Saturday, 15 December 2012

Blind Taste Test : The best supermarket Whiskys

Its approaching Christmas and that time of year when we all like to indulge in a bottle something special, with a fine malt whisky the weapon of choice for many. Here at The beer bunker we always endeavour to review the best that is readily available to all and help you navigate your way on a voyage of choice to pick out something suited to you. So in a rare break from beer we turn our eyes to Whisky.

Firstly a couple of caveats, I'm no whiskey expert, I have always liked a drop, but i am approaching this with a palette tuned to beer. Also the whisky's below are not a selection of the finest malts in world, but intentionally a selection of the best bottles your likely to find in your local supermarket. Hopefully both those things will mean the review is helpful for the average tippler.

Firstly if you want to try and place what style of whiskys you like this flavour crosshare from Waitrose is superb for just that.!/BeerBunkerEd/media/slideshow?

All of the below whiskys were tasted blind to remove any preconceptions, and alert the senses.

Tasting Notes :

Balvenie Signature 12yr - Very smooth, big vanilla, sweet honey taste, slightly floral on the finish  8/10
Jura  -  Sharp taste, not smooth, almost tangy, feels very alcoholic  4/10
Talisker 10yr - Big smokey nose, grips on the tongue, toffee and salt water. Big bold flavours, likely to divide....i love it! 8/10
Glenlivet 12yr - Light, hints of caramel, before a rather harsh and sharp   6/10
Aberlour 10yr - Smooth almost creamy, hints of coffee, almost creme caramel, full flavoured  9/10
Glenmorangie - Floral on the nose, almost like Cascade hop in beer, smooth and light  7/10
Chivas Regal - Smooth, light caramel, big kick in the finish  6/10
Jameson - Fruity nose, hits of apricot, smooth malt, no kick, vanilla in the finish. Surprisingly good! 7/10
Black Grouse - Smokey on the nose, charcoal, rather bland before a firey finish that seems to burn the mouth. 5/10
Glenlivet 15yr - Light, smooth almost to the point of being thin, firey finish.  6/10
Famous Grouse - Firey, burning, liquid fire, thin on flavour. yuck!      3/10

So a wide range of thoughts and tastings, and a few favorites torpedoed no doubt!

Gold Medal - Aberlour 10yr, Perfect after dinner supping.
Silver - Balvenie Signature 12yr
Bronze - Talisker 10yr, undoubtedly unique, some will love it, some will hate it!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Pale Ale Nelson Sauvignon (Vibrant Forest)

I picked this up in Fordingbridge's great little beer shop Barrel and Bottle, it's a rather exciting looking pale ale from a new brewery in the New Forest.

It pours with a fantastic head, perfect carbonation and minimal sediment. It's a beautiful clear golden in colour, bursting with aroma it's pure Nelson Sauvignon, gooseberrys and unmistakable white winey aroma. It reminds me of Punk Ipa without the rawness of dry hopping.

For a pale ale it opens with surprising malt depth, not over loaded with crystal or caramel flavours, but full of body magnifying the underlying pale malt. There is no stamp of bitterness either, just a smooth hop wash that fills the mouth with a creamy, mellow hop flavour and almost hints of white pepper. The lingering finish is one of perfect balance, glimpses of the malt sweetness still audible alongside the last eb of the hop bittering.

9/10 Simplicity is genius. This is simple and delicate in all the best possible ways. A great pale ale.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Citra (Oakham)

Proudly brewed since 2009 this beer showcases a rather unique American hop.

The nose is unmistakeably, well, Citra! It's fully of tropical fruits, grapefruit, rather like watered down Lilt, it's a bold aroma for a beer, one that hopheads love but one that can take more standard beer drinkers by surprise.

The open salvo of malt seems a bit thin and light at first but quickly unravels, revealing a slight edge of malt toastiness and a hidden depth sweetness to balance the hopping. The finish is perhaps surprisingly not actually very bitter, mellowly letting the hops shine through giving an almost textured rough dry finish.

8/10 A great simple beer, showcasing a fantastic hop.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Canberra (Windsor and Eton)

The latest offering from Windsor and Eton Brewery, having picked up great marks for their previous beers we were keen to try this one.

It pours a rich mahogany, crystal clear and with light ivory head. The nose is lighter in aroma than previous offerings, a subtle mix of hops from Australasia, grassy, zesty and slightly floral.

The malt is rich, both sweet and dry in equally balance. Made with 5 different malts it provides robust depth as well as a rich lingering sweet note from the added Maple syrup. The final bittering is like a counter balance for the malt, equalling it but not overshadowing its multidimensional prowess. Dynamic and interesting but not quite as rich complex as one might hope.

