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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Brasseurs de Gayant ‘La Goudale’ – The Review

goudale abbey beer‘Budweiser’ and others want to wage their war against ‘pretentiousness’, well, here’s my take: there’s nothing pretentious about good beer. Hell, you already know I’m not against drinking lager and neither’s Paul. We’re not about knee-jerk judgement, we’re as inclusive as we can be, we’re just honest as well. In this vein of thought, I wanted to review a ‘low-end’ beer, as it were, from supermarket Aldi.

Aldi, the German-based supermarket that dares to be cheaper than the rest, whilst claiming quality as standard. How will one of their beers fare under my scientifically-rigorous scrutiny, especially when its name ‘Goudale’ comes from the archaic French for ‘good ale’? Let’s find out!

Vital Stats:

  • 6% ABV
  • Brewed in Douai, France
  • Comes in 750ml bottles [how very French!]

Look It’s a very simple bottle. Appealingly so. Big, clear lettering, somehow seems very genuine.

In’t’ glass, it’s a nice, clear, light amber. Plenty of fizz and head, some of which stays. 7/10

Aroma There’s a simple but distinct hoppy note, quite typical of certain continental lagers. Following that, there’s a hint of wheat before a sourish, biscuity smell from the yeast. Despite it not being radical, it’s potent and pleasant. 7/10

Taste Slightly lacking after the promise of the aroma. The hop notes are too soft and not assertive enough for me. There’s a floral fruitiness that develops on the palate, along with a caramel flavour, but I guess that’s mainly from the additives than anything else. It’s good and smooth, and some of you will really enjoy the wheaty, yeasty flavours, but I guess it doesn’t live up to my experience of French beers… 6/10

Value £2.49 for this large bottle… In terms of ‘alcoholic bang for yer buck’ that’s pretty good. It’s just a shame they had to resort to using so many flavourings, in effect meaning that you’re not paying for ‘good brewing’ [if you can agree that there is such a universal concept], but ‘polishing a drinkable turd’. 7/10

Session Not only does the 6% ABV tire me out too quick, but I just don’t particularly want to get through the first bottle. It’s just hard work, is all – sweet and heavy, really in need of bitter balance. There’s nothing totally wrong with it, but I’m certainly not a fan. Then again, of course, it’s not designed for sessions, so think what you will about this score: 3/10

So you can see that there’s plenty of promise, here, when a supermarket does a crafty brew. Unfortunately it has fallen short of the ‘real thing’, understandably enough because it doesn’t have the time/space/money to dedicate to the proper processes, using shortcuts such as flavouring to help it along. This wasn’t bad, but I’d only recommend it to people with a particular penchant for French-style beers. It won’t live up to the originals, but you might find it interesting.

Final score: 60/100

Innis and Gunn ‘Treacle Porter’ – The Review

DSCN1278Since our summer has been so disappointing, I thought I’d review a winter beer. I guess I think I’m being clever with an ‘ironic beer choice’, or something like that…

I’ve reviewed a fair few Innis and Gunn beers in the past, and, as you’ll know because you religiously read everything, I’m generally a pretty big fan. I like what they stand for, like what they do with their beers [i.e. the oak maturation]… Lovely jubbly. So surely this beer’ll be so wonderful we’ll all forget about our terrible summer – right?

Vital Stats:

Look Yeah they have a nice arty box and there’s lots of beery info on there [tasting notes, history etc]. Same ol’ bottle… fair enough!

