My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 12 – Ola Dubh 18 by Harviestoun Brewery

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“On the twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….” (and I loved her all the more for it!)



Ola Dubh 18 by Harviestoun Brewery

This special porter is derived from Harviestoun’s own Old Engine Oil Porter (see Day 2 here) and is aged in wooden casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 Yr Old Single Malt whisky. I got it in a case of 12 that my two youngest got me for Fathers Day – and I have held onto it for a night like this! Gotta love my kids!!!

This is as black as Hades Cellar and slicked into the glass like North Sea crude having a short-lived beige head that quickly dissipated leaving behind an aroma of smooth dark chocolate, treacle, burnt toast and a light smoke edge. A magnificent start in my book!

Another Beergasm alert is in order! Hugely bodied this. The first thing that gets you is the slightly viscous texture. The flavours reveal themselves slowly, firstly the dark chocolate, crooking its finger and drawing you in.

Then something that resembled caramelised soused vine fruits, sweet yet toasted. Then a touch of bitter coffee opening your eyelids and your taste buds to receive the woody warmth of that whisky barrel. OH this is SUCH a special beer! If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m off to a NYE party, I’d be putting my feet up nd sliding down my leather armchair!

Decadent, warming, potent and uniquely Scottish. A proper beer for Hogmanay. I can’t think of a better beer with which to welcome in 2014.

On that note….’til next time…

Slainte! And a very Happy New Year to you all!


My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 11 – All Day IPA by Founders Brewing

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“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….”



All Day IPA by Founders Brewing (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)

There I am, banging on about British Breweries, then I review 2 US Beers in 2 days! WTF!!! Well. ’tis the season of love, joy & goodwill to all beers. And I had been verbally assailed by how good this beer is by all and sundry, including a good buddy of mine whose US sensibilities I trust implicitly. One of the first beers that I bought from The Liquor Shop in Prestwich this (on a recommendation)….So, what’s it like….

Light copper to gold coloured with a nice tight white head and a lovely grassy and sugared grapefruit aroma, certainly more than you would expect from a 4.1% abv brew. This just smelt so lovely that my lips were drawn to the glass as if magnetised! A wee bit of fresh-baked bready sweetness is swiftly mounted by a gorgeous fresh zingy hops. Grapefruit upfront then a gentle bitterness.

This is about aroma and fresh flavour, not bitterness as in a lot of UK beer. Freshly mown grass follows as night follows day, just so refreshing! Founders call this a Session Ale and for the States this most certainly is. This really lives up to its name. It truly is a beer that is full of fresh early Spring/Summer flavours that you really could drink all day!

And, on that note…’til next time…(Day 12 – YAY!!!)


My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 10 – Black Chocolate Stout – Brooklyn Brewery

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“On the tenth day of Xmas, my true love sent to me…..”



Black Chocolate StoutBrooklyn Brewery

Just look at that glass. That perfect creamy looking head. That head was exactly the same 10 minutes after I poured. Stunning beer to look at. As black as an Aleister Crowley mass and far more fragrant with rum, bitter chocolate and licorice tickling the nostrils.

I didn’t want to break that perfect head, but onward and upward! Oh shit but this is full-bodied and sinister! Rummy sweetness balanced with bitter coffee and chocolate, spicy licorice and spirit warmth. Then you get a fabulous and unexpected hoppy bitterness sweeping backward up your tongue and back down your nostrils. Oh this is good! With each mouthful I’m getting swept away by the creamy, bitter, spicy warmth to a dark spot where I am curled up with my glass, warm and as snug as a bug in that proverbial rug.

All the flavours of a Barrel Aged Imperial Stout without fanfare. This is a hell of a beer and the best I’ve had so far in these first 10 days. Did I mention that I like it?


On that note….’til next time…


My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 9 – Black Forest Stout – Bah Humbug (Created by Dave Harrison-Ward – Homebrewer)

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“On the 9th Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….”


