Friday, 30 March 2012

REVIEW: SUPER BOCK

European Beer Challenge #36 Portugal


STATS
  • Country: Portugal
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager 
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: CHEAP!!!
Who would have thought that a beer from Portugal would be so hard to find? I've finally found one so it's time to drink one!
Portugal has a long brewing tradition dating back to when it was known as Lusitania. The Portuguese make and drink alot of beer, so hopefully this one is a good one.

The Super Bock is produced by Unicer from Porto. Between Unicer and Sagres they hold 90% of the beer market in Portugal. Super Bock Original (this one) is the single most popular beer in Portugal holding a staggering 42% sharehold of the market. The beer has even inspired a chant sung at football games: "Super Bock, superstar, gets you more pissed than Stella Artois." Sounds like my kind of beer, let's do this!

This beer pours a crystal clear golden colour with a tight white head on top. The head is only 2 fingers thick, which may be a little small for the style but looks really good. There is lots of carbonation rising to the head, which has excellent retention and some of the best lacing I've ever seen in a lager. It's pretty much the perfect looking lager, hopefully it tastes as good as it looks.

Unlike most American Adjunct Lagers this one doesn't smell hideous. There is no corny or skunked smell to this beer. Macro lagers typically don't have great aroma's and this one is no different. It's very thin on the nose with some grains and some light hints of fruit and hops. The hops are a grassy variety but very mild with little to no bitterness, it isn't offensive but it's hardly appealing either.

The Super Bock is a very standard European lager. The taste is very short and the flavour is quite mild. The grains are thin and inoffensive, while the fruit flavour I could smell exposes itself as a bitter apple, which is still very limited. The hops are grassy with just enough bitterness to make the beer slightly bitter. It's very easy to drink, but nothing special.

It's a surprisingly drinkable lager. It would make a fantastic session beer as it's really easy drink. The price is pretty cheap but it's really hard to find. If the distributor puts serious money into this it could become one of the best drinking beers in Australia. It's nothing special so I wouldn't go out of your way to find it, but if you come across it I would certainly buy it.

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

REVIEW: SKULL SPLITTER

Et Ceterbeer


STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: Scotch Ale
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
I had this beer last night and with how I'm feeling this morning it is certainly living up to it's name! This is the second beer I'm having from Orkney Brewery (see Dark Island). The 8.5% really hit me quite hard, so this is another beer where the notes can hopefully get us through this review.

Skull Splitter is such a good name for a beer with such a high alcohol percentage. The labels from this brewery are fantastic, I would happily send them to any collectors. The beer has tasting notes on the back, which I always appreciate, and they basically say this is an aromatic beer with lots of fruit and spices.

The beer appears a redder colour than it appears in the photo. The colour is not that dissimilar to that of tea, except this has a thick finger and a half of creamy head on top. Some carbonation can be seen rising to this head, which has excellent retention. There is a thin layer of head that sticks around for the duration of drinking and this layer manages to lace the glass very nicely. This is another excellent looking beer from Orkney Brewery.

On the nose this beer was really earthy. There are caramel and biscuity malts present as well as some raisins (or similar fruits). I remember is smelling slightly sweet overall while having a very subtle hint of smokeyness. Probably for the style there isn't enough roasting on the nose, but it may well come through in the tasting. The sweet nature of the aroma has me a little confused stylistically, but it's not an offensive smell and that can't hurt the score of this beer.

WOW! Skull Splitter has one of the most intense flavours of any Scotch ale I've ever had! This beer has it all, from the sweet tasting caramel malts up front to the spicy hop bitterness towards the backend of the beer. There are hints of warming alcohol but it's presence is not out of place in this beer. I can taste some dark fruits, maybe raisins or plums which really add to the complexity of this beer. The finish is slightly sweet and fruity, it's seriously delicious! 

One of the tastiest ales I have ever had! One of the first questions that popped into my head after tasting this beer was in relation to the name. Skull Splitter? Was the name a reference to the ABV (as I initially expected) or this absolute explosion of flavours that bombard the senses? Either way I love the name and I love the beer even more! If you like beer this is one that you simply must try!

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

REVIEW: BLACK SHEEP ALE

Et Ceterbeer

STATS
  • Country: England
  • Style: English Pale Ale
  • ABV: 4.4%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
Last weekend Dad's cousin came to stay with us, and being from Yorkshire originally we thought it would be nice to have some Yorkshire brews. Black Sheep brewery was started up by Paul Theakston (of Theakston's brewery fame) after a family dispute in 1991.

The town of Masham is home to both Black Sheep and Theakston's so they are certainly spoiled for choice. The Black Sheep Ale is a traditional English pale ale. The tag line is "crisp, dry and bittersweet" hopefully it can live up to that.

Naturally we allowed this one to warm for a while before consuming, as no true englishman would drink a cold ale! The beer pours an amber colour with an airy off white head on top. As with any ale, there is little to no head retention however this one does manage to lace the glass quite well. The beer is slightly darker than I would have anticipated and actually makes it quite hard to see the logo on the glass! Poor marketing in one respect, but otherwise a really nice looking ale.

