June 22, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: May (Part One)

WARNING: This blog post contains shameless spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. Reading this blog post if you have not yet played the game will impair your enjoyment should you decide to play it in the future.

Previously, on Pandemic Legacy…

  • We lost April twice in a row
  • There’s zombies now

May

Opening the mission briefing pack for May, it’s mostly good news. We can now set up roadblocks to prevent the spread of the Faded when outbreaks occur, though these do make travel for player characters more difficult as well. We also have a new character, the Colonel, who can kill zombies, albeit slowly, and who isn’t hampered by the roadblocks. There is a small increase in the infection rate of the Faded – now, whenever a player draws a city card that corresponds to a Faded city, one Faded figure gets added to the relevant city.

We also now have an additional optional objective, which is to have seven quarantined cities at the game end. There are now three optional objectives in total, and we now have to complete two of them.

The initial allocation of disease cubes seemed fairly balanced, though with perhaps slightly more in the black region. We selected our characters – Susan continued to play as Wei, the Dispatcher, and Karen as Ewan, the Quarantine Specialist. I chose Derek, the Operations Expert, and Gammidgy selected the Colonel, who we have named K*D (pronounced “Custard”) and we gave him a relationship of “Rival” to Derek, which means that when one of them plays or discards a city card, the other can immediately pick it back up at a cost of any two city cards.

The game got off to a fairly unlucky start, as an epidemic card was drawn on the very first turn, and the Kinshasa card popped up again, causing an outbreak before we’d even gone halfway around the table.

We were feeling stressed already. We decided to slap some military bases down in Cairo and Tokyo so that we’d be able to make the best use out of the Colonel’s abilities.

An outbreak in Mexico City came along soon after. Both the yellow and black regions were starting to look a bit troubling, and to be honest the blue disease wasn’t looking so controllable either. However, we were gradually managing to get the colour sets together, and by the time the second epidemic card came up, we nearly had a full set of black cards in Ewan’s hand.

The cure for black finally arrived, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We started to feel a shred of confidence, though we all knew deep down that an epidemic was due soon.

When the epidemic eventually landed, it was in Sydney. So far in the game, we’d been mostly ignoring the Faded cities, as they hadn’t been giving us much trouble, but suddenly we started to pay attention. An outbreak in Sydney could lead to Los Angeles turning to the green side

Little green guys in Sydney having a party

This was soon followed by outbreaks in Paris and Montreal, and nearly every blue city on the board had at least one cube on it.

Outbreak in Paris

Ewan picked up a scar when a Faded appeared unannounced in Tokyo. They now have to discard a city card whenever they leave a city with 3 cubes of the same colour.

Ewan’s new scar

Gammidgy realised that he’d been underutilising the Colonel’s special abilities, so started making a beeline for the hotbed of Faded activity. The inevitable outbreak in Sydney occurred before anyone had a chance to do anything about it, and Los Angeles is now the latest victim to the zombie virus. However, we have been working on the cures – the relationship between Wei and Derek has been especially useful at funnelling city cards, and Derek has been running around the globe lobbing blue city cards over the fence into Wei’s hands. With blue cured, and black eliminated, all that remains is to cure yellow and complete one more optional objective, and the game is ours. The most attainable of the optional objectives now seems to be the one to get military bases in all six regions – we already have three covered, so three more shouldn’t be too hard.

The Colonel was then hit with a huge spate of bad luck. He ended his turn in Taipei, an ostensibly Faded city but with no Faded figures in it, with the intention of then setting out on his next turn to do some good. But an epidemic card turned up, and you guessed it, it was in Taipei. But we were close to winning – Wei had the 5 yellow city cards they needed to find the cure, and we only needed to place two more military bases for the optional objective. We were potentially a mere two or three turns away from victory!

Colonel K*D is surrounded!

