I had my car broken into while I was out Christmas shopping in Cambridge after work one evening last week. They stole my work laptop, but left the three bags and box of world class beer that were on the back seat, small mercies. To be honest though, I just ran out of time, too much to do at work and around the house. I’ve also been ill all this week, today is the first day that I’m actually thinking I might fancy a beer later. So the final few Advent Beer blogs will hopefully be appearing sporadically over the next few days.

I’d been pre-warned that this bottle of De Molen SSS might be a bit on the lively side, so I was prepared with extra jigs and a big pan. I undid the cage and the cork pushed itself out about half way before I managed to clamp my hand over it and stop it popping off completely. It was foaming really badly during the pour, which meant I’d filled one jug and my glass and only dispensed about half the bottle. When I put the bottle down, foam was still coming out the top of it, so I had to pour the rest into another jug.

It was a really dark brown colour, so it sat black in the glass and, amazingly enough, had a huge tan coloured head. The second glass didn’t really have a head though, as it dropped to a ring round the edge of the glass fairly sharpish. The nose was a bit confused, with musty dark chocolate notes and some yeast. I can’t help thinking what it would have smelt like, if it hadn’t been an over carbonated bottle.

In the mouth it was amazingly smooth for a beer that was so desperate to redecorate my kitchen. I was expecting far more of a carbonic mouth prickle, or at least each mouthful to turn to foam the moment it hit my tongue. Mainly though, there was just a musty yeasty taste to the whole thing, which was really disappointing and annoying. You could tell that there was a cracking beer just wanting to flaunt all it’s dark chocolate and subtle coffee flavours, but it couldn’t, because it all just tasted of yeast.

  • RateBeerDe Molen
  • 1914 Triple Stout SSS, 9.99%, 750ml

As I said at the start, I’d been pre-warned by a mate that the bottle might be lively, but we’re not the only ones who’ve had the same issue.

https://twitter.com/#!/TheBlackIsleBoy/status/149619678002683907

It doesn’t really reflect well on De Molen that they keep producing bottle bombs…

Advent Beer – Mooi & Meedogenloos

This was the second big bottle of Advent Beer that I had on Sunday night, well, it was actually Monday morning as I opened it at five minutes past midnight. See, I said I went a bit mental and on a school night too. I think I ended up going to bed at about five to three; I was a wreck at work yesterday. These notes were all written in the early hours while drinking the beer, so they may not make a lot of sense, or be particularly detailed.

Mooi & Meedogenloos poured a seriously dark brown, so it looked black in the glass. It appeared to be a bit over carbonated, as the head got massive during the pour. In fact, I had to pour into three vessels as the head got so big in the first jug, I needed a second to hold the second half of the bottle. The head on the first glass actually got bigger over the first twenty minutes or so after the pour as well, so it was a bit on the lively side. The nose was all dark and mysterious, with subtle coffee and chocolate notes.

In the mouth is wasn’t as lively as the head generation indicated, that might have been due to me leaving it for a bit to settle down, and writing all of this while drinking the second glass. I do find that leaving a lively beer in a jug, in the fridge, does calm it down a bit once it hits the glass.

This beer was all about chocolate, right from the get go, till the last of the lingering after taste, it was all chocolate, with just a bit of smoke to keep it interesting. I was quite surprised by the woody, smoky edge as the bottle didn’t give any hint of barrel ageing or smoked malt. I didn’t find it distracting, quite the opposite, I actually like it, for a change. It worked really well with all the subtle, soft, dark chocolate.

