Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Every ABV: 4.5 to 6.4%

Having rated the best cask beers between 2.5 and 4.4% ABV a few days ago, I shall now move on to the slightly stronger stuff.

Will there be shocks? Will there be surprises? Will there be the opportunity to win a small cash prize? Let's get cracking and find the fuck out...

(No cash prizes.)



4.5% - Thornbridge Planet Rock Honeydew Melon

I done likes me fruit beers, so I does. I'm also a massive mark for Thornbridge, so it's no surprise to see them on this list, and indeed perhaps a little odd that they didn't feature in the first part. But with 4.5% being the single most common ABV for cask beer, they've beaten off the biggest swathe of competition in the competition. Which is very competitive. And as for the beer, it was an absolutely gorgeous melon-ball of a pale ale with the juiciest of juicy fruit that I could've drunk all day, every day.

This beer wasn't very happy about being drunk

4.6% - Tap East Saxon Invasion Sour

In recent years, sour beers have become 'a thing' in this country, but that wasn't always the case. Back in 2014, the Tap East brewpub launched their Saxon Invasion on the unsuspecting residents of Stratford. Man, how our lips puckered. The uncompromisingly brutal sourness of it took us by surprise. But of course we went back for more. And more. And more. This was a beer that set standards and changed tastes. Sour times.

4.7% - Rooster's Twenty Four Seven

Strangely, I don't think I've ever had a really outstanding beer at 4.7%. That's not to say this isn't a great beer - it's a hoppy pale of the kind that Rooster's always do rather well - just that it doesn't stand out when compared to the very slightly weaker and stronger beers above and below.

4.8% - Tiny Rebel Juicy

Just brilliant. The flavours of a sweetshop and flying saucers full of childhood nostalgia crammed into a golden beer. What's not to like? For me this has become the textbook for this style of beer; a flavour alchemy that I wasn't even sure was possible. Um Beergo.

4.9% - Oakham Akenhaten

This is the best beer Oakham have ever brewed. And they've brewed some absolute bangers in their time. It's another super-hoppy pale, with Simcoe, Nelson Sauvin, Galena and Motueka all showing up at the party. 4.9% isn't a very common advertised ABV, with only 1.3% of the beers I've had coming in at this strength, compared to 8.6^ at a round 5. But if they brewed Akenhaten at 5% it would probably still demolish the competition.

5.0% - Cantillon Kriek

Well, OK, maybe not this particular competition. Because Cantillon Kriek is a very special beer indeed, particularly when fresh from the cask in Brussels. A beautiful balance of sweet and sour with cherries perched on top. Is there a more refreshing drink than a big, cool glass of Kriek? Quite possibly not.

5.1% - Turning Point Disco King

Hazy NEPA-style beers are all the rage at the moment, and to be honest, it's a style I really have to be in the mood for. Sometimes they can be so bloody thick that it doesn't hit the quenching point at the back of my throat. And they frequently overdo the piny, herbal hops. Plus it's an ideal beer for hiding multiple sins of the brewer. That said, this one was fantastic, with juicebomb characteristics hitting the spot, despite the haze.

5.2% - Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Chocolate

The entire 'Stay Puft' series from Tiny Rebel was a work of genius. Who knew that marshmallow porter could form the basis of so many different - and delicious - beers? I'm a big fan of both the regulation-strength and imperial versions, but this chocolate variant was a particular highlight. A legitimate dessert classic at just 5.2%, and let's be very clear, for a dessert beer that is fucking weak. In a good way.

Don't ever change... Awwww...

5.3% - Ilkley The Mayan

Sticking with chocolate - because it's chocolate, duh - and adding a smattering of chilli as well as an extra tenth of a percentage point, we come to something of a ruined classic. It's a sad tale really, like ISIS destroying centuries-old heritage sites. The 5.3% version of The Mayan was sublime, with the chocolate and chipotle balancing out the dark malts to produce a perfect stout with great complexity and character. But they tweaked the recipe and boosted it to 6.5% and for whatever reason the beer was nowhere near as good as it used to be. Like the funniness quotient in Viz. 

