To Øl Ms. Series 2018

Earlier this year, To Øl launched their 2018 version of the Mr. Series - six beers named after the colourful aliases used in Quentin Tarantino's heist classic, Reservoir Dogs. Each beer brewed with an ingredient (or two) to represent that particular colour and then packaged in cans with each colours CMYK number. The designs were simplistic yet still stood out and made a statement which drew me to them in the first place. (And because To Øl make amazing beer.) I only managed to try one of these beers (Mr. White) which was probably the one I was the least interested in so when To Øl announced they were releasing another colour-based series, I wasn't going to miss out. 

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The Ms. Series is more or less the same premise as above, only gone are the references to Reservoir Dogs, and instead is a less restrictive palate of colours. To Øl's art director, Kasper Ledet, explains the story behind the design of the labels:

Each beer is named after a colour that also refers to the ingredients. The artworks feature colour pickers known from graphic applications like Photoshop or Illustrator. The colour picker is a reference to the act of graphic design itself and the process that went into creating the artworks. It is a kind of Brecht like self-referentiality, that points to the fact that what you are drinking is a construction made by humans. It is just beer in a bottle and ink on a label.
— Kasper Ledet

The beers in this series all sound pretty interesting and probably better on paper than the Mr. version released earlier this year. 

  • Ms. Black - Date & Liquorice Imperial Stout 10%

  • Ms. Grey - Earl Grey Biére de Garde 7%

  • Ms. Magenta - Dragonfruit & Strawberry Berliner Weisse 4.5%

  • Ms. Scarlet - Bloody Mary IPA 6%

  • Ms. Teal - Seaweed Gose 4.5%

  • Ms. Violet - Blackcurrant & Plum Tripel 9%

Basically all of them sound interesting but I've been burned before with beers that had unusual ingredients not really offering much so I'm cautiously optimistic this time around. 

Ms. Black // Date & Liquorice Imperial Stout 10%

Expectations: I'm in pretty good hands with To Øl when it comes to dark beers. They've brewed some brilliant ones in the past with the different Goliat and Maelk variants so I'm expecting big things from this. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of either of the key ingredients outside of beer but they are obviously great choices for a stout and will hopefully give it a sweet edge alongside the expected bitter backbone.

Reality: This poured out as smooth as silk. Black silk. It has almost zero carbonation and the head was that brown foam that lets you know you’ve got a big impy stout in your hands. As you can imagine, those two flavours are the dominant ones here. It’s very date heavy at first and then the big hit of liquorice comes through. As I said, I’m not really a fan of liquorice outside of beer but it really works well here and leaves a great aftertaste along with the boozy hit.

I’ve drank half of it and it’s tasting better as it comes up to room temperature from the fridge. A great beer to sip late at night as winter draws in.

Ms. Grey // Earl Grey Biére de Garde 7%

Expectations: Biére de Garde (or 'beer for keeping') is a style that isn't very popular outside of Belgium and France. Basically a saison but stronger it's a beer style that doesn't really do anything to me. Maybe the addition of earl grey tea leaves will make it stand out but it's a subtle flavour so I'm not expecting to be blown away.

Reality: Yeah, kind of what I expected really. It’s a beautiful dark brown colour and smells quite light as you’d expect but there’s nothing to wow on appearance or smell.

The taste is a bit disappointing. It’s still a very well made beer and very drinkable but the earl grey is so subtle that I’d never have guessed it was an ingredient had I not known. It hides the 7% well and has gone down well but I was hoping it would be more than the sum of its parts.

This was the first of the series I cracked open so hopefully this is the least good one in the box!

Ms. Magenta // Dragonfruit & Strawberry Berliner Weisse 4.5%

Expectations: I once went on a kid's rollercoaster ride as a teenager that was shaped like a dragon. It was alarmingly quick for a child's ride. So much so, it made me break out into an uncontrollable laughing fit at the sheer ridiculousness of the juxtaposition of a kid's rollercoaster being THAT fast. Anyway, I'm hoping this beer made with dragonfruit stirs up similar emotions. Giggling like a teenage boy at this delightful sounding beer. I'm all about a fruity, tart berliner weisse so am well up for this. Failing that, I'll have to go back to Alton Towers.

