Thursday, 21 July 2016

#322: Beaver Dam

A couple of months ago a few specials from Beavertown were trickled into the wild over a few weeks in matching black cans. The smart design format for these cans lit a fire under the already obsessive collector's streak in this beer drinker, so I was determined to have all five releases in hand before popping anything open.

Cooler and darker these evenings were than the ones we are having now, so I was well in the mood to open Imperial Lord Smog Almighty first. This 9.5%-er seems a souped-up, spoilered and dual exhaust pipe boy racer version of the Smog Rocket and emanating from that gratuitous pipework are plumes of smoke. Or at least that's what I was expecting.  Instead there's a rather sharp sting of bonfire smoke that flashes before your nose right at the beginning before allowing a more predominant fruitcake aroma to take over. Sweet, tart berries and pungent stewed apple shine brightest here, while the taste is all dry, light and roasty porter with licks of coffee, chocolate and smoke punctuated throughout. It's sensible and balanced and shows nothing of its high ABV, but neither does it give me the fullness, richness and complexity that I prefer in big dark beers.

Just as big and just as dark is Spresso, an imperial stout brewed with, you guessed it, espresso. This is a style I can 100% on board with conceptually but, in practice, I have come to damn nearly detest coffee stouts. Still, the desire to try new things as they cross my path is unaffected.

I'm glad I stayed on board for Spresso because this is easily the best coffee stout I've had. I was mildly alarmed when, predictably, there's quite a bit of espresso greeting you right from the can; I'm not in the mood for cold coffee right now, thanks guys. My fear proved unfounded though because unlike almost every other beer of this kind that I've tried, Spresso gives you a good imperial stout alongside the obvious coffee novelty. To this end it's a richly textured, creamy dark chocolate mocha effect propping up the more pronounced and bitter espresso notes. There's bittersweet balance and plenty of round warmth, making it surprisingly and mercifully cosy drink.

Stepping into the light with Skull King gets you a hazy orange IPA with an aroma of sheer oof. This is juicy tropical fruit aromatics par excellence with mango, pineapple and sweet mandarin and tangerine peel doing a metaphorical conga across your face. There's a bit more Tanora-like sweetness on tasting but this is still a backdrop to some expressive fruity hop juiciness, again channelling just about every member of the extended orange family. However, the beer doesn't shine as bright as I'd hoped thanks to a surprising and disappointing touch of syrupy booze right at the end. For a respectable 8.7% this knocks an iota or drinkability off the beer, but such a gripe seems as significant as pocket fluff in the midst of that juicy, bittersweet orange and mango party.

Yuzilla Phantom presents a very different kind of fruity effect as a fruited gose, the additions in question being dried lime and yuzu (an East Asian citrus fruit). From these there's a definite sweet, citric sourness propped up on a fluffy, prickly herbal backing. This backing pulls the beer away from the more modern, squeaky-clean-fun-time sour beers and into slightly more serious territory but I have no real problem with that; it's refreshing and interesting stuff, even if it isn't as sinkable as I'd anticipated at first.

The last of the lot to be devoured is Applelation, a saison with Bramley apple and a whopping 8.7% ABV, a couple of ticks above the kind of strength at which I like to see my saisons. Still, it's welcoming and drinkable form the start; it's clean to the point of being lagery with a dash of syrupy sweetness right at the finish, but the main effect is closer to a vaguely Belgian tripel without any of the prickly spice or yeasty artistry. That is to say there's a honeyish, apple syrup fullness to it without so much of a whiff of gristy farmyard stuff. It goes by reasonably quietly and pleasantly, but stays well clear of my preferred saison characteristics.

And so Beavertown prove their sure handling of a wide range of styles to varying degrees of success, though all are interesting and well worth trying out should they cross your path.

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