Christmas Special – Winter Warmer – American: Anchor “Our Special Ale 2013″

Merry Christmas everyone! My Beer choice this year is Anchor’s Special Ale from 2013. It’s been sitting in a Cellar for just over a year and Christmas Day is always a good time to open one of these! Anchor release these beers in the lead up to Christmas, and they are always spiced differently.

Let’s start with Anchor‘s description:

This is the thirty-ninth ‘Our Special Ale’ from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy, and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appear born anew.”; “Merry Christmas Happy New Year”; “Abies concolor var. Lowiana.

A humble description from Anchor, as always! I feel the fact they are one of the oldest Craft Breweries in America always comes across well. They’ve been making the Special Ale since 1975, and have been a brewery in it’s current format since 1960.

Now, the recipe for this beer is completely Top Secret according to Anchor, but that’s never stopped me analysing a beer and trying to figure out whats in the recipe. So for this particular years beer, I think the spices used are Nutmeg, Vanilla Beans and Star Anise. They’re usually added around 90 Minutes during the Boil Period. As for the malts, the traditional Anchor malt 2-row is used along with Caramel Malt and Chocolate Malt. The Hops are not very prominent in this brew, so I’m guessing Northern Brewer is used for both boil and Dry-Hop hops. After this a normal American Ale yeast is used to ferment.

When you pour this beer, it’s a nice dark ruby colour, a medium to large tan coloured head with great retention. Once it does recede you get a lot of spotty lacing on the sides of the glass and a nice uneven surface foam on top of the beer. On the nose there’s lots of Chocolate malt aromas, mild roastyness and some caramel. I’d say it’s pretty Christmassy so far! When you taste this beer, initially you get a strange mint flavour which is actually quite nice and refreshing, after this Vanilla and a touch of Fruity Fig like flavours. After this the Roasted and Chocolate malts kick in, ending with a bitter Hoppy finish. This beer feels extremely smooth and ends with a medium-sweet finish with a touch of bitterness. This year’s one really is balanced and great, with a superb malty backing. Let’s hope this year’s one is even better!

I recommend buying this years and putting it in a cellar temperature place until next Christmas. It’s worth it!

You can grab Anchor Christmas Ale (Or our Special Ale) at Borough Market at London Bridge in Utobeer and the following online stores should have it in soon:-

Beautiful Beers

Beer Gonzo

For any bars, shops etc that are interested, Anchor products are distributed by James Clay in the UK and comes in Cans and Bottles.

EST. CALORIES: 165   ABV: 5.5%

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Barrel Aged IPA – English: Siren Whiskey Sour

This Friday, something completely different to the beer on Wednesday.

This beer starts life as the fantastic Mikkeller, Siren Craft Brew, Hill Farmstead Brewery Limoncello IPA and is then aged in Bourbon Barrels. More on that later! This beer’s a little stronger at 10.2% and is a great brew to warm you up during those cold evening, even though it’s not a dark one!

Let’s start with Siren’s Description:

The crazy invention that is Limoncello IPA, the collaboration between Siren, Hill Farmstead & Mikkeller, has been aging in bourbon barrels.  The infusion of the oak and bourbon has added huge layers of complexity and hits the spot as a Whiskey Sour.  Slice of orange and a cherry anyone?

I quite like the description of this one. Not as in depth as a lot of other Siren Brews, and also not as nautical themed. I think it’s quite qwerky, assumes you’ve tried the Limoncello IPA and tells you about what they’ve done to it and what you should expect. Quite a good description here, to the point and not too over the top, gimmiky or arrogant!

The recipe for this beer is much the same as the Limoncello IPA, Pale Ale malt and some Malted Wheat to help the sourness of the brew. A sour mash is then added to aid the sour tartnessCitra and Sorachi-Ace. A very well informed hop choice, as Sorachi-Ace is a hop that injects tonnes of Lemon aroma and flavour into the brew, whilst Citra is a crazy fruity hop that will help with the Citric Acid tones in the brew but also add some delicate Gooseberry and Lychee smoothness to the beer. After this, a bucket full of lemon zest and juice is added for good measure. It’s then aged in Buffalo Trace Barrels to impart the bourbon flavours.

When you pour this beer, it’s not as fizzy as the original. The barrel aging has mellowed the carbonation meaning there’s no head. It pours an amber colour with bubbles resting on the bottom of the glass. It really does does look like it could be a cocktail, and it’s a similar colour to a Whiskey Sour. On the nose of this beer, you get tonnes of bitter Lemon and bitter Orange, after this there’s lotes of Bourbon notes to remind you it’s been Barrel Aged. What an inviting smelling beer, and so close to an actual Whiskey Sour! The aroma brought me back to a classy Cocktail bar in Cambridge and I couldn’t wait to take a sip. When you taste this beer, it starts with sour Lemon and a little bit of Glacé Cherry in there too, so far so good as far as it being like the cocktail! After this you get a huge hit of Bourbon and then some Bitter Orange on the finish. The mouthfeel is very smooth (like a well mixed cocktail!), crisp, clean with a dry, bitter finish. This really is a fantastic beer despite some untoward reviews and definitely something to keep you warm in the winter!

