Thursday, 12 October 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: October 

I'm back! It has been a hectic couple of months at Beer O'Clock Australia headquarters that has seen the blog fall by the wayside a little. Lizzie & I have moved, my thesis is going to be submitted any day now and I've had reasonably major foot surgery. I'm hoping to use the ensuing down time to catchup on a few things I've neglected; starting with August's Beer-thusiast Pack review.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

For the first time in a few years I'm going to have a co-reviewer on Beer O'Clock Australia. The plan is that we'll divide the duplicates at soccer soon after they arrive. We'll both drink them individually and record our thoughts, before getting together to share the single beers in the pack (and possibly a few more!). The format is sure to change over these first couple of months as we work through some teething issues, so please hit me up if you've got any feedback.

So this month saw the first error we've seen in nearly a year being apart of the club. We received two Stockade's rather than two 3 Ravens, which turns out not to be a bad thing. Otherwise we ended up with 8 Australian offerings, which is a first for this club, one of which is a collaboration with a well respected American brewery. We've also got 5 unique beer styles and a beer from a brewery that I've never had one from before. All in all it's a pretty good looking pack!

Social Bandit Triggered - American Pale Ale - 4.8%

Social Bandit is a relatively new brewery based in Mansfield in regional Victoria. If I'm being completely honest this brewery had completely missed my radar. Triggered is their Pale Ale and one I'm interested to try, purely because I've never had anything from them before.

"I wasn’t a big fan of the artwork and combined with the old YAP (yet another pale) factor I wasn’t particularly excited by this. As often seems to be the case I was sorely mistaken though, this is a seriously impressive little pale. Really clean, plenty of stonefruit, good bitterness without the hops overpowering the base malts. Balance is so important with pales and this nails it, as it does with the well chosen hop mix."

Mornington Brown Ale - Brown Ale - 5.0%

In my mind this is one of the most important beers in the evolution of the Australian craft beer scene. It's one of the first beers to become popular away from the Lager/Pale Ale/IPA triumvirate. To paraphrase James from the Crafty Pint, this is the beer that made Brown Ale sexy in Australia.

"Every time I have a Mornington beer is another installment of ‘why don’t I drink this more often!?’. Their brown is still one of the best in Australia, it’s ostensibly an English brown ale but with enough hop character to keep it bright and lively. Lots of nutty, sweet, raisiny malt with well balanced bitterness and a super smooth finish. It’s a cracker. "

I think that is everyone's reaction with Mornington. I know I get the "why don't I drink this more often's" with them almost every time I have one of their beers. They are one of Australia's best and most consistent brewery's. 

Mash Copycat - American IPA - 6.8%

I've had this beer a few times over the years, and never had one experience that was the same. I approached this with some optimism however; hoping that the new labels were a sign they'd changed their practices behind the scenes as well. They had, unfortunately for the worse... I don't recall the last beer I poured down the sink - but that's where this went!

"While mine wasn’t as much of a dud bottle as Noz’s, this beer has never been one of my favourite IPAs. I’ve always found the sweet malts overpowering, even with the big whack of hops this beer has, and this bottle had that to the point of being sickly. It’s certainly big and piney but simply too flawed to recommend in the crowded IPA market. "

I'm not one for bagging brewery's, but this was truly awful! This bottle was clearly infected; with flavours like bandaid, butterscotch and even some Brett (not in a good way). I'm pleased Dylan's was better than mine, because I couldn't quite believe that the beer I had could've passed any sort of QC program, that I assume they have.

Stockade HBA - Brown Ale - 6.8%

Stockade are a brewery that are really growing on me. They are the in-house label for BrewPack, one of Australia's largest contract brewing facilities. I've had about 10 of their beers now and have been reasonably impressed with all of them. I love the concept of this beer; HBA standing for Hoppy Brown Ale.

"Two good brown ales in the same month! Three cheers for Carwyn. This one is a bit bigger overall than the Mornington, but not quite as smooth. The bitterness is really nice and it has the increased body necessary to keep up with it. Definitely enjoyable — as an aside it looks fantastic too, thick long lasting head and a nice rich copper-brown."

3 Ravens Little Ravens Tripel - Tripel - 9.0%

Good Tripel's, particularly Australian ones, are hard to find. Given Brendan's recent track record of producing quality offerings I'm hoping that this may be one to add to that list. Yeast is always what lets the Australian iterations down. Apparently 3 Ravens have sourced the yeast strain used by Unibroue - a famous Canadian brewery who produce phenomenal Belgian style beers. The beer sounds very promising on paper.

"This didn’t really remind me of any classic tripel I’d had in the past. It was unfortunately a fairly disappointing beer overall, with some nice yeast flavours overpowered by a cloying sweetness that persisted even as the beer warmed and other flavours began to emerge. It lacked balance as a whole and didn’t really work for me."

I have to agree with Dylan on this one. The whole thing didn't quite click for me and was cloying. The one think that worked for me was the yeast. Oh well, I'm still pleased to have tried it.

Prancing Pony Black Ale - Black IPA (American Black Ale) - 6.0%

My love of Black IPA's is well known; accordingly I was thrilled to see one included in this pack; especially one from one of Australia's most interesting brewery's. Their fire brewing technique provides the most complex malt bills in the country. Although I've had this beer before -  I don't really recall it - and am really keen to try it again.

"This isn’t really the Black IPA it's billed as but it’s a nice beer nontheless. As you’d expect from a Prancing Pony joint this is a great example of how to use malt, with heaps of body and good length in the roasty, chocolatey flavours within. I did find it lacked a bit of hop punch overall which took it down a notch."

