Saturday, 30 March 2013

REVIEW: GRAND RIDGE HOPPY FROG

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
The latest addition to the Grand Ridge Brewery range, albeit it a limited release, is the Hoppy Frog. They've termed the beer a French IPA, basically it's a normal IPA but hopped with French hops. It sounds interesting to say the least.

It's fair to say I know almost nothing about French hops! I received a press release for this beer back in October and didn't recognise any of the hop varieties. I'll be really interested to see how this beer turns out, the malt base sounds good and should give these unknown French hops the chance to shine. It's time to find out if French IPA's are a viable option!

As is often the case with beers from Grand Ridge the pour was pretty ordinary. The body of the Hoppy Frog was an unappealing golden brown colour with very little signs of carbonation rising to one of the thinnest heads I've seen on any IPA. This is one I wish I'd just kept in the bottle, what a huge disappointment from a beer I was expecting quite alot from.

Hoppy Frog smells like a beer that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. There is a relatively thin English pale malt base which smells fine, before some really quite unusual hop aromas come through. It's quite earthy but it's also mixed with some honey and there is also something that smells almost like sweat. It's really odd. The nose reminds me more of an English Pale than an IPA, only the taste will tell.

Like the nose the taste is really quite unusual with the presence of this sweat flavour. While tasting it, the flavour becomes clearer and I think it is actually some kind of tropical fruit because I can certainly taste other fruits. Anyway the unusual flavour aside, the beer is a bit weak. There just isn't enough flavour and there is close to zero bitterness. It's not like any sort of IPA I've ever had.

In the end this wasn't the worst beer I've ever had. but it also was certainly far from the best. The flavour was OK however there just wasn't enough of it. The French hops provided close to zero bitterness and are really what undid this beer. I have to applaud Grand Ridge, incidentally the world's most awarded brewery, for their innovation but unfortunately this one didn't quite work; it's a beer that I think people who like different hops should try but I doubt there will be many who love it.

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

Sunday, 24 March 2013

REVIEW: MIKKELLER SINGLE HOP SERIES

STATS
  • Country: Denmark
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 6.9%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Much like the BrewDog IPA is Dead range, Mikkeller's Single Hop Series aims to educate the average beer drinker about the different flavours and intricacies of different hop varieties.

Work was one again very busy and by 6pm on a Friday I'd just had enough! Home I came and straight into this range of beers. As a big IPA fan I'd heard lots of things about different beers in this range. This evening I was sampling 6 of the range which currently stands at a huge 19, I would imagine it's the biggest range of it's kind in the world! The BrewDog equivalent was excellent so let's see how Mikkeller stacks up.

The first one I sampled was the Centennial Single Hop IPA. Centennial is one of the most widely used hops in IPA's, especially North American ones, and provides a very distinctive grapefruit aroma usually. The colour of the beer is quite unusual, I'm going to call it an orangey copper but you can make up your own mind from the picture. The head also has an orange tinge and is an impressive size.

Unsurprisingly both the nose and flavour are dominated by grapefruit zestiness. This particular IPA is a bit more malt driven than I would have expected for a series trying to showcase different varieties of hops. Anyway this beer does it's job; it showcases Centennial well and is quite drinkable.

Next up was another North American hop this time it was Summit, a hop varietal that I was initially unfamiliar with. Some research showed that this is actually the highest alpha acid hop (17-19%) on the market at the moment. The pour is almost identical to the Centennial, with similarly excellent head retention and lacing.

The nose was disappointingly more malty than hoppy with burnt caramel aromas the most evident. The hops that are there smell slightly floral and slightly citrussy. The taste is similar, not enough flavour from the hops and the odd malt base takes too centre stage. A disappointing Single Hop attempt from Mikkeller.


I then took on the Amarillo Single Hop IPA. Australian drinkers would be familiar with this hop as it's used in James Squire Golden Ale. Other well known beers that use Amarillo include BrewDog 77 Lager and Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, which only uses Amarillo. The pour is again almost identical maybe this one has a slightly weaker head.

