Tempest brewery have been quietly impressing since they came onto the scene four years ago. The Scots have being trying to keep the secret for themselves, but I've managed to get three beers from Alesela to share with you now.

Unforgiven ale is a take on the traditional Finnish beer, sahti, brewed with rye and juniper to 5.4% ABV. I've not tried an authentic sahti, but was keen to try this Scots interpretation.
Hazy mid amber on the pour, and lighter than expected perhaps. The slightly metallic smoky aroma which dissipates on warming to give some spicey notes. Full bodied with high carbonation, smoke hit at first, spicey juniper and an underlying sticky citrus rye and some sweet oakiness in the finish. Really accomplished beer, but perhaps I should have drunk it sooner to get the full smoke hit. Looks like they're currently brewing another batch though; so look out for it in good beer retailers near you soon.

Marmalade on toast (6%) was brewed as a collaboration with the Edinburgh Brewdog bar staff. It pours a hazy dark orange with lots of spicey Seville marmalade but also that odd silage note I associate with sorachi ace. Forms a pillowy beige head. Really full bodied, sweet dusty caramalt at first then plenty of orange pith. Definitely toasty but don’t get much of the ginger. It actually reminds me of Fullers ESB, which is of course no bad thing.

Finally we have Saison du pomme - an 8% gooseberry saison. Not sure why its gooseberries when pomme is French for apple! At first cereally becoming weizen like bananas and a hint of tart lactic in behind...not as expected. Fairly sprightly carbonation then something definitely Belgian in the yeast esters and a tart gooseberry note. Saison yeast most definitely dominates here. Quite light in body for its strength but it actually reminds of Dupont Avec le Bons Veux - unsurprising given its the same yeast at a similar ABV but not quite enough fruit to make it truly sing.

Bonus Review! I picked up a bottle of this years "2 Craigs" collab with Cromarty- Cone Heads from The Dalry Rd Branch of Appellation Wines. An interesting experiment using pine cones in the hop back and "dry-coning" for additional flavour alongside a beefed up grain bill, nutmeg and of course a big dose of hops. Experimentation is all well and good but how did it taste? On the nose there's loads of fresh pithy tangerine, cocoa, Zingy ginger, Belgian esters. Its full bodied, medium carbonation, sweet and zesty citrus hops, sweet milk chocolate, dry cocoa toasty finish.Seek it out for something different!


More Kinnegar

Kinnegar recently released a few more beers, here's my thoughts. As with previous beers a couple are named after local landmarks with striking single colour labels which really help them to stand out. Here's what I thought about their other regulars.

A grain that's been all the rage this year is rye, which is what Kinnegar use here in their Rustbucket. Hazy pale amber with beige lacing. Subdued spicy peach nose. Moderate carbonation, sweet, rye and hops cancel each other out leaving a suggestion of each but just ends up nondescript. Needs more aggressive hopping to counter the boisterous rye but certainly a well made beer.

Long Tongue is an interesting combination of pumpkin, ginger and rye weighing in at 5.3% it gives peach cobbler on the nose, soft squishy peaches and a spicey undercurrent.  Increasing ginger, initial stem ginger sweetness, sticky rye medium body, low carbonation, biscuity malt, peppery ginger finish. The pumpkin must contribute to that mouthfeel, overall pretty decent and balances well.

Yannaroddy is a coconut porter at 4.8% opening with rich roast barley and fruity coffee on the nose with damp pine needles underneath. Very hazy dark cola coloured with a with tan lacing. Feels fair slick on mouthfeel, probably not helped by a below average level of carbonation, but this is forgiven when the bold resinous hops and high cocoa chocolate hit. Toasted coconut joins the party towards the lengthy finish finish and dry coffee appears on warming. It leaves a fairly sweet lasting impression with rich coconut flesh lingering on. Overall a well conceived and executed beer that I hope makes the transition to regular.



Wild Things

Wild beer have come of age and so has their beer with the release of their first (spirit) barrel aged beers. Ninkasi, Wildebeest and a barley wine aged in Somerset Cider Brandy, malt whisky (a highland and Islay blended) and Marc de Bourgogne barrels respectively. All 10% ABV and available at the usual suspects.

