Tuesday, 30 June 2015

EUROTRIP 2015 - SLOVAKIA

Beer O'Clock on Tour


From Vienna we took the boat to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Having heard quite a few negative reports of the quality of Slovakian beer, I actually brought some Australian craft beer over with me!

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the beer on offer in Slovakia. That was in part because a large number of restaurants in Bratislava, and surrounds, sell Czech beer - a link back to their days as part of Czechoslovakia. I did manage to get my hands on some Slovak craft beer though...

The very first beer I had in Bratislava was a Czech one; Budweiser (sometimes Budvar in Australia) Dark. The weather was drizzly and not that warm (maybe 16 degrees) and I was so pleased to be offered a dark options. For those who haven't had this, it's a relatively nice introductory dark lager that I'm always happy to drink.

My first Slovak beer in Bratislava was at a wonderful Italian restaurant, Gatto Matto - make sure you go there if in Bratislava. It was Zlaty Bazant, the Slovak national lager and one previously reviewed in the European Beer Challenge on Beer O'Clock Australia, see here. My views have changed on it a little over time, as my palate has matured, however I think it's still a more than serviceable lager.

Pilsner Urquell is almost easier to find in Bratislava than Zlaty Bazant. This is by no means a bad thing, my trip to try Pilsner Urquell in Plzen is still one of my beer highlights, however it is disappointing for someone trying to seek out different Slovak beers on tap. This particular Pilsner Urquell was brilliant! The Saaz hop bite was spectacular.
 
My one and only experience with Slovakian craft beer arrived somewhat by surprise. Across the road from the St Martin Church was a sign saying "Craft Beer Bar", something I couldn't just walk past. I only had 20 minutes but managed to sample the Stupavar American IPA. I'm not sure if I was just missing hops, but I thought this was excellent! It was packed full of grapefruit and had great bitterness.

Variety at restaurants was at times scarce, with more Pilsner Urquell's and Zlaty Bazant's passing my lips before anything else. The one positive that this brought to my attention was that Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant) is still a good beer, I guess it's mistreated at a few places. In the sun in the Old Town square it went down brilliantly, almost holding it's own alongside Pilsner Urquell.
 
Staropramen Tmave, another Czech beer, was next sitting in the sun outside the Hrad Cerveny Kamen (Red Stone Castle). It's a lovely Czech dark, which I can't recall having had before. Finally I cracked into my Slovak cans at the apartment. Slovakia is one of these countries that deal in degrees Plato, read the link it's a confusing system, so you will see 10's or 12's after each beer name.

Topvar 12 was first up and upon tasting it I knew why it wasn't readily available. It was a very run of the mill macro lager. I was hoping that Topvar would be their worst beer, sadly it wasn't... Urpiner Premium 12 was appallingly made! It was a really crude lager, which had raw alcohol flavours - IN A 5% LAGER! A better lager was Saris 12. It had strong malty characteristics and was quite enjoyable.

The Zlaty Bazant 12 was good, but not as good as the tap offering. Whilst Corgon 10, a beer I have a fantastic glass of back home, was the pick of the canned beers I picked up. It was a light, slightly hoppy lager that was very enjoyable. If someone is looking to import a Slovakian macro lager....

My last beer in Slovakia was another Czech one, Kozel Cerny. I had this on the train to Budapest, while I tried (and failed) to write this review. It has nice sweetness and is wonderfully drinkable for the style. This one is available in Australia, I'm pretty sure even at Dan's, and is one of the beers that got me started on my craft beer journey. Pick it up if you see it, it's a lovely beer with a hearty meal.

Slovakia apparently has quite a reasonable craft scene, it's hard to find though! If I'd had more time I would have checked out Le Senk more, the craft beer cafe, although the girl said that the Stupavar was the only Slovakian beer on tap at the time. The lagers are serviceable and (at times) can stand up alongside their Czech counterparts. Bratislava is not a city that I would not put at the top of your beer vacation lists.
 


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

Saturday, 27 June 2015

OUT OF OFFICE: THIRSTY CROW

Out of Office
 

STATS
  • Location: Wagga Wagga, NSW
  • Tasting Paddle: YES
  • Food: YES
  • Branded Glassware: NO
  • Merchandise: YES
It's very belated but I was determined to get this Out of Offiice review up eventually! I was on the way to Byron Bay for a work meeting and we left after work one day planning to stop at Thirsty Crow in Wagga Wagga for dinner. I think I speak for both of us when I say I'm glad we did - it was a seriously good spot!

Driving into Wagga Wagga I wasn't sure what to expect. The brewery is house in a huge converted warehouse, and I'd guess there would be seating for somewhere in the 150-200 people range. The brewery itself is on full display and there are signs posted around the place with the brew schedule and that people are welcome to come along and watch.

