Ale to the King.

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Archive for the category “Beer Reviews”

Review: Cuvee de Noel – Aledvent Calendbeer 19

Beer: Cuvee de Noel
Brewery: St. Feuillien
Type:  Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 9% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 19

Its been an up and down few ales during Aledvent Calendbeer recently, but we’re firmly back on track with this festive treat. Its a promising 9% on the old fashioned bottle, but I’ll come to this later.

Its a very satisfying drink to pour, the smell hits you as you drop it into a pint glass, the nose immediately hitting yours and a very dense foamy head bubbling up a light yellow/amber; this colour, for this reviewer, is nearly always a good sign. You can smell the yeast working away as well mixed in with the banana and butterscotch notes; from this you can tell this is beer that lays it on thick with a trowel from a brewery that clearly knows what its doing.

The colour itself is a rick chestnutty brown and the persistant head you’ll notice after a moment or so starts to be speckled with dense dots of dark orange.

As soon as you taste it that yeast comes in to play again, so much so its almost prickly to the tongue; its a fantastic sensation. You can really taste the yeast on the foretaste as well, giving it a very coca-cola style hit of sweetness. This sweetness follows on through to the mid-taste of caramel. The after-taste then melds this into a butterscotch that dominates the mouth a long time after the taste. It holds on fantastically and actually gums the lips a little. Its deliciously sickly and the whole thing tastes like a coke float. But its that strong, 9% punch of alcohol that really works the magic here, really offsetting and contradicting the sweetness.

This is a fine beer and the first I believe I’ve tried from this brewery; I’ll definitely be checking more out from the makers of this in the coming year.

Review: K-9 Cruiser – Aledvent Calendbeer 18

Beer: K-9 Cruiser
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Type: Special Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 7.4% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 18 

The Flying Dog Brewery certainly know how to make distinctive labels for their bottles. Often a downright barmy looking beast is shown doing somthing that isn’t altogether sane. Their K-9 Cruiser is certainly no different to that with its beserk snowboarding canine.

Its a beer as powerful as its label as well. Its got a lovely deep oak colour that looks like its going to promise a lot. it certainly delivers. The nose is sweet, like treacle and thats a sweetness that carries on through the beer.

On the sip you’ll notice its really lively on the tongue as all the finest beers seem to be from these little unconventional craft breweries. The alcohol is also extra punchy because of this, and it’d be fairly potent by itself.

This is combined with a malty, sweet syrup on the fore-taste which leads through to a marvellously chewy experience. there’s a lot of caramel here along with the syrup and deep notes that are almost impossible to define for this reviewer; I’d have to liken it to the sweetness of potato roasted in goose fat.

this is followed by a very malty, sticky aftertaste that clings to the mouth, more so than most beers. It really gets inbetween your teeth and sticks to the palate to leave a very, very powerful sensation of marmite.

A delightful beer, and one that at this strength will definitely put you in the festive spirit!

Review: Joker IPA – Aledvent Calendbeer 17

Beer: Joker IPA
Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Company
Type: IPA
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 17

This is going to sound odd, but for this reviewer, Christmas is intrinsically linked with Batman. Without fail I will get something Batman related and Batman Returns is my favourite Christmas movie.

So for me the link to Christmas time is clear with Joker IPA. The colour is pale golden, very clear and perfect and the nose is dry and hoppy. A little one-one note you may think but its such a sharp, singular smell its unusually so and smells a little of cushions or feathers.

It starts out a little flat on the tongue but there’s a definite repfreshing citrus taste of lime cordial at the back of the teeth to keep things interesting which is preceded by a decent nutty taste. The mid-taste also taste like slurping a frothy head of beer which is a nice sensation which doesn’t hinder or complement another taste; it kind of sits there on its own at the side.

On the middle and back of the tongue there’s clear gooseberry as well and as it goes down the beer seems to wake up and begins to dance nicely on the tongue.

Its a very nice session-tasting type beer then, even if the alcohol content is stronger than session level. Well worth your time and a beer that’s not laughing matter.

Review: Schneeweisse Winterbier – Aledvent Calendbeer 16

Beer: Schneeweisse Winterbier
Brewery: Erdinger
Type: Wheatbeer
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5.6%
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 16

Not only is the label of Schneeweisse Winterbier appropriately wintry but Hefeweizen is known for often being a crisp, off-white colour.

This isn’t nearly as pale as some of the other wheat beers at the lighter end of the spectrum, in fact its a dark orange of old, dry straw.

There isn’t a great deal on the nose, but there are slight and sweet citrus notes.