I started with Ninkasi, one of my beers of the year for 2013. Immediately on opening you can smell the oak and boozy notes from the cider brandy barrels but the unmistakable tart apple of ninkasi is there in the background. Flavour remains much the same though body has become fuller, aided by reduced carbonation in comparison to the original but its lost some of the Belgian yeast esters which made the beer so complex in the first place. Still excellent as a beer and worth trying but I prefer the unaged version.

Now Raconteur is a new arrival. The anonymous barley wine* brewed with these barrels in mind remains hidden in the background and the Red wine parades around the palate. This is so wine-like that its almost no longer a beer. Rich molasses and sour cherry nose. Boozy grape notes and oaky vanilla. Smooth and full bodied, light carbonation, grape must, caramel, vanilla. Tonnes of port like rich vinous character...must have been a lot of wine left in there.
If wine lovers are looking for a beer that hasn't deviated much from their usual tipple then this is it. It would make an excellent pairing for dark meats and at 10% certainly has the oomph to cut through them. At about £12 for 750ml its not unreasonably priced either when compared to wine.

The Whiskebeest remains true to its parents, but becomes more rounded and hides its strength all too dangerously. Pours dark peaty brown with a light beige lacing. Whisky immediately apparent on the nose, slightly smoky but not all phenolic...something like highland park and Caol Ila?
Full bodied and thick, coffee comes first as with the original but then some warming whisky, melding seamlessly with the beer. Chocolate, toast, more coffee and sweet vanilla follow. This is barrel ageing at its best.

Three fantastic examples of barrel ageing then that I recommend you try. If I were to pick just one it would be whiskebeest, but then its my kind of beer!

*A special release of the unaged beer "zulu charlie" showed a fairly sweet, rich malt led beer with red apple, yeast esters, which could only have enhanced those red wine notes.


A Few More New Beers

Last week I reviewed Eight Degrees Back to Black range and porterhouse's new barrel aged black IPA. This week we turn to the lighter side with an APA, IPA and Tripel.

Up First is new Dublin based brewery Stone Barrel With Boom a "Session IPA"  (AKA American pale ale). Its an attractive burnished gold with fluffy white head collapsing to lacing. Starts nicely with juicy peaches on the nose but unfortunately falls flat (literally) with no carbonation to speak of. This unfortunately accentuates the bitterness and grainy cereals over the delicious hops I know are in there. It shows much promise but needs the carbonation fixed!

Without such issues is Brown Paper Bag Project's Trinity Tripel. Now I like me a good tripel and this one fulfils the brief admirably. Pale, slightly hazy gold with fine yeast suspension. Those typical belgian yeast aromas of cloves, sweet bubblegum and rich yeast esters are followed by a fairly sweet, full bodied taste with more spicey yeast esters and a fruity Belgian character. Some noble hop pepperiness prevents it from becoming cloying but its still very rich. Great to see breweries stepping beyond the usual stout/pale/red comfort zone.
Brown Paper Bag Project

Mountain Man's Hairy Goat is an improvement on their Green Bullet release a few months back. Very hazy mid amber with fluffy offwhite head, pineapple sherbet and mango rind but also a strange gravelly minerality. Medium body, mango, fairly sweet at first but plenty of pithy bitterness to balance. Certainly one to try fresh and an indication of things to come.
Mountain Man Brewing Co

And finally for today, a beer that's been re-jigged and released in a larger format bottle. Shane at Franciscan Well asked me to have a taste of the latest IPA iteration (bottle #1 of 1200 no less) and of course I am happy to oblige. Last time carbonation issues in the bottle led to a sweet sticky beer which lost its hop aromatics. No such issues this time however. Rich pine resin and vanilla come across on the nose. Its full bodied, bitter pine and rich resin, toffee, also watermelon as it warms. Resinous finish with lasting bitterness. It also works really well with curry.


Fiz-y whizzy lets get busy

Thanks to a link Boak & Bailey shared on Twitter I wasted (enjoyably procrastinated) about 20 hours this weekend. The time-waster in question? A brewery management game for Android/ Apple.

The game is quick to install and has a useful tutorial mode to get you used to the menu system. I found it helpful to pause the game (bottom left corner or top menu bar) in order to get a better look around. The premise is simple - brew beer to sell whilst expanding and keeping your balance book in the black - but there's plenty of complexities to keep people interested.