Modus Operandi Sonic Prayer - American IPA - 6.0%

I was slightly disappointed when this beer was elevated to a year round beer in place of the excellent Zoo Feeder. Those feelings have softened over the last year as I've had more and more of this fabulous IPA. I've had 10+ cans of this over the last year and love the pine and citrus flavours that this beer gives.

"This was the first time I’d had this beer in over a year...given the amount of IPAs that are released monthly it was basically like trying it for the first time. I remember being impressed last year and this time was no different, lots of fruit salad hops on a well balanced base. It’s one of those great IPAs that’d be very approachable for the newbie while still satisfying a veteran, hop craving palate. "

Kaiju/Breakside Peregrination IPA - American IPA - 6.2%

Every year a number of Good Beer Week collaborations are made. One of this years best was the collaboration between Kaiju, Breakside (from the U.S.A.) & The Catfish (the Fitzroy pub). Basically it's a version of Breakside's famous Wanderlust IPA, with the American hops subbed out for Australian hops.

"This is definitely the most straightforward IPA I’ve had from Kaiju. Being a collaboration with Breakside (from Oregon in the US) it makes sense that this is a straight up and down, clean, punchy West Coast IPA. I enjoyed it but there’s really not much to say about it — if you want a no-nonsense IPA this will definitely do the trick."\

It feels good to finally have this review done and dusted. With any luck I'll get the September one up in the next week or so, I think we've drunk all of them, as well as touching up my thesis and a couple of long overdue posts up. As usual keep the feedback coming in - I'm far more on top of that than I am on contact at the moment and I would like to turn that around.

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

Sunday, 13 August 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: July

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 5 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

By now you should know the drill. Dylan and I will each drink the duplicates, split the singles and then collate our thoughts here. I'll run through a bit of the background of the beer, before Dylan comes through with the tasting notes. I'll chip in with an additional comment if our opinions greatly differ, they rarely do, or if I've got something to add.

The July Pack followed a similar theme to the June Pack, one that I thought was a step up on the few previously. The duplicates are comprised of four Australian offerings of distinct styles, with the new Hop Nation Pale Ale and the Frankenbrown from Big Shed the two most intriguing. The Australian singles are from two rarely seen breweries in Victoria, while the two internationals are an absolute classic (Rodenbach) and a new one from the most innovative brewer in New Zealand (Garage Project).

Hop Nation The Heart - American Pale Ale - 4.6%

It seems just about every brewery worth their salt has a Pale Ale. Until the recent release of The Heart, over two years after their first beer releases, Hop Nation was one of the very few successful breweries to survive without one. It was a beer I was really excited about and so have had quite a few of these before this one.

"Hop Nation are quickly becoming one of my favourite local breweries and this is another affirmation of that. It’s an interesting little pale, packed to the rafters with hops that come off as lightly ‘green’ when the cans are this fresh. Lots of tropical, exotic fruit flavours in here. I’d imagine it would suffer heavily when not drunk fresh, but as it is for 4.6% ABV this is a little flavour grenade, great for a hop fix."

Like Dylan I really rate what the guys at Hop Nation are doing and this Pale Ale is no exception. On top of the fruit flavours identified there's this floral element that works really well in combination.

Balter IPA - American IPA - 6.8%

Since Balter launched this beer has been an inevitability. It was only a matter of time before they delved into the most beloved style of craft beer drinkers. This certainly isn't a world beating example of the style but, like all of Balter's beers, it is a really solid straight up and down IPA.

"Probably my least favourite of the Balter cans to date. It’s only by a slim margin (and they do have a really strong range), but given craft IPAs are such a stacked field this did little to stand out. This is in contrast to their other offerings which all have something I can point to as being especially good. This is a big, malty IPA with hops that are more pine driven than fruity. It’s a solid example of the style but nothing exceptional, especially at nearly 7% ABV."

West City Brewing Oaty Session Stout - Oatmeal Stout - 5.0%

West City Brewing are a gypsy brewing operation launched in 2015 that brew out of breweries such as Kaiju/Exit & Bad Shepherd/Wolf of the Willows. I was surprised to learn that the Oaty Session Stout was actually their first release back then, I'd always assumed it was Footscray Ale. It's a beer I've had a few times and have always been impressed with.

"I reckon this is the most smashable stout I’ve had! It has a fairly relaxed and creamy body, light milk stout style sweetness and dark chocolate before finishing dry. In between the oats rounding out the body and the balanced hop presence this is an immensely drinkable dark beer, one that lives up to the name as something that is very easy to put away."

I was very sad to hear this week that the original founders of West City are parting ways and looking to sell the business. They've made some really nice beers over the years and I hope that the business is able to continue.

Big Shed Frankenbrown - American Brown Ale - 5.3%

I was seriously excited to see this beer in the pack; in my mind it's Australia's premier Brown Ale, with Mornington running a close second. Big Shed Brewing Concern, to give them their full title, are a rapidly expanding brewery in Adelaide producing some really good beers. If you haven't heard of them yet, you will soon.

"Super well executed American brown. Hop character is strongly present but the bitterness is kept well in line, providing a great, balanced flavour profile. You’ve got a pine and citrus driven aroma that mingles with biscuity malt and coffee flavours as you drink it. Something a bit out of the ordinary that struck me while drinking this was how good the carbonation level was — really lifted up the flavours and made it exceptionally drinkable. I love a good brown ale and was impressed by this, another tick for Big Shed from me."