But eventually the weight of the Faded got too much to handle. A cascading outbreak originating in Manila meant that outbreak marker once again blasted off the bottom of the track, and the game was over. We now have two cities with “Fallen” status in that region, and to be honest at this point in the campaign it feels like a miracle that it’s only those two.

For our game-end upgrades, we picked the following two:

  • A starting military base in Madrid. We’re starting to see the benefit in military bases, in terms of optional objectives, roadblocks, and fast travel. More military bases is good.
  • We have allocated the “Pilot” character upgrade to Colonel K*D. They now no longer have to discard a city card when taking a direct flight – they do have to have the correct card, but they retain it in their hand.

It was getting late, so we decided to wait until our next playing session to start our second attempt at May.

We have now lost three games in a row. We had fun, but it would be even more fun if we were able to win sometimes. Are we playing this game right? It seems very hard. Maybe we’ve misunderstood the rules. Maybe it’s supposed to be a fiendishly punishing game where losing repeatedly is the expectation.

Pete
June 15, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Seven)

(View previous instalments here)

As is often the case these days, all of these beers come from this month’s AFBeerClub box.

Lervig – No Worries Lemon

The “No Worries” range seem to be a recurring theme – this is the third that I’ve tried, and both the default “No Worries” and the pineapple variant scored max points. This beer poured with a colossal head, it is quite cloudy, and has a very tangy smell that is almost exactly like a good robust traditional lemonade. The flavour is reasonably well balanced between a hoppy IPA and a lemonade, which is expertly done, however I’m unconvinced that this works as a concept. Even in tiny quantities, the lemon is bold and dominating. I feel like the end result is a drink that will be unsatisfying to those who were hoping for the refreshingness of a good lemonade, and unsatisfying to those who were hoping for the reassuringness of a hearty beer.

Good Karma – Culture Shock

Difficult can to take a photo of, as the artwork wraps around it so much. The beer is very pale with a good head, and smells a bit like lemonade, though unlike the No Worries, it’s the sort of lemonade that you get in pubs that doesn’t actually bear any resemblance to lemons but you call it lemonade because that’s what you’ve been told it’s called. The flavour is like a sort of grapefruit/elderflower mix, quite delicate but also sharp. It’s not really a beer, more of a quirky soft drink, and it’s making me realise that perhaps I need to make some changes to how I do these reviews, because I seem to be spending an awful lot of time writing beer reviews for things that are beers inasmuch as tomatoes are fruit.

Maltgarden – Free Sunset

This drink is nuclear orange and its head dissipated almost immediately, though it continued to bubble away happily. It had a very tangy smell that reminded me somewhat of the Nyponsoppa, which was a bit of a concern. Thankfully, this drink is nowhere near as obnoxious, and is actually a fairly pleasant concoction that blends mango and coconut. At no point did I even feel remotely like I was drinking a beer, and a 330ml can (rather than an entire pint) would have been plenty.

Pete
June 9, 2021

Cooking alphabetically around the world Part 3

In the previous episodes, there was chicken, there was rice, there were meatballs. This update will include all of the above. We are going to go back and fill in some of the letters we missed, and plough on through S, T and U. The next few dishes were planned with a lot of input from Bernard, who has taken an interest in geographical cuisine, and this is to be encouraged.

S: Swedish Meatballs with potato pancakes
I recently acquired a spiralizer, the proper sort with feet, which sometimes makes amazing super-long noodles, and sometimes just burps out little crescents. For the potato pancakes, I started with a Swedish Raggmunk recipe, but couldn’t resist spiralizing the potatoes, which meant that it came out as a massive rosti, instead of neat little pancakes. A lot of internet recipes allow you to adjust the number of servings, which when cooking for a family of three often means ridiculous quantities such as 0.67 of an onion, and because they almost universally work in cups, I have to do a lot of guessing. So that’s by means of explaining why the batter for the potato pancakes was far too thin. I ended up pouring it all into the pan with the potatoes and hoping for the best, so when I turned the pancake, I poured uncooked batter all over the hob. Both the meatballs and the pancakes needed to be fried at the same time, and you can’t make the gravy until the meatballs are cooked because you use the meat juices. All of this was so complicated that I didn’t even think about some sort of vegetable element, and had to hurriedly open a tin of sweetcorn just to ease my own maternal guilt. Served with cranberry instead of lingonberry sauce, this meal was a massive faff to make and an even bigger faff to clean up afterwards, so although it turned out to be delicious and rather substantial, I didn’t enjoy making it and would in future just buy ready made swedish meatballs, which are after all widely available.
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Karen
June 7, 2021

