Uinta Brewing's Crooked Line Detour Double IPA - Beer Review

Monday, May 30, 2011

This Detour Double IPA (9.5%) is part of a 'Crooked Line' series from Uinta brewing, which they say are a range of beers that side step traditional brewing techniques and ingredients and present a different approach to great beer. In fact, they don't say that, they say this:

"Our brewing odyssey is a thirsty quest to satisfy our obsession with beer. Marked with frequent diversions
and detours, our crooked path has taken us to some unexpected places. These adventures often culminate into late nights around a table, enjoying good food, artisan beer, and animated conversation.Our journey has ultimately led us here, on an innovative brewing escapade, an opportunity to brew outside the lines. Welcome to the Crooked Line, bent beers that side-step traditional brewing techniques and ingredients."

But that's a bit long winded isn't it?

Still, whatever their motivation, they've produced a fantastic beer, in one of the best looking
bottles I've seen in a while. Really unusual looking, creative, and just a touch weird, it works really well and definitely goes along with the 'Crooked' shtick that they're peddling. Zak commented on it being a great looking bottle a while back, but didn't go into much detail about the beer itself, something I'll try to rectify now (not that I can match his flowing prose of course).

It pours from the big 750ml corked and caged bottle a deep orange colour,
like a chunk of raw Amber, with a fluffy clean white head and very little carbonation.

You get sharp resinous hop oils on the nose, loads of pine resin, a little fresh pine needle and also touch of pineapple. There's a little bit of booze in the smell too, which is expected at 9.5%, but the overriding aroma are those big juicy hops.

The flavour is immediately bitter resinous hops, fresh pine and loads of pine resin aswell. Some bitter orange citrus oil, a little orange breadyness in the middle and again that slight fruity pineapple flavour fights to come through along with a faint bit of grapefruit. The mouthfeel is slick, smooth and slightly oily but that hop bitterness manages to keep it clean. The carbonation is perfect, not too heavy, and that pure white head sticks around and laces the glass. Impressive for a 9.5% beer. As it warms a little the booze becomes a touch more noticeable and warms your palate, but it never gets harsh, and for it's ABV remains dangerously drinkable.

This IPA has huge bitterness which follows through smoothly into the finish, there isn't a sudden dryness or bitterness that comes in, and in that sense it is very balanced and smooth. The bitter hops are constant and satisfying, but there's enough sweetness to keep your mouth from crippling and it finishes clean and dry with lingering pine and orange citrus oil.

It's a lovely beer, and one which I'm looking forward to drinking again.

Does the glass a beer is served in really affect its flavour?

Friday, May 27, 2011
I've now added a third party poll button as Blogger's one wasn't working. So if you already voted please vote again!

I've been considering a blog post on beer glasses for some time, specifically whether a certain type of glass actually changes a beers taste or aroma, or if it's just cosmetic. But then I decided I wanted to know what you thought first, to get an idea of peoples perceptions before I dive in with what I think. So here's your chance.

I'm not talking about branding here, forget what badge is on the glass, I'm talking about whether the shape of a glass actually effects the taste of the beer. You may have drank from an impressive looking Kwak glass, or a nice dumpy tulip shaped
Duvel glass, but if you take the lovely Gold logo off the side does the shape of the glass still effect the flavour - or is it purely psychological?

I'll wade in with what I think in a weeks time. Though I will warn you, whatever the outcome of the poll, my minds pretty much made up....

Use the voting buttons on the top right to have your say, but please also feel free to comment below if you feel you have something to add to the debate.

Photo lazily stolen from Wikipedia

The Kernel Brewery India Pale Ale Black 7.2% - Beer Review

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
This is a review I've been meaning to post for a week or two but haven't got round to it, which is a travesty as this is a beer you should all be going out and buying.

Black IPA is a somewhat oxymoronic sounding beer style (black pale ale?), but when stylistic semantics are put outside you'll find it is actually one worth seeking out, generally delivering bags of roasted malt flavour and hop character to boot. I've really enjoyed Summer Wine Brewery's single hopped black IPA range Nerotype, particularly Simcoe hopped Nerotype #1, so was looking forward to trying this offering from the much lauded Kernel Brewery.

