AMA (Currumbin Valley Brewing Collaboration)
Reviewed by Jez on 23.01.21 from a can
Overall:
87 / 100
(Exceptional)
355ml can purchased as part of the Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar. This is an Abalone, (Aniseed & Lemon) Myrtles Gose.

Pours a slightly hazed pale golden colour, with a rocky, coarse head of white that settles out to a bubbly ring around the edge. Minimal lace, but there's an unctuousness to the body that suggests more weight than the 5% on the can. Looks decent enough.

Nose is fascinating. There's clearly a briney note from the abalone, which connects with a base grainy malt note, but turns the whole thing strangely sideways and savoury. I get notes of toasted sesame, kombu and nori, with subtle undertones of spice. It's a subtle but quite beautiful nose.

Taste is even better. There's genuinely some beautiful craft here. There's a subtle dark earthy note of anise here which beautifully sets off the aromatic notes of the abalone. It's bright, but salty, again with umami notes of kombu dashi and sesame. But the finish is livened and lightened by a beautiful lemon note, which stops it from feeling too raw and organic. It's a pretty incredible palate.

Feel is light, which is actually a marvel when you have so much complexity in the beer.

This is a damn incredible beer. It has the same kind of flavour profile you might see in dish 2-3 of an 8 course degustation menu and a triple-hatted restaurant. It's really subtle, but infused with these wonderfully balanced flavours that you don't expect. That gives me novelty and actually opens up a whole new vision on beer. It's a rare beer to do that.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5
Chock-a-Block
Reviewed by Jez on 09.01.21 from a can
Overall:
65 / 100
(Solid)
355ml can from the 2020 Carwyn Canvent Calendar.

Pours a pleasantly murky peach-gold colour, with a very fine, pillowy head of white that settles out into a thick, fine ring. Carbonation is also very fine. Looks good.

Nose is relatively pleasant, with the main dynamics of a NEIPA—heavy dry hop presence and sweetness, particularly—but with actual aromas which are far more earthy. I get dry baked earth, chestnut and cassia bark, more than the tropical fruit you might normally expect. There's a sweetness to it as well though which stops it from at all feeling too dark and musty, indeed, it feels like it's still creating those tropical structures, just from different pieces. An odd mix.

Taste is also pretty good. Again, the hop character is slightly earthy, almost tending to a savoury, nutty note, with a hint of chalky bitterness in the back. Mostly, it's quite smooth though, and the body tidies away the rough edges with a big wash of lactose silkiness. Finish does have a slight hop-dust, pellety character to it, but it's certainly not as pronounced as in some of the similar beers I've had.

Overall, this is pretty solid work. I do feel like NEIPAs are either world-class standouts, or absolutely misguided flops. And this is one of those very rare examples that is neither—a solid, middle-of-the-road beer which misses the excesses of either extreme.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
Bière de Coupage
Reviewed by Jez on 04.01.21 from a can
Overall:
65 / 100
(Solid)
330ml can purchased as part of the 2020 Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar. It's a young saison matured on blueberry & basil.

Pours a pleasant melon-orange tinged pink, quite like a rose in many ways, with a fine ring of very pale pink that leaves some insubstantial streaky lace. Body is light, with fine carbonation. It actually looks quite sophisticated and refined.

Nose is pleasant. It has a general organic but acidic wild note to it, bringing in crisp barrel ferment notes and vinous acidity, along with a pleasant herbal character. Definitely there's basil to it—but it comes along with husky, hairy mint and an undertone of clipped, loamy grass.

Taste is also quite bright and clean, but there's a strange fruit sweetness that rises in the centre of the palate. It seems oddly disconnected from the acidity—almost becoming a note like vanilla or soft-serve ice-cream. The finish has pleasant notes of aromatic herbs. I'm not convinced the blueberry note, which I think does connect too strongly with the more unwelcome sweetness, is that good an addition.

I'd be very interested to see this same beer without the blueberry. I think the basil is an excellent and interesting addition to what's otherwise a very pleasant wild ale. The blueberry though, despite the addition of acidity, gives too much fruit, and I think is to the detriment to the beer overall. It's still a very interesting brew, with certainly a good deal of potential.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.5
Nitro Merlin Milk Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 04.01.21 from a nitro can
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
12oz can purchased for me by Sam for Xmas 2020, after he enjoyed it so earlier in the year.