Rodenbach Original - Flanders Red Ale - 5.2%

Rodenbach. The name alone evokes feelings of happiness among craft beer drinkers. A beer that is sometimes overlooked from their range is the Original (or Classic depending who you ask). It's the beer that defines the Flanders Red Ale, much the same way as Pilsner Urquell defines Pilsner.

"I love this beer more every time I have it. It has a great sweet and sour thing going on with that unmistakable Flanders red balsamic/cherry/wood flavour profile. It’s very drinkable but has enough complexity to reward repeat visits. Carwyn have been chucking a classic or two in each pack the last few months and this is a great continuation of that. A wonderful beer."

If you want to read more about the wonderful Rodenbach, you can check out this Bottle vs. Can Debate post I did years ago on it. It's a beer everyone should try at least once!

Last Rites Dead Man's Revenge - Black IPA - 6.5%

Last Rites are a Hobart based brewery that we see very little of over on the mainland. They've been around since 2014 and, if their Untappd ratings are anything to go by, have been producing good beers. It was pleasing to see another Black IPA in a Beer-thusiast Pack, I've been thrilled with the resurgence of the style over the last 6 months or so and was really looking forward to trying this one.

"This beer definitely didn’t muck around — flavours smack you in the tastebuds as soon as you take a sip. There’s plenty of hop flavour and bitterness here, along with potent roasty, sweet malt. I found there was a bit of raw alcohol in here which didn’t ruin the beer but did stand out, even amongst the aggressive flavours. I enjoyed it overall without loving it."

Garage Project Fuzz Box - American Pale Ale - 5.8%

I would be surprised if anyone reading this post didn't know who Garage Project are. Based in Wellington, New Zealand; they are probably the most innovative brewery in the Southern Hemisphere and consistently produce wonderful beers. Brewed in collaboration with Frankie's Pizza in Sydney, it's a Pale Ale/N.E. IPA that is hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic & Nelson Sauvin.

"Described as a ‘murky IPA’ by Garage Project, this is definitely in that NEIPA/hazy pale ale territory. Given Garage Project’s deft hand with hops you’d then expect this beer to be excellent...and it unsurprisingly was. Super juicy, lots of tropical fruit, punchy bitterness (which is probably what prevented them from putting it under the NEIPA banner). Thoroughly enjoyable."

Clare Valley Brewing Co. Export Stout - Stout - 6.0%

This is the first CVBC beer I've had since their re-brand. I've always enjoyed their beers when I've had them in the past, however none have blown me away. This is the first time I've seen their beers in Melbourne, the previous beers all having been purchased in Adelaide on work trips.

"I was impressed by how rich this was, heaps of cocoa. There’s a bit of aniseed in there which provides a little streak of flavour that breaks through. It has a big, well rounded body for 6%. This is my first beer from CVBC and although it wasn’t my favourite (it was a good month!) I found it one of the more memorable beers of the pack, purely due to the intriguing, tasty flavour profile. I reckon this beer (or a bigger version of it) would hold up well to spirit barrel aging."

For the first time in a long time, I've managed to get the previous months' review up before the new one has been delivered! Hopefully this is a sign of things to come on Beer O'Clock Australia as my MBA winds down and my free time (hopefully) increases! This was a really solid pack, with all the beers on a very even footing. I'm really enjoying this new pack composition, so hopefully it will continue in August. As a side note; with any luck the long awaited Stout vs Porter post will finally be finished this week!

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

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Untappd Catchup

Recently I received an email from Peter reminding me of a beer social media discussion I was involved in about this time last year. At the time I stated that one of the ways I use Untappd badges was to ensure diversity in the beers I'm drinking. Apparently there has been too much homogeneity in my badges of late for Peter's liking and I've set out to rectify that.

This Untappd Catchup is dedicated to new badges, badges I have less than 5 levels of and badges that I haven't unlocked this year. There will obviously be a couple that slip through the cracks - but for the most part they should be relatively new.

First up is the special Belgian Beer Month (2017), which was unlocked by a Delirium Tremens during a brew session a few weeks ago. The badge can be unlocked by checking into any of these classic Belgian beers before July 21st. The beer is part of the June Carwyn Beer-Thusiast Pack and will be/has been analysed in more detail there.

When flicking through my badges working out what fit my criteria, I was shocked to see that I hadn't unlocked Belgian Holiday since New Years Eve! Alvinne's Wild West Grape Edition was the lucky beer that unlocked (Level 31) of the badge for drinking Belgian beers. It was a really cool beer with that trademark Alvinne teeth stripping sourness compliment by lovely dry blackberry, grape and oak flavours. These guys never put a foot wrong in my books.

A seriously long day at work preparing for a court case lead me to abandon my pursuit of new badges and instead have the first barrel aged stout I could find in the fridge. Emelisse's White Label Russian Imperial Stout that was Ardbeg Barrel Aged was just that beer and it unlocked Sky's the Limit (Level 31). If you don't know what Ardbeg is I would not recommend this beer. It's a big stout with plenty of peat carrying over from the whiskey - it was just about the perfect beer after a long, freezing cold Melbourne day!

Said court case went surprisingly well and I rewarded myself with a trip to Slowbeer for a beer and some cellar restocking. Whilst there I sampled Tiny Rebel's Stay Puft, a marshmallow Porter that unlocked Verified Adventure (Level 16) {I'm guessing the jump in levels was due to a new venue that I've had numerous beers at being added to the list of Verified Venues.} In any case, the beer teetered on the border of being too sweet but for mine stayed just inside it. Think of it as a chocolate marshmallow in beer form.

