Hercules Hold Scotch Ale – ABV 8.5%

Hercules took its Hold on us at first sip: it’s sweet and sharp with Belgian malts and Candi sugars aged in oak barrels for three months.

Aroma: Dried fruit resting on a malty backbone

Taste: The beer has had a couple of doses of Brett in the brewing (farmhouse yeast, and in a beer blended in before the barrel ageing), so it has some sweet and sharp flavours you wouldn’t normally expect a Scotch Ale.

Verdict: We’ve seen Hercules Hold referred to variously as a Scotch or Belgian ale, a confusion that must surely be the natural result of a really unique beer. But no matter what you call it, it’s is a treat.

Food Pairing: Try it with blue cheese for a salty-sweet flavour combo.

Figgy Bastard Imperial Stout – ABV 10%

Beer made with figs aged in red wine barrels for an Amaretto tingle. You’ve got better willpower than us if you can wait until Christmas to drink this.

Look: Figgy Bastard pours jet black with a tan head.

Aroma: Dried fruit, chocolate and amaretto.

Taste: Sweetness of figs and dates, with a lovely contrasting sourness that prevents it becoming too cloying. Lovely stuff.

Food pairing: If you can keep your hands off it until Christmas Day it will go down a storm with your mince pies and Xmas pudding.

BA Orkney Porter Arran Bere Whisky Cask Edition – ABV 11.5%

Roasted malts dotted with sherry sweetness and a strong ABV – this BA porter is like Arbor’s Goo Goo G’Joob with a fruity twist. It’s that good.

Look: Swannay’s BA Orkney Porter has a good level of carbonation with a light brown head that quickly vanishes – just as you’d expect for beer with double digit ABV.

Aroma: A fruity porter and booziness the whisky barrels in absolutely perfect balance, with the overall effect being sherry trifle against a backbone of roasted malt.

Taste: On the palate you get even more of that Whisky coming through – but it’s boozy rather than peaty, so we think you’ll enjoy it even if Scotch isn’t usually your thing. T

Food Pairing: This beer works really well with red meats. Try it with a nice fillet steak, cooked however you like it.

Bone Idol Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale – ABV 9.8%

This chocolatey imperial brown ale the Salisbury-based brewery includes pale, rye, crystal and roasted malt plus wheat and oats, matured in bourbon barrels.

Look: Black and densely rich with a creamy long-lasting tan head

Nose: Lots of chocolate and vanilla the oats and wheat plus those magnum hops and there’s a definitely a whiff of the bourbon the BA; it’s sweet and slightly sickly yet pretty addictive.

Taste: The bourbon without a doubt gives a clear alcoholic buzz but this is balanced well with the oats and chocolate which give some creaminess and richness to leave a velvet soft mouthfeel overall across plenty of complex layering.

Verdict: Powerful BA notes but the oats shine through nicely. Welcome to the revolution – it’s surprisingly rich and creamy.

Analogue Recordings Carsbridge Barrel Aged Red Ale – ABV 13%

From Uiltje’s “most special room” of the brewery comes a full-throttle 13-percenter Red Ale with notes of creamy vanilla and whiskey.

Aroma: Big hits of chocolate and vanilla and of course that boozey kick the Carsbridge whiskey barrels.

Taste: Really full boded – it’s really rare for a Red like this – with whiskey warmth and creamy vanilla sweetness.

Verdict: Just like vinyl records, Analogue Recordings are definitely a welcome part of modern digital life.

Meneer de Uil Wardhead Barrel Aged Imperial Porter – ABV 11.4%

This American-style whisky cask-aged imperial porter, dedicated to 80s cartoon character Mister Owl, is quite simply Uiltje’s most-requested beer ever.

Look: Opaque black, with a tan head that lasts pretty well. Medium carbonation

Aroma: Deep rich malty base with some light whisky accents, plus hints of spice and liquorice.

Taste: More malts and whiskey smokey sweetness. Medium body made of dark chocolate, coffee and sugar with rich boozy tones.

Verdict: Dank u wel, Meneer de Uil (Thanks very much, Mister Owl)!

Rio Reserva 2012 St Emilion & Bourbon Barrel Aged Quadrupel – ABV 10.5%

This imperious BA quad was aged in St. Emilion barrels Tour Baladoz winery near Bordeaux, and then Kentucky bourbon barrels for layers of intense flavour.

Look: Dark amber-red with a small beige head and medium carbonation.

Aroma: Rich roasted malts, caramel, toffee and vanilla, all riding a wave of boozy fruit sweetness.

Taste: Sweet caramel and robust maltiness, some light yeast and vanilla notes floating through. Forest and red fruits the wine before drying to bitter, fresh finish.

Verdict: The best of American whisky and the best of French wine makes this Belgian quadrupel an international masterpiece.

Tsjeeses Reserva 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Ale – ABV 10%

Aged in oak for six months, this is the amped version of De Struise’s Belgian Ale with spices, cane sugar and yeast for a gorgeous sticky, boozy finish.

Look: Pours a clear golden-amber with a small off-white head and medium carbonation.

Aroma: Boozy vanilla sugar syrup with caramel and toffee with loads of fruit: banana, apricot, peach and orange.

Taste: Some of the rich malts coming through followed by the alcohol taste and warmth and notes of fresh and dried fruit. Medium-bodied with a sweet and a hoppy, boozy finish.

Verdict: Take a De Struise Belgian Strong Ale and then barrel age it. Of course this is delicious.

Sgt Nightvision – ABV 10.5%

This French oak-aged American Imperial Stout has a smoky sweet character and a roasted chocolate base, thanks to Peated, Maris Otter, Caramel and Cara malts.

Look: Clear dark black-brown colour with a foamy beige head. Soft carbonation and nice lasting lacing.

Aroma: Dark roasted and sweet malts, chocolate, caramel and a hint of dried fruits.

Taste: Sweet with more dark malt, caramel and chocolate, some tones of roasted malts and charcoal smokiness. Medium to full-bodied, lingering bitterness and some lasting boozy warmth.

Verdict: Copy that, Sergeant. Because we’d like another one, please.

Smoke n Barrels – ABV 7.5%

Belgian Dubbel, made with liquorice-smoked wild sloes in a Foudre (a large wooden vat, popular with winemakers).


Look: Nut brown with a frothy head. 

Aroma: Smoked oak, with nuts and the tartness forest fruit.

Taste: Sweet with lots of dates, figs and dried fruit, mellow wood-smoke and subtle red wine tartness.

Verdict: Never your usual Wild Beer, and this beer shows why they are so highly regarded.