After the proper nitro-pouring technique, it looks a picture. Starts with a swift but obvious reverse-cascade, and settles out quite quickly. Fine-bubbled, persistent nitro head, with a crisp delineated line between it and the body. Colour is dark brown, certainly lighter than a full black at the thinner parts of the glass. But that head is a thing of beauty.

Nose is quite pleasant. It's very malt forward, almost with a kind of underattenuated brewday malt kind of aroma—like the smell of decocting a proportion of your grist. But it's lighter, slightly more roasty and with a hint of that lactose sweetness as well. It almost has a woody, nutty character to it as well, which works nicely. It's a good-smelling beer.

Taste is light and quite drinkable, aided by a beautiful smoothness from the nitro. The main flavours are those slightly burnt-toffee malt note—again, it tastes a lot like decoction to me—with a rather metallic, almost coppery finish. It's smooth as hell though, like a shark.

Extremely smooth, extremely drinkable and for 5.5% ABV, I'd smash this all night. Lovely beer—unpretentious but very good.
appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | drinkability: 4.25
Toasted Marshmallow & Salted Caramel Pecan Mudcake Nitro Imperial Pastry Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 04.01.21 from a nitro can
Overall:
60 / 100
(Decent)
330ml nitro can from the 2020 Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar. It poured beautifully, but I let it sit too long to settle and ended up missing the nice creamy head.

Initially pours with a beautiful nitro reverse cascade, but ends up looking like a rather still oily black-brown, with almost a greenish tinge at the edge. Head was pleasant chocolate brown to begin with, but ends up non-existent. Body is solid, but the nitrogen bubbles are gone after just a few minutes sitting around.

Nose is pleasant enough, but the characters are really jammed together. I do get some subtle aromatics of marshmallow, and definitely some deep chocolate notes. There's something nutty to it too—so I can't fault it really for being the wrong characters that aren't on the label—but it is a bit of a mess. That may be a mess in conception rather than execution though.

Taste is a little strange. I suspect, to some degree, all of these flavours are jockeying for space and there's a real mishmash as a result. Instead of the pleasantly distinct characters, there are clashes that lend characters of marzipan, pistachio and liqueur. It's boozy, so that's part of the issue, and you can taste the booze. Finish has a kind of sludgey cake-batter character—like the nose, it's not wrong, given what they promise. But it's not necessarily successful as a beer.

Yeah, I'm torn on this. It succeeds reasonably well at providing all the manifold characters they promise, but at the end I'm left asking "why?". It has a surprisingly cacophonous feeling to it in the end—I guess you could have predicted this at the start.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.0 | drinkability: 3.5
Vengeful Resolution
Reviewed by Jez on 03.01.21 from a can
Overall:
57 / 100
(Decent)
33cl can purchased as part of the 2020 Carwyn Canvent Calendar.

Pours a relatively light coloured and light-bodied brown colour—it's almost a deep amber rather than brown. It's certainly not black. A dark IPA then. Head is a coarse-bubbled head of beige that leaves some patches of lace, but otherwise collapses pretty quickly.

Nose is pleasant though—leaning very heavily on the aromatic hops, with citrus being the main focus. It's very much in the style of the "surprise!" IBAs though, in that it's just dark enough to throw you off, and otherwise it smells like an IPA. But it's fine.

Taste is a pleasantly created IPA. As in, it has enough grain malt structure to support a hop bouquet. In particular, it has a soft orange pith and mandarin flavour which again doesn't owe anything to the B in its style. Pleasant bitterness on the back, again tied mostly to a zesty citrus note, and the finish is dry and clean.

Feel is a bit flat, with lower than expected carbonation.

I get it. This was a fun gimmick for a while: "look! it's dark! but it tastes like an IPA!". It's a cosmetic thing only though, and there's something really quite wonderful that can be done with a hint more darkness in an IPA-style beer. This doesn't even really get the dark colour that right. But it's a drinkable beer, and enjoyable. There's just no need for it to be black.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.25
Oat Cream Imperial Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 03.01.21 from a can
Overall:
79 / 100
(Excellent)
355ml can purchased as part of the 2020 Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar.

