May 2, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Four)

(View previous instalments here)

As is so often the case, I have this month’s AFBeerClub box to thank for these beers.

Omnipollo Nyponsoppa

This is a pale ale brewed with rosehips which flows in a viscous and creamy fashion, and appears orange and opaque in the glass. The smell is sickeningly fruity, a bit like tomato juice, of which I am not a big fan. The flavour is similarly, and I’m not going to beat about the bush here, revolting. Surprisingly, I actually managed to finish this, but only by sipping at it slowly over the course of an entire evening.

Mikkeller Weird Weather

I often find Mikkeller beers to be very non-beery which leaves me feeling a bit confused and disappointed, but this one smells like a really robust and pleasingly familiar IPA. It’s quite hazy and pale to look at, and the flavour is absolutely heavenly. It’s quite a bit smoother and creamier than I was expecting from the smell, and it’s an absolute masterpiece.

Ridgeside “Nothing But The Rain v.7”

This beer tumbled out of the can with rather a lot of head, though not so much that it was in danger of making a mess. It’s cloudy with a pleasant and slightly lemony smell. The head dissipated very quickly leaving it looking a bit flat. The drink tastes good, smooth and balanced, and that little lemony hint is quite invigorating. For me, this is the right level of sourness for a pale ale.

Drynks Smashed Lager

This lager has a medium colour and a very small head which disappeared very quickly to nothing. The smell is inviting, and puts me in mind of Brooklyn Special Effects, which is another alcohol free lager which I’ve returned to again and again. The flavour of this beer is excellent, with one or two slightly strange aspects to it, but on the whole this is an incredibly mouthwatering and more-ish beer which honestly I could just quaff and quaff and quaff all night long.

April 14, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Three)

(View previous instalments here)

As always, these are some of the beers in the monthly AFBeerClub box.

Stride “On Track” Pale Lager

I wasn’t terribly taken with the Stride pale ale in the previous instalment, so didn’t have high expectations for this one. It has a nice deep colour and a small head, and the smell has a nice bold fruitiness. The flavour was fairly unpleasant to my taste though, I found it to be rough and very sour. Can not recommend.

Rothaus Tannen Zäpfle

This has a good head, though the smell is a bit sour and acidic, to the point that it actually reminds me more of a strong cider. It’s quite sour to the taste as well, and the flavour has a very pilsyness to it. On the whole it’s not really to my taste, however I can appreciate that it’s a flavour with depth and complexity, and to those who like this sort of thing, it’s probably a very well-crafted example.

Venture “Point Five”

This beer had quite an odd behaviour when I removed the cap. It was very lively indeed, to the point that it would have overflowed if I had not acted quickly. As I poured it, the head came out in two distinct phases – there was an initial, conventional, fairly thin head, and then as I upended the bottle there was a sort of creamy yoghurty after-head that took a long time to drain out of the bottle. Most curious. The head does linger nicely. The smell of this beer is very inviting, it’s delicate and smooth and floral. The flavour, you’ll be pleased to know, lives up to the invitation. It’s easy to drink, and hoppy but not excessively so. I detected an aftertaste that didn’t quite seem to fit the whole pattern, but it was not so obnoxious that it could spoil what is otherwise a delicious and well-balanced beer that I think could earn a very broad appeal amongst ale drinkers of all inclinations.

  • Comments: 3
  • Via a conversation with Gordon McLean on LinkedIn, I found myself thinking about my old bl... - Clare Sudbery
  • Thank you, that's very kind of you, though I'm sure I can't be the only one who's publishi... - Pete
  • These reviews continue to be excellent and informative. I may be biased as, obviously, the... - swisslet
April 3, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-Two)

(View previous instalments here)

Another box from AFBeerClub, and more new beers (plus a couple that I’ve had before, of course)!

Stride Pale Ale

This looks good out of the can, a robust beerish colour and a fairly sweet smell with a little tang of antiseptic. However, I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the flavour. I found it to be a bit thin and watery with some of that old metallic fizziness. I didn’t detect much in the way of classic beery flavours, be that hops or malt or anything from that stable. It’s not hideously unpleasant, I just found it to be a bit boring. And crap.