Later that evening I ended up with Richo at The Crafty Squire in the CBD. One of the many beers I tried was the Karni Kölsch, the James Squire GABS beer. It was billed as a fairy floss Kölsch and it didn't miss the mark by a million miles. The base beer was relatively carbonated, pale and inoffensive before the cavalcade of overwhelming fairy floss sweetness kicked in. It was a struggle to make it through the whole pot. Verified Adventure (Level 17) was the badge.

By this point in the evening I'd dispensed with their lighter offerings and stuck to their far superior darker beers. James Squire's original dark beer; Jack of Spades. It's a Porter, and a pretty good one at that which also happened to unlock To the Port (Level 4). I did not recall the amount of aniseed in this Porter, but it gave off a wonderful licorice flavour which was well complimented by the dark malts.

Ramjet Day was the next day... Dylan and I decided to have a quick beer at Otter's Promise on the way through to Boatrocker. By some strange coincidence they had the new Boatrocker "Stout" on their newly installed taps. If you are looking for a straight up and down example of an American Stout, look no further. Brilliant from Boatrocker as usual! This beer unlocked a badge that you are going to get very familiar with, Middle of the Road - possibly the dumbest Untappd badge to date, which will cover beers with an ABV of 5.1%-9.9% filling the gap between Riding Steady & Sky's the Limit.

At Boatrocker we decided to ease into things with their Wilde Cherry. their take on a Flanders Red Ale which due to whoever classified it, unlocked Wheel of Styles (Level 23). I was really impressed by this beer, which was phenomenally balanced. The juxtaposition between the wood & vanilla, from the barrel aging this beer has undergone, and the fresh tart cherry was superb. I believe this is only available from the Barrel Room - but it is definitely worth the effort to get there!

The beer we were there to launch; Boatrocker Ramjet (2016/17) unlocked 2X (Level 24). It's the biggest of all the Ramjet's to date, a Starward Whisky Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, clocking in at 13.6%. In my mind this beer is still a little young, with the Starward component too far to the fore. This beer will be a serious candidate for Australia's best beer after a year or two in the cellar I think - it should age brilliantly!

The Boatrocker Ramjet (2015/16) version was the next beer to unlock a badge; this time Imperial Czar (Level 8). This beer was the perfect examply of why the (2016/17) version will be better with at least a years age on it. It was phenomenal! With whisky evident, but more in the background, combining with plenty of roast and some nice vanilla from the barrel aging - although it doesn't come close to the smoothness of the (2014/15), my favourite Ramjet to date.

Many more Russian Imperial Stouts, Whiskys and other beers were consumed without incident. The next day Richo and our respective partners had dinner planned. Despite my crippling hangover a Saint of Circumstance from Collective Arts Brewing unlocked the commemorative Canada Day (2017) badge - for drinking a Canadian beer over the relevant weekend. It was a light, easy drinking Blonde Ale which had nice citrus hop characteristics.

The second, and thankfully final, beer of the dinner was a Southwark Old Stout. Richo brought these over and I'm glad he did, as it is a classic Australian stout that often drifts into the periphery. It really is the Australian take on a Russian Imperial Stout, with plenty of dry roast and coffee dominating the 7.4% ABV body. It's a beer that I will certainly have to re-visit shortly in the future. You're hearing about it as it unlocked Middle of the Road (Level 2).

Rising Sun, the badge for drinking Japanese beers, hasn't been unlocked since September, 2016. Asahi Dry Black, a Dark Lager from the brewing giant, unlocked Rising Sun (Level 6). It was nothing particularly special, but I have to say that it did hit the spot in terms of drinkability for the style. If you have a craving for Dark Lager (rare I know) this would not be your worst bet.

A beer from the Carwyn Beer-Thusiast June Pack; Firestone Walker's Easy Jack unlocked Independence Day (2017), a commemorative badge for drinking a beer on July 4th. This is really is an excellent example of a Session IPA as it packs all the hop flavour and bitterness of its full bodied brethren.

Something very unusual happened when I checked in To Øl's Yule Mælk BA Cognac & Sherry Edition. Something that hasn't happened to me in years. Four badges were unlocked in the single check-in, completely by accident! They were; Sky's the Limit (Level 32), Danish Delight (Level 18), So Udderly Sweet (Level 2) & 2X (Level 25). How was this possible you ask? Well it's a Danish Imperial Milk Stout that clocks in at a whopping 15% ABV.

This beer was from the To Øl Beer Club, which I was apart of until the shipping cost was drastically increased - something neither of us could foresee or control. Which was a shame as it got you access to limited edition beauties like this. The lactose sweetness, so present in regular Yule Mælk, was subdued by the lovely sherry, cognac and woody notes that were imparted to this beer. It was truly decadent and the 250ml bottle was more than enough!

I don't believe I've written about the beer that unlocked Middle of the Road (Level 3) before on Beer O'Clock Australia. **HUGE CALL ALERT!!** It's my favourite of Pirate Life's excellent beers; the Mosaic IPA. Mosaic is an incredible hop that is able to provide a wide array of flavours and aromas; from pine to tropical & stone fruits. The Pirate Life combines elements of the pine with some mango and loads of stone fruit. The bitterness is punchy and at 7.2% ABV they pack a punch.