The bar was packed with a wide variety of people, a few older guys who were clearly regulars, a couple of groups of workmates, a family celebrating a birthday and a few couples dotted around. The atmosphere inside was really friendly and inviting with music playing, but clearly in the background to chatter and laughter. I approached the bar ordered my tasting paddle and took a food menu to the table.

So while perusing said menu I got stuck into my first beer; the Sporting Ale. It was a light spritzy ale, similar to a Kolsch. I quite enjoyed it. I followed it up with their Light Red Ale, a mid-strength at 2.9%, but packing the flavour punch of a much larger beer with great Galaxy hop flavours.

Next up was the 26-Fifty Summer Ale, it was a really solid Aussie Pale Ale, along the Stone & Wood Pacific Ale lines although a little lest refined. The Dark Alleyway IPA, a black IPA, was also a high quality brew, which I thought had roast and hops in abundance.

The last beer on my paddle was actually the reason we ventured up to Wagga Wagga; the Vanilla Milk Stout. It really is a truly world class beer, produced in regional New South Wales. The sweetness is just beautiful - it's a stout I could drink over and over again! My first venture outside the panel was to visit the Vienna Lager, in anticipation of my upcoming trip. I must say I was impressed, it retained the lager crispness while still being nice and malty.

Naturally I had to try a few more schooners of the Vanilla Milk Stout, it's left this indelible impression on me ever since the first one I had. It's a beautiful sweet stout that really is a leader in the Australian market. For those of you yet to try it, hunt it down; Fitzroy's Rainbow Hotel get it on from time to time...

The food was on the whole excellent, if a tad eclectic! The pizza with with mushroom, bacon, truffle oil and chevre was out of this world good, while I find it very hard to turn down a corn dog. The only let down where it came to the food was the dumplings, which were a little cold and not that flavoursome. Some points were awarded there for serving them with vinegar, but they didn't quite live up to the other two dishes.

Like most breweries, Thirsty Crow had a few of their wares on offering to take home in stubbie form. They were disappointingly out of my favourite beer of theirs, the Vanilla Milk Stout... However, thankfully, all was not lost as they are one of a growing number of venues to do take away growlers and squealers. I think I may have already reviewed this beer, but if I haven't trust me it's brilliant! Thee Thirsty Crow squealer I now own almost, repeat ALMOST, made up for the lack of branded glassware.

So guys, that's a wrap. As you can probably tell by the tone of my review I really enjoyed visiting Thirsty Crow. Make sure next time you're up in Wagga Wagga you pop in. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is great, the food is good and most importantly so is the beer! I'd say that this is one of my more memorable microbrewery visits and now I'm needing an excuse to get up to Wagga Wagga to visit again!

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

EUROTRIP 2015 - AUSTRIA

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Beer O'Clock on Tour is returning for the first time in a couple of years. We're kicking off in Austia, a central European country with a proud beer drinking culture. Very little of their beer makes Australian shores, with the main exception being the Stiegl range.

Austria was our first port of call and we were subsequently pretty jet lagged. Our take home options were therefore limited to the supermarket. I ended up with 6 lagers, ranging from the Stiegl and the Puntigamer that I've heard of to the Schwechater Bier that I've never heard of. My is that I'll be able to supplement that with a microbrewery visit somewhere along the line.

The first beer I had in Vienna was at a shop that sold only cake, champagne and beer. Wiener Original from Ottakringer was the beer and it was just about passable as a malt dominated lager. The Steigl Beer that I'd bought earlier that day was next and it was a better, crisper lager that I would be more likely to look for again.

On a bike riding wine tour (yes it was awesome!) in the Wachau Valley I had a Kaiser Fasstyp. It was consumed very shortly after a steep mountain hike and so I was particularly thankful for the beer and impressed with it's refreshing qualities. Whether it proves to be a great beer if I have it in the future will be a story only for time to tell...

Next up was one that I'd never heard of before; Wieselburger Gold. This was a Helles Lager (like most of the Austrian lagers) and a perfectly acceptable one at that. This turned into a shower beer after a long day. A trip to the Schonburg Palace wouldn't be complete without an Austrian staple, Zipfer Urtyp. I had this lager sitting in the sun at about 11am, and whilst a little watery it was exactly what I felt like. 

A Stiegl Weisse followed in the St. Stephen's Square that afternoon. This was a disappointment as I've had it before and enjoyed it, but this particular version was a little watered down with hints of banana and almost no cloves. A Trumer Pils, a favourite of mine, was next at the Belvedere Palace. Before a trip to the first of two breweries.

