Wild Beer / Good George / Burning Sky Shnoodlepip, 6.5% abv. 
There are good breweries and there are good breweries. Some will cause an involuntary nod of respect as they produce quality beer after quality beer, consistently nailing established styles, “go-to" kinda breweries. There’s also the nut jobs. The wild haired mad scientists never satisfied with established styles when there’s so many possibilities out there. The "am I feelin’ lucky" breweries. The Wild Beer Co. are one of these. Nestled in a hay strewn barn in deepest Somerset, they tease and charm their motley collection of ingredients into some of the most progressive, exciting beers seen on this crumpet loving island. And they have allies. 
Shnoodlepip is a collaboration of three brewers of three nationalities from three breweries. Kelly Ryan from Good George in New Zealand, Brett Ellis (from the US) of the Wild Beer Co, and Englishman, Mark Tranter, from Burning Sky. An exercise in experimentation, they came up with a beer brewed with local Sharpham Park Spelt, with pink peppercorns, saison and brettanomyces yeast strains, aged in French red wine barrels, and infused with passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. They then put it in a pink labeled bottle. There are nowhere near enough pink beer labels. There was no way I was missing this. 
I waited for the sun to come out before cracking this one open, it seemed only right. The colour is a lovely pink tinged orange, almost like the beer’s blushing. The fluffy white head does a grand job of covering its modesty. The nose is spectacular. I inhale again and again, trying to wrap my head around its bewildering bouquet. Flowery perfume, champagne, a hint of vinegar, spice, caramel drizzled biscuits, and definite passion fruit. I gotta admit, I’m struggling to isolate the aromas, I may not be up to this.
Only one way to find out. A sip. FUCKSTICKS!!! I may be in love. There’s a sweetness at first, but gentle, a mere caress. A summer picnic erupts into existence on my tongue. There’s a mountain of berries, wooden platters of dripping passion fruit, lychee, and papaya, candied wild flower petals, lemon drizzle cake, and bottles of scrumpy cider. All trampled underfoot by a gang of playful rabbits having a fight with white wine vinegar filled filled water balloons. A peppery spice and lingering dry tartness wrap up this smooth, medium bodied beer. That was fairly epic, I wanna go again!
So yeah, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Shnoodlepip. A tart, crisp, refreshing, stunningly complex yet flawlessly balanced and dazzlingly characterful brew. it’s like drinking a funky kaleidoscope. My utmost respect goes out to these three dashing international beer heroes, and while I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of people who simply won’t like or “get” this beer, I adore it. Cheers!

Wild Beer / Good George / Burning Sky Shnoodlepip, 6.5% abv. 

There are good breweries and there are good breweries. Some will cause an involuntary nod of respect as they produce quality beer after quality beer, consistently nailing established styles, “go-to" kinda breweries. There’s also the nut jobs. The wild haired mad scientists never satisfied with established styles when there’s so many possibilities out there. The "am I feelin’ lucky" breweries. The Wild Beer Co. are one of these. Nestled in a hay strewn barn in deepest Somerset, they tease and charm their motley collection of ingredients into some of the most progressive, exciting beers seen on this crumpet loving island. And they have allies. 

Shnoodlepip is a collaboration of three brewers of three nationalities from three breweries. Kelly Ryan from Good George in New Zealand, Brett Ellis (from the US) of the Wild Beer Co, and Englishman, Mark Tranter, from Burning Sky. An exercise in experimentation, they came up with a beer brewed with local Sharpham Park Spelt, with pink peppercorns, saison and brettanomyces yeast strains, aged in French red wine barrels, and infused with passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. They then put it in a pink labeled bottle. There are nowhere near enough pink beer labels. There was no way I was missing this. 

I waited for the sun to come out before cracking this one open, it seemed only right. The colour is a lovely pink tinged orange, almost like the beer’s blushing. The fluffy white head does a grand job of covering its modesty. The nose is spectacular. I inhale again and again, trying to wrap my head around its bewildering bouquet. Flowery perfume, champagne, a hint of vinegar, spice, caramel drizzled biscuits, and definite passion fruit. I gotta admit, I’m struggling to isolate the aromas, I may not be up to this.