Regular readers of the blog may know that Czech Dark Lagers are the reason that I got into craft beer. Therefore it was fitting that a Czech Dark Lager; Staropramen's Cerny Lezak, unlocked the new badge for drinking dark lagers; Schwarz-buckler. This was my first time having this particular one outside the Czech Republic, my normal go-to being the Kozel, and it lived up to my expectations with the roasty, caramel body just as I recall.

Paint the Town Red (Level 17) was unlocked by surprise during a "work meeting" at Dr. Morse. The beer was Blood Moon from Old Wives Ales, one of my favourite Melbourne breweries. More in the Red IPA than Red Ale territory, this beer really strikes a balance between hop forwardness and the sweet malts you'd expect from the style. I now have a bottle of this at home to re-visit in the not too distant future.

Our homebrew is going to rear its head again now with Middle of the Road (Level 4). It took us a while to brew our first IPA as we wanted to get it right. The Gambhir, named after one of India's best batsmen in late 2000's, clocks in at 6.2% and 62 IBU's. It's generously hopped with Citra, Amarillo & Mosaic and is showing some promise. This was the first tasting of it and it was still a little green, I'm really keen to see how it has melded together once I return from my holiday.

Later that day another Full Toss beer unlocked the next level of the same, soon to be infuriatingly common badge; Middle of the Road (Level 5). Richo, Dylan & I sampled one of the last remaining bottles of The Cowan, our coffee Porter, as we sought to construct an all-grain recipe for it so we can seriously upscale the output. This was tasting as good as it ever has at around 3 months from bottling, with coffee at a really nice level and the Chelan hops having lost that slight vegetal character they displayed at earlier tastings.

Wailing for Wales has been a long time coming for me. Welsh beers are pretty uncommon here, with the exception of Tiny Rebel whose beers beers turn up occasionally. I had a number of them in the preceding weeks leading up to this badge, most of which were excellent. Unfortunately the Beat Box that I had to unlock the badge had a Brett infection. It was a real shame as the hops were fruity and juicy and I thought the beer had potential to be pretty good.

Gluten-Free beers have never really done it for me. I've slowly accumulated a couple of them towards the badge over the years and needed just one to finish it off for this post. Omission Pale Ale, a new option in Australia, has recently been stocked at Dans and was the chosen beer. I'm pleased to report it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, tasting relatively malty but not noticeably lacking in body like many other Gluten-Free beers Unfortunately the hopping was sufficient and let it down a bit. I don't think you could tell it didn't have gluten, a real win in this market.  It unlocked Gluten-Free & Middle of the Road (Level 6).

My parents went to the Bahamas a few months ago and brought back a couple of cans from the preeminent craft brewery on the islands; Pirate Republic. Their Gold & Haze of Piracy, a fruity Belgian Ale billed as a Witbier (but clearly not one!) unlocked Deep Blue Sea; the badge for drinking beers from select Caribbean countries. I wasn't sure what to expect of Bahamian craft beer, but this was a better Belgian Pale/Blonde Ale than most found in Australia.

I thought that the Kees Double Rye IPA, which unlocked Going Dutch (Level 5), might have been pushing it age wise. I loved the concept of the beer, not enough Imperial IPA's employ the lovely spiciness of rye in a meaningful way. This beer had a bunch of that distinctive rye spiciness, which was unfortunately let down a little by the citrus hops which seemed faded and dull. Despite the slightly less than vibrant hops, I still think the beer worked excellently.

A beer that did not work quite as well was Naparbier's Avant-Garde Barley Wine, Barrel Aged Oloroso version. For those who don't know Oloroso is a Spanish fortified wine similar to dry sherry. The beer was too sweet, possibly because it needed further aging, with raisins and dates dominating the flavours. There was also some vanilla and wood, although this were somewhat neutralized by the sweetness. Flamenco (Level 2), the badge for drinking Spanish beers, was unlocked.

Radler's, some call them Shandy's, are a very common thing in some parts of the world; Australia is not one of them. Basically they are a mix of lemonade and beer which, depending on the concentration, can be quite nice. The RADler badge was unlocked by the first Croatian beer I've had for a longtime, Pan Radler Limun. In my mind this one was far too sweet, although I will admit it was quite refreshing, whilst Lizzie loved it. To each their own I guess...

Winter Wonderland (Level 7) rolled around in the form of Two Birds' new seasonal Winter Stout. This is the first of 4 beers that will change with each season from this brewery. It's an Oatmeal Stout and it packs all the creaminess and roastiness you'd expect from the style. There's also this interesting berry finish as the beer warms. I'd highly recommend this to anyone looking for an easy drinking stout.

4 Pines are the latest brewery to jump on the Hop Hash bandwagon with their aptly named Hop Hash XPA, the latest from their Keller Door Series. It unlocked Middle of the Road (Level 7) - this badge is going to be over in less time than Riding Steady took! This tasted like most Australian XPA's with nice tropical fruit and pine notes.The mouthfeel is where the difference becomes more apparent. The finish is really really dry on the palate, more so than the other Hop Hash beers I've got to try. The jury is still out for me on this one.

Almost 2 years to the day since my last one, a Rodenbach Original unloccked, you guessed it, Middle of the Road (Level 8). This was part of the July Carwyn Beer-Thusiast Pack, refer to that post for more detailed tasting notes. Dylan and I shared the singles from the pack whilst bottling our N.E. IPA, which looks and smells amazing! This beer is an absolute classic, even better Dan Murphy's has it and even they would struggle to ruin this beautiful sour - everyone should try it!