For those of you that haven't heard of The Kernel Brewery, they are a genuinely tiny 'Micro-Brewery'. Based under a railway arch in South East London, they have a very small output of very high quality beer which until recently hasn't been available up North, with just a handfull of London retailers being your only hope for grabbing a few bottles. Luckily Beer Ritz in Leeds recently took delivery of a few pallet loads, and as such I quickly hot footed it down and stocked up - I suggest you do the same.

The Kernel Brewery India Pale Ale Black 7.2%

This pours a very dark brown, almost black, with red brick tinges at the edges when held to the light and an off White frothy head. Really nice, fine bubbled carbonation from the spot on bottle conditioning. The smell is vibrant grapefruit and pithy orange combined with a rich smokeyness, a bit like barbecued citrus fruit. Imagine a grapefruit dusted with brown sugar and cooked over hot coals and you're not far away. You can really smell the high amount of hops as the aroma is instant but lasting, remaining clean and strong throughout the glass.

In the taste there's an initial juicy grapefruit flavour which is super super fresh, like it was bottled 5 minutes ago, then you get rich roasted filter coffee, bittersweet dark chocolate, a touch of stronger espresso in the finish along with a lingering orange peel and grapefruit hop flavour.

A bit of alcohol warmth comes into the smell as the beer warms up a little, but not to it's detriment and actually got better as it came up from fridge to closer to cellar temp as the roasted flavours came out more and all the hop flavours were even more noticeable.

Despite it being 7.2% I enjoyed this beer so much it was gone a little too quickly, always a good sign. It's a seriously tasty, drinkable beer, and when all's said and done, isn't that all that really matters?

Dark Star Sunburst Golden Ale - Beer Review

Monday, May 23, 2011
This one surprised me a little bit. It takes quite a few sips to decipher, but once the flavours start coming through it's actually much more than a standard Golden Ale, something I probably should have expected from the consistently good Dark Star brewery.

It pours a wonderful bright gold colour, with light carbonation and a small head that stuck around and laced the glass. The smell is very light, there's just a little grapefruit, and a grassy hop freshness, but not too much else.

The taste is classic British style summer ale, very fresh and bitter with grapefruit and a slight peach flavour, backed up by sweet caramel and digestive biscuit from the light malt. In fact, as you drink that malt does build up to be quite strong, but is just about kept in balance by those tart, citrus hops. All in all it's a refreshing, summery golden ale with enough depth to keep things interesting and plenty of hops that help it work pretty well in bottle form.

With regards to being in bottle, it's worth mentioning that summery British Pale Ales or Golden Ales are a style I've had limited success with in bottles, generally I prefer them on cask as they can be a little thin and insipid in the bottle. This was hoppy and flavourful enough to stand up though. A great beer for enjoying in the sunshine.

From May to August Sunburst is also available on cask so keep an eye out in your local, as I think it would be even better served in cask form.

Thanks to Dark Star for sending me this beer for review. You can buy Sunburst, along with some of their other beers, online at mybrewerytap.com

The Sparrow Bier Cafe, Bradford BD1

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a preview of West Yorkshire's newest craft beer bar, The Sparrow Bier Cafe in Bradford, which officially opens it's doors tomorrow (20th May 2011).

The guys have been working like crazy to get the place ready in time for launch and I got the impression the workmen had left for the day not long before we were welcomed in - especially when my first pint stuck to the not-quite-dry varnish on the table! That said, the place was 99% finished and does look fantastic.

As you can see there's a big glass front to the place which lets in loads of light and helps the bar feel spacious and airy (there will be more tables out than is pictured though), along with clusters of tables and chairs, giving it a real relaxed cafe atmosphere.

