Wednesday, 31 October 2012

REVIEW: GAGE ROADS PUMPKIN ALE

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Pumpkin Ale
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Serving Type: 640ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Seeing as tonight is Halloween, not that we celebrate it in Australia, I thought it would be appropriate to have a pumpkin ale. My American beer drinking friend's all rave about pumpkin ales, but this will be the first one I've ever had.

Pumpkin ales is, in my mind anyway, the most American of all beer styles out there. Most are brewed around October in the U.S., I am unsure whether this is for Halloween or if pumkins are in season then or something. As for why Gage Roads have produced this beer I have no idea, but it's not going to stop me drinking it! Some of their beers are quite good so I'm intrigued to try this.

The pour of this beer is quite similar to a lager. The colour of the beer is a golden colour with quite a lot of orange in it when you hold it up to the light. The head is a slightly off white colour but fades quite quickly down to a ring. The beer doesn't lace the glass at all throughout drinking. Having never seen a pumpkin ale before it's a bit hard for me to judge how this one looks in comparision to others of the same style, however it's not the worlds best looking beer.

My first impressions when I smell this beer is that it's a ginger beer. Seriously theres plenty of ginger mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg. There is some sweet fruityness on the nose however it doesn't smell of pumpkin per se. It's just a generic fruity smell. The aroma is quite nice although what this is going to taste like, I have absolutely no idea!

Gage Roads have produced one of their strangest beers yet. It's very much like a ginger beer, as the smell indicated, with some sweetish malts and spices upfront before this again strange generic fruit flavour. It's not clearly pumpkin but maybe this is the flavour of pumpkin that's been through the brewing process? Anyway the carbonation is quite lively and the mouthfeel is like a lager. It's an eminently drinkable beer.

Overall my feeling on Gage Roads Pumkin Ale is that it's a really odd beer. Despite this I actually really enjoyed it as the beer went on and was actually a bit disappointed when the longneck was empty. In my mind it's like a ginger beer crossed with a fruit beer, which doesn't sound good at all but on this hot night is incredibly refreshing. I'm going to buy another couple for summer and see how it holds up on a really hot day. I think it would be a good idea for anyone who likes ginger beers to give this one ago.

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

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

REVIEW: ABSTRAKT AB:03

Brewdog Abstrakt


STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: Fruit Beer 
  • ABV: 10.5%
  • Serving Type: 375ml Bottle
  • Price: Special Occasions Only 
  • Bottle Number: 3010/3192

What Brewdog Say:
Imperial Ale Aged over 2 years in whisky casks with raspberries and strawberries

It was only a couple of months ago that Richo and I sampled our first Abstrakt beer from Brewdog. Both of us were so impressed that we agreed to set off on this journey. First we became Abstrakt Addicts and then set out to find as many of the previous Abstrakt beers as we could. The only logical progression from there was for us to review them and for once it will be a team effort!

For those that don't know, Abstrakt is Brewdog's relatively new range of boundary pushing beers. Released roughly every three months, each beer is only brewed once in small batches and each bottle is individually numbered. The beers are known only by their code, in the case of this one AB:03. We have decided to start with the third installment in this range as it appears that all of AB:01 and AB:02 have gone, however if a bottle is ever found don't worry we will review it!

Onto AB:03, our bottle is 3010 of a limited edition of 3192. Abstrakt 3 is basically an imperial fruit beer which has been barrel-aged. The beer was brewed in September 2010, so has effectively been bottle conditioned for the last 2 years plus however long the Brewdog boys had it in their whisky casks. This is one of the few Abstrakt beers I've actually heard very little about so I really can't wait to try this one, seriously who has ever heard of an Imperial Fruit beer?

The photo doesn't quite do this beer justice. The colour of the beer is an orangey-amber colour with only a thin head of pink tinged foam on top. This dissipates very quickly to leave only the tiniest of rings around the glass with little to no lacing. Fruit Beers have always been an area where I'm unsure of it the beer looks good or not, however I like the look of this one. Even if the glass may have alot to do with it.

As expected the nose was full of first raspberries and then secondly strawberries. There was quite a distinct gap between the first fruity hit and the second with caramel malts punctuating the beer. I struggled to detect any evidence of this beer being barrel-aged, there was little to no whisky aroma on the nose. There did appear to be some light whiffs of alcohol, which became more prominent as the beer warmed.

