Thursday, 30 August 2012

REVIEW: TEMPLE MIDNIGHT IPA

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American Black Ale
  • ABV: 7.0%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey

Temple Brewing have produced the beer that I'm drinking this evening. Basically I was torn between having a proper winter beer, considering winter is almost up, and having a big American IPA. The Midnight IPA seemed like the perfect compromise.

An American Black Ale is also commonly known as a Black IPA, or BIPA for short. In layman's terms the style is basically a mix between stout (or more accurately porter) and an IPA. If done well it can be close to the perfect winter beer for hopheads, like myself. I've never had this beer so can't wait to try it!

The body of this beer is absolutely jet black! It's totally opaque and has quite a viscous head on top. The head is a cream colour and there seems to be plenty of carbonation to sustain the head. This hypothesis was confirmed when half way through drinking about 80% of the head was still there! The retention was spectacular and the lacing of the glass was excellent. A+ for appearance for this beer!

On the nose Temple Brewing's Midnight IPA smells of everything you would expect an IPA to. There are huge citrus and pine hop notes up front before settling in with some darker malts which don't seem out of place. The overall aroma is somewhat confusing, with the beer struggling to decide if it's a stout or an IPA, but it does come together very nicely somehow. It's a very unusual nose but a very good one none-the-less.

Amazing! Is one of few words that does justice to this beer in my opinion. The flavour is nice and complex, a really intriguing mix between the elements I love in an IPA and the elements I love in a stout. The most prominent flavours are an initial dark matliness, which is subdued but an onslaught of citrus (mostly grapefruit) and pine hops. It's really interesting flavour that needs to be tried to really understand exactly what is going on here.

My overall feel on this beer was that it was more 'stouty' than anything else. Basically for me it was a hoppy stout. This is not to say that this wasn't a delicious beer, it really was, but to me it was somewhat confused stylistically. Would I recommend this beer? Absolutely! Would I buy it again? Absolutely! Despite what I said about it being a confused beer, it is absolutely delicious! You should go out and get this beer, it's worth every cent!

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

Monday, 27 August 2012

REVIEW: CUSQUENA

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Peru 
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
The beer of choice in Peru is Cusqueña. This is a 100% malt lager which is somewhat unusual, especially in South America. Peruvians struggle to adapt to more bitter lagers when they leave Peru and move overseas and this beer is the reason for this.

Peru's beer industry is dominated by the Backus and Johnston brewery, now owned by SAB Miller. The competition to Cusqueña is mostly from the obligatory South American "Pilsen" beer. The bottle features an Incan wall design inspired by Machu Picchu and the Incan Empire. As cool as the bottle is it won't get repeat customers if the beer doesn't taste great, so let's drink this one.

When you crack the top off a Cusqueña it pours a lovely clear golden colour. There appears to be a fair amount of carbonation rising to the head, which is brilliant white but shamely short lasting. In the maybe 20 seconds it took me from pouring this beer to taking the photo, the head had already dropped from just above the rim of the glass to where it is pictured. At best 15 seconds later and all traces of head were gone...

The nose is almost non-existent with only a very light aroma as the beer warms up. This is to be expecting from an all malt lager as they don't have the grain depth of other lagers. The beer claims to use 3 varieties of hops (Nugget, Styrian and Saaz) but I certainly can't detect any on the nose. Pleasantly there is no hint of skunkiness, which seems to be an ever-present in South American lagers.

Cusqueña is a much better tasting beer than it looks or smells. Early in the palate the beer taste of only mildly sweet grains with just the tingly carbonation to excite the senses. This continues through the entirety of the beer which is quite unusual, with only a small hint of mildly bitter hops to change it up towards the end. The finish is crisp and dry and this quality would make this an excellent summer lager.

As far as all malt lagers go this is one of the best. They are notoriously flavourless and not very pleasant, but this one is different. Cusqueña has a full malt flavour which is balanced out nicely by some mildly bitter hops. It's a refreshing beer that will quench your thirst in any situation. Not a world beating lager but a pretty solid attempt from Peru. It's an interesting lager that's worth a try if you can get your hands on some.

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

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

REVIEW: ODIN'S TIPPLE

The Dark Side


STATS
  • Country: Norway
  • Style: American Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 11.0%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive

I came to the realization tonight that the end of winter is coming up on us quickly and I haven't reviewed anywhere near enough dark beers. So up steps HaandBryggeriet and their Odin's Tipple. This is a big American Imperial Stout, which has a ratebeer score of 99! It should be a ripper!