Big Drop “Arctic Beach”

This is a coconut stout. Now, normally I would save something like this for last, but because this is from Big Drop, who so often disappoint me, those normal rules do not apply, so I decided to get this one out of the way early. It comes in a large can – at this point in my notes I scribbled down “to prolong the torture”, which gives you an idea of how low my expectations were. It looks, and smells, alright – it reminds me of their hazelnut porter, which is one that I definitely did like.

With the first sip – by god that tastes amazing. It’s perhaps a little thin, but the flavours are bold, and the coconut element is pitched exactly right – there’s enough there that it comes through, but not so much that it dominates and the drink stops tasting like a beer and starts tasting like coconut syrup. This is such an incredibly delicious stout that it makes me consider trying the regular Big Drop Stout again, in case they’ve changed their recipe to be anything like as good as this.

Sambrooks “Stand Easy”

This is an IPA that pours with a very lively, thick and creamy head. The aroma is superb, a very inviting and smooth floral hoppiness. The flavour sadly doesn’t quite live up to the promise, it’s got some rough edges and is a little tart and sharp. That said, the beer is on the whole very easy to drink, and does more than enough to hold its own against the other beers that I’ve awarded…

March 19, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty-One)

(View previous instalments here)

This month’s selection box from AFBeerClub contains six new alcohol-free beers for me to review, and two I’ve had before. Here’s the last three reviews before the next box arrives.

Mikkeller “Henry and His Science”

There’s something about the artwork on Mikkeller beers that I find deeply disturbing. They put me in mind of childrens books from some tiny European country where they eat the kind of food that would make any sane person retch. But I should not let that affect my judgement of the beer, and indeed I will not. This beer is pale and slightly cloudy, with a very fruity, citrusy, tropical, ever-so-slightly-tangy aroma. The flavour has a little more edge to it than the smell would lead you to believe, and the end result is a very tropical drink that falls somewhere on the line between Lilt and Um Bongo, which is a drink that I’m surprised to see is still made today, considering how the entire marketing campaign was pretty much based around casual racism. So if you want a fizzy tropical drink, you’ll love this. If you want a beer, then perhaps not.

Northern Monk “Holy Faith”

Holy Faith is a hazy pale ale which comes in a nice big can. It pours with a lovely head which sadly dissipates quite quickly. The smell is fruity but with a hint of that idiosyncratic smell that you only find in a carpet shop – you know the one. It tastes okay, but all that sharpness and fizziness buries any more delicate qualities that may exist, and it ends up feeling a bit one-dimensional.

Lowtide “Who Let The Bees Stout”

As always, I save the stout for the end. This is a honeycomb and chocolate stout. The pour is very promising – a decent viscosity, black as night, with a creamy head. The smell has a strong whiff of honey, which is what we’re hoping for. The honeyness is there in the flavour too, along with a sweetness that reminds me ever so slightly of childrens cough syrup. All in all, these curious flavours are present at a relatively subtle level, which is good. Too much could be overwhelming, but in this case they just lend a little degree of curiosity which means that this is actually a beer that you could drink a few of in a row without getting bored or exhausted.

This monthly subscription box has been brilliant in terms of introducing me to new alcohol-free beers. I do also maintain a stockpile of “old favourites” for when I don’t fancy trying something new. It’s been a while since I’ve needed to replenish this stockpile, but I did have to do so recently. I bought six each of the following all-time favourites, from the usual Wise Bartender, of course:

  • Bristol Clear Head (review)
  • Brutal “A Ship Full Of IPA” (review)
  • Drop Bear Bonfire Stout (review)
  • Infinite Session American Pale Ale (review)
  • Nirvana Stout (review)
  • Signature Brew Lo-Fi (review)
  • Tiny Rebel Space Cake (review)
  • Clausthaler Unfiltered (review)
  • Erdinger (review)
February 28, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Twenty)

(View previous instalments here)

This month’s selection box from AFBeerClub contains six new alcohol-free beers for me to review, and two I’ve had before. Here’s the first three reviews, which I write while Bernard does his piano practice downstairs. He’s in a sulk, so is playing very very badly, perhaps deliberately, and it’s all coming out quite jazzy. I think he’s hoping to torture us so badly that we can truly appreciate his pain.

Bristol Beer Factory “Clear Head”

Bristol Beer Factory is a good brewery, so I’ve got a good feeling about this beer. It pours clear and golden with a small head that dissipated quite quickly. The smell is smooth and balanced, with a nice fresh light hoppiness to it. The flavour is truly immaculate, luscious and easy drinking, but still interesting. I have to say that this beer sets a new bar for alcohol-free IPA, it’s a delight to drink.