Most ales have a strong aroma, and this one is no different! By no means is this aroma complex but it certainly smells good with the few powerful ingredients that are there. There is a strong caramel malt base which has a nutmeg-like spicy quality to it. I can also smell pear and peach flavours while the nose ends with vibrant citrussy hops. It's a really pleasant smelling ale, hopefully it tastes just as good.

Black Sheep Ale tastes like no beer I've ever had before! There is the normal biscuity and caramel malts which starts off bitter and becomes sweeter over the course of drinking. It's much less fruity than the nose indicated however I can still make out some very faint pear. The hops are spicy and have strong floral aromas, they are a strange variety that I can't quite place. The finish is both bitter and sweet at the same, it's delicious!

I don't drink alot of real ale, mostly because it doesn't usually travel well or isn't bottled. This one has travelled really well and is everything the front of the bottle promises. The beer is crisp and dry in both flavour and mouthfeel and has a delicious taste which is strangely bitter and sweet at the same time. Black Sheep Ale is a winner in my books and is certainly worth a try if you can get your hands on it, be prepared though it's very different to anything we drink in Australia.

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

Monday, 26 March 2012

REVIEW: RED STRIPE

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Jamaica
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: CHEAP!!
I'm back everyone! I've been quite unwell for the last week or so, so I thought we would ease back into this with a nice plain lager. Nothing that should be too stressful on the senses anyway. Red Stripe is Jamaica's best selling lager and is actually famous worldwide.

When you think of great beer drinking nations, Jamaica wouldn't come in most peoples top 100! The beer has a reputation for being an easy drinking lager but is probably best known worldwide for being the sponsor of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team, made famous by the movie 'Cool Runnings'. The brewery has also recently made a J$100 million dollar sponsorship of the Jamaican national football team, in any currency thats a lot of beers sold! Any brewery that can sell that many beers has to have something going for it.

Hardly unexpectedly Red Stripe pours like your standard lager. It pours a clear golden colour with mountains of bubbles rising to a 2 finger white bubbly head. The head is a little airy perhaps but the retention is fantastic and it laces the glass really well. I'm really impressed with the look of this lager, it's close to perfect!

Cheaper lagers often smell really quite nasty, while the Jamaican lager is by no means a great smelling beer it's not nasty, which for me is the main thing with these tropical beers. The nose has slightly sweet smelling malts and some spicy herbal hops. There is a mild corn smell, not hugely dissimilar to a bag of corn chips, this is not to be unexpected from an adjunct lager as corn is often used in adjunct lagers. It's a reasonable smelling lager.

This is a actually a surprisingly good lager! There is a mild grain flavour as well as an unusually corny flavour. There is a slight sweetness to the pale malts, but there is a spicy hop bitterness about the whole beer. It's actually a delicious beer, it finishes with a slightly metallic tinge in addition to the fantastic bitterness.

Red Stripe Jamaican Lager is one of the more refreshing lagers I've had. It's everything you would want in a tropical lager, crisp, wet and relatively light in flavour. This would make a fantastic session beer, due to the moderately low carbonation and excellent drinkability. At the very low price this beer is currently sold at I think you should be going out to get some, it won't disappoint if you go in with an open mind. By no means is it a world class lager, but it's a damn good thirst quencher!

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

Sunday, 18 March 2012

REVIEW: CROUCHER NEW ZEALAND PILSNER

Et Ceterbeer

STATS
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Style: Czech Pilsner 
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 

This is another of the exceptional micro breweries coming out of New Zealand. Croucher is gaining popularity in Australia and can be found on tap at a number of restaurants around Melbourne. The Pale Ale is also quite good but this is the first time I will be sampling the Pilsner.

Croucher New Zealand Pilsner is supposed to be a New Zealand twist on this traditional style. It stays true to the style by using lots of hops, but they are Motueka and Riwaka varieties both found only in New Zealand instead of the traditional Saaz. What it all comes down to though is does it taste good, and I think it's time to find out.

This beer pours absolutely sensationally! The colour is a nice clear golden colour with a thick white head on top of the beer. There are lots of small bubbles rising to this head which settles to a full finger full of head. I don't think you can ask for a lot more in a Czech Pilsner, the beer is crystal clear and looks incredibly appetizing!

When you first smell this beer, the attack of strong New Zealand hops is like being punched in the face. There are grassy hops everywhere, with a backing of strong herbal and citrus smells. There is also a hint of tropical fruit towards the end of the nose. The tropical fruit smell is similar to passionfruit and provides a slightly sweet contrast to the incredibly bite that the hops are offering. What a simply sensational nose!

Croucher have produced a seriously tasty beer with their New Zealand Pilsner! It has a heap of flavour without losing that beautiful Czech Pilsner feel. The senses are overloaded by the vicious hop flavour right at the start before slightly fading away to be replaced by mild grains, some passionfruit and plenty of citrus. The hops return at the end of the palate and leaves a delicious bitterness. The beer is crisp and one of the best examples of this slightly new world Czech Pilsner.