Mikkeller's Amarillo Single Hop IPA is the best one I've had so far. This is a proper IPA, there's plenty of bitterness provided by the hops and is also nice and dry. The citrus flavour of the hops comes through strongly and there is also a hint of apricot. This is a really drinkable IPA!

Apollo was up next and this hop is probably best known for it's resilience. Not only does this hop age remarkably well but the plant is also resistant to hop powdery mildew in Washington, it's biggest growing area. The pour is again almost identical to the previous beers but is maybe a tiny bit hazier. 

This beer had plenty of citrus on the nose but then really disappointed when it was tasted. The hops seemed a little timid and even the malts, that seemed a little strong in some of the other single hop IPA's, seemed muted. Overall it was a beer that I expected alot more from and now feel a little let down by.


Fifth in my journey through 6 of Mikkeller's Single Hop Series was a hop varietal that I'm not 100% sure should be included. From my understanding of it Tomahawk is just another trade name for Columbus and they have made a Columbus Single Hop... Anyway semantics aside this is the best looking of the IPA's, it's just that tiny bit clearer.

I wish I had the Columbus one now so I could compare them, but the Tomahawk one is very good. The nose emits notes of pine, spice and naturally citrus. The flavour is similar, with the spicy hops starting alongside the malt base before the citrus and pine elements take over. This is an exceptional example of one of the best known varieties out there.

I've left the best, or what I hope will be the best for last. If nothing else Sorachi Ace should be the most distinctive hop of these 6. Sorachi Ace is a Japanese variety of hops and was relatively unknown outside of Japan until 2008, when a hop shortage in the U.S. meant it got more exposure and use in brewing. 

The nose yields plenty of the typical Lemongrass flavour you expect from beers which utilize Sorachi Ace hops. Unfortunately the flavour of the hops get lost a bit in the caramel malts which are a little too strong for this relatively gentle flavoured hop. It was definitely the most distinctive of the 6 beers on offer tonight but I don't think the beer showcased the hops as well as it could have.

First and foremost, I think I should give credit where it's due, well done to Mikkeller on crafting 6 very good IPA's which all look very close to identical. This shows me that the malt base was close enough to identical on all of them, which would give the hops the best chance to shine on a level playing field.

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

Thursday, 21 March 2013

REVIEW: HOLGATE MILLENIUM FALCON

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American Imperial IPA
  • ABV: 10.0%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
About 2 weeks ago Holgate released a plethora of hoppy beers (well only 2... but the sentence sounded good). Not only was there the much anticipated re-release of the new and improved Hopinator, itself a big announcement, but there was also this, the Millennium Falcon!

This monster is a 10% Imperial IPA with 100 IBU's and was launched as Holgate's 1000th brew, 14 years after their first back in 1999. It's a fantastic effort from the husband and wife team that started off in their shed, while managing to be in clear breach of as many copyright laws as I can think of with this beer! Before I taste it I'll leave you with the bottom of last line of the blurb: "Engage hopper-drive and let the hops be with you!"

So with hopper-drive engaged I poured this into a standard tulip glass and was not surprised by it's appearance. It's quite a light colour for an IPA, a lovely light golden colour with a good sized head of thick white foam. The head has excellent retention and laces the glass as well as any Australian IPA that I can remember! It's an awesome looking beer.

Holgate's Millennium Falcon certainly doesn't smell like a 100 IBU Imperial (or Emperial as the bottle would like it known) IPA. The nose is surprisingly understated and more malt driven than I was expecting. Obviously there are still plenty of hops on the nose with the Galaxy hops shining through, as they do in almost any beer they are in! There is some alcohol on the nose which is slightly unwarranted in my opinion but at 10% I'm not overly surprised.

Thankfully the hops are much more apparent in the flavour of the beer. The pale malt base is very light and provides just enough balance so this beer isn't unbearably hoppy. In saying that it is still very bitter with plenty of citrus and floral flavours coming from the hops. Millennium Falcon also has a thick mouthfeel which is almost "Chewwie" (get it?). It's a controlled hop bomb, that term will only make sense when you try it, it's one of the most interesting Australian craft beers for a while.

