Wednesday, 15 August 2018

A VERY BEERY WORLD CUP

Beer O'Clock on Tour



As most of you would know now, I spent the end of June following the Socceroos at the World Cup around Russia. The results on the field may not have been what we were hoping for but the whole experience, including the beer, was amazing!

In the past I've only been in countries for up to 5 days, so have had no issues rattling off every beer I had in the country. With a three week holiday in one country, that revolved around football, eating and drinking I think I will struggle to do that. In this post I think I'll pick out some highlights of the trip and discuss a bit about the Russian beer culture.

First and foremost, the Russians were so much friendlier than they are portrayed to be in the Western media. Their food was superb & their craft beer was plentiful! I had three of the best weeks of my life, with two great mates in this wonderful country filled with thousands of drunk people; Australians, Russians and those of various nationalities!

The day I arrived in Moscow I arrived in the early evening and agreed to meet Coll & a mate of his from the hostel at a local craft beer bar; Craft Station. My first craft beer in Russia was a clearly infected IPA from a brewery called Trigger, which was laced with Brett. I was wondering if it was an issue with the bar however the following two beers; an IPL from Victory Art Brew & Nuclear Laundry from Jaws, were both tasting awesome.

After some sight seeing the next day we managed to locate my first ever Armenian beer at a local Armenian restaurant. The Kilikia lager was a pretty solid beer and the full review can be found here. Seeing as we were in the area, we decided to pop into Dogma, probably the preeminent bottle shop in Moscow. If you were looking for a Melbourne equivalent it is similar to Slowbeer, with four taps & a carefully curated range of Russian craft beers & fine international offerings.

Not long after we arrived the heavens opened, for one of the few times in our three weeks in Russia. Accordingly we stayed for a couple of beers, after buying the mixed 6-pack we came to get. The pick of the bunch was the Zagovor Blast Beat, a NEIPA, which was one of the hottest beers in Russia at the time. 

We trekked from Dogma into Red Square to do some sightseeing before finding out way to Craft RePUBlic for some more beers. I had very good beers from Russian breweries STAMM, Panzer and Salden's, whilst also trying an Imperial Milk Stout from Hungary's MONYO Brewing Co. The bar was pretty cool and it wasn't the last time'd be here. After some Georgian food we retired for the evening, but not before having an AF Brew Mosaic IPA which was one of the best beers I had on the trip.

The next day we started our beer day with some macro lager at a Uzbek restaurant where we tried horse meat for the first time on the trip, pretty good if you're interested. More macro lager (Zhiguli) was imbibed in Gorky Park later that afternoon; as an aside, beers should be more readily available in parks in Melbourne.

That evening we attended the first of our Fanatics functions; it was a genuinely weird event, the first of the many instances where the Russians underestimated the beer drinking qualities of the Australian's. Coll & I had some Aecht Schlenkerla Weizen before disembarking to Craft RePUBlic again. where we met some Russian guys and had a few more beers - before going to another bar, Howard Loves Craft, with them on their recommendation. This night really enhanced my perception of the Russian craft beer scene.

Fast forward through a slightly hungover morning of sightseeing and we arrived at our first official Fanatics function. As we took in the opening game of the tournament the beer was Baltika #7 and thankfully it was cold & plentiful. Many more beers were had on our hot overnight train to Kazan, before taking in the afternoons football at a local bar - before it ran out of beer... Something that was to become a bit of a theme in Kazan.

There was plenty of macro lager to follow, with the Fanatics functions & the World Cup in general being awash with Budweiser. Parny joined Coll & I in Kazan, just before Daryl Braithwaite played "Horses" either side of the Spain vs Portugal game, which was a truly awesome way to start the tour proper. There's certainly worse beers out there than Budweiser - I got quite well acquainted with it over those few weeks.

Our first game against France was the next day, so it wasn't too big of a night. The atmosphere at the first World Cup game was like nothing I've ever experienced! It was an incredible performance by the Socceroos, but unfortunately the result didn't go our way. Afterwards we bought some beers from the supermarket outside the stadium for our wander back into town - which were an array of equally bad Russian lagers, before working our way down Bauman Street drinking various lagers, ranging from truly awful to pretty good.