You can use the game in different ways. For those completests amongst us (me included) there are set "story challenges" to enable you to progress alongside additional "ultimate" and "progression" challenges to unlock new recipes, equipment and staff. For the plutomaniacs you can set your own prices and amass a large (virtual) fortune and for the sadists there are mice to kill for bonuses.

From: PocketGamer
The graphics style is cutesy Nintendo-style with the option to play as different characters, though the actual animation is quite basic and plenty of text based screens. The music is pretty catchy too. The game can be at times frustrating, especially if you're impatient but be persistent and you'll be rewarded. 

I mentioned I spent 20 hours playing it* - the game can be addictive too "just one more achievement before bed...". But all in all i consider it £1.28 well spent - that's less than a price of a half and what better have you to do when its pissing it down and blowing a gale?

*As I mentioned I've completed the main story but there's still plenty to keep me occupied. If you decide to play and get stuck, feel free to ask!
Since first writing this post I've completed the game a second time (much quicker when you know what to look out for!) but there's still an annoying few things to discover to get to end game!



A brewery that's had a lot of buzz around them recently, especially for their dark beers and "session IPA". I picked up the bottles from Alesela, thoughts below. Reuben's thoughts here.

Founders Breakfast Stout is superb, and at 8.3% not particularly boozy for an imperial stout. Bottle at home courtesy of shrubber85 on Ratebeer, cheers Roger!
Rich lactose milk chocolate and fruity roast coffee. Rich, full bodied, medium carbonation, fruity coffee, smokey coffee, dark chocolate milk, long roasty finish. A touch of alcohol brings it all together. Fab.

Founders porter is also a fantastic dark beer at the strong end of the spectrum 6.5%, par for the course for US porters though.
Extremely dark brown, fluffy tan head, unctuous, thick bodied, dark malt, rich, hidden abv, chocolate, smooth. Dry finish

 All day IPA is also super, 4.7%
slightly hazy burnished gold with cream tinged head passion fruit and orange pith on nose. Subtle malt to allow the juicy passion fruit and pink grapefruit of the hops to come through. Medium length finish with a gentle bitterness. Good to see an American brewer go a bit lower, though stil not quite session strength.

 Centennial IPA is 7.2%
Hazy mid amber with offwhite lacing. Pithy tangerine and mango nose. Full bodied, sticky caramalt, pithy citrus peel, dry finish. Its aged well but would be fantastic fresh.

 Curmudgeon Old Ale 9.8%
hazy amber with yeast floaties and cream tinted lacing. Fairly sweet toffee apple nose. Full bodied, low carbonation, sweet toffee, slightly creamy mouth feel. Well hidden alcohol, slightly malty. Sticky weetabix short finish. A bit too heavy going and sweet for me

 Dirty Bastard 8.5%
Yet another scotch ale dark garnet red with dark beige lacing. Rich sweet malt, Turkish delight, sticky caramel. Sweet, astringent notes, full bodied and not helped by the low carbonation. I didn't like this one.

Against my better judgement I decided to try Backwoods Bastard Founders other Scotch Ale, this one barrel aged and 10.2%. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it, probably because of the high amount of bourbon character hiding the maltiness! Still quite heavy but with coconut, vanilla and sticky sweetness it would make for a good dessert beer. Certainly my favourite of the American Scotch efforts to date.


Session #83 - Are some beers over-rated?

Yes, without a doubt.

Taking Ratebeer as an example, here is the current top 10:

Westvleteren 12 (XII)
Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged)
Russian River Pliny the Younger
AleSmith Speedway Stout (Barrel Aged)
Toppling Goliath Kentucky Brunch
Bells Black Note Stout
Rochefort Trappistes 10
AleSmith Speedway Stout
Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon Vanilla Bean)
Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout

It consists of 7 Imperial Stouts (2 of which are variations on a third), two "quads" and an imperial IPA. One only has 39 ratings...

Personally I don't like the top rated beer in the world (I much prefer the sint bernardus version) but then everyone is different...