Great Value Games

Out of curiosity, I decided to do some analysis on my Steam library to find out which games have given me the most “bang for my buck”. I hoped that I’d be able to use the Steam Gauge site, but unfortunately it does not know how much I paid for the game, only the default price, and most games I’ve bought in sales at some point or another.

So I decided to do this myself. I took the top 50 games in my library by play time, which resulted in a threshold of >12 hours playtime. Note that this does not necessarily mean they are my favourite games, as some games, like Firewatch, I only have logged 10.8 hours on, despite having played them 3 times through. This analysis is intended to be hyper-objective and not take into account how much I actually enjoyed the games, which means it’s hopelessly flawed, but that’s not the kind of thing to stop me having fun with numbers, is it?

I then cross-referenced with my receipts to grab the amount I paid for each game. There were 7 games that I was unable to find the receipt for, and a couple of other games where I purchased them in a bundle, so a certain amount of handwaving was required. That said, let’s do the best with what we’ve got.

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Pete
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  • Ah, I'd have liked to see knitting in that final list. - Karen Hall
June 6, 2021

Pandemic Legacy: April

WARNING: This blog post contains shameless spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. Reading this blog post if you have not yet played the game will impair your enjoyment should you decide to play it in the future.

The Pre-Game

As you may remember, we started playing Pandemic Legacy with Gammidgy and Susan back at the start of 2020, with the intention of completing it within the year. We managed to get through the first 3 months of the campaign reasonably successfully, before a real-life pandemic got in the way. Yesterday we met up to pick up where we left off. Most of us had also used the previous blog post to jog our memories, as it has been a long time.

Previously, on Pandemic Legacy…

  • We won February and March first time
  • The red disease can no longer be cured or treated, however we do now have access to a “quarantine” action to protect cities against spreading.
  • The main goal for each game is now just to cure the remaining three diseases, but we also need to complete at least one optional objective.
  • All three remaining diseases have a positive mutation to make it easier to treat/cure them.
  • In addition to research bases, we now have “military base” structures which act as fast travel points for some characters.
  • Two cities in Asia are in a state of rioting. A smattering of cities across the board are slightly unstable.

April

We had to spend a lot of time re-reading the rules before this game as it’s been a long time since we played, and there was a lot to remind ourselves of. The initial mission briefing was basically just to keep playing the same rules as per March, but a reminder token was placed on the third infection tracker square, so we all knew that something big was going to happen before too long, and it seemed highly unlikely that it would be good news. We also had a win bonus from March allowing us to place a military base anywhere on the board, so we slapped it in Shanghai.

The initial infections were heavily skewed towards East Asia – the red disease, the one that we can’t cure or treat. We knew that we would have to allocate a lot of resources to staying on top of that. We chose Wei the Dispatcher (played by Susan) and Ewan the Quarantine Specialist (played by Karen) – these two characters have a relationship which allows them to take an extra action if they start their turn in the same city, so it made sense for them to stay together. The other characters we chose were Eric the Medic (played by me) and Derek the Operations Expert (played by Gammidgy), partly for their general usefulness, and also because the relationship between Derek and Wei meant that they could freely transfer city cards without needing to be in the same city. These two would be primarily in charge of dealing with the 3 diseases across the rest of the world.