First was Salm Brau, located at the base of the Lower Belvedere. The majority of the venue is taken up by a beer garden, which was perfect on the day we went!! The food was excellent, as were the two beer's I tried; the Marzen and the Bohmish G'mischt (Bohemian mixed dark). Both were easy drinking beers which I would certainly have again if the conditions were replicated.

It was at this point I realised I wouldn't get through all the supermarket beers I'd bought if I had the conventionally. I decided to sample approx 150ml of each, pick my favourite, drink that and pour the rest out. Zipfer Urtyp was first up and was much better in the can, tasting like a crisp lager and proving to be the overall winner eventually.

Schwechater Bier came and went and was very yeasty and not enjoyable. Whilst Puntigamer, a beer I have a lovely mug of back home, proved itself to be a perfectly drinkable lager if not particularly distinguished. The last of these beers was the Austrian Gambrinus, given it's Czech namesake I had high hopes. They were dashed almost as soon as I cracked the can. It was distgustingly sweet and I barely would have drunk a third of my 150ml serve before turfing it.

My final beer related stop in Vienna was 1516 The Brewing Company. Walking up to the venue I was shocked by it's size, it's enormous! Spread over two level and with a huge outdoor area out the front, packed full of locals. The taplist was relatively traditional, with the real surprise being the Victory Hop Devil IPA - which is apparently now brewed by 1516 in Austria!

The other beers from their range that I sampled included a nice crisp unfiltered lager, a Weisse that was very very drinkable, a wonderfully roasty Dunkel and a Grapefruit Summer Wit. They were all actually very good with the Victory/1516 Hop Devil and the Bavarian Dunkles the standouts. The Grapefruit Summer Wit was a trial brew which was a little lacking in grapefruit and body, but had the Belgian yeast of the wit downpat. Try the food at 1516 if you get there, it's really good!

So that's a wrap for Austria. It was a country full of good beer and really good food! If you do get a chance in Vienna make a visit to 1516 (if time permits I'll get an Out of Office up for it), it's a really unique venue for Austria and will let you get the hop fix that many of you may be missing. Let me know your thoughts on the beers you had in Austria either by email gus.norris7@gmail.com ; on Twitter @Beeroclockau ; or follow my journey live on Untappd. Until next time...


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

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

UNTAPPD CATCHUP 25

Untappd Catchup

A combination of Good Beer Week recovery, work trips and preparing for my holiday have delayed my reviewing again. So here we are again with another really big Untappd Catchup, hopefully it's my last for a while...

Fiji Bitter, a beer I review at the end of May, earned Beer Connoisseur (Level 13). This is a badge that is for drinking beers from different countries, and subequently indicating I've sampled beers from 65 countries since joining Untappd. The beer isn't bad, but also isn't worth seeking out.

The honour of Finding the Source (Level 4) went to Thirsty Crow's Sporting Ale, at their brilliant venue in Wagga Wagga! I thought this was a wonderful Kolsch and one I would certainly seek out again. With any luck I'll get the Out of Office review for this venue done on the plane.


Another brewery I managed to visit on the drive up to Byron Bay for work was the New England Brewery in Uralla. Their New Englander Farmhouse Ale was the first, of three, of their beers to earn badges. It was a very clean Saison, which is open fermented in the traditional way. I was very impressed by it actually. Trip to the Farm (Level 9) was the badge.


Keep Your Wits About You (Level 2) was the second badge to be earned by a beer from New England Brewery. The beer was their dark wit (something I can't recall having had before); New Englander Black Sheep. It's a beer that really impressed me; particularly with the peppery spiciness towards the back end of tasting. I would be interested to try more dark witbiers in the future.

The third, and final, beer from the New England Brewery in Uralla to earn me an Untappd badge was their New Englander Frederick India Red Ale Hop Cannon. It started off as a nice Red Ale, with plenty of carampel malts present. For a beer with the phrase "Hop Cannon" in the name I thought it could have packed a bit more bitterness, but the flavours were nice. Hopped Up (Level 12) is why I'm mentioning this beer now.


Rogue New Crustacean Barleywineish IPA has to go down as one of the most confusing beer names out there, as well as one of the longest. I actually quite enjoyed the sweetness of the Barleywine component that offset the hops very nicely. It's not a beer I'd drink everyday, but with it's bright blue bottle it'd make a nice present for someone.

Pucker Up (Level 18) went to a beer that I was planning to review but ran out of time; Nomad's Freshie Salt and Pepper. It's a Gose, a style that is not brewed anywhere near enough in Australia but is gaining in popularity. This is on the lighter sour scale but has great saltiness. I remember not getting too much pepper, but did get some. It's a beer I hope to re-visit when I get home.

