Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Archive for the tag “english strong ale”

Review: Gordon Xmas – Aledvent Calendbeer 23

Beer: Gordon Xmas
Brewery: Anthony Martin
Type:  Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 8.8% Vol.
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 23

Interesting one this. Gordon Xmas isn’t the most Belgian of names. No surprise, Anthony Martin isn’t a Belgian brewery; however this Belgian style beer was brewed for a British company in Benelux, an economic union area of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.   A belgian style strong ale, brewed for a British company, in an area defined by economics as the province of three European countries.

The nose is great, very obvious and blatant; a very pure bonfire toffee that’s very sweet and smoky. You can smell the charcoal too, like its a home-made version of the sweet eaten as you breathe in the fumes from the bonfire. Its a cliché but its a very sugar and spice smell.

Ale to the King has seen this before in similar kinds of beers, a foretaste that’s hard to describe as anything other than coca-cola. The drinker wants to search harder but what’s obvious is obvious; its a matter that comes down to how it doesn’t dance across the tongue. Now usually this is an admirable trait in a beer, but here the fact it doesn’t work that way. In fact it works in its favour; the flavours come very clear and what’s more intriguing is that its a beer you can hold at various stages of taste. Even more so that its a strong beer at 8.8%; the yeast doesn’t fizz along your tongue yet its powerful stuff.

On the mid-taste, which you can hold in that stage for much longer than the fore-taste by perhaps sheer viscosity, and it is a very viscous beer, there’s clear spiced nuts. But its also got an elusive something extra which Ale to the King can only put down as a little dried apricot.

The after-taste is way easier to detect; in fact it practically shouts at you; dry almonds in a sticky sweet, viscous texture form. It holds your mouth such is its thickness and lingers with great sweetness.

The colour is a nicely tempting dark bronze while the head a quickly dissipating creamy white. This is a fine beer and Ale to the King would recommend it to absolutely everyone.

Review: Gouden Carolus Christmas – Aledvent Calendbeer 20

Beer: Gouden Carolus Christmas
Brewery: Brouwerij Het Anker
Type: Belgian Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 10.5% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 20

Well if Ale to the King thought it was on good ground with last nights 9% beer (this reviewer invariably prefers the taste of higher content beers) then we could be on for a winner with  Gouden Carolus Christmas from Brouwerij Het Anker, weighing in at a potent 10.5%. Yes, we’re in double figures now,  a scary place to be, but don’t we all like to step outside our comfort zone a little at Christmas?

This is a very dark brew, night on black; like an incredibly old, antique varnished wood. The head is pale off-white and dissipates quickly.

The nose smells of licorice, freshly split sapling and frankly alcohol. Perhaps a little too much on the latter part, but perhaps that’s my social predjudice of things smelling overtly of alcohol being considered tramp-fuel.

On the taste things are comparatively straight forward. Nothing hits you straight away and that’s perhaps because the yeast isn’t overly active and doesn’t make any taste dance across your tongue. The alcohol is fairly settled in and thus doesn’t kick you in the teeth like a lot newly infused cheap ‘supers’ and ‘extras’.

Its because the beer has a very simple taste. The fore taste is a very simple heavily salted butter note which matures into a very potent root beer profile. It merges rather unceremoniously into a very straight forward resin on the mid taste. On the after taste you get licorice. Some have said this is a the definitive taste of the beer but I think there’s a little more to it than that.

You’re left searching for something else, looking for something beyond these three flavours but you don’t really notice the alcohol until further down the drink. And that’s the trick. Its like hiding in plain sight, you totally bypass the alcohol through looking so hard and so its allowed to work its magic subtly, unnoticed. Its an undercurrent than runs through the entire beer, affecting and altering each of the three flavours without you noticing it.

Its almost like the beer is performing a magic trick which you don’t notice before you really examine it. Is it a great tasting beer? No. Good, yes, certainly. But that’s not what’s to be appreciated here. What’s to be really appreciated is the magic that Brouwerij Het Anker have pulled for Christmas time, just like Father Christmas.