Another beer from the July Carwyn Beer-Thusiast Pack unlocked The Dark Side (Level 4). I'm not really keen on this badge due to the heavy crossover with the Black as Night & Schwarz-buckler badges, but I digress. The beer was from Last Rites Brewing Co. and was their Dead Man's Revenge Black IPA. Black IPA, I'm very pleased to say, is having somewhat of a revival in Australia. This one had a lovely balance between sweetish malts and bitter tropical hops.

Yet another beer from the July Carwyn Beer-Thusiast Pack unlocked a badge. This time it was Clare Valley Brewing Co.'s Export Stout, which unlocked the new Hopped Down - for beers under 20 IBU's. In my mind this was clearly data entry error as this was quite a bitter Stout, which should easily exceed 20 IBU's. with plenty of cocoa & licorice. I think this badge will be less common than some might think, many beers that aren't hoppy don't carry IBU's on the packaging which will lead to many that aren't entered.

To Øl very rarely disappoint, however by their standards their Shock Series: !!PA Citra & Galaxy was somewhat disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice Imperial IPA - I just don't think it's up to their usual lofty standards. There's a reasonably big malt base which combined with some aggressive alcohol somewhat masks the intricacies of the Citra & Galaxy hops, that in my mind, work better in lower ABV beers with restrained malt bills. It unlocked Middle of the Road (Level 9).

My first Hawkers Stout since the badge update unlocked yet another level of Middle of the Road; this time (Level 10). As Dylan and I both mentioned, it's an Irish Dry Stout by name and by nature. It's very easy drinking with all the Stout flavours you would expect; roast, coffee, chocolate etc.. It has a small edition of oats, which makes the beer feel quite creamy. If you're looking for an everyday affordable Stout, look no further!

We're starting to see the first of the Good Beer Week collaborations finding their way out in the world. Kaiju teamed up with the guys at The Catfish and Breakside Brewery from Portland to create the Peregrination IPA. The beer is based on Breakside's award winning Wanderlust IPA, but has been rejigged and packed full of Australian hops. The resulting beer is excellent! The malt is relatively light which allows the stone fruit and resinous notes of the hops to really shine through. Better Together (Level 24) is why you're reading this.

As has become a very strange, completely unintentional tradition, my pre-exam beer unlocked 2 badges; New Brew Thursday (Level 36) & Middle of the Road (Level 11). The beer was Mornington's ESB, which I'm assuming is a re-working of the #tinnage nitro ESB. I've really come around on ESB's as a style, with this one being one of my favourites yet. It had this really fruity and marmalade thing going on, which was beautifully complimented by some earthiness.

After years of disappointing beer selections I've decided to take a styrofoam box of cans everywhere I go from now on. Up in the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland the first beer I cracked from my stash was Pogo from The Wild Beer Co.. I was genuinely impressed with this Pale Ale, which oozed with tropical fruit aromas and flavours, with guava the most dominant of these. It unlocked God Save the Queen (Level 43).

A trip to FNQ wouldn't be complete without a stop at the huge Hemingway's in Port Douglas (and soon to be new location in Cairns). I got to try a few of their core range beers which weren't ready shortly after their opening last year; including Pitchfork Betty, an Australian Pale Ale. It was the best of the beers I tried on this visit. It's quite a bitter Pale Ale with plenty of pineapple and passionfruit flavours. I was surprised to see that it unlocked Verified Adventure (Level 18).

Middle of the Road (Level 12) was unlocked by a beer that I've been a big fan of for a while; 3 Ravens Juicy. It's the best Australian take on a N.E. IPA I've tried to date. It's incredibly fruity, no doubt helped by an obscene amount of dry hopping. It looks like juice and is barely bitter at all. It's also just about the perfect shower beer, particularly in hot humid conditions.

An old favourite of mine, BrewDog's Jack Hammer, unlocked (you guessed it!) Middle of the Road (Level 13). I've talked about the variants of this beer numerous times on here but seemingly never about the original. It's a typical West Coast IPA, with stacks of pine resin and grapefruit dominating a very light malt base that doesn't do much more than provide a platform for the hops to do their thing. A word of warning, be sure to double check dates with this beer! There is some pretty old stock floating around, fresh it's as good as it gets!

Sailor's Grave are becoming known around Melbourne for their weird and wacky (and often sour) releases. One of the latest is Milky Way, their ode to Calpis (a Japanese fermented milk drink) & first GABS release, which is brewed with lactose, custard apple and vanilla beans. It's a unique beer, which has a slightly lactose sweetness and a slight tartness. It's a beer you really have to try if you like genuinely odd things - I'm at a loss for words to explain it. They've called it a Berliner Weisse, which is probably the closest style to what it is, and hence it unlocked Ich Bin Ein Berliner (Level 5).

As my holiday drew to a close, I popped down to Cairns to watch the footy with a mate who's up there for work. Pre-game we had a couple of Mountain Goat Steam Ale's at The Courtyard, which was a pretty cool bar/pub/restaurant. The first of these unlocked Beer Foodie (Level 4). The Steam Ale's were cheaper than in Melbourne and tasted really fresh - it may have had something to do with the 28 degrees and brilliant sunshine but they went down a treat. I'd highly recommend eating at The Courtyard, I had a chicken schnitzel with pulled pork on top which was excellent.

Back in Port Douglas I was trying to polish off the last of my beers I brought from Melbourne, one of which; Nomad's Freshie Orange & Caramel Gose unlocked What Gose Round (Level 8). I love regular Freshie, however this take on it didn't work for me. The beer lacked salinity and tartness, whilst the orange flavour was faint and the caramel a little overpowering. I wouldn't have called what I was served up a Gose. This was the first real dud I've tried from Nomad, everything they do is usually pretty solid.