Dutch Beer Week has been and gone and I ended up with the badge after sampling 3 offerings from my favourite Dutch brewery; Emelisse. Their Espresso Stout was the beer that got me over the line. It was excellent with plenty of coffee and roast flavours. It was wonderfully creamy and one I will certainly be looking out for in the future.


Inveralmond's Blackfriar unlocked God Save the Queen (Level 27). I remember having it after a big night and that there was some dark fruit flavours and strangely banana, but little else. What I do know is that Inveralmond is a Scottish brewery from Perth (Scotland not Australia) and that this was supposed to be a Scotch Ale, which it may well have been... I will revisit it down the track.

The Jester King shipment that arrived for Good Beer Week has been creating some serious waves in Australian craft beer circles. Repose is the first of mine that I cracked into and as an aside it earned Land of the Free (Level 36). It's a Biere de Garde and is truly unique and exceptional! It's had hay added to the mash, had old hops added and is then left to age in brandy barrels for months. It's very complex and makes me so grateful I bought 2 of these!

Evvery single time I do one of these reviews a Tru Bru Bear Club beer makes the cut. Tuatara's Sauvinova, a Single Hop Pale Ale brewed with Nelson Sauvin, was that beer this time as it earned Drink Like a Kiwi (Level 20). This was a spectacular beer! It's packed full of tropical fruits, particularly gooseberries (which Nelson Sauvin is known for) and pineapple. There's nice amounts of grapefruit as well that add good bitterness.


Grand Ridge 25th Annivesary was the beer that unlocked the commemorative badge for the Womens World Cup. It was a standard Australia Pale Ale, a beer which I didn't think did justice to Grand Ridge's 25 years of service to the brewing industry. Hopefully they'll still be around in another 25 years and be able to brew something more memorable for their 50th!

HopDog Beerworks make some of the most interesting beers in Australia from their Nowra (mid NSW coast) base. Their Black IPA; Children of Darkness, is no exception. The one I sampled on this occassion was found cleaning out my beer cabinet and may have been a tad past it's best - but trust me from past experiences this is a Black IPA not to be missed. Hopped Up (Level 13) is why we're talking about it, you've already seen this artwork in this review for the Hopped Up badge so there's no need for me to re-hash that.

A simple Carlton Draught stubbie on the way to the State of Origin game at the MCG unlocked a new badge for me; By the Campfire. It's a location based badge, which research showed me is unlocked by checking into 5 beers with locations considered by Untappd to be outdoors. All of you should know what Carlton is by now so I won't even go into it.


The beer I decided to pack with was an absolute blinder! Big Shed's GABS offering was Golden Stout Time - a Golden Gay Time flavoured stout! This tasted EXACTLY like a Golden Gay Time! I wish I had more/they brew it again! It earned two badges Heavy Weight (Level 32), a badge you've already seen before, and New Brew Thursday (Level 13), my arch nemesis - see previous Untappd Catchup's for backstory. In short though, if you only have one beer from this review make it this one!

As a badge whore there was no way I was not going to check into 2 Founders Centennial IPA's to earn the Bi Centennial badge. On my last day in Australia I rushed around looking for the second can I needed, it was found and enjoyed. It's an IPA I've enjoyed many times before and one I'd highly recommend.

So there we have it guys, an absolute monster of a Catchup for you. I'm in Europe now and will see how I go updating you on my beer exploits. So far it's been good, Austria surprised me quite a lot. Currently I'm on the boat on the way to Bratislava, Slovakia - a city and a country which I am not holding high hops for (beer-wise of course!). Until next time guys, keep letting me know what you're drinking and any thoughts of what you'd like to see on the blog in the future.

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

Thursday, 18 June 2015

REVIEW: BREWCULT MILK AND TWO SUGARS

 GABS 2015 People's Choice Winner


STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: Milk Stout
  • ABV: 7.2%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Expensive
The GABS People's Choice awards is the one that carries the most notoriety in Australian craft beer circles. It may not be the most prestigious, but it's one that gets everyone talking. This year the mad beer scientist that is BrewCult's Hendo walked away with the gong for his offering; Milk and Two Sugars.

Milk and Two Sugars is an "Imperial Milk Stout" packed with heaps of coffee from Axil Coffee Roasters. It's a beer I sampled on the day and was impressed by in my little (85ml) sample. The true test of any beer though is how it stacks up when you have more of it; and today is that day. So enough talking, let's crack into it!

As expected the beer pours a very dark colour with a khaki head. The heads retention isn't too bad but it does fade to barely a rim of foam around the edge of the glass before the end of drinking. This tends to lead me to think that it has relatively low carbonation as I also can't see any bubbles rising to the head. As Milk/Sweet Stouts go though, this looks pretty stock standard.