7/10 An modern Amber with hints of the new world, rich and malty but not too complex

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Gold (Bristol Beer Factory)

I am pretty sure making a bottled golden summer ale must be the hardest way to stand out as a brewery. But those new kids on the block at Bristol Beer Factory have tried to do exactly that with Gold.

Pops open and pours an unsurprising gold with a beautiful laced white foam head. Perfectly carbonated. The nose is delicate enough, not raw hopping but a very measured dose of citrus and fresh lemon.

The malt opens with a rather unexpected big biscuit crunch mixed with the rich malt. Too many golden ales have almost non descriptive malt flavours, this sets it's stall out early on with one big one. What swiftly follows is a full mouth flavour of hops, like the aroma big on citrus and lemon, but with a delicious smooth creaminess long into the finish. I had first thought this had all the hallmarks of the rather unique Sorrachi Ace hop, but instead found out from the bottle it's the underrated English hop Pioneer.

9/10 Superbly unique, a golden ale to savour.

Currently only available in selected local Waitrose stores in the Bristol area, but if you can find it, make sure to try it.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bunker Summit No. 6

And so it was another long overdue Bunker Summit took place, in the warming log-fire soothed vaults of Bunker Station No.1.

The format continued from previous soirees, with the three judges (myself, Ed and Summit regular Glenn) blind tasting 12 different ales, allotting scores which were then averaged in less than scientific manner, before the bottles were revealed. It's a bunch of fun this format, do try it yourself, each guest just brings 4 beers and keeps them concealed until after each has been rated.

A mention on the food before diving in to the ales, this time we had Ed's sublime homebrew-stout soaked ham served with two of my home baked breads, a white/wholemeal raisin plait and a Canadian oat and honey wholewheat loaf, accompanied by a bunch of cheeses and pickles. Yer-um.

So, cutting further ado on to the winners and losers of the night, replete with the patented* Bunker Gradings....

*not really

1. Organic Best Ale (Samuel Smiths) 5%
A very tidy start to proceedings. Lemony citrus on the nose with grass overtones. Length of it slightly grubby, but not uncomfortably so. We'd all have another. 6/10 

2. Belgian Wheat Beer (Marks & Spencer) 4.5% 
Brewed by Huyghe, this is a bright dazzler of a wheat beer, light, zingy and very fresh. Noted to be preferable with food, this is a Wheat Pride rainbow flag flying example of it's type, laced with coriander, herbs and spices. Rather not Glenn's cup of tea, which pulled the score down somewhat, but that's democracy.  6/10 

3. Jail Ale (Dartmoor Ales) 4.8% 
First salvo winner, a lovely malty easy drinker from Princetown with a lively pour but a bit of barging bitterness in the tail. Superior on draught but still proper tasty from the bottle.  7/10 
4. Glaslyn Ale (Purple Moose) 4.2% 
A Welsh micro-brewed ale and not really our cup of beer. After an initial apple scent the sup starts with a bit of a flavour crash as all the malt and hops collide in a big scrum, leaving an unsubtle gritty aftermath in the mouth. A little crude for us.  5/10 

5. 80/- (Williams Bros) 4.2% 
Wow. This beer, pronounced Eighty Shilling, is a marvel. Brown as an old tanned expat, this is proper rare Scottish heavy. It's all about the malt malt malt. If there are any hops in here we couldn't taste them, but wonderfully sweet and moreish with a rolling molasses length. A fruit cake in a glass, just delicious and the evening's Gold Medal winner.   8/10 

6. Horseshoe Special Reserve (Lizard Ales) 6.2% 
A massive disappointment as this beer exploded out of the bottle, clearly off. Some infection must have got in to this recently purchased beer, which was a big shame. Unrateable  

7. Barnsey (Bath Ales) 4.5% 
Nothing wrong with this one - a beautiful toffee, malty wonder. Like a eventful marriage it starts sweet and ends bitter, but in all the right ways. Glorious malt length, and the evenings Bronze Medal winner8/10  

Time for food!
8. Banana Bread Beer (Wells) 5.2% 
Instantly recognised and identified. Without doubt the best widely available banana beer on the market, even if it's the only one. A proper example of how to introduce fruit into beer without making it awful. I fancy a banana now.  7/10  

9. India Pale Ale Black (The Kernel) 6.8% 
Gadzooks, a mighty black ale, and easily passing the black IPA test of shutting your eyes and guessing the colour (if you can't its a true black IPA). Crunchy and with some lovely slick grassy hops, the alcohol length was slightly too boozy for one reviewer (me). However, Silver Medal winner for the evening, top beer. 8/10  