HaandBryggeriet have had one beer reviewed here before, the Dobbel Dose IPA (which you can read here). The only concern I have with this beer is that the alcohol that was so present in the IPA may ruin what is by all reports a brilliant beer. Hopefully I'm wrong and the volunteer brewers at HaandBryggeriet come through again.

This beer has one of the darkest heads I have ever seen, it's a shame that the head doesn't last for long enough for you to see it in the photo. It's also about as black as any other stout I've ever seen, absolutely no light can get through this one. The carbonation is probably quite poor as you require alot of swirling to get any sort of head. Anyway the stout looks reasonable, hopefully it tastes as good as what I've been told.

Odin's Tipple has a nose full of dark chocolate malts up front. It's a hugely impressive nose with with almost every element I look for in a stout present. There is not only the chocolate malts, but also some spices, smokiness and sweet caramel aromas. It almost smells like it's been barrel aged, it's got a really nice nose which is living up the reputation this beer has accrued.

I say this quite alot but this is a seriously good beer! At first the malts just blast your taste buds with a huge hit of chocolatey smokiness. As the beer warms caramel and licorice flavours become more prominent as do some spices and dark fruit flavours. The beer drinks more like a dark ale than a stout, it's quite light and the booze of the Dobbel Dose is but a forgotten memory. This is a simply wonderful stout!

The back of the label tries to instill the image of Odin, the norse god of thunder, drinking this in his later contemplative days. This beer embodies everything that makes Odin great! It's a big brash stout upfront in honour of his position as the god of victory, battle and war, while it also has a more complex side signifying his own more complex side as the god of poetry, wisdom and prophecy. I think the name perfectly instills the idea that the brewers were aiming for. This is a delicious winter stout that I will definitely be buying more of and I think all of you reading this should as well!

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

Sunday, 19 August 2012

REVIEW: CHANG


Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Thailand
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Tonight I was having Thai food for dinner. I like matching the food I eat with beers so Bangkok's Chang beer was the obvious contender. It's not the countries highest selling beer, that honour belongs to Singha, but it's arguably the best known beer.

Chang have only recently begun to challenge Singha both at home and abroad. The beer rose to international fame in 2004 when they became the front of shirt sponsor for English soccer team, Everton. I've had this beer quite a few times and normally end up very drunk so I can't really remember what it tastes like, it might be time to find out (again!).

When you crack the top off there is a beautiful hiss of carbonation escaping. The pour is a nice golden yellow colour with plent of carbonation rising to a fast disipating brilliant white head. The head has rather large bubbles throughout it and is gone less than a minute after pouring. In it's natural environment this wouldn't be a problem as it's so hot and humid in Thailand that the beer would all be gone by then!

The nose is very light, there's hardly anything there at all like almost any South East Asian lager I've ever had. The overall aroma is slightly sweet with some very faint grassy hops towards the back end. As I say with almost every tropical lager, as long as the beer doesn't smell offensive then the nose is fine. So by that scale Chang is a fine smelling beer.

Lager connoiseurs stop reading now, this isn't the beer for you! This beer is designed to quench thirsts in disgustingly humid weather not be a technically perfect or interesting lager. Much like the nose it's a very simple beer, with flavours of mostly sweet grain and just a hint of bitter grassy hops at the end of the palate. The finish is crisp and dry and very refreshing.

Chang is best described by the last word of the previous paragraph: refreshing. The beer pairs very nicely with spicy thai food and would make a good session beer. It has a tongue tingling amount of carbonation, which some would say is a little over the top. I also sampled Thailand's most sold beer, Singha, in the same sitting and have to say that it is a far superior beer. If I had to recommend a Thai beer it would be Singha, still Chang is very drinkable and cheap so wouldn't be your worst option...

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

Thursday, 16 August 2012

REVIEW: NØGNE Ø IPA

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Norway
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 7.5%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey

I thought today was the day to break the recent lager domination of Beer O'Clock Australia with one of my favourite beers; Nøgne Ø IPA. Previously I've reviewed the Pale Ale as part of my European Beer Challenge, and I'm surprised that it's the only beer from this brewery I've reviewed.

Nøgne Ø IPA is an IPA in the true American west coast style. This IPA is one of the nicest drinking IPA's out there and is a lot less brash than some of the American brewed IPA's. Kjetil Jikiun, the head brewer at Nøgne Ø, is a genius! I honestly can't recommend any of their beers highly enough! Hopefully this example of the IPA lives up to the hype I just created for it.