Pours a lovely deep, glossy black, with a full and frothy head of pale chocolate on the first pour. This settles down, but maintains a good couple of mils of foam. Spotty lace from the loose-bubbled head. Body is very dark, and hides the carbonation, but little individual flurries appear in the corners when tilted. Looks good.

Nose is also very nicely done. There's a nicely balanced matching of coffee beans, vanilla and malt, which give a sweet but vibrant whole. There's sharpness, a hint of char from the coffee, but it's there as a punctuation mark, rather than as the whole basis of the aroma. Otherwise, there's deeper sweeter notes of milk sugar, chocolate, deep mid-malts. It's quite lovely.

Taste is also good, with the malts bringing in a lovely savoury quality to the mix. There's still smooth, sweet lactose notes, which work well with the coffee, but these fade into the background to some extent. Instead, we have this hitherto unexpected grain character which gives a lovely nuttiness. Finish has sweet aromatic notes of coconut and marshmallow, which just add another level of complexity. I'm impressed.

Feel is smooth—perhaps a tad too light, but it has gloss and sheen to work around that.

Overall, this is a very nice beer indeed. It's well-made, with thought placed into all of the elements to get them just in balance. I'm a fan. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on The Mill, because I believe this is the first thing I've had from them.
appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
TIPA Roads
Reviewed by Jez on 03.01.21 from a can
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)
375ml can from the Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar 2020. Lovely label art, I have to say.

Pours a rich, fairly heavy, coppery golden colour, with slow swirls of languid carbonation and a fine crest of white. This settles out to a ring, but persists quite well in the end. Body has some weight to it, but not enough that it looks like it's going to be heavy and sweet and underattenuated. So that's a good thing.

Nose is pleasantly resiny, with a pronounced pine and citrus note that takes me back to a simpler time. It's an aroma which matches very nicely with a bit of extra booze—it connects with a slight metallic quality and a heady but subdued toffee sweetness. Not overpowering, but nicely done.

Taste is also pretty well balanced. It's not a huge-flavoured beer, which is a hallmark of restraint in such an alcoholic beer. But this also means it's not leaning on masses of hop bitterness, a lot of residual sweetness or something else to cover up flaws. It's just clean and well made, especially given it has so much heft to it. Bitterness is just about right, with a clean quality to it which nicely aligns with a slight metallic bite and a hint of booze.

Feel is slick rather than heavy, with a slight bright tingle of carbonation.

Overall, this is a nicely done brew. I'm not convinced it's a ground-breaking or very exciting beer, although a beer with this level of restrains which clocks in at over 10% is still something of a marvel. Still, if nothing else it speaks to the craft of Spotty Dog, and makes me think I'll need to search them out in the future.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 3.75
Ginger & Lime
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.21 from a can
Overall:
68 / 100
(Solid)
330ml can purchased as part of the 2019 Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar.

Pours a pleasant light golden colour, with a slightly gauzy head of white that leaves intricate but ephemeral lace. Body is very light, with swift but very fine carbonation. Looks good.

Nose is honestly a little bit less complex and interesting that I expect from La Sirène. It has characters of lime, candied ginger and acidity, sure. But there's not a depth of aroma to it that really suggests something more sophisticated.

Taste is similar. It's quite a nice refreshing beer—with a bright ginger character that dominates and in some ways flattens the rest of the palate. The lime is consistent with the intrinsic acidity, and flavours that element of it. But again, it's quite one-note, and it doesn't emphasise any underlying complexity to the beer.

Feel is light, perhaps a little fizzy, but suitable for the kind of beer it ends up being.

Look: it's quite a fun beer, and the characters on the tin are what it ends up delivering. But there's not a depth to it that survives more than a cursory examination—perhaps the kind that you'd get if you were looking at it as part of 24 days of new beers. La Sirène do much, much better, much more sophisticated, subtle and complex beers.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 4.0
Eggnog Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.21 from a can
Overall:
51 / 100
(OK)
375ml can purchased from Beer Cartel. It's an Irish Dry Stout, according to the label, which seems odd for what's been added to it. But there you go.