At this point Coll & Parny made the sensible decision to retire for the evening, I did not... I ventured to Drink Craft, Kazan's premier craft beer venue and had one of the best NEIPA's that I've ever had; AF Brew's Eat The Dust! DDH Mosaic. A chance meeting with some guys that I've previously ran into at Carwyn Cellars led to many more beers that I probably didn't need!

Going to Russia I'd be told that Russian's loved their German beers. I hadn't seen a heap around until we ventured to a traditional Tatar restaurant in Kazan the next day, where a couple of wheat beers eased my hangover from the previous days festivities. That afternoon was spent watching football and drinking lager, both at the official Fan Fest in Kazan & in the hotel bar. The pick of the bunch was the Stary Melnik Svetloe - a pretty common Russian lager.

The following day we took the long bus ride to Samara, a formerly closed city due to its involvement in the Russian space industry. It was a pretty long day and we just decided to pop into an Irish pub for a few beers & dinner. Alongside the usual Guinness, Kilkenny & Harp offerings, was a Staropramen Velvet; an Amber Lager that I'd never had before. It was actually quite a nice beer with some good maltiness & quite a creamy mouthfeel.

The famous Zhiguli brewery was where we ended up the following afternoon after seeing pretty much all that there was to see in Samara. I had a few different lagers there, all of which were very good. Some canned lager was consumed at a Fanatics event, before there was plenty more Budweiser at the Samara Fan Fest. The Russians won that night, the less said about the next 6 hours of partying with Russians the better... I don't think I've ever had more vodka in my life!

As we were on holidays it was only natural that I got back on the horse the next night, with a beer at a burger bar whilst watching the soccer over dinner. After we went back to the hotel I was feeling pretty good so had a STAMM Hoppy Milk - a massively dry hopped Pale Ale. Our second game against Denmark followed the next day and far too much lager was again consumed, both Budweiser in the stadium & Zhiguli on the way back to the hotel. I finished the evening with a Mobius Pint BACK2PALE as I needed to reduce weight in my bag for the flight to Sochi the next day.

Sochi was a bit of a change from the rest of Russia - with the weather being far warmer and more humid. We found ourselves on the promenade by the Black Sea and felt like some lunch. We found a wonderful Georgian restaurant where we enjoyed some Amber Weiss - a wheat beer from Moscow-Efes before moving onto some wine. There was a macro IPA back at the hotel, before a few truly awful lagers in the hotel bar.

We warmed up for Germany vs Sweden, as an aside the best quality football game I've ever been to, with some Budweiser and more of the awful Sherlock in the hotel, before more Budweiser at the game. The next day was spent exploring more of the older parts of Sochi, which obviously involved some beer! There was a few local Pale Ale's at lunch, before some Heineken whilst watching England trounce Panama. We decided we were pretty tired and retired to the Hotel Bar for the evening's games.

The following day started with an audience with Graham Arnold, the incoming Socceroos coach. Naturally there were beers; this was one of the few places in Russia where they could pour a beer in less than 3 minutes! It was a James Squire equivalent Pale Ale & one that was pretty well balanced. The venue was right by the promenade and after a few morning beers we decided that maybe we should visit that Georgian restaurant again - more Amber Weiss & Georgian Red ensued...

If that night had ended there it probably would've been enough, however we were on holidays... Some more Sherlock in the hotel bar ensued before some beers we'd picked up in the supermarket ensued in the hotel room. Thankfully I woke up sans hangover! Our pre-game function was the best yet, I think in part because the weather was so good! It was a hot day and the beers were flowing early; Bakalar, a Czech beer that was pretty good was the beer of choice at the function.

Budweiser was again consumed en masse as the Socceroos crumbled in the intense atmosphere that the Peruvian fans created. It was a disappointing result to see our qualification hopes slip away, but the World Cup was still an incredible experience. Outside the stadium I swapped shirts with a Peruvian fan before joining a heap of other Aussies for more beers nearby. We drowned our disappointment over dinner, whilst watching Messi score his best goal of the tournament, despite the ridiculously early nature of our flight the next morning.

That was where Parny left us, having to go back to Melbourne. Coll & I were heading to St Petersburg, leaving the hotel around 4am. We did make it to bed (thankfully!) many blokes on our flight didn't. Knowing we only had 2 days in St Petersburg we knew we had to make the most of it - we dumped our bags and headed straight out for some beers and pelmeni (Russian dumplings). Much sightseeing was done before we ended up at Craft Beer Cafe to watch the soccer and drink some beers.

We had a few very good beers, AF Brew's Hoppy Surf stood out as an excellent dry hopped Pale Ale. I revisted some beers that I've loved previously; Jaws' Nuclear Laundry & Victory Art Brew's Red Machine. Coll & I broke for dinner briefly across the road and got to have a Kazbegi Porter from Georgia, with some excellent food, before returning for a couple of local stouts from Knightberg brewery.

Our last day in St Petersburg was highlighted by our journey to the Peterhof Palace, which is simply stunning. That night we went to a famed football pub to watch the final games of the group stage. We started with Heineken's before finding the craft beer fridge where beers from Jaws & Victory Art Brew got a workout! In the middle of this session I managed to pop up the road to Beer Geek to sort out some Russian beers to bring home.

I really can't quite sum up how good of an experience the World Cup was. The football didn't go the way of the Socceroos, but it almost didn't matter. We tried hard and were still a chance of qualifying going into the last day. It was such a wonderful few weeks with two of my best friends - we shared some wonderful experiences that I'll never forget and I'm glad I was able to share at least a little of that with all of you through beer!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

BEER O'CLOCK PODCAST - EPISODE 1

Episode 1 - Show Notes 


The new venture I was being very vague about in my post a few days ago was Beer O'Clock Australia's first foray into a new medium; audio. Dylan & I are going to give this podcast a go for a while and see how it goes. It's going to give us the opportunity to discuss beer in a way that the blog doesn't really allow us to.

We're going to rotate some segments in and out, especially early on while we get into the swing of things - so if there is anything you love or hate, please let us know! The idea at the moment is that the podcast will be monthly, and we'll try and keep that pretty regular - at least more so than I've kept the blog up to date recently... Basically every month we'll discuss some of the latest news from the beer world, we'll talk about some beers that we've been enjoying over the last month & we'll crack something interesting from my cellar.

This month we also discuss the hottest new style in craft beer; the Brut IPA. We also speak about a bright green licorice flavoured Gose from Red Button Brew in Moscow & discuss which Pilsner's we would each take in a bottomless mixed 6-pack to a desert island. The show is embedded below & hopefully we'll have it up on a few more podcast sites in the near future.



Show Notes

News Items

  • Royal Perth Beer Awards
  • Australian Brewery & Fourpure Takeovers
  • Coopers Pale Ale in Cans
  • Crisp Malting's Australian Distribution deal
  • Canned Beer Sales to Overtake Bottled Beer Sales 
  • Bridge Road's New Hopped Cola
What We've Been Drinking

  • Red Button POiMA
  • Noz's Russia Trip
  • Noz & Dylan - Tallboy & Moose Berried Alive Brew Day
What's in Style?
  • Brut IPA's
    • Wolf of the Willows, Tallboy & Moose, Mr Banks
Desert Island 6-pack
  • We both pick 6 Pilsner's - 3 of which made both our lists
    • Pilsner Urquell, Emerson's NZ Pilsner, Bridge Road Enigma, 
    • Victory Prima Pils, Panhead Port Road Pils, Balter Pilsner, Hop Nation The Damned, Weihenstephaner Pilsner, Mikkeller American Dream  
Noz's Cellar
  • Mikkeller x Lindeman's SpontanBasil
So there we have it guys. Hope you liked the first episode of the Beer O'Clock podcast. We'd both love to hear any feedback you've got. We'll be tweaking a couple of things for the next episode, which we'll aim to have out in late-August/early-September. As usual send any questions or comments to gus.norris7@gmail.com.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

REVIEW: HAWKERS WEST COAST IPA


 Fridge Regular


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American IPA  
  • ABV: 7.2%
  • Serving Type: 375ml Can
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
As promised; I'm hoping to get back to reviewing more beers in full. I'm kicking that off with a beer that has been in my fridge pretty much non-stop since it was released last November.