Onto the nose; and you're immediately smashed in the face by a cavalcade of coffee aromas. It's absolute full of the stuff! There's also a light chocolatey element and a mild sweetness, which seems milky. I suppose that would be fitting as it is a milk stout. I detect very little bitterness on the nose, with whatever is there seemingly coming from the roastiness of the coffee.

BrewCult's Milk and Two Sugars really is a wonderful beer. As expected there is plenty of coffee and roast flavours; as well as lots of milk sweetness. There's also a fair amount of chocolate there, with barely any noticeable hop bitterness. If you are a fan of a sweetish coffee this is a beer you cannot miss!

Over all I think this is a fitting winner of the GABS People's Choice Award for 2015. It's inherent sweetness won't appeal to everybody, but for those who can get passed that you will be rewarded with a terrific beer. This was a little more restrained than some of Hendo's previous GABS offerings but it was no less memorable! Track this down while it's still available.

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

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

BACCHUS NZ IPA (PART 3)

STATS
  • Country: Australia
  • Style: American IPA
  • ABV: 8.2%
  • Serving Type: 500ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey 
Hopefully you all enjoyed Part One and Two of my look at Bacchus Brewing Co.'s New Zealand Single Hop IPA pack. If you haven't already read it you can find them here and here. If you can't be bothered clicking through to that here's a little bit about the pack, taken from the previous reviews.

Much like the BrewDog IPA is Dead range, Bacchus' NZ IPA pack utilizes the same malt bill heavily hopped with the hop the beer is named after. Unlike the IPA is Dead reviews, this review will be done in 3 parts of the next month or so as I decided that 9 x 500ml bottles at 8.2% seemed like a bad idea in one sitting, especially if I was to try and write something somewhat coherent at the end...

We've looked at most of the big hops in the New Zealand beer scene so far in this series, however we've saved one of the biggest for last; Motueka. In this review we are going to look at the aforementioned Motueka, Wai-iti and finish off with the NZ Mix IPA - an IPA with all the Single Hops sampled so far in it!

I decided to start off with Wai-iti, a hop I previously knew very little about. My googling has revealed that it's a low alpha acid variety which should impart plenty of citrus. There's also some talk about it having to be used in large quantities to impart much flavour, so I'm interested to see what Bacchus have done.

The flavour really intrigued me; I can't remember having quite as much lime flavour in an IPA. It was almost sour, yet was clearly bitter. (Hopefully that makes sense...) There's also other citrus fruit flavours with lemon and grapefruit noticeable as well as some mandarin that I wasn't expecting. 

Motueka is a hop that most Australian/New Zealand craft beer drinkers would be familiar with. This is a hop that I've had in beers a lot before, I've even had a BrewDog IPA is Dead (Single Hop) with Motueka in it. It's normally packed with tropical fruits, something I'm looking for at the moment, so I'm hoping Bacchus have delivered.

This was unfortunately the first Bacchus Single Hop beer that let me down a little. There was plenty of the tropical fruit flavours that I was expecting; it was almost like a fruit salad. In one aspect this was good, on another it led to it being a little too sweet.

The final beer in the pack was the NZ (New Zealand) Mix IPA. This beer was a mix of the 8 hops that have been used in this series to date. Namely; Rakau, Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu, Waimea, Pacific Jade, Riwaka, Wai-iti and Motueka. Judging by most of these beers this will also be an excellent beer.

I thought that the NZ Mix IPA really wrapped up the series well. The hop bill mentioned above really epitomized the main themes of the hops in this series, and I suppose New Zealand hops as a whole. It packed plenty of citrus and tropical fruit flavours as well as excellent bitterness. It may have liked the pine of many of the top ranking IPA's but it was very good for those who appreciate the other key elements of IPA's.

This was a great pack that would appeal to either seasoned drinkers or people just starting out on their craft beer journey. To Ross and his crew; great job guys, keep brewing new beers - and I hope to see more Single Hop IPA's in the future, an Aussie edition maybe? In the meantime guys, keep your eyes peeled for offerings from these guys - they are brewing some great stuff!

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

Monday, 8 June 2015

GABS ROUNDUP 2015

 GABS ROUNDUP


Here's my roundup, mostly off iPhone and Untappd notes, of this year's GABS beers. I thought on the whole that this years offerings were of a higher quality than previous years.

I have to give thanks to Lizzie for the photo's dotted throughout this review. And I'm also going to combined the GABS Untappd Catchup in here as well (not sure how yet...) but let me know your thoughts via the usual routes.