10. Quadrupel (Sharps) 10% 
The only real GBH headsmasher of the night, this ale is a wrestling match of components in a boozy juggernaut of a bottle. Clearly designed for cheeses and whatnot after a meal, when drunk on its own its just a bit much, syrupy and hard to wade through despite it's attractions. Complex and still very good, it's mission is not quite achieved in the right ways for us. A nutter. 7/10 (just) 

11. Double Dragon (Felinfoel) 4.2% 
Back down to earth with a very disagreeable nasty Welsh bitter. The first taste is a sort of metallic laminate, which is swiftly bulldozered by a gritty foul aftertaste. If these tastes were guests you'd want none of them at your party. Not a good representation of the land of the dragon. 2/10 

12. Black Cab Stout (Fullers) 4.5% 
Form returns with this delicious textbook stout. Fruits, roast notes, some coffee, all the right black beer boxes are ticked heartily. This is nothing revolutionary, but it's an example of an old classic brewed with care and commitment. 7/10 

13. Founder's Ale (Heinekin UK) 4.8% 
A bit of an end of evening curve ball from the makers of 'Newkie Broon'. One note throughout, which is a bit metallic and somewhat bargain off-license, it neither inspires not disappoints too much. A little meh. 5/10
Gold Medal - 80/- (Williams Bros)

Silver Medal - India Pale Ale Black (The Kernel) 

Bronze Medal - Barnsey (Bath Ales) 

That'll be a trip to the recycler then.
- The Broadside

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Dead Pony Club (Brewdog)

It's Brewdog, but it's a session beer, obviously a super hopped one. The 3.8% on the label looks like a typo, surely it's a fake? Positively not.

Its a light caramel in colour, crystal clear. The opening aroma is heavy with hoppy aromas of tropical fruit and dominant winey smells of Nelson Sauvignon.

The malt starts with intent but very quickly folds like a cardboard aircraft hanger, retreating into the background at alarming pace. The hops arrive like an awesome display of fireworks to the mouth. It's a multi layered mouthfeel of bittering, astringency and brutish dry hopping. The hops do dominate, its way out of balance, leaving the malt feeling very thin, but I guess that's the point.

It's a 3.8% hop bomb, to many it's way out of balance, to others it's something very original, Dark Star's Hophead taken to its ultimate conclusion.

8/10 Uniquely unbalanced to the point of actually being quite subtle. The ultimate hoppy session beer.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Sunset (Isle of Arran Brewery)

Snaps open and pours as one would expect a rather beautiful light amber sunset. The nose is not big hops but beautiful light toffee and the nearest hint of zestiness.

The opening malt salvo is as mellow as a summers eve, a big caramel baseline delivering a rather dry finish. There is a strong final stamp of bitterness that hits after the caramel has subsided, coinciding with the dry finish to delivery a crisp and refreshing beer.

8/10 A a blonde by name, but full of caramel with a crisp bittering stamp. Lovely.

Monday, 18 June 2012

TreeTops (Windsor & Eton) 4.8%Abv

Pours like polished black granite, perfect carbonation gives a full ivory head. The aroma is very different, no big tropical black IPA hops, or finest grassy Kent Goldings, instead a rather mysterious tabaco aroma dominates.

The opening malt gives very little sweetness, instantly very dry, extinguishing moisture from the tongue. It's quickly followed by a double salvo of rich roasty flavours, coffee bitterness, and more dry tabacco flavours. The finish has no heavy stamp of bitterness, and it's not required given the bold dry flavours before, there is a tingle of some hop mouthfeel before it drifts into history.

It's an old style dry stout, perhaps a style almost lost in these days of IPAs and Black IPAs that require big malt sweetness to balance the bitterness they showcase. It's made with roasted yams which seem to appear in the aroma, coffee which gives some bitterness I feel, and vanilla which to me is sadly lost.

7/10 Dry and roasty, a classic dry stout.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Kohinoor (Windsor & Eton)

Pops open with the lightest fizz, gentle carbonation gives almost a cask like head. The colour is bright copper or brass, like a well polished medal.

Big aroma of tropical hops, similar to the fantastic Windsor Knot, but more subtle and hints fragrant spices. (supposedly Jasmine petals as added, I can't spot them but a more delicate nose might be able to)

The malt arrives with a very gentle caramel sweetness that is very soon flooded by tropical bitterness, no sharp stamp, just a mouth filling overpowering of hops. It's only 5% but tastes like a much bigger Abv IPA.

The finish long, lingering, slightly dry but with a tanginess that intrigues and shouts for one more sip.

