Alhambra Mezquita – The Review

mezI was bought this as a birthday present from a mate of mine who has visited Lunya in Manchester. Apparently it’s a restaurant and bar, but, more importantly for me, it also has a shop, so foodies and ‘drinkies’ alike can take home a small slice/drop of Spain.

I was lucky enough to be given a few bottles, all of which I’ll probably review them at some point, but today I’ll start with this abbey-style offering [yes, it’s not just Belgium that has abbeys!]. It is described as “Ideal for high quality beer lovers” – so let’s test that!

Vital Stats:

  • 7.2% ABV
  • Brewed in Cordoba, Spain
  • Superior red ale style
  • Comes in 330ml bottles

Look Darker than I expected. A bright, chestnut colour. Glassy and clear with a loose head. Looks delicious enough! 7/10

Aroma Well it practically jumped out the bottle; oaky dryness and dried wheat mix with subtle fruits and a hint of hops. Didn’t distinguish itself as terribly exciting, but it certainly had power. 7/10

Taste Very much led by the malts. You get the dry huskiness mingling with nutty flavours, which makes me think it was oak aged, but I can’t find any info to back this up… Anyway, there’s a light caramel note, leading into a bit of raisin and a touch of spice. There’s also a buttered toast element going on, so plenty to appreciate. Despite its refreshing, fizzy mouthfeel, there’s no mistaking its high alcohol content with the brandy-like warmth of it. Very long finish, which is groovy. 8/10

Value It was a present for me, so should get 10/10, but I’ve seen it online for £2.09. Especially for a beer of this strength, that’s not bloody bad. For the experience, too, it’s pretty good. 8/10

Session Obviously it was never really brewed to be a session ale, in fact they recommend it to be drunk in winter, or, if in summer, as a long drink. I couldn’t manage more than one of these in succession. It’s a heavy taste, which, when combined with the very long finish, makes it one to savour toward the end of the night. The high alcohol took its toll quickly too! 4/10

In summary, this is well worth a go for those that like barrel-aged beers, or big, higher-alcohol beverages, but not one with mass appeal ‘to try at all costs’. It has a lot more depth than some I’ve had, although there’s plenty of comparable bottles [some Innis and Gunn beers, McEwan’s Export to name a couple] if you can’t find this one.

Final score: 70/100

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Grimbergen’s ‘Double Ambree’ – The Review

DSCN1243Today I’m going to start you off with a bit of a tip. If you have any local discount stores near you, give them a visit and check out their beers. In Morecambe, Home Bargains is a sure-fire place to pick up a couple of unusual bottles at a rock-bottom price. You don’t always find top-quality, like you might at an independent retailer, but, like I say, for the price it’s worth a look.

That’s where I found the beer I’m reviewing today, Grimbergen‘s ‘Double Ambree‘. First off, the bottle grabbed me, especially with the Liverbird-like phoenix flying on the front. Then I saw that it was a abbey-style beer, then I saw the ABV, then I saw the price. Even when I’m on a strict budget, I can’t say ‘no’ to such a promising experience at such a low price. Sure, it’s a bit disappointing that it’s one of those Carlsberg-owned entities, where the history of the brewery is now history, and certain flavourings are used in the manufacturing, but if they get it right, they get it right, right? Was I going to be rewarded for my gamble? Only one way to find out…

Vital Stats:

Look The bottle’s pretty striking with it’s golden phoenix contrasting against the dark, brown background. The bumf on the bottle is my kinda bumf, going into the history of the Grimbergen Abbey [which no longer even brews the stuff…].

A dark, bubbly, almost cola-like deep, burning brown, rising to a mahogany colour. Has a loose head with plenty of bubbles, which disappeared quickly. 7/10

Aroma I get a bit of sourness and a semi-rich double maltiness – hints of both fresh wheat and part caramel malt. I think the hoppiness is quite subdued, though you can still detect it. Out of context, ‘sour grapiness’ would sound rank, but in dark beer terms, it can be quite appealing. Not too deep or complex, but plenty to get your nose around. 7/10

Taste I get nuts straight off the bat, coconut leading to a walnutty finish. There’s that nice floury maltiness, almost [but not quite] balanced by a hint of hops. There’s a reasonable amount of sweetness and a fairly one-dimensional grape/raisin flavour, complemented by a wee touch of herbs [the kind you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever had Zubrowka vodka]. The sourness lingers on the palate. It’s nice, and very drinkable, but not really ‘wowing’. Not a lot of body, either, which seems strange given the alcohol content. 7/10

Value This cost me just a quid for a 330ml bottle, which is just a great price. There’s the ‘alcoholic bang for your buck’ [not that that’s why I suggest/we suggest/you should buy any drink], and the experience was interesting. If I’d liked the beer a bit more, this would be a perfect rating. 9/10

Session As I’ve said, it’s very drinkable, though it lacked a depth and complexity for me that I’d like if I were to drink more of it. Although some flavours developed [I started picking up apple], I think most folk would find it too samey after a bottle or two. Plus, even at 6.4%, I found the warming effect pretty potent, so I wouldn’t plump for this in a session situation. 6/10

This is another beer I’m glad to say I’ve tried, though it wasn’t strong enough to convince me to become a monk. If I were to guess at the problems, I’d say that the brewing process [what with the flavourings and all] is probably dedicated to quantity over quality, and though it was a pleasant drink, I’d prefer to check out an indepedent beer shop for some real Abbey beers – Trappistes Rochefort, Kwak or Orval to name a few.

Final score: 72/100