Section 1 - The line at Container B when I walked into GABS at 12:10 on Friday encouraged me to start at Section 1 this year. Two of the beers that I thought would be excellent really delivered, while the 4 Pines and Bentspoke offerings were both a little underwhelming. The 8 Wired beer was excellent and one I was very happy I got to try despite neglecting when selecting my beers. 3.875

4 Pines Snickers - Having been impressed with their recent Keller Door releases this was a bit of a let down. It was an easy drinking Brown Ale but was lacking in flavour.
7 Cent Beer is so Over - Interesting ingredients, all the hipster things you can think of; kale, goji berries, quinoa - the list goes on. It was a brilliant red colour and lightly tart. It also earned the Fruits of Your Labour badge on Untappd.
Akasha Fire Within - This beer absolutely lived up to what I was hoping it would be. It was what I've always imagined a Riverside 444 would be. Brilliant balance of hops and malt.
Bacchus Atomic Lemon, Lime & Bitters - Absolutely nailed the concept! This beer was packed full of Lactobacillus with blood orange and bitters both prominent flavours.
Bentspoke Black 'n Sour - This wasn't black enough or sour enough for my liking. It was lightly smokey and a bit odd. Not awe inspiring from these guys from the A.C.T.
8 Wired Hippy Berliner - Lizzie was so impressed with this one that she said I had to try it, she wasn't wrong! This really was an excellent Berliner Weiss! It also earned Pucker Up (Level 17).


Section 2 - Section 2 was a really interesting one. All 6 beers I sampled were very different with BrewCult's Milk and Two Sugars, an Imperial Milk Stout laced with coffee, the clear standout. I was also very impressed with the Dennis offering, while the Doc was a little down on his usual lofty standards (possibly due to my expectations) but still produced a lovely palate cleansing sour!

BrewCult Milk and Two Sugars - Hendo's creation was served to me instead of the Boatrocker Gose. It's packed full of coffee and a deserved winner of the People's Choice award. Don't worry guys there's a full review to follow.
Bright Lord Helmet Schwartz - Really interesting Schwarzbier with licorice as the secret ingredient. Doesn't sound good but it certainly worked!
Byron Bay Hefen & Hell - Good execution of the style. There was plenty of hype from the people sitting around us about this. It didn't quite live up to the name though.
Cheeky Monkey Death Dancer - This was wonderful, albeit lacking in a little rye. There was good roast characteristics as well as plenty of pine and some Belgian yeast.
Doctor's Orders Serum - I had such high expectations of this beer that I was bound to be a little let down. It wasn't as sour as I'd hoped it would be, but it was particularly refreshing.
Dennis Fat Freddy Got Finger-Limed - Another of Lizzie's; albeit that I tried it for a different reason - she hated this one! It was puckeringly sour with plenty of citrus.

These taco's didn't look good, but were delicious!
Section 3 - I took a bit of a punt on the Indian Ocean beer because it was an Altbier. It was poor and really let this section down. Definitely a section, for me anyway, packed full of darker stuff and I really enjoyed them all. I'd like to have the Belgian Strong Dark from Fortitude again, I think after a year or so mellowing it could be really good.

Ekim [ragna]ROK - I was expecting this to be good but not this good. This was a brilliantly balanced Imperial IPA along the lines of 777. I hope this gets released post-GABS.
Fortitude Noisy Minor Opium - Belgian Strong Dark Ales are often dominated by dark fruits and spices, however this example was ruined by too much spice.
Green Beacon Cherry Oak Stout - Absolutely wonderful! The sour cherries in this beer were an absolute winner!
Homestead Velvet - Going into GABS I thought this would be better than it's predecessor, however it paled into insignificance behind the Green Beacon offering. Still a good beer though.
Indian Ocean Mumme - I don't recall having a beer from Indian Ocean before, and I think this may be my last. This was a very poor Altbier. Too smokey, not crisp. It just didn't work for me.
Funk Estate Afrogato - Another of Lizzie's - this was brilliant! It was a creamy, roasty Imperial Stout which showed very little of the 8.5% ABV.


Section 4 - For me Section 4 was the pick of the bunch. There are 4 beers in the 7 I sampled here that I would actively seek out again, namely; Kaiju's, MoonDog's, Mountain Goat's and Moa's beers. I don't think there can be higher praise of a GABS beer, something that is experimental that has clearly worked! On my Untappd ratings however, it was actually the second highest rating section...