Before I proceed to my overall findings on this beer, which are probably pretty obvious now, I will share the further research that I found about this beer. It's hopped with Galaxy hops, but also with Millennium hops and Falconer's Flight. The name just becomes cleverer and cleverer!  Anyway for all hop heads this is a must, ignore the price and just get yourself one; it's sensational!

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

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

REVIEW: HITACHINO GINGER ALE

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: Japan
  • Style: Spiced Beer
  • ABV: 8.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
I'm going somewhere that I haven't gone in a long time, into Ginger beers. Alcoholic Ginger beers tend to let me down, they normally promise alot and taste pretty poor. Kiuchi would be one of the breweries that I think could pull off this style.

The Kiuchi brewery is one of the oldest breweries in Japan, having been first founded in 1823. The now famous Hitachino range, with it's unique owl logo, was launched in 1996 and is now one of the most respected micro breweries from Asia. The brewery has won many awards and it's quite rare to not be able to find one of their beers at my house, making it so odd that this is the first beer of their's that I have reviewed.

When the Hitachino Real Ginger Ale is poured I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance. It had a lovely golden/amber colour and reflected the light brilliantly. The head was a cream colour with some large air bubbles through it. The retention and lacing was minimal but I can say that about every Ginger beer I've ever had! Overall it's one of the best looking Ginger beers I can think of.

Unsurprisingly Kiuchi Brewery's Real Ginger Ale smells like ginger. After that somewhat shocking discovery there's very little else on the nose, maybe there is the tiniest hint of a light pale malt body but it's very thin and I'd be clutching at straws if I actually claimed it was obvious. Basically this beer just smells like nice spicy ginger.

The beer had more flavours than the nose suggested it did, which would normally be a good thing. Unfortunately I didn't think alot of them added anything to the overall beer other than to make it seem slightly mediciney. There was plenty of ginger and some really unusual pale malts with a hint of fruit flavours as well, it might be pear but I can't quite place it. The ginger and malts certainly provided plenty of zestiness and spice but it just really clashed for me.

Overall I have to say that I'm quite disappointed after a promising start. The appearance really got my hopes up that this would be the first alcoholic Ginger beer that I would really enjoy, but sadly the odd flavour in the end proved too much. I did manage to finish it but it was definitely a beer that I did not enjoy at all and probably wouldn't drink if I was given another one for free. I certainly wouldn't have another one but maybe if you're a ginger beer aficionado it could be up your alley.

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

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A BUSY FEW WEEKS IN REVIEW...

Very randomly the last few weeks have been some of the most hectic at work that I can remember. There was absolutely no notice this was coming and as such reviews have suffered. Beer drinking however has not! This is a quick wrap up of some of my most memorable beers from the past couple of weeks.

Chisinau Aurie - My mate Coll and I had this beer yesterday evening. It's the second beer I've ever had from Moldova (after this one) and personally I wasn't as enamoured with it as I was the last one. The beer was a very light golden colour but poured with a great head. The flavour was very light but the beer was very drinkable. It's one I'd have again if the opportunity arises.

Kooinda Milk Porter - This is first new beer that I've tried this year that I will be buying on a regular basis. It's locally brewed in Northern Melbourne and is one of the best balanced porters that I've had. It's one of the best drinking porters around, while maybe a little one dimensional. Kooinda Milk Porter would be a stunning introductory dark beer. I highly recommend it!

Früh Kölsch - Another of the traditional German beers that I was drinking not that long ago. Früh is one of the older Kölsch brewery's, having been founded in 1904. The result of this experience is one of the finest Kölsch beers I've ever had! The hops are lightly spicy and the beer is one of the more refreshing beers I've had recently.

Hopworks IPA - I first had this beer at a Purvis Beer tasting maybe 5 weeks ago. Since then it't been my IPA of choice! It comes in 473ml cans (Yes really!) and is one of the freshest U.S. IPA's to ever arrive in Australia. It's close to perfect, brilliantly hoppy with a beautiful dry finish. Purvis still have plenty of stock of this so if you love IPA's get down there!

