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 BEERMerchants.com. 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…

Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin X and India Pale Ale Borefts Rye

I had to buy a bottle of Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin X once I’d heard it’s story. Evidently they had some hops left over, but they didn’t know what they were, so they bunged them into a beer to see what would happen. As they don’t know what hops they added, it’s sort of a one off beer, never to be repeated, so how could I not buy one…

It poured a hazy orange amber colour, mainly because some of the sediment from the bottle got into the glass. The head was relatively easily formed, but dropped fairly quickly to a blotchy covering. The nose just screamed Nelson Sauvin, with thick pungent tropical fruit notes that were verging on cat wee.

It felt almost watery in the mouth, but this was more due to the really mouth watering juicy flavours from the hops, than from it actually being thin. Holding some beer in the mouth, revealed a good body, with excellent condition. The mystery hop was interesting, with lemony notes, a lovely bitterness and that lingering watery, fresh, juicy after taste that felt like it had subtle notes of mint in it. The Nelson Sauvin was in there to, with those thick, ripe tropical flavours, but they were only around the edges and only up until the spike of bitterness before the after taste.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin X, 5.2%, 500ml

Next up was India Pale Ale Borefts Rye, which they’d brewed to take to De Molen’s Borefts Beer Festival last month. I was quite looking forward to it, as I’d really enjoyed the London Brick, I was hoping it would be in the same mould.

It poured a seriously unappetising murky brown with a loose light brown head. The head was very easily formed and seemed settle at about a finger, but it dropped fairly quickly from there to a blotchy covering. The nose was a medley of hops and malt, with lots character from the rye. I’m not sure what hops were used in this beer, it’s not on the label for a change, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t contain something like Centennial or Columbus.

It felt quite lively in the mouth, with quite a bit of carbonation running right through until the after taste. There was quite a fruitiness to it all and I’m not sure if it was from the hops or the malt, maybe a combination of both. There was certainly quite a bit of malt character to the early part of the taste. It wasn’t overly bitter, although there was a nice bitter spike in the middle and some subtle lingering grapefruit in the after taste. There was also a bit of drying yeastiness to the after taste as well, which eventually left the mouth a touch dry.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • India Pale Ale Borefts Rye, 7.5%, 330ml

I thought it was OK, but not a patch on London Brick.

Pale Ale Stella and India Pale Ale Galaxy

First up today The Kernel Brewery’s Pale Ale Stella, a beer that I’d been warned about when buying. As I didn’t really get on with their India Pale Ale A.N.R., Evin thought I might struggle with this one too and he was right to an extent. While it wont go down as one of my favourites, at least it didn’t smell and taste of cat wee…

It poured a really murky orangey amber colour with a poor, slightly off white head. The head was really slow to form and didn’t last, dropping to a blotchy covering fairly quickly. The nose was massive, with huge aromas pouring out if the bottle during the pour. Initially I thought it was all lemony grapefruit notes, but after it had been sitting for a while, the grapefruit wasn’t there and it felt like there was quite a skunky mandarin element to it.

This bottle felt a little under carbonated and flat in the mouth, which lent it an almost juice like quality. There did look to be decent condition when tilting the glass to and fro though, so your mileage may vary. As I’ve said, I’d been warned that this was a big beer, almost an IPA in terms of the hopping and they weren’t wrong, it had hop flavour and bitterness in spades.

The body felt good, but this beer was all about the hops, which built and built and swept all before them. I had real trouble pinning down what this beer tasted of, I don’t think chopping up a red grapefruit while I drank it helped, as it seemed to have a grapefruity undertone. Mainly there was a floral quality to it though, but that’s about as much as I can tell you. The after taste was one that just kept giving and giving, with bitter juicy notes lingering for what felt like an age.

Next up India Pale Ale Galaxy, which poured a very hazy amber colour, not as dark as other Kernel IPAs, but not as pale as some of their PAs. The off white head was easily formed, but dropped to a covering fairly quickly. The nose was huge and when I first stuck my nose in the glass, it was assaulted by thick pungent hops. I couldn’t really place the aroma from the hops though, may be a bit of orange zest and pineapple, but my wife instantly said lychee’s and then passion fruit.

It was full in the mouth, with a nice prickle from the carbonation. The hops asserted themselves pretty quickly, but not with massive bitterness, instead it was with massive thick hop flavours. Just as with the nose, I had trouble picking out any discernible flavours due to the sheer thickness of them, although I can see that there could have been some passion fruit in there.

The bitterness seemed to be pretty subdued, especially when compared with something like the Pale Ale Stella, although I’m not saying that it wasn’t bitter. It just felt that is was restrained and in balance, although there was a nice bitter spike before the lingering after taste.