Hawkers have been constantly improving their range of beers since they launched in 2015. The addition of this West Coast IPA came as the NEIPA trend was beginning to grip Australia. I think that is, at least in part, why this beer has gained such a following. As with all Hawkers beers, it's readily available at most places you go and is brewed so frequently that it is always in superb condition.

The beer pours a light golden colour, it is slightly hazy but is still translucent. The head is brilliant white and as with all canned beers, the head initially looks larger than it would if poured from a bottle. The true height of the head is more like 3 fingers high, and has wonderful retention with a layer of foam covering the beer throughout the duration of drinking.

Onto the nose and it packs a punch. As expected when you call a beer a "West Coast IPA" there is plenty of bitter pine aroma. There is also a fruity aspect to the aroma with passionfruit, pineapple and lychee all present, alongside a floral note that I get from a lot of the Hawkers range. There's next to no malt characteristics evident on the nose, although there is a hint of some generic sweetness underneath the cavalcade of hop notes.

The Hawkers West Coast IPA taste follows on nicely from the nose. There is a heap of bitterness up front, where the dominant flavour is pine. As the beer progresses through the palate the fruity notes open up more with pineapple, mango & passionfruit all easily identifiable. The floral notes are also there, while there are some slightly sweet biscuity malts doing just enough to stop the beer being too aggressively bitter.

I love this beer! Overall, there are very few traditional American IPA's in Australia that are as consistently as this beer. I would say that this, alongside the Fixation IPA, is the best value for money option out there if you're looking for an IPA that still has some bitterness - with this getting the nod due to it being in cans. I hope you can all look past the gaudy blue/green & gold label and pick up this IPA - it's sensational!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

THE BEER-THUSIAST PACK: MARCH 2018

The Beer-thusiast Pack: March 


Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!). The format is sure to change over these first couple of months as we work through some teething issues, so please hit me up if you've got any feedback.


March's lineup was packed full of new releases, along with a few classics. There was a wide mix of styles ranging from a small fruity sour all the way through to a smokey lager. The pack had 4 local Victoria beers & one each from New South Wales, Queensland, the U.S.A. & the first ever Beer-thusiast Pack beer from Germany.

Moon Dog Sun Cat - American IPA - 6.5%

Sun Cat is Moon Dog's latest attempt at a core range IPA - replacing the highly inconsistent Jukebox Hero. This beer has been rigorously tested, with multiple versions, at the Moon Dog brewery in Abbotsford. I haven't had an infected Moon Dog beer for a long time, so here's hoping this doesn't go the way of Jukebox Hero.

"This is aggressively hopped with Mosaic and Azacca. The bitterness is strong, but well tempered by the amount of fruit flavours coming from the hop combo. It’s a bloody good IPA and one of Moon Dog’s more consistent beers since its release. When fresh I’d never turn one of these down."

This beer was brand new when we got this in the Beer-Thusiast Pack. It tasted super fresh and was loaded so much fruit notes, particularly mango and pineapple, from the hops. I've subsequently had it a few times and been equally impressed every time. I would go as far to say that this is my favourite Australian IPA of the year!

Bad Shepherd Pineapple Sour Ale - Sour - 4.0%

The Brew Crew Series from Bad Shepherd have produced some pretty nice beers recently. The series allows the staff of the brewery to get involved in the formulation of a limited release beer. Number 5 in the series was saw Tracey, the "office guru"'s, turn roll around. She asked for a beer that didn't taste like a beer and hence a Pineapple Sour Ale came into existence.

"Very clean lacto tartness in here. Slightly vinous from the fruit, although it’s hard to pick out anything that’s definitely pineapple. I had a few of these during its release and enjoyed them more each time - I think a little bit of extra time helped them come into their own."