Only one way to find out. A sip. FUCKSTICKS!!! I may be in love. There’s a sweetness at first, but gentle, a mere caress. A summer picnic erupts into existence on my tongue. There’s a mountain of berries, wooden platters of dripping passion fruit, lychee, and papaya, candied wild flower petals, lemon drizzle cake, and bottles of scrumpy cider. All trampled underfoot by a gang of playful rabbits having a fight with white wine vinegar filled filled water balloons. A peppery spice and lingering dry tartness wrap up this smooth, medium bodied beer. That was fairly epic, I wanna go again!

So yeah, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Shnoodlepip. A tart, crisp, refreshing, stunningly complex yet flawlessly balanced and dazzlingly characterful brew. it’s like drinking a funky kaleidoscope. My utmost respect goes out to these three dashing international beer heroes, and while I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of people who simply won’t like or “get” this beer, I adore it. Cheers!

Siren / Evil Twin BA Even more Jesus VIII, 12.4% abv bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.

Siren’s head brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew is a bit of a beery badass. Born and raised in North Carolina he started his career at NC’s Duck Rabbit brewery before moving to Denmark where, when working at Fanø, he set up the non-profit craft brewery Grassroots with Sean Hill from Vermont’s fabled Hill Farmstead and Claus Winther, the manager at Fanø. It’s here he worked with some of the biggest names in the gypsy brewing movement including Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and brothers Mikkel and Jeppe of Mikkeller and Evil Twin respectively.  

Things changed again for Ryan a couple of years back when Darren Anley decided to start up a small US style craft brewery in the UK to produce progressive and experimental beers and needed a top tier head brewer. Ryan’s desire to avoid traditional styles met Darren’s vision perfectly, and so he set sail for merry old England and the soon to be hallowed halls of Siren Craft Brew. 

And so to this particular beer. Ryan and Jeppe had worked together on the early batches of Even More Jesus and a return collaboration was destined. Featuring muscovado sugar and liquorice root, the very limited release Even More Jesus VIII was a stunner. Some of it even made it into bourbon barrels for aging where Siren continued to play about by chucking a whole lotta coffee beans in with it. The result is what you see above. Half a litre of wax sealed liquid temptation. Time to see what it’s all about.

The wax seal puts up a fight, loath to give up it’s stewardship of the darkness inside. I go to work with a knife. I am merciless. The wax defeated I pour the sump oil like liquid into my glass, take a whiff, vanilla, liquorice, cocoa, and heavily roasted coffee. Mmmmm. 

I raise the glass to my quivering lips. Imagine dry rubbing a whole lotta dark stone fruits in ground coffee then stewing it all in vanilla pod infused molasses. You then take the fruit out and drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top and garnish with shaved liquorice and burned caramel shards before eating it with spoons carved from oak and charred black.

This is everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s mouth coatingly think and smooth as my oiled tush. There’s plenty of medium sweet, fruity notes here working with the deeply roasty malts before a dose of bitter hops arrive to finish things off. That bourbon is potent throughout but doesn’t overpower the other flavours the way it does in some barrel aged stouts, rather it adds more layers to the already intricate brew. It’s rich, intense, boozy, complex, and downright luxurious. Buy it if you see it. Cheers Ryan, Jeppe, and everyone at Siren, you lot are awesome.

Adventures in (tasting other peoples) homebrew: Part 3

Beer’s awesome. I love beer. And if you’re reading this there’s a small chance that you probably have a fondness for the stuff as well. pidgemckinney certainly does, enough to brew it herself, and being the totally awesome person she is send some via transatlantic carrier geese all the way from the States to the leafy backroads of Staffordshire, England. Where I live. In case I lost you. Or you stopped caring. S’all good. 

As it turns out Holly sent me two of her beers, a milk stout and an IPA. First up was the stout which featured “lactose sugar for milkiness, cacao for chocolateyness, and 2 vanilla beans soaked in Jura single malt Scotch for extra yuminess”. And boy was it yummy! A grin split my face the moment I popped the cap and got a face full of those malts. The brew itself was super smooth and had plenty of roasty, malty goodness leading, a rounded sweetness, and vanilla, cocoa, and espresso notes all working together before the the slightly bitter, mildly earthy, herbaceous finish. A real treat!

Onto the IPA, we get "Jade for bittering, Galaxy and Cascade at finish (aromatic), and Amarillo & Cascade for dry hopping", sounds great. I pop the cap, pour, inhale. Damn. It’s like snorting a tropical fruit punch through a straw. Can it possibly taste as good? Well yeah it can, there’s just so much juicy, fruity, fun goin’ on here. Mango, peach, tangerine, mixed citrus, hints of evergreen, there’s a nice biscuitiness from the malts as the beer warmed in the Sunday afternoon sun, and the lacing leaves lovely little archipelagos on the the side of the glass. It finishes dry and not too bitter, it’s medium bodied, and has an almost creamy mouthfeel. An intoxicating, addictive brew that I just didn’t want to end. Wonderful stuff!

