Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)

Total Score: 9.6/10 Coffee1Chocolate1Wood1Tulipglass1

I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this one: Founders KBS. I’m a touch apprehensive reviewing KBS, what with my FBS review still the most liked on BeerAdvocate, it’s like a beer reviewers version of a sophomore album, how do you follow that? By doing the best damn review ever! [no pressure] So here we have it, Founders mightiest of whales (only CBS comes close to the legend status of this brew). Must be reasonably fresh as well – it’s got a BB of 13.02.19 (I’m guessing Founders have a 2 year BB, so that would make the bottling date: 13 Feb 17). That been said age isn’t too much of a concern, apart from reports of coffee-flavour dropping off, this should be really tasty firecracker of a Stout.

Poured from a 355ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Blacker than Darth Vader’s knickers, which are a combination of obsidian and jet black, with a thin tan lace ring and minor head retention – it looks exactly like FBS, so formidable that it warrants a 10/10 too.

S: Unlike FBS this has quite the complex aroma: bourbon sweetness, of course, oak/woody/vanilla tones, dark chocolate, roasted coffee, (no doubt) unwarranted hints of spirit giving off an almost Japanese sweet potato shochu character (yeah, I thought that was weird too). Unsurprisingly KBS is making my olfactory senses it’s bitch, thanks KBS, yes I will do anything you tell me to do. 9/10.

T: “POW! Right in the kisser!” says KBS. This is a mighty, yet smooth as an R&B singer, American Imperial Stout, right up there with the best of the best, all hail KBS! [we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!] Flavour profile is: roasted coffee, dark chocolate, bourbon, oak/woody/vanilla, molasses, with a light coffee bitterness in the finish, and a kiss of bourbon burn at the back of the throat. This is simply awesome. Balance is sublime, even though the aroma hinted at ethanol, the flavour profile hides the 12.3% ABV exceedingly well. A real sipper of a brew here. 10/10.

M: Heavy-bodied, viscous to the max, as is the Founders way, with a smooth/creamy/luscious mouth-feel. “Oooo this beer is sexy!” [said in a James Brown voice]. Can’t beat Founders body. 10/10.

D: Near perfect Imperial Stout this is. One thing to be noticed though towards the end of the glass – my tongue actually went numb, which could have been a combination of the heavy ABV and it just plain shutting down due to flavour overload. Founders delivers gold with my new favourite Stout. 9/10.

Food match: The only food to match with KBS: KBS [in food form].


Newstead Brewing A Long Story Wheat Strong Ale

Total Score: 8.55/10 Bubblegum1Vanilla1Wood1Tulipglass1

Well the signs are good – I’ve heard rave reviews about Newstead Brewing A Long Story Wheat Strong Ale, and it sounds pretty special, might this be the best beer to come out of Newstead? It’s not got a great deal of competition with a previous limited release brew: The Outpost American Stout being the best, in my (humble) opinion, with a score of 8/10. It’s not a crazy score to beat, my reviews have a bit of an interesting bell-curve due to me (mostly) reviewing beers I know that I’ll like, with the occasional crappy macro Lager for comparision… and sometimes even those Lagers surprise me by turning out A-OK. Point is I’m genuinely excited by this prospect of a barrel-aged gem in a can.

Poured from a 375ml can into a Duvel tulip.

A: Nice colour, a deep slightly hazy plum/mahogany body with a rather active beige head that has a few big soap-bubbles and slowly settles to a thin blanket. If it tastes as good as it looks we’ll be in for a treat. 8/10.

S: Nose is quite reminiscent of Founders Old Cumudgeon with a big molasses hit, some light bourbon sugar and vanilla notes, a nice big slice of wheat character with bubble-gum notes, it’s a big sweet beer no doubt about it. It’s amazing considering this beer is 100% wheat malt that the wheat character doesn’t dominate the aroma completely. Overall though it’s got a decent, sweet chunky aroma. 9/10.

T: Not quite the “Pow! Right in the kisser!” beer, but nonetheless there’s plenty going on in this beer: Bubble-gum upfront mixes with vanilla, dark fruits, hints of molasses, a slight woody tone rounds it out. It’s sweet but not OTT, the sugar content is balanced out by a woody finish and a touch of medicinal herbs, TBH if you handed me this beer and told me it was a Belgian Trappist Quadrupel, I wouldn’t ask any questions. 9/10.

M: Mouth-feel is intriguing – it’s got a lighter than expected body, mid to light, with an ultra creamy carbonation – this is quite the dichotomous brew here. 7/10.