Hargreaves Hill Lager - Dortmunder Lager - 4.2%

I've been relatively vocal over the years about my lack of love for Hargreaves Hill. It's not that they make bad beers, it's that I find their beers lack character, they're a bit same-same - with one or two exceptions. They've recently rebranded and introduced some new core range beers, including this Dortmunder-style Lager. This is an under-brewed style of lager characterized by biscuity malts and assertive bitterness.

"I’ve been really digging Hargreaves Hill new core range, so it was a shame to find this as the obvious weak link in the lineup. Good things first - it looks great. Wonderfully light golden, perfectly clear. It’s reasonably clean and smooth on the palate. Sadly there’s just nothing else going on here, apart from a mild cloying sweetness that built more as I went through the glass. Don’t think I’ll be going back to this any time soon."

This did very little for me as well. I will give them some credit that they had used some relatively bitter floral hops, however there just weren't enough (I don't think there could've been!) to balance out the overly sweet malts.

Ballistic Australian Psycho IPA - American IPA - 6.5%

Ballistic is one of the wave of new breweries popping up in inner-Brisbane. Australian Psycho is one of their core range beers. It's an IPA brewed entirely with Australian hops, and although there is more than enough bitterness to make it not a NEIPA it has a reasonable haziness to it due to a liberal amount of dry-hopping.

"I remember enjoying this but am finding it hard to pick out anything that differentiates it from a heap of other good IPA's. It’s well balanced and certainly tasty, but does blend into the crowd a bit."

I thought it was a really impressive IPA, but understand where you're coming from Dylan. I got tropical fruit and citrus notes from the hops, as you'd expect from a beer only using Australian hops.

Young Henrys Foo Town - American Adjunct Lager - 4.0%

I thought including another Young Henrys beer in the Beer-thusiast Pack, so soon after their last awful offering in December was a strange choice to say the least. Somehow Young Henrys managed to team up with the Foo Fighters to produce a limited run of 60,000 cans to serve around the country on their Down Under Tour. The result is an Australian lager hopped with American hops.

"Do Young Henry’s just suck at making lagers? This is a shocker of a beer. I was actually somewhat looking forward to it - the description said ‘Azacca hopped lager’ not ‘sickly sweet and flat flavoured’. Found it hard to detect any traces of hops, rendering what it was hopped with moot. I’d expect better from macro brewers, let alone craft brewers, especially given how far local lagers have come in the last couple of years."

This was a genuinely appalling beer! The one thing I hold out hope for is that 50,000+ of these beers are picked up by Foo Fighters collectors and never consumed!

New Belgium Citradelic - American IPA - 5.9%

It's been a few years since the craze of adding citrus peel or juice to IPA's. One of the few to stick around, alongside BrewDog's Elvis Juice, is New Belgium's Citradelic. The beer has a heap of tangerine peel added to it, which really compliments the fruity hops used in the brew (Citra, Azacca, Mandarina Bavaria & Galaxy).

"One of the best citrus IPAs around when you factor in price and accessibility. The way they’ve used the tangerine seems to help the hop flavours stay intact for longer too - even the less fresh cans of this I’ve had have been good. You’d want to like tangerine as there’s a heap of it here, but it’s super well executed."


Hargreaves Hill/Sailors Grave The Bramble - Saison - 5.2%

I love everything Sailors Grave touch! This beer. brewed in collaboration with Hargreaves Hill, sounded really interesting & right up my alley. It's a farmhouse ale, to which each brewery has brought a product from their own region; Hargreaves Hill brought blackberries from the Yarra Valley whilst Sailors Grave took elderflowers that they'd foraged in East Gippsland.

"Full disclosure - I had this on tap at the brewery, leaving Angus to have the bottle. This may or may not lead to us rating it slightly differently! For my part, I found it hard to fault. You can see the Sailor’s Grave influence in how the elderflower/blackberry has been used - well integrated into the beer while still presenting as fresh and bright. Dry, funky, floral and crisp. I’d be stoked if I made a beer like this."

