Ægir Bryggeri Tors Hammer

Total Score: 7.3/10 Caramel1DarkFruits1Coriander1Tulipglass1

Time to take on the mighty Mjölnir, aka Thor’s Hammer, the mythical weapon of mass weather destruction (or creation, depending on your viewpoint – or what you’re standing under during a typhoon). This Tors Hammer comes from Ægir Bryggeri – those guys from that fjord who I’ve been reviewing brews of this last week. At 13.2% ABV this is easily the biggest beer I’ve had all year (sorry about the January jokes… come back in Feb if they bother you that much). Actually the last time I had a beer stronger than this was back in 2014 (Moon Dog’s Jumping The Shark) it really has been more than a year, so 😛

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Presents a thick murky sepia body, yeast clumps evident, with a thin beige head that quickly subsides to a lace ring and naught much else. Pretty normal to have a non-existent head at 13.2% ABV, so no disappointment there. The yeast clumps however… 7/10.

S: Quite dark fruit driven with stewed plum, date and raisin, along with toffee and a hint of brandy. Expecting enough sugar for me to speed dial my dentist and ambulate myself to the nearest ER for immediate insulin injections – here’s hoping Ægir Bryggeri can balance it out somehow. 7/10.

T: Super sweet toffee hits upfront (I actually felt my dental fillings quake in fear) with the above noted dark fruits throughout and a sharp brandy-flavoured booze hit towards the finish. Aftertaste evokes some bold bitter herbal notes. So it is fairly well balanced, bit on the sweeter side but you expect that with a Barleywine, however that booziness is a touch on the aggressive side… I mean I’m looking to get drunk here, not so trashed that I bet away my house and car then wake up with swear words shaved into my head… that’s more a Friday night deal for me. 7/10.

M: Pretty dense bodied and oily… carbonation is near flat, as much you would expect given the style/ABV. 8/10.

D: So it’s a big fat drunken malt-fest of a brew, but it’s hard to fault it for that is what Barleywines generally are – they’re the John Belushi of beer styles: Loud, brash and rambunctious at the best of times, and smacked out at the worst. Overall, and apart from a bit of booziness, Tors Hammer fits the Barleywine profile well. All it really needs is finesse… and a free Berocca with every purchase. Note to self: Don’t forget to drink that pint of water before bed. 8/10.

Food match: I’m thinking Viking food – giant slabs of meat would help right now.

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Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew

Total Score: 7.6/10 Smoke1Wood1Coriander1Tulipglass1

This will, appropriately/sadly, be my last beer review for a while – reviewing beers seems to have added a solid inch or two to my waistline over the last five years and I plan to work hard to get those inches back. In the meantime I will still be posting old reviews on this blog regardless. So Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew is a heavy hitter 11% ABV smoked Barleywine from the venerable Norwegian brewer, it is fitting that I go out with a bang, and here it is.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Dark chocolate brown body with a firm packed half centimetre tan head. Appears as formidable as any big beer. The head soon reduces to a lace ring as high ABV brews usually do, still tasty I say. 8/10.

S: I like my smoked beers as geräuchert (German for ‘smoked’) as they can get and this Sunturnbrew throws down a real peaty gauntlet, bravo! Behind the veil of spruce campfire smoke is a thin veneer of sweet toffee malts and dark fruits (plum mostly). There may also be a hint of pepper spice in the background from the rye, it’s hard to tell with this much smoke… mmm, rauchy. 8/10.

T: Quite syrupy, but we’ll get to that in a second, flavour is quite peaty and spruce-like with some mid-palate toffee/plum sweetness and a bitter herb liqueur finish: More Pelinkovac – a Croatian/Serbian bitter herb liqueur – than Jägermeister (which is much sweeter). Aftertaste is lingering smoke and slight herbal bitterness. The flavour is bold and uncompromising, as expected. 8/10.

M: Now to the body which is a heavy very sticky and viscous sensation… possibly the most gooey brew I’ve imbibed, which you would think is a good thing but it really detracts on the palate IMO. There is too sticky and this beer is it. Apart from that a light/almost flat carbonation rounds it out. 6/10.

D: I love single malt Islay whiskies (Ardbeg being my perennial favourite) so theoretically I should love Sunturnbrew, but it’s too much viscosity and a tad too much bitterness towards the finish that distracts the scotch drinker in me and reminds me this is in fact a beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that [not at all!] however I really wanted to get a better balance from this brew (without needing a good tongue scraping afterwards). 7/10.

Food match: Smoked meats obviously. Salmon, herring or venison if you want to go the whole Norwegian hog… hog would work as well.

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Moon Dog Bad Boy Bubbly

Total score: 7.5/10 WhiteWine1 Passionfruit1 Kiwi1 Tulipglass1

Moon Dog, who never cease to amaze with terrible pun names and crazy beer ideas, have concocted this beer that they deem as a “Barley Champagne” due to the addition of Champagne yeast to a Barleywine. Anyway throw in a reference to Rolf de Heer’s twisted film and I’m in the least intrigued (even if I found the film in question to be a bit too disturbing for my tastes).

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pale clear straw gold colour with a non-existent briefly white head and minimal carbonation action going on. Possibly one of the most interesting coloured beers I’ve ever seen with a gold that would make Goldfinger (the villain of the eponymous Bond film) lustful. it’s a 9/10 for being so damn golden.