Early in April, the red disease is going bonkers already

The advantage of so many of the initial infections being for the red disease was that the remaining three looked very manageable. Indeed, we cured (and eradicated) the black disease very early on, which meant that one of our optional objectives was ticked off. But we still needed to find cures for blue and yellow. The blue disease was staying manageable, but an epidemic in the yellow region meant that it started to look very hairy, and the constant managing of the quarantine tokens over in the red disease area meant that we had few resources to make much headway in the rest of the world.

Eventually the second epidemic came out, and the bad news that we all knew was coming. Turns out that the red disease has mutated further (oh can’t we please have a break!) and we’re now fighting a zombie virus.

Oh god zombies

The little green zombie figurines (the “Faded”) replace the red cubes. They have the same rules as the red disease (can’t be cured or treated) but with the additional rule that when they outbreak into an adjacent city, they can also convert that city into a Faded city. This means that our untreatable disease now has the capability to spread beyond the red zone and into other areas of the globe. There’s another rule, that any player starting their turn in the same city as a Faded immediately gains a scar.

At this stage in the game we were still fairly optimistic that blue and yellow could be kept under control, however we weren’t holding many of the blue and yellow city cards in our hands, and were struggling to consolidate them into one person’s hand so that they could then get the cure. This is unfortunately quite common when playing Pandemic with a large number of players.

In an instant, chaos erupted in East Asia. A cascading outbreak meant that within a matter of minutes, all hope was lost, and the game with it. Many of the cities over there went from being merely unstable to full-blown riot in the space of a couple of turns, and the Faded have spilled over into Kolkata and also found their way across the Pacific to San Francisco. Hong Kong is now a collapsing city, meaning that it now can’t be entered without discarding one red city card.

The state of East Asia at the end of the first game in April

Swimming zombies, apparently

Wei (the Dispatcher) had also picked up a scar as a result of unavoidably starting their turn in a city with a Faded. This scar reduces their hand limit by 1, but to be honest that’s not a huge handicap, as with this many people playing we rarely find ourselves bumping up against the 7 card hand limit anyway.

While looking through our options for our two end-game upgrades, we observed that having eradicated the black disease again, it might be worth picking up another positive mutation for it. At this point I realised that in the previous session we’d actually cheated slightly by selecting positive mutations out of order – the rules actually state that the mutations on each disease must happen in a specific sequence, and we’d overlooked that. Still, my personal policy is that cheating is only a problem if it makes the game too easy and it stops being fun, and this game is definitely not too easy. We decided that, in the interests of fairness, we’d attempt to make a start on “filling in the gap” by choosing the tier 1 positive mutation for the black disease.

Filling in the gaps

For our second end-game upgrade, we decided that the military base in Shanghai was worth turning into a permanent structure so that we’d automatically have that on every game.

April (Second Attempt)

The second game got off to a fairly strong start. We kept Wei and Ewan over in East Asia with a similar strategy to before, but swapped out the other two for Moira Rose the Scientist (played by Gammidgy) and Shannon the Researcher (played by me) in the hopes of being able to shift city cards around and cure diseases a bit quicker. The initial allocation of infections was a bit more balanced across the colours, and indeed we had some fortunate early luck that meant that by the time that we’d each taken our first turn, we’d managed to get four blue cards into the Scientist’s hands and they’d cured that disease already. In the meantime, black was going down the toilet at the same time, and a double outbreak meant that it was looking very hairy.

Yellow also quickly started to look troublesome, however by the end of our second turn each, it started to feel like we’d established a decent holding pattern and could maybe stay on top of this.

We soon found a cure for the black disease, and there were only a small number of blue cities still containing infection. I was running around back and forth across Europe and North America trying to eradicate it completely, so that we could stop worrying about it, but every time I cleared a city it would pop back up again. Meanwhile, San Francisco was slowly accumulating Faded, and was in danger of overflowing, which would then mean that Chicago and Los Angeles would become Faded too. However, we felt like we weren’t far from winning. The scientist held three black city cards and three blue city cards in their hand, meaning that they already had enough to cure the black disease, they only had to get back to a research station. And one more blue city card would enable them to cure the blue disease too. All that would then remain is to eradicate one of the diseases, and both blue and yellow looked achievable. We could win this!