We definitely rated this beer very differently! I got next to no elderflower, normally a reasonably dominant flavour, and only light blackberry notes. I wonder if this was a bad bottle, or if the kegged version just held onto those flavours better than the bottled version.


Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen - Rauchbier - 5.1%

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. The name has meaning to most beer afficianado's. In English it translates as the Orignal Schlenkerla Smoked Beer, and is known as the most famous smoked beer in the world. The brewery has been brewing a variety of smoked beers in the Franconian town of Bamberg since 1405!

"You’ve gotta give it a few sips to settle on the palate, but this is one of the world’s most acclaimed and famed smoked beers for a reason. The base marzen is rich and full bodied, leaving the waves and waves of meaty smoke to present fully without overwhelming the base beer. I think I prefer their helles for everyday drinking, but if you’re in the mood for a smoky beer this will hit the spot like nothing else."



That's another of the backlog of reviews ticked off. The April pack review will hopefully be up shortly, it's one of the best packs for a while so keep your eyes out for that in the coming days. There's plenty of exciting news here at Beer O'Clock Australia HQ; our first involvement in a commercial beer is being released in about 10 days & we've got an exciting new venture that will be made clearer shortly. I'll elaborate on both of these developments soon. Until next time...

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 23 July 2018

UNTAPPD BADGE REVIEWS

Untappd: Announcement


After careful consideration I've decided that I will no longer be doing posts about my Untappd badges. These posts take up the majority of my writing time and have become a bit of a burden. When I first started the segment in August 2013, unlocking a badge was a relatively rare thing. There were far fewer core badges and I thought it would be a good way to help me decide what beers I would review in full. Less than two months in, Untappd decided that badges should have levels; in retrospect this probably should've been a sign of the beginning of the end!

In the years since Untappd have added so many core badges that I can't keep up. It used to take me a fortnight or more of pretty heavy drinking to get to the 6 badges I would write a Catchup post about; this past Saturday I unlocked 9 badges. Dylan & I sampled quite a few beers, but certainly not enough to unlock 9 badges in the past.

So what does this mean for Beer O'Clock Australia? Well I think it will allow me to do more long form posts; particularly in the form of full beer reviews. I'll still certainly be using Untappd, it's a wonderful resource, but I don't think it will form a significant part of the blog anymore. Any questions about Untappd or about beer in general; hit me up at gus.norris7@gmail.com 

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

THE BEER-THUSIAST PACK: FEBRUARY 2018

The Beer-thusiast Pack: February


Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!). The format is sure to change over these first couple of months as we work through some teething issues, so please hit me up if you've got any feedback.


In February we were served up a different pack to usual; only 2 duplicates were included, meaning that there were 8 singles. There were a couple of issues with this month's pack - firstly the card above states Feb 2017 instead of 2018, which in the scheme of things isn't the end of the world. Secondly both Caltoria beers were missing from the pack, something an email sorted in a couple of days. We also saw an appearance of a beer we've had in the pack before; Rodenbach Original - at least it was a good one! This was a period where the pack suffered a little - however those minor issues aside the beer lineup was really impressive!

Little Bang Icon - Steam Ale - 5.0%

First up was a beer from Adelaide craft brewery Little Bang. We don't get many of their beers over in Victoria, outside the Galactopus, so I was pretty keen to try this Steam Ale/California Common. It's a style that isn't brewed that often in Australia, with Mountain Goat's Steam Ale the only one jumping out at me. I'm keen to see what Little Bang have done with this style.

"I love the can for this beer! It’s by far the most interesting thing about it. Not to say that it’s a bad beer though - certainly one that has a place. Very clean, lightly tropical, finishes smooth. Skews very close to Mountain Goat Steam Ale."

Personally I thought it was a bit lacking in flavour in comparison to the Mountain Goat. Given the choice between the two, I would stump for a pint of the Victorian offering.


Lost & Grounded Keller Pils - Kellerbier - 4.8%

Lost & Grounded is a brewery in Bristol, England started by an Australian; ex-Little Creatures brewer Alex Troncoso. They're a brewery with a growing reputation for brewing quality lagers. This is the first time that their beers have made it down under, in any significant quantity.