The Erdinger brand often carries with it notions of a very dark, heavy beer but I think that’s something that’s just cultivated by the dark brown glass, the name and the rather conservative labels. However this isn’t the case and this is a perfect example of the beer not completely matching the marketing. There’s some very soft opening notes of malt which then morphs into banana on the mid-taste.

As this follows through it becomes a little spicy but nothing overwhelming. Some might call this an elegant beer, and perhaps I just like mine big and boisterous in general, but this just lacks a little spark. There is a nice complementary tone of chives and slight garlic in the aftertaste and this isn’t a bad beer at all, just perhaps not as special as it could be if the flavours were a little more pronounced.

Review: Mr Sno’ Balls – Aledvent Calendbeer 15

Beer: Mr Sno’ Balls
Brewery: Harviestoun Brewery
Type: English Pale Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 15

The one thing we all want a Christmas to be is white. Unless we’re stuck on a train to York there’s nothing better than a blanket of snow covering the landscape, and Ale to the King is a big a fan of snow and the men you can build out of it as anybody.

Mr Sno ‘Balls (yes, the label matches the name) is a fine winter beer from Harviestoun, which is surprising as its not at all a dark one. Its got quite a light colour of copper with a mid level of transparency and a head that quickly vanishes into a bubbly island of white.

The nose is also rather fruity, and not in the way the way a lot of winter beers are. Instead of having the dark, rich cherry notes that’s common of this season’s brews, Mr Sno’ Balls has got a lighter, sweeter smell of grapefruit and dry roast unslated nuts. Its also got definite notes of toffee apples.

There’s a pleasant moderate fizz to this brew and it allows the more delicate flavours to become more noticeable. There’s bitter citrus that comes right the way through the taste, especially of bitter orange on the foretaste. The foretaste is soft and is accompanied by a nice little taste of walnut to compliment it, with the mid-taste giving fully over to the bitter orange and a little spice.

The after-taste is quite doughy and buicuity which nicely offsets the spicier notes. The citrus notes do mellow as the drink goes on but there’s still a nice balance all the way and its this that makes it such a drinkable beer. Its certainly citrus and crisp as described on the bottle and this allows it to remain interesting despite the low alcohol taste and content. If you’re after particularly seasonal session brew this Christmas, this could very well be the one for you.

Review: Scotch Ale – Aledvent Calendbeer 14

Beer: Scotch Ale
Brewery: Black Isle Brewery
Type: Ruby Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.2% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 14

Now Ale to the King only moved the Scotland about a year ago and this reviewer has been made aware that you can’t call everything from Scotland Scotch. Eggs, Whisky, sometimes beef but not people. Well now I can at least add to the Scotch List Ale, which I suppose you could call a gift from Black Isle Brewery.

Befitting the name of the brewery the beer is impenetrable black on the pour with an off-white head. On the nose its very sweet and viscous. Its very like white sugar and a lighter fudge.

Its a dark, smooth taste and reminiscent of those sugary fruit jellies you get people at Christmas who don’t like chocolates. Following onto the mid-taste it becomes very similar to marmite, although I don’t think this beer will have such a polemically divided audience. Also, pronounced only on the mid taste is definite glacier cherry.

On the after-taste you’re treated to a delicious fruitcake sensation complete with the icing and marzipan. It lingers for a short amount of time and unsticks itself from your mouth surprisingly quickly.

Scotch Ale is a beer in stages, the layers and tastes are for the most parts very seperate and defined with little cross over. It also helps all these flavours are delicious and complimentary. Well recommended.

Review: Maid in Leith – Aledvent Calendbeer 13

Beer: Maid in Leith
Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Co.
Type: Golden Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer: 12

The festive season is about home, and Ale to the King has already covered one aspect of that with the Samuel Smith’s India Ale from Yorkshire. But this reviewer may very well soon be buying a home, hopefully in the Shore area of Leith. So if the festive season is about home, then Maid in Leith covers the possible ghost of Christmas future.

On the pour the colour is noticeably bright as sunshine. Its also incredibly transparent and looks like a thin tree sap with absolutely no head at all.

On the nose the summery theme continues (again, this isn’t exactly the most wintery drink); its got dandelions and fresh grass and there’s an unmistakably pollen like smell to it.

The flavour, however, is hard to get hold of. It just comes across as a very generic golden ale that’s not aiming for anything but to please as many people’s palates as possible. There’s a nice fizz on the tongue but the sugary sweetness that goes with it is a little too much for my taste. Its like a little bit too much butter has been added to a recipe and it overpowers the rest of the ingredients.

A little distinction is the slight hints of olive or perhaps olive oil on the mid-taste and especially pronounced by the viscous after-taste. Unfortunately its a little bit of a one trick pony and seems just bland and generic. It only just raises itself above mass produced stuff, but it seems to aspire to be one of those things in itself. A little more alcohol would give this the kick it sorely lacks and it seems a beer designed to fill a nicely designed, trendy label. Its a brew that wants to be sold more than it wants to be a good brew.

