S & M Brewing Heilige Nacht

Belgian Strong Ale, 12% ABV, 31.8 IBU.

DISCLAIMER: I opened this bottle by mistake. The brewers instructed me not to taste this beer before 2020, but I completely forgot about that. In other words, the beer that I tasted was not the final product! Please keep that in mind when reading this rating.

Heilige Nacht. Yet another reason not to be religious.

It’s quite much darker than De Dolle Stille Nacht, right?

I know for a fact that at least half of S & M brewing is a huge fan of De Dolle Stille Nacht, so a tribute to this ale was to be expected.

In the glass it has a cloudy, deep amber colour, with a frothy, beige, short-lived head that leaves virtually no lacing on my glass.

The aroma is strong and far too dominated by stinging and rough alcohol. Fair enough, this is a big beer, but even a 12% ABV brew shouldn’t smell this boozy. I also get a generic fruitiness and somewhat unclean yeasty notes. In the back I find caramel, honey, dark dried fruits and spices.

In the mouth the alcohol really kicks in! I’ve never had a beer remotely close to being this absurdly alcoholic and insanely stinging and sharp! Fortunately there are other elements here as well, behind the wall of alcohol, and if not exactly saving this brew they prevent it from being a total disaster: dark dried fruits, caramel, sugar and honey. Actually lots of honey, in such a degree that this creation tastes more like a braggot than some braggots I’ve had.

The mouthfeel isn’t too bad (ignoring that it’s close to undrinkable due to the stinging alcohol): full body, oily texture and soft carbonation.

Naturally I didn’t manage to finish the bottle, I had to have a more gentle drink. So I poured me a Laphroaig instead. And I swear to Dog, even after a few sips of this peaty single malt, the Heilage Nacht still felt violent and boozy in comparison!

Conclusion: “A beer suitable for Christmas or for long-term aging”. I’ll go for the latter. Maybe it’s possible to drink in a decade or two.

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      4/10
Palate:     2/5
Overall:    7/20
Ratebeer score: 2.2/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Eirik 50 år

A birthday brew! Eirik 50 år, ClubGonzo batch 72.

Brown Ale, 6.9% ABV, 35.6 IBU.

Birthday brew and birthday flowers.

It pours a deep brown body with a average-sized beige head that ends up as a fully covering film. Some of the foam is stuck on my glass.

The aroma is rather strong and has some of the dirty yeasty notes that I often find in brown ales, so I guess it’s true to the style. I also get roasted malt, coffee, and sweet, overripe dark fruits. Quite strong flavour of roasted malt, coffee and a touch of yeast, with pine in the back. The taste is light to moderate sweet and moderate to light bitter. Medium body, dry texture and moderate carbonation. A close to decent brown ale with a tad more bitterness and hoppy elements than you average UK brown ale.

Conclusion: What? You find this rating a bit boring? Well, that’s what you get for brewing a slightly boring beer.

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     3/5
Overall:    11/20
Ratebeer score: 2.9/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Old Lovage

Barley Wine, 11% ABV, 50 IBU.

ClubGonzo’s Old Lovage, batch 42.

Looks good right after the beer has been poured, but the head is too short-lived.

I tend to prefer hoppy American interpretations of beer styles over dull British ones. When it comes to barley wines though, I’ve had several inspired by the Old World traditions that I’ve enjoyed very much, so let’s see if Old Lovage fits in that category.

It pours a hazy, very deep brown body with a small, beige head that doesn’t leave much lacing, and that soon reduces to a fully covering film.

The aroma is malty, sweet, sugary and strong, with truckloads of dark caramel. Also dark dried fruits and honey, and in the back I find chocolate and some very overripe generic fruity notes.

Strong flavour of sweet caramel, roasted malt, dark dried fruits and somewhat stinging alcohol. Further behind there is bitter chocolate and liquorice. The taste is heavy sweet and the long-lasting finish is moderate bitter.

The texture is smooth and pleasant, it’s a full-bodied brew with a soft carbonation.

Conclusion: pure malty goodness, with minimal hop influence. Just like a British barley wine is supposed to be.

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      7/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    14/20
Ratebeer score: 3.5/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Ginger Binger

Mead, 10.6%.

Ginger Binger, mead batch 37.

Ginger Binger in the glass.

If you think that meads tend to be too sugary sweet you might like a mead with an added layer of crispness,  so what about a mead with ginger, “and lots of it”?