"I’d heard a bit of hype about these guys, an English brewery focusing on German and Belgian styles. This certainly made a good first impression. It’s a really refined, well built pils. Lovely grassy and floral hop notes, clean malt and that bite on the finish that all good pilsners have."


Caltoria Belgian Pale - Belgian Pale Ale - 6.6%

If I'm being perfectly honest, I had never heard of Caltoria before. The brewery is based in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Bayswater. Their flagship beer is a Belgian Pale Ale - another style that we don't see anywhere near enough of in this country. From that perspective, it seems like quite a strange choice for a beer to base your brewery around...

"I was surprised this clocked in at 6.8% ABV! Hides it really well. It does come across in the form of a really full, rounded body which supports the yeasty funk and light hopping well."

Caltoria Citrus Wheat - American Pale Wheat Ale - 4.9%

Caltoria had a second beer in the pack; their brand new (at the time!) Citrus Wheat. The beer was so new that the labels hadn't arrived in time and we had generic Caltoria labels on the bottles. Billed as a citrusy wheat beer, it's a beer that should be suited to the warm weather.

"I’m not sure if the citrus in this came from a fruit addition or the hops, but it’s definitely there (especially on the nose). Really refreshing beer overall - distinctive wheat character and a bit of Belgian yeast. Didn’t blow me away but enjoyed it well enough."


Beer Farm West Coast Lager - Lager - 4.6%

Another brewery that got two beers into the February Beer-Thusiast Pack was Beer Farm from Western Australia. Western Australian stuff very rarely makes it to Melbourne and after their impressive attempt at an IPL in November's pack I was very keen to see what else they had to offer. The first is dubbed a West Coast Lager - so I'm guessing there should be plenty of hop punch here.

"Nice clean lager base here. The hop combo is really intriguing/weird, somewhere between traditional and new world, German/Czech and American. It comes across in the form of pear, lemon and some other mystery fruitiness. Certainly more memorable than I’d anticipated."


Beer Farm Pineapple - Berliner Weisse - 4.2%

The second beer from Beer Farm was a beer Dylan has been keen to try for a long time! Pineapple is, funnily enough, a pineapple flavoured sour. The can artwork is awesome, based on the Australian $50 note. It's a Berliner Weisse which has been fermented with plenty of real pineapple, rather than extract which is always nice.

"Lip puckeringly tart! I love the idea of pineapple sours but every time I’ve had one it seems like the flavour gets lost in the mix. When a fruit is primarily juicy/sweet more than strongly or distinctively flavoured it’s a challenge to keep it at the front of the palate. This beer had the same issue, with the tartness and doughy wheat dominating the pineapple, but it’s still a really nice, fully flavoured berliner."




Rodenbach Original - Flanders Red Ale - 5.2%

The first double up in the history of the Beer-Thusiast pack finally arrived. Thankfully it's an absolutely superb beer and it's one of the beers I always recommend that people who claim to love craft beer, or simply want to get into craft beer, have to try. It's a widely available Flanders Red Ale and is an excellent example of the style.

"We’d gotten one of these in a pack not too long ago so I won’t elaborate too much here. It’s a classic for a reason. I bought a slab of these shortly after this if you require any indication of how good this beer still is."

Dylan & I both wrote a lot more about this beer back in the July 2017 review of the Beer-Thusiast Pack. There's actually plenty of content on the site about this beer so simply search "Rodenbach" on the right hand side of this page if you're looking for more information.

Quiet Deeds Juice Train - NEIPA - 6.5%

Initially their 2017 GABS beer, Juice Train has gone on to become their best selling beer (I assume so at least - it's the only one I ever hear spoken about!). It's quite a change for a brewery that never really seemed to excite the close knit craft beer community here. This beer has some pretty significant in-batch variation with oxidation issues striking seemingly randomly. Quiet Deeds assures that they've resolved the issues and have been replacing any affecting cans.