The boys down at Hop Nation are producing some really impressive beers at the moment. Their latest creation in collaboration with Exit & Big Shed is Black Rhino Cherry Lips, a smoked black Gose which has been laced with cherries. It's an incredibly complex beer; salty and sour at first, before chocolate, smoke and dark cherries become apparent on the palate. It finishes relatively dry with a lingering peaty finish. It unlocked the cursed Middle of the Road (Level 14) badge, and features some of the best beer artwork I've seen this year (see top of page)!

The first brew that went through my recently acquired Grain Father unlocked Home Brewed Goodness (Level 6). The beer was The Boult from Full Toss Brewing, which is an American Pale Ale based on The Southee with a fair bit of Galaxy added to the Falconer's Flight. The resulting beer is one of our best yet, with some passionfruit joining the masses of mango that characterized The Southee.

The last Middle of the Road badge for this Catchup was (Level 15), which was unlocked by Wayward's OATIS. Wayward is a Sydney based brewery that is slowly seeing more beers stocked in Melbourne. This is the first time I've had their regular IPA, which was apparently their GABS beer in 2015. It's a really clean malt bill, with the oats shining though from a texture point of view, which allows the hops to shine with grapefruit and apricot to the fore. I'd happily drink it again, it's a lovely beer.

New England IPA's have been all the rage over the last year or so. Naturally Dylan, Richo & I thought it would be a good idea to brew one. Last Thursday I cracked my first Full Toss The Orchard (we broke our naming rule and named it after an umpire, so fitting was the name) after my holiday.
The flavour was spot on with masses of fruit, particularly mango, coming through with little to no bitterness. The colour was just a touch off, nothing that some additional oats won't fix next time. IPA Day 2017 was the badge.

I think this may be the longest Untappd Catchup ever! In huge part due to the silly introduction of the Middle of the Road badge... In any case, I'm hoping to get back on top of things as my thesis wraps up soon. With any luck the Stout vs Porter post will be up this week, but knowing my luck sometime in September may be more likely. Keep the emails coming in, I'm just about on top of them all again!

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


The Beer-thusiast Pack: June 

Since the temporary demise of Tru Bru's Bear Club, I've been looking for a beer club to fill the void. Up stepped The Beer-thusiast Pack from one of Melbourne's finest craft beer establishments; Carwyn Cellars.

The Beer-thusiast Pack is delivered to your door monthly. It's composition is a complete mystery until it arrives - although it's likely to include a number of local offerings. Each month 12 beers arrive, including 4 duplicates. As many of you know I'm not generally one for duplicates, which is where Dylan comes in.

Dylan and I share a love of sport and have been playing indoor soccer together for a few years now. Dylan's love of craft beer has grown over the years to the point that he's now an avid Untappd user and works at a boutique bottle shop, with a large craft beer range. His tastes are not dissimilar to mine; with a preference for sours and hoppy beers over maltier offerings.

If not for my thesis taking up inordinate amounts of time I would have had this post up on time. Dylan got his notes to me in ample time, I just dropped the ball a little... In any case; my draft is now submitted and I plan to use the next week or two to catchup on a few long awaited bits and pieces.

I was really impressed with the pack presented in June. The duplicates were all Australians - with four unique styles represented. Probably the most interesting of these was the newest release from Mornington's #tinnage series. While it was pleasing to see two of the new-to-Australia Firestone Walker beers included, particularly after the great chat I had with Adrian during GBW, while the Courage RIS was a real blast from the past!

Hawkers Stout - Stout - 5.4%

This beer has been an inevitability since Hawkers launched. I wrote a piece in April of this year (link here) about their core range focus, rather than the slew of single releases other breweries put out. Like all their beers, this is a well crafted example of the style; in this case an Irish Dry Stout.

"Hawkers have one of the best core ranges if you’re looking for simple, polished examples of individual styles and their stout follows right along with that philosophy. It’s a dry stout, with a rounded body and the expected coffee and chocolate notes. Oats add a nice, silky note to the mouthfeel. The flavours as a whole are fairly restrained but the balance is great, there’s no perception of the beer being too thin or too heavily trained towards bitterness or roast. It’s just a good dry stout, one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for an easy going winter brew."

Since drinking this one for the review, I've had countless of these during cold late nights slaving over my thesis draft. It's a phenomenally easy drinking stout that I can't recommend highly enough!

Mornington Brain Squeeze - Sour - 4.8%

The #tinnage series has been quiet in recent months, I think the Mosaic IPA (#007) was released in September/October last year. #008 is called Brain Squeeze; a hoppy kettle sour. I'm really keen on hoppy sours, although this is the first one I think I've had from an Australian brewer (Almanac's & To Øl's spring to mind as excellent international examples).

"Number 8 in their ‘#tinnage’ series (which has been solid across the board so far) comes Mornington’s hoppy kettle sour mishmash. I’ve drank a heap of Mornington beers but as far as I can remember this is the first sour I’ve had from them. It’s super refreshing, using a hop combo that calls to mind some of the trademark flavours from their wider release beers. There’s some tannic bitterness, citrus peel and juicy orange, with nice palate lifting tartness and a crisp finish. I quite enjoyed this and would have no trouble downing a six pack on a hot day."

Feral Karma Citra - Black IPA - 5.8%

I feel like I've told the story of this beer a thousand times before. It was Feral's very first GABS beer, back in the days that it was still held at The Local Taphouse in St. Kilda. The beer has been toned back a little since those heady days - however it's still a respectable example of the style.