Reality: Most berliner weisse beers tend to have a pretty unpleasant smell. Not as bad as some sours but it has that slight sulphur smell to it. This beer, however, has zero aroma. Maybe it being straight out of the fridge has resulted in the aroma being dulled but it’s just vanished. I was a little perturbed and worried but I needn’t have been because this is very, very good.

I’m not really sure what a dragonfruit tastes like but I am getting alllll the strawberry here. It’s initially a bit tart but then the finish is lovely and sweet and I’ve just noticed I’ve chinned half the can in double quick time. This hasn’t stirred up the same reaction as the aforementioned rollercoaster but it’s certainly put a smile on my face.

Ms. Scarlet - Bloody Mary IPA 6%

Expectations: My only experience of a proper Bloody Mary involved the vodka being substituted with gin which as you can imagine was all kinds of wrong. I begrudgingly sipped it down which has probably ruined Bloody Mary's in my head forever. Hopefully this IPA version can win me round. I'm intrigued that an IPA was chosen for the base beer as tomato, celery, chilli and black pepper are not flavours you'd associate with it. However, in the name of science, I am willing to give it a go. Hopefully it's not reminiscent of the gin debacle.

Reality: Well, what a rollercoaster of a beer. Pouring it out I was amazed at just how deeply red this was. Expecting a colour closer to a regular IPA, I was taken aback. But then, I gave it a whiff. A nose full of coriander and celery. Panic set it. Coriander is the devil. I apprehensively took a gulp. The first hit was all tomato and all IPA. Yes! But then, the coriander came back with abandon. No! But THEN. The spice hit. The wonderful spice that cancelled out the coriander came through at the back of my throat and all was well. This is a clever, well made beer that I’d happily drink as part of a hangover cure.

I’ve completely forgotten about the gin monstrosity thanks to this beer.

Ms. Teal // Seaweed Gose 4.5%

Expectations: Can I shock you? I've actually had a sea-based gose before. The green beer in 2016's Rainbow Project. 2016 me was not a fan at all but I've embraced sour beer like a long lost relative and feel slightly more optimistic for Ms. Teal. Saltiness is to be expected in a gose so I'm hoping the seaweed doesn't make it super brackish. To Øl made one of the first gose beers I ever tasted (Gose to Hollywood) which really opened my eyes to sours so I hope this is equally as good as that.

Reality: Bang on with this tart little bastard. It’s light and salty and sour and everything a gose should be. I thought it might be overwhelmingly salty but it’s really well balanced. I’ve had a lot of sours over the last few years and this is right up there as one of the best. It just does everything it should very well and doesn’t try to be anything more than the sum of its parts.

I had always pegged To Øl as a brewery that made really good pale ales and imperial stouts but I’m going to have to add sours to that list now.

Ms. Violet // Blackcurrant & Plum Tripel 9%

Expectations: I may have mentioned this before but a few years ago I went to Bruges for a long weekend. During that time, I consumed an inhuman amount of Belgian beer. So much so, I think I'm only just about ready to drink it again. Tripels are probably my favourite Belgian style so with the colour addition of purple fruits, I am silently praying this reignites my Belgian drinking ways all over again. No pressure, Ms. Violet.

Reality: By ‘eck, this is absolutely delightful. It’s a wonderful plummy colour and has that wonderful Belgian aroma but the taste is allllll about dem purple fruits. Tart plums and blackcurrants up front which are super strong and almost overpowering but then the Belgian yeast hits and really rounds out the taste. It’s almost like drinking a fruit crumble and is exactly what I needed on one of the first cold winter days in October. One of the highlights of the box for sure and an interesting twist on a Belgian Tripel.

So there you have it. I’d say this box was a resounding success with only really Ms. Grey being the duff beer. Still, five out of six is an impressive hit rate. I had mentally pegged two of the beers to be a bit naff so anything above that is a bonus. I’ve managed to snag myself a To Øl advent calendar and after this, I’ve got pretty high hopes. Roll on December!