When we got round to tasting this, we could tell it was no ordinary fruit beer. Not only was it significantly higher in ABV but is also in complexity from the standard one dimensional fruit beer. The raspberries are clearly the dominant fruit however as the beer progressed strawberries began to become more prominent. There were sweet malts throughout, while there was also moderate bitterness. There was only the tiniest hint of any barrel-aging which is somewhat of a disappointment.

When I said it was only natural for "us" to review these beers earlier in the piece I wasn't joking. For Beer O'Clock Australia's Abstrakt reviews I'm going to let Richo off the leash in his own segment: Richo's Rant! What have I got myself into?

Greetings All!

Enjoying food and drink is all about memories, certain flavours and aromas can make even the most tedious event into a memorable one. There is something poetic about savouring a meal and recalling a fond memory of the past. This is no different for beer; and Brew Dog’s Abstrakt range feature some of the most potent and unique flavours of any alcoholic beverage on the market.

The Abstrakt No. 3 is, as Noz mentioned above, an Imperial Ale that has been aged in a whiskey cask. An abundance of Strawberries and Raspberries have been added to the brew which gives off an unmistakeable scent as soon as the bottle is opened. The taste is something special a fruity mixture that accentuates the hops unlike other IPA’s; it is certainly hard to fault. That said, my rant today is not about the beer itself, but rather the embarrassing memory it evokes and my hatred of strawberries.

Back in 2002 my only care in the world was a girl in my class that I fancied (I won’t mention her name in case she stumbles upon this blog). I was desperately searching for a way to impress her and inspiration came to me in the form of my Grandpa; he had been growing strawberries for some time. For some reason, I decided that fresh strawberries would be the ideal courting gift.

Perhaps I should have checked first…upon presenting the strawberries, my eyes full of devotion, she promptly ran away screaming…apparently she was allergic. Thus began one of the most humiliating days of junior school days. It was the first time I had been properly embarrassed in public; and the first and only time I had been cockblocked by fruit. Fucking Strawberries!

I can already see that the combination of such interesting concepts and abstract flavours (pun definitely intended) together with my vast history of embarrassing moments will prove difficult for me to enjoy the following alcoholic journey I am going to be taking with Noz, as we partake in as many beers from the Abstrakt range as we can get our hands on.

Richo

One of the taglines for the entire Abstrakt range is "More art than beer, Abstrakt will brew directional, boundary pushing beers: blurring distinctions and transcending categories" and AB:03 certainly does that! It's a crazy fruit beer and really shows off the flavour of both raspberries at strawberries at the same time, which in my opinion is a pretty amazing brewing feat! Is it a great beer though? I don't think so! I think I feel a tiny bit let down by the lack of any real whisky characteristics, however overall the flavour is still very good. It's a good entry point to the Abstrakt range however it's certainly not the best one I've had in the range. Bring on AB:04!

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

THE GREAT BOTTLE VS. CAN DEBATE PART 5

The fifth installment: The Great Bottle vs. Can Debate


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Serving Type: 345ml Bottle/330ml Can
  • Price: Inexpensive
 
It's been far too long (just over 6 months!) since I last entered into The Great Bottle vs. Can Debate. This review only came about after I flew interstate recently as James Squire The Chancer is only canned for QANTAS flights and (to my knowledge) can't be purchased in can form anywhere else. Because our flight was delayed so long we got take home beers from the flight attendants, which was a really nice bonus.

As previously discussed on this blog, James Squire has experienced a bit of a rebirth in the past few months. The old Golden Ale, before being rebranded to The Chancer, was one of my favourite session beers a few years back so I'm pretty interested to see 1. if this beer has also risen back from the duldrums and 2. if the canned version is any good, being canned only for QANTAS isn't exactly a glowing recommendation...

Not since the Niksicko bottle vs can debate have we seen two beers pour as similarly from both vessels as James Squire The Chancer just has. Colour, carbonation levels and head size all seem identical. The thing that changes is the head colour with the can's a brilliant white and the bottle's slightly off-white.

On the nose again there are only very subtle differences. The aroma is basically just a slightly lower key version of their IPA nose. Plenty of fruit in both with some crisp hops on both as well. The bottle version maybe smells slightly sweeter but again they are pretty to close to identical.

Again when it comes to taste these beers are incredibly similar. The bottled version had a little more malt presence than the can, which had significantly more hop character. The hops have citrussy qualities and the beer has a light taste of tropical fruits and caramel malts. The bottle has a bit of a sour yeast flavour as it warms, but it's not enough to put me off it may do to others though. The carbonation in both beers is good and I would be happy to drink either again.