And sadly the beer is no more, but with the last tantalising traces of hoppy, fruity deliciousness teasing my taste buds I reminisce on the good times we shared and I’m content. Thanks again to Holly the beer-Jedi for sending me these two brews, they were stunners! Cheers all.

Canned Beavers

Hello there you fuzzy bundles of sexyfullness! It’s been a busy few months for the young London craft brewery, Beavertown. Aside from all the dam building they’ve managed an expansion with loadsa new kit, a rebranding thanks to artistic director Nick Dwyer, and wonderful new cans for their core range. To celebrate their increased presence in beer land I paid a visit to my favourite ale emporium and returned with these beauties. And a very large grin. 

Gamma Ray APA, 5.4% abv. It’d been a while since I last had this, happily it was every bit as great as I remember. Resinous up front with plenty of tangerine and mango from the hops, subdued caramel covered biscuit malts, and more evergreen at the finish. Then there’s the +100 Awesome Points they get for that can design. 

Neck Oil session IPA, 4.3% abv. My first one of these. There’s lemon and lime zest, dry pine needles, papaya, biscuit and grass salad, a moderately bitter and dry finish. This stuff is so full of American hop goodness you completely forget about the low booze level. A fine daytime drinker.

Black Betty black IPA, 7.4% abv. This was one of the first black IPA’s I tried and my return to it is long overdue. Grapefruit and tangerine lead into roasty cocoa, coffee, and liquorice. The hop / malt balance spot on and makes for a wonderfully complex brew. Delicious.

8 Ball rye IPA, 6.2% abv. One of Beavertown’s early recipes and the first beer they ever sold gets its name from the pool balls they used to hold down the hop sack during dry hopping. It opens with a moderate resinous quality before citrus, tropical fruits, mild spice, and evergreen do their thing. A real nice, easy drinkin’ American style IPA. 

Smog Rocket smoked porter, 5.4% abv. Another new one to me and I really dunno how I’ve missed this ‘til now. A mildly smoky start and finish, roasty coffee and chocolate malts in between. Medium body and carbonation. This thing has a great balance, the smoke working with the other flavours in the malts rather than dominating. But while I enjoyed it, it was just a little too restrained to really make an impression. 

So there it is, Beavertown’s core range. I’ll certainly be picking up Gamma Ray, Neck Oil, and Black Betty with far more frequency from now on, with Neck Oil in particular standing out for it’s packed in hoppiness that puts a good few full strength IPA’s to shame. Smog Rocket on the other hand is something I probably won’t revisit for a while, I’m not saying it’s a bad beer or anything, it just didn’t work for me as well as the others did. But overall, a fine selection. And can I just mention how fudging awesome it is that those fantastic can designs match the colour of the beer inside so well! That’s next level stuff right there. Cheers!

Beavertown Longmorn 1992 Barrel Aged Heavy Water, 10% abv imperial stout

This, my dear Tumblroo’s, is a rather special bottle of beer. ‘Twas London craft brewery Beavertown’s first experiment with barrel aging, and what a barrel it was. Home to Longmorn single malt Scotch for the last twenty years, it hitched a lift to the Big Smoke and ended up with some of the lovely Heavy Water imperial stout taking up residence for a few months. 700 odd bottles were filled with the curious concoction this marriage resulted in, they were then wrapped up in that wonderful Nick Dwyer label and signed and numbered by Mr Logan Plant himself, Beavertown’s founder, owner, and head brewer. A beer like this deserves to be saved for a special occasion and yesterday was just such an occasion. It was Sunday. 

The beer pours a depthless black and is topped by a wafer thin peanut butter coloured head. I assume the correct sniffing posture, passed down to me by the elders of my village after completing a series of grueling tasks, flexed my hooter in preparation and took a grand ol’ whiff. Dark, roasty malts invade my nose holes with unrelenting aggression, whisky and charred wood follow at an entirely more leisurely pace. Very nice, time for a taste.

