Tag Archives: alcoholic

Micro-view: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

I picked this up from a party store after remembering how good the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout was last time I had it, and for $4.80 it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The beer pours as an imperial stout should – thick, black, with a creamy-brown, foamy head and a decent spattering of lacing. Rich chocolate notes and roasted malts billow off the nose, with rich esters that suggest a high alcohol content. This clocks in at a moderate 7% ABV however, so I wasn’t too worried about ending a night of lager, hopfen weiss, and catching up on the footy with something titled ‘imperial’.

Mouthfeel is thick, low in carbonation, and feels like sucking down motor oil, albeit sweet, raisin-soaked motor oil. The beer features a well-balanced palette of rich chocolate malt, roasted malt, rich estery stone fruits, and a decent dose of bittering hops to carry the stout home.

I’m not sure I prefer it to their oatmeal stout, though there’s every possibility that I’m looking at the oatmeal through rose-coloured glasses. That said, for something so rich, high in gravity, and thick, it’s going down surprisingly well. Similar stouts have been just a little too sweet, or just a little too thick, but this verges on sessionable (a dangerous proposal, perhaps).

For $5 a pint I rate this as something everyone should try, if only to try a great example of a stout. I doubt how imperial it is, but it is good.

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A Trip To The Seaside

Everyone knows that feeling you get when you come back to something you haven’t had time for, only to realise that it’s been so long that it’s been made all the more difficult, right? Well this is me digging my heels in and making it happen. Allons-y.

I was recently propositioned by my parents to make a trip to our beachside shack and catch up, and as an added bonus, the suggestion of a brewery hop along the way seemed like an obvious choice of activity. Trouble was, breweries located an achievable distance away from our vague route to Golden Beach were few and far between. The only ones one I could think of were Grand Ridge Brewery in Mirboo North and Red Hill Brewery (in Red Hill, duh), but as they have grown into pretty big players in the craft beer scene, we set off for the seaside with eyes bright and tails bushy.

First on the list was Grand Ridge. I can safely recommend making a trip out there for the scenic journey alone. Spectacular views and greenery. The brewery itself is a large old barn-like building that apparently used to be a butter factory, which houses all the brewing equipment and the bar and restaurant. Strangely enough the bar and restaurant did have a TAB feel to it, but I guess you have to accommodate the locals. (One patron had the gall to request a Carlton Draught. At a craft beer brewery.)

We didn’t order food as we weren’t sure how much time we had up our sleeves, but all the dishes we saw looked and smelled amazing. Instead, we each order a tasting paddle which included the Brewer’s Pilsener, the Natural Blonde, the Gippsland Gold, the Yarra Valley Gold, the Hatlifter Stout and if memory serves, the Moonlight nut brown ale. Having tried most of these before at the Grand Ridge showcase at Chloe’s Bar, the paddle was just a refresher. Everything in the paddle had a very similar flavour (mainly the hop profile) when compared side by side, and seemed to have tasted a lot better by the pint back in Melbourne. I did get a pint of the Moonlight nut brown ale as I hadn’t had it by the pint before, and it was big on flavour but a little overbearing.

Having stepped down as driver for the remainder of the trip, my father ordered a pint of the Moonshine. He was as surprised at the $20-per-pint price tag as I was the difference in flavour from the previous beers. The Moonshine blew me away. It might have been the 8.5% alcohol content, or the added care for what appears to be a limited release, but my god it was brilliant. I had to pick up a bottle ($14 at the brewery) and its big brother the Supershine to review. Interestingly, the Supershine I bought came not from the brewery, but a small boutiquey cafe, which charged only $12.

Grand Ridge Moonshine

Pours thick, nice dark head that falls away leaving patchy lacing. Rich sweet, caramel nose. Deep roasty flavours – burnt toffee that blends perfectly with the mild, herbal hops. Also some fruit, such as cherry or plum. Very big, just how I like it. Leaves a dry, burnt flavour in your mouth that makes you want another, and another. Definitely more a scotch ale than a barleywine. Can see how they can charge $20 for a pint.

Grand Ridge Supershine

Less carbonation and head the Moonshine. Possibly a little lighter in colour. Similar sweet, rich nose, but not as strong. Very little carbonation in the mouth, but very smooth and creamy. Alcohol noticeable (11%) and very warming. Flavours aren’t quite as deep but they’re definitely strong. A little bit of candied citrus peel, well-blended bitterness, and the same burnt ending after each sip. As it warms it becomes smoother, but the alcoholic phenols become a lot more pronounced. They made a big beer bigger and did a great job of it.

Having filled up on Grand Ridge’s offerings, we continued on our destination, stopping only to pick up our drinks for the stay. My partner managed to find an incorrectly labelled six-pack of Duvel at Dan Murphy’s and scored it for $16, while I grabbed some Gage Roads IPA, Brew Dog Punk IPA and Baron’s ESB. The Duvel was much better than I found it previously, managing to hide an abv of 8.5% flawlessly. The Baron’s ESB was full of caramel malt (as expected), and the Punk IPA was a little rough. The Gage Roads IPA was a stand out as I’d not had before (and hadn’t really expected much, judging by the macro-styled label) and was pleasantly surprised. It was a solid, well-balanced IPA and I can easily recommend it.