S: Vinous aroma with a Brut/Sauv Blanc slant containing: Gooseberry, passion fruit, lychee and apricot. The aroma is spot on as advertised and quite enticing to the occasional white wine drinker in me (had some Retsina last night actually). 9/10.

T: Before the first sip you’re expecting dry Brut Champagne flavours then the taste mugs you with a massive Botrytis uppercut – then the back of the throat gets a left hook of that 13.1% ABV that you were expecting. The above characters of that gooseberry/passion fruit/lychee/apricot never really manage to overcome the heady sugar/alcohol hit within this drop – a slight shame but it’s still quite an interesting brew regardless and you can get a sense of Champagne in the aftertaste. 7/10.

M: A viscous wine-like body with some light but razor sharp carbonation bodes well for this Barleywine (with a capital ‘W’ in wine). 7/10.

D: It’s hard to get past how interesting, and how extreme, this brew is, and you really don’t expect anything less than insane from Moon Dog, however this beer is even more niche than your usual Moon Dog (and that is saying a lot!) so be wary of this if you should happen to try Bad Boy Bubbly. Personally I liked this as an example of how wine-like a Barley“wine” can get and even though it was a quick to slap me down like Champagne seems to do to me (must be the yeast?) I would give it another go if I see it again. 7/10.

Food match: Hard shelled sea food – crab, lobster, oyster, mussels – would work best with this wine-imitator.

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BrewDog Shipwrecker Circus

Total Score: 7.8/10 Earth1 BrownSugar1 Wood1 Tulipglass1

I told you the beers leading up to #500 were going to be BIG beers, and it doesn’t get any bigger than BrewDog, brewer of the BIGGEST beer of all time sold in a taxidermied stoat or squirrel*: The End of History. Weighing in at a brain-crushingly, for beer at least, 55% ABV – I would love to have gotten my hands on a sample of this, however as there were only 12 bottles made and sold at brain-crushingly prices I will never get to try that beer… but I have their 10.5% ABV Shipwrecker Circus… Yay!

Poured from 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Mahogany brown, like my bookcase with its mahogany bound books and trinkets of mahogany, with a thin beige lace ring where there was once head. 6/10.

S: The nose is a cacophony of sharp pine resin and bitter orange hops with a burnt sugar and treacle base from the malts. Style-wise this is an American Barleywine for all intents and purposes – I mean the hops alone scream “American!”. Another whiff reveals a hint of sweet dark plum. 8/10.

T: Flavour profile flattens out quite a bit, not nearly as hoppy as expected, but it comes through with a viscous roasted malt taste back to front. A lot easier to drink than expected. The profile has characters of dark treacle, a woody note, roasted coffee and mild pine hops accentuating a slight bitter finish. This combination lends it a very earthy and woody appeal that was not anticipated in the aroma. 8/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied, fairly viscous with hop oils dancing around the glass on first pour, the carbonation is understandably flat. 7/10.

D: This one turned into a real sipper with the charm of a good single-malt scotch… damn I love beer, and I love scotch too, which is how Shipwrecker Circus won me with its wiles. That said – if you’re strictly a beer person, and the idea of drinking a fine single-malt is akin to slicing your own leg off with a hacksaw to get out of a film analogy, then you probably won’t want to try Shipwrecker Circus, if however woody/smoky/earthy characters intrigue you and you want more of those things – Shipwrecker Circus is your beer. 8/10.

Food match: Would have to be something opulent: like black truffle squid with golden caviar and rose hip.

*I understand the extreme specificity of this criteria.

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HopDog Super Beast (2014 release)

Total Score: 9/10 PapayaMango1 HopFlower1 Malt1 Tulipglass1

Staring at the bottle of 200 IBU, 10% ABV 2014 Super Beast sitting on my study desk in front of me I can’t help but grin stupidly at the awesome amber liquor that awaits, not just because HopDog are my new favourite brewery but because I’ve also become enamoured recently with Barleywines and all that they represent (that sticky gooey malt/hop alcoholic fuelled goodness) aww yeah!

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel Tulip.

A: A deep murky brown with a light cream lace ring awaits any intrepid explorer willing to taste and plumb the depths of the barley seas. 7/10.

S: A fantastic condensation of tropical papaya, mango, jackfruit hops mingled with pure treacle, pine needles and toasted malt base. This is one bold Barleywine grabbing my nostrils and tossing me around the room like I’m a paper cup! 9/10.

T: The hops are rather more restrained than expected, though they are still there with their tropical/pine notes. It is the malt base that comes to the fore with an ample, but carefully measured, sugar hit – toasted malt, biscuits and golden syrup. There is a remarkable balance between hop bitterness and malt sweetness at play that really shows HopDog at the top of their game. 9/10.

M: The whole mouthfeel takes on an oily, syrupy tactility with a nice heavy carbonation and a flat carbonation. I shall name it: Beer syrup! 8/10.

D: What an intoxicating well thought out Barleywine we have here – the flavours are sublime and although at times it feels like a beer with a higher ABV (if I blind tasted I would guess this is a 13-15% brew) it nonetheless tastes like a damn good Aussie Barleywine (with those tropical Aussie hop notes – American ones tend towards pine/grapefruit hop notes). Well I’m out of superlatives for HopDog, next up is their Pale Ale, I’m almost hoping that it’s average because I need to sense some mediocrity from every brewer (no one’s perfect, right?). 10/10.

Food match: It’s really hard to match a beer this bold and full-bodied, I would say the classic cheese platter or a curry would be the best bet. Also a brew like this is good for an after meal sip on its own.

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