Pours a pleasant opaque ebony brown, with a persisten if thin head of pale beige. Lacing is solid, with intricate long streaks. Body is quite light, and the carbonation is fast: it's not the languid pour of a Guinness, for instance.

Nose is pleasantly spiced, with fragrant cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla coming through. There's not a lot of sweetness, but the characters are ones I associate with a big, rich stout. So I'm hopeful.

Disappointingly, on the palate, the genesis of it as a dry stout makes itself clear. It has a real lack of sweetness through the middle, in particular, with a slightly bitter finish from the roasted grains. Again, there's loads of spice characters through it, giving nutmeg and cinnamon, but without anything to catch them as they fall. It's a shame.

Feel is also too light. It would be fine for a drier, more sessionable stout, but this is crying out for more body to it.

Overall, it's genuinely a mismatch of characters. It could be a lovely beer—the spice notes are a good flavour in a stout, but this beer isn't enough to support it. Definitely not what I wanted from it.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.0 | feel: 2.75 | drinkability: 2.75
Springtime IPA
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.21 from a can
Overall:
66 / 100
(Solid)
375ml can purchased from Beer Cartel.

Pours a lovely clear bright golden yellow colour, with a rocky, sticky and frothy head of white that leaves thick clumps of lace. Carbonation is languid and fine, running swiftly but elegantly through the body. Looks good.

Nose is pleasant enough, but a bit flat. It's got a fairly straightforward citrus aroma to it, matched with a structure of savoury malt behind it which tends towards the cereal than the sweet. Certainly, there's a grainy not to it, which isn't bad, but it's also quite unassuming.

Smooth, reasonably pleasant palate as well. Again, there's a connection between the savoury grain structure and the hops. Here the citrus character turns slightly towards a mandarin note—it's a little more dark, aromatic and savoury than the juicy sweetness you might get from the zestier hops. Structure is nice underneath it though.

Feel is light and clear. It's nicely done with enough weight to support it, but without feeling like it's overpowering the delicate flavours.

I think I started out considering this beer a bit straightforward and basic. But the more I drunk, the more I appreciated the structure and the coherence of it. It's a nicely done beer—very well made, and with beautiful balance. It's not the most exciting beer in the world, but it's probably hitting exactly what they were going for.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 4.0
O Hazy Night
Reviewed by Jez on 02.01.21 from a can
Overall:
63 / 100
(Solid)
375ml can from the 2019 Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar.

Pours, yep, hazy—not turbid and cloudy like a full-blown NEIPA, with a loose-bubbled head of white, which settles out perhaps too quickly, leaving nothing on top after a very short period. Body is light and clean.

Nose is pleasant enough, with a light but rounded fruit character from the hops. Certainly there's a decent big tropical fruit character, sharpened by a more vegetative character that smells a bit like underripe papaya and carambola. There's a suggestion of a husky grain underneath everything too, which almost gives a slight savoury note. Interesting.

Taste is also largely what you expect, with a round fruit base from the hops and a solid if simple malt backing it. What then becomes noticeable are the characters which deviate from the norm. There is again a slight savoury, grainy note to it, and this interacts with the aromatic fruit notes to almost give a bite of ginger. Finish is dry, and ends with those husky grain notes.

Feel is light, and perhaps over sparkling at the end, which gives it a fizzy seltzer quality.

Overall, it's certainly pretty drinkable and refreshing. There are some pleasantly unusual notes to it, but overall it's not a groundbreaking beer. And for a beer in a pack that has had some absolute pearlers, this gets lost in the background noise.
appearance: 3.0 | aroma: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.75
The Whole Sheaf
Reviewed by Jez on 01.01.21 from a can
Overall:
75 / 100
(Excellent)
375ml can purchased as part of the Carwyn Cellars Canvent Calendar. It's a plain can, from one of the more interesting breweries in the country. This is a beer fermented on raw straw, on top of the wild fermentation characters you get from their house culture.

Pours a beautiful, slightly hazy pale gold. It looks crisp and bright, with a wonderful rocky white head that leaves excellent complex lace. Fine, bright vibrant carbonation. Really, it looks excellent—at the very least, it's everything you'd expect from a brewery that takes seriously everything they do.