The Ginger Binger pours a rather pale golden and crystal clear body. The aroma is strong and it is a fun mix of sweet honey notes and very obvious dry ginger.

The flavour is also strong, and again I don’t pick up much more than honey and ginger. The honey profile is quite simple, probably to highlight the ginger, but the result is maybe a bit too safe and uncomplicated. I had hoped for even more crispness to balance the heavy sweetness, and I certainly could have tolerated much more ginger. There is actually more heat and a throat drying sensation than an intense flavour of ginger. Maybe a double dose of ginger and a slice of lemon would have given me what I had hoped for from this brew?

Conclusion: a nice and straight forward mead with a nice warmth from the ginger, but maybe not terribly exciting. 

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    12/20
Ratebeer score: 3.2/5.0

S & M Brewing Teenage Computer Barley Wine

Barley Wine, 11.5% ABV, 45.6 IBU.

S & M Brewing Teenage Computer Barley Wine, batch 3. Photographed inside a Mac Pro cabinet.

S & M Brewing Teenage Computer Barley Wine, batch 3. Photographed inside a Mac Pro cabinet.

Batch 3 from S & M Brewing is a potent barley wine. It pours a cloudy, deep brown to copper body, with a creamy, dense, beige and long-lived head that ends up as a thin layer.

Strong aroma of caramel, lightly roasted malt, dark dried fruits and stinging alcohol. In the back I get overripe generic fruity notes, chocolate and honey.

The strong flavour is very much on the caramel malty side, there is very little hops in the flavour, but it has a good bitter bite in the long finish. Also orange and liquorice. I’m not sure if it has enough hoppy flavours to be called an American barley wine? It’s also very alcoholic, it’s stinging and boozy, but there are no solvent or unclean notes.

It has a fantastic mouthfeel (ignoring the booze), with a full body, oily texture and soft carbonation.

Conclusion: too boozy, too little hops but a nice caramel maltiness. It kept growing on me, so I finished the bottle with pleasure. 

 

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    12/20
Ratebeer score: 3.2/5.0
Trying to copy the picture on the label...

Trying to copy the picture on the label…

ClubGonzo’s Saintly Sins

Saintly Sins, batch 61.

Saintly Sins, batch 61.

Abt/Quadrupel, 10.2% ABV, 25.6 IBU.

I was quite impressed with ClubGonzo’s first Quadrupel, and this take on the brewer’s favourite beer style recently won the quadruple class in Vestkast’s beer competition, so I’m probably in for a treat!

Saintly Sins pours a deep brown body with an average sized, beige, long-lived head that sticks to my Rochefort chalice.

The aroma is strong with lots of dark caramel and dark dried fruits. In the back I get yeasty spiciness and banana. I also pick up a gently funkiness, the kind that may arise from oak barrel ageing. I even detect hints of red wine barrel storage! Too bad that the beer haven’t been close to a barrel… Could it be the first stages of a light infection?

Looks like a quad, right?

Looks like a quad, right?

Anyway, the red wine oak barrel funk is present in the rather strong aroma as well, but it’s in the background, along with spices. The most dominant elements are brown sugar, sweet caramel, dark caramel, dark dried fruits, Belgian yeast and nuts. Unfortunately there is also plenty of not-that-well integrated and rather stinging alcohol. It’s relatively clean, no solvent or fusel this time, it’s just quite overwhelmingly boozy. The taste is moderate to heavy sweet and light bitter.

Ignoring the stinging alcohol, the mouthfeel is rather pleasant – the beer is full-bodied and has a pleasant soft carbonation.

Conclusion: a sugary sweet and too alcoholic brew, but far from bad. But not a winner. What does Vestkast’s beer judge lead Gahr Smith-Gahrsen know about beer anyway?

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     3/5
Overall:    12/20
Ratebeer score: 3.2/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Hoppenmead

Mead, 13.9%.

A mead with hops. Well, why not?

Hoppenmead, mead batch no. 39.

Hoppenmead, mead batch no. 39.

img_0722

A mead with haze.

In the glass it looks medium amber and slightly hazy. I’m so used to crystal clear meads by now, so the haze looks a bit off.

The aroma is strong, and there is something lurking in the back there in addition to the sweet honey, but hops are not the first thing that enters my mind. Maybe wet leaves, hay, caramel and dark overripe fruits? Either way, it’s a rather interesting aroma.

I can’t find any hops in the strong flavour either, the honey is the dominating element. The taste is rather sweet, but it dries up somewhat in the finish. Is there also hints of bitterness? The alcohol is also noticeable, but it’s clean.