Kaiju Betelgeuse - I didn't expect anything less from Kaiju! This was an excellent hoppy Amber Ale that drank dangerously well for 10% ABV.
Liberty Inde Saison Pale - A late decision as replacement for the La Sirene Bebe Rouge, which was gone by 2pm... It was a nice hoppy Saison, although nothing particularly special.
MoonDog Spotted Dick with Custard - MoonDog are particularly hit or miss, more so than any other brewery I can think of. This Barleywine was absolutely a hit! It was sensational with toffee, raisins and vanilla all notable. It also unlocked the Wine of Beers badge for drinking Barleywines.
Mornington 2 Dogs - I can't quite believe I'm saying this about a Mornington beer but this was a bit of a let down. It was slightly smokey and slightly hammy, didn't quite work for me.
Mountain Goat Night Cap - Brilliant! Reminiscent of Ramjet, although not quite at that level. Plenty of whiskey and coffee. I really hope these guys bottle this!
Membrillo Hefeweizen - The Home Brew Champions beer. I thought it was a really nice introductory Hefeweizen. This guy (and a few others) has just launched his commercial brand, Pact Brewing, so keep an eye out. Heffenista (Level 6) was unlocked by checking this beer in.
Moa Feijoa - Moa's effort was sensational! I had to try this after the 8 Wired Feijoa Sour, which you can find a full review of here. This was even better! I think I want to try a Feijoa now.


Section 5 - Interestingly section 5 was the highest rated according to my Untappd ratings. Two Black IPA's probably helped, I do love them! Murray's Brutus was excellent as expected and Panhead's Bourbon Old Fashioned, tasted exactly like a Bourbon Old Fashioned! However I don't think I'd actively seek out many of these again.

Murray's Brutus - This was the point in the day when Lizzie and I could resist temptation no longer and had to stop in at the Milk the Cow store - god the cheese plate went well with this beer. It's excellent and the 16% ABV is brilliantly hidden.
Nomad Massive Foo Fighter - I loved the amount of hops in this Black IPA, worked really well with the coffee and roast flavours. These guys are going to be big players in the Aussie craft beer scene very soon...
Panhead Bourbon Old Fashioned - Nailed the beer version of the Bourbon Old Fashioned! I couldn't fault this at all, it was brilliant! Drink Like A Kiwi (Level 19) was earned by this check-in.
Pirate Life Barbe Noire - Pirate Life delivered an excellent beer to back up the hype around them. This was a big Belgian Black IPA, which I really enjoyed. It also unlocked Sky's the Limit (Level 9) - for drinking beers above 10% ABV.
Riverside Hop Hefner - Hop Hefner wasn't as good as I was hoping, however Riverside still delivered a nice citrus heavy Hefeweizen which was very drinkable.
Pixel Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart - Tasted exactly like salted caramel!


Section 6 - This was the weakest section by far in my eyes. The one shining light was the Yeastie Boys Not Kettle Black, which was beautifully crafted beer. The Stomping Ground Inception Lager was a very promising sign of things to come, with a brewery and beer garden to open in Collingwood later this year. The others I sampled were a little middling.

Six String Mor Lam - This delivered a really interesting flavour, dominated by lemongrass. It certainly isn't going to appeal to most but I quite liked it.
Southern Bay Wolfgang Chang - Normally I love Dunkelweizen's however this was very poor! There was far far too much Chinese 5 Spice and it completely ruined it for me.
Stomping Ground Inception - Couldn't ask for a nicer start from the guys. This was a very clean. citrus heavy lager. Lager Jack (Level 41) was unlocked by this beer.
Vale Pie Cart - I got the ham that I was expecting, but unfortunately not the split pea I was hoping for. It was slightly smokey though, and actually work quite well. Another beer to unlock an Untappd badge, this time Heavyweight (Level 31).
Van Dieman One Night in a Black Tent - This could've been better balanced. Was heavy on wood flavours and raw alcohol. There was also so nice truffle
Two Birds Pina Colada - Two Birds often deliver with the GABS offerings; this was lacking the coconut that would've made it a Pina Colada, but it was a nice pineapple-y IPA.
Yeastie Boys Not Kettle Black - What a wonderful accident this was! A batch of their normal Black IPA - Pot Kettle Black got infected years ago, they kept some, some ended up in Pinot Noir barrels and GABS 2015 was treated to the result. Lots of red wine and roast characteristics.

There we have it guys, my Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular 2015 review is finally up! It's a bit of a monster so hopefully you stick through it and get to here. If you guys want to try some of these there are kegs floating around some of Melbourne's best craft beer bars as well as the Tru Bru pack available nationwide through Dan Murphy's. This is a really interesting collection of beers so everyone should find something they like. Let me know your GABS thoughts, hopefully I'll get some more Good Beer Week stuff up this week. Until next time...

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

Monday, 1 June 2015

BEAR CLUB APRIL 2015

Tru Bru Bear Club - April 2015


Welcome all to another Tru Bru Bear Club review. This month is another bumper pack with all 6 extra's picked again. We're packed full of a variety of different styles as usual with the highlight without a shadow of a doubt being Boatrocker's Ramjet!