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 BEERMerchants.com 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…

India Pale Ale 100 Centennial

This beer has been in and out of my fridge more time than I care to remember. I put it in there thinking that I’ll have it as my last beer of the night, but when I get round to it, I either don’t fancy it, or it’s too late. I finally decided that instead of drinking a few beers before it, I’d have one small bottle, so there’d be plenty of time for me to drink it, I still didn’t get round to opening it till gone ten o’clock though.

It poured an amber brown colour, with about a finger of loose head that formed rapidly. The off white, slightly brown head, dropped fairly quickly to a patchy covering and then a ring round the inside of the glass. I did get a bit of the yeast sediment into the glass, it wasn’t much, but it was enough to just throw a bit of a haze, although it didn’t affect the taste in anyway from what I could tell.

The nose was absolutely huge and my initial thought was that this beer had serious amount of crystal malt in it. Beyond the massive crystal malt notes, was loads of resinous grapefruit, but they were really playing second fiddle.

In the mouth is was, unsurprisingly, full bodied, with lots of malty sweetness and quite a lot of fusel alcohols that left a slightly oily feeling lingering in the mouth. There was a massive bitterness, with loads of grapefruit notes, that rode in on a wave of crystal malt and left a satisfying mouth puckering prickliness behind it. With just a touch of alcohol burn here and there, the after taste was a lingering sweet grapefruit tingle that just left me wanting more.

  • RateBeer The Kernel
  • India Pale Ale 100 Centennial, 10.1%, 330ml

An absolute monster of a beer that really didn’t feel like it was over ten percent. If you’re a fan of The Kernel and you haven’t had this yet, then you need to track one down pronto.

India Pale Ale A.N.R.

I’ll start this post by saying that I don’t know what the A.N.R. stand for. I’m assuming the A is for Amarillo and the R is for Riwaka, what the N stands for is still up for discussion. I thought it might be Nugget, but Ed at the Bacchanalia thought it was for Nelson Sauvin, but The Kernel used NS for that hop on their label for IPA S.C.A.NS.. Having had a quick shufty at the RateBeer reviews, it would look like Ed was right, so I’m not sure why The Kernel have changed the mnemonic they used for Nelson Sauvin, shirley this should have been India Pale Ale A.NS.R., but I digress…

The beer poured a slightly hazy amber, with a loose white head that didn’t last, dropping to a ring around the edge of the glass. The nose was huge, utterly massive, with tropical fruit notes streaming from it. To be honest I’d say it smelt like a carton of Um Bungo, it was just so thick with tropical fruit, the only discernible note I could pick out was some grapefruit citrus.

The mouth feel was large with very aggressive upfront prickly bitterness. I thought the main flavour was a really pithy grapefruit, that was joined by some guava near the end. There may have been some over ripe, almost rotting mango in there as well. The after taste lingered and lingered and felt quite foamy to start with, but ended with quite a bitter crunch.

I wasn’t sure about this beer to start with, the nose was just too pungent for me, it reminded me too much of the beers I don’t like because they have far too much Citra in them. I’m not even sure the taste won me over if I’m being brutally honest, if I took a sip it was OK, but if I took a mouthful, then it was a bit too much. I might have to try another, just to decide if I like it or not…

Pale Ale Motueka

Now that the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011 reviews are out of the way, I can get stuck into the back log of other beer I have stashed for review. We’ll start with another Pale Ale from The Kernel.

It poured a slightly hazy golden, light amber if you will, with a loose fluffy white head. The head dropped to a good covering fairly quickly. It had beautiful condition, a few small tight bubbles lazily floating up through the glass and a lovely stream of bubbles rushing back to the head when tipping the glass back and forth.

The nose was interesting and quite confusing. It was quite fresh, with some tropical notes, which I though included some pineapple and mango. There was also another note around the edges, but I couldn’t place it. I ended up having to look up a fact sheet on the hop, before realising it could be a slightly watery lemon/line combo.

It was pleasantly full bodied, with perfect balance between the malt and the hops. It wasn’t overly bitter, there was no huge bitter prickle, it was just really nice and refreshingly juicy. It tasted, pretty much as it smelt, but far subtler and more muddled, so it was harder to pick out the individual flavours.

Another really nice, refreshing, well balanced and highly drinkable pale ale from The Kernel.

Maiden! Maiden! Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!

Iron Maiden in full flow...

Iron Maiden played a couple of gigs at the O2 in London the weekend that GBBF was on, I was lucky enough to have tickets to the Friday show. Instead of going down after work, myself and my partner in crime for the day, Toby, decided to take the day off and hit some London pubs that neither of us had been to before. The original plan was to head to Borough market and spend the afternoon in The Market Porter, Brew Wharf and The Rake, before heading off to the O2.