5.4% - Hopcraft Mate, Spawn and Die

Ah, Gazza Prescott, you did give us some great beers. This one was a big, juicy pale, hopped to the brim with Southern Hemisphere varieties. Lovely stuff.

5.5% - Thornbridge Coco Cocoa

This time the chocolate is paired with coconut to produce a sort of beery Bounty bar. It's another one of those dessert beers that you know would work at 10% in an Impy stout, but to get it into a session-strength-ish porter is quite the achievement. But it's Thornbridge so, you know, magic'n'shit.

5.6% - Siren Soundwave: Lychee and Gin

People who 'just want their beer to taste like beer', will doubtless be getting pissed off with me now. As will those who actually want a hope in Hell of ever getting to drink these beers. Yes, this is another one of those adjunct-rich variations, with Siren adding exotic fruit and botanicals to their American IPA to produce something quite amazing. For its strength, obviously.

5.7% - Dark Star Revelation

Dark Star beers may have suffered in recent years due to the brewery being taken over by Fuller's and then Asahi, but when Revelation was launched, quite a few years ago now, it was a bit of a game-changer. It was big. It was bold. It tasted American, at a time when most British brewers were going meekly about their business and not doing such things.

5.8% - Downton Chocolate Orange Delight

Somewhere in Wiltshire, they brew a stout, add a bottle of Cointreau and a Terry's Chocolate Orange and ship it out in casks for people to drink. If the simple genius of that doesn't appeal, there's probably something wrong with you. Next.

5.9% - Dark Star Crème Brûlée

There's a bit of a theme emerging here. A 'dessert in a pint glass' sort of a theme. I wonder if my enjoyment of these sorts of beer is the reason I'm diabetic?!? Anyway, it's another deep, dark flavour explosion of vanilla and caramel and general scrumminess.

6.0% - Arbor Faked Alaska

What could be better than a stout flavoured with your favourite desserts? How about a pale ale with Citra and El Dorado hops plus all that desserty lactose goodness?!? Faked Alaska is a milkshake IPA with a big fuck-off prescription of Vanilla, and it's bloody gorgeous.

6.1% - Spey Valley Sailor Terry

6.1% is a somewhat uncommon strength - I've only had 24 different beers at this ABV - and picking a winner wasn't easy. We go with this spicy Rum Stout because, well, we like these sorts of things don't we, Graham?

6.2% - Dark Star Tropical KO

When picking beers from 25 years of drinking there is a strong chance that some beers from the earlier days won't be around. And there's also the possibility that the beers are still with us but no longer as good as they used to be. Clearly given what has happened to Dark Star, that is entirely to be expected. But when I drank Tropical KO it was superb. A big juice explosion of hops. I just hope that Asahi allow them to carry on brewing stuff like this and, importantly, to put it into cask, the way Our Lord and the Virgin Mary intended.

6.3% - Rogue Brutal Bitter

Back in the day, before the UK caught up, Rogue brewing in Oregon, were one of my favourite breweries in the entire world. This was their flagship beer at one point, but has long-since been discontinued, or at least tweaked/renamed/evolved into Brutal IPA. Don't ask me to remember much about it - it was years ago.

6.4% - Windsor & Eton / Wild Weather Caramel Machiato

We finish this dessert-heavy countdown (countup?) with a collaboration between W&E's Uprising sub-brand and Wild Weather. I don't normally like malty, mid-brown beers with lots of caramel, but in this instance it worked thanks to the addition of coffee cutting through the sweetness. And it was quite possibly the only cask that ever existed. 

I'll see you for the next installment when we cover beers from 6.5 to 8.4% and force you to drink them by the pint in a short period of time.

1 comment:

  1. Surprised not to see Thornbridge Jaipur on the list. We get quite a lot of it as a cask beer in and around Sheffield.


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