Imagine stewing up prunes, dates, figs, and wood chips in vanilla infused molasses, adding a dash of liquid smoke, garnishing it with shaved chocolate and liquorice, and serving with an Irish coffee to wash it all down. It’s sorta like that. Kinda.

I gotta say, I’m impressed. It’s a sweet brew, those rich fruits start things off, the roasty malts building with just a touch of bitterness before the whisky and wood finish things off. The booze is nicely warming but not overpowering, it’s soft, smooth, creamy, and full. Unlike some other barrel aged impy stouts I’ve had the whisky isn’t as dominant in this, it’s a defining aspect certainly, but the balance is relatively easy on the palate making it a superb easy drinker. Given the staggeringly high price I don’t think I’d buy it again even if I was lucky enough to see it anywhere, but I’m really glad I got to try it. A cracking brew indeed, cheers!

Knee Deep Fall Over Juice Simtra, 11.25% abv Triple IPA
The sun is playing a particularly mischievous game of hide and seek with the help of a handful of cheeky clouds when I settled down to open this rather bland lookin’ bottle from a Californian brewery rarely seen on these shores. The name “Simtra” held a world of promise though. Simcoe and Citra. Hop elite (don’t tell the other hops I said that). The indicated figures then drew forth a crooked smile, the right side of 11% boozy bits by volume and 131 whole bitter points! If it really wanted to it could probl’y send off a coupon and claim a toaster or somethin’. 
I popped the cap and poured the gorgeous marshmallow topped rusty marmelade coloured liquid into my glass and took a great nose full. If you took a few oranges, a grapefruit, a whole pine bough, a carton of tropical fruit juice, and a splash of rum then blended it all together and snorted it through a straw (srsly good fun btw, y’all should try it) it may be similar to this. 
From the aroma (and the sometimes slightly confusing “Triple IPA” tag) I was expecting a bit of a hop bomb and it really didn’t disappoint. Imagine sticking your face over the business end of one of those comical gramophone barreled blunderbusses you see in old English period comedy flicks just as it goes off, thing is it’d been loaded with all kindsa lovely stuff instead of ball bearings and nails and fox poo. There’s orange flavoured toffee, peach and mango cobbler, candied citrus zest, and pine needles all blasting you in the face and it’s bloody marvelous! 
Some beers grouped as triple IPA’s come very close to American barley wine territory, but not this one, this is most definitely an IPA. The malt’s there don’t get me wrong, it’s caramel covered biscuit goodness offers support where it’s needed with depth and balance in the middle, but it’s those intense and oh so sexy hops that are the stars. They infuse a mouth coating, intensely fruity and resinous quality and leave their mark long after the beer’s gone down with a palate crushing bitterness. It’s full, chewy, and dry and dangerously easy to drink with that booze feeling far less than stated, at least ‘til you try to stand up after the first glass or attempt to post a pic of it to Instagram and realise your fingers have turned to rubber. I’m a big fan though I’ll readily admit it ain’t for everyone. If, however, you dream of hops and get all jittery without a regular lupulin fix, get some of this down your neck. Cheers!

Knee Deep Fall Over Juice Simtra, 11.25% abv Triple IPA

The sun is playing a particularly mischievous game of hide and seek with the help of a handful of cheeky clouds when I settled down to open this rather bland lookin’ bottle from a Californian brewery rarely seen on these shores. The name “Simtra” held a world of promise though. Simcoe and Citra. Hop elite (don’t tell the other hops I said that). The indicated figures then drew forth a crooked smile, the right side of 11% boozy bits by volume and 131 whole bitter points! If it really wanted to it could probl’y send off a coupon and claim a toaster or somethin’. 

I popped the cap and poured the gorgeous marshmallow topped rusty marmelade coloured liquid into my glass and took a great nose full. If you took a few oranges, a grapefruit, a whole pine bough, a carton of tropical fruit juice, and a splash of rum then blended it all together and snorted it through a straw (srsly good fun btw, y’all should try it) it may be similar to this. 

From the aroma (and the sometimes slightly confusing “Triple IPA” tag) I was expecting a bit of a hop bomb and it really didn’t disappoint. Imagine sticking your face over the business end of one of those comical gramophone barreled blunderbusses you see in old English period comedy flicks just as it goes off, thing is it’d been loaded with all kindsa lovely stuff instead of ball bearings and nails and fox poo. There’s orange flavoured toffee, peach and mango cobbler, candied citrus zest, and pine needles all blasting you in the face and it’s bloody marvelous! 