Conclusion: an ok mead. The hops make it rather special, but not very hoppy.

Aroma:      6/10
Appearance: 3/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    12/20
Ratebeer score: 3.1/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Hipster-ish IPA

India Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV, 42 IBU.

ClubGonzo's Hipster-ish IPA, batch 78.

ClubGonzo’s Hipster-ish IPA, batch 78.

Ordinary IPAs are just so 2014, white IPAs are a thing of the past and Black IPAs are passé. Welcome to the next big thing for the hopheads: New England IPA!

Looks like an IPA.

Looks like an IPA.

In the glass it has a cloudy amber body, maybe a bit too dark and too little orange juice-like to be a school book example of a NEIPA? Ah, now I see, NEIPAs are yesterday’s news as well, this must be an ANEIPA (which of course is Amber New England India Pale Ale). Or, as it would have been called a year ago, a Pale Ale.

The head is large, creamy and off-white.

The aroma is very strong, and of course very hoppy. I get lots and lots of sweet tropical fruity notes, including peach and mango. There is also a spicy touch, some gooseberries and caramel.

Strong flavour of tropical fruits, grapefruit, citrus peel and spices, with some caramel in the back, and hints of a bit too pronounced and stinging alcohol (without me drawing the “solvent” card once again). The taste is light sweet and the very dry finish is moderate bitter. The mouthfeel is on one hand very pleasant – the body is close to full and the texture is smooth and almost creamy. On the other hand the astringency of the citrus peel and the peppery dryness of the spices makes the aftertaste a bit demanding.

Conclusion: ANEIPAs might be a bit to hipster-ish for me, I prefer a regular IPA with more bitterness and less spiciness and astringency. Or maybe a more juicy NEIPA.

Aroma:      7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      6/10
Palate:     3/5
Overall:    11/20
Ratebeer score: 3.1/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Apple Harvest

Mead/Cyser, 11% ABV

Did you know that a mix of cider and mead is called “cyser”? No? Me neither. It sounds like a Pokémon, if you ask me.

Apple Harvest, mead batch 35.

Apple Harvest, mead batch 35.

In the glass it has a light amber to orange colour, the liquid is clear and does not look carbonated.

Looks pretty much like a mead. A good-looking mead.

Looks pretty much like a mead. A good-looking mead.

Initially the strong aroma is very much closer to a mead than a cider, but after a short while the apples start to emerge. The aroma has that undefinable fruit-in-mead contribution that I often find in melomels – it’s a kind of raw, dark, fruit cellar-like thing. Even a banana mead had this quality. It’s not bad, just a bit… strange.

The apple cider is more noticeable in the flavour, this is definitely a ClubGonzo cider, i.e. bone dry. I find the dryness of the cider to crash rather violently with the sweet mead, this is not my cup of fermented brew. The strong flavour is dominated by fruit-in-mead™ and honey, with hints of apple.

Overall: fun name, not so fun brew. It’s too dry and it doesn’t taste enough of apples. Said the man who has no idea of how a cyser should taste like.

Aroma:      5/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      5/10
Palate:     3/5
Overall:    10/20
Ratebeer score: 2.7/5.0

ClubGonzo’s Witmead

Mead, 10% ABV.

A wheat beer with bitter orange peel and coriander seeds can be delicious, so why not a mead with the same additives?

It pours a clear and rather light amber colour.  I find it difficult to rate the appearance of a mead, they all tend to look rather similar. But I guess it look rather nice, right?

Witmead, mead batch no. 43.

Witmead, mead batch no. 43.

img_0720The aroma is strong and enchanting! I want to curl up in my sofa with a glass of this the next time I catch a cold – the mix of sweet and soothing honey with the citric freshness of the orange peel is really delicious. There might be a light spicy background, but I can’t really identify the coriander.

The taste is as sweet and lovely as I had hoped for, and it contrasts the orange peel bitterness in the finish perfectly.  The strong flavour is a carefully balanced mix of sweet honey and bitter and crisp orange. The coriander is rather hidden, so the wit beer feeling isn’t really present at all.

Overall: a perfectly balanced brew, both when it comes to taste and flavour. This one should become a part of Mjøderiet’s core lineup! Recommendation:  try it on pancakes and in mayo/mustard/honey/mead dip for chicken nuggets!

Aroma:      8/10
Appearance: 4/5
Taste:      8/10
Palate:     4/5
Overall:    15/20
Ratebeer score: 3.9/5.0