Sunday, 31 August 2014

REVIEW: KOOINDA MILK PORTER

The Dark Side


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: English Porter
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
As is often the case I seem to forget to review the really good dark beers I drink, apologies again stout lovers. (Seriously keep emailing me and I'll remember!) Anyway here's a very underrated beer from one of my favourite Melbourne breweries; Kooinda.

Kooinda is located in an industrial warehouse in Heidelberg. It's a great story, with these guys initially starting in one of their sheds and pumping water from their swimming pool in to cool the tanks, before moving to Heidelberg last year. It's a true success story! This beer is not their most well known but in my mind is one of their best! Let's get into it.

Firstly apologies for the photo quality, it's almost too light in my bar now! Anyway the pour is a dark brown colour with a creamy, almost yellow head. The heap dissipates very quickly, as the photo shows, very quickly there is only a ring of foam left, before even that disappears. It certainly isn't the most appealing of beers to look at.

Onto the nose and it's much better than the appearance. It's relatively light for the style but coffee, chocolate and some dark fruit flavours are all detectable. I think it's plum that is the most dominant fruit flavour, which is a slightly unusual - it's not one I can remember smelling before. The overall feel of the nose is slightly sweet, but certainly not overpoweringly so.

Kooinda's Milk Porter has good roast qualities up front. There's actually quite a big secondary flavour of chocolate milk, not surprising I suppose when it's called a Milk Porter... With that "revelation" out of the way the dark fruits begin to be noticeable as the beer warms, they aren't anywhere near as strong as the nose would have indicated. The overall feel of the beer is slightly on the sweeter side but it really fits in well with the creamy mouthfeel.

This is one of my go to wintery drops and it's one I'd highly recommend you trying. I feel that if this beer was better known it would be talked about in the same breath as great Australian Porters like Mornington's. It is on the slightly sweeter side for the style but not enough to put many people off in my opinion. Give it a go if you see it and let me know what you think.

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

Thursday, 28 August 2014

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 12

Untappd Catchup


It's been a while since I've had to write one of these, over a month in fact! Anyway circumstances have dictated that once again it's time to wrap 6 beers that earned Untappd badges up in a few paragraphs.

Knappstein Reserve Lager was first cab off the rank in the Catchup. I've spoken numerous times about how much I enjoy this beer so don't feel I need to go into vast detail again. The bottom of this review probably sums it up best. Hotel Hopper (Level 4) was the badge this beer unlocked, at the Hyatt in Canberra for Grandma's birthday.

I've had a couple of questions about the Photogenic Brew badge recently. Remember I don't work for Untappd! I don't have inside knowledge into the badges. Anyway my best guess is that they made it a level badge which was retroactive... The beer that unlocked Level 10 for me was Dieu du Ciel's Moralite. It was brewed in collaboration with The Alchemist, of Heady Topper fame, and lived up to my high expectations - it was sensational!


Crisp as Day (Level 8) rolled around a few nights ago when dad and I had a few lagers (no neither of us are sure why either...). The beer was Staropramen, a beer that I have a good affinity with. It's a really nice crisp pilsner with plenty of Saaz hops. This is a pilsner that I always recommend to lager lovers, if you fit that bill it's worth a try.

The Great White North (Level 1) badge took much longer to arrive than I had expected. For those who can't work it out from the badge below, this badge is for drinking Canadian beers. The beer that finally tipped me over the edge was Dieu du Ciel's Peche Mortel. I've already mentioned this beer in my latest Bear Club review, I actually did a side by side of the bottle and tap version and can say both are really excellent Imperial Stouts. Be warned; it's big on coffee!

Another beer from Tru Bru earned the Drink Like a Kiwi (Level 9) badge; Tuatara's Aotearoa Pale Ale. I took a growler of this over to a mates place for dinner and it went down very well. It's got quite a strong malt backbone initially but the NZ hops (citrus, tropical, pine) do eventually come to the party. I highly recommend all of Tuatara's beer and this is one of their better ones.