The body of this beer is quite orange compared to many IPA's. There is a large 3 finger head of slightly orange tinted head fed by quite a large amount of small bubbles. The retention of the head is impressive and the lacing is exceptional. Nøgne Ø is one of the best pouring IPA's out there, it's a beer I would love to see in top quality restaurants; but I can't see that happening anytime soon...

As with the Nøgne Ø Pale Ale I'm really impressed with the nose. Up front there is lots of caramel malts and some spices, which are somewhat unusual for the style. There is also plenty of fruit, mostly grapefruit, and some nice bitter smelling hops. I can smell some alcohol on the nose which is the only downside to what is otherwise an excellent smelling beer. Hopefully it tastes just as good as I remember!

I've had this beer alot with people who aren't particularly familiar with IPA's and many of them are not instantly put off by an assault of bitterness that many other IPA's can deliver. Nøgne Ø IPA is one of the sweeter maltier IPA's. While there is still heaps of pine and grapefruit hop flavours that I would expect from an American IPA there is also a mellowness that is somewhat different to the stereo type of the style. This mellowness makes this one of the easiest IPA's to drink and lends itself to a number of food matches.

Putting it simply Nøgne Ø IPA is one of the best drinking India Pale Ale's out there. It has the tendancies of a true American west coast IPA but with slightly more malt to balance out the hop hit. Some would say the carbonation is a little high, but the flavour was so good that it didn't put me off. The only thing I can think of better than this is the Nøgne Ø Imperial IPA, that's an incredible beer! This is worth your time and money though, it's easily top 10 IPA's for the price range available in Australia.

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

Sunday, 12 August 2012

REVIEW: BIRRA TIRANA

European Beer Challenge #39 Albania


STATS
  • Country: Albania
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 4.1%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive

The European Beer Challenge is back! Richo's back from his European holiday and failed to bring me a beer, not surprising. However Richo's dad, Gary, stopped off in Albania for a few hours on a boat cruise and managed to get me a beer. Apparently it was the highlight of his time in Albania...

Birra Tirana is named after the capital city of Albania. The beer is engaged in a huge market struggle with Korca Pils for the title of Albania's most sold beer. While Korca has better sales overseas, Birra Tirana has the best sales in Albania. This is what the locals drink so it should be a better representation of beer in Albania, so let's do this!

Albania's national beer pours a slightly hazy golden colour. There is plenty of thick white head on top of the beer, which has good retention and moderate lacing. Carbonation seems minimal but it doesn't effect the head which has a good half finger layer of foam for the whole of drinking. It's a pretty nice looking lager overall, really good start!

On the nose Birra Tirana has an aroma of mostly grassy hops. There's some sour grains and some good bitterness rising off the hop bed. I can also smell something almost similar to mineral water, I can't quite explain what it smells like. However this unusual nose is very short lived. This beer smells like a typical German pilsner with nice grassy hops the main protagonists, they seem quite bitter which is just the way I like them.

This is a crisp easy drinking lager. The Premium Pils branding on the top of the label isn't far wrong. Grass hop bitterness dominates the palate with only minor interuptions for some interludes of grain. The carbonation gives the beer a nice tingly mouthfeel. It's as refreshing as leading macro lagers and tastes just as good. A beer that you should try if in Albania, but it's a pretty standard beer that isn't worth going out of your way to get.

So is Birra Tirana an exceptional beer? No. Is it a more than serviceable local lager? Absolutely! This is never going to be one of the world's best lagers but that is not the reason it's brewed. Birra Tirana is brewed for the Albanian market and it is a well balanced lager. It's clean and refreshing, if you are in Albania this is certainly a beer worth trying. You won't be disappointed if you go in with reasonable expectations. Thanks for the beer Gary, I sure as hell I didn't want to have to go to Albania to get it myself!

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

Thursday, 9 August 2012

TRUE BREW! RESULTS

THE RESULTS ARE IN!

My journey through Australian lagers has come to an end for now. I've been recording the scores as the challenge has gone along and I've been trying to work out the best way present the results. The aim of the challenge was to find out which state (or territory) has the best macro lagers, beers 1 & 2 will be marked out of 20 and beer 3 (the craft lager) out of 10, for a total score out of 50. The state with the highest score will be crowned the True Brew champion.

Before we get onto the scores I will qualify them with the following. The scores are not comparable. By that I mean that the state's beer of choice (macro) has been marked differently to the alternate lager and the craft lager differently again. Basically beers can only be compared in the category they were entered in, hopefully that makes sense...

