I start this post with big thanks to the folks at Eight Degrees for the wonderful gift they sent me of six beers; their three seasonal specials (Signal, Mór, Snoweater) alongside Big River, Vic Secret and Polar Vortex. Little did they know, I had those exact six beers set aside at work for myself to buy that very weekend (as well as the last of the Millenium) so these suckers lost a sale. I still bought the Millennium though, and after a few months of existence it was an unpleasantly sweet shadow of its former self...
...which reminded me that it had yet to appear on the blog. Thankfully, I tried it fresh a few months ago, back when Eight Degrees were celebrating their 1000th batch of beer.
A 10%, Millennium was at that point the strongest beer in the arsenal as far as I know, and it pours a slightly hazy amber and gives the most intense pine I've had from an Eight Degrees beer in a while with a backing of sugary candied fruit rind. To taste it's a beautiful bittersweet composition of grapefruit, pineapple, a good dollop of caramel and some tingling bitterness. It's successfully punchy and it avoids any notions of soupiness despite its strength, though there is a flash of heat right at the very end to remind you of that.
A 10% IPA is a pretty bold statement to make and I was expecting some degree of failure, but this ticks all the boxes.
Or at least it did. If you encounter one in the wild now, be warned that it isn't ageing well.
Before launching the now traditional three seasonal beers for Winter, we were treated to Big River, a Tasmanian IPA boasting two Tasmanian hops in the form of Ella and Enigma on a plain Irish base malt. It's a clean and clear gold to look at and indeed to taste; pithy mandarin and flashes of grapefruit on a respectably dry malt base dotted here and there with fresh zesty lemon. With plenty of time in the glass it goes a bit dank and sweet on the nose but remains a very well put together and elegantly realised IPA.
And so we step into Christmas with Mór, a big barleywine that comes clear red with a thick yellow head that, alas, disappears pretty quickly. Also performing a vanishing act is the aroma, which is malty in a faintly sticky kind of way and shows absolutely nothing at all of its 10.2% ABV. Worryingly, there's more of this to taste, with a vaguely toffeeish, caramel and raisiny malt concoction with a light berry sweetness. It simply doesn't pack the punch that a beer of this size might be expected to, with its smooth texture and lack of boozy heat being its best features, because it is smooth, thick and velvety. Mór edges close to proper big beer success in this way but lacking flavour at 10.2% is a bit of shame.
Much more fun was to be had over with Snoweater, safely back in Eight Degrees' IPA comfort zone. Specifically, it's a red IPA, and smells intensely sharp pine and bright, coppery citrus peel. Much the same can be said about the palate, with sugary pine resin to taste but properly bitter in effect. This is my kind of IPA; pine over peel with fistfuls of lime, pineapple and tutti frutti, and is clean enough while keeping some malt counterweight in the picture. Top stuff.
The last of the bunch is Signal, billed on the label as both a Belgian stout and an export stout. I can't say I uncover either on first tasting, and the end result isn't a million billion miles away from Knockmealdown, though the extra percentage point does seem to introduce a dark fruit complexity to the milk chocolate, light smoke and instant coffee of the smooth, drinkable stout. With time I start to find weird elements of allspice that suggest some Belgian yeast contribution after all.
Not quite the Russian Imperial Stout of the previous two years but a good beer nonetheless.
Thanks again to Eight Degrees for sending me the package. A man could get used to this sort of treatment.