The flavour of this beer is excellent! I'm a big fan of pilsners and when I tell other beer nerds my favourite beer is a pilsner they all look at me like I'm crazy. Emerson's Pilsner is my yardstick, and Croucher's effort is pretty close. This is one of the most sessionable beers I've ever had. The carbonation bubble on the back of the tongue adds crispness and is simply brilliant! This is one that you should definitely try! If you see it on tap, it doesn't matter what else is on you must try this beer!

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

Saturday, 17 March 2012

REVIEW: LA FIN DU MONDE

     The World's best beer contender?


STATS
  • Country: Canada
  • Style: Tripel
  • ABV: 9.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
This is a beer that I've had before, way back before I appreciated what good beer was. At the time I remember thinking that this isn't a beer, now with a more refined palate I'm coming back to try it again! I've also got the glass, which is always nice.

La Fin du Monde is French for 'the end of the world' and is essentially a Belgian tripel. The serving temperature of 14°C took me a little by surprise so it will have to sit on the bar for a while. I should also point out this was a warm-up to some St. Patrick's day shenanigans, so if this review doesn't make a heap of sense that will be why! Hopefully my notes, and memory get us through.

The colour of this Canadian tripel is quite different to many of the Belgian tripels I've come across, which are normally much darker. This tripel pours a hazy golden colour with a bubbly white head above it. Some bubbles can be detected rising to this large head, however there are not enough to stop the head dying down to nothing quite quickly. Despite the strange colour, it's a lovely looking beer.

Not only does La Fin du Monde look good it also smells like a fruit market, it's absolutely incredible! There are aroma's of apples, pears, peaches, pineapple even grapes and all smell incredibly juicy and fresh. I think there is also some apricot and even an orange peel zestiness to the nose. It finishes with a touch of alcohol and some light spicyness, maybe caused by cloves or something similar. It's a very intense nose, I can't wait to try it!

This is one of the most balanced tripels I've ever had, most struggle to balance the sweetness that they often generate. That is where this beer is different not only is there the usual candi sugar and pale malts but there is also bitterness provided by the not only some hops but also some spices and that orange peel I noted on the nose. There is some banana towards the back of the mouth that wasn't evident on the nose, while all the other fruits are present but less vibrant than they smelt.

Overall there isn't alot more to say, it's simply sensation! It's probably the most complete tripel I've ever had and it combines a sensational flavour with a fitting slightly sticky mouthfeel. There's a hint of alcohol towards the end, which is the only thing that hurts the drinkability of this one (9% is probably a little high...)! It's a fantastic beer and anything else I try to say is just going to detract from it, if I were you I would go out and get this beer, it's really sensational!

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

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

REVIEW: GREEN FLASH IMPERIAL

Et Ceterbeer

STATS
  • Country: United States
  • Style: American Imperial IPA
  • ABV: 9.4%
  • Serving Type: 650ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive 

The Green Flash Brewing Company has revelutionized my IPA drinking! This is the last of three of their offering that I have tasted so I am really looking forward to it! I actually didn't notice this one in the shop and it was pointed out to me by the new girl (yes a girl who loves beer!)

It's a relatively young brewery, only founded in 2002 in San Diego. The logo is fantastic and I've made it my task to find a glass from this brewery. As the name suggests this is an Imperial Indian Pale Ale, topped off by a great tag line down the bottom "All about the Hops!", could there be a more perfect sounding beer?

This Imperial IPA pours a cloudy honey colour with a magnificent white head. There appears to be almost no carbonation rising to this head, however with such a voluptuous head there has to be some. Excellent retention can be observed in this head and it laces the glass beautifully. It's hard to find flaws with the appearance of this exceptional looking IPA, hopefully it will taste as good as it looks!

As this beer is poured, almost instantly you get a large grapefruit and pine smell; it's almost overwhelming. There are undertones of biscuity malt but it is extremely weak, as the resiny bitterness of the earthy hops and pine come through. This is going to be amazing it smells so strong and delicious, apparently there are 101 IBU's in this and you can definitely smell them!

Green Flash have produced one of the tastiest IPA's I've ever had! It's absolutely amazing! It has a heap of pine flavour, it's literally like you are tasting a pine forest. There is grapefruit present to try and cut through what is an incredibly bitter, but enjoyable, beer. I believe there is malt present in this beer, however it's pretty hard to taste. The other flavours are overwhelmingly delicious!

Is this my new favourite IPA? It's pretty damn close if it's not. Green Flash Brewing have provided a beer with lots of piney hops that is simply delicious to taste. There is heaps of bitterness to this beer but it is surprisingly easy to drink. The 9.4% alcohol could become a bit of a problem as the drinkability is so good, but with a decent dinner first it should be okay. I can see myself drinking alot more of this in the future and I think all of you should try some as well! The entire Green Flash range is amazing (see photo of the Red IPA above), they are all worth a try!

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

P.S. After reading that again I seemed to have not really described the flavour that well (it seems to just say piney and grapefruit...), however trust me it is delicious! BUY IT!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

REVIEW: ST. AMBROISE APRICOT

Summer Fruit Beers #7

STATS
  • Country: Canada
  • Style: Fruit Beer
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 341ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 

The McAuslan brewery is the leading micro-brewery in the Canadian provence of Quebec. This is a French-speaking region of Canada and so the beers are named in both English and French. All of the beers from this brewery are in 341ml bottles, a rather odd number in my books...