Köstritzer Schwarzbier - Köstritzer has to be one of very few breweries worldwide that have a Schwarzbier as their most produced beer. Schwarzbier is German for "black beer" and that's basically what it is. It tastes like a watered down porter or stout with the mouthfeel of a lager. It really is a class leading beer. It's a beer that every beer person should try!

Nøgne Ø Citrus Hystrix IPA- One can never say that the Norweigan brew masters at Nøgne Ø are boring. This beer was designed to try and add new flavours to the IPA. Rye, kaffir limes, tangerines and oats were all added. Unfortunately I didn't think this one worked. The beer was an off-putting murky brown colour and the flavour just too unusual. It just didn't work for me.


Norga - I put this Albanian lager in because I think this typifies the perfect lager appearance. A brilliant golden lager with plenty of carbonation and the taste isn't half bad either. There is just enough hop bitterness and it's just so drinkable. If you are in Albania this is the lager I would pick, also the cans not half bad looking either.

Jamieson's The Beast - When I sampled this on Monday after soccer, it was the first time I'd had it since my original Alphabet Challenge which spawned Beer O'Clock Australia. Anyway the beer didn't disappoint and the label is an early contender for my Golden Pints 2013 awards. I may need to review this in full some time soon.

Hopefully work is settling down a bit now and I'll be able to pump some reviews out on a more regular basis. Abstrakt fans don't despair the review for AB:05 will be out soon, only 5 weeks after we promised it would be last time! Don't forget if you've got any suggestions for beers I should drink or just beer questions in general email me at gus.norris7@gmail.com. 

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

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

REVIEW: RED DUCK SMELLS LIKE A PONY

Great Beer Styles #9


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Braggot
  • ABV: 6.8%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
Tonight was the night to sample one of Red Duck's range of older style beers again. This one, Smells Like A Pony, is a Braggot (which I will explain what is below) made with Buckwheat Honey. This is only the second Braggot I've had, coincidentally the other one was also made by Red Duck.

It's fair to say that most people probably haven't heard of a Braggot, fortunately for us the boys at Red Duck have! Basically it's a beer style made by mixing mead and ale, often with a number of herbs or spices thrown in for good measure. The style dates from around the 12th century, almost a thousand years on I can't wait to see what Red Duck have done with this ancient beer style.

Smells Like A Pony pours a very hazy dark brown colour, which the light really reflects off instead of penetrating it. There appears to be very little carbonation and there is only a very small head, which barely lasts a minute. As a result the head retention could be described as "awful" and there is no lacing to speak of. Still from what I understand the style is supposed to look like, this is pretty spot on.

This beer smells like I imagined it would. It has the sweetness of honey combined with the strong malt character. Smells Like A Pony certainly has a strong character to it. The nose is full of strong flavours which all struggle to get a grip in the market, if that makes sense. From alcohol whiffs to honey and through a range of malt spectrum that ranges from the sweet caramel through an odd red wine smell. It's one of the more unusual noses of any beer that I can remember.

Red Duck's Smells Like A Pony is a jumbled mess of mismatched colliding flavours. The malt graininess at first mixes nicely with the sweet honey, but as the beer warms up thing begin to clash. In my opinion there is too much raw alcohol on the roof of your mouth when you drink this beer and the mouthfeel just isn't right; either it's not creamy enough or it's too creamy, it's in this awkward middle ground which I don't particularly enjoy.

I'm so completely lost with this beer, do I like it or do I really dislike it? Is it a stylistic problem, do I like Braggot's or are they something I really couldn't care less for? I'm going to come down on the side that I like the style but this particular one is a bit much. For me there is a little too much alcohol flavour and the drinkability isn't quite there. However compared to some of the other older styles this one is certainly more drinkable. Red Duck's SLAP is a beer you will certainly have to try to know whether it's a beer you will come to love or hate.

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