Founders have launched an Untappd badge that runs through August. Simply check into 2 of their range of IPA's to unlock it. Their Centennial IPA was the beer that unlocked the Hop 2 It badge for me; it's a beer I've had many times and never disappoints. There's plenty of grapefruit hops and the bit of resinous pine is wonderful. It's quite easy to find here now and is being sold in useful 12-packs, grab some if you come across it.

Stylistically there was a bit of a mix in this review, which is always nice to see. Hopefully you guys go out there and find some of these excellent beers and give them a go. If you try any of these, or any other beer or that matter, I'm always keen to here about it; gus.norris7@gmail.com. Feel free to shoot any questions through to me on that email address as well and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Until next time...

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

Saturday, 23 August 2014

REVIEW: GRAND RIDGE BLACK & TAN

Great Beer Styles #11



STATS

  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Black & Tan
  • ABV: 4.9%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Grand Ridge is a really interesting Victorian craft brewery. It's one of the older craft breweries in this state, first brewing beer in 1989. I picked up this beer the other day because I'd never seen it before and am quite partial to the odd Black & Tan.

For those unfamiliar with the term/style of Black & Tan here's a quick run down. Basically they are a mix of a dark ale or stout and a lighter ale (and in some countries lager), hence the name. My first ever Black & Tan was in Prague about 4 years ago, which was a mix of dark lager and a regular pilsner - I've been hooked since. I can't recall seeing a pre-packaged one before so I'm looking forward to trying this one.

This beer poured as expected with element of both light and dark beer being evident. Grand Ridge's example of the style has a slightly reddish brown colour to the beer and is quite clear. The head is quite large in this glass and is a creamy looking colour. The retention of the head is good, if not spectacular, however there is almost no lacing.

Onto the nose and it is an unusual one to say the least! It's clearly malt driven, with first caramel then roast dominating the aroma. There's some coffee there, an unusual sour cherry aroma, some floral hops, some other dark fruits. For me there's a bit too much going on with almost nothing smelling really enticing. It really seems confused and a bit all over the place, hopefully it tastes better than it smells...

Black & Tan from Grand Ridge unfortunately tastes a bit like the aroma indicated. There is alot of stuff going on, however none of it is particularly nice. The caramel malts are more pronounced than the roasted ones while the hops are only just evident. The sour cherry and dark fruit flavours are again present but not really strong enough to make a good impression. All the flavours sort of mix into each other and get lost.

Whilst drinking this beer I read the back of the bottle and found out that it's a Black & Tan made using their own Gippsland Gold and Hatlifter Stout. Both beers are very good in their own right. Unfortunately I don't think this combined version of the two have brought either beers best qualities to the fore. Worth a try but it's certainly not exceptional, price is reasonable though and this is important to keep in mind as buying 2 good bottles to make a Black & Tan could run you up to $30...

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

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

BEAR CLUB JULY - 2014

Tru Bru Bear Club - July 2014


Month 3 for Tru Bru's Bear Club and it is clear that winter is now upon us. 2 Imperial stouts, one American in style and one Russian, one of Australia's best Brown Ale's, a Baltic Porter and a Imperial Red Ale. This lineup is absolutely insane! Could this be the best Bear Club yet?

This month, for the first time, we had the option to add (a very special!) seventh beer to the Bear Club pack. To find out what that beer was you are going to have to read on to the bottom of this review!

Weihenstephaner Kreuz des Sudens was first up for me. This beer was designed by head brewer Frank Peifer after his trip to Australia for 2013's Good Beer Week. Basically it's a Hefeweizen that is heavily hopped with Australia's Galazy hops, something unlike any German hops. For me it was good but I wouldn't be going out of my way to get more, an interesting take on a typically German style.

A collaboration between Deschutes and Hargreaves Hill Hopburst IPA was my second choice in this months Bear Club. And boy was it a good one! There was so much citrus and pine bitterness! The balance between the malt and at times extremely bitter hops was sensational. It's going to inspire me to try some of the Hargreaves Hill stuff again, I haven't had it for ages!