Signature Brew “Lo-Fi”

This beer comes out pale and hazy. It’s got a strong hoppy aroma, but not aggressively so. The flavour is also excellent – tangy and fizzy, but generally well balanced. It reminds me a lot of Brewdog’s Hazy AF, which I also reviewed once upon a time, and of which I was (and remain) a big fan.

Big Drop “Fieldhopper”

We have mixed feelings about Big Drop round these parts. There’s some great alcohol-free beers coming out of that brewery, but also some duds that seem to me so unpalatable that I find myself wondering how anyone could have thought “yeah, ship it”. This one is a promising-looking beer with a gorgeous deep golden colour. The head drifted away quite quickly, and taking a sniff I got a bit of a hit of maltiness and wortiness. I took a sip, and recoiled in terror. This tastes nasty to me. It’s watery and metallic, and the only “flavour” I could detect was a sort of biscuitiness. All the positive things you associate with beer are missing in this drink. It was on the cusp of being so bad that I chucked away most of it, and that’s something that I very rarely do.

February 22, 2021

Alien (1979)

We had a very frank talk earlier in the day about how this project is going, and whether forcing classic movies down Bernard’s throat was actually doing any of us any good. But we decided to persevere, for now, and for this week’s family film night we chose this 1979 classic, and we also decided to watch it on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday night, partly because we already had plans to play games with Pockless on Saturday night, and also because Karen is a scaredy cat and thought that watching it in the dark might be too intense.

Alien is a film about the crew of the Nostromo, a commercial space ship, who are on a routine trip when they are woken from stasis by the ship’s computer, Mother (basically a room full of blinking lights) to investigate a potential distress call. The film is set 100 years in the future… well, now 50, and dropping… and while some of the predictions for future technology were quite imaginative, Ridley Scott did fail to consider that in 100 years time we may have upgraded our green CRT computer monitors with a resolution of 320×240.

Upon investigating the signal, the crew discover a hive of alien eggs, while making stupid decision after stupid decision in order to apparently ensure that they bring one back on board. Once a few of the crew have died, things take a turn for the worse when the ship’s computer, who obviously serves the company’s interest, declares that bringing a specimen back is more important than saving the lives of the remaining crew, to which Ripley, now the ranking officer, declares “fuck that”, or words to the same effect, and does the needful.

A subject that can’t be avoided, and this is also somewhat applicable to Jaws (another film that we’ve watched as part of this project), is the special effects. The film is from 1979, so there are no computer-generated special effects. The practical effects are unarguably brilliant for their time, but over the last few decades the average moviegoer has come to expect CGI which isindistinguishable from reality, to the point where even Sunday evening family TV has photorealistic talking animals whose lips move perfectly in sync with the audio. As a result, the few shots of the alien aren’t really that scary any more, and Ash’s final scene, again brilliant for its time, now feels clumsy and a bit sixth-form. When Ripley says “Turbulence…” and the cameraman merely shakes the camera about a bit – there’s no magic there. It’s a bit of a shame – we’ve lost a certain innocence, a willingness to be taken in by a puppet, and we’ll never get it back. Fortunately, like Jaws, most of the horror in this movie is suspense created by not seeing the Alien, so that all still works beautifully.

We can also add Alien to the list of films which have a chilling poignancy in these coviddy times. When Ripley says “By breaking quarantine, you risk everyone’s life.” we could not help but nod and grunt in acknowledgement.

As the credits rolled, we turned to Bernard for his assessment, braced for “the B word”. But to our delight, he said “it was alright” which is 14-year-old-ese for “Jeepers creepers, parents, that was by all accounts a gripping and highly enjoyable cinematographic experience!” The project lives to fight another week.

  • Comments: 3
  • > Aliens is go! Very possibly, but we may want to give it a few weeks and come back to it... - Pete
  • One of the things that helped was getting his buy-in earlier in the day, by showing him IM... - Karen
  • Aliens is go! - Swisslet
February 14, 2021

Film Review: Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and (1960)

If the purpose of this project is to show Bernard the great wealth of movie culture that existed before he was born, then Ocean’s Eleven was an abject failure. For on this evening, he was in a Sad And Grumpy Mood For No Reason, as is the nature of a 14 year old in lockdown, and he had had a disappointing takeaway which must be mitigated with PBJ sandwiches, poached pear, and so on. He paid the movie no attention whatsoever, largely because of the Sad And Grumpy Mood, and also because his parents are idiots.