You may be thinking something along the lines of "April, what happened to March?" It's purely an administrative thing to get it all back on track after a couple of month's that took a little longer to put together than others. Anyway, the beer is still awesome so who cares! Enough preamble, it's time to crack into the beers!

Holgate Tank Nine's Series has been a veritable gold mine of interesting beers. This Vic Secret Wet Hop IPA was no exception. This is another Single Hop IPA, they seem to be all the rage on Beer O'Clock Australia at the moment! Anyway I'm not a huge fan of Vic Secret normally, but this was a really nice IPA. It had really good bitterness and more fruit and less earthiness than what I expect of Vic Secret normally. This is a beer I would keep my eye out for again.

Bridge Road Harvest Ale was the second beer up in this month's Bear Club. I doubt I'm alone in thinking this is the second best of the Bridge Road Harvest beers, behind Dark Harvest. This beer is packed full of citrus flavours and is very juicy. At 4.4% it's very easy drinking.

Marin Brewing's Mt. Tam was initially not even on the list for this month's pack, coming in as a late replacement for the infected Croucher Pils. It's an American Pale Ale that I've never heard of from just North of San Francisco. The beer itself is very good, with a lovely caramel malt base setting the platform for the floral and orange flavours from the hops to shine. It's one to keep an eye out for if you love balanced Pale Ale's.

AiRyEvil is a collaborative brew from the world reknowned Stone Brewing Co. and Nomad in Sydney, headed up by Leonardo of Birra del Borgo fame and the Experience IT team (more here). This is my third time having it, thanks Anton, and I hope I can get my hands on some more. As the name hints at, there is plenty of rye in this beer, and it comes across in the form of that distinctive peppery spiciness. There's also plenty of hops! They more than hold their own against the cavalcade of flavour that is the rye! It's not one for the non-lovers of oily hops! It's an absolute favourite!

Hopportunity from Behemoth Brewing is making it's first visit to Australian shores. It was a big chewy IPA that was loaded with Centennial hops. Accordingly there was so much resinous pine! It's very drinkable for 8% and is one that I hope becomes a regular out here.

A special release from Mornington was next up. These very rarely disappoint, so I was genuinely excited for it! Russell Brown is a Belgian Brown Ale which had chocolatey and nutty characteristics. There was some hop bitterness but the star was the Belgian yeast at the back end. It's a wonderful beer and one I'd look out for.

7 Cent are a long time supporter of Tru Bru. These guys from Gisbourne have produced an exclusive single keg IPA for the April Bear Club pack. It's an Imperial IPA called It's the Only Way, and it poured a particularly odd, very murky, brown colour. Despite it's unusual appearance it was a brilliant IPA packed full of bitter tropical fruit hops.

Belgian IPA's don't always do it for me. Cavalier's Hop Trap is one that ticks the boxes for me though. It's a great balance of funk and hops. The malt base is lightly spicy, while the citrus hops work brilliantly with the yeast,

MPA from Renaissance was next up. As mentioned in the most recent Untappd Catchup, I had this beer after a long night... However my mind is very clear on the beer. It was a beautifully balanced IPA, with sweet malts but more prevalent than I had imagined they would be. The hops were nice and bitter, with citrus and tropical fruits, particularly mango, very prominent.

Another beer from Renaissance was next up; the Oak Aged Stonecutter. This beer I've had previously and was tremendously impressed by. Normally I'm not a huge fan of Oak Aged beers but this work brilliantly. It's got huge vanilla and wood characteristics and yet still tastes like a Scotch Ale. The finish is nice and dry and 750ml disappeared much quicker than I thought it would've.

One of the last beers I had was one I was really looking forward to. It's a Belgian Strong Dark Ale from Lost Coast Brewery for their 25th Anniversary. For the ABV (8.8%) I thought this beer was a little light bodied and the flavour was more reminiscent of a strong Hefeweizen with banana and cloves the most prominent flavours. It was quite different to what I was expecting.

Last but certainly not least was Boatrocker's Ramjet. This beer is able to be summed up in one word; brilliant! It's a 10.6% Imperial Stout that has been aged in Whiskey barrels. This beer has won the Gala Choice award 3 years in a row! It's such a brilliant mix of creamy cocoa, light wood, vanilla and whiskey. It's a seriously complex beer and one that benefits from an hour or two in the glass. Stout lovers, if you haven't had this you MUST get it!

The Tru Bru Bear Club is done for another month. The next pack I'm assured is imminent so in due course we will begin reviewing that. Once again I've ordered all the extra's, some of which may journey with me to Europe... If reading this review is making you salivate, make sure you give Anton a call and get in on the action! It'll be one of the best decisions you make!

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