You can buy Whiskey Sour at:

Chester Beer and Wine (IN STOCK at time of writing)

For any bars/shops wanting to stock this, contact Siren Craft Brew Directly.

EST. CALORIES: 306   ABV: 10.2%

Session Ale – American: Odell Loose Leaf

This Wednesday, something a little bit different. Sometimes over Christmas you need something you can drink all day around the family without getting too… squiffy. That’s usually where the Bud Lights and Carlings come into the world. But not anymore. There’s been a lot of flavourful Session Beers out this year, and today I’m writing about Odell’s Loose Leaf.

Let’s start with Odell’s description of the beer:

You know those epic days that start with an idea, turn into a dare and end with a great story to tell? This is the beer for those days. Crisp and refreshing like any respectable session ale, but a bit more hop-forward and flavorful than some. Perfect for going with the flow.

There’s a longer description on the bottle, but that’s for you to find out about if you buy this beer! As usual, modest with a bit of a story and an insight into how the beer is going to taste. Odell are gunning for a crisp and refreshing, almost Pilsner type beer with a hop kick by the sounds of things!

After tasting this beer, I think it’s simple but effective recipe wise. I couldn’t find any hints at the recipe for this one, so research drew a blank. For the malts, Extra Pale Maris Otter and Pilsner malt are used for the Extra Pale look and feel, but a bit of bready, biscuity flavour. The hops are Centennial, Crystal, a bit of Sorachi Ace and Cluster with a Centennial Dry Hop during fermentation. It’s fermented with an American Ale yeast.

This beer pours a light Golden Colour with a Medium sized head which retains well. It leaves sticky lacing on the sides of the glass. A great looking beer, almost Pilsner like. On the nose there’s lots of Citrus – Lemon, Grapefruit, Melon and a touch of Orange. After this there’s earthy, spicy aromas and some breadyness from the Malts. The flavour follows the nose, starting with a Citrus kick, fading to Earthy and Spicy notes and finishing Malty and bready. There’s a slight Spicy and Floral aftertaste. This beer is quite fizzy, as all “session” beers are, but it goes will with the flavour letting the Sharp and Crisp aspects of the flavours come out. It finishes medium sweet. I really do recommend this beer for partying over the Christmas period, or even chilling with your Family on Christmas Day. At least you can have 6 of these without worrying instead of making a fool of yourself after 3 big Imperial Stouts! (ha!)

Unfortunately, a lot of beer is out of stock during the Christmas Period but you can purchase Loose Leaf at the following:

Beers of Europe

Ales By Mail

Beautiful Beers

Unfortunately, Odell do not ship directly to the UK but contacting Beers of Europe or Beer Ritz for a big order would be a start!

EST. CALORIES: 135   ABV: 4.5%

Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout – English: Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady 2014

This week, a beer that is unfortunately a little harder to get. Magic Rock‘s Bearded Lady aged in Bourbon Barrels for 180 Days. The particular one I’m reviewing is the 2014 release.

Let’s start with Magic Rock‘s description of the beer:

180 day aged Bourbon Barrel version of Bearded Lady Imperial Brown Stout…. Say hello to the Bearded Lady, our uncompromisingly big and beautiful Imperial Stout. Born from our Dark Arts recipe she uses masses of magical malts to deliver deep chocolate, rich coffee and vinous berry flavours all complemented by a balanced yet subtly spicy hop profile. Powerful, robust, intriguing; yet decadently smooth and sumptuous, the lady demands respect…

A great description of this beer, as I really do think it’s something special. A bold description from Magic Rock though, and you can tell it’s something they are very passionate and confident about. There’s also a lot to expect from this beer and you expect it to be extremely decadent and complex.

As I see this stout as a serious contender with Goose Island’s Bourbon County stout, I think the recipe is similar but with some extra specialty malts added in. Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Munton’s Dark LME, Caramalt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, Roasted Barley, Caramel Malt and finally some Crystal Malt. As for the hops, I think Kent Goldings and Cascade hops are used to keep it spicy but also a little fruity too. This is then placed in Oak Bourbon Barrels for 180 days (10 months) to mature during secondary fermentation.