10/10 Flawless. A truly wondrous use of hops, tropical, fruity and very original.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Helles Lagerbier (Schlenka)

Another enticing continental beer I picked up from Barrel and Bottle in Fordingbridge Hampshire.

It pours the faintest straw blonde with gentle but with precision carbonation. Gentle noble hop aroma on the nose, but light enough to be lost in a gentle breeze, hints of sulphur.

The initial malt arrives as stealthily as a longbow arrow to the chest, when it does their is no stamp of bitterness, just an exquisitely creamy and smooth middle. This gentle sweetness arrives with the final hop bittering like old dance partners slipping into polished routine.

Long sunny days with friends, drinking cool bottles of this...the stuff dreams are made of.

8/10 Delicate, exquisitely subtle, a beer to be savoured. Don't be fooled by its simplicity.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bohemia Regent

I picked this up in South Hampshire's new beer shop Bottle & Barrel, it was great to see a lager with a bit more providence than what you would find in the world beers section of your local beer isle.

It pours with a gentle more ale like fizzy, the slim but perfectly formed foam head appears slowly but stays right to the end. There is gentle hop nose, herbal and grassy, just enough to notice but perhaps missing a bit in the expectations of a ardent Hophead.

More golden than expected it carries a delicious caramel opening malt, coating the mouth with smooth creamy silk. There is a textbook stamp of bitterness as one would expect with a pilsner, blending with the malty caramel to leave lovely lingering herbal bitterness.

7/10 A solid pilsner, not quite as noble as Jever or Urquell, but certainly better than all the other supermarket lagers.

If you live in Hampshire check out Beer & Barrel for some real treats and great local beer, cider and cask beer to takeaway.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Thermal Cheer (Purbeck Brewery)

Pops open with little fuss, light carbonation gives a delicate foam head whilst pouring. It's a deep chestnut brown with hints of ruby.

The nose is of brown sugar and dark caramel, with a hint of zingy freshness in the background. The malt is warming, rich and almost Belgian in its complexity. The middle has some rich fruitcake and spicy notes, none of the trademark charcoal of the brewery's yeast. It finishes with gentle linger of bittering, no bit stamp, and distinctive peppery notes.

A solid beer where the malt is allowed to take centre stage away from any giant hop explosion. One to try if you like your beers malty and nourishing.

8/10 A spicy rich winter warmer
Thanks to Purbeck Brewery for providing, if your in Dorset I heartly recommend you pay a vist to their fantastic Banks Arms Pub

You can catch their beers around the country as guests, and at the stunning The Banks Arms pub, their summer Beer festival is legendary, worthy of planning your holiday around.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Gem (Bath Ales)

It pops open and pours the most beautiful deep Amber, rich and enticing. The sexiest looking ale I've seen in a while. The nose is full of toffee, sweet candy and the merest hint fresh grass.

The initial taste is a smooth flood of caramel, not overly sweet but rich and complex. It flows into crisp biscuit crunch, mingled with a noticeable nudge of hop bittering. It has a superb lingering finish of smooth caramel and biscuit that stays on the tongue for what seems like minutes.

I'm not convinced its a session ale, and it's clearly one for those who like their beers rich and malty, but it has an amazing sip and savour quality to it that is more commonly seen in Belgian beers, and rarely in Best Bitters.

It's a best in class "Premium Amber Ale" but then it is the first I've tried! But as malt ales go, this is easily up there with the best of them, if not at the top.

8/10 A beer for anti-hopheads. Rich, smooth and full of caramel, one to try.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Elsie Mo (Castle Rock)

Pours crystal clear pale gold, like summer sun on a window, perfect fizz.

The nose is heavily zesty, lemon and big dominating elderflower. The malt is bordering on non existent, a dash of sweetness that is quickly battered down by a snap of bitterness and a long lingering lemon.

5/10 If you like your beers zesty and with elderflower twist it's probably right up your street, sadly I live several postcodes away.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Guinness Foreign Extra (Guinness)

7.5%ABV Guinness, my my.

Inky as a school blackboard's heart and chocked forth with hazy roast and dark fruit aroma, this promises much. The taste is a pitchy swirl of coffee and bitter chocolate . It's texture is a sliding silky wonder, and although creamy, doesn't insulate the tongue against the orchestra of flavours on offer. Butterscotch and a mild pleasant ash rise and fall, and the notes are complex and mature.

The length is bitter with a fading smoke, like the final railway scene of 40's film where love doesn't win the day. Wonderful beer and surely the best in the Guinness range.

9/10 - Outstanding stout from those who should know. Smoky and authentic.

- The Broadside