Some beers grouped as triple IPA’s come very close to American barley wine territory, but not this one, this is most definitely an IPA. The malt’s there don’t get me wrong, it’s caramel covered biscuit goodness offers support where it’s needed with depth and balance in the middle, but it’s those intense and oh so sexy hops that are the stars. They infuse a mouth coating, intensely fruity and resinous quality and leave their mark long after the beer’s gone down with a palate crushing bitterness. It’s full, chewy, and dry and dangerously easy to drink with that booze feeling far less than stated, at least ‘til you try to stand up after the first glass or attempt to post a pic of it to Instagram and realise your fingers have turned to rubber. I’m a big fan though I’ll readily admit it ain’t for everyone. If, however, you dream of hops and get all jittery without a regular lupulin fix, get some of this down your neck. Cheers!

Salopian IPA's

Salop. Ye olde name for the pretty county of Shropshire, home to rolling hills and meadows, quaint medieval market towns, and a key player in the Industrial Revolution with the innovative iron works on the river Severn. The straw chewing, wellie wearing yokels that inhabit this charming place also make some pretty damned good beer. Founded in 1995 at The Old Dairy on the outskirts of Shrewsbury (or Shrows-bree if you’re posh), which is a mere half hour drive from my humble abode, Salopian Brewery chuck out some 80 odd barrels a week. Most of this is ”real ale” or traditional English cask ale (and festooned with awards so it is!), but they also knock up a few US inspired craft beers from time to time with their white label range. And I’ve got some, woohoo!

First up is Automaton (7% abv IPA). Hopped with Saaz and Citra and brewed with a small percentage of wheat alongside the barley, this whipped cream topped murky orange brew is bursting with tropical fruit punch aromas which follow through wonderfully into the beer. Obscenely juicy and fruity, with mango, peach, passion fruit, and tangerine in the lead, followed by evergreen and a slight herbal quality. The malt offers up caramel covered biscuits, but it’s subdued. A long way from a typical English IPA. It’s dry and bitter at the end, and quite lovely. A new addition to my top tier of UK brewed US style craft IPA’s. 

Next up is a collaborative brew between Salopian and Celt Experience from across the border in Wales. Sentinel (8.4% abv Double IPA) pours a deep, dark amber and has the same epic marshmallowy head as it’s predecessor. The aroma’s a delight, marmelade, mango, spruce, and maybe a little strawberry. Maybe. The fields surrounding the village I live in are laden with strawberries at the moment and the very air smells of them when the wind picks up. A sip. Yeah, this is another good ‘un. Sweet and fruity up front with tropical fruits, orange marmalade, breezy pine, and yes, strawberries! There’s a decent whack of chewy toffee malt and a big, bold bitter end. Very nicely done. 

Lastly, Black Ops (7.4% abv Black IPA). Once again there’s wheat malt in the brew, and packed with an intriguing international blend of Sorachi Ace, Brewers Gold, and Amarillo hops, I’m hoping for something a little different. This stuff pours black, even with the sun shining to hold the glass against there’s barely any light getting through. The head is just as impressive as the others, big and fluffy and mocha coloured. There’s more mocha in the aroma, with bitter citrus fruits, hints of wildflowers, and a earthy, spiciness. Fantastic. Time to take a sip. Strong tangerine and lemon citrus lead, there’s dried flowers, blackberries, and a building wave of cocoa and espresso ( I didn’t wanna write mocha thrice in a paragraph. ‘Cept I just did. Damn.) from those dark roast malts. An earthy, spiciness creeps in towards the finish, like chewing on random undergrowth, bringing a long and lasting bitterness with it. Damn, this is good. 

And so I reach the end of my Salopian adventure. These three UK craft beers from a brewery better known for it’s more balanced, traditional brews are all fine example of their respective style. Automaton for the American IPA’s that are the face of the young but quickly growing UK craft beer scene (as they are everywhere I s’pose), Sentinel for the lesser seen Double IPA, And Black Ops represents Black IPA’s in a way too few do over here. This, and the stunning complexity offered not just by the hop / malt marriage but by the early hop assault alone, puts it firmly amongst the very best examples of the style I’ve had yet, irrespective to where it came from. It also means Black Ops makes the biggest impression on me of the three. Does that mean it’d be the one I’d recommend? Hell no, get ‘em all. Cheers!