This is an Apricot wheat ale and was initially just a seasonal beer for McAuslan. The overwhelming success of this beer forced the breweries hand and shortly afterwards this became a year round speciality. Apparently this is the beer to have with curry, one of my favourite foods, so I will be sampling this first on it's own and then with the curry. Hopefully my beer guy wasn't lying to me!

The St. Ambroise Apricot beer pours like lager, a welcome change from some of the other fruit beers that we have come across. I would call the colour peachy, it's a clear slightly dark golden colour. The head is shortlived, but large and bubbly. The colour of the head is ever so slightly orange tinted, and I imagine this is from the apricot. There is good lacing despite the pour head retention, it's a good looking beer.

Naturally this beer smells like apricots on the nose. What else would an Apricot Wheat Beer smell like? It's very sweet and almost entirely made up of apricots, however there are hints to the fact that is a wheat beer. I can just make out hints of vanilla and even some grain. There are no detectable hops on the nose, and in a beer like this I'd be extremely surprised if there are any when I taste it.

When I taste this beer it's pretty easy to see why this beer has a reputation for being good with curry. It's a very light and refreshing! The beer starts off surprisingly tart for something that smells so sweet, before a sweeter juicier apricot flavour shines through. You can tell it's a wheat beer, but it doesn't have that unusual mouthfeel that many German examples leave you with. The finish has an almost tangy feeling to it while retaining the fabulous fresh apricot taste.

This beer is delicious and would be incredible on a hot summers day! I wouldn't recommend a heap of them though, even after 2 it was getting a tad cloying, it's a bit too sweet. However McAuslan's fruit beer certainly shows off the fruit well, you can really taste the fresh apricot flavour. And as for the curry taste test, it's also a winner there. It helps soothe the intense flavour of my very hot vindaloo. Overall this is a solid fruit beer, and one I will probably buy again. Definitely worth a shot if you can find it!

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

Monday, 12 March 2012

REVIEW: VIKING

European Beer Challenge #35 Iceland


STATS
  • Country: Iceland
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager 
  • ABV: 4.4%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey

Beer number 35 in this challenge we owe to my lovely girlfriend Lizzie, who just bought me a case of this beer. Iceland has a relatively short brewing history, but have a holiday called "Beer Day" celebrated on the 1st of March every year. Beer Day celebrates the 1989 lifting of prohibition in Iceland.

Until the Icelandic economy crashed in 2008, the country had the most expensive pint of beer in Europe. This changed very suddenly however, within 3 months the average Icelandic pint was Europe's 2nd cheapest! Viking is the countries highest selling beer, and is apparently similar in taste to Carlsberg. Icelandic beer was drunk even while it was prohibitively expensive because of the very high standard of water used in the brewing, apparently it's still the case!

Viking Lager pours a clear yellow colour with a slightly smaller than usual white airy head. Despite the airy nature of this head, it has excellent retention. The beer laces the glass brilliantly, it's some of the best lacing I've ever seen actually, possibly only topped by Emerson's Pilsner. Theres heaps of rising carbonation in this beer as you can see in the photo. It's a very impressive looking lager.

The smell reminds me incredibly of Carlton Draught, but more refined. It's a mostly grainy smell with some bready malts. There is some good bitterness provided by some grassy hops. The grainy smell however is so strong, it's quite hard to determine anything else. For what I'm feeling like now this could quite possibly be the perfect beer, if it tastes like it smells.

Viking Pilsner Bjor to give it it's full name, is a fantastic lager! For all of my Australian followers this is Carlton Draught on tap, but even better! For everyone else, this is a grainy style lager with moderate-high carbonation. There are some bready malts present and some spicy and grassy hops. Basically though it is an excellent slightly bitter grainy beer. However it's refreshing and delicious!

This is one of the more refreshing lagers I've ever had. Whilst it has a grainy flavour it is actually more than just your standard beer. There is a subtlety to this beer that you wouldn't expect from your average macro lager. It's crisp and refreshing and surprisingly good. Who would have thought that an Icelandic lager would be towards the top of the European Challenge ladder? Certainly not me! If you would like to try this speak to me in the next week or so, it'll go fast!

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

Sunday, 11 March 2012

REVIEW: OTTAKRINGER HELLES

Macro Lager



STATS
  • Country: Austria
  • Style: Munich Helles Lager
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive

This beer has been sitting in the fridge for a few months, since a mate recommended it to me after his trip overseas. I haven't found the time to have it yet, but this lazy public holiday monday seems like the perfect time. There's a strange shortage of lagers in my fridge at the moment...

Ottakringer is the last of the big Vienna breweries left. The others have all closed up or been beaten out by the market domination of Ottakringer and Stiegl. A Munich Helles Lager is the German response to stop the Germans drinking Czech style pilsners. The style is much more subdued in hop flavour than the Czech style and is better balanced with malts.