San Francisco at breaking point

Once again, the rug was snatched out from under us by an epidemic, this time in the black region. The cascading outbreaks meant that the counter fell off the bottom of the track in seconds, and three cities there (Moscow, Tehran and Baghdad) are now in a state of rioting.

Disaster

In contrast, we’d managed to stay on top of the situation in the Faded region, and none of the cities worsened. Maybe in hindsight we over-allocated resources there this time?

For our two end-game upgrades, we deliberated for a long time before choosing the following two: firstly, Wei no longer gets a scar for being in an outbreaking city. This we deemed useful as Wei already has one scar, and once a character gets up to three scars then they are out of the game permanently.

Wei’s Condition

The second upgrade was to grant ourselves another unfunded event card. The Manila city card is now an unfunded event that allows us to remove one Faded figure.

Manila now doubles up as an unfunded event that allows us to remove one faded figure

The State Of The World After April

Having lost April twice in a row, we will move on to May in the next session. We don’t yet know what rule changes will be introduced – let’s hope it’s good news. But we do know the following:

  • Having lost twice in a row, our funding level is up to 4, meaning we’ll be able to shuffle 4 funded event cards into the deck at the start of the game. It’s good that there is a compensating mechanism built into the game to adjust the difficulty downwards if you’re struggling, but we could perhaps do with more than just a mere handful of funded event cards.
  • The Asia/Pacific Rim zone contains four rioting cities and one collapsing
  • There are also three rioting cities in central Asia

Rioting in central Asia

On the whole, losing twice in a row was very disheartening. But hey, that’s dealing with pandemics for ya.

Pete
June 1, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Six)

(View previous instalments here)

It will be no surprise to you that all of these beers come from this month’s AFBeerClub box.

Athletic Brewing Co – Run Wild IPA

This beer has a delightful deep honey colour, and a smell that is sweet and hoppy and very inviting. It’s a little cloudy, and has a decent head that persists nicely. The flavour is quite sharp and a bit grapefruity. It all feels very deliberate and intentional and executed with precision.

Athletic Brewing Co – Upside Dawn Golden

Another beer from the Athletic brewery, this has a rich deep orange colour, and again is slightly cloudy. The head is small but calm, there’s no furious fizzing occurring beneath it. The aroma has a hint of honey and a little hoppiness. I’m in two minds about the flavour, in that I find it a little dull and lacking in ooomph, which makes me feel uninclined to buy it again, buuuuut it’s such an easy drinking beer that when I consider some of the other beers that I’ve given top marks to, it feels like it would be terribly inconsistent of me to not put this among them.

Fungtn – Lions Mane IPA

This beer is quite lively, with a somewhat vigorous head. It’s got a robust smell with a really compelling earth maltiness. The flavour is bold too, uncompromising and tangy, in a considered and rounded way. This is a very aley kind of ale, and is a marketplace where so many alcohol-free beers seem to be leaning towards the “hops hops hops” approach, is a refreshing change.

Lowtide – Brune DMC

As you can tell from the photo, this beer emerged from the can brimming with vigour, and nearly made a bit of a mess. This beer smells and tastes as dark as it looks, with a little nuttiness in both the aroma and flavour. There is a slight tartness here that feels a bit out of place, but on the whole this is, like the Lion’s Mane, a really great alcohol free beer for those who fancy something a bit darker. And, like that, we have our first clean sweep in this series so far.

I’m spoiled, I really am.

Pete
May 21, 2021

Cooking alphabetically around the world Part 2

Our first tour took us sporadically through some of the letters twixt A and L, with occasional photographs of the actual food, as the outstandingly elegant Dr Pockless and I took on the task of cooking through the alphabet. We pick up ostensibly halfway through the alphabet, and will in the next post be filling in some of those missing letters. As we dig in to these next few letters, it turns out that almost everywhere has a national dish that consists mainly of chicken and rice; this made me wonder about the feasibility of doing this project again, but only making chicken and rice dishes.