James Squire's The Chancer provided probably the most debate of any beer in this segment so far. Unlike previous installments, where the can won convincingly, this battle was alot tighter. In the end I'm going to have to just award the victory again to the can. It was just that little bit cleaner and had a bit more bite to it than the bottle did. The take home message is that James Squire is back! Both vessels were very drinkable and I would recommend this beer for a nice hot day.

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

Monday, 29 October 2012

REVIEW: IPA IS DEAD (2012)

STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 6.7%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Sorry again guys, the last fortnight I've been flat out and haven't had time to do much writing. Don't despair though, I've done plenty of drinking and will be posting quite a few reviews in the coming days.

To get back into the swing of things Richo and I decided to drink a few IPA's as pre's before a friends 21st on Saturday. We always do things with a twist and BrewDog's IPA is Dead seemed like the perfect set of beers. This is the second installment in the series and basically the beers take you on a "world hop tour". The concept is a simple one and I've taken this excert and the picture above from the BrewDog blog.

"The experiment, as before, is simple: Four single hops start out with the same malts, the same ABV, the same IBUs, the same everything, except that each one is made with a different hop strain to showcase their individual character and talent."

First up for us is North America's HBC single hop IPA. The bar is currently experiencing a few minor electrical issues so apologies for any picture quality issues. The beer pours a golden amber colour with good carbonation rising to the head, which is a tad small for the style. However there is some lacing which saves face for the appearance.

Upon sampling this beer I don't think I've had the hop before, please correct me if I'm wrong, however the hop characteristics are very un-American. In both the aroma and the taste I didn't get any of the citrus that I would expect from an American IPA. As stupid as this sounds the hops are earthy and almost malty. It's a really unusual IPA and hard to judge for me because I don't know what the hop is supposed to taste like.

Next on our hop world tour we journeyed through our glasses to the home of BrewDog, the U.K., to sample the Challenger single hop IPA. It's a hop variety that I have alot of experience with and is one that I think a number of drinkers would know the taste of even without realising. The appearance of this beer was similar, despite the descrepencies in photo lighting.

There are all the aroma's and flavours in this beer that I would expect from a beer with Challenger hops and then some! It's one of the fruitiest of the English hops and this example shows that off brilliantly with flavours of orange, grapefruit and lemon all to the fore. The beer started really well and it also showcases the hops well, however it did seem to drag a bit as the beer warmed up.


Galaxy is the Australian representative in the IPA is Dead series. This is certainly the hop I am most accustomed to, although almost always as one of a number of hops blended together. The appearance of this beer is a little lighter, not much but it is noticeable, and the head looks a little tighter than the previous two we sampled.

This hop variety has a distinct flavour that is clearly "west coast American". It has that distinctive piney aroma and flavour as well as those big citrus flavours that make American IPA's so distinctive. To think this is a world renowned hop variety in our own back yard, which not enough people take notice of. This for me is the pick of the beers so far!

Motueka is a hop variety from our neighbours across the ditch, New Zealand. The town the hop is named after has a population of only around 7,000 people, but this does little to bely one of the most distinctive hop varieties out there. The appearance of this beer is again a similar golden amber colour, however the head is a little darker and has less retention.

New Zealand hop varieties have a distinctive "New Zealand" smell. There is lots of tropical fruit on the nose that follows into the taste. Mango and passionfruit are the most distinguishable fruits, with good bitterness permeating the beer. The beer as a whole entity is a little underwhelming however the way it showcases the hops is simple second to none!

What a fantastic set of beers to have in a single sitting and trust me with how bad I felt on Sunday morning it was a great start the really got me in the mood to keep drinking. As for a ranking (we felt 1 would be appropriate) we've made the call on which beer we preffered most. My favourite was Galaxy followed by Challenger, Motueka and HBC in that order. A special mention to Motueka which I thought showcased the hops the best, but was let down by the overall compilation of the beer.  

BrewDog have done a really great job with this series of single hop IPA's. Not only do they beautifully show off the characteristics of each of the hop varieties but they are also quite drinkable beers to match. Mikkeller have also done a single hop range of beers, which I will probably have to try at some point in the future. But for now I will thank BrewDog for trying to educate drinkers out there as to the intricacies of the beers they are trying, it can only be a good thing for the continued improvement in craft beer.