Bah Humbug (Black Forest Stout) by Dave Harrison-Ward

I figured that for at least ONE of the 12 Days, that I’d chuck in a bit of a curveball. Something that nobody else would think of reviewing. Then I thought about the rather attractive bottle that I’d received in the post from out Macclesfield way/ Home of The Macc Lads and Redwillow Brewery (two that aren’t often paired together!) From the moment I received this, I loved it. The bold font on the plain but smart label, the slightly bog-eyed cartoonish cat. It just tickled me. I also lost my fear of home-brewed beer following on from the two really decent bottles that I got from Michael McGrorty, a nice fella and decent home-brewer from Stirling that I had the recent pleasure to meet.

Well then, what’s this little fella like! Well, very dark ruby – almost black – when held to the light. Lively chap too, despite the rapidly diminished head, the lively carbonation never gave up! A good (not overpowering) aroma of cherry too, like a semi kriek but without that sour touch.

In the mouth, this is medium-bodied and really rather smooth. The cherry flavour is what initially hits you, nice and smooth yet also with a nice understated tartness, just there in the background. Then the dark roasty malt and a gentle dark chocolate open the curtains and take a bow to get their applause. The finish is dry with just a ghost of fruit and chocolate like a phantom in the wings, whispering sinful chocolaty words into your ear.

This is a rather nice beer indeed. I suppose that the best I can say is that I’d happily hand over a few quid for a pint on cask. Damn fine effort!

On that note….’til next time….


My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 8 – Grand Cru by Rodenbach

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“On the 8th Day of Xmas, my true love sent to me….”



Grand Cru by Rodenbach

As I may have inferred on many occasions, I am no connoisseur of Belgian Beers. I have tried a few over the years, but Belgium hasn’t been a “go to” beer country for me, too many great beers in this country that I am yet to try really. That said, I intend to make an effort and try more in 2014. So, I might as well get started in 2013 eh? And with a beer, described by Michael Jackson – The legendary “Beer Hunter” (not to be confused with the Berlin baby dangler!) as a “World Classic”!

This is a deep reddy brown, with the hue (when held up to the light) of a rich red wine. The thin white head didn’t hang around and the aroma is slightly sour with cherries and more than a suggestion of a red wine bouquet. My oh my this is tart in the mouth! I wish I could video the faces that I must be pulling! Cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants, MAN this is fruity! After each and every sip I am drooling like a vampire over a virgins neck! Such a dry finish too (once the saliva subsides!). Tart, sour, fruity, massively refreshing. WHAT a beer! I better stop, because I don’t feel that I could come up with more words to do this beer justice.

I suppose, to summarise, there are a lot of UK  brewers (consciously avoids use of C word!) making sour beers. Don’t bother. You’ll NEVER match this. Superb

Guess I’ll be drinking more soon!

On that note….’til next time….


My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 7 – Best Extra Stout – Coopers Brewery (South Australia)



“On the 7th Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….”


(Donkey looks on approvingly!)

Best Extra Stout – Coopers Brewery (South Australia)

I’ve had this one stashed for a while, having received it as a swap from my Arch-Nemesis some time ago. This may be the first bottled beer that I’ve had from Australia, a nation gaining a better reputation for some of its beers now, shedding the spectre of Fosters & Castlemaine.

Black with the faintest of blood ruby tinges when held up to the light, the light tan coloured head quickly dissipated. The aromas yielded were bitter chocolate, fresh brewed coffee and a slight sherry note – surprising in a beer of only 6.3% abv.

In the mouth, this is medium bodied and smooth with good – but certainly not excessive – carbonation and initial flavours of high cocoa chocolate and light coffee, followed by a gentle taste of forest fruit, maybe plum. This is a surprise and is lovely and smooth, less Men At Work “Down Under” more Icehouse “Street Cafe” (forgive the obscure 80s tune reference!). There is a lovely dry bitter finish – an essential in a Stout for me – and some mown grass in the aftertaste that lingers with a hint of that coffee.

Perhaps not a beer that would set the heart racing, but a cracker for the stash!