2 Brothers Voodoo was my beer of choice to end a freezing Melbourne week last week. I hadn't had it before and thought that it was a really good example of a Baltic Porter. It's got the sweetness I expected from a Baltic Porter, but had enough coffee, chocolate and surprisingly fruitiness to make it stand out from the crowd. I will be seeking this one out again!

I think my disdain for Red Ale's is reasonably well publicized. Bridgeport's Kingpin is one that I fitted this category when I reviewed it here. On tap this just blew me away! The balance between the earthy and citrus hops and caramel malt is sublime and it's got a fruitiness that I didn't pick up from the bottle. Might be time to revisit...

Beer number 5 in this Bear Club was Dieu du Ciel's Peche Mortel. This heavily coffee influenced stout is one of the best on the market. This Canadian brewery produces some amazing stuff and this is one of their best and on tap it's even better! Apparently I've never reviewed one of their beers, I might have to change that soon...

If there was ever a time for an Imperial Brown Ale it's Winter. Nail's Hughe Dunn was the beer that Anton picked to try and convert the doubters of the style. Normally I'm not a fan of how malty brown ales are, Newcastle Brown excluded, but this blew my mind! This is an absolute must try!

The special 7th beer in this month's Bear Club has a special claim to fame; it's Australia's most expensive (and some would say sought after) beer. For those playing at home the answer is Nail's Clout Stout. This beer was a crazy good Russian Imperial Stout! It had everything; roast, coffee, molasses. a bit of wood... Literally everything you could want in a stout! Is it worth the big dollars that this beer demands? Absolutely once, but having had it would I shell out again? I'm not sure...

Anton has got a serious job on his hands trying to find a lineup that can get even close to how good this one was! I really have no idea what to expect, the end of August/start of September is still going to be cold but the warmer September afternoons could lend themselves to some IPA's/Saison's. This could be a real mixed pack of styles and I can't wait to hear what's in it!

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

Monday, 18 August 2014

REVIEW: CANTILLON CUVEE SAINT-GILLOISE

Untappd: Pucker Up (Level 10) Badge


STATS
  • Country: Belgium
  • Style: Gueuze
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 750ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
There was only ever one brewery that I would want to end the Pucker Up badge with on Untappd; Cantillon. This however was not planned, I had no idea when I cracked into this beer tonight that I would get this badge. It's worked out perfectly however!

This beer sounds like a really interesting one on paper. It is not your traditional Gueuze, a blend of both young and aged lambic beer, but one made from just 2 year old lambic. It is then dry hopped in the cask for three weeks with Hallertau hops. I'm really fascinated to see what this beer tastes like!

When this beer poured I was quite surprised by it's appearance. Unlike many lambics the body of the beer is a very clear golden colour. The head in the wide rimmed Cantillon glass was only a finger and a half high but it had amazing retention, at no point was I lift without at least a film across the top of my beer, and it laced the glass very well. It's a very good looking beer!

Onto the nose and unsurprisingly the most dominant aroma is that Belgian funk that beer lovers around the world either loathe or adore. Cantillon's Cuvee Saint-Gilloise also has a really interesting bitter grassy hop element to the nose. It's relatively light but does cut through the funk a little.

Cuvee Saint-Gilloise is not a hugely tart Gueuze. There is plenty of funk and significantly more citrus than I had expected. I am picking up elements of the wood that this beer has been aged in, although slight. The hop bitterness, again, is not intense although is there and adds an extra dimension to a relatively complex beer.

While certainly not my favourite Cantillon beer of all-time; Cuvee Saint-Gilloise is a magnificent example of a sour beer. The hop element in this nontraditional Gueuze really adds an element that is unusual to the style. My Untappd sour journey, in a badge sense anyway, may have ended but my journey in sours is only just beginning. I'm hoping to visit the Cantillon brewery next year but we'll have to see. Anyway if you're interested in Gueuze give Cuvee Saint-Gilloise a go, it's an interesting take on the style.