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

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

REVIEW: EPIC HOP ZOMBIE

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: New Zealand
  • Style: American Imperial IPA
  • ABV: 8.5%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive 
Tonight's beer of choice is another EPIC one! *pause for laughs*.... Seriously though, EPIC Hop Zombie is back! And if last years is anything to go by it's a stunning Imperial IPA! It's only just come back in the country and came to me via Perth so I can't wait to get into it!

Considering how many beers from EPIC I drink it seems strange to me that this is only the second one I've fully reviewed. I felt sure that I reviewed the Epicurean beer from last year, but clearly not so I will endeavour to dig out one of the bottles I kept for ageing and review it soon. Anyway back to the Hop Zombie, it's time to drink it!

Hop Zombie is the clearest IPA you are ever going to see, if poured into a normal beer glass you could easily mistake it for a lager. There's plenty of carbonation rising to a somewhat disappointing head. The head is made up mostly of large bubbles and fades to a small ring quite quickly. What head there is leaves mild lacing but it's nothing to write home about. It really is a unique look for an IPA.

The nose of this IPA is packed full of fruit flavours from the hops. I'm getting quite distinct flavours of apple, mango, passionfruit, paw paw (I think) and then just generic citrus, which is hugely powerful. I can't detect any sweet malts but this beer isn't about that. It's all about the hops and they smell incredible; tropical, fruity and bitter. They are clearly Sauvin (or I sincerely hope they are!), if they taste is anything like the nose this will be a brilliant IPA.

EPIC's Hop Zombie is a balanced hop bomb, with no malt! That would seem to be an oxymoronic comment but that is really how the beer seems to me. All the tropical and citrussy hops from the nose are present on the palate. It is one of the most complex IPA's on the market, however the words to describe it are proving hard to come by tonight, so you might need to buy it for yourselves to experience all the intricacies. For a beer that is totally one-sided (malt vs. hops) this has to be the best, it's simply brilliant! Trust me you won't regret buying it!

I've only ever spoken to one so-called IPA drinker who has said they dislike this beer. It's that good that I don't believe I'll ever find another one. I drink alot of IPA's from all around the world and besides some of the amazing Mikkeller ones I have had New Zealand IPA's are right at the top of my list. EPIC's Hop Zombie is top of that list! If that isn't a glowing enough review for you I don't know what is! If you see this beer buy it, if for no other reason than to sell it to me for a profit.

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

OUT OF OFFICE: ZIERHOLZ PREMIUM BREWERY

Out of Office


STATS
  • Location: Fyshwick, ACT
  • Tasting Platter: YES
  • Food: YES
  • Branded Glassware: NO
  • Merchandise: YES
Last Thursday I had to travel interstate to attend my Grandfather's funeral. Naturally it was a sad day for our whole family, however in a break between the funeral itself and a family dinner my father and I along with some select family members managed to pop off to the only true brewery in the ACT, Zierholz Premium Brewery.
Zierholz in Fyshwick
Zierholz is the brain child of Christoph Zierholz, a German immigrant and dual Grand Champion brewer at the Australian amatuer brewing championships. He opened the Fyshwick brewery in 2008 and such was it's success that an on-site bar at the University of Canberra! I wish Monash had an on campus microbrewery/bar.

Dad lived in Canberra for quite a while in his youth so knew his way around. 15 minutes after leaving the funeral we arrived at the brewery. The day we were there was so wet we didn't manage to get a good photo of the exterior so we grabbed this one off google (all rights attributed to the respective owners etc.). The brewery is set back from the road in this industrial area, very much like a number of microbreweries near where I work.

We didn't let the rain deter us however and made our way to the bar where we were informed that a tasting platter was $12.50 for the 7 main beers and you got a pot of your choice at the end. That's a pretty good price, especially for a range of beers as vast as available on tap at Zierholz.



A tasting platter at Zierholz
The tasting platter at Zierholz is poured into small glasses, quite similar to a Kölsch glass. The beers are mostly German styles of beer and the the tasting platter comes complete with tasting notes, a welcome addition to help less experienced drinkers know what they are tasting.

From left to right in the picture there was: Schankbier, German Ale (Kölsch), Hopmeister (English Pale Ale), German Pilsner, Weizen, Amber Ale and a Porter. I was quite impressed with all of them. Personally my favourite was the Hopmeister, an English Pale Ale with lots of citrus almost reminiscent of an American Pale Ale.