The floors were still to be finished when we were there, but loads of local art was already up on the walls and there was a huge chalk board to the left of the bar where I'm assuming things such as specials are going to be listed. The soft green paint reminded me a lot of Veritas in Leeds, which isn't far off my impression of the bar overall, which was a bit like a cross between North bar and Veritas. Which is high praise indeed.

I had a cracking pint of the lovely Bernard Dark Lager to knock the dust off my pipes before delving into some of their other beery delights - over the course of the night I tried:
  • Bernard Dark Lager (keg) - Rich yet refreshing with chocolate and light roasted malt, and a clean, dry, herbal hop finish. Really lovely stuff.
  • Meantime Special (keg) - A pretty standard IPA, not quite as good as their India Pale Ale in bottles, but still pretty good.
  • Meantime Stout (keg) - My favourite stout of the night. Super smokey, chocolate, dry coffee.
  • Jaipur (cask) - Always a good choice, this was perfectly conditoned and tasted super fresh and hoppy, with all that grapefruit and tropical fruityness. A classic.
  • Stout Mary (cask) - This is a proper, classic stout. Thick, smoky and dry. Nice
  • Bernard Unfiltered (keg) - A great biscuity pilsner style unfiltered beer with an almost nutty savouriness and bags of spicy hops in the finish.
  • Silly Saison (250ml bottle) - Lovely sweet Belgian richness, low on hops but big on herby flavour. A lovely 5% beer that is an absolute belter of a bargain at £2.20 a bottle. Plus it's on the regular beer menu so should always be available.
  • Great Divide Titan IPA (330ml bottle) - This self proclaimed "Assertive India Pale Ale" was one of the bottled specials which will regularly change. It was an absolute stonker of a beer. I think everyone on our table bought a bottle and by the end of the night the fridge had been emptied of them. Huge, hoppy, sappy, pithy, delicious. Plus at £4 a bottle for a 7.1% American Hop Bomb, this was a steal. If they've got this in the fridge when you go then do yourself a favour and buy a bottle!

Here are some more photos that I took, which show the downstairs seating area, Bernard font, and a few of the beers I tried.

It's an absolutely cracking beer bar and fills a gap in the market that has long existed in Bradford. So Beer Geeks of Bradford rejoice, your new home awaits you...

Big thanks to the guys from The Sparrow for inviting me, and the other bloggers (including Rob from HopZine, Nick from Beer Prole, and fletch from Real Ale Reviews) for making it such a good night! I

Steak sandwich with fried onions and Stilton matched with Fullers 1845

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I generally cook something pretty quick and simple on a Friday night, saving any prolonged cooking for the weekend, when I can enjoy taking my time and have a few beers while bringing a meal together. This Friday I decided to make some simple, tasty, and super quick steak sarnies with Stilton and fried onions, before meeting some friends at the pub for a few drinks.

Beer and food matching can be tricky, but just occasionally the perfect partner beer for your meal just screams out to be utilised. This match is one of those occasions.

For the steak sandwich I spread a little good mayo on the bottom half of the Ciabatta bread and some Dijon Mustard on the top, added the cooked sliced steak and resting juices, then some fried onions and Stilton on top. If I'd have had some Rocket I might have added that too but to be honest it was great just the way it was, and matched with the Fullers 1845 it was damned near perfect.

Without the Stilton on the sandwich you could probably get away with a normal English Bitter such as St. Peter's Organic Best Bitter, or even a smokey Porter, but that strong, salty blue cheese means a stronger, richer beer is demanded for. Something exactly like Fullers 1845 (6.3%), a bottle conditioned beer with a massive amount of flavour.

It's one of those matches that isn't just a case of "it goes well with the meal" - it actively improves it. The beer has a fruit cake like character with hints of chocolate and almost burnt toast, as well as an underlying sweetness that is balanced out beautifully by spicy, slightly orangey hops and a very dry, mildy boozy finish. It matches amazingly well with the charred flavour of the meat but also manages to balance out the Stilton and bring out its underlying sweetness. It's delicious, and a combination I'd urge anybody to give a try.

....Also, I couldn't let this go without talking a little bit about the much misunderstood steak sandwich. Yes it's quick, yes it's simple, but show it some respect and you can make something really special.