In the glass it had a cola head – very fizzy for a few seconds, then dissipated to nowt. Looks like cola in other ways too… There is a sort of a reddy-brown hint when held up to the light, but it’s not impressive. 6/10

Aroma There’s a sour mash, licorice and vanilla smell. It’s quite a strong aroma, not that ‘full’, but I guess you can’t have everything. Not too treacly on the nose, but there’s more than a bit of bonfireiness. 6/10

Taste That’s more like it with the treacle. But that’s largely it. It’s flavoured with treacle and it tastes like treacle… It’s not very bitter, nor complex as a beer. Okay as a drink, though, in the sense that it’s wet and not poisonous [not in an instantly fatal kind of way, at least]. Unimpressive. 3/10

Value In terms of alcoholic ‘bang for your buck’, it’s alright. Cheap, I mean. It’s so much like cola, I feel I should be paying cola prices… At only £1.99 I’d give it 7/10

Session I had a couple of these, and the second one seemed better. I picked up a bit more of the wheaty flavours and the nuttiness on the palate. Still, it was far too cloying to have more, and I ain’t hard enough to withstand a lot of 7.4%. 6/10

Worst Innis and Gunn I’ve ever had. It wasn’t absolutely awful, just disappointing based on their usual standards. Then again, there’s so many people that have enjoyed it – and let’s not forget that it’s a revival of a traditional recipe and therefore interesting on a brewing level – I’d feel bad if I advised you not to try it. Still, my score stands thusly:

Final score: 56/100

Victory Brewing Company’s ‘Storm King Stout’ – The Review

DSCN1222Sorry to any of you out there expecting another of my hoppy reviews. Since the nights are drawing in, I thought I’d buck my own trend and review not just a stout, but an American imperial stout. It’s another offering from Victory, from whom I’ve had a lovely Pilsener, some bombastic IPAs and other pleasant, hoppy ales. When I saw this, I was curious what it’d be like – their pale beers pass the test for me, but how about the darker end of the spectrum? The stout had to be tried, even the name alone sounds like a song calling out to me…

 

Vital Stats:

  • 9.1% ABV
  • Comes in 330ml bottles
  • Brewed in Pennsylvania, USA
  • Malts: three imported, ‘two row’ malts
  • Hops: whole flower American

Look Very dark, moody bottle. Don’t quite get who/what the ‘Storm King‘ is, looks like a bird? There’s a flowery ramble printed on the side, but we just want to hear about the beer!

In the glass it’s basically an opaque black, only showing deep ruby tones where the glass is shallow enough. Has a lovely, light brown coffee-like head which lingers nicely. 7/10

Aroma An intensely fruity nose, fresher than I was expecting – I thought it would be dominated by aged-fruit notes. A very light maltiness, but enough. Plenty of the standard roasty-toasty smells with a noticeable bitter element. Nice! 7/10

Taste The hops are actually pretty forceful, very bitter but also with the intensity of the fruit flavours. It’s citrusy, sort of orange or grapefruit. You get quite a cappucino-like effect, as the malts bring rich coffee flavours, wonderfully roasted aromatic qualities, and there’s cocoa too. It’s a robust flavour, and yet delicate also. The hops and malts are vying for supremacy, it’s good in that respect. It’s sort of smooth, and yet also a bit rough ‘n’ ready – probably at least partly due to the high ABV. Creamy, delicious, yet tangy. It has a long finish, though not overly complex. I thought I got a herbal aftertaste, but what herbs I can’t say. In that respect, it’s certainly impressive, I’m just not sure if it’s ‘all there’. Perhaps its strength gives it a tongue-anaesthetising effect that detracts from the experience. 8/10

Value I paid £3.99 for a 330ml bottle. I can understand why it’s so expensive, not just because it’s imported from America, but jeez, 9.1% ABV as well! It wasn’t the best drinking experience I’ve had, but then it wasn’t the most expensive either. All things considered, I can’t complain too much. 8/10

Session It was sort of a challenge to get through one, it’s so raw, let alone more than one. Plus it doesn’t take long for this 9.1% warming effect to take hold… The texture, the heaviness of it would make a session hard. Just one at the end of the night is more my bag, but then some of you folk out there might think I’m just soft. 4/10

It’s a bold beer with a lot going for it. There’s plenty of flavours competing, probably just before the point of being too much, and as a drinking experience it’s pretty valuable. For me there’s just something lacking about how it ties together. I know it’s expressive, but it doesn’t wow me. Unfortunately its poor session performance has dragged the score down, but if you like your beers dark, then forget that and see what you think.

Final score: 68/100