Nonetheless we soldiered through, enjoying both our own takeaway meals and the movie despite his dark and brooding presence.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) is a perfectly good movie, and nobody should feel bad about the fact that a bored 14 year old had no interest in it. We chose it because he enjoys Money Heist, which is rubbish, but his choice and therefore superior. It starts fairly slowly as the gang is introduced and assembled, and then a voiceover heist plan is explained, just as it is done in Money Heist, but no. Various problems arise and are resolved in clever ways. One character is inexplicably English (or “British,” as the Americans would say), but as there are no English actors, the character uses words like “knickers” and “guvnor” to clarify what his accent is supposed to be. Julia Roberts stars as The Only Female Character, and knows the difference between Monet and Manet, so clearly is not just a very pretty face; however her only role in the movie is to be claimed by whichever man she considers less vile at the time. It is all both clever and formulaic, and Bernard goes to bed before the end.

In a crazy turn of events, we then took up the idea of immediately watching Ocean’s Eleven (1960) for the purpose of making this review more interesting. The cast of this movie knew each other so well that apparently they improvised most of the dialogue, and generally appear to be having a laugh with their mates throughout. Five minutes in, we already have twice as many female characters as the 2001 edition, and this excellent trend continues. All the female characters wear white fox stoles, and some of them have actual lines. It takes about an hour of chit chat to get to the heist itself, which consists mainly of men walking around giving each other meaningful looks, and is then over in ten minutes, at which point I did fall asleep.

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) wins hands-down for the musical numbers and Sammy Davis Jr’s fascinating jawline, also they robbed five casinos not just the vault of one casino, because they did things properly in the 20th Century.

February 13, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Nineteen)

(View previous instalments here)

This month’s selection box from AFBeerClub containeds eight alcohol-free beers for me to review. Here’s the final four of them:

UWE – Stereo Pils

This beer has a very pleasing pale amber colour and a nice thick head. Initial sniff test yielded a certain breadiness in the aroma. The flavour is pretty good, it reminds me of a slightly less fruity version of Maisel. This is another one of those beers that gives you one of those jaw-dropping “wow, can this really be alcohol-free?” moments. Karen also had a little sip, and whereas she usually pulls a very specific face after having a sip of beer, on this occasion she did not, which leads me to think that this might also have appeal amongst those who are not usually beer drinkers.

Tiny Rebel – Rhubarb and Custard

This drink poured a very pale pink, which is not a colour that one normally finds on the beer spectrum. There’s no head whatsoever, but it does bubble awake cheerfully. No surprises in the smell – it’s an exact match for what the title has invoked in your imagination. I was a little disappointed in the flavour, in that I was hoping for something that intertwines some rhubarbcustardiness into a beer, but in fact the flavour is all rhubarbcustard and no beer. I find myself questioning the role of the conventional beer ingredients in this beverage at all. That said, if you like the sound of a rhubarby drink, you’ll probably like this, but calling it “beer” is a bit of a misdirection.

Lowtide – DIPA Toe In

This beer pours a cloudy dark amber colour with nice chunky head. The smell instantly evokes a beer festival, those pungent fruity ales which knock your socks off. The flavour follows through on his promise, ripe and full-bodied and invoking the good old days when we went to pubs and such like.

Hammerton – “Crunch” Peanut Butter Milk Stout

I saved this for last as I had really high hopes, as I do like a dark beer with a twist. It passed the first test, which is the pour, by means of a good viscosity and a creamy head. The second test, the smell test, was a little less impressive, as I only detected a relatively small amount of peanuttiness, but a lot of biscuitiness. And test three, the sip, was sadly a bit disappointing. I was hoping for the peanut flavour to be blended into the drink in a smooth and creamy fashion, but it didn’t quite hit that spot, and it ended up just being a fairly thin-flavoured stout with a weird and disintegrated nut layer. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I’d purchase this for the occasional novelty experience. That said, it’s not revolting, and I wouldn’t steer people away from giving it a try if they like the sound of it.