My first impressions of pouring the Ottakringer Helles is the magnificent head that gushes forth from the bottle. The head is white and foamy, it is very impressive and has good retention. There is however, disappointingly, no lacing left behind. There appears to be great carbonation in this golden coloured beer. It's toward the top end in terms of looks for a lager.

On the nose this beer is quite lowkey but the smell that is there is loaded with fruits and malts. There is a banana smell, quite similar to that found in German wheat beers. Bready malts are present as are some weak grainy hops. The overall feeling I get from this beer is that it is slightly sweet. It's a very clean smelling lager, and it has really got me quite interested to taste it.

This is a really tasty lager! It's definitely on the sweeter side, with limited hops bite. There is a bitterness about it but I can't quite place what it is. The beers malt layering is impressive and spicy but by no means over the top, the flavours are actually quite mellow. There is a honey-like sensation to this beer and the finish is almost sticky, but in a good way.

Ottakringer Helles is a really drinkable lager. The mouthfeel is where this beer really shines, it has a stunning light fizzy feeling on the tongue, which helps to emphasize the slightly spicy hops. It would make quite a good session beer, in that the flavours are light and it's incredibly drinkable. If you like Lowenbrau Original, this is the beer for you! It's definitely worth a try if you are a fan of lagers.

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

REVIEW: PALMA CRISTAL

Macro Lager



STATS
  • Country: Cuba
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.9%
  • Serving Type: 350ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Cerveza Palma Cristal is one produced by the InBev owned Bucanero brewery, Cuba's largest brewery. While this is not the most popular beer on the island, it is the beer with the best reputation around the world. The beer bottle looks really good as well.

Cuba is definitely known more for it's cigars that it's beers. Havana cigars are known worldwide for their quality, whilst the beer market on the island is slowly catching up. The island is developing a reputation for easy drinking lagers which suit the hot climate, hopefully this beer is one of the reason for this growing reputation.

Palma Cristal pours a standard golden yellow lager colour with lots of carbonation. The head is small, maybe 1 finger, and it is small and bubbly. It also dissipates very quickly, leaving no sign it was even ever there! The beer is incredibly disappointing to look at and actually seems a little worse than your standard macro lager. I would hope this is normally served in a bottle to hide this...

This beer smells very much like most tropical lagers, in that there is almost no odour whatsoever! As the beer warms up a little I get hints of grains and some sweet corn, I imagine this is one of the adjuncts used in this beer. There aren't many hop notes on the nose, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The fact that this beer doesn't really smell means it isn't offensive on the nose, it may not get points for it's aroma but it certainly doesn't lose any.

For what this beer is supposed to be it's quite good. By that I mean that this beer isn't about flavour as much as it's about the crispness and refreshment it provides. This lager is light on flavour, except for some grain and very mild hops. However it is clean and crisp, with a light mouthfeel that makes it very drinkable. The lack of any real hops bitterness is a tad disappointing but it's a really good drinking beer!

This would make an excellent session beer! The flavours aren't bad, which for a tropical lager is a big plus. Palma Cristal is not a world class lager by any means, but it is perfect for the hot tropical heat of Cuba. If you can find this beer it wouldn't be the worst beer to find for summer. Treat it like any cheap lager, keep it really cold and you will be happy with it.

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

Saturday, 10 March 2012

REVIEW: TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8

Trappist Beer #7 Trappistes Rochefort


STATS
  • Country: Belgium
  • Style: Dubbel
  • ABV: 9.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
Finally got round to drinking this beer, its been in the fridge for months. This beer completes the set of having a beer from each Trappist brewery in it's glass! So it's quite an exciting day, however this section will continue as I sample different beers from the 7 breweries, or if as rumored Engelszell Stift or the Abbey of Zundert get their breweries up an running in the near future.

So Trappistes Rochefort 8 is the highest rated Dubbel on all of the big beer rating sites, it's quite rare for one beer to lead all of them for any particular style. That's got me quite excited for this beer! Trappist beers are known for having some whacky ingredients, however this beer has got one of the stranger ones I've ever heard of; coriander! Despite the coriander mixed in with what is otherwise quite a normal sounding trappist beer, let's do this!

There is something about the shape of trappist beer glasses that make them quite hard to photograph. Anyway the colour is a dark reddish brown, with some noticeable sediment swirling around the glass. An off-white to brown head sits on top of this beer and has excellent retention, when the head finally subsides it forms a small ring around the glass however it leaves minimal lacing. On a side note, this is one of the best beer glasses to pour a beer into, the angles are just perfect!

If the smell is anything to go by this is going to be a sensational beer! There are lots of flavours in ample quantity on the nose and it's quite complex. Firstly the whole beer smells lightly spiced, this adds a warming quality to the beer that is enhanced by little wafts of alcohol throughout. Trappistes Rochefort 8 has the standard roasted malt flavour that most trappist beers have, as well as loads of dark fruit aromas. I can easily identify a cherry like aroma and some figs or dates as well, this beer has a brilliant nose!