There are the breweries that are the darlings of the craft beer world....hill farmstead, cigar city, lost abbey. Fanboys rating these beers can send them in to the top scores. The freshness of a beer impacts on its score, and as the freshest beer the majority of rate beer users can get is local to them, American beers are given a premium over beers from elsewhere.

When beers are limited more people want to try them for fear of missing out, and if they cost more pepole are perhaps more likely to view them through rose tinted specs (as they don't want to admit they've wasted money on a duff beer when they could have bought multiples of something decent for the same price).

The England list is a bit better - I've been lucky enough to try them all and generally agree, though the presence of Fullers and Sam smith's an only be attributed to the availability of these in America.Though even taking those out the beers are all strong, mostly dark and limited release.

Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve  
Thornbridge Bracia  
Fuller’s London Porter (Bottle/Keg)  
The Kernel India Pale Ale Double Citra  
The Kernel Imperial Brown Stout London 1856  
Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout  
Thornbridge Hall Courage Russian Imperial Stout  
Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady  
The Kernel Export Stout London 1890  
Arbor / Moor Double Dark Alliance 

Outside of Ratebeer and in the general beer enthusiasts sphere, beers from he usual suspects can create a Twitter storm in advance of/ around the date of release meaning more people hear about the beer than otherwise would have. This is of course great for the breweries concerned, but I'm sure for every Kernel, Magic Rock and Thornbrideg there are other breweries in an area of low beer geek density (BGD) just quietly getting on with it producing beers which are just as good. Its our job as beer bloggers to seek out these brews and get the word out there!

So I'll finish by following my own philosophy and letting you know about Wiper & True based in Bristol. I've had 6 of theirs so far and not been disappointed by any. Fantastic fresh pale ales and IPAs packed full of hop flavour brewed in various locations around the South West. Yet to try their darker offerings but the consensus seems to say they're good too. Check them out. In fact just head to Bristol for a few days and see everything this great city has to offer!

This post was brought to you courtesy of TheSession, this month brought to you by Rebecca of the Bake and Brew. Cheers!


Ones to Watch 2014

As you all emerge blinking into the daylight on New Year's Day here are a few brewers you should be trying to get hold of this year.

We begin in the capital which continues to expand in all things beery. 2013 has certainly been Partizan's year, showing no signs of stopping in 2014 as they approach their 100th brew. Pressure Drop and Brew By Numbers have also both impressed in 2013. And just outside of the capital Siren have produced plenty to be proud of with plenty more planed for 2014.

A brewery which really impressed on trips to Bristol was Wiper & True. Particularly during Bristol Beer Week with their "Beer and Burgers" event. To maintain such a high calibre of brewing across multiple different establishments is no mean feat. I certainly look forward to trying more of these in 2014.

Across the Bristol channel and into Wales we have Tiny Rebel, who recently opened their first bar in Cardiff and the Celt Experience in Caerphilly who have rally impressed with some excellent collaboration and one off brews recently.

Moving North to Scotland Top Out really impressed with their initial offerings and have since released a Christmas beer and wheat ale, both of which seem to be doing well. I wasn't quick enough off the mark and missed out on the Christmas beer however. Another newish place in Edingburgh is the Hanging Bat, already a fantastic bar, could 2014 be the year the brewery becomes big*? Intriguingly Chris Kay of Bristol beer Factory now has a hanging bat account...

Moving across the water to Ireland I look forward to further releases from Brown Paper Bag Project and Blacks Kinsale brewery. 2013 will be remembered as the year breweries really took off with black IPAs and Double IPAs appearing for the first time and the number of breweries approaching 40 with at least 10 more in the planning stages.

Northern Ireland too has not been passed by with new breweries springing up across the province taking the number to 10. Red Hand will begin selling to the public at the start of the year and Farmageddon should also finally become a real entity. A few new Belfast breweries in the works too; so we should be very healthy in 2014.

Of course firmly established breweries will continue to delight (Wild, Buxton,  Kernel, Beavertown, Moor, Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Summer Wine and more) and cause despair (shall remain nameless) in equal measure and we'll surely see more regional and old guard brewers set-up their own craft ranges as has been seen in 2014. I for one look forward to it! Let me know your own predictions for 2014 below, cheers all!

*Edit...confirmation today that the brewery is go