M: Mexican Huevos Rancheros

Ideally I’d have made this in a large fying pan; my options were a small frying pan, a larger buckled frying pan, a wok, or a casserole dish. I went for the casserole dish, which meant my sauce was deeper than perhaps it should have been. We used a Jamie Oliver recipe, and as you know Señor Oliver is known best for an inauthentic paella, so perhaps this was a terrible choice. Furthermore one doesn’t really need much of a recipe for this, it’s fried up peppers and onions with tomato and chorizo, and eggs on top cooked in the heat of the sauce. Personally I think peppers stewed slowly in passata is a heavenly thing, but Bernard ferociously disagrees, so it was toast and soup for him again, poor neglected wee scrap.

N: Nepalese Chicken Curry

A few years ago while Bernard still did karate, Pete and I took the opportunity to continue our walk along the Basingstoke Canal. It was not such a nice day as this one, and we ended up dripping all over the floor of a Nepalese restaurant in Aldershot. What did we eat? Chicken and rice. So despite this recipe being from Sainsbury, I feel I can attest to it being somewhat like what I remembered from that wet wet day, but with fewer small bones. I added the peas because I was craving vegetables.

O: Omani Dhokri

As I approached the O/P/Q quandary, it became clear that our options were narrowing. Both Oman and Qatar claimed a chicken and rice dish called Machboos; there wasn’t much else for Qatar, so for Oman I had to pick the only other dish that really seemed doable, with the bonus that it wasn’t chicken and rice, and featured an interesting dumpling. Dhokri is a Lawati lamb and dumpling stew, and the dumplings are little flour/salt dough things more like nokedli than gnocchi, in my opinion. I thought they were slightly underdone, but Bernard thought they were one of the best things he’s ever eaten. All this rich cookery adventure and his favourite thing is the dumplings. Typical.

P: Peruvian Arroz Chaufa

Peruvian cuisine is heavily influenced by Peru’s Chinese population, and this is a version of fried rice not dissimilar to a dish I already cook reasonably often. However the egg was scrambled separately (I did this in the microwave), and the meat was chicken rather than bacon; and this is how I will be cooking fried rice from now on. There was a huge quantity of it, and the leftovers were extremely good as lunchtime burritos the next day.
Doctor Pockless eschewed the fried rice, in fact eschewed Peru altogether, and made a really nice Pakistani aubergine curry, which I tried for me and Pete a few days later. Bernard made himself some sushi that night.

Q: Qatari Machboos
It turns out that Dr P eschewed Peru for a good reason, which was that he intended to cheatingly use its indigenous name Quechua for ‘Q’ week. I stuck to the rules and made the Machboos, which is a bit of a generic Middle Eastern chicken and rice dish, but unquestionably delicious. There’s no photo; all that remained was just about enough for a very peppery burrito the next day. We’ll put pretty much anything in a burrito, in this house.

R: Russian Beef Stroganoff

It was hard to choose a recipe for beef stroganoff, but happily The Guardian had done a good review of lots of recipes, and developed “the perfect” one. Controversially, this involves cooking the steak whole and then slicing it, which actually works well for me as I’d rather handle cooked meat than raw. I’m always happy to come back to the sharp and sour flavours of central/eastern europe. The meat and mushrooms were juicy, and there was a good amount of the delicious sauce. If you do cook this recipe, look out for the bit where you rest the raw seasoned steak for an hour before cooking, and spend 30 minutes on the onions.

I promised we would end up with meatballs, however I’m scheduling this post the week before ‘S’ so in fact we will start the next post in Sweden, as well as back-filling some of those missing letters. Bernard and I have researched an Angolan chicken and rice dish, and there will be some sort of curry from Bangladesh, if I can choose a recipe, which is currently challenging me. Suggestions gratefully received.