This beer has one of the nicest mouthfeels of any beer I've had with this sort of alcohol content, and it matches a seriously good flavour to perfection. It's a slightly sweeter version of a dubbel, with lots of caramel malts with tastes of sweet bananas and also of figs and cherries. There is some evidence of candied sugar but not enough to disguise a small bitter taste. This bitter taste is not unpleasant but neither is it appealing and it's attempts to balance what is otherwise a sweetish beer is somewhat unsuccessful. It's still a lovely tasting beer.

I'm really impressed with this beer. For a dubbel it has quite a high alcohol content, 9.2%, and this would make it quite hard to drink many of them. However the low-moderate carbonation help it's drinkability and the flavours are simple sensational. As a one of drinking experience, it's certainly a good one! I think that this is one of the less approachable trappist beers and is probably one for the more experienced trappist beer drinker.

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

Friday, 9 March 2012

REVIEW: AMARCORD VOLPINA

European Beer Challenge #34 San Marino

STATS
  • Country: San Marino
  • Style: American Amber Ale
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 

It's been over a month since the last installment in this challenge, and this arrival is from one of the countries I thought would be the hardest to source. For those who don't know San Marino is a small country located entirely within Italy. San Marino has no naturally level ground, it is an entirely hilly country (apparently...).

There is some debate over whether this is an Italian beer or a beer from the tiny country of San Marino. Beeradvocate has the beer listed as being from San Marino and so that's good enough for me. This is apparently an amber double malted beer, if my Italian is any good. I found this one at the International Beer Store in Perth, online of course.

I think I've mentioned my fondeness for a ceramic topped beer bottle before on this blog but I will do so again, I really like the popping noise they make and the indication of the freshness they keep. Enough of that though, the Volpina pours a light amber colour with a small beige head. The head is quite bubbly and has almost no retention, it also leaves no lacing and actually has very little carbonation despite the noticeable pop, upon opening. If I'm being honest it's a disappointing looking beer.

The nose is definitely better than the appearance of this one. Amarcord have produced quite a pungent beer, which I applaud. There is a strong bready malt aroma with hints of caramel and citrus also quite prominent. Hints of warming alcohols are also present, as is a slightly bitter aroma which I cannot quite place. The ambition of the brewer is to be commended and this is actually quite a nice smell amber ale, typically a style not prone to nice aroma's.

The taste is another level up again! The intentions of the brewer are quite clear, that flavour is paramount and he will stop at nothing to acheive that aim. This shows through in the flavour which is both strong and delicious. Lots of malts are present (as expected in a double malt amber ale), which are of both bread and caramel varieties. It's surprisingly fruity as well and there is a very small hop bitterness towards the end, however it could just be overshadowed by the extreme malt flavours.

After a less than inspiring start the beer actually turned out really well. The flavours are strong and it's surprisingly easy to drink, despite both the alcohol content and a slightly thick mouthfeel. The low carbonation actually helps with the drinking, however I believe it would be difficult to drink many of these in a session. On the scale of things it's quite a nice amber ale, however with the price factored in I won't be buying it again. However a good effort from the 2nd smallest country in this challenge, worth a try if you can get your hands on it.

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

Thursday, 8 March 2012

REVIEW: BITTER MONK

Et Ceterbeer


STATS
  • Country: United States 
  • Style: Belgian IPA 
  • ABV: 9.0%
  • Serving Type: 750ml Bottle
  • Price: Special Occasions Only
My girlfriend recently went to the Local Taphouse in St. Kilda to catchup with a friend and came back with this from the bottleshop. This is quite an impressive find for my beer tastes, a Belgian style double IPA is almost the ultimate for me.

So the Bitter Monk is produced at Alaska's Anchorage Brewing Company. It's quite a special beer by the sound of it, first off it's brewed with 3 types of hops before being dry hopped in the barrel. It is also triple fermented, with the second time being the crucial fermentation in French oak chardonnay barrels.

Bitter Monk pours a slightly surprising golden yellow colour, with mountains of white foamy head. The beer is quite hazy and is almost opaque, its very unusual for such a light coloured beer. The head is very impressive and lasts for quite a while before fading down to a ring around the glass. The lacing caused by this head is excellent! A beautiful looking beer, however the colour is different to any IPA I have ever seen before.

This beer is definitely more vinous on the nose than any other beer I have smelt. The long fermentation in the Chardonnay barrels clearly have had an impact on the nose. I also get strong citrus and oak elements as well as a tart apple aroma, which comes and goes throughout. As the beer warms a pleasant warming smell takes hold as some caramel and alcohols come through. There is also a noticeable Brett (Brettanomyces) smell, which the brewer has encouraged.

Whilst the smell was complicated, it doesn't do justice to an excellent tasting beer. It has all the characteristics of a good IPA, but with a bit of a twist! There is a grapefruit malt base topped off with some strange tropical fruit flavoured hop variety. Citrus is also very present and a moderately high carbonation helps the Chardonnay flavour take effect. The Brett compliments the dry finish and adds a bit of extra bite to this beer. The alcohol that is present on the nose is non-existent in the drinking.

