203. Brew by Number’s 16|01

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Back to our friends at Brew by Numbers with their quirky super-plain packaging and overly ordered naming system. This is a particularly hoppy “Red Ale” which from my limited wikipedia-based research appears to basically be a dark bitter, not malty like a ruby. It certainly isn’t fruity red in the way Fruili or others are. 

This particular ale is very heavy on the hops, in fact, a bit mono-flavoured. The taste really gets to the top of your mouth and even the back of the throat and is probably too much for my liking. There’s no sweetness or even really any tart tang to mix it up, just caustic bitterness. It does mellow a tad with time, but I found this rather hard going, and at 6.2% it’s pretty boozy with it. 

Sorry, just not very nice.

1 star

 

202. Weird Beard’s Fade to Black

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Another dangerous looking dark ale this one, brewed by the Weird Beard Brewery Company, who’s motto is either “never knowingly under-hopped” or “all about the beards, but not so much the sandals”, which are both fine maxims to live by if you ask me. Based in West London, they have a great looking range of beers on offer and I’m informed this is the third iteration of the Fade to Black drink – being both Bourbon Barrel Aged and “Coconut edition”. 

FtB is a black IPA, so despite the decent percentage and dark tone, it is surprisingly light on the tongue, not particularly thick. It has a juicy citrus fruit sweetness and tang before a smoky cocoa finish, with a little of the woody edge you get from barrel aged beer. It is a bit boozy toward the end and if I’m honest I struggled to detect the coconut, which may have been a tad subtle for me. 

A very pleasurable potable. 

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200. Siren Craft Brew’s Tickle Monster

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Having had a rather dull beer just before this significant milestone, I thought it best to save something rather spectacular for the big double ton. Tickle Monster certainly fulfils the criteria. Brewed by Siren Craft Brew in conjunction with Danish beer nutters To Ol.

Triple hopped, oak aged, brewed with real mango in and a heady 12% strength, this is a beer not to be messed with. It pours thick, opaque and dirty looking, yeast still floating within, leaving a oozy residue round the sides of the glass. 

I’ve made it sound rather unpleasant and to be honest it isn’t a looker once poured. Flavour wise it’s strong, complex and pretty boozy; almost completely flat, it has a thick sweetness, with the texture of a pulpy fruit juice, before a chunky hoppy middle and frankly pretty alcohol heavy finish. You can taste the oak-ageing, which is surprising given it’s strength, but it seems to me quite subtle.

Frankly, it’s an interesting if not entirely enjoyable drink. I think I’d recommend you give it a go as there are going to be few like it (perhaps half a bottle as it isn’t cheap) but couldn’t say I’d be rushing to buy another. It certainly falls into the same category of “uber brewing” that Mikkeller and Brewdog are so fond of, but doesn’t quite hit the mark as well as some of their best. Three stars, but mostly for novelty.

three star

199. Courage Best Bitter

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So nearly at 200. I’m rather glad I chose this to be 199, as it’s hardly something to celebrate a milestone with. As with many “Best” bitter’s this is in fact the least exciting beer that Courage do. It’s got a decent balance of hops and malt – erring on the dry bitter side with a slightly bready flavour, but it’s instantly forgettable. 

I don’t want to be too mean – there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a tad weak and boring. 

two star

197 & 198 Butcombe’s Rare Breed & Hogs Back’s England’s Glory

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Two beers, acutely contrasting. Rare Breed is one I sampled just recently while England’s Glory is a beer I had some weeks ago but have been unable to find the picture of, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of an image. 

Let’s start with the Rare Breed, seeing as I at least have photographic evidence of this one. Having really enjoyed Butcombe Bitter back in April (four stars no less), I was mightily disappointed with this offering. A little peppery to start, it then has a long and rather unpleasant chemical bitterness which lingers longer than you want it to. There’s little sweetness or variation in flavour and the colour is even off putting, a kind of dirty brown. Avoid. 

1 star 

By comparison, England’s Glory is fantastic. After the poor showing by their “T.E.A” (Traditional English Ale), this pushes Hogs Back right back up in my estimations. A beautifully sweet and fruity golden ale, it perfectly balances a caramel sugary flavour with sharper citrus and summer fruits and a bit of hopped dryness in the finish. At 4.4% you can even have it as a session ale. Fully deserving of five stars – track it down on draft and drink it by the bucket load.  

five star

196. Moortgat’s Duvel

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The third of my Belgian triplet is Duvel, probably the best known of the strong, trappist style Belgian beers. Brewed in Breedonk (yet another great Belgian name) by the Flemish Moortgat family, the brewery has been around since 1871 and this beer recipe is itself 90 years old. Plenty of pedigree. 

The name Duvel means “Devil” in certain Belgian dialects, and it’s an appropriate name for an 8.5% blond beer. You would expect few beers this pale to pack that kind of punch, but the 90 day brewing process creates something extra punchy. The brewer only makes two types of beer – this and a “single” which is a little less potent – so they have plenty of time to concentrate on getting it right. 

Of the three I’ve tried in the past few days, this is my favourite, which is odd given my taste for darker, maltier beers. It has a strong, syrupy lemon sweetness, with a citrus rind bitterness and a dryer hop finish. Plenty to entertain the taste buds, and while it is certainly boozy, it’s very drinkable. Oddly refreshing for such a strong beer. 

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195. Chimay Blue

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The Blue “Grand Reserve” is the darkest of the beers produced by the Chimay Brewery, named for the town in Belgium in which it is sited. Chimay also make a selection of cheeses to accompany their beers. This is a Trappist beer, which takes it’s inspiration from the beer making style of Cistercian monks from Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey.

Another strong and boozy beverage, this has a richer, burnt flavour than the Kwak, smoky with a thick sweetness. You can certainly taste the alcohol but I found this a nicer all round drink.

three star

 

194. Pauwel Kwak

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The first if a small collection of Belgian beers brought back for me by my dad (guest post coming soon), Kwak, while possessing of an amusing moniker, is probably not my favourite. 

It hails from the town of Buggenhout, brewed in the Bosteels brewery. Named (supposedly) for an 18th century innkeeper and brewer. The Bosteels brewery has been in the same family for seven generations.

The beer itself is a deep red brown in colour, sweet and fairly rich to start, followed with tobacco and liquorice, which melds with a more standard bitter finish. Despite being over 8%, it isn’t overly boozy.

I’m not a fan of liquorice, so I found this rather hard going. Perhaps to other people’s tastes, but not mine.

Two stars.

Cotteridge Wines

You know I was complaining about having to pick up beers whenever and wherever I spot them? No sooner have I said that than all my problems are solved. 

Introducing, Cotteridge Wines. Not much to look at, and rather oddly named (much more beer than wine) but this bottle shop is absolutely top class, and as luck would have it, just five minutes up the road from my new house. 

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I checked it out on the recommendation of some wizened, beer-expert friends, and wasn’t disappointed. I can’t even claim it to be a particularly hidden gem – RateBeer made it bottle shop of the year 2013. 

If you want to keep up to date with them – they’re on twitter, posting updates about newly arrived brews. They claim to have 1200 beers, which I can believe having perused the shelves for 10 minutes. Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’ll struggle to complete the challenge now.

Obviously while visiting I had to pick up a few, so you can expect to see reviews of this interesting little selection in the near future:

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The lovely guy who runs it gave me some great recommendations, so I’ll definitely be back soon for more! 

 

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