Siren Odyssey 001, 12.4% abv

Long suffering followers of this blog (seriously, <3) will know I have something of a crush on a little craft brewery tucked away in the county of Berkshire, which is sorta “just over there a bit” from London. In their short history Siren have seriously impressed with their core range and dazzled with their limited releases. Odyssey is the second in their blended barrel aged series after their first anniversary barleywine, Maiden, and started life as an imperial stout brewed with liquorice and muscovado sugar which was then split between bourbon, brandy, and banyuls (a French fortified wine) barrels for aging before being blended together with some of their fresh Liquid Mistress red IPA. If that doesn’t soundunderwear creamingly good to you then I just dunno which way’s up anymore. 

That purple wax looks pretty damned sexy it has to be said, but it’s also a pain to open. Luckily my laser beam belt buckle is fully charged and a surreptitious fiddle soon has the beer free. The pour is as dark and smouldering as my gaze, the head as brown and quickly receding as my hairline. The delectable aroma has vanilla pods and plum jam, dark roast malts and red berries, there’s far more going on but I’m growing impatient so I raise the glass and take a sip.

I’m met with something rather special. A tsunami of intense flavours swamp my taste buds with merciless resolution. Sweet bourbon with stewed prunes and figs hit first and hit hard. I try to grab a breath only to be once again overwhelmed, this time it’s logs of liquorice driftwood battering my floundering form whilst dark roast coffee and cocoa wash over me. A brief respite is all I get before a long lasting wave of bitter dark chocolate, charred wood, faint spices, burned caramel, powerful cold brew coffee, and dizzying alcohol drag me under for the last time. I am hopelessly lost. And I’m loving it.

This beautifully crafted brew is, like it’s blended barrel aged predecessor, Maiden, complex to the point that my palate is found unworthy. It’s rich, full, boozy, utterly seductive and all consuming, for the hour or so I was under its spell nothing else seemed to matter. It seems my crush on Siren, which began with their fine core range, has developed into heart wrenching devotion with their barrel aged blends. If you’re lucky enough to find one of these, buy it. Then totally send it to me, ‘kay?

Flying Dog Kujo, 8.9% abv imperial coffee stout

Originally an experimental imperial stout, these days Kujo, from Maryland’s Flying Dog (and featuring coffee roasted by West Virginia’s Black Dog Coffee) is a winter seasonal release. Yeah I know it’s summer, but ‘twas a chill and blustery Sunday afternoon when I opened this, seemed fitting. Also, that growling visualisation of the spirit of the beer courtesy of the ever wonderful Ralph Steadman had been calling to me for far too long. 

It pours as dark as you’d expect with a toffee coloured head that fades to a thin whisper in no time. I close my eyes, take a whiff and I’m dunking a chocolate croissant into a cup of dark roast coffee. These aromas, while enticing, are rather subtle. I’m sure the flavour will be more assertive.

A sip. Yup. It’s like having breakfast with a psychopath. A dog faced psychopath. You’re at your favourite local café with your charming and be-tailed new friend, you reach for your coffee but the dog boy’s faster. The coffee hits you in the face, cup an’ all. “Whutthehell!” you sputter, before that chocolate filled croissant follows it. “Dude, quit!” The psycho dog boy’s now standing on the cafe’s bar top, he opens an old fashioned sweet jar full of licorice twists (in my perfect world all cafés and bars would sell licorice twists) and starts pelting you mercilessly. Using your world class dodgeball skillz you manage to avoid most of ‘em but one catches you right in the chops. Barking with laughter the psycho mutt jumps onto your table, grabs a slice of fig-jam smothered toast and rubs in in your face before emptying the remains of the cafetiere over your head. Dog face returns to his seat. Grins. You can’t help but grin back…

So yeah, you’ve probably guessed that I’m quite fond of this. It’s a full, smooth, and creamy impy stout with just a gentle warmth from the booze. It seems that rather subdued aroma was all part of the plan. It entices and seduces you into relaxing your guard before the aggressive flavours launch their blistering surprise attack on your taste buds, battering you with roasty, slightly charred malt, enough coffee to compliment the complex brew but not enough to overpower it, a good deal of sweet milk chocolate, and hints of licorice, vanilla, and dark fruits. Lesser people may be found cowering in a corner after a mouthful, but seasoned badasses like you and me will be eager for another round. “Bring it on, Dog!”