However, between booking the tickets and the date of the gig, The Craft Beer Co. in Clerkenwell opened, so we changed our plans and decided to start our time in London there. The train from Cambridge to Kings Cross was uneventful, but it felt strange getting the tube to Farringdon, rather than wandering up to The Euston Tap for a beer or two before doing anything else. After a bit of faffing with Google maps on our phones, we found Leather Lane and what has to be one of the UK’s finest destination pubs.

I knew the selection of beer was going to be good, but it was still a shock when we walked through the door and saw all those taps and hand pumps on the bar. There was almost too much choice, should I start on the Thornbridge Galaxia, Seaforth or Geminus, maybe try the Mikkeller house lager, Exotic Punch or Gypsy Juice, or dive right into the Grassroots, a brewery who’s beers I’ve only ever seen in Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà. In the end I decided to start on a Thornbridge Galaxia, after all we had a long day in front of us.

After another couple of halves, Thornbridge Seaforth, not as good as when I had it before and Mikkeller Exotic Punch, lacking most of the exotic punch I was expecting, we headed across the road to Greggs for a pasty. The Craft Beer Co. doesn’t do food, so having somewhere near by for a quick bite, even if it is just Greggs, is quite handy, although there is supposedly a falafel place on the same road, I may have to find it next time we go. After stuffing our faces, we headed back to Farringdon tube station and headed to London Bridge, where we were going to make a bee line for The Kernel Brewery.

Instead of heading straight to The Kernel Brewery, I suggested that we should head to the Dean Swift. I’d heard good things about it and as it had been International #IPADay the day before, I thought there might be a few IPAs left over for us to try. I didn’t quite realise how far the Dean Swift was from London Bridge tube station, I thought it was on the same side of Tower Bridge, so we had to break out Google Maps again just to check we were heading in the right direction. We eventually got there and found an absolute stack of top flight IPAs available on both cask and keg.

I grabbed halves of both Magic Rock Curious and Summer Wine Kahuna and tried to find a mobile signal to check into Untappd. I was a Magic Rock and Summer Wine virgin, so it was great to be able to try their beers for the first time. The Curious was lovely, just my kind of pale and hoppy beer, while the Kahuna was a a bit too warm, you could tell it was an excellent drop too. Evidently the Dean Swift have sorted out their beer temperature issues, as they now have a python cooling system. I was very impressed by the Dean Swift, it felt like a really nice pub and I’ll certainly be going back if I’m in the vicinity.

After finishing our beers, we headed to The Kernel Brewery, which I was so excited about as they are one of the best up and coming breweries in the country. When we got there, two of the brewers were having a beer before they cleaned up, so it would have been rude not to join them. I had a rather delicious Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin, while Toby had an equally delicious Pale Ale Columbus Cascade. I had a nose around, it’s always great as a home brewer to see a real brewery setup, it’s amazing what these guy can produce in such a limited space. When Evin turned up, he’d been out when we arrived, he joined us for a beer and a chat, it’ll be great to see what they can produce when they move to larger premises.

As friendly and welcoming as The Kernel Brewery was, we had to move on, so we started to head to The Rake in Borough market. As neither of us had been there before, we didn’t quite know which bit of the market we should be heading for. We passed The Market Porter, which was absolutely rammed, so we had a quick half in Brew Wharf, before finding out via Google maps that The Rake was literally round the corner.

I’ve heard a lot about The Rake, so was really looking forward to going. Even though I knew it was small, I really didn’t expect it to be that small, I’ve no idea how they managed to fit four people behind the bar and still have enough room to serve beer, but what beer they serve. When we got there, Glyn Roberts, the manager and Simon Johnson, the Reluctant Scooper, we chatting to a couple of guys who soon left. We joined them and cracked into some damn fine beer, I had an Otley mOtley Brew and a St Austell Big Smoke.

Then things started to get messy as the Summer Wine duo, James and Andy turned up and we all cracked into the Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, which was utterly, utterly lush. After seeing the Summer Wine brewers sign the wall and everyone trying on the ginger merkin, we’d ran out of time and had to head to the O2.

We got to the O2 with perfect timing, straight through and onto the floor after having to persuade an Angel that we only wanted to drop our bag and didn’t want into the priority lounge. The gig was great, especially once they’d overcome their sound issues, that’s the last two Maiden gigs I’ve been to that have had dubious sound. Unfortunately we just missed the ideal train home and had hang around Kings Cross until 00:30, which seemed to take an absolute age. Once back at Toby’s we opened a few more bottles, which is traditional and eventually stumbled off to bed at about five in the morning. All in all, it was a bit of an epic day.

As I often do, I’ll leave the final thought to some one else:

https://twitter.com/#!/simonhjohnson/status/100319088533979137
https://twitter.com/#!/simonhjohnson/status/100320239790731264

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 BEERMerchants.com 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.