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

Friday, 15 August 2014

REVIEW: NEPAL ICE

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Nepal
  • Style: American Pale Lager
  • ABV: 5.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Nepal is certainly a country I didn't think I would ever taste a beer from. That day has now come though and so I thought I should share it with you guys. I really have no idea what to expect, although given how could Nepal is I doubt it's a hop forward pilsner...

So a little about Nepal; it's a smallish country in Asia bordered by India and China. The population is mostly based in rural parts of the country, with the capital Kathmandu (pop. ~940,000) the largest city in a country of 27 million people. Mount Everest would be Nepal's claim to fame, but less well known is that Nepal has a further 7 of the worlds top 10 tallest mountains.

Anyway enough about Nepal, we should probably get back to the beer... Nepal Ice pours quite a light yellow colour. Thankfully it has a large, although shortlived, brilliant white head. The foam appears quite dense initially but does dissipate very quickly and leaves no lacing behind. This really does look like quite a cheap macro lager...

I have a rule with these mass produced lagers, if it doesn't smell bad/nasty it's definitely a pass. Nepal Ice definitely falls in this category. The nose is not certainly not unpleasant, it's actually almost non-existent. What little aroma there is of grain of indistinguishable sweetness. I really can't even tell if it's sweet or sour grain, but if I had to guess I'd say it's sweet. There is also no detectable hop bitterness on the nose.

My initial thoughts were (I believe) proved right by the taste of Nepal Ice. It was indeed a lager which appeared to have no detectable hops. That being said the flavour from the grain was surprisingly complex, with more than just generic grain flavours on offer. Some of the grain was lightly spicy and there were some herbal elements, possibly signs of hopping? The overall feel of the beer is on the sweeter side, but it certainly isn't nastily sweet.

As macro lagers go this isn't the worst. I wouldn't go out of my way to find it, but also wouldn't turn it down if offered it. It's claim to fame is clearly being from Nepal and I reckon that's why a number of people would buy it. In Nepal I can't imagine that there are that many options to choose from and this wouldn't be a bad option if you go in with lowish expectations. An interesting one to try for lager connoisseurs as the grain bill seems a little unusual and there appears to be no signs of skunking.

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

Friday, 8 August 2014

REVIEW: OAKHAM GREEN DEVIL

Et Cetebeer


STATS

  • Country: England
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 6.0%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
As many of you know; one of my favourite beers is Oakham Citra - it's possibly the best hoppy session beer in the world! The Green Devil is Oakham Ales' much talked about IPA and this is the first time it's been to Australia!

It was never in doubt that I would buy this beer; it was always a question of how many I'd buy! I settled on 6 to start with, but the twinkle in the eyes of the guy I bought it from made me think I might not have bought enough! I am so excited to try this beer, I think it's time to crack into this and get this review done. Let do it!

Much like the last IPA I reviewed, Liberty C!tra, on Beer O'Clock Australia Oakham Green Devil poured a very very clear golden colour. The head was white and fluffy but for the most part the bubbles were tight foam. Head retention was good and it left behind probably the most lacing I've ever seen on one of these Spiegelau IPA, do they have a coating that means lacing doesn't stick? On reflection the colour was a little lighter than I would like, but it doesn't really detract from my score.

Green Devil's aroma was all hops, I could hardly detect even a hint of malt on the nose. Like it's smaller brother, Oakham Citra (full review here), this beer appears to be just hopped with Citra hops, although I could be wrong. I get all the aroma's in this that I get in the Citra - the same lychee and grapefruit dominated smells, and I also get some pineapple on this one. They are both such lovely aromatic beers.

After struggling to detect malt on the nose I was surprised with how much I picked up when tasting this beer. The malt base was initially quite sweet but it didn't take long for the bitterness of the hops to rectify this issue. The grapefruit, lychee and other tropical fruit flavours from the hops further cemented my idea that these were Citra hops. The carbonation is perfect but I did get a slightly chalky feeling left behind in my mouth after drinking this one....