"This is one of those ‘I should really have this more often’ beers. I tend to forget what it tastes like, especially with more black IPAs floating around nowadays. This is first and foremost a Citra bomb, with big, thumping citrus flavours and bitterness supported by a light roast profile. It can be a tough thing to balance a black IPA — I feel like the most important thing is to know what you want to go for and back your ingredients in, rather than just going for either ‘roasty IPA’ or ‘super hopped stout’ (which I taste a fair bit from the style). Feral have definitely done that here, clearly using the chocolate/coffee notes in the background to let citra’s flavour come out even more than it would normally via the roast/hop juxtaposition"

Holgate Mt Macedon Pale Ale - American Pale Ale - 4.5%

I was pleased to see this beer appear in the pack, purely to see if the last bottle of it I had was an exception or the norm. The last one I had was massively over-carbed although not noticeably affected flavour wise, however it could only have been caused by an infection. Holgate are a brewery who used to be renowned for quality, I was surprised to see this issue in their flagship Pale Ale.

"I remember this beer being very tasty in the past, but recent bottles I’ve had have been overcarbed to the point of ruining the beer. The bottle in the Carwyn pack didn’t quite suffer to that degree, but it was still overcarbed. It’s a shame as the flavours are really nice, with Cascade/Ella/Topaz all showing through on a well balanced malt base. Hopefully it’s just a temporary issue."

Although better than the last one, this was still too carbonated for my liking. It's a real shame that Holgate's beers are turning out this way at the moment, as they used to produce quality beers all the time. I may stay off them for a while until I hear more promising reports.

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion 005 - American IPA - 5.9%

The Luponic Distortion series from Firestone Walker is a seriously cool idea. The beer changes every 90 days and uses a raft of new experimental hops to create different flavour profiles. The base beer is always the same, clocking in at 5.9%, whilst IBU's are kept at a moderate 59. I'm really excited to get to try this - well within it's 90 day window to boot!

"I really dig the idea of a rotating IPA series and based on this one I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for more. There’s a fairly light, clean malt base with lots of snappy bitterness from the hops. I mostly remember the amount of fruit I got, lots of guava, pineapple, lime and lemon. It sits at about 6% ABV so it’s a reasonably sized IPA, but as a whole it’s definitely on the lighter and more sessionable side flavour wise."

Firestone Walker Easy Jack - Session IPA - 4.5%

It's really refreshing to see an American brewed example of a Session IPA that comes in at under 5% ABV, anything over that is bordering on regular IPA territory for mine. In any case, Firestone Walker employ hops from Germany, New Zealand and the United States in creating this wonderful beer. This is going to be my first "properly" imported Easy Jack and I'm really looking forward to it!

"4-4.5% is where I like my session IPAs to sit, with punchy bitterness, well rounded mouthfeel, plenty of fruit and/or pine and a crisp finish. This ticks all the boxes, with the bitterness level also right on the money. They’ve really gone big in the fruit varieties with Mandarina Bavaria, Hallertau Melon and Mosaic and it shows, with plenty of stonefruit and juicy citrus. I probably sound like a broken record by now but to be honest my biggest qualm with this beer was that it was a bottle rather than a can! If I can track down the latter I’m definitely drinking more of these."

Considering how highly the Firestone Walker guys value freshness, I was really surprised this beer was released here in bottles rather than cans. Cans would make a significant difference to the shelf life of a product that is eminently drinkable.

Courage Russian Imperial Stout - Russian Imperial Stout - 10%

Courage Russian Imperial Stout is a beer steeped in history. This incarnation is supposedly a recreated version of the Russian Imperial that Courage exported to Catherine The Great's court in 1795. After numerous ownership changes the beer was re-introduced to the British market in 2012 by the Charles Wells Brewery after a 30 year hiatus. True to the original recipe the beer is now aged for at least 5 months before it is available to the public.

"This was a cool little surprise to get in the pack. Hopefully Noz elaborates on the history a bit - it’s interesting stuff! Nice full body, interesting foamy texture, some apple/pear and dark fruit notes, very dry finish. Brett seems to work well with this, doesn’t dominate but adds a few interesting notes you wouldn’t normally expect in a big stout."

Delirium Tremens - Belgian Strong Ale - 8.5%

Delirium Tremens is one of the beers I hear the most when people tell me which beer started them on the path to craft beer. The beer is synonymous with all things good about Belgian beers. It's flavoursome, it's yeast driven and it's boozy. People may not recognize the name, but everyone will recognise the white bottle, light blue label and trademark pink elephant logo of this beer.

"I’m a big Huyghe fan, although weirdly enough it’s for their Floris fruit beers rather than their bigger Belgian ales. Having said that it has been a long time since I last had a Delirium Tremens so it was great to have the opportunity to crack one again. This is a really nice strong golden ale, the yeast flavour especially stood out to me. There’s a bit of sweetness and booziness but it’s all well balanced. This is another one of those classic beers that everyone should try, good from Carwyn to include it."

As Dylan said; "it's one of those classic beers that everyone should try". It's not the best Belgian Strong Pale Ale out there, but it is the most iconic and a gateway beer for many people.

Due to my slackness, the July pack has already been consumed by both of us and writing is well underway. With any luck I'll be able to use the remaining days of my post-thesis draft submitting holiday to finalize a few posts that I've been promising for far too long. Sadly the glassware post will not be one of them, as I'm still trying to resolve the issues with Photobucket!

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