For what I understand to be a traditional Belgian ale, this is a really good recreation. It has fantastic bitterness, 100 IBU's, and great flavour. The French oak Chardonnay barrels were an interesting way to add flavour and something that I hadn't experienced before. Anchorage Brewing Company make some excellent beers and this is no exception, I would recommend the brewery as a whole, as this will not appeal to everyone and it's a bit expensive for my liking. Still if you like Belgian IPA's fantastic beer!

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

Monday, 5 March 2012

COLLEGE LAWN HOTEL BEERFEST

College Lawn Beer Festival March 3 

Welcome to Beer O'Clock Australia's first event review! Myself and now very regular fellow reviewer Richo heard about this event through the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and thought it sounded pretty much like our perfect afternoon!

We gave them a call on the Thursday before and booked ourselves seats, and despite a questionable forecast we were pretty excited! Saturday came and it was wet, but still we made the walk down from my place, and arrived at the College Lawn about 15 minutes later slightly damp and ready for some beers. And we certainly weren't disappointed!

Straight off the bat we were very impressed with the spacious beer garden with ample umbrella and roof coverage from the elements. There were long Oktoberfest-like tables down the middle of the beer garden, with a couple of standing tables around the edge. The layout was centred around a central L-shaped bar area, with one side set up to pour the beers and the other for ciders.

The beer menu was excellent! Basically there were beers and ciders from 4 different breweries (see menu below left), including the James Squire Stow Away IPA, which I sampled in the bottle just the other day! It seemed like the perfect way to start...

We found ourselves a table under an umbrella, and positioned very close to the almost ready spit, which was a great thing as we were starving! The IPA that I was such a fan of the other day, was even better on tap! It was very fresh and the hops significantly stronger than it's bottled form and it was a great beer to go with our food. The food was perfect for the day, roast meat, potatoes, roast veggies, salad, the list went on and on and it was all fantastic. I know this is a beer blog but the food, which went all day, was probably worth the price of admission alone!
Sensational Food!


So as we finished our first serve of food we moved on to our second beer, the Coldstream Naked Ale. This was a nice looking ale, it was a beautiful golden orange colour (according to the notes on my phone.) It was a vastly different beer from what I was expecting, very fruity and an excellent bready malt profile. I remember being quite impressed by this one, being from a brewery I hadn't really sampled before.

As we were concluding this beer, we decided that we should probably start noting some things down about the beers or we would never be able to write this review. All the beers were served by the pint and we had a 21st to attend that evening as well. It was about this time that our two speakers for the afternoon got up and discussed their range available today. We had speakers from both Coldstream and Mornington and both seemed very passionate about their range and seemed very approachable to have a chat with about their beers throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Buckley's Lemongrass
Pale Ale
Despite the absence of a delegate from Buckley's Brewery we thought the Alchemy Lemongrass Pale Ale was definitely the way to go next. Our tasting notes stated the use of 4 different hop varieties in an American style Pale Ale, something that appealed alot to us. This beer was quite different to anything I've had before, there was lots of flavours going on with the different hops and the almost caramelly malts; not to mention the lemongrass. But surprisingly, the flavours didn't clash at all and it was actually a brilliant crisp beer!

As the afternoon progressed, and the rain continued, we discovered that getting a round is nowhere near as hard when you don't have to part with any money at the time. It was Richo's turn to grab beers and this time he went with the Mornington IPA. Before he even brought them back to the table he was enthralled in a conversation with the sales guy from Mornington. Never one not to want to talk about beer I headed over to join in, and of course to get my beer!

This was probably my highlight of the day, he was of a similar age to Richo and I and liked the same sort of beers as us. He was passionate about their brewery and definitely sold it to us, so much so that I now have some of their beer waiting to go in my fridge! A proper review will follow in due course. But for now, there was a big apricot nose which reflected the fruity hop flavour. The bitterness just kept rising and I was hugely impressed, by this beer from a relatively new brewery (it's only been open for 16 months!) After sampling this I need to get some of their Imperial IPA, which has an incredibly 120 IBU's.

The pale ale from Mornington was the next beer, and was definitely enjoyable but it didn't quite stand up to the quality of the IPA. There is a note on my phone which says passionfruit so I assume it had a citrus and passionfruit aroma. I remember thinking it was maybe slightly too subtle to be the fifth pint of a session, especially considering a couple of those were IPA's.

Finally our plan was to use the Coldstream Pilsner to acclimatise back towards the more mainstream beers we would be drinking that evening. Despite the cold weather, the pilsner actually went down very nicely. We got to share this beer with Nick, one of the owner's of Coldstream. He was very passionate about their beer and cider. It was very much a pilsner in the Czech style, crisp, fresh and bitter. It was simply excellent! We were enjoying our chat so much that we sampled the Coldstream cider. I'm a beer drinker who doesn't normally like cider but this was excellent, it was very drinkable as seen by the couple of pints I had of it. The colour was what stood out to me the most, it was just so clear (see left)!