When you pour this beer, it pours completely black and no light can pass through. It has a thin Tan/Beige Head which leaves a little bit of lacing sticking to the sides of the glass, after a while this disappears and does not return. The nose is one of the things that makes this beer absolutely incredible, loads of Dark Fruits, Chocolate and loads of Bourbon Notes. It makes you wanna get on and drink this beer, but believe me it’s a slow burner and something that you’ll appreciate so much more sipping. The taste of this beer is very complex, it starts with a flavour very similar to Belgian Chocolate Truffles, moving on to Dark Fruits, Hop Spicyness, Vanilla Pods from the Oak Aging moving on to bitter Dark Chocolate and finally Bourbon. It’s not very carbonated, but I feel it adds to the great feel of the beer. This really is a beer to keep you warm on the cold evenings when the temperatures reach around 0 and something I recommend highly!

Unfortunately, the Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady for this year has sold out, but check Magic Rock’s Website around August next year for 2015’s release! If you can’t wait until then, The Liquor Shop has the non-Bourbon Barrel aged version in Stock at time of Writing!

EST. CALORIES: 315   ABV: 10.5%

Brown Ale – American: Port Brewing Board Meeting

Now winter is in full swing, there’s nothing like a Brown Ale to go with a dessert after a hearty Roast Dinner. That’s why I picked Port Brewing‘s Board Meeting for this Friday’s beer. An Imperial Brown Ale with Coffee and Cocoa Nibs added. I picked this beer, as I’ve only really posted IPA’s from California. This beer is proof that as well as IPA’s, you can get some great beers of any style from this state.

Let’s start with Port Brewing‘s description of the beer:

Brewed for the early risers, who sacrifice sleep and warmth for a the first meeting of the day aboard a wave to shore.
Added in 2013 to the Port Brewing year-round lineup, Board Meeting is an amplified Brown Ale, brewed with liberal additions of coffee from local San Diego roasters, Ryan Brothers and cocoa nibs sourced from famed San Francisco chocolate maker TCHO. Deep coffee flavor gives way to layers of bitter dark chocolate and a creamy vanilla body.

There’s a longer, story filled description on the actual bottle but I won’t ruin it for people that buy the beer! What I like about this description is the fact they aren’t scared to admit where they get their Coffee and Cocoa nibs from. It’s always nice to know that breweries aren’t sourcing their ingredients from Costco and actually thinking about what goes into the beer.

As this is an Imperial Brown Ale, I’d imagine it’s brewed with a lot of specialty Malt, but also there’s a Stout feel to this beer. With this in mind, I think the Malts in this beer are Biscuit Malt, Roasted Dark Malt, Special B, Chocolate Malt, a bit of Toasted malt and the English Pale and Crystal Malt base. The hops in this brew, although they don’t make up a lot of the flavour in my opinion are Magnum and Challenger, a good choice to let the Malts, Coffee and Cocoa shine through and a great choice for any Brown Ale!

When you pour this Beer, it pours very dark brown, almost black with a thick tan coloured head. It retains extremely well leaving rings of lacing around the glass. Maybe there’s Wheat in the brew too? Who knows, but for an 8.5% Beer, the head retains very well indeed. On the nose you get some Hazelnut Creame, Vanilla, Chocolate, Roasty Coffee and some Dark Fruit. It smells like a cross between Brown Ale and Stout, whilst drinking it in a local Coffee House! It’s so inviting and makes you want to dive in straight away. When you taste this beer, initially you get a kick of Bitter Coffee, making way for Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut, Dark Fruits and some Bready notes. On the finish you get a little kick of Citrus, reminding you it’s definitely a Californian beer. It finishes bittersweet, full bodied with Medium to High carbonation. I really like this beer, and it’s something I will definitely seek to buy again. I recommend you do the same!

You can buy Board Meeting in the UK at:

Beers Of Europe (IN STOCK at time of Writing)

Amazon (IN STOCK at time of Writing)

For any Bars/Shops interested, unfortunately Port’s beers aren’t widely distributed but you can try contacting Beers Of Europe!

EST. CALORIES: 255   ABV: 8.5%

Special Post – Visiting Buxton

 

Last weekend, I decided to go and Visit Buxton with a “minor” diversion on the way there and back. I’ve always wanted to go to the Peak District, and with such a great Brewery operating out of Buxton I had no excuses.

On the way I stopped by the great Cotteridge Wines in Birmingham as the Owner was nice enough to reserve a few bottles for me. It’s a really great shop and I recommend it. Loads of selection and I ended up picking up some other bottles I didn’t come for (always the way!) I’ll definitely return when I’m around the area for a more in-depth look.

Beers from Cotteridge Wines

Picked up two of Siren’s current Berliner Weisse – I Need a Vacation, Mikeller Brunch Weasel and Texas Ranger aged in Eagle Rare Barrels and the bottle I had reserved – Siren/Magic Rock/Beavertown Rule of Thirds. I’m sure you’ll see some, if not all of them on here at some point!