Amongst the group we had there the Porter and Weizen were also very well received, the Weizen particularly popular with the girls. I also thought the Schankbier has a place in Australian drinking culture, a full flavoured lager with an ABV of only 2.7%. It was a really unique beer and Zierholz should be commended for brewing such a beer.

Whilst at the brewery I thought it would be wrong to leave without sampling there current seasonal beer, the Sommerbier. This was a Belgian Pale Ale, which was absolutely perfect for the style and for the day. It was a seriously good beer and went beautifully with the bowl of chips we ordered. I'd love to go back there for a meal sometime, as their chips were outstanding!

So to sum up our trip to Zierholz; the beers are fantastic, the food is fantastic and the bar itself is really cool. Despite the overall sadness of the day, this microbrewery visit was one of my all-time favourites! My one wish is that Zierholz would bring their beer outside of Canberra as it is good enough to be one of the top microbrewery's in the country. If you live in Canberra or a making a visit there a trip to Zierholz should be up there on your list of things to do.

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

Sunday, 14 October 2012

NEW INITIATIVES

Beer O'Clock Australia has reached 200 posts and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who their continued reading and feedback. After taking some of this feedback on board there will be a couple of small changes to the site in the coming weeks. Much of these changes will be in the form of new segments, some of which have been in the pipeline for a while, and also trying to right some wrongs.

Firstly Et Ceterbeer will remain, but will be reduced somewhat with people wanting a distinction between darker beers and lighter beers. Thats fine by me and so our new section "The Dark Side" has been launched. It will include all dark beer with the exception of Black IPA's (a.k.a. American Black Ale's) as they're a bit different.


The Dark Side - This segment is simply to help people find what they are looking for. Don't despair Et Ceterbeer fans, it will remain just minus the stouts, porters and other dark coloured beers.
Roadies - In honour of the road beer, this is basically going to be about microbrewery visits, beer events and travels. The segment will probably start this afternoon, with a visit I made this week. 
Mystery Segment - The concept for this segment was born a couple of months ago when Richo and I sampled a pretty amazing beer. Since then we have spent a heap of money and will be bringing this segment to you in the near future.

The other part of the next lot of posts will be righting some wrongs that loyal readers feel have been done. Aleksander and Nils of Sweden both think that I've been overly harsh on Swedish beer. Boys as I said at the time I wish there was better Swedish beer in Australia so I didn't have to drink Pistonhead. In positive news now there is! I haven't tried it yet but I've been assured it's better, so thats something to keep an eye out for.

There will also be a number of new, even weirder styles on the blog in the next few weeks. These include Braggot's and an Ancient Herbed Ale, exciting times ahead. So once again thank you all for your continued support and stay tuned for all these new segments and beers in the coming days. Keep the emails coming and....

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

Saturday, 13 October 2012

REVIEW: XX BITTER

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Belgium
  • Style: Belgian IPA 
  • ABV: 6.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
XX Bitter from De Ranke was one of the beers that really sparked my passion for Belgian beer. I came across this beer back in June 2011, when I was looking for a beer starting with the letter "X" for my alphabet challenge. I haven't had it since so I'm looking forward to it.

When I tasted this beer back then, before Beer O'Clock Australia was even in existence, I liked beer but didn't know all the ins and outs of various beer styles. Hopefully I wasn't wrong when I said this was a great beer! Being Belgian I imagine it should be fine. I can't stand this waiting any longer, let's try it!

The pour is a very cloudy orange colour, with a big head full of large bubbles. The head is an off-white to cream colour and has amazing retention. Literally the amount of head you can see in the picture still remained when all the beer was gone, the glass was also brilliantly laced by the end of drinking. It's a fantastic looking Belgian IPA!

De Ranke's XX Bitter has one of the nicest aroma's of any Belgian IPA I can recall, it's simply stunning! The nose has huge hits of spice, floral hops and citrus that although all strong work in perfect harmony. There's also a hint of cloves as the beer warms, which is not typical of IPA's but a nice Belgian twist on the style.

XX Bitter is often referred to as the beer that sparked the revival of Bitter beers (IPA's, sour ales etc.) in Belgium. When you taste it you can see why! It's a simply brilliant beer with plenty of floral hops. The texture of the beer is strangely oily, I imagine due to the hops. There's plenty of citrus, particularly grapefruit, as well as the cloves that I noted on the nose. The backend of the palate is full of spices, it's simply a sensory overload. It's one of the hardest beers that I've ever tried to describe!