Review: Milk Stout – Aledvent Calendbeer 12

Beer: Milk Stout
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Type: Stout
Served: Bottled
Alc: 6.0% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer: 12

Well this is a stretch, but for Christmas you might send or receive a charity package to a third world country. Often, this will be in the form of you buying a cow for a village. Cows produce milk, so Ale to the King brings you Milk Stout by Left Hand Brewing Company as its 12th Aledvent Calendbeer.

In colour it’s pitch black with a incredibly light brown head that dissipates quickly.

The nose has the typical coffee notes as most stouts but there’s that hint of black, industrial rubber that’s appeared on stouts before.

On the foretaste you’re going to find that coffee again, but its going to be tempered with slight spices and rum on the foretaste, similar to the more overtly rummy Innis and Gunn Rum Cask.

This merges into a very peppary mid-taste and, appropriately enough, notes of full-cream milk. The milk lasts into the after-taste but seems to recede before coming to the fore after a while. You really only get a subtle hint before it seems to pop out at you. The mid to after-taste is also mixed with a sticky taste of a deep honey, the kind that seems nearly a deep red in colour.

Its a very punchy beer that delivers a real blow to the taste-buds. Its not a wrecking ball of a beer like some stouts, but its certainly not delicate. In all its a well-rounded beer, quite warming at this time of year, with a nice combination of subtle notes. However these come together to create an impact that outweighs the sum of its parts. A good choice if you’re after something to warm your innards this cold festive season.

Review: St. Mungo – Aledvent Calendbeer 11

Beer: St. Mungo
Brewery: West Brewery
Type: German Lager
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.9% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer : 11

If Christmas time isn’t intrinsically associated with St. Nicolas then Ale to the King doesn’t know what is. When selecting the ales from the very fine off-license Cornelius one called St. Nick couldn’t be found, so St. Mungo seems good enough.

Its got an incredibly crisp, fresh nose and is highly reminiscent of chilled, new orange juice.

This fresh taste is carried through to the taste, which maintains a great freshness, even compared other craft lagers, and leagues ahead of the claggy, stale taste left by the likes of mass-produced lagers Stella Artois or Becks.

The taste is dominated by fresh, wet barley which is propelled nicely over the whole mouth by the naturally carbonated bubbles. The fizz is somewhat spikey and complements the slight undertones of nettle. On the after-taste the barley subsides and gives way to the nettle mixed with slight herbs and a little citrus flavour. Its certainly more of a summer drink than a winter one, but its certainly not out of place with the heating on full blast and the fairy lights shining away.

As a lager, its never going to have the depth and character of an ale. But it is a very nice lager and one that does its namesake, the patron saint of Glasgow and a brewer himself, proud.

Review: Nelson Sauvin Hop Trials – Aledvent Calendbeer 10

Beer: Nelson Sauvin Hop Trials
Brewery: Tryst
Type: Blonde ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 10 

The festive season is considered a time to get reacquainted with old friends and family and often return to your parents’ home to celebrate. But its also a time for trying something new as well; perhaps you’re giving someone an untested but we respected single malt, or trying a new recipe for this years trimmings. And while its not particularly for Christmas, Tryst is having a go at something new with its hop trials of Nelson Sauvin.

Its certainly an interesting experiment and isn’t like most beers you’ll have tasted. Ale to the King has never actually drunk an ale that so acutely resembles a single thing in taste. An early indicator of what’s in store is the nose. Here we have wonderfully pungent citrus notes, particularly of dried apricot and clementines.

On the pour the colour is also very fruity and looks like cider. Not your transparent, ultra-fizzy mass-produced stuff like Strongbow or Magners, but proper, real, cloudy cider. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking you’re sipping apple juice. Its a murky blonde with a very bright white head, a lovely contrast.

Its only on the taste you’re hit by its one defining flavour however.

Hop Trials Nelson Sauvin tastes exactly like grapefruit juice. Not a bit. Not a lot. Exactly (well, almost exactly I’ll admit). Its a truly fascinating experience and a great one to remind you of the brilliant diversity of properly crafted beer. This also has some very slight hints of kiwi fruit and elderberry but its very strongly dominated by the grapefruit. There’s a nice dry after-taste that develops as it lingers into a sweetness before disappearing; it certainly sticks around but doesn’t outstay its welcome.

This is a fantastic little concoction, and even if you couldn’t take the taste bottle after bottle (this reviewer certainly could ) its worth it just for the great experience of reminding yourself just how unique and different one beer can be from another. Highly recommended. Go and try out this star now.

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