Beer Menu
We had to call it quits eventually to get to our 21st, but we could have stayed all night! The beer was all sensational and the food was excellent! The atmosphere was really good and apart from the weather I can't fault the day at all. It's a pub I'll certainly be visiting again, having I think only been there once before. Seriously if you are in Melbourne and love beer, this is an event you must get along to this Saturday. It's $65 but we would have had 8 or 9 pints and a couple of meals worth of food and a complimentry College Lawn Hotel beer mug, it seems like great value now! It was a great event and if I can get the money together I'll probably be back this weekend. I've attached the flyer above so book yourself in and get down there, it's an excellent exhibition of Australian craft beer and a seriously good feed!

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

Saturday, 3 March 2012

REVIEW: DARK ISLAND

The Dark Side


STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: Scottish Ale 
  • ABV: 4.6%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Dark Island is a diversion from my usual drinking, and thats partly because I didn't buy this one! Dad bought this one home after he'd been to a beer tasting, because he had been watching a programme about whisky in the Orkney Islands the night before. Dubious logic, but I'm happy to drink anything free.

This is brewed in the Orkney Islands, which is simply the group of Islands to the north of Scotland. This is an area I know very little about, however I am aware that only about 20,000 people live in the Islands and that it's quite cold all year. This suggests to me that this dark beer could be quite warming and nice, let's hope so or serious questions need to be asked of the importer!

As the name suggests the beer is dark, black almost, with a 3-4 finger sized creamy coloured head. The beer has shining ruby streaks throughout when held up to the light, and the head seems to darken over time to an almost tan colour. I can't discern any obvious carbonation by looking at the beer, but with the good retention of the head there must be some. The head takes a long time to fade and when it does it forms a ring with a film over most of the beer and laces the glass brilliantly. Who knew the Scots could produce such a good looking beer!

This beer has quite a muted aroma compared to similar beers I've had before. There is the traditional roasted malt aroma as well as a very fruity smell. The fruity aroma reminds me of plums and figs, are smell quite ripe. Towards the back end of the nose the beer developes a smokey coffee smell, which gives the impression that this beer would be a good winter beer. It smells almost warm, it's quite a different aroma to almost any other beer I've had.

Dark Island starts out with a very fruity flavour, before settling into a flavour pattern that from the nose was unexpected. This beer has a smokey peat flavour about it, which dominates the beer and is very warming. The warming sensation is added to by a finish which has flavours of nuts and spices. There are definitely cloves present as well as something that I can only describe as like Fruit and Nut chocolate, it's a very distinctive almost cherry chocolate flavour. It's very easy drinking!

This is a fantastic tasting ale, and I don't think that jumbled up paragraph above really does it justice but there are alot of different flavours going on in such a short space of time. This is an ale you are really going to have to try for yourself to work if it's for you. However I actually really enjoyed it, to me it seems like the perfect beer for a cold winter's night. I can see why the Scot's made it now! There might have to be a few of these in the fridge for winter...

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

Thursday, 1 March 2012

REVIEW: JAMES SQUIRE STOW AWAY

Et Ceterbeer


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: English IPA
  • ABV: 5.6%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
James Squire and I have had a long history together. When it was still a true micro-brewery near the start of mu drinking life, this was one of Australia's best breweries. A clear shift into mass-production followed, and quality definitely suffered. The brewery has apparently made a resurgence, with new packaging, and hence the Stow Away has found it's way into my fridge.

The rise of this brewery from one of the bigger micro breweries to one of the bigger breweries in the country was typified not only by a 50% price rise per carton but also the golden ale being served on QANTAS Australia's national  airline carrier. They produce a large number of beers and have some specialty beers brewed only at their brewpubs. I've never had their IPA before, but let's see if the quality has returned.

James Squire beers have always poured well and this is no exception. The colour is quite dark for an English IPA, it's actually a very similar colour to the wood of my bar, I'd call it a dark copper colour which is topped by a reasonably sized off-white/beige head. There doesn't appear to be much in the way of carbonation, but that's definitely not a problem in an IPA. It's a solid looking beer.

The Stow Away has a simply superb nose to it. This is one of the most complex noses I've smelt on an Australian beer, there is plenty of fruit to digest in this one. I can easily identify apricot, oranges and peaches on the nose and I wouldn't be surprised if there are more. These fruit flavours sit on top of a light yeasty base with lots of caramel malts. Some grassy hops are present, but unlike American IPA's they are not supposed to dominate the nose. This is a simply superb smelling beer!

This is a really tasty beer! It's got some serious bitterness about it as well, which I love about it. The Stow Away starts off with a big bitter hop attack, reminiscent of an American IPA, before settling into quite a well rounded beer with some excellent caramel malts. The beer is nice and light in the mouth and has more carbonation than expected, although it is still quite lightly carbonated in the scheme of things. The finish is dry and leaves you wanting more!

I take back all the nasty things I have said about James Squire in recent years, this is an excellent IPA and probably the best Australian example of the style I've had! This is a well rounded beer with enough hops to appease most hop heads and has enough sweetness to balance it out for everyone else. This is a really drinkable IPA and I'm going to get some more. I really hope this is a sign that James Squire is returning to the good old days, as their range of different beer styles and nationwide availability has the potential to really open up the beer world to the average Australian drinker.


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