This is the most unique Belgian IPA I have ever had. De Ranke's XX Bitter is the hoppiest Belgian-style IPA made outside the U.S. that I've ever had, however they don't overpower the other elements of the beer. The almost oily quality to the finish of the beer is an odd sensation but one that grows on you as the beer progresses. XX Bitter is definitely a beer that will find it's way back into my fridge soon. This is a beer for seasoned IPA drinkers only, anyone else will miss the intricacies of this beautiful Belgian IPA.

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

Friday, 12 October 2012

BEER SHOPPING

Recently I've been receiving alot more emails through Beer O'Clock Australia than I used to. I try to reply to everyone of them and I've started to notice a trend in the questions. Alot of people are interested in purchasing beer. They don't just want to know about where to buy beer but how to buy a wide selection of beers and styles without being overwhelmed. I've been thinking for a while how to answer this best and I think I've come up with the solution; I'll run through my beer shop from yesterday.


So the picture above has one of everything I bought yesterday in it. I'm going to run through it from left to right and try and show how and why I pick the beers I pick. This was all bought at Purvis Beer in Richmond, my favourite beer store. It's a little different to my normally shopping trips but the idea is still the same.

It's time to get down to business. We start at the far left with the brand new imports to Australia, BridgePort Brewing Company has finally agreed to send some stock downunder so naturally I wasn't leaving without some! Oregon's oldest craft brewery have sent down their IPA, Hop Czar (an Imperial IPA) and Kingpin (a double red ale). These will be reviewed down the track I imagine.

2 Brothers Grizz was the next beer to find it's way home with me. An American Amber Ale, which I have only sampled on tap before. I was interested to find out how the bottled version would taste. A single James Squire The Chancer came home as well. It's an American Pale Ale which used to be sensational, with the commercialization of James Squire the quality fell for a while but with an increase in the quality of the other beers, I thought it would time to give the Golden Ale another shot (watch this space for a review very shortly!)

The second closest brewery to my work, Mountain Goat, gives us the next beer. The IPA becomes just the third year-round brew from Mountain Goat and they tell us that this is the same as the Rare Breed IPA from a few months back. King Goblin from Wychwood is basically a suped-up version of Hob Goblin, speaks for itself really. The Black Panther IBA from Prickly Moses fills the Black IPA hole that has been in my fridge recently, it's such an enjoyable style that every craft beer lover should always have at least one at hand.

Bootleg Brewery from W.A. have a fantastic Oatmeal Stout, which was bought as a present for a stout loving friend of mine. It's a really underated style of beer. XeRRex is the Imperial version of Yeastie Boys' (New Zealand) Rex Attitude. It's a Smoked Beer, note NOT a Rauchbier, and from all reports is incredible. I'm a big fan of New Zealand craft breweries so can't wait to try this one from one of my favourites.

Cuba's Palma Cristal was just freshly brought back into the country and was on sale. It's pretty hard to turn down cheap drinkable beer! A brewery that I used to think was so-so, Red Duck, provides the next 4 beers! Red Duck has really won me over with some collaborative beers with Anders Kissmeyer. Gnaume is another of these Kissmeyer collaborative beers, while Ra #2 and Gruiter are both intended to replicate ancient styles of beer. I also bought Smells Like a Pony because I read an article about it the other day.

The IPA quota in the fridge has been remarkably low recently so it was great to be able to add another new beer that I hadn't had, Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. Rogue is an amazing brewery and I just wish more of their stuff was brought out here. Finally I am giving Pistonhead Full Throttle a chance to bring some credibility back to the brewery after a number of horrendous tastings by Pistonhead Low Ridin' lager, it couldn't possibly be worse could it?

So there we go, that was my shopping trip yesterday. Peter, Steve, Neill and all the others that emailed about craft beer shopping I hope this sort of answers you questions. At first beer shops can be quite intimidating, they don't need to be. Know the names of a couple of beers you like and ask the shop keeper for something similar. As you expand your knowledge you will find breweries you like and then you can try more beers from those breweries. Most importantly don't be afraid to try new beers!

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

Monday, 8 October 2012

REVIEW: FAT TIRE

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: United States
  • Style: American Amber Ale
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 355ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
A couple of weeks ago I popped into a beer store that I don't go to alot. I was looking for one more beer to get a bigger discount and the American guy working at the shop recommended this, New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale.