Nose is wonderfully bright and aromatic. It has the classically bright notes of the Wildflower Gold, which they have absolutely refined and developed over several years. But it has a more rugged, more grainy and yes, more straw-like not to it, which makes it seem rustic and genuine. I've had some full straw beers in the past which have a genuine pong to them—manure and ergot—but this is nothing like that. It's got a more earthy, aromatic, and in some ways more genuine aroma to it. It's the kind of aroma that connects the general Wildflower funk to the character you get from the raw ingredients. That's special.

Taste matches this. It's certainly got an earthiness that brings in both the characters from the house culture, but the nakedness of the straw, but it's an otherwise beautifully crafted wild ale, with a restrained, coherent acidity from the barrel and the long maturation time. There's a slight horsey character on the finish, but it's nicely balanced with a crafted, almost aggressive bitterness, which is well judged.

Overall, I'm genuinely impressed. This is Wildflower bringing in some of the more aggressively wild elements, and absolutely knowing exactly how to tame them. No, that's not quite right—because these are not tame characters. These are characters which are brought into the fold in just the right way, without restricting their free expression. And yet we still get a coherent, drinkable beer. Well done.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Amburana Russian Imperial Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 01.01.21 from a can
Overall:
78 / 100
(Excellent)
375ml can, part of the 2019 Canvent Calendar from Carwyn Cellars. This was the final beer, under flap #24. I am drinking it a week later because I'm not 25 any more and I couldn't keep up.

Pours a dense black-brown colour, with a good sheen to it, but not the intense darkness you might expect. Head, for instance, is a fairly mild deep beige colour, that settles out to a loose ring, leaving very little lacing. Looks good, even so.

Nose is extremely enjoyable. It's got a deep darkness like aromatic coffee, but it's wonderfully leavened with notes of vanilla, sweet biscuits, dried ginger and oak. Actually, it appears Amburana is the wood used for aging this, so I guess it smells like Amburana. It's a lovely aroma though, and nicely coupled to a big sweet imperial stout.

Taste is also good, although a little flatter than the nose. It starts off with deep spicy booze, almost a little aniseed in character, but smooth milky coffee notes take over, trending towards caramel ginger and white pepper in the back. It does feel a little dead in the finish, almost with a cardboard oxidation character—almost certainly not oxidation, but a little flattening certainly. There's a candy-like note it there as well that evokes fairground fairy-floss or boiled swets. It's fascinating.

Feel is a little light for such a huge beer. It's slick for sure, and the woodiness that comes through towards the back gives a slight sharpness which isn't matched in the body.

Overall, though, this is an excellent beer, and one which I've enjoyed immensely. I particularly like the spicy wood notes, which are such a lovely match for the big dark boozy characters of the beer. If this is what to expect from Amburana wood, I look forward to seeing others take this to new and exciting places.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 4.25
Don't Stare
Reviewed by Jez on 01.01.21 from a can
Overall:
65 / 100
(Solid)
375ml can purchased from Lane Cellars in Orange. An India Saison brewed with HPA's new darling hop variety Eclipse.

Pours a mildly hazed, vibrant golden colour, with a frothy head of white that fizzles out but leaves streaks of lace. Carbonation is languid and fine, belying the alcohol volume, and making you realise it does have some heft behind it.

Nose is quite interesting. This is my first Eclipse beer, so I don't know quite what to attribute to the hops, and what to the saison yeast. But there's a bright, slightly citric aroma, melded with a pronounced savoury quality. There's certainly some phenolic notes from the yeast—a little clove, a little pepper, a little straw, but there's characters of pretzels, edamame, crushed grass, stewed orange and hot copper. It's an interesting mix—and mostly, these characters work together.

Taste is less coherent in some ways, and the saison takes over in an unfortunate turn, unbalancing the beer somewhat. It's earthy, slightly organic and sweeter than expected, especially with the added yeast sediment at the end. The hops are largely gone, as far as I can tell, unless Eclipse seamlessly meshes with a saison flavour profile. It could really use a light bitterness in the finish or something to turn it around. As it is it feels flat and a little flabby by the end of a sip.