D: This is definitely Newstead’s best beer by a stretch – they broke the lauter tun due to the 100% wheat malt bill, I say it was worth it – this is a total cracker of a brew (slightly odd mouth-feel aside), kudos to the Newstead guys (and girls) for breaking their lauter tun! Here’s hoping they re-release this tasty drop again, and again, and again, and again, but not again – that would be one time too many. Cheers Newstead! You made it: a great beer! 8/10.

Food match: After dinners cigars… does anyone even do that in 2018?


Deschutes The Abyss (2017 Reserve)

Total Score: 9.45/10 DarkFruits1Coffee1Wood1Tulipglass1

Happy birthday to me! Not only is it my birthday, but I’ve also got a beer I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since I joined BeerAdvocate and began my craft journey all the way back on Jan 13th 2011: Deschutes The Abyss. Even saying the name of this beer out loud fills me with a sense of awe (and trepidation at the 11.4% ABV within) this brew is going to be BIG in so many ways, with headline ingredients such as: black strap molasses, licorice, cherry bark, vanilla bean, and 50% aged in bourbon, wine, and new Oregon oak barrels – PHWOAR! Let me repeat myself for emphasis: PHWOAR! The only [first-world] problem I’m facing is the prospect of finishing off a 650ml bottle by myself… yes, it’s not a terrible situation to be in.

Poured from a 650ml US Bomber sized wax-sealed bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Inky black like the expansive vacuum of space, with a deep tan head that hangs around for as long as I’ve seen in any Stout north of 11% before fizzling out leaving a patchwork of bubble and lace. Peering down into the glass is like looking at a mini universe – epic in many ways this beer. 9/10.

S: Red wine really comes through in the first whiff, then licorice, molasses, dark fruits (plum and prune), oaky vanilla/woody tones, espresso coffee, and finally a sweet lick of bourbon. Incredibly complex aroma that shifts as it gets warmer – it’s hard not to like it, there’s something in this that every Stout drinker will like, and the name is fitting – it really is like peering into the abyss. 9/10.

T: Yep, Deschutes nailed it. Flavour incorporates all of the above: red wine (Shiraz I think), licorice, molasses, dark fruits, oaky vanilla/woody tones, espresso coffee, and a touch of bourbon. Then it throws in a bit more: burnt sugar, light bitter herbal notes, red coffee cherries, touch of smoke and a hint of cinnamon. Possibly one of the busiest Imp Stouts I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Balances a tad on the sweeter side, though more herbal bitterness comes through in the aftertaste with a delayed reaction. Brutal and inspiring this brew is. 10/10.

M: Heavy bodied and viscous, it’s about a Barry White on the Founders Scale IMO. Carbonation is dying star dense and lush almost to a fault. 9/10.

D: As I imagined all these years? Yes, this beer terrifies in name and in taste – it’s every bit the behemoth I dreamt it would be, and Deschutes does not disappoint. As far as the bottle goes – I am going to struggle on my own, this is too big a brew for one man, but I’ll go down fighting the good fight ;). 9/10.

Food match: Replace the after dinner port with this beer, and cigars: yes.


Rodenbach Vintage 2014 Foeder No. 192

Total Score: 8.95/10 RedWine1Cherry1Wood1Tulipglass1

Already back into the Rodenbach with yet another tantalising brew: Vintage 2014 Foeder No. 192. Yes, I’m a huge fan of their Grand Cru, that said whilst I did enjoy the beer I reviewed for #1,000 (Caractère Rouge) the tartness of that beer did end up leaving my jaw a bit sore afterwards. Now I’m not too sure what happens to sour beers when you age them, but I’m hoping/suspecting that the sourness drops a little and gives way to that overall grape character I found in Grand Cru. If this is the case I will be both elated and disappointed – elated for obvious reasons – disappointed because this is probably the last bottle I will ever see of this vintage (this was the last bottle at my local). Well, as they say in Belgium: Santé! (or Proost!).

Poured from a 750ml corked and caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Hmmm, more bruin than rogue, not unlike the Grand Cru, with a hazed brown body and a thin beige head that drops back to a nice lace ring – looks tops, though (like Grand Cru) I would probably classify this as an Oud Bruin instead. 8/10.

S: Yep there’s no mistaking the base beer of this being Grand Cru with an aroma of: pungent, funky grape must, grape Hubba Bubba™, musty yeast, acidic vinegar and sour cherry. It’s almost a carbon copy of the Grand Cru I had recently, except maybe a bit more vinegar acidity and a touch of woody character. 9/10.

