08 June 2018


An assortment from Magic Rock in today's post. The latter ones are specials, or at least new, but the first is a core beer — around since 2013 — which had never crossed my path before.

Until, that is, it showed up on tap in L. Mulligan Grocer. From where I was sitting I couldn't see the details on the Dancing Bear badge, so had no idea what style it was. I did know that I didn't really like it, finding it tasted quite stale and musty. I guessed it was a pale ale: there was a touch of the slightly harsh bitter jaffa flavour often found in brown English bitters, with dry burlap and lightly spicy jasmine. So I was taken aback to learn it's a pilsner. That said, it makes sense that the mustiness was down to the combination of noble hops, a flavour profile that I know of old doesn't suit me. I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't spot what was going on here. Anyway: nope, this is not the beer for me.

To follow the Bear, a tall can of IPA. Exaltation was brewed in collaboration with Thornbridge and uses a headline mix of American hops, namely Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe and Centennial. It doesn't look great: a very murky orange, with lots of foam, all of which faded away very quickly. The aroma is fantastic, providing an unexpected gunpowder spice. It is a little flat though, showing only the faintest sparkle. There's a rawness about the flavour, that gritty acidic greenness of fresh pellets, as well as a earthy yeast bite. Oddly there's no citrus, just a grassy vibe, and a mild burn of garlic at the back of the palate. For all its rough unfinished qualities I liked this, and I'm not sure why. It's only 5.5% ABV and manages to de-emphasise its flaws while pushing the good side forward. There's a skill in that. It's not an exaltation, but maybe a quiet respectful nod.

I picked that up along with Dairyfreak, described as a "milk ice porter" and created in collaboration with a local ice cream maker. It's almost completely black, just showing red-brown around the edges, again without much head. The aroma promises rich and smooth chocolate and that's exactly what the flavour delivers. Its ice cream heritage is worn big: a creamy texture and flavours mixing cappuccino and quality milk chocolate. A touch of dry roast at the end balances it, stopping the sweetness from becoming cloying. This is another medium-strength one, only 5.2% ABV, and it might benefit from being bigger and even fuller. As is, it's jolly and tasty and very well made. Milk stout as it should be, and the only style where ice cream flavours really belong.

Another dark beer to mix things up even further. Erwin at Brickyard was kind enough to share around a can of Cherry Cola Vice when I enquired about it and its distinctive artwork one afternoon. As modern craft interpretations of the Berliner weisse go, it's on the extreme end. For one thing it's brown, looking exactly like the cola it references in the name. The aroma is intensely sugary, like off-brand supermarket cola, while the flavour is cola first and then peppery spices. A look at the ingredients reveals a long list of fruit concentrates and spices, with both cola nut and Indonesian long pepper in there, so those elements shouldn't be surprising. There's a tart finish as a token nod to sourness but really the whole thing is very unbeerlike. As tends to be the case when the additions are piled in like this (see also DOT Brew's Real Friends) you get something that's fascinating to explore, offering a new sensation with every sip, but which is absolutely useless when you just want to sit down and have a beer. I'm not sure I approve.

A couple of strong tall cans to finish us off, starting with Hedonic Escalation, going with the hostage-to-fortune designation of "tropical IPA". Let's see. It's 6.7% ABV and a mildly hazy orange colour. The aroma passes the juice test: it orangey and a little sticky-smelling. The flavour is also sweet, though more chewy candy than real fruit. I got sherbet, lemon curd and golden syrup. There's a savoury tang for balance but no real bitternes