I don't love it, but I don't hate it. It's perfectly drinkable, and probably a more adventurous thing to try with a new hop variety. I don't feel like I particularly got a handle on the hop, and it doesn't immediately feel like the hop is a natural match for this style of beer. But it's smooth, certainly aromatic, and goes down easily for its size.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.5
Holiday Road
Reviewed by Jez on 01.01.21 from a can
Overall:
74 / 100
(Very Good)
375ml can, part of Carwyn Cellar's 2019 Canvent Calendar, which I'm only just getting around to finishing up. 24 beers in 24 days is apparently too much for me.

Pours a pleasantly clear deep golden, almost bronze at the depths, with a frothy, loose-bubbled head that leaves long sudsy streaks. Carbonation is quite minimal, but you know it's there. Body is fairly slick, lighter than the 7%ABV might suggest, but that suits it. Looks good.

Nose is really very pleasant. It's sharper, more citric and punchier than I expect for a beer made (apparently) solely with Mosaic, but there's a softness to it as well, which give more vanilla notes than the broad tropical aromas I associate with the style. As it warms, some of those settle out though, with characters of pineapple, subtle mango and a slight woodiness coming through.

Taste is clean and bright: very well made, and perfectly crisp on the back. It has hop aromatics through the centre, giving the suggestion of sweetness without too much actual sweetness, but a robust, if not aggressive, bitterness on the finish. The back has slight characters of apricot and almond if you go looking for them. Very clean throughout, with a refreshing quality that makes you forget the 7% until the very end of the can when you realised two standard drinks have been consumed in a small amount of time.

Very drinkable, very enjoyable, and extremely well made. It's a testament to the good fruity things you can do without dry-hopping to within an inch of its life and leaving all the chalky hop residue in the can.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
IPL
Reviewed by Jez on 30.12.20 from a can
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
Ah, IPL, the forgotten style. The bastard stepchild forgotten in the new world. Come to Jez you poor, unhappy soul. I will give you your home. 440ml can purchased from Beer Cartel for Xmas for me by Sam.

Pours a pleasant light golden colour, with an initially pretty frothy head of rocky white that settles out leaving some coarse lace and a filmy residue on the top of the beer. I'll be honest, it doesn't look that dissimilar from a well-made if uninteresting lager you'd get at the local RSL. Looks okay though.

Nose is very pleasant. Surprisingly, it's much in the oldskool West Coast style—heavy on the citrus. Juicy orange is noticeable, with perhaps a more incisive green NZ hop character that lends a little more of an organic note as well. Mostly, it's sharp—the combination is good. It's citrus, predominantly, but nicely crispened with a brighter note of pine and herbal aromatics.

Taste is crisp, well-made, and a little bit pedestrian. There's a flat normality to the malt, which is slightly grainy but otherwise fairly inoffensive. It's the kind of underwhelming base that suits the beer, without being inspired. The hops, which should be the focus, are fine, but again pretty much par for the course. there's a semi-sweet citrus bite, a slight uptick in crispness towards the back, and enough bitterness to make you remember who's boss. But it does feel a bit like a box ticking exercise—there's little in the way of secondary aromatics or undertones to really make it shine.

Feel is crisp. Again, perfectly suitable without making me weep with joy.

Overall, I'm satisfied, but beers like this can and should excite me. This is as good as the bare minimum for the style (which is still good!), but Pirate Life are well-versed in what hops can do, and this feels below par for what it should have been.
appearance: 3.5 | aroma: 4.0 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | drinkability: 3.75
Blend 26 Coffee Porter (The Little Marionette Collaboration)
Reviewed by Jez on 30.12.20 from a can
Overall:
70 / 100
(Very Good)
440ml can purchased from Beer Cartel. A Xmas present from Sam.

Pours a pleasant ebony brown colour, with a filmy, but decent head of beige that leaves long soapy streaks of lace. Body is lighter than expected for the ABV, and the carbonation is correspondingly swift and surprisingly large-bubbled. It ends up swirling up quickly and dissipating.