The most important ingredients of a steak sandwich, and this may sound glaringly obvious, are the steak and the bread. My personal preference is for rump steak; cut nice and thick it's juicy and tasty but most importantly doesn't really have any fat, unlike sirloin or ribeye, so no fatty bits in the middle of your sandwich. (NB - Ribeye is my favourite cut for steak and chips but for that clean, square slab of meat perfect for slicing into a sandwich Rump is much better suited, and Fillet is overated)

The bread is also vitally important, you want something that isn't too tough, but is strong enough to hold itself together whilst soaking up some of those lovely steak juices - Ciabatta is ideal. Slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and bubbled on the inside. Plus, because it's an olive oil based bread it can handle the steak juices without becoming soggy - perfect!

Get the right meat, and the right bread and you can't go far wrong providing you don't overcook the steak (my 3cm thick steak was cooked on a searing hot griddle pan 2 mins either side, rested for 2 mins then thickly sliced on the diagonal).

P.s. The sandwich looks little, but thats because I used some little part baked (Tesco Finest) Ciabattas and we had two each!

Hardknott Infra Red - a supercharged beast of a beer

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Hardknott brewery get a lot of much deserved attention from beer geeks and bloggers, but are not a regular sight on most bars across the UK, and even their bottled wares are distinctly limited edition and fairly hard to come by (online is your best bet). It's not a marketing ploy to create buzz, they are just genuinely pretty small and at the moment demand far outstrips demand.

I've only had a few bottled Hardknott beers and until recently had never tried any of their cask beer. Thankfully
Mr Foley's in Leeds look determined to rectify this situation and have had quite a few Hardknott beers on recently.

So on to the very special beer at hand, Infra Red, a hybrid red/amber ale heavily hopped with Cascade and Centennial.

In the glass the beer is bright red with hints of brown and a tight head that laces the glass thickly as you drink, it's a really stunning looking beer with an appearance unlike anything I've really seen. There's a lot of toffee and brown sugar on the nose and a little of this carries through into the flavour which is full bodied, with great mouthfeel and a general richness of flavour. The taste is like a super hopped ESB - I was expecting more of a red IPA but this definitely isn't that.

There's lots of berry fruit and classic English malt flavour but with a massive kick of spicy, aromatic hops that are quite dry in the finish. As well as those drying hops there's a touch of booze which comes in really late and a very slight roasted character, which is very subtle and sits behind the fruit and hops.

It's very unusual, something I've come to expect from Hardknott. It's challenging yet familiar, modern yet classic, a British Bitter on steroids - but most importantly it's just a really, really tasty beer.

You can follow Dave, Head Brewer and owner of Hardknott, on Twitter to get the inside scoop on their beers.

Nogne O Brewery tasting session

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Nøgne ø are a fairly new craft beer brewery from Norway (they started in 2002) and I think that like me most people won't have had the chance to try many of their beers. Despite some product being sold at outlets such as Utobeer on Borough Market, and a few other very specialist places, they haven't officially entered the UK market so their beers are still pretty rare over here. But that's something that is hopefully set to change.

Last night I was invited to be on a tasting panel being conducted (with a little help from North Bar's Matt) by a marketing research team working for Nøgne ø brewery based in Norway - no they unfortunately didn't fly us over there, it was held in Leeds!

NB - In case you're wondering how to pronounce Nøgne ø; going by the way our Norweigen hosts said it, I think the pronunciation is something like "Nerg-na-ya oh" but please don't hold me to that. Let's just agree it's hard to say and leave it at that.

We started off by talking about what beers we liked, how seasonality effected our choices, how we got into 'good' beer and some other general beery subjects while the tape recorder rolled and a few of the marketeers made notes.

During the discussion we were served some of the brewery's Pale Ale and were then asked our thoughts on it. Which is pretty much how the rest of the session panned out - a bit of chat while drinking, then a talk about the beer itself after we'd tried it. Everybody there was very honest and forthcoming about what they thought of the beers and there was a really informal atmosphere (we were in a bar afterall), exactly what a tasting session should be.