    MACRO LAGERScoreALTERNATE LAGERScoreCRAFT
LAGER
ScoreTOTAL
NSWTooheys New
14
Reschs Pilsner
10
Stone & Wood
Lager
7
31
VICCarlton Draught
12
Victoria Bitter
16
Grand Ridge
Bitter
7
35
QLDXXXX Bitter
12
FNQ Lager
18
My Wife's
Bitter
3
33
W.A.Swan Lager
11
Emu Bitter
16
Bootleg Brewery Wils Pils
4
31
S.A.West End Draught
6
Coopers Premium Lager
14
Knappstein Reserve Lager
10
30
TASBoag's Draught
18
Cascade Premium Lager
14
Moo Brew Pilsner
7
39
N.T.N.T. Draught
16
N/A
0
N/A
0
16

As the table above shows Tasmania is the True Brew champion! This was helped hugely by Boag's Draught being the best rating primary lager. Of the alternate lagers the pick of the bunch was FNQ Lager from Queensland, not surprisingly it is also the closest of these to being a craft beer. The best beer of the challenge was Knappstein Reserve Lager from South Australia, it is a simply stunning lager!

For me the most surprising beers were N.T. Draught and West End Draught but for vastly different reasons. N.T. Draught was a really nice clean lager while West End Draught was simply horrendous, 6/20 was a probably kind! My Wife's Bitter scored badly due to it not being a lager and the Wils Pils from Bootleg just didn't do it for me. Overall this was alot more fun than I thought it would be and if you go in with an open mind many of the Australian macro lagers are better than the reputations that precede them. Tasmania though produced three beers that were of high quality in each category and is a deserved winner.

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

Monday, 6 August 2012

TRUE BREW! NORTHERN TERRITORY

NORTHERN TERRITORY: NT DRAUGHT & MORE NT DRAUGHT

Australia's Northern Territory is the only place someone can buy NT Draught. The beer however is produced in Melbourne by Carlton United. Of course though with sales entirely within the Northern Territory it has to be considered an NT beer for the purposes of this challenge.

NT Draught is one of the few beers known more for the bottle it comes in than the beer itself. It it served either on tap or in a giant two litre bottle or 'Darwin Stubby' as it is known locally. The beer sells well as a novelty because of the large bottle size and this is part of the reason my father brought me one back from his recent work trip to Darwin.
The first think I have noted about this beer is that it is really difficult to pour, there has to be at least an extra kilogram in glass on top of the 2 litres of beer. When you finally work out how to pour it, it pours surprisingly well! There is a nice white head with some light straw coloured beer underneath. Surprisingly nice to look at when poured, much more fun to drink from the bottle though.

On the nose it was slightly sweet with some honey and grains the predominant smell before some hops take over towards the back end. The biggest problem with a 2 litre bottle is always going to be drinkability and this is one of the better drinking macro lagers out there. The hop bitterness is quite pronounced but well balanced by the sweetish honey flavour.

Despite only having one beer the Northern Territory, which isn't even produced in the territory anymore, I think they have performed really well in this challenge. This is actually quite a good macro lager and (arguably) Carlton & United's best product. Hopefully within the hour I will have a post up to crown Australia's first True Brew champion.

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

Friday, 3 August 2012

TRUE BREW! TASMANIA

TASMANIA: BOAG'S DRAUGHT, CASCADE PREMIUM & MOO BREW PILSNER

Tasmania is Australia's island state and has a population of around half a million people. Geographically it is the 'apple isle' is the smallest state (ACT is a territory) but this doesn't stop them producing beer that sells well across the entire country. James Boag's Draught is the states biggest selling beer.

Hobart's Cascade Brewery provides the second macro lager for Tasmania. Cascade Premium lager is surprisingly hard to get considering that the light beer is the most successful light beer in Australia. Moo Brew Pilsner will be the craft lager for Tasmania. This lineup is capable of taking out the True Brew title on Beer O'Clock Australia.

Before this blog segment, Carlton Draught aside, James Boag's Draught was my pick to take out the title as best Australian macro lager. Boag's is brewed in the northern Tasmanian city (well large town) of Launceston. The pour is a nice deep golden colour with plenty of carbonation rising to a good head. This doesn't look as cheap as some of the other state's beers.

James Boag's Draught is a clean smelling lager, which again has that little bit more quality than a number of other Australian macro's. It's pretty clean and has some nice fruity hints. The flavour is similiar, reasonably fruity and with some nice hop bitterness. The beer goes down very easily and would make a fantastic session beer (actually I know from experience that it does!).