  • RateBeerDe Molen
  • Mooi & Meedogenloos, 10.2%, 750ml

This was a really, really nice beer, especially as it wasn’t a bottle bomb. Definitely one I’d buy again, but maybe I’d open it and drink it before midnight next time…

Advent Beer – Gajes & Geteisem

I’ve been wanting to try this bottle ever since I first saw it on the shelf in the Bacchanalia. There was just something about a barrel aged Cherry Brett Stout that called to me, I’m not sure why. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a bottle bomb, as there’s been too many of them from De Molen this year

It poured an almost jet back, but just like the BrewDog Old World Russian Imperial Stout, it was just a really, really, really, really dark brown. There wasn’t really any noise when the cork came out of the bottle and it was obvious immediately that it started to fall into the glass, that there was a serious lack of condition. Even pouring it from quite a height didn’t get much of a head forming, at least not a head that lasted any length of time.

When I initially poured, I thought I could definitely smell both the cherry and the brett. After it had been sitting in the glass for a while though, the main notes were those very boozy malty ones you get in massive stouts, without the cherry or the brett. There was also quite a bit of woody character as well, so as you can imagine, it was fairly complex.

It was pretty flat and lifeless in the mouth, which was a real disappointment, as it really needed a bit of carbonation to lift all the flavours and give a bit of spark. Without the carbonation to lift it and give that spark, it just felt a bit of a muddled mess. There was quite a lot of fusel alcohol, I’m not sure if this was from the Wild Turkey barrel, or just from the rather large ABV. Flavour wise it was huge, with massive chocolaty malt notes and a really woody after taste. I didn’t get much cherry flavour, but considering the final gravity was a dry 1007, I’m assuming that a lot of the sweetness was from them.

As for the brett, I couldn’t really detect it, there may have been a bit of barnyard at the backend, fleeting around the edges, but there was nothing standing up shouting brett. I’m assuming this was due to the lack of carbonation, as if the flavours had been separated a bit by the spark this would have delivered, it might have been detectable. This particular bottle was bottled on the second of December last year, so it’s had just over a year to mature, it might very well have just been a duff bottle, so your mileage may vary.

I had a similarly flat nip bottle of Hel & Verdoemenis 666 a while back and while it was a bit of a chore to drink, the flavours were all still in balance. The lack of carbonation in this bottle meant that as I got through it, I really began to dislike all the boozy, woody bourbon flavours. I know I’m not a fan of bourbon, but in the end it was just too much and I ended up ditching the last quarter of the bottle.

I was really, really looking forward to this and it was a massive let down, I should really stop letting my expectations run away with themselves.

Advent Beer – Old Manchester

I was in my local on Thursday night, I was there because Greene King have put it up for sale and as it’s the last pub in the village, the village wants to keep it open. So they are formulating a Plan B to buy the pub, if no one else buys it first, which is obviously Plan A. I don’t really use the pub, I feel a blog coming on about why, but I volunteered to be on the steering committee that is formulating the plan. That’s why there was no Advent Beer post on Thursday night or yesterday, so yet more catch up. I need to start being careful, otherwise I’ll be having to neck two 750ml bottles of 11% De Molen a night to keep on track…

Thursday’s Advent Beer was Marble Old Manchester, which is a fascinating beer. It’s fascinating, as it was a collaboration brew between Marble and John Keeling the Fuller’s head brewer and was destined for export to the US. I’m not sure why some of it got released into the UK market and to be honest, I wish it hadn’t, as you’re not going to like it.

It’s terrible, horrifically bad* in fact. So bad, you’re not going to want to drink your bottle. You’d think it would have been wonderfully balanced, that it would have tasted utterly fabulous and drank no where near it’s ABV. But no, it wasn’t, so don’t open your bottles, just put them away somewhere safe, I’ll buy them off you.

As a service to other beer geeks, I’m willing to buy all of your bottles, just so you don’t have to experience how bad it is. I’ll even drive round the entire country and pick them up so you don’t have to pay postage sending them to me. Honestly, you don’t want to drink it, I’ll fall on my sword so you don’t have to be disappointed. See I’ve even tweeted the Bacchanalia so they don’t sell anymore and thus have disappointed customers…

https://twitter.com/#!/RecentlyDrunk/status/145257089374224384

* Obviously it’s not bad, it’s pretty spectacular, which is why I want it all for myself…