Nose is excellent, however. There's such a wonderfully well-realised coffee aroma—like walking into a welcoming, fancy-but-not-too-fancy cafe and knowing that you're going to get good coffee, good food, and that the staff are not going to be dickheads. There's a smoothness to it too—milky sweet and leavened by the vanilla. But the coffee itself has to honestly take a lot of the credit—it's a lovely blend. Rich and deep with chocolate, earth, and sweetened with caramel and toffee. Props.

Taste is also good, but it doesn't quite manage to plumb the depths and complexities which the nose promised. It is lighter in the body—in particular towards the back, where it drops. The milky caramel sweetness the nose suggested doesn't materialise, and this makes it feel like it's not supporting the complexities that are probably there in the richness from the coffee beans. But there's a pleasant swoop of coffee from the front—robust, slightly bitter and with a hint of metal—to the back, which is smooth with chocolate and mild roast.

The feel is a weak point in an otherwise good beer. For an 8.1% ABV beer with coffee, you want more body and sweetness to support it, and this leaves too much on the table.

Overall, I like it. But part of me almost wishes it didn't smell so damn good. It's like it's setting itself up for disappointment. But I can't complain about what's the high point of the beer. And it is a high point.
appearance: 3.75 | aroma: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | drinkability: 3.75
Razza Matazz
Reviewed by Jez on 30.12.20 from a can
Overall:
71 / 100
(Very Good)
375ml can from the Carwyn Canvent Calendar 2020. To be honest, I'm pretty excited.

Pours a perfect, deep golden colour, with a frothy and persistent white head. The head looks particularly good for something clocking in at 9% ABV. I like the fine carbonation too, which forms champagne-like streams. Very refined. Body maybe has a bit more heft to it than your usual pils, but not so much that you'd take a lot of note of it, were it not for that "9" on the can.

Nose is really very sweet. It's got a richness to it, and a lot of vanilla from the oak. As it warms, it gets a slight buttery note from the Chardonnay. But it is balanced with a crisp, slightly metallic hop character, so while the sweetness is unexpected, it maintains a semblance of coherent pilsener-ness.

Taste is better, because it does manage to maintain a pleasantly crisp and light body. This helps undercut the sweetness, the barrel notes and the fattiness of the Chardonnay. Amusingly, one of the main aids in this quest is the booze, which combines with a crisp hop character at the back—both of which swell just as the body dips, meaning the back is more bitter and brighter than it would otherwise be. But a beer with that sweet Chardonnay butteriness that didn't get that finish just right would be cloying. This dodges that bullet.

Feel is fuller and fatter through the middle than a standard pilsener, but manages to crisp up on the finish nicely.

Overall, this ends up working, almost despite itself. The journey I went on with this beer perhaps goes a little like this: 1) Ooh, this sounds like a great idea, I'm going to love it. 2) Oh yeah, big oaky, Chardonnay buttery sweetness? That's actually a *bad* idea for a pilsener. 3) OK, despite this clearly being a bad idea, somehow it works. It's quite a ride.
appearance: 4.25 | aroma: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.0
Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout
Reviewed by Jez on 12.09.20 in bottle
Overall:
80 / 100
(Excellent)
500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. 2018 vintage, tried alongside the Vanilla version with Sam.

Pours a slick black-brown, glossy but quite light-bodied. Clarity is good in the corners with a slight reddish hue to it. Fine carbonation feeding a firm ring of pale cocoa-coloured head. Looks decent.

Nose is interesting. There's a Grand Marnier-esque Curacao orange note to it, but it's blended into a complex web of things. There's a strong nutty character that comes through, quite different from the vanilla version. It gives characters of blanched almond and pistachio, along with the base notes of vanilla and bourbon. It's very good.

Taste is less complex, and the orange lifts it in a way that seems to take it far away from the richness of the base. That being said, there's not a lot of actual orange flavour to it. It's lightened by the presence of the aromatics, but it's much less based around the dark notes of bourbon, oak and dark malt. Feel is also lighter, certainly less slick and full-bodied than either the original or the vanilla version.

It's a nice beer though. In fact there's a strong argument to be made that the orange lifts its drinkability. Again, it's a bold move to try to change the Bourbon County Stout base beer, and both of the versions I've had today haven't matched the original.
appearance: 4.0 | aroma: 4.5 | taste: 4.0 | feel: 4.0 | drinkability: 4.5