My notes below are what I thought of the beers, much of which I repeated to the group at the time, but some of which I have contemplated in retrospect.

Pale Ale 6%
Quenching and refreshing, this beer drinks like a good session pale yet has an American hoppyness too it aswell. I liked this beer but it didn't have chance to wow me, and I don't think it got a fair outing. It's the kind of beer you appreciate over the course of a pint, not a small amount being swirled around an oversized wine glass!

Saison 6.5%
Admittedly, it's not a style I've drank a lot of but this one left me distinctly underwhelmed, probably my least favourite of the session. It had a yeasty, slightly citrus aroma which carried through into the flavour which was also earthy and slightly spiced with hints of clove or coriander seed. It was nice, but if all five were on the bar I think this would be my last choice.

India Pale Ale 7.5%
This smelt amazing, with a huge passionfruit led aroma and hints of other tropical fruit such as mango and grapefruit. The flavour didn't quite deliver on the smell but was still damned good, tart and hoppy with big citrus flavours running right through and a dry, slightly boozy finish. I liked it but a few of the others were a little dissapointed and didn't think the flavour matched up to what the smell was promising. I would agree but I think it might have been judged a little harshly by some (Dean!). As we said during the tasting there are so many awesome IPA's flooding the craft beer scene that we are a little spoilt for choice. If you'd have given us this beer a year or so ago I think it would've knocked all our socks off.

Porter 7%
This was a really good, classic Porter. It had that typical roasted, slightly chocolatey coffee flavour yet a nice dry hoppy finish which balanced everything out. It also had that straight-after-an-espresso after taste that I love to find in Porter, where the roasted coffee flavour and hops come together to dry your mouth in the same way that a coffee does. It was really good and something I could have drank a pint of (but probably shouldn't at that ABV).

Imperial Stout 9%
They really saved the best for last with this one - It was the unanimous favourite with the group. A really deep, rich, thick to the point of being oily, Imperial Stout. This was a beer to be savoured. I'm a massive fan of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and this was the closest I've tasted to it. It wasn't quite as good, but it wasn't far off. The group were bouncing flavours off each other with more mentioned than I can remember, but I'll try: Dark Chocolate, Coffee, Liquorice, Blackcurrant, Peat, Salt, Brown Sugar, Molasses plus loads more. It's the kind of beer you could serve as a dessert with a scoop of good vanilla Ice-cream, and in fact, that's exactly what we ended up doing.

Does that count as a beer cocktail I wonder?

Big thanks to Matt at North Bar for the invite, Nøgne ø for the free beer, and everyone who attended (including Rob from HopZine, Nick from Beer Prole and Dean from Mr Foley's) for making it such an enjoyable few hours.

Beer Cocktails: Awesome or boresome?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Beer cocktails have got a bad reputation. A quick Google search will bring up pages of websites with all manner of monstrosities that either ruin a perfectly good beer (such as the Porteree - Porter with unnecessary added sugar and nutmeg) to recipes so Frat Boy simple they hardly qualify as 'cocktails' at all (Carribbean Boilermaker).

But a good beer cocktail is genuinely something to behold. I'm not talking Coors light with a shot of Vodka, I'm talking a carefully crafted drink with spirits and juices that complement the flavour profiles of the beer, or using a tasty beer to further enhance a winning cocktail with flavour that soda just can't deliver.