Anyway, back to Buxton. We arrived a little later than we’d planned, pitched up in the hotel and visited the legendary Buxton Brewery Tap.

Buxton Brewery Tap

 

First impressions after walking through the door were great, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside and the Decor isn’t like a typical Craft Beer bar which was a plus. There were pump pulls for Cask beer at the front of the bar, and Keg taps facing you as you entered. The music was definitely at a Background Music volume, but I could hear some great tunes being played and I was most definitely singing along in my head!

They had a lot of Buxton Beers on tap, which is always encouraging in a Brewery Tap:

 

Being in the mood for Sours and the night wearing young, I ordered one of my Favourites – Buxton Far Skyline. Far Skyline is a dry-hopped Berliner Weisse, and it was very fresh. Sometimes I find in Brewery taps the beer isn’t as fresh as it should be, as it sits for a while but not here. The place was packed with people of all ages drinking Buxton’s great beers.

Far Skyline

 

 

 

On the nose of Far Skyline you get some Lactobacillus and an almost sweet Lemony Citrus, it pours a colour similar to Pineapple or Orange Juice with high carbonation. From the bottle you don’t get much head, but from the tap there was loads. Nice touch. When tasting this beer, you get citrusy notes to begin with followed by tropical fruit and sour pineapple. It ends with an almost sweet black current and Lacto Tartness. Truely a great beer.

 

 

Behind the bar in Buxton Tap are lots of Buxton Bottles, I spotted all the ones they had on tap plus a lot of their Special Edition bottles. As well as Buxton bottles I spotted some from Cantillon, Mikkeller and a few other US/UK Breweries. It looked like a great selection and the list of Guest Beer provided was extensive. The prices were reasonable, as you can see above from the Beer List and the Bottle Prices were around the same.

The Bar – Buxton Tap (and some of my shirt)

Red Raspberry Rye

 

I decided on the Red Raspberry Rye. Simply because I love Rye beers and I love Raspberries. Yet again another Berliner Weisse, this time by accident! I really thought that this particular brew was a world class one. It poured from the bottle a deep Red colour with a quickly dissipating fizzy head leaving no lacing. On the nose there was lots of Sour Raspberry, some Lacto and an underlying Rye Toastyness. The taste lived up to the great nose, lots of Sour Raspberry and lacto. As it warmed the Toasty Rye started to come through, I thought that was a beer that was incredibly balenced. It was more Tart than the Far Skyline on the finish, but the mouthfeel was surpisingly full-bodied for this style of beer.

 

 

 

The Old Courthouse

After a little while longer in the Brewery Tap, we decided to move on to nextdoor’s bar – The Old Courthouse. What attracted me was the fact they had Thornbridge umbrellas – the first ones I’d ever seen!

Inside the Old Courthouse

Inside was a lot more chilled out, with a live Pianist in the other room and a nice atmosphere inside the bar. I went for a pint of Jaipur – Thornbridges IPA and a Citrus Vodka and Coke. The prices here were extremely reasonable too, and it seemed like a great place to finish a chilled out night out tasting some great beers.

The Jaipur on tap was extremely fresh and it was the first time I’d had it on tap. It poured with a fluffy white head with great rentention leaving sticky lacing on the sides of the glass. I’ve always absolutely adored the nose of Jaipur, loads of Citrus, Pine and Herbal notes with a little bit of Maris Otter malt in the background. I’m glad I had this as my last beer of the night as it’s full flavoured and nice and relaxed to drink. When you taste it, the Malt takes more of the foreground leaving behind lots of Citrusy and Piney Resinous hops behind. What a well balenced, modern take on the classic English IPA!

All in all, Buxton is a really beautiful place with a lot of things to do and also a World Class Brewery and Brewery tap operating there! I’d definitely recommend a visit and it’s definitely somewhere I’d revisit. I picked up some Buxton beers during my journey, at a reasonable price from the Brewery Tap. 4 beers were around £3.50 each – pretty reasonable! A few are pictured below:

Beers from The Brewery Tap

I picked up Dragon Tips, a Maple, Bacon and Chipotle Stout brewed in Collaboration with Arizona Wilderness Brewing, another Red Raspberry Rye, Come Again – A Sour Pale ale brewed in Collaboration with Evil Twin,  Stolen Fruit, a sour wheat beer brewed with juice and zest of pink grapefruit and lime – a Collaboration with Omnipollo, Sky Mountain Sour – A Sour Beer brewed in Collaboration with To Øl, Pomperipossa – A Sour Cherry Stout brewed in Collaboration with Omnipollo and Grain and Grape – An Oatmeal Stout aged in Red Wine barrels brewed in Collaboration with Dutch brewers Rooie Dop and Oersoep. I also managed to score myself a Buxton Glass, which was great! I’m sure you’ll see some of these beers cropping up in the blog soon!