Tasmania's capital Hobart is the home to the iconic Cascade Brewery. The brewery is also Australia's oldest continually running brewery, first opening it's doors in 1824. The pour is light straw colouw with a thin white head on top of the beer. Cascade Premium Lager seems to have a fair amount of carbonation and the head retention is reasonable.

Cascade has a typically Australian malty aroma, with bitter grainy elements dominating the nose. There are some spicy hops towards the back end of the nose, which adds an element of class to this beer. The flavour is actually a little sweet and the beer has slightly too much carbonation. There are some nice spicy towards the back end. It's a nice mid-range lager.

I was introduced to Moo Brew last year when the brewery was on tasting at my the store. I was quite impressed by most of the beers with this one of my favourites. The brewery is located at the MONA in Hobart and is a work of art in it's own right. The pour is disappointingly yellow with a fair bit of carbonation rising to a fast fading head.

This is a typical Czech pilsner with a fantastic nose of hay and and tropical fruits. The taste is incredibly fruity at first and is almost sweet. There is some bitterness coming through towards the backend of the palate, but there is little to no bitterness coming from the hops which seemed very restrained. Moo Brew Pilsner doesn't quite have the smoothness or sessionability of some of the other lagers but this isn't surprising for a craft lager.

The three beers put up by Tasmania in the True Brew competition were certainly the most even beers put up so far and there is every chance that these three beers could take out the title. Boag's Draught was a really nice easy drinking session beer. Cascade Premium was a little higher quality lager but with less drinkability. While the Moo Brew Pilsner is a very nicely flavoured dinner style lager. All the states are done now but there is one Australian macro lager that isn't from one of the states...

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

Thursday, 2 August 2012

TRUE BREW! SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: WEST END DRAUGHT, COOPERS LAGER & KNAPPSTEIN

Australia's fifth most populous state is South Australia, with a population of just over 1.5 million people. Their main lager is West End Draught, however this beer does not come from the states largest brewery...

Coopers is Australia's largest family owned brewery and is the biggest brewery in South Australia, however they make mostly ales. Coopers Premium lager will represent South Australia despite the breweries relatively low lager production. Knappstein Reserve Lager will be the craft lager. I've got no idea what the West End or the Coopers will be like but at least I know we should finish South Australia off well with the Knappstein, it's a quality beer!

West End Brewery is located very close to the Adelaide CBD. South Australian's are a funny bunch and from reports coming from South Australia say this is a good beer, everyone else I've spoken to hates it! The pour isn't bad for a macro, the beer may be slightly yellow but the head isn't awful and it seems to have reasonable carbonation.

This beer has very little aroma, what little smell that is present is actually quite pleasant with some malts and citrus that smells quite fresh. This is where the positives stop though. Ice-cold this beer doesn't taste good and as it warms it becomes quite unpleasant.


Coopers' Brewery is more famed for it's ales than it's lagers. I have sampled their 62 Pilsner before but this is the first time I will be having the Premium Lager. It's an all malt lager which I am quite fond of so this should be interesting. The pour is much better, it's a beautiful golden colour with a foamy white head that subsides quite quickly.

This is an odd smelling lager, it's starts off with a relatively normal pale malt smell before some floral aromas take over. All good so far but then this strange chicken soup like saltiness comes through, it's really weird. When you taste it however it seems like a nice premium lager. The flavours are nice and clean and the beer is quite refreshing.

Knappstein Reserve Lager is one of a growing number of Australian craft beers produced by wineries. This is one of very few beers I know to use Sauvin hops and it's certainly the only lager to use them! The pour is beautiful, it's got a lovely golden body with a thick white head which has reasonable retention. It really looks like a quality lager.

The nose is incredibly fruity and has an aroma not dissimilar to a sauvignon blanc or a chardonnay. It's one of the best lager noses on the entire Australian market. The flavour is also a cut above any of it's competitors, with tropical fruit flavours and balanced hop bitterness working together in perfect harmony. I can't think of a better Australian lager I've had, and we would have to go a very long way up the list to find any lager to challenge this one!

I think this is the first time in my life I've ever felt sorry for South Australian's. Their main lager, West End Draught, is a truly awful beer with it's only redeeming quality being that it's wet! The Coopers Premium Lager was a reasonable beer, but I don't think it's sold in vast quantities. The Knappstein Reserve is a simply brilliant beer and never disappoints, it's clearly the standout beer of the competition so far! Tasmania will be up next and despite being the smallest state could quite possibly produce a winning score, only time will tell though...

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