Ironically, the best beer cocktails I've ever had were from a bar that no longer serves them! I'm talking about PIN in Leeds; a bar with a bit of an identity crisis, much like Beer cocktails themselves. They had a range of beer cocktails using great ingredients and well chosen spirits blended into new and interesting cocktails topped up with a splash of beer. They had loads on the menu but the ones I remember are a cherry beer cocktail made with Kriek, cherry and fruit licquers; a blackberry and raspberry cocktail using Leeds Best; a coffee and chocolate one with Midnight Bell (a dark mild); and my personal favourite, a beer cocktail made with apple and pear based spirits, ice and real fruit, topped up with Leeds Pale. The spirits brought out the lovely English fruit characters of the beer but it also tasted like an entirely new drink of it's own, with a sum much greater than it's parts - the mark of any great cocktail. (To see info about Leeds Brewery beer click here - but as I said, PIN no longer sells the cocktails)

So it was with these successful beer cocktails in mind that I set about producing a mental recipe of my own using Passionfruit - which I'd picked up at the weekend and that were now perfectly wrinkly and ripe. I decided on a rum based Daiquri style cocktail using passionfruit, lime juice and ice, topped up with a can of Punk IPA in the hope that the cocktails ingredients would pair up with the fruit tropical fruit hoppyness of the beer. The rum was also carefully chosen. I wanted something that wouldn't overpower the cocktail, but that had enough character of it's own to shine through the beer and fruit mix.

I'm a huge fan of rum so had plenty to choose from for this recipe and knew that the Green Island Spiced Gold Rum from Mauritius, would fit the bill perfectly. It's a really unique and interesting rum with a very complicated distilling process. To make it they firstly start with Green Island Superior Light Rum, which is a blend of 3 and 5 year oak aged rums. During the ageing process the rum takes on a golden colour from the oak casks, but then the aged rum undergoes a charcoal filtration where the golden colour is removed without affecting its taste profile. To make the Spiced Gold they then add natural (and secret) herbs and spices to the clear rum which gives it its light golden colour. It's a soft, lightly spiced rum with flavours of clove, cinnamon, ginger, and hints of vanilla, yet still hugely complex as the various maturation stages add their own unique character as well. It's a rum that I love to drink simply with ice, or in the best Cuba Libre you'll ever taste.

The Passionfruit Punk Daiquri

In a cocktail shaker combine:

- Double shot of Green Island Spiced Gold Rum (or equivalent)
- Juice of half a lime (cut into two wedges and thrown in once squeezed)
- Scooped out centres of two very ripe passionfruits (discard the outer shells)
- 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar
- A handfull of ice

Shake vigorously for a minute or so to breakdown the passionfruit and seperate the juice, then fine strain into a half pint tulip glass two thirds filled with ice, and top up with Brewdog Punk IPA or other fruity IPA such as Thornbridge Jaipur.


Tasting Notes
It's quite a sour cocktail (in a good way), yet very aromatic from the ripe passionfruit which comes through more in the smell than taste - I think the lime is a bit strong and seems to dominate the flavour, might try it with a quarter lime next time.

That said, I think I'll chalk this up as a success, I'm a positive kinda guy, and I did enjoy this beer cocktail. With a few tweeks I think it be could superb.

Let me know if you've tried any beer cocktails (good or bad) in the comments box below

BrewDog bar to open in Leeds this year

Friday, May 06, 2011
There's been a lot of speculation about where the next BrewDog bar will be opened, and today we got the clearest indication yet that it could be Leeds.

Zak Avery, writer of the excellent
Are You tasting The Pith? Blog and co-owner of Beer Ritz, met up with the owners of Brewdog and found out the folllowing:

"The main purpose of their visit [to Leeds] was to look at some locations for the next BrewDog bar. It seems that Leeds is next on their radar, with some very targetted visits from James and Martin, along with bar manager Bruce from BrewDog Aberdeen.

Nothing is signed, the shop window is still strictly for browsing, but it seems likely that BrewDog will open a bar in Leeds at some point this year."

The company already have successful bars in Edinburgh and Aberdeen so it's massively exciting news for the Leeds craft beer scene to be the next chosen location. It will hopefully create healthy competition for the bars already serving great beer in Leeds (such as North Bar, Mr Foleys, Veritas etc), as well as acting as a 'destination bar' to attract beer geeks from further afield.

If the news comes to fruition I for one will be at the front of the queue when this place opens.