It was sold to me as a, slightly upmarket, session beer. Apparently in some parts of the U.S. it's more common to drink amber ales than lagers as session beers, something I find something unusual. I can see it working though, a nice amber ale can be one of the easiest to drink styles on the market. It's been a really long day at work so hopefully it's alright.

Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing Co. pours quite a light colour for an American amber ale. It's a light copper colour with more orange than amber throughout the beer. There is little to no carbonation rising to the head of creamy foam that is about 2-3 fingers high. It has reasonable retention with a little more than half a finger remaining for the duration of drinking and the lacing is fantastic. It's a nice looking beer but I'm not sure it's quite right for the style...

The nose is much more typical of an amber ale. It's full of sweet caramel malts and has a very biscuity nose. I also get a very creamy aroma which somewhat disturbingly reminds me of Kilkenny, certainly not my favourite beer. Theres only a tiny hint of hops as the beer warms and you really have to strain your senses to find it. They seem to be of a slight spicy variety. It's not a hugely appetising aroma but it's not bad either.

For my liking this beer tastes just a little bland. It's really quite creamy with biscuit malts dominating the palate. There are some spices and hops present but even as the beer warms they still seem to be almost an after thought. I can taste a pear flavour as the beer warms which I'm not sure where comes from as the hops are slightly spicy but really not prominent enough for my liking. For me this beer is a little one-dimensional and boring.

New Belgium Brewing Co. have produced a really nice amber ale, but I just don't think tonight was the night for me to enjoy it the most. I can appreciate that it's a nice amber ale but it just wasn't quite what I was looking for tonight. It's a beer that I will probably buy again to try it another time. Anyway as amber ales go it's a nice enough one, just a little bland. It's not the worst beer to throw in to your basket to get a discount, but nothing really special.

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

Saturday, 6 October 2012

CAN YOU HELP?

G'day everyone,

This is just a quick update to let you all know where we are at with the European Beer Challenge. After reviewing Xirdalan from Azerbaijan earlier today I have sampled and reviewed a beer from 43 of the 53 European countries.

ALBANIA Birra Tirana

ANDORRA Estrella Galicia

ARMENIA

AUSTRIA Gösser Dark

AZERBAIJAN Xirdalan

BELARUS

BELGIUM Pauwel Kwak

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA Nektar

BULGARIA Kamenitza

CROATIA Karlovacko

CYPRUS Keo Beer

CZECH REPUBLIC Rohozec Skalak Tmave 13%

DENMARK Amager Rugporter

ENGLAND Theakston's Old Peculier

ESTONIA Viru

FAROE ISLANDS

FINLAND Lapin Kulta

FRANCE Gavroche

GEORGIA

GERMANY DAB Original

GREECE Mythos

HUNGARY Dreher Classic

ICELAND Viking

IRELAND Guinness Extra Stout

ISRAEL Maccabee Lager

ITALY Tapetto Volante

KAZAKHSTAN

LATVIA

LIECHTENSTEIN

LITHUANIA Svyturys Ekstra

LUXEMBURG

MACEDONIA

MALTA Cisk Lager

MOLDOVA Bere Chisinau

MONTENEGRO Niksicko

NETHERLANDS La Trappe Quad

NORTHERN IRELAND Caffrey's Original

NORWAY Nøgne Ø Pale Ale

POLAND Karpackie Super Mocne

PORTUGAL Super Bock

ROMANIA

RUSSIA Baltika #7

SAN MARINO Amarcord Volpina

SCOTLAND Sheepshaggers Gold

SERBIA Lav Pivo

SLOVAKIA Golden Pheasant

SLOVENIA Lasko Zlatorog

SWEDEN Pistonhead Low Ridin' Lager

SWITZERLAND 1936 Biere

SPAIN Estrella Inedit

TURKEY Efes Pilsner

UKRAINE Obolon

WALES Felinfoel Stout

The remaining 10 countries I am struggling with a bit, Kazakhstan is the closest to under control but there are some logistical issues at the moment preventing it from happening. I also have a lead for Latvian beer which I am following up. Here's where you come in. If you or anyone you know can get access to beers from any of the following countries please contact me by email at gus.norris7@gmail.com. I am sure we will be able to come to an agreement to get it out to Australia.