T: Once again Rodenbach gets my “acid reflux trigger warning” award for being brazenly acidic – luckily this time I have some Gaviscon handy! Wow, what a crazy Hubba Bubba™ nightmare [in a good way]! Flavour profile is front and centre with an almost balsamic vinegar intensity, grape must, grape Hubba Bubba™, hint of sour cherry, musty yeast and that slight woody note. Finish is sour, though not quite as intense as Caractère Rouge, with a slight drying character. It’s sweet but not OTT, balance (apart from the obvious acid bulldozing) is great. 9/10.

M: Mouthfeel is again a weak point with Rodenbach (if it can even be considered a weakness here): Mid to light, slightly denser than Grand Cru, with a borderline aggressive carbonation. 7/10.

D: So evenly matched with Grand Cru that the scores turned out the same – this is the slightly bigger, more acidic and woody version of Grand Cru. The only big difference is the size of the bottle and the fact that it’s limited release (hence rarer). Not sure if I’m missing something but I don’t see the nuance that makes this any better than Grand Cru though (which is already exceptional). 10/10.

Food match: You’re gonna need a big cheese platter for this bad boy.


Rogue Dead ‘N’ Dead

Total Score: 8.15/10 Honeycomb1Bread1Wood1Tulipglass1

I don’t know if I love Rogue Ales, but dammit I respect them! Their beers have ranged from the tasty (Chocolate Stout and Dead Guy Ale), to the bizarre (Voodoo Doughnut anything), to the outright stupid (Beard Beer – which of course was going to taste like a Saison because: wild yeast – duh!). Dead Guy Ale is my 3rd favourite Rogue Beer, and to date the only Maibock I’ve reviewed [even though I’ve been to Germany twice… I think I need to go again, in the interests of beer]. When I saw Dead ‘N’ Dead at my local I wondered “how can this be good? A whiskey barrel-aged Dead Guy Ale – why mess with something already quite tasty?”. Of course I bought it, curious cat that I am.

Poured from a 650ml US bomber sized bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Tequila sunrise coloured cloudy body with a nice firm 1 centimetre beige coloured head that leaves some crazy lattice-work lace on the side of the glass. Well, sir, I must say this looks… mighty appealing, one could say it’s ‘mightpealing’. 9/10. [oh yeah, BJCP says a Maibock should be clearer, lighter coloured, with a whiter head… sorry Rogue – I docked Dead Guy for this too] 7/10.

S: Aroma is a bit of a tapestry strewn with caramel malt, dark fruit (mostly fig, hint of date), woody & vanilla tones (thanks oak!), bready centre, and intriguingly: almond. Yep, an odd hint of almond. Hopefully no one is trying to assassinate someone else with cyanide and I happened to purchase the very bottle that was the poisoned chalice. I don’t think that’s a realistic scenario… still almonds aren’t a common aroma in beer [hmmm, indeed Watson…] smells like a tasty death regardless. 8/10.

T: Huh. Tastes almost identical to Dead Guy Ale [strange that]. Flavour comes across more bready, honeyed sweet, caramel and butterscotch (just like Dead Guy) with a richer/more velvety mouthfeel [that’s next Doc!]. Hints of wood, vanilla and a slight burnt caramel note are the only flavours that set it apart from Dead Guy. More of an evolution than a revolution then. Finish is drying. Still tasty. 8/10.

M: Mid, almost heavy-but-not-quite bodied with a thin but velvety and dense carbonation… mmmm, Dead ‘N’ Dead. 8/10.

D: It’s going to be close, real close… I love DGA, but D’N’D [there’s a D&D reference in there somewhere] is also good. Too many good things to drink, too little time to taste everything. Still DGA is a tad cheaper… so close… 9/10.

Food match: Gotta go German – Schweinebraten mit Knödeln again methinks.


Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 Sherry Cask

Total Score: 6.8/10 Smoke1Bacon1Wood1Tulipglass1

I’ve been a fan of Harviestoun since 2001 when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland and worked in a bar that sold Old Engine Oil on those awesome bicep-building pull taps (I could have sworn that beer used to be 9% ABV). Fast forward to 2018 and sitting in front of me is a lot of memories packaged neatly in a 330ml bottle. This is Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12 Sherry Cask. A Black Ale aged in Highland Park sherry casks. The bottle no. is 25937, and the date on it is April 2015, so it’s had over 3 years in the bottle (including 6 months in the cask). I’m also a big fan of Highland Park whiskey too – though I’m a bit wary about the aging in sherry casks: Highland Park is already soft and sweet enough, hopefully the aging in the bottle will have mellowed out my preconceived sweetness somewhat.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Not quite black, more like a “she sips a Coca Cola, she can’t tell the difference yet” coloured body, with thin tan soap bubbles where a head would normally reside [at least this one is carbed bro!]. Looks alright though, a classic 7/10.

S: Woah. More smoky bacon hickory goodness than an American BBQ Association get together. Actually just Googled if such a thing does exist – American BBQ Association – and thank the internet it does. Really hard to get past those smoky, charry, bacon and hickory notes – at this stage I’m predicting the little info-gram pics above to be: Smoke, Bacon, Wood. Pretty singular stuff. 7/10.

T: Flavour takes the above: smoky, charry, bacon and hickory – and then it dumps peat all over it… and I mean ALL OVER IT. Profile is peat from start to finish, he’s a nice guy but jeez Peat get over yourself! Look if I had to guess I would say the original, non-peated, version of this has a delightful dark fruit and brown sugar character and finishes sweet with a slight medicinal herb bitterness [which is my go-to description of many a Dark Ale]. However there’s very little room for anything else in this peat bog of a brew. Smoky = this. 7/10.

M: Mouthfeel is also a bit of a letdown coming from Harviestoun [who I know can produce great textured beers] with a mid to light, thin bodied and thin carbed feel. You can do better Harviestoun! 5/10.

D: With a BB date of 11/18 maybe I’m cutting it fine? All I know is this is one smoky brew, and peaty AF, plus it’s one-dimensional. It’s hard to have any dimension when peat is involved, which is why I respect + love Ardbeg so much. 7/10.

Food match: Sipping this with cigars, maybe throw in some dark chocolate too.


Van Dieman Hedgerow 2016 Barrel Aged Sour

Total Score: 6.3/10 Wood1RedWine1Earth1Tulipglass1

Next in my sights from Van Dieman is their Hedgerow 2016 Barrel Aged Sour. The label speaks for itself: “Brewed with sloe berries, hawthorn berries and rose hips from hedgerows on the brewery farm, then aged for 1 year in French oak barrels, and blended with 2 & 3 year versions”. Yep, pretty much an instabuy with those ingredients and barrel-ageing, I do enjoy sloe berries in gin, so I suspect this will be a dry and moreish brew. Thus far the beers that I’ve had from Van Dieman have been pretty decent, both have rated around the 8.5/10 mark for me (which is what I would consider to be excellent, 7/10 is good, and 9/10 is world class – I’m still yet to give anything a 10/10, who knows – maybe something amazing is still yet to come).

Poured from a 375ml corked & caged bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Man that cork was a tough bastard to get out! Not the best first impressions in the glass either – seems almost inert with carbonation. Body is a deep dark amber/brown, with no head. None. Right from the start it’s not looking good. 4/10.

S: Luckily it gets better from there! Aroma is right up there with Rodenbach Classic, full red wine, grapey character from start to finish, tart sloe/hawthorn and forest berries also adding a distinct forest floor earthy/woody character. This is an aroma that evokes the best of American Wild Ales, with a Flanders Red Ale spin. 8/10.

T: Mouthfeel is the biggest shocker (see below). The flavour is alright, sloe/hawthorn comes through with a tannic dryness, earthy, woody and hints of grape character. Finish is dry and a touch tart. Missing a bit of flavour profile complexity, there’s little sweetness, and no bitterness, just that sour hint. I’m beginning to suspect that this is corked actually – I’ve had this same thing happen with wines where the cork is totally dry and the flavours have oxidised. 6/10.

M: Yep, completely inert on the carbonation – this is as flat as a tack and missing out on coming across as a beer at all (it’s more like a berry liquor in that regard). Body is mid to light, yeah it’s no good here. 4/10.

D: What a mixed bag – look and mouthfeel were a complete disappointment, however aroma and flavour were excellent and alright respectively. I’m definitely thinking that I had a corked bottle, which is a shame because apart from the problems I’ve listed there’s an interesting brew in there somewhere – one that would reward a bit of aging. Plus this now puts a blip in my ratings for Van Dieman, they were riding high before now. 7/10.

Food match: Cuisine that goes with red wine, gourmet pizza is my pick.