*Fingers crossed*

Photos courtesy of BrewDog

Meantime India Pale Ale - The best English IPA available in the UK?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011
I'm a big fan of Meantime Brewery, they just seem to have an uncompromising respect for beer. They brew beers with an almost fanatical obsession to detail, and change the ingredients and methods completely to suit a certain beer style, without compromise. This means that they seem to have a flare for producing beers that are absolutely on-the-money in terms of their closeness to the ideal characteristics of a certain 'style'. It sounds simple, but so many breweries dont do it, and no matter what it says on the bottle you end up with their 'take' on a beer style rather than the genuine article. Meantime just do it properly; and I like that.

This fantastic fat bottomed bottle of Meantime India Pale Ale (7.5%) looks so good I feel bad opening it, the champagne corked and metal caged design is clean and sophisticated, and I must admit their distinctive shape suits these big bottles even more than the slightly piddly looking 330ml ones. I dont normally get into design but wow that's a good looking bottle!

The beer itself doesn't dissapoint either, It's an awesome bright orange colour. Fine (small bubbles) yet heavy (lots of them) carbonation that creates a nice big bubbly head that stuck around throughout the whole glass.

The smell is bitter hops, orange peel, pineapple a faint smell of soap, but also a very British IPA smell, not piney like big American IPA's tend to be. The taste is unbelievably well balanced, there's juicy, caramel hinted malt and sweetness at first, but then the malt and hops interplay to create one of the longest list of flavours I've ever experienced in a beer. It's hugely, unbelievably complex but remains balanced. You can taste bitter herbs, orange peel, white pepper, marmalade, bitter grapefruit, and loads more I couldn't put my finger on, there's also a very slight alcohol warmth that comes through more as the bottle warms a little.

Whilst most of these flavours are courtesy of the hops you also get the impression that they used tons of malt to balance against the heavy hopping, as you also get bready notes and a sort of banana toffee sweetness. There's lingering bitterness but nothing overpowering and overly drying, just enough to make you want another sip, and another, until that big bottle has all but gone. In other words, it's delicious.

The thing that's great about this beer is that if you look for all these flavours then they are easy to find, but because it's so balanced and drinkable you can just as easily sit back and simply enjoy it as an amazing beer.

I think it's the best British style IPA* I've ever tasted, but I'd love to know what you think, is there a better 'true to style' IPA out there?

*I.e. Not American/International style IPA's made in the UK, such as Punk IPA or Thornbridge Jaipur

Flying Dog Raging Bitch - Belgian Style American IPA

Monday, May 02, 2011

Flying Dog Raging Bitch (8.3%) is a mixed up sounding beer. A Belgian style IPA hopped in the American style, i.e. big, bold hops and lots of em. It's a beer I first tried on a recent trip to the excellent House of The Trembling Madness in York and I liked it so much I bought a few bottles from the shop downstairs to bring home and review with a slightly more level head (I'd had a fair few beers already that day so no time for note taking).

First impressions of this beer are that it pours like a classic American IPA, orange/amber colour but very clear and bubbly. So far so standard. But then when you give it a whiff it's really big and malty, with that classic Belgian yeast funk from the yeast and a little spice. Not a lot of hops initially but they came out more as I went down the glass.

I poured it fairly aggressively to knock a touch of carbonation out and create a nice big head. This meant that, for me personally, the carbonation was spot on. Not too foamy but nice and tight with small bubbles in the body.

The flavour is sweet and malty in the beginning, but not as malty as the colour or aroma would suggest. There's also a clear banana fruitiness that obviously comes from the Belgian yeast. It then becomes dry and boozy in the finish with fruity hops and a definate piney, resinous hop twang that is dry and spicy, more of a pepper flavour than anything more exotic though. There's also an orange pith character that comes through as the beer warms, which I think comes from the use of Amarillo hops.

It's a really unusual beer. It has that big American IPA hit from the hops but it's Belgian character is also very clear. It wasn't really what I expected, I think expected a super-hopped Duvel, but that said it definitely delivers on what it promises. It does taste like a Belgian style American IPA, just not in the way I expected. Really nice and definitely worth a try if you can get a hold of it.