On that note….’til next time (tomorrow, of course!)


My #12DaysOfXmas – Day 6 – Courage Imperial Russian Stout – Wells/Young

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(Saints or Sinners?)

“On the 6th Day of Xmas, my true love sent to me…..”


Courage Imperial Russian Stout – Wells & Youngs

Firstly I was gutted. I seriously thought that I had a bottle of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with which to commiserate myself following a beer free Xmas Dinner (the cask ale was Hobgoblin – enough said) – I checked the box that I had brought to Lincolnshire – Oh SHIT! I looked around for something a bit like a sleeping draught….hmmm…”That Courage Imperial Stout….Go on…give it a chance….Wells & Young?….Don’t be a snob!” This used to have a real reputation when I was a young drinker, this was a beer, that if you had a beer map, its territory would be marked “Here be monsters!” But that was then, this is….

Here we go then!

Black as a Wigan pitmans’ face after a 12 hour shift! Totally opaque. Beige tan head and a really boozy aroma redolent with espresso, bitter chocolate and fortified port wine. So far so good!

In the mouth, again, bitter coffee and chocolate, the alcohol comes through warming yet slightly harsh and lacking the finesse of say the recent Quantum Impy Treacle that I have had. The espresso lingers long after the swallow and there is quite a hoppy undertone in the finish. It’s quite a nice beer. I was expecting to unleash some vitriol on a big brewers beer, but this is quite OK, if lacking the finesse of others that I have had this year. And at 4 for £6 at Tesco at the moment, it’s certainly worth a swig!

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte! And Happy Xmas to all the daft buggers who read my wafflings!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 5 – Saisonniere by Urthel Brewery

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“On the 5th day of Xmas, my true love sent to me….”


#5 Saisonniere by Urthel (Ruisdede, West Flanders)

Not a brewery I am overly familiar with, this is the product of a Sunday lunch at Kosmonaut in Manchester (excellent bar/venue – just around the corner from Port Street Beer House) – there were a few Belgians on offer, so I made hay (it’s amazing the concessions from Atilla that a good Sunday lunch will procure – that sounded SO much better in my head!)

Pale gold with a light haze and an aroma with a slight yeasty spice, cream soda and a gentle fresh grassyness coming from a fluffy white head. Ooh…refreshingly tart (but not overwhelmingly so), that creamy soda flavour comes through, smooth as a Sinatra love song, gently fruity, tart with a fabulously bitter and unexpectedly resinous aftertaste. Quite spicy too. This 6% Saison is an unexpected belter and one I would be more than happy to snaffle on a night out. (Saint or Sinner? Result = Saint!)

Apart from Beer No 1 and that verminous Redbreast, I count myself lucky!

On that note…’til next time (It’s Chrisssssmaaaaas!)


My #12BeersOfXmas – #4 – India Pale Ale by Bad Seed Brewery

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“On the 4th day of Xmas, my true love sent to me….”


#4 India Pale Ale by Bad Seed Brewery

A new brewery for 2013 and the winner of my Golden Pints award in this category. Look at the labelling! Classy, minimal and with that label hanging like the cigarette from a matinee idols mouth. Just damned stylish. The label tells you that it is 7.3% abv and is loaded with Cascade, Columbus & Chinook hops. I salivate as I read it!

Expecting citrus on that nose? Oh yes, apricot, grapefruit and bitter orange flying from that white foamy head, itself sat atop a deep golden beer, with good carbonation. That head is going nowhere! Full-bodied with a huge bitter Seville orange marmalade the first thing to hit the tongue, followed by the desert dry bitterness then that fabulous piney resinous quality laid on top of a gentle caramelised biscuit sweetness. That resinous bitter finish just goes on…..I simply LOVE this beer. Mouthful after mouthful, I don’t want this to end. But, it’s only 330ml. Just when you long for the beery equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper…..I just wish I could get it on cask.

On that note….’til next time…(Tomorrow – Live From Lincolnshire!!!)