Arbor Breakfast Stout and Oyster Stout

Bristol’s Arbor are one of the wealth of new breweries that have sprung up around England in the last decade or so. Equally happy brewing traditional English styles as they are brewing American craft beer styles (or English styles with an American craft inspired twist), their output is mostly cask supported by kegs and bottles here and there. I have two of their brews to share with you awesome and sexyfull Tumblroo’s this fine, breezy, and sun dappled evening, and both are stouts. No need to thank me, I can feel the adoration radiation from my laptop screen. 

First up, Arbor Breakfast Stout, 7.4% abv. Based on an imperial stout, it’s loaded with oats, has a small amount of smoked malt and speciality German grains, and has locally roasted Brazilian Santos coffee beans and organic cacao nibs added to the boil. This particular beer also has a little drool added after the pour… *ahem

The burned caramel coloured head hides a hypnotising, void like darkness. Aromas of intense espresso and burned malts invade my nose holes and do terrible, unspeakable things to the roots of my braintree. I may have begun dancing. I brave the drool drizzled head and take a glug, it seems the nasal abuse was but the first stage in a pincer movement. Minions sculpted from dark roast coffee, cocoa, caramel, fig, and licorice are now swinging from my braintree’s branches, hootin’ an’ hollerin’ and waving burning torches. My dancing has now reached fever pitch, my feet whirligigging round the room full-on Northern Soul style. My surrender is unconditional to this full, rich, roasty, smooth as you like beer with a dry, bitter finish. Jeepers creepers, this is good.

Once I’ve recovered it’s time to attempt the next one, Arbor Oyster Stout, 4.6% abv. Back in the olden days of merry ol’ England, when vision worked in black and white and men dueled with their razor sharp waxed moustaches for the right to wear the tallest top hat, stout was consumed by the gallon in pubs across the land. Oysters were a favoured snack at these watering holes, and their briny goodness was a perfect pairing with the roasty black liquid. Some point later on a bonafide genius decided to put actual oysters in the brew itself, they were rewarded with a lovely new bright red bicycle (colour vision had been invented by now) by powers unknown and a sub-style was born. After falling out of favour in the latter part of the last century the oyster stout is back, and Arbour chuck loads of the delicious little things into the boil of their oatmeal stout. Just to watch them die. Or maybe ‘cause they they taste good. Nine different grains and Fuggles hops also feature, sounds good.

The pour is black, the head latte, and this time drool free. Masses of cocoa and heavily roasted malty aromas waft up from my weirdly jug like glass. A sip. Suddenly I’m a deep sea diver from times past sitting in my open bottom diving bell. Before a dive I like to relax with a nice stout, most of us daring divers do, dontcha know. The smooth, roasty ale’s chocolate and coffee flavours are there as you’d expect, but the lightless salt water below infuses the senses with a brininess that blends into the stouts initial taste. The roast soon begins to overpower this and is joined by slightly spicy, earthy notes before the moderately bitter finish brings the brine back. Damn good stuff.

I gotta say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these West Country stouts. The Oyster Stout is a really good example of the style, slightly briny at the beginning and end, luscious, roasty stout goodness throughout. It is, however, the Breakfast Stout that’s won my heart. Intense, rich, decadent, bittersweet, and downright delicious. Now if you’ll excuse me, my dancin’ shoes are callin. Cheers!

Wild Beer Somerset Wild, 5% abv sour ale
Lurking amongst the cobwebs and pixie nests of an old moss covered barn in a dairy farm tucked away in the the ancient, troll infested Somerset countryside, an exiled Californian chef and a monocled, cane wielding Englishman are creating wondrous, unique beers. Somerset Wild is a sour ale fermented with a blend of dozens of yeast and bacteria strains gathered from the local pastures and orchards, and just a dash of fairy dust. Can&#8217;t wait to try it.
The ale pours a pale, hazy yellow, like homemade lemonade topped with whipped cream. Aromas of apple yogurt and lemon shortbread fill my nostrils as I take a deep breath. So far so promising, time to taste. A tart, acidic, and moderately sour hootenanny of lemon sherbert, farmhouse cider, white wine vinegar, clover flowers, and windswept wheat flavours tantalize my taste buds and demand another sip. And another. This stuff is insanely drinkable 
Before I know it my glass is empty. FIddlesticks. I could honestly drink this stuff all evening. &#8216;Tis light of body, effervescent, as bright and breezy as you could wish on a long summer night, and while the funk and sourness are restrained relative to certain well known Belgian styles, they&#8217;re still twitch inducing and help to deliver a substantial depth and complexity. If I had to recommend a sour beer to someone who&#8217;d never had a sour before, or had only tried full-on face inverting gueuze&#8217;s (I do like a good beer induced face inversion), this&#8217;d be it. Cheers!