The countries I am looking for:
ARMENIA, BELARUS, FAROE ISLANDS, GEORGIA, KAZAKHSTAN, LATVIA, LIECHTENSTEIN, LUXEMBURG, MACEDONIA & ROMANIA

Any beer from any of these countries would be amazing! Thanks in advance guys, hopefully we can get some more of these countries ticked off soon.

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

REVIEW: XIRDALAN

European Beer Challenge #43 Azerbaijan


STATS
  • Country: Azerbaijan
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive

Xirdalan is not only one of very few Azeri beers I know of, but one of very few beers with a name starting with "X". It's always good to tick off another country in this European Beer Challenge so I can't wait to try this beer! A big thank you is owed to the people at Baltika-Baku who helped get this to Australia.

Azerbaijan is not a country that is synonymous with beer producing or drinking worldwide. After I did some googling I found out that there is actually quite a good sized drinking culture in Azerbaijan and that the majority of the beer drunk are light coloured lagers. Xirdalan is the most consumed beer in Azerbaijan and so is the perfect beer to represent the borderline European country in this challenge.

This pours like you would expect a lager to, it has a clear golden body with plenty of carbonation rising to a 2 finger white head. The head seems to have a large number of very small bubbles which fade quickly until there is only a thin film of head on the surface of the beer. What little head there is laces the glass beautifully though. If there was a little more head this would be a really sensational looking lager, as it is it's a good looking beer.

Xirdalan has quite a strong nose for a lager. It's mostly grainy but there are some nice grassy hops towards the backend which smell quite bitter. Theres an odd smell, somewhat like cooked broccoli, which I don't think I've ever smelt in a beer before. Unlike most lagers this beer actually smells really appealling, albeit odd, hopefully it tastes as good as it smells.

By far the most important element of any beer is the flavour and Xirdalan is a fantastic example of this. It's a strong flavoured lager with lots of bready malts dominating the beer more so than any other lager we have in Australia. This maltiness continues even when the grassy hops kick in at the backend of the palate. The carbonation levels are lively without being over bearing. It's a really enjoyable lager!

The national beer of Azerbaijan has all the qualities I look for in a lager in abundance. It's flavoursome, it's refreshing and it's incredibly drinkable. Xirdalan is quite a different take on a lager than many people in Australia would be used to, but it was the perfect beer for the hot day I drank this on. If the price is right importers should definitely be looking at this beer in the future, it'd sell well here during our hot summer.

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

REVIEW: NEVER MIND THE ANABOLICS

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: Scotland
  • Style: English IPA
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Serving Type: 330 Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
It's been another slow week on the reviewing front for a number of reason, so for that I apoligize. I've decided to review a controversial beer today, BrewDog's Never Mind the Anabolics. This beer splits opinions everywhere it goes just like BrewDog themselves.

This beer was brewed to push people's buttons. Released to coincide with the start of the Olympics the beer is infused with creatine, an anabolic steroid. There is some conjecture in the beer world that this is a step to far from BrewDog in their quest to be notorious, personally I think it's a really clever idea. However this will count for nothing if the beer doesn't taste good, let's try it now!

Never Mind the Anabolics is an English IPA and pours as one should. The beer is a deep amber colour with streaks of copper and orange liquid as well. The carbonation seems minimal but there is still 3 fingers of tight creamy brown head atop the beer. The retention of the head is good and the glass is noticeably laced, all-in-all it's a good looking English IPA.

On the nose I get quite a classical English IPA feel. The beer has strong malt driven base with lots of berries and fruit also present. There are some hops present but they are nowhere near as prominent as they would be in the American take on the style. I don't know what creatine smells like but I'm pretty certain I can't smell any of it on the nose. One of the most unusual elements of the nose for me is the presence of a strong mango aroma, I'm really quite intrigued as to what this will taste like.

So there is alot more flavour in this beer than I would normally expect from an English IPA. Every single element is pronounced and discernible to the drinker. There are flavours ranging from the standard English malts through hops, tropical fruits, some spices and even pepper. The overall taste is sweet but this is doing disservice to the hops, which are surprisingly bitter for an English IPA.

Overall, this is a nice beer. Take away the fact that this beer was brewed to ruffle some people's feathers and that it has been mocked for BrewDog's insistance on putting steroids in it for a gimmick. If you can ignore this and drink it as if it's a normal English IPA, it's quite a good example of the style. Also in terms of a marketing idea or a publicity stunt, it's a pretty good one. Never Mind the Anabolics was a very limited release so if you are lucky enough to find one enjoy it!

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