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: 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.

Aledvent Calendbeer selection 2

If you haven’t been keeping up, Ale to the King has been counting down to Christmas in the best way it can think of.  While many go for the common or garden advent calendar with chocolate and others prefer the more traditional advent candle, Ale to the King has created the Aledvent Calendbeer. A carefully chosen beer that reflects Christmas in one way or another (no matter how tenuous the link!) will be decapitated, drunk and deliberated over until the big day itself.

Selection 1 consisted of Christmas Ale by Goose Island, Paradox Isle of Arran by Brewdog, Black Lager by Zeitgeist, Finch by Natural Selection Brewing, Samuel Smith’s India Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery and There is No Santa by Brewdog.

But that was just Selection 1 and as 007 once said, you’ve had your six.

So, without further ado Ale to the King presents you with Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 2:

If you want to drink along with Ale to the King and compare notes, then you will need:

  • Hefeweizen by Stewart Brewing
  • Winter Ale by The Brooklyn Brewery
  • India Pale Ale by Knops Beer Company
  • Hop Trials – Nelson Sauvin by Tryst
  • St. Mungo by West Brewery

If you’ve not been able to keep up with the Aledvent Calendbeer  then now’s a great time to get on board and even make up for lost time by having a second beer a day from Selection 1!

So charge your glasses and raise it in honour of the ever approaching jolly Saint Nick. Because Christmas is a time for treating yourself as well!

What did you think of the Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 1? Disagree with Ale to the King‘s verdict on There’s No Santa or the praise heaped upon Goose Island’s Christmas Ale? Please, do sound off in the comments below!

Review: Tullibardine 1488 Whisky Beer

Beer: Tullibardine 1855 Whisky Beer
Brewery: Tullibardine Distillery (Blackford)
Type: Whisky Ale/English Strong Ale
Served: Bottled
Alc: 7% Vol
Album listened to while reviewing:  Gods of War by Manowar (2007)

Here we have a whisky beer that has a lot of bravado, but will only deliver if you drink it in a certain way.

Tullibardine 1488 Whisky Beer, as I’m sure we’ve oft come across, is one of those beers that believes the fact its got whisky in it makes it a superior tipple and unfortunately relies on that a little too much. Its not the fact the whisky element is a disappointment, far from it, its definitely got a kick on the mid and aftertaste that doesn’t leave your palate for a decent amount of time. While I can’t comment on the quality of the whisky itself, it is what pulls the beer through.

But as already said, its a beer that wants you to drink it it’s way. Its a beer that tastes far better on the swig than the sip. A swig rushes all the elements together and gathers them like miniature clouds under an umbrella of whisky in an enjoyable but not overly special sensation dominated by the spirit. There’s underlying notes of lemon-grass and sun-dried tomato poking through, but its mostly the whisky’s show.

On the sip there’s a very slight fizz, quite pleasant and delicate. The foretaste is golden and very mild and its matched nicely by the nose. This is probably its most stand out element. The foretaste, and especially the smell, are very wet. Not wet by virtue of the fact it’s a liquid, but wet in the same way that Wuthering Heights or Black Death feel wet. Its a very definite, organic, natural wetness as well. Its the wetness of a field, mud under damp straw crushed underfoot of your soggy, slobbering Irish Wolfhound by your side with a sodden stick in his mouth.

Continuing to sip the whisky note’s dominance subsides to give way to a fresh lemon that begins to permeate the taste. There’s also an increasingly annoying cloying round the mouth that couldn’t be dislodged by a thick German sausage sandwich with Tabasco.

And that’s the problem, its overconfident where it shouldn’t be and relies too much on the incorrect belief of the superiority of whisky (if I wanted a whisky, I’d drink a whisky). But what’s left in behind is just annoyance.

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