Wild Beer Somerset Wild, 5% abv sour ale

Lurking amongst the cobwebs and pixie nests of an old moss covered barn in a dairy farm tucked away in the the ancient, troll infested Somerset countryside, an exiled Californian chef and a monocled, cane wielding Englishman are creating wondrous, unique beers. Somerset Wild is a sour ale fermented with a blend of dozens of yeast and bacteria strains gathered from the local pastures and orchards, and just a dash of fairy dust. Can’t wait to try it.

The ale pours a pale, hazy yellow, like homemade lemonade topped with whipped cream. Aromas of apple yogurt and lemon shortbread fill my nostrils as I take a deep breath. So far so promising, time to taste. A tart, acidic, and moderately sour hootenanny of lemon sherbert, farmhouse cider, white wine vinegar, clover flowers, and windswept wheat flavours tantalize my taste buds and demand another sip. And another. This stuff is insanely drinkable 

Before I know it my glass is empty. FIddlesticks. I could honestly drink this stuff all evening. ‘Tis light of body, effervescent, as bright and breezy as you could wish on a long summer night, and while the funk and sourness are restrained relative to certain well known Belgian styles, they’re still twitch inducing and help to deliver a substantial depth and complexity. If I had to recommend a sour beer to someone who’d never had a sour before, or had only tried full-on face inverting gueuze’s (I do like a good beer induced face inversion), this’d be it. Cheers!

Siren Shattered Dream, 9.8% abv imperial breakfast stout
Ahh, SIren Craft Brew. Of all the new wave of US inspired craft breweries in the UK these guys are one of my very favourites. Their small core range is rock solid, but it’s the specials, the collaborations and limited releases, that cause the involuntary intake of breath and quickening heartbeat. This is one of ‘em. To celebrate the 100th batch of their stunning core range breakfast stout, Broken Dream, Siren brewed a powered-up version loaded with even more coffee, cacao nibs, and vanilla, and packing the punch of an imperial stout. Don’t pretend you ain’t salivating.
And so to pour. The oatmeal head hides a lurking, fathomless darkness. Coffee, cocoa, and vanilla aromas ride the wave of charred malty goodness that rolls forth. A sip. ‘Tis soft and pillowy in the mouth, rich and full flavours of chocolate cake, dark roast coffee, and vanilla fudge lead with underlying notes of char, wood, black treacle, and stewed red fruits.
This really did live up my expectations. A sweet, roasty, malty treat of an imperial stout that hides its booze well and is as fine a liquid weekend breakfast as it is an evening dessert. As it turns out they brewed a double batch of this and have put aside some 800 litres to be aged in Banyuls, Bourbon, and Brandy barrels for later release. I swear I can hear choir music… For the time being though, however you can get it, on cask, keg, or bottle, just get it. Cheers!

Siren Shattered Dream, 9.8% abv imperial breakfast stout

Ahh, SIren Craft Brew. Of all the new wave of US inspired craft breweries in the UK these guys are one of my very favourites. Their small core range is rock solid, but it’s the specials, the collaborations and limited releases, that cause the involuntary intake of breath and quickening heartbeat. This is one of ‘em. To celebrate the 100th batch of their stunning core range breakfast stout, Broken Dream, Siren brewed a powered-up version loaded with even more coffee, cacao nibs, and vanilla, and packing the punch of an imperial stout. Don’t pretend you ain’t salivating.

And so to pour. The oatmeal head hides a lurking, fathomless darkness. Coffee, cocoa, and vanilla aromas ride the wave of charred malty goodness that rolls forth. A sip. ‘Tis soft and pillowy in the mouth, rich and full flavours of chocolate cake, dark roast coffee, and vanilla fudge lead with underlying notes of char, wood, black treacle, and stewed red fruits.

This really did live up my expectations. A sweet, roasty, malty treat of an imperial stout that hides its booze well and is as fine a liquid weekend breakfast as it is an evening dessert. As it turns out they brewed a double batch of this and have put aside some 800 litres to be aged in Banyuls, Bourbon, and Brandy barrels for later release. I swear I can hear choir music… For the time being though, however you can get it, on cask, keg, or bottle, just get it. Cheers!