Overall Green Devil is a very good IPA, although it's certainly not Oakham's best beer (that honour is Citra's!). For me comparing any beer to Oakham Citra is hard, it's going to be very hard to displace one of my favourite all-time beers! On it's merits though this is a very nice IPA, if you are going to try it expect plenty of fruit flavours, including the distinctive Oakham lychee flavour - which I struggle to detect in any other beers. Worth trying if you are an IPA fan.

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

Thursday, 7 August 2014

REVIEW: FERAL HOPFEN FAHRT

Untappd: IPA Day 2014 Badge


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 6.4%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
The Brewpub Series from Feral produce some of the most sought after new release beers in Australia. Hopfen Fahrt is ostensibly an American style IPA brewed with German hops and it is a beer that I'm really intrigued to try. Very few German style beers are heavily hopped, so this will be interesting.

The reason we are here today is because it's IPA Day! This year International IPA Day fell on Thursday August 7th and I felt it fitting to celebrate with an Australian made example of the style. Untappd mark this celebration every year with a badge and so we welcome Feral's Hopfen Fahrt (Hoppy Ride if my high school German serves me correctly...) into the club of IPA Day Badge earners alongside To Ol's Dangerously Close to Stupid from last year.

Hopfen Fahrt pours a perfect slightly hazy golden colour with a bulbous white head. The head is made up of small tight bubbles and has plenty of retention but only minor lacing. Personally I advocate for clearer IPA's but I think this still fits the style guidelines, it's certainly a good looking beer, although I think all beers look good in the Spiegelau IPA glass!

We're moving onto the nose now and this is quite unlike any IPA I've smelt before. Firstly the aroma is very short lived, however while it is there the malt is light. The hops are really odd, at the start I think I smell grapefruit but then the dominant flavour is something like a cross between lemongrass (I think...) and ginger. A really unique nose!

The taste is also unique; I've decided I'm going to call the malts bready in flavour - that's not quite right but it'll have to do. There are hints of grapefruit coming from the hops as well as rockmelon and this odd lemongrass/ginger flavour. It does have good bitterness though and the mouthfeel is nice and creamy.

For me, this beer was a really good idea, it just didn't quite work in actuality. I didn't think the hops really lent themselves to the style at all and having had it on tap I don't think it's much better there. It's a beer that confuses me quite a bit actually, I know a number of people who rave about it. I'm going to take this opportunity, in case the Feral guys are reading this, to start a petition for Watermelon Warhead to be the next Brewpub Series release! It's one of my favourite beers!

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

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

REVIEW: NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE


 Fridge Regular


STATS
  • Country: England
  • Style: English Brown Ale  
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • Serving Type: 550ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive 
Newcastle Brown Ale is a beer synonymous with England. It's distinctive orange and blue label is known around the world. In it's homeland however it is a beer that is often derided, in my opinion unfairly.

The inspiration to right this review came the other day when I was knocking back a Newcastle Brown and searching for a review I'd done on it to link to my Untappd Catchup post. I was sure that at somepoint I would have felt the urge to review this beer, which I normally have at least one of in my fridge. Strangely though, I had never felt that urge - so today I will rectify that.

Served in my lovely "Geordie Schooner" Newcastle Brown Ale pours a very clear reddish brown colour. The head is beige in colour and is maybe a finger and a half high at it's peak. The head retention is unusual, the actual foam dissipates quite quickly but a film is left for the duration of drinking. By far the worst thing of this beer's appearance is the stupid clear glass bottle! If only it were in brown glass...

Onto the nose and this is the time everytime I drink Newcastle Brown Ale when I remember that this is brewed by Heineken. That said; there is light toffee/caramel on the nose and hints of roasting. Unfortunately that's where the positives stop; as the beer warms there is this unusual plasticy aroma which isn't that pleasant. In saying that the overall aroma is quite light and unless you are looking for these smells they aren't overtly apparent.

Newcastle Brown Ale thankfully is a much better tasting beer than it is to smell. Initially there is plenty of sweet caramel malts before a nuttiness comes through. There is a taste similar to cola somewhere in the middle before the flavour fades to bitterness. For me the body is nice and light, but I know of a number of people who think it's a little too thin for the style.

