The taste will conquer you: @WindsorEtonBrew – Conqueror 1075 Black IPA

20150903_190707I don’t think we get enough black IPAs these days…thank the good lord above that Windsor and Eton have noticed this and provided one…

Holy cow it’s black.  I mean blacker than black.  Don’t put a glass of it down in a power-cut as you’ll never find it again.  It’s also got a brooding dark brown head that sort of saunters off after a few minutes…

The nose is enormous and heavy with thick roastiness and a big old resinous hope edge.  As with all roasty ‘n’ hoppy beers there’s a lovely old leather, bookish, theme about it with some yeasty fruit on the very back.

Taste-wise we’re getting with enormous amounts of malt, I mean massively malty with a lovely soft effervescence.

Huge great roast flavours mingle with those fat resinous hops – lending that same “deep leather armchairs at a Gentlemens’ club” theme that we first encountered in the aroma – but there’s also some liquorice and further roast, which enhances the overall complexity.

At 7.4% (flip!) we do get a blimmin’ great alcoholic warmth, but there’s no offensive alcoholic burn.  It’s all nicely fitted together…which is no mean feat; I know that beers this big are a difficult act to pull off and for that we must applaud the folks at Windsor and Eaton.

God, this beer is worth having. Buy it on sight, if you see it

I think I’d find it amusing to have a few of these while taking in a firework display or something like that…

Thornbridge Raven Black IPA vs. Jon’s home-brewed “Troublemaker” Cascadian Dark Ale

20140122_191844Troublemaker on the left, Raven on the right.  Colour isn’t everything, though…

Then, methought, the aroma grew denser – perfumed by an unseen censer
enriched by sensuous malt and hop that knocked me to the tufted floor
“Raven!” I cried, “Thy God has lent thee and courtesy of Westholme Stores has sent thee”
“Respite; respite and nepenthe from memory of beers that bore!”
“Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget those beers of yore!”
Quoth the Raven “Evermore…”


…once he slows down from the 2,000 or so RPM that he must have achieved in his grave, I hope that Edgar Allen Poe can find it in what remains of his – by now dusty – heart to accept my sincere apologies.

I got to try Thornbridge Raven Black IPA last night – which was exciting, but as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also ran it up against my own Troublemaker CDA just to see if my handiwork was anywhere near the mark:


Raven: Deepest garnet when help up to the light, and blackest black when not.  A fabulous creamy head

Troublemaker: Miraculously, bang-on for colour and head.  Promising…


Raven: An avalanche of dank hops teeter on the edge of a long drop into darkly enticing malts.  Perfectly balanced on the knife edge between hops and malt.  Revelatory.

Troublemaker: Hops nowhere near as prominent as Raven.  Dark malts win out by a country mile.  This is where the lack of things like a hop-back or hop-rocket show-up.  Needs way more hop aroma.

Taste and Mouth-feel

Raven: Resinous, dank and vivid hop flavours explode over a dark malt undercurrent.  A solid malt body with a nice 6.6% ABV contributes to a decent mouth-feel whilst a satisfying bitterness provides air-cover for further random attacks of hop flavour through the swallow.

Troublemaker: Some Cascade hoppiness vies with -and probably loses out to, if I’m honest- a roast malt background.  The hop flavour fades quite quickly to be replaced with that nice, but certainly not to style, dark malt.  A decent-enough bitterness prevails at the swallow and offers a few glimpses of the residual hoppiness.  At 5.3% I also think it’s a bit thin and needs an extra 1% heft.

Raven has definitely shown me what needs to change in the Troublemaker recipe: a ton more hops, a longer hop stand and way more dry-hopping.  It also needs more bitterness and a more alcohol.  But saying all of that, it’s eminently drinkable – although clearly not a Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale.   Maybe I’ve invented a new style: Indian Dark Porter?

But, holy cow, black IPA is where it’s at; I’m liking it a lot and Raven is excellent and very much a beer that I’ll be returning to -and trying to brew myself- again and again.

Wild Raven:


Troublemaker CCDA in a Braumeister

Tuesday night was brew night again for me…I’ve been hankering after a dark, roasty IPA sort of thing for a while, blame Magic Rock’s Dark Arts; I still can’t stop thinking about the taste of that beer, even though it’s not a CDA or IPA, I can’t get it out of my head.

So with roasty hoppy thoughts to the fore I put this together…let’s face it, this is more of a CCDA, than a CDA – featuring as it does Chinook and Cascade.

Here’s the recipe:


I used US-05 again as I wanted the hops and malt to feature strongly and not have the yeast steal the show.  The final 25g of Cascade and 10g of Chinook will be for dry or keg-hopping.  I haven’t decided yet which.

I hit the target gravity of 1053 and got 22 or so litres of wort into the fermenter. It tastes good and is fairly hoppy…but the carafa II does seem to run quite strongly, so I’m hoping the tastes will even out during fermenting and conditioning.  Combining dark malts and powerful hops does seem to be a bit of a delicate balancing act.

The one thing I will say about this latest brew session is: BLOODY LEAF HOPS IN A BLOODY BRAUMEISTER…  If I get another hop blockage in the bloody teeny weeny Braumeister tap, I’ll bloody scream.  In future it has to be either pellets or a hop screen.

Speidel, this piddly little block-up-able tap really is a major shortcoming, please fit a hop strainer as standard to the Braumeister.

…And that’s why this brew is called “Troublemaker”, a hop blockage during the run-off meant that I had to unscrew the Braumeister tap to let the wort out into the fermenter through a sterilised sieve and funnel combination.

Unfortunately the pressure of a full volume of wort in the boiler meant it overshot the funnel and pissed a litre or so of wort all over the floor and into one of my shoes.


The Troublemaker is bubbling away at 18.5C, tasting notes will follow…

Conwy Brewery: Riptide Black IPA


This will be a short review as I had this beer as the last drink of the night on a stag-do – which involved several pints of Guinness, an afternoon of tutored cocktail-making (and drinking) plus an Indian meal with some pints of passable Cobra.

Out of all the drinks I had over the course of the evening this one stuck in my mind the most…in fact I can still taste it…It was that good.

Black, I mean pitch black and attractive looking in the glass.  Not a vast aroma but tempting all the same.  An attacking bitterness on the first sip followed by a surge of hoppiness (NOT American IPA strength, but very hoppy all the same) then a looong dose of lip-smacking dark malts and a final incredibly looong lasting satisfying aftertaste of bitter and dark malts and hops.

In a word spectacular.  Folks, if we want to get crafty in this country this is a damn good way to start.

…perfectly kept and enjoyed in “Far From the Madding Crowd” in Oxford Town Centre: