Sunday, 30 December 2012

GOLDEN PINTS 2012

Every year UK based beer bloggers Mark Dredge and Andy Mogg put out the cry for beer bloggers to produce their "Golden Pint Awards". Basically it's a celebration of best beers had during the year by people who know the most about beer, or at least think they do :P.

This is my first year doing Golden Pints but from what I've been told it's really hard to actually sit down and do it. How hard can it possibly be?

Best Australian Draught Beer - Buckley's Alchemy Lemongrass Pale Ale. I'm pulling one from left field here. Richo and I sampled this beer at the College Lawn Hotel's Beerfest and on reflection I think it wins my Draught beer of the year for being that little bit different and standing out from the pack.

Best Australian Bottled or Canned Beer - Mountain Goat Cross Breed Gypsy and the Goat. Brewed in Melbourne in collaboration with Mikkeller, this Black Pepperberry IPA was delicious, if not hugely complex. It was one of the most drinkable examples of the style that I've ever managed to get my hands on.

Best Overseas Draught Beer - Rodenbach Grand Cru. Hands down the best tap beer I've ever had! I love sour beers and this as a Flanders Red Ale certainly was. It's really inspiring me to go to Belgium on a beer adventure...

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer - BridgePort IPA. I've been thinking about this one for days and finally I think I've settled on BridgePort IPA. I've been drinking it around a few bars in Melbourne recently and it's just such a lovely IPA. It's got fantastic drinkability which for me is definitely an important thing to consider in this category. This was definitely one of the hardest categories to pick.

Best Overall Beer - BrewDog AB:04. I decided my overall winner would not be one of the previous Golden Pint winners from above. I picked Abstrakt 04 because it was simply the best stout I've ever had let alone just this year. It's not a beer you could drink everyday but the drinking experience was second to none. 

Best Pumpclip or Label - The Mash Collective Amasia Rumweizen. This label from Stone & Wood's Mash Collective took home the my Golden Pint for the Best Label. I thought it was really cool and captured a bit of Byron Bay culture at the same time, whether it meant to or not.

Best Australian Brewery - Red Duck. This was one of the hardest categories for me to choose. They pumped out 30 brews this year with plans for even more next year. The quality has really lifted in the past year and a bit and I'm looking forward to lots more new stuff next year!

Best Overseas Brewery - Nøgne Ø. Again there were just so many to pick from but I've stuck with the Norwegians because I don't think I've had a beer from them that I don't love! Honorable mentions are due to Sierra Nevada, BrewDog and Emerson's of New Zealand. 

Pub/Bar of the Year - Beer Deluxe. I was tossing up between Deja Vu, Beer Deluxe and Josie Bones (although it's really more of a restaurant than a bar...). Beer Deluxe took the crown because I had a great night there a few weeks ago, but any of the three are great venues. Beer Deluxe may be a little pricey but you can never doubt the freshness of the beer which is always superb!

Beer Festival of the Year - GABS. This was a non-contest for me. The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular was brilliant in every sense of the word. I met heaps of great beer people and would have had at least half of the 60 beers available on tap!  

Supermarket of the Year - Dan Murphy's. Although not really a supermarket Dan's is associated with Woolworth's and has a heap of locations. The micro beer range is really starting to pick up there's still just a few issues with the freshness and condition of the stock.

Independent Retailer of the Year - Purvis Beer. The place where my love of international craft beer really grew from. The range is enormous with new stuff in almost every week. The staff are always friendly and happy to chat beer (and sometimes even open one to share). Friday night tastings are always a winner as well. If you're in Melbourne it's Beer Mecca!

Online Retailer of the Year - The International Beer Shop. These guys are based in Perth and have an awesome range of beers. Delivery only takes a week and is pretty cheap. Out of all the places I've got beer online from they are by far the best. 

Best Beer Book or Magazine - Beer and Brewer. Well I may be somewhat biased as I did recently have an article published. I also really liked "The Oxford Companion to Beer" by Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery, it's a thoroughly useful resource.

Best Beer Blog or Website - The Crafty Pint! Hand's down Australia's best online craft beer website. It's regularly updated and the weekly newsletter (although not always on-time...) is a great way to get through the last few hours of work on a Friday. 

Best Beer Twitterer - I'm not hugely into Twitter, it's something I'm looking into further for next year, however from the little I do follow I'm going to have to go with NateDawg27. He tells it how he sees it and is well worth following. 

Best Online Brewery Presence - BrewDog. In my opinion no other brewery comes close. They are always on FaceBook and Twitter and actively try and engage with the people who drink their beer. Love them or hate them, they are big on getting their brand out there and gaining notoriety. As they say there is no such thing as bad publicity...

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year - I can't think of a specific time off the top of my head, although I know I had a number of IPA's this year with Pork Belly. That's probably my favourite food and beer pairing for the year as a concept, Josie Bones makes an amazing Pork Belly and has a great range of IPA's so that's a good place to start. They also do beer matching to your meal which is fun.

In 2013 I’d most like to... - Get into homebrewing a little more. I've been involved with the odd experimental brew but none of my own. It's something that needs to be explored by me at somepoint and next year seems like as good a time as any.

Well after mulling over some of these categories for days, I've come to the conclusion that this wasn't difficult... it was almost impossible! I've made some tough calls and I've got my Golden Pints up just in time for the end of the year. I hope everyone enjoys them as it was a really hard thing to do! Hopefully next year proves just as difficult with more excellent beers to try. I hope everyone has a safe New Years celebration and I look forward to sharing some more beer adventures in 2013!

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

Friday, 28 December 2012

REVIEW: CARIB LAGER

Macro Lager


STATS

  • Country: Trinidad & Tobago
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Can
  • Price: Inexpensive
Last night I was flicking channels on the TV and stumbled across the domestic T20. Kieron Pollard hit two of the biggest 6's I've ever seen and that got me thinking, in my special West Indian beer package did I have anything from Trinidad & Tobago?

The answer is yes, Carib Lager. The beer from Pollard's home country is one of the most popular in the Caribbean. It is also one of the oldest beers in the region, first being brewed in May 1950. I'm looking forward to a lager tonight so hopefully this is a good one.

Carib Lager pours how you would expect any top European lager to pour. The beer is a lovely golden straw colour with a brilliant white three finger head on top. There appears to be plenty of carbonation bubbles to sustain the head but it fades to a ring a little too quickly for my liking. However for me it is still the pick of the Caribbean beers I've had in terms of appearance.

Surprisingly there is also a bit of a nose on Carib Lager. There is plenty of sweet malts present as well as something incredibly unusual to find in a tropical lager: HOPS! The hops are both grassy and spicy and are relatively distinct. Absolutely no hint of skunk is present! If the nose is any indication Carib Lager may well be the best tropical lager I've ever had.

After the nose the taste is a little bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong the flavour is still quite nice, I was just led to believe that there would have been more hops. The slightly spicy hops are present and balance the otherwise sweet malts quite well. The main quality that this beer has is that it is very drinkable and I can imagine this beer would be as at home on a Caribbean beach as it would with dinner, quite a compliment for a tropical lager!

Overall I'm quite impressed with Carib. I did a little research and found out the only adjunct in this beer is some extra sugar, so as adjunct lagers go it's as pure as they come. This beer may not have the bitterness that I normally appreciate in a lager, but if you want that in a Trinidadian lager try the Carib Pilsner Light. That's a seriously nice lager, in retrospect it's probably the one I should have reviewed. Anyway I liked Carib Lager and it's the best of the Caribbean lagers I've reviewed.

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

Monday, 24 December 2012

REVIEW: NØGNE Ø GOD JUL

Merry Christmas 2012


STATS

  • Country: Norway
  • Style: English Porter
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
Merry Christmas everybody! Every year I am trying to sample at least one Christmas beer and this year that beer comes from Norway. Nøgne Ø God Jul is an English Porter, probably more suited to a cold European Christmas than a hot Australian Christmas.

Strangely I've only ever reviewed two Nøgne Ø beers before, I say strangely because it's one of my favourite breweries and I drink their beers at least once a month! Anyway God Jul means Merry Christmas in Norwegian, which seems rather festive. They have a range of Christmas beers but I'm reviewing this one as it's the one I bought for my whole family.

Firstly I have to thank my friend Kastytis for the Nøgne Ø glass, it looks awesome with this lovely dark porter in it! The beer itself pour the darkest of brown colour, there is only the tiniest hint of light making it's way through the beer. The head leaves a thick layer of foam all the way down the glass as you continue to drink. There appears to be little to no carbonation but considering this the retention is magnificent, maybe half a centimetre was left at the end. It's a great looking porter!

The nose is quite simple at first before becoming slightly more complex (not alot) as the beer warms. There is plenty of dark chocolate and even licorice on the nose at first before some roastiness joins the party. As the beer warms I began to get citrus notes, which seems odd for a porter. Some research led me to find out that God Jul is packed full of American hops, hence the grapefruit.

God Jul from Nøgne Ø is a tasty English Porter. The malts are of a caramel nature and are rather sweet but this is well disguised/hidden by the excellent roasty qualities. There's plenty of chocolate and the tiniest hint of some spices towards the backend. I can also only just make out the grapefruit that I picked up in the nose, but it is nowhere near as strong. It may be a little plain, but it's very drinkable. I'd definitely have this again!

I'm really pleased with my Christmas beer for this year and I hope my family members who are receiving one will be similarly pleased. It's one of the most drinkable porters on the market, with a very light mouthfeel for the style. This beer is light enough that it doesn't matter that today was hot, this beer can suit any climate. I will sign off by wishing you all a "God Jul" and hope you have a safe festive period.

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

Saturday, 22 December 2012

REVIEW: ABSTRAKT AB:04

Brewdog Abstrakt


STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: American Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 15.0%
  • Serving Type: 375ml Bottle
  • Price: Special Occasions Only 
  • Bottle Number: 2724/3300

What Brewdog Say:
Imperial Stout brewed with coffee, loads cacao and chilli 

It may have taken almost 2 months but Richo and I have finally got our acts together and sampled our second Abstrakt beer. This is actually the beer that inspired this whole challenge, so impressed were we with this beer the first time we had it. We've managed to get our hands on another bottle and can't wait to try it again!

So AB:04 is supposed to be a coffee dominant stout. It's had cacao and chilli added for a bit of complexity. The chillis used are in fact Naga Chilli's, previously recognised as the hottest chilli in the world. You can't say BrewDog do things by half measures can you? Interestingly enough this is not the first beer that I've had to use chilli, Mikkeller's Mexas Ranger used plenty and is a brilliant beer! Hopefully this beer is just as good!

Much like AB:03 the head dissipates incredibly quickly. As you can see from the photo there is only a small ring of dark brown bubbles ringing the glass. This doesn't take anything away though from the brilliant pitch black body of the beer. It's a stunning look with even less transparency than the darkest of stouts. If this beer had more of a head it would be really hard to beat in terms of appearance!

The nose that BrewDog have managed to produce for AB:04 is simply unbelievable! The chilli aroma is so strong yet it doesn't seem to affect any of the other aromas or overpower anything. The roasted malts are also a prominent feature of the nose as are chocolate and coffee. The chilli smell becomes even more pronounced as the beer warms further but somehow the overall nose stills works as a collective. It's an amazing piece of brewing skill!

We probably hadn't had the beer out of the fridge for long enough before we sampled it as when we first tasted this beer it was very coffee heavy with little else showing through. As the beer warmed though it became more and more complex. There is still heaps of coffee and dark chocolate but the amount of roast and smoke is phenomenal and the chilli kick at the end is fantastic. What a stunning effort here from BrewDog!

After a good first up effort from Richo (which was surprisingly well received by most!) he's been given a little more leash for this rant. He's says this story is just as good as last time, but only time will tell...
Season’s Greetings All!
It has been far too long between drinks, but what a drink to come back to! Abstrakt No. 4 is without a doubt one of the most interesting beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. It is difficult attempting to find the right words to describe this smooth, thick almost syrupy concoction; it is even harder trying to distinguish all the different flavours that emerge as the beer rises in temperature. The flavours seem random at first glance; the coffee and cacao are fundamental ingredients of a hearty stout, made all the more so by the introduction of chilli. While this seems arbitrary, the chilli gives this brew a necessary bite, which enhances the effect of the corresponding flavours. However, as with last time, the interesting mix of flavours serves only to bring forth another embarrassing episode in the saga of my existence. 
It is often said that nothing motivates a man to push through pain and suffering than the love and attention of a beautiful woman. This story is no different. While traveling through Spain earlier this year, my friends and I met with some beautiful locals; who agreed to take us to one of their favourite restaurants. While perusing the menu, I noticed that one of the meals came with “Death Sauce” (as I look back now, it is very appropriately named). Fueled by exotic passion, too many bottles of San Miguel and my own inherent stupidity, I agreed to consume the hellish meal in an effort to impress our seductive companions. 
What followed was the standard bodily reaction to incredibly spicy things: my lips went numb, I lost all feeling in the bottom half of my face, my breathing became rapid and laboured, tears were streaming from my eyes and to top it off, the once clean shirt I had been wearing was now thoroughly drenched. Suffice to say the local girls were not impressed, and neither were my friends; but at that point the cold embrace of death was all too appealing. 
My night was ruined, mouth was scarred and my pride once again took a hit…..seriously f**k chillies.

Richo
It's easy to see why this beer has a RateBeer score of 100! It is simply the best stout that I've ever had, bar none! The flavour compliments the thick texture brilliantly and the lack of head that was mentioned earlier is forgotten by the brilliance of the rest of the beer. It is a crying shame that there were only ever 3300 bottles of this beer made! If there are any left they are worth any price the purveyor is asking, words fail to fully explain just how good this beer is!

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

Friday, 21 December 2012

SOME THAT HAVE SLIPPED THROUGH THE CRACKS...

In my line of work these are the busiest few weeks of the year. It's for this reason that reviews have been down on normal numbers, but don't worry I've still been drinking and taking notes for your enjoyment! Sit back and enjoy another quick run-through of my recent drinking exploits. Keep the feedback and suggestions coming at gus.norris7@gmail.com and I'll endeavour to get back to you all as soon as possible.

Gulden Draak - We are starting with the beer I'm drinking now. Gulden Draak is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale which is truly world class! This is actually the first time I've ever had this beer and it really grew on me as it warmed. It may prove too sweet for many drinkers at first but as the beer warms it takes on a fantastic complexity, this is definitely one for the connoisseurs.

Gunbarrel IPA - This is actually a really enjoyable IPA that I only got to drink because the International Beer Store in Perth talked me into a couple of box fillers. It comes in a 650ml bomber and has big malt and hop flavours. Beaten Track brewery out of Kalgoorlie produce this beer and I've been quite impressed with all of their beers.

Stone & Wood Garden Ale - The boys at Stone & Wood have released their latest limited edition beer. It's called the Garden Ale and is essentially an English Bitter. It's got juniper berries in it and is incredibly refreshing. At 3.8% it's on the low ABV side but the flavour is excellent and this more than makes up for the low ABV. It's one I'd definitely have again.

San Paolo Pecan - This is one of the many Italian craft beers infiltrating the Australian market. It has the light citrus and grass hop flavour of a typical Kolsch, but is strangely bland. Personally for me this was a bit of a disappointment considering I'd heard good things about this brewery. I would avoid this one if I was you.

Emerson's APA - As regular readers would know, Emerson's is one of my favourite breweries. This American Pale Ale was a recently released limited edition. It was incredibly easy drinking and one of the better examples of the styles out there, maybe it should be a permanent edition to the Emerson's lineup?

Viven Imperial IPA - I'm a big IPA fan but considering how well the Belgian's make beer this is a bit of a disappointment. It is definitely an American IPA not a Belgian IPA, which is honourable from a Belgian brewery however it just didn't set my world on fire. There are certainly better beers out there.

Green Flash Rayon Vert - When Green Flash was on tasting at my beer store a few months back the rep told me I had to take a 4-pack, try 2 now and put 2 away for aging. It's hard to see how this Belgian Pale Ale could get any better with aging! It's a stunning example of the style and is ever so drinkable.

Victoria - Central and South America seems littered with beers called Victoria. This particular one is from Mexico and is a beer that really impressed me at dinner the other night. It was on the beer menu at a Mexican restaurant and as I'm not the world's biggest Corona fan I thought I'd give it a go. The conclusion is that it's a far superior beer, very refreshing and quite tasty!


Boogoop - Richo and I sampled this beer two weeks ago. It was bought purely because of the name and that it was on special. It actually turned out to be a ripper of a beer. A wheatwine is a style I've never had before and initial impressions of the style were that is was like a sweet IPA. I'd be interested in finding more of them.

Vlora - Vlora is an Albanian lager. I had this beer on November 28, the 100th anniversary of Albania's declaration of independence. I still can't decide whether I liked the beer or not. It was quite drinkable but there was this slightly odd metallic taste that put me off a little, and is actually the reason the beer didn't get a full review.

So that was the quick run through of some beers that I would otherwise have liked to review, but for time constraints. I've got two reviews that will be up in the next few days, one of which has a seasonal theme to it..., so stay tuned. Remember any suggestions for reviews are always greatly appreciated and I am always happy to answer any beer questions you may have. 

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

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

REVIEW: SCHÖFFERHOFER GRAPEFRUIT

Summer Fruit Beers #11


STATS
  • Country: Germany
  • Style: Hefeweizen
  • ABV: 2.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Sticking with the Hefeweizen theme of yesterday, tonight's beer sees the return of the Summer Fruit Beer section. Schofferhofer Grapefruit is a traditional Hefeweizen beer infused with grapefruit juice (obviously!).

It's unusual to see a German brewery come out with a beer like this. Most German breweries brew beers in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, which dictates that beer can only be brewed with water, hops and barley. The Reinheitsgebot was lifted by an EU court of law in 1988 but many German breweries still comply with the purity law. History lesson aside, I'm interested to see what this tastes like.

This wheat beer pours a cloudy orange colour with the colour of the grapefruit clearly showing through. There's a good sized head as well, however the retention is a little disappointing for what is essentially a normal hefeweizen. The other thing I will mention about the appearance of Schofferhofer Grapefruit is the clear glass bottle, I hate clear glass bottles!

Schofferhofer Grapefruit smells like a soft drink. I know I've smelt this before but I can't quite come up with the name of the drink... Anyway the nose is all grapefruit and citrus hops, that's it though! There's absolutely nothing else to report other than the nose is not beery in any way, shape or form. More cordial than anything else.

The flavour is similar to the smell. It taste like a grapefruit cordial with no semblance of wheat beer anywhere to be seen. There are some grapefruit and other citrus-flavoured hops but not alot of anything else. I'm disappointed that there isn't more in the way of the typical banana or cloves flavour that you would find in a standard wheat beer as I think they would enhance the beer greatly. In saying that it's got enough bitterness that it's a very refreshing beer and is one that I would have again.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good the "beer" tasted. The only issue I have with it was that it had almost no beery qualities to it. Schofferhofer Grapefruit is quite refreshing and not a bad option if you are after a refreshing drink on a hot day, just don't be expecting it to be a beer. I suppose I would recommend this to girls and people who like cordial, because that's what it tastes like!

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

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

REVIEW: BALTIKA 8

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Russia
  • Style: Hefeweizen
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Price
It's summer again here in Australia and I'm looking to raise the profile of some of the styles perfectly suited to the summer months. Today we are going to start with a Hefeweizen, a typical German beer style made with wheat. 

The Hefeweizen that I will be sampling tonight is Baltika 8 from Russia. Eastern Europe is renowned for it's wheat fields, Ukraine in particular, and all the Eastern European wheat beers I've had have been quite drinkable. From what I've heard this is one of the best of the non-German wheat beers out there.

When Baltika 8 is poured you find a beer which appears to have very aggressive carbonation. For the duration of drinking there are thousands of small bubbles which rise to the head and keep it big and fluffy. It's a brilliant white head which thins out a bit with time but it is still a large head, typical of the style. It's a good looking Hefeweizen, hopefully it will drink as well as it looks.

The nose is as good as any German wheat beer I've ever smelt! It has all the usual characteristics of wheat, banana and slightly spicy cloves. There is also a hint of citrus and honey towards the back end of the nose. The overall aroma is very strong for a wheat beer and is rather enticing, I can't wait to taste this one!

Seriously this is a delicious wheat beer, it's one of the most sessionable wheat beers on the market! The flavour is slightly sweet up front before the typical Hefeweizen flavours come through. There's loads of banana over a lovely wheat base. There's also plenty of cloves as the beer warms. Baltika 8 feels beautiful going down with the perfect mouthfeel and excellent tingly carbonation. It's so sessionable and just makes you want another and another and another!

Overall Baltika 8 really impressed me. Hefeweizen are very drinkable summer beers and this one is one of the better ones out there. The price is quite reasonable for a 500ml bottle and if they get the distribution right this could be one of the best selling wheat beers this summer. This is one I'd definitely recommend to all wheat beer lovers, it's a good example of the style.

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

Saturday, 8 December 2012

THE BEST OF BEER CAMP 2012

The 2012 Beer Camp offering from Sierra Nevada

It's that time of year again when Sierra Nevada's Best of Beer Camp is released. After the success of last year there was no question that I would have to try this years! My mate Jack and I sampled these yesterday before our work Christmas party so these reviews are all coming from notes off my phone.

The 2012 Beer Camp selection includes an Imperial Red Ale, an Oatmeal Stout, a Floral IPA and an Imperial Pilsner. I'm expecting alot from these beers after witnessing the quality of last year's selection firsthand. In particular I am looking forward to the Oatmeal Stout, it's a style which I think is under produced however this may be because they are notoriously difficult to make.

The Floral IPA is an English IPA and I will be interested to see what Sierra Nevada can produce for this style. The Imperial Pilsner will be an interesting beer to try as lagers and normally shunned by the craft beer world. Red Ale's often aren't my thing but I'm approaching it with an open mind. Let's get into them!

Yesterday was quite hot so the only logical starting point was the Imperial Pilsner. The pour was excellent, a brilliant golden straw colour with a good sized white head on top. The nose had very strong elements of lemon zest coming from the hops and it seemed to be quite bitter with a very low malt profile.

It was a really fresh crisp tasting beer. There was plenty of citrus flavours and the mouthfeel was fantastic with plenty of bubbles on the tongue. The beer had a lovely dry finish and there was plenty of bitterness. It was the perfect beer to have after a hot day at work. It's a pilsner I would like to see more of in the future.

Style: German Pilsner
ABV: 5.6%

We decided to follow up the Pilsner with the Floral IPA. The pour was again excellent with a deep orange/copper colour with a good sized creamy head. The nose is incredibly aromatic, with (unsurprisingly) floral hops taking centre stage. It's a very enticing aroma.

When you first taste this beer it's somewhat hard to see where the English IPA style comes from. It's incredibly bitter and in your face but the beer mellows a bit as you continue drinking and it becomes quite a nice IPA. There are certainly better examples of the style out there but you could do worse. The flavour are mostly grapefruit and floral hops but there is a nice bready malt base. Overall it's an easy drinking IPA.
Style: English IPA
ABV: 5.9%

The red ale was next up and it surprised me! The pour was as red as any beer I've ever seen and also had a hugely impressive head. The first aroma I smelled was not malty like I expected but quite hoppy with strong grapefruit and pine elements. As the beer warms the nose becomes a bit sweeter as caramel malts become more prominent. 

The Red Ale in Beer Camp 2012 is a seriously good beer! The hop bitterness is quite pronounced for a red ale but it is brilliantly balanced by some sweet caramel malts. The beer has some fruity qualities to it as well, I have a note on my phone saying peach but I honestly can't recall tasting that. The finish was quite dry and I could easily see myself drinking alot of these!

Style: American Red Ale
ABV: 8.0%

Last but not least we came to the Oatmeal Stout. When the beer was poured it seemed like the beer was quite viscous. The colour was definitely a dark brown not a black and the head was huge and creamy looking. The nose is mostly oatmeal but there is also plenty of other elements often found in stouts, such as coffee, chocolate and vanilla. There is also a good deal of roastyness.

We were in a bit of a hurry by this point so had to drink it quite quickly. Normally this would be a bad thing to do with a stout but this one was beautiful and almost designed for drinking this way. The mouthfeel was amazingly smooth and creamy and the flavour was also something special. The roasted malts flavour was only moderate but every other element worked in perfect harmony to make an excellent stout.

Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 9.0%

And now we come to the point where I try and sum Beer Camp 2012 up. Highlights for me included the texture and flavour of the Oatmeal Stout, which was just superb! The Imperial Pilsner was very refreshing and great for a hot day. While the only disappointment came from the Floral IPA, not because the beer was bad but because I was expecting more from a brewery which normally produces such great IPA's and this was just a little run of the mill. The most shocking thing for me though was the Red Ale. For me it was the pick of the bunch, nothing about it was bad. If you are only to try one of these beers make sure it's the Red Ale, you won't be disappointed!

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

Thursday, 6 December 2012

REVIEW: CROUCHER GALAXY

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: New Zealand
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 6.3%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
Now that my fridge is restocked it seemed like the only proper thing to do would be to review what I've been since work ended; a nice big IPA. This particular one is the new one from Croucher in New Zealand and is made to emphasize the Australian Galaxy hop!

The side of the bottle claims that Croucher's Galaxy is a hop bomb and thankfully that's exactly what I'm looking for tonight! This beer was produced because of a shortage of American hops on the market and Croucher could get their hands on enough Galaxy to make a big IPA.

Galaxy IPA from Croucher has a brilliant golden body full of carbonation bubbles rising to an impressive head of off white foam. The retention of the head and the lacing it leaves behind is certainly in the top few percentiles for an American IPA. The body of the beer matches the top of the bar almost perfectly as well, which is a big plus point! Stunning looking IPA!

I'm really struggling with a description of the nose today. I had to go into the attic today to find something and it's safe to say I've never had worse hayfever. What I can smell appears to be quite a malt driven IPA nose with strong grapefruit and pine hops. I wish I could give more detail but today that's all I can detect.

Croucher have produced a delicious beer with the Galaxy IPA. The hops are lovely with plenty of grapefruit and I think passionfruit hops, something that is much more synonymous with Galaxy hops than the piney notes the aroma was giving me. The mouthfeel is simply stunning! It has an almost creamy texture to it and has excellent carbonation, it just makes you want to drink more and more!

Overall I really rate this beer. It's a really drinkable IPA that is not so dominant that it would deter people new to the style; but also not so weak to upset big hop heads like myself. I thought the hop bomb tag was maybe a little strong, yes it was a bitter IPA but not overly so. This is a really good example of an American style IPA made using Australian hops, one of the best out there in fact. Croucher is a great brewery and this is another excellent beer from them, it's one I think everyone should try.

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

THE GREAT BOTTLE VS. CAN DEBATE PART 6

The sixth installment: The Great Bottle vs. Can Debate 


Macro Lager 



STATS

  • Country: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Serving Type: 250ml Bottle/355ml Can
  • Price: Inexpensive
Tonight I was thinking would be a good night to get away from the recent wave of macro lagers that I've been reviewing recently, however my fridge was disappointingly empty. So while waiting for some other beers to cool down I thought it would be time to do delve back into my special delivery package and review the main beer of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hairoun.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a group of islands in the Caribbean with a population of around 120,000. The main island is St. Vincent and houses the brewery which produces Hairoun. I actually had a cab driver on the weekend from St. Vincent and he was very interested to see what I had to say about "his" beer when I told him I had some. Hopefully Hairoun doesn't disappoint me.

For the first time in the Bottle vs. Can debate I think the bottle is clearly the better looking beer. It's a beautiful golden colour with a bigger head than the can. Both have good levels of carbonation rising to the head, however a tiny ring of foam is all that either vessel can muster.

The nose is like that of most tropical lagers. It's very light and inoffensive. It's very hard to tell either the can or the bottle apart. Both have a light grainy aroma and there is also a hint of sweet honey. There are much worse lager noses out there than Hairoun.

When you drink the can and the bottle side-by-side you wouldn't even think these are the same beer. The can as a slightly odd, almost Asahi flavour to it which doesn't quite work, it's very malt dominant. As for the bottle it's a nice refreshing lager with some sweetness up front before some spicy hops come through and provide nice bitterness. In a bottle this would be great to have on a beach in the Caribbean, the can on the other-hand, well let's just leave that alone...

Amazingly we have our first bottle win today! Quite honestly I never would have thought that the first bottle win in the Great Bottle vs. Can Debate would come from St. Vincent and the Grenadines! The bottle has clearly survived better than the can, it's a fresher crisper taste and is actually quite a drinkable lager. Daniel you were right, Hairoun is a nice beer!


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

Saturday, 1 December 2012

REVIEW: PITON

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: St. Lucia
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 250ml Can
  • Price: Inexpensive
Here is the first beer from the special delivery I mentioned the other week. Piton Lager is the national beer of the tiny Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia. The beer was first brewed on the island in 1992 and is named after the two main mountains in the country.

It would seem that Piton Lager is not well known around the world as Saint Lucia is home to only around 170,000 people. However many people, particularly from the United States, travel there for holidays and the beer has gained a cult following. Despite it's popularity the beer is still only distributed in St. Lucia and some other Caribbean islands, however I have got my hands on some and it's time to try it!

For a tropical lager the pour is actually quite good. I've had to pull the tiny pilsner glass out for this beer as it's the only glass small enough for the 250ml Piton can, and this has made the head look a bit smaller than it actually is. The beer itself is a nice golden colour with plenty of bubbles rising to the head. It does dissipate rather quickly and there is close enough to no lacing. Still I've seen much worse looking lagers.

On to the nose and it is again not too bad for a tropical lager. It's quite weak, which I always think is a virtue in a lager, however what aromas that are present are mostly of sweet grain. There's also a tiny hint of citrus coming from the hops but there really isn't alot going on to excite the nose. It's not appealing but nor is it offensive, which is the main thing.

The taste is a little bland and the mouthfeel is a tad watery. Despite saying that Piton Lager is actually quite drinkable. What little flavour that are there are nice enough, the hops are grassy and provide just enough bitterness to offset some of the sweet malts. This beer I can definitely envisage being a good session beer as it is very easy to drink and the flavour is completely inoffensive if a tad insipid.

I was left feeling a tad indifferent towards Piton Lager after finishing it. Basically it was a simple lager that did little to justify the good things I'd heard about it and to distinguish itself from the standard macro lager. Today was hot and I'd be in the roof space most of the afternoon so it was refreshing enough but there are better beers out there. I'm sure if you were on a beach in St. Lucia this beer would be pretty good, but on the other side of the world there are better options.

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

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

REVIEW: BIRRA PRIZRENI

European Beer Challenge #44 Kosovo


STATS

  • Country: Kosovo
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
When I initially began this challenge I didn't include Kosovo in my list. Kosovo is a disputed territory in southeastern Europe whose independence is supported by 96 UN members, with Serbia being the most vocal opposition.

For this reason Kosovo is not a recognised FIFA member and wasn't on the original challenge list. A blog reader from Albania recently popped over into Kosovo for work and offered to send me the beer, I thought, it can't hurt everyone loves the European Beer Challenge! Birra Prizreni is one of the newest breweries in Kosovo and I'm looking forward to tasting it.

The pour is very light in colour, in fact it's one of the clearest looking beers I've ever seen! The head is huge and vibrant white in colour. Birra Prizreni has plenty of carbonation rising through the beer to the head and this helps with the retention, which it has to be said is nothing short of sensational. For me the colour is a little light for a lager, but otherwise it's a good looking beer.

Birra Prizreni from Kosovo has plenty of bitterness on the nose. It's a very clean smelling lager with plenty of citrus and grassy hops coming to the fore. On the nose it's really hard to tell if there is any malt body at all to this beer, quite honestly I can't smell a thing to indicate that there is one. Overall though this is a reasonable smelling lager, I think the taste could be interesting though...

After looking at this beer there is no way I would have thought it would have tasted this good! It's a stunning full flavoured macro lager. As the nose indicated Birra Prizreni has a pretty low malt body and the hops are the driving force behind the flavour. There are both grassy and citrus flavoured hops with and they provide a crisp and refreshing flavour. It's a really refreshing beer which leaves you wanting more!

Considering this is one of the newest breweries in Kosovo I am really impressed with the product. Birra Peja is by far the most popular beer in Kosovo currently but from all reports Prizreni is closing the gap, with it's clean fresh taste being very popular with the locals. I'd be more than happy to drink it again, as macro lagers go this is a pretty good one. If you're ever in Kosovo you could do worse than to drink this beer.

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

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

REVIEW: L.A. LAGER

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Denmark
  • Style: American Pale Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
I've got a mate who loves his wheat beers and his macro lagers but isn't really into craft beer. In this, Mikkeller L.A. Lager I think that I finally found the craft beer that would be perfect for Coll! Supposedly it's a lager that craft beer drinkers can drink! Shocking yes but if anyone can do it, it's Mikkeller.

Purvis Beer's weekly Wednesday newsletter was once again my financial down fall in a week where I'd done well saving money. I was umm-ing and ahh-ing about buying this beer but the guy said I just had to try it, and suddenly I had another couple of beers in my fridge. Coll and I sampled this on Sunday watching the soccer and now it's time to actually review it.

As is sometimes the case when I retrospectively review beers I have some very sketchy notes on my phone. For it's appearance my notes were surprisingly succinct; "Not your average lager, fuller in colour and amazing head retention." That pretty much says it all! It really does look like a better looking lager and the lacing is some of the best I've ever seen!

The nose is incredibly hop driven for a lager there's plenty of aromatic citrus zest. I can also smell a hint of piney hops. It's almost like an IPA in the hop character but the malts seem much more pronounced. There seems to be both sour malts and sweeter biscuity malts that make the aroma quite complex. If the flavour is anything like the nose I'll be really interested to taste it!

In terms of flavour the Purvis guy was bang on, this is one of the best lagers I've ever had. It's a lager with a bit of an IPA finish to it, with the mixture of hops combining into a nice dry and bitter finish. Maybe the only downside of this one would be sessionability (not that that's a word but you should understand the vibe...). Seriously it's a sensational tasting beer!

L.A. Lager is everything I was promised it was, like a lager but better! If a craft beer drinker is going to drink a lager this is the one for them to drink. Mikkeller made this beer for his friend's Burger & Bun restaurant in Copenhagen, which serve real US burgers. This is exactly the sort of food that would compliment this beer (or vice versa depending on your preferences...) and it's a must try for all lager lovers.

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

Saturday, 24 November 2012

REVIEW: MORNINGTON SORACHI KOLSCH

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Kölsch
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
We are coming back into that time of year where the weather heats up and the days stay lighter later and later. Kölsch is the perfect style for this time of year and since I couldn't find any in my fridge I dug this review I never published up from earlier this year.

So as I mentioned earlier I feel that Kölsch is pretty close to the perfect beer style for a warm summer evening. The style is often confused as a type of lager however Kölsch is an ale, originating from Cologne in Germany. This particular Kölsch from Mornington Brewery was brewed with Sorachi Ace hops, one of the most distinctive hop varieties on the market.

Like all Kölsch this one is very light in colour, it's an odd cloudy yellow/straw colour with mountains of tiny little bubbles rising through the beer to the fluffy brilliant white head. Mornington have produced an almost perfect representation of what a Kölsch is supposed to look like, hopefully the flavour lives up to this fantastic looking beer.

Mornington typically produce very aromatic beers, this one is no different. There are some nice spicy and floral elements to the hops as well as the characteristic lemon flavour which is associated with Sorachi Ace. I can also smell another fruity element it's like a jam sort of aroma, raspberry maybe? Overall it just has a beautiful crisp feeling, I can't wait to drink it!

And I am happy to report that drinking the Sorachi Kölsch is not a let down in the slightest. It's brilliantly refreshing and has an amazing mouthfeel with tingly carbonation on the tongue. It has a clean dry taste that is reminiscent of what a Kölsch should be like. It has that somewhat odd raspeberry flavour in small hints throughout but it's really nice. The citrus from the hops makes this one of the most refreshing beers out there, perfect for a hot evening!

This Sorachi Kölsch from Mornington was a limited edition brew last year and I'm pretty sure they will try it again this year. The addition of the Sorachi Ace hops to the style was quite nice and refreshing, however I'm not sure how well it would go down with the traditionalist Kölsch brewers of Cologne. If you can get your hands on this one, I would recommend it. I would also recommend any Kölsch to try on a hot summers night.

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

Friday, 23 November 2012

BEER & BREWER - BEER GLASSES

Today I have good news, I've been published in Beer and Brewer! Beer and Brewer is Australia's only beer focused magazine, so this is a huge honour for me. So for all of those joining us for the first time through the magazine, it's good to have you here! Everyone feel free to contact me using my email (gus.norris7@gmail.com) or just comment on any of the posts if it's a general question.

My article focused on my rather large beer glass collection, many of which have been featured on posts on this blog. I had to submit the article a couple of months ago and thought it would be interesting just to show a few of the glasses from new countries I've added over that time.

Firstly here is another African glass I've come across, Hansa Pilsener from South Africa. This is only the fourth African country that I have a beer glass from, so I was quite excited to find it in an op-shop. The glass is quite an old one, as yet I haven't been able to put a precise date on it but I think it's from the 1960's or 70's.

As for the beer, Hansa Pilsener is a beer I've had before. It's an easy drinking pilsner with heaps of Saaz hops. It's nothing special but if you are looking for a cheap lager you could do alot worse than to pick it up.



This has to be one of the rarest glasses in my collection. It's from a brand called Moussy from Saudi Arabia. I know some collectors who do not recognise Moussy or Saudi Arabia in their collections as it's a non-alcoholic beer, however for me this doesn't matter. They are still brewing a predominantly malt beverage that tastes like beer, it just doesn't have any alcohol.

The reason Saudi's don't produce full-strength beer is because of the very strict adherence to Sharia Law, which prohibits the production or consumption of alcohol. I haven't had the beer and don't imagine I  ever will however the glass now takes it's place on my shelf.


Hong Kong is another new country (well region...) in my collection. It's one of those tricky places in the world which changes hands relatively often. Currently it's an administrative region of China. This is a really nice heavy mug from the Lan Kwai Fong Brew House in Hong Kong.

Dad actually bought this mug back with him from a recent conference trip to Hong Kong. From all reports the beer there is quite drinkable, however I imagine this is another beer that I probably won't taste. At least not for quite a while anyway.



I also have Mum and Dad to thank for these three glasses from Montenegro. Niksicko is by far the most popular beer in Montenegro and it also holds significant market shares in neighbouring countries.

It's a beer that I am quite familiar with, having reviewed in for the European Beer Challenge and doing a bottle vs can on Niksicko. The beer is a nice lager, which I imagine will be in my fridge quite a bit over summer.

And finally, the fifth and final new country in my collection is from Peru. My fathers friend Cesar is from Peru and has spent the best part of the last year trying to get me, with no success but plenty of excuses! Last week Dad popped into an op-shop and found this one, Cesar was a little embarrassed to say the least!

Cusquena is the national beer of Peru and it has previously been reviewed here. It's an all malt lager and is a little different in flavour to most lagers that we are used to here in Australia. It's a beer that I think everyone should try because it is a different take on a style which is so popular here.


So there we go, they are the five countries that I've added to my collection since the publishing of the article, bringing the total number of countries in my collection to 83. If this post proves popular this may become a semi-regular section on Beer O'Clock Australia. Let me know what you all think! Also I had a special beer delivery this week so keep your eyes peeled for some new stuff in the coming days.

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

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

REVIEW: SUPER CONDUCTOR

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Style: American Imperial IPA 
  • ABV: 8.8%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
I will start this review with what the side of the bottle says: "If you don't like hops, don't buy this beer. The intense bitterness and pungent, fruity hoppiness may confuse your tastebuds to an extent where there would not be enough voltage left in the world to electroshock them back into coherence."

It sounds exactly like what I'm looking for tonight, a massive hop bomb! 8 Wired is a brewery I'm quite familiar with, however I haven't had this particular one before. Their beers are brewed out of the Renaissance brewery in Blenheim, New Zealand in a contract brewing arrangement. I can't think of a bad 8 Wired beer (or Renaissance beer for that matter...) that I've had, I can't wait to try this.

Super Conductor pours a brilliantly clear dark amber colour with a really disappointing off white head topping it. The lacing is incredible despite the far below average head and retention consists of a solid ring of foam with a light film across the beer. There is plenty of carbonation rising to the head. God this would be a stunning looking beer if it had a better head...

On the nose there is plenty of tropical fruits ranging from the normal passionfruit and mango right through to the strange lychee (I'm pretty sure it's lychee). There is heaps and heaps of hop bitterness on the nose, as promised in the blurb. As the Super Conductor warms up more piney notes come through, this smells exactly like what I was hoping it would.

The electric blue colour of the label doesn't do this beer justice, it's even more in your face if that's possible! There is this tiny little malt base at the start of this beer before it is swamped by hoppy bitterness. I can taste so much fruit in the hops, there is plenty of passionfruit, mango, grapefruit, lychee (I was right!) the list goes on. There's also lots of pine, which I love. This all combines to be one of the driest IPA's I've ever had!

8 Wired's Super Conductor is a huge Imperial IPA full of the characteristic hop bitterness that one would expect from the style. Apparently it's 90 IBU but if they'd claimed 100-110 I wouldn't have argued, it's incredibly bitter but still brilliantly balanced. Quite seriously this could quite easily become a fridge regular at my house! Brilliant! If you love IPA's buy this one, you won't be disappointed!

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

Monday, 19 November 2012

REVIEW: RED DUCK GRUITER

Great Beer Styles #8


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Scottish Gruit
  • ABV: 6.8%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
About two weeks ago Red Duck's Ra #2 left quite an impression on me. The natural progression from that beer was forward a few thousand years to the 15th Century and Red Duck's Gruiter. Hopefully this historical beer will be as interesting as the Ra #2.

The Gruiter is a dark sour ale more commonly known as a Scottish Gruit, a beer flavoured and predominately bittered by a combination of herbs instead of hops. The style has almost been eradicated by the popularization of the use of hops in beer. I can't wait to see what Red Duck will produce for this style.

When poured Gruiter seems to have slightly more combination than the Ra #2 but that is where the similarities end. It's a very dark beer with only a tiny layer of brown bubbles forming a "head". At first the beer is a relatively clear dark brown colour but as it warms it seems to cloud over a bit and by the end it looks simply like liquid vegemite. Odd indeed!

The nose is actually very nice, there is plenty of a grape like aroma. This is accompanied by the aromas of lots of spices, ginger and pepper seem the most prominent to me but my track record with distinguishing spices is pretty average. As the beer warms more dark fruit aromas emerge as does an oddly yeasty smelling malt. All of these aromas combine to produce quite an impressive combination.

Red Duck really try and push boundaries and with the Gruiter they certainly have. I'm torn between my love of sour things (which this certainly is!) and wanting it to taste a little bit more like a beer. As for what it tastes like, it's mostly very acidic (or salty I'm undecided...) grapes and this pretty much swamps everything else. However there is a little bit of smokiness towards the backend. The beer is also completely flat, which makes the mouthfeel unusual to say the least.

After tasting Red Duck's Gruiter I know the answers to a few questions which I never would have thought I would need answers to. 1. Would I have liked to be a beer drinker in the 15th Century? No. 2. How would you describe a Scottish Gruit in one word? Odd. and 3. Are historic brewing styles a good thing to brew? Absolutley. I didn't particularly like the taste of the Gruiter but I didn't hate it either. Red Duck are doing a very brave thing with these historic styles of beer and I think it's something that should be promoted and supported more. Well done guys!

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

REVIEW: FERAL HOP HOG

Australian Critics Choice 2011


STATS
  • Country: Australian
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive 
Recently I ordered beer from the International Beer Shop in Perth. I was only after a couple of things from them, but seeing as postage is the same for a full carton as for only a couple of beers I needed a full case fillers.

Feral's Hop Hog has long been one of my favourite Australian beers. The guy from Perth suggested getting some Hop Hog as their stock is the freshest in the country. Why not I thought? The fresher an IPA is usually the better, hopefully it holds true to this little gem from W.A.

The beer pours a hazy golden orange colour with an off white fluffy head, which dissipates quite quickly. Despite the short lived nature of the head it does lace the glass beautifully and there does appear to be above average carbonation for an IPA. The colour of the beer is slightly on the lighter side of perfect for the style, but not alot, shame about the head though...

All you can smell on the nose are citrus and other fruit aromas. Lemons, oranges and mango are all prominent as is a light caramel maltiness. As the beer warms you get a huge hit of grapefruit as well, which is so pungent it seems odd that you couldn't smell it from the beginning. The overall aroma leaves me with a very summery feel and is making me crave a hot day to drink this beer on.

Today was unfortunately not that hot day, but still what a spectacular beer. There's plenty of bitterness coming from the hops which have all the fruity flavours that I mentioned in the aroma. There's some pine as well but nothing on the scale of some of the big American West Coast IPA's. The malting is actually very reasonable, there's enough to balance the beer but it doesn't impede the progress of the hops as they lay siege to your palate. It's just fantastic!

Last year's Critics Choice winner Stone & Wood Pacific Ale was one of my first reviews and is still one of my favourite beers, Hop Hog is just as good! As far as I'm concerned it's Australia's best IPA and I've had alot of them! It's got all the bitterness of an American brewed IPA but with a slightly Australian twist to it. A truly deserved winner!

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