Karen
May 20, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Five)

(View previous instalments here)

As is so often the case, I have this month’s AFBeerClub box to thank for some of these beers. I’m struggling to keep up with the reviews, and have even started entertaining the notion of only writing reviews for selected beers. But for now, let’s try to keep doing all of them.

West Berkshire Brewery Solo Peach Ale

This beer has a delightful golden colour, and a head that dissipates very quickly leaving a steady rolling bubblage as it carbonates away to itself for an indeterminate period. It has a lovely smell, with a precisely delicate hint of peach. That said, all of that subtlety gets lost in the mouth, and it just sits there fizzing away on your tongue like popping candy.

Doom Bar Zero

When I discovered that there was an alcohol-free Doom Bar variant, my interest was piqued. Once upon a time I counted Doom Bar as one of my favourite beers, up until the point where every shit pub started carrying it so that they could say “hey, we don’t just have four different lagers, we have real ale too!” and the name started to conjure up expectations of disappointment. But let’s not let that ruin our excitement.

This claims to be an amber ale but as you can see, it’s dark as the night. The smell carries that thick, sweet, cloying current of wortiness as is so common in attempts to do an alcohol-free beer of this nature. What little head was captured in this photo was gone a few seconds later, but it continued to bubble away. I was expecting the taste of it to be another wortfest, but was pleased that there was very little of that in the flavour. In fact, the flavour was quite peculiar and unbeery. Turning the drink over on my tongue, I came to the conclusion that the flavour of this actually reminded me more of a sort of unsweetened cola than a beer. Absolutely baffling. Will I order it again? At this time, we just can’t say for certain.

Sainsbury’s Pilsner Zero Alcohol

With the exception of the Aldi “Hop Foundry” range (reviewed here), this is the first supermarket own-brand alcohol-free beer I’ve come across. It has the colour of apple juice, and weirdly smells a bit like it too. The head was gone fairly quickly, but the beer still had some bubbles in it, which seems to be becoming a recurring theme in this post. The flavour is sharp and acidic, again not doing anything to discourage those comparisons with apple juice. I could probably tolerate this beer again, but I don’t think I’d actively seek it out. Apple juice is cheaper.

Infinite Best Bitter

The Infinite Session American Pale Ale was one of the first alcohol-free beers I reviewed, and has been an enduring staple in my stash, that I’ve returned to again and again. One of the things I’ve noticed, since I switched to alcohol-free beer, is that the type of beer I drink has changed a lot. I used to tend towards drinking darker beers, but these are harder to translate to alcohol-free, which means that I now favour IPAs and wheat beers, as there are better pickings in this department. I’m constantly on the prowl for an alcohol-free bitter that can keep up with its alcoholic brethren. Will this beer meet the test?

It’s fairly dark and very cloudy. The smell is passable, though a little on the worty side, no surprise there. The flavour is actually quite pleasant, though if you close your eyes it actually feels more like drinking a watery stout than a bitter. So, in conclusion: solid effort, but not the breakthrough I was hoping for.

Nøgne Ø Svart/Hvit Milkstout

One of the things I really dig about the monthly beer box is how there’s always some weird unpronounceable stuff from Norway or somewhere like that, which must be really hard to stumble upon by accident, but the curator of that beer box goes out of his way to find these little gems and share them with us.

This stout is thick and dark and viscous, with a sweet caramel-like smell, and hints of coffee and chocolate. The flavour is absolutely immense. It’s rich, heavenly, smooth and succulently balanced. This is a superb milkstout, and blasts its way right to the top of the “fool your friends” list. Put this alongside Big Drop Arctic Beach, Lowtide Who Let The Bees Stout and Tiny Rebel Space Cake, and what you’ve got right there is a list of 4 immaculate yet diverse alcohol-free stouts that will keep you warm for the rest of your life.

Pete