Overall, we need to remember that this is a mass produced beer. It's brewed to sell volume and appeal to the masses. With this in mind I think Newcastle Brown Ale is a particularly approachable beer, which leads people away from pale macro lagers (not that there is anything wrong with them!) and down the path towards craft beer. It's certainly not one for the connoisseur, but it is a beer I always like to have available - especially in winter. It's a serviceable beer.

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

Monday, 4 August 2014

SIERRA NEVADA 4-WAY IPA

STATS
  • Country: United States
  • Style: IPA's
  • ABV: Various %
  • Serving Type: 355ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Sierra Nevada's 4-Way IPA Variety Pack is showcase of craft beers most important style. Latching onto the recent trend there is a session IPA (or low ABV IPA), a wheat based IPA, their regular IPA - Torpedo and last but not least a Black IPA!

This is a pack of IPA's that I was really excited to see make it to Australia. It was all over my Untappd and Facebook feeds and it was something I just really needed to try. Sierra Nevada make some really good hop driven beers and this seems like an opportunity for them to showcase their skills.

After a busy morning fixing the electricity in my bar (again!) I settled into the Nooner Session IPA. The one big positive to come out of crawling through the roof is that we now have all the lights working again - and the camera can return to replace the iPhone photo's. The nose was disappointing on this beer, light malts a small hint of citrus hops - very much like a pilsner worryingly. 

Thankfully the flavour is less pilsnery. The malt backbone is quite light but the citrussy hops really cut through and add some assertive bitterness to an otherwise light easy drinking beer. Sierra Nevada have really hit the nail on the head with this session IPA - it's got the drinkability, and low ABV, combined with the citrus hop bitterness that IPA drinkers crave

Snow Wit was my second beer in this pack and it was the beer I was most intrigued to try. The name is brilliant - it's brewed with 7 experimental dwarf hops (grown on shorter hedges rather than tall rows of plants), while wit is the Belgian word for white. In the beer world white = wheat. So in summation it's an IPA made with a predominantly wheat base with a clever name.   

The nose is quintessential Belgian wit; citrus, coriander and orange peel. As the beer warmed there was evidence of some grassy and piney hops but they were nowhere near as apparent as they were to taste! The hops were powerful but the wit characteristics were not overpowered. It had quite a light body and a dry finish, which complimented the flavours beautifully.

Third for me was the regular IPA from Sierra Nevada's range; Torpedo. I reviewed this years ago, you can read it here. (I didn't even read it again so no idea if it was a good review or not...) Anyway the nose of Torpedo is aggressively bitter, with pine and grapefruit the most prominent hop characteristics.

Sierra Nevada's Torpedo is one of the reasons that this blog still exists, almost 3 years after since it started. This IPA was groundbreaking for me then and still blows me away every time I have it! The malt backbone is caramelly but it is the hops that take centre stage here. They are as resinously piney as they come, while grapefruit also is present. I love this beer!

I am thrilled that a Black IPA gets in this pack. It's one of my favourite styles and is starting to become more widespread, which this pack can only help. The colour of this beer is as black as I've seen for the style, while the head is a little bit lighter than usual. The head retention was excellent as well.

Blindfold had an unusual nose for a Black IPA with hops dominating the malt initially. This did change as the beer warmed however, with the roastiness becoming more pronounced. This translated to the flavour where roast, coffee and a little chocolate malts mixed perfectly with floral and piney hops! The mouthfeel was lightly creamy and really set the whole thing off perfectly.

Well that was a pretty good pack and one I would recommend IPA lovers give a go. Sierra Nevada are one of the few breweries that I buy everything they brew, regardless of style or wraps, as they just consistently produce good stuff. I've had better Session IPA's than this one, but it wasn't bad. Snow Wit was a nice hoppy Witbier and Torpedo was it's usual brilliant self. For me though the pick of the bunch was the Blindfold - I loved it!

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