"Quiet Deeds haven’t impressed me a lot in the past so I was apprehensive about their take on an NEIPA, but this is a really strong effort. While not reaching the heights of the Jedi Juices of the world, it has a soft body, plenty of juiciness and somewhat restrained bitterness (probably still a touch too high, but that’s Australian NEIPA's for you). Be warned that there’s a heap of batch variation with this beer - I’ve mostly had good luck but they’re obviously still tinkering to get it consistent."


Garage Project Full Fathom Five - English IPA - 5.5%

I'm always excited when I get to try new Garage Project beers, particularly when they're from less hyped styles; such as the good old fashioned English IPA. This IPA comes in at 5.55% ABV (give or take) and is loaded with 5 different Old World hop vaieties. It was also supposedly on nitro - but I couldn't find a widget or anything along those lines in the can...

"A canned English IPA on nitro? Sure, why not! I didn’t actually get much sense of the nitro from what I had, but it’s a great showcase for classic English hops. I’d like to see more modern breweries have a go at the style."

This beer would be great for showcasing what Fuggle hops taste like to people. I have never tasted more Fuggle in my life than I found in this beer!


Old Wives Ales Horn Swatter - American Stout - 6.0%

My love for Old Wives Ales' beers is well known, and has been professed on this blog more times that I care to remember! I've ha this beer a few times and have always been impressed with it. Horn Swatter is an American Stout that would fit straight into the BJCP style guidelines. If you're looking for a straight up and down stout with some hop bite - look no further!

"Really roasty, nicely bitter. Hop flavour doesn’t quite come through as much as you’d hope but they’re definitely there behind the malt. Just a good, sturdy, hair on your chest kinda stout."

We're getting closer to back on track. Dylan & I have recently got our July beers and are working our way through the remaining back-catalogue of reviews. There's a couple of posts that I've been meaning to put up for the last few days that will hopefully get there in due course. In the meantime guys, keep drinking great beer and...

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

REVIEW: KILIKIA

European Beer Challenge #53 Armenia


STATS
  • Country: Armenia
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
It's been almost 3 years since I last managed to tick off a country in the European Beer Challenge. Thankfully that day is finally here! My recent trip to Russia gave me the opportunity to finally try a beer from Armenia - an ex-Soviet member bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan & Iran. Armenia is actually the 100th country I've reviewed a beer from on Beer O'Clock Australia.

We stumbled across this beer at an Armenian restaurant in Moscow: Ноев ковчег - which translates as Noah's Ark. It should also be noted that the food was really good - if you're looking for Armenian food in Moscow, I'd highly recommend this place. Kilikia is the most consumed by in Armenia and is brewed by the Beer of Yerevan brewery in the capital city Yerevan.

Kilikia pours like you would expect a good lager to. The beer pours a far more golden colour than I was expecting, it looks like they've actually used malt in it! The beer also had quite a thick white head topping it, which lasted for the duration of drinking - admittedly not that long for the first one. It looks like a lager that should cost more than what I paid for it - it looks well crafted.

Onto the nose and it's time to invoke the long unspoken rule of lagers; if it doesn't smell bad that's a win. Kilikia certainly ticks this box. Kilikia has initial notes of sweet grain, followed by some more sweet grain and very little else of note! I get next to no hop character on the nose, however it does smell "crisp", if that's even possible.

The taste follows on in a manner you would expect from the nose. Slightly sweet bready grains dominate the malt bill, yet the body stays relatively light. There is some faint grassy notes, reminiscent of a European Noble hop, which imparts just enough bitterness to cut through the sweet malt. It's crisp and finishes slightly dry leaving you wanting more & more!

All things considered, Kilikia is a pretty solid lager. It's well balanced with hops and malt working in harmony. I'd be quite happy to drink Kilikia again in the right circumstances - the second day of my Russian World Cup adventure was certainly that! It was a dangerously drinkable beer, Coll and I knocked of quite a few of them whilst we feasted on wonderful Armenian food. Now if anyone has any contacts in Kazakhstan, we might be able to finally finish this thing!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!