We did the holiday thing and relaxed by the ocean, eating at local fish and chipperies and then just as we’d started to settle in it was time to head off for the return leg of the journey. I was quite excited to finally be visiting Red Hill Brewery as it had never failed to deliver an enjoyable product, but this was an extra special day. Not only was it the day of the Melbourne Cup (umm, woo!?), but the Red Hill guys had organised a special gourmet BBQ. There’s more – in addition to the good beer and good food, we were also dining with fellow beer bloggers Gem and Tristan of Eat, Drink, Stagger, and James and Jen of Beer, Bar, Band.

Red Hill had their Golden Ale, Belgian Blonde, Scotch Ale and Temptation available, all of which we tried (and loved). We also managed to sample the now released Bohemian Pilsner, which was light, fruity and very sessionable. We indulged on pork, ale-marinaded porterhouse, salmon and chicken snags until we were full to bursting, and then took a stroll around the hop field. That’s right, hop field. Excellent beer and excellent food in the middle of picturesque countryside AND they have a hop field. If there’s any way to fault them (and I’m trying really hard here) it would be that my own 3 hop plants have an extra 7 feet of height over Red Hill’s, so there.

We made an exit and headed back to Melbourne, feeling fully satisfied and very sleepy.

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…Beer Drink You! (The tale of The Communist Drinking Game)

Sometimes we crave excess. It’s true. Every ale connoisseur knows it, and every saison-sipper has been there before. We all love to sample different beers but there will always be the urge to have a little bit more. The other night a few of my friends and I indulged that urge, and I’m still feeling the repercussions.

To help us on our quest we had The Communist Drinking Game (those words will always strike a little anxiety into my sensitive consumerist heart) that had previously been toned down from a game of shotting vodka, to shotting beer. I shudder to think how it would have ended if we’d tried the original.

Without further ado, the rules…

So basically everyone takes turns pulling a card and paying the penalty. There are no winners, just a sliding scale of loss. That said, it was bloody fun. Being question-master was a highlight, as was the waterfall. For the first 4 or 5 hours it was a battle to learn and remember the rules and then after that my mind seemed to have ceased committing anything to memory.

The beer we quaffed included Barons Lager (meh), Barons 88 Balls (which is really fucking terrible), Coopers Sparkling (always reliable), Fat Yak (which was heaven after the 88 Balls), Big Head Pale (I like), my own Amarillo Pale Ale (which went down rather well, if I gauged reactions correctly) and I believe there was a hefeweiss in there somewhere as well. I made it home by 3AM, and proceeded to make bacon and eggs, setting of the smoke alarm as I went.

Drinking to excess is something that I’m doing much less these days (mostly due to the price of good beer), but when you find yourself in a large group of friends all getting their drink on, it just feels oh-so-right. While I doubt I’ll be indulging my self-destructive side again for a few liver-repairing months, if you do end up in a similarly precarious situation, I suggest you give The Communist Drinking Game a go!

On a side-note, I picked up a 19L stock-pot from Big W today, marked down to $11.98. That’s madness! Also grabbed a bottle of Duvel, a Young’s London Ale, and a Franziskaner Weissbier, so expect another post within a day or two.

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Friday Night Drinks With Steve

This post came from an impromptu get-together last night, organised after all the major bottle shops had already closed. Some minor supermarket ones were open, so I used the opportunity to try a couple of the beers I had always seen but never wanted to try.

Barons Lager

I’m a fan of Barons; they bring good beer to the masses, and for a VERY reasonable price. Lord knows I don’t like lager, but if I was in a pub that only (god forbid) served light lagers, this is what I’d pick. Very little flavour, but gets the job done better than most.

Hoegaarden Witbier-Biere Blanche My mate Steve and I were at The Local Taphouse last weekend and could have sworn we ordered this (despite prior reputation). What we received was an amazing wheat beer, deep and satisfying. It introduced Steve to the wonderful world of wheat beer, and we’d found ourselves an excellent beer we wanted to try again. When we found this Hoegaarden Witbier in the shop, it seemed worth a try. Unfortunately, it was traumatically light; tasting like off water. Sweet, slightly spicy, and with only a generic wheat flavour, this one disappointed. I suppose we will just have to go back to The Tap House to find out what the beer was we originally ordered.


“I’m actually looking forward to finishing it so I can move on to the next one.”

Redoak Organic Hefeweizen

This beer review was lost due to a fault of my iPhone, so I’ll make do.
The main points I would make is that the nose is very stark, and upon tasting, the flavour resembles a champagne much more than a wheat beer. My tasting buddies and I have become very wheat beer focused, and this really didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations. Apparently “Australia’s most awarded brewery 2005-2008”, I’d like to see those credentials.
Tart, very low carbonation, and generally very unpleasant.

James Squire Malt Runner

Not a beer I’d ever avoided, but one I’d simply not come across.

A nose giving waves of resin, smoke, fruit and an unusual saltiness. Flavours including the obvious malt, raisins/cherries, and a good back-palette of hops, and still the bizarre salty flavour sensed in the nose.

Perfect carbonation for such a rich beer.
A very full lager, very satisfying, and probably the most satisfying of the Squires I’ve had to date. If the alcohol content was any higher I’d suggest it was a disguised bock!
Very nice, very indulgent, and the perfect end to a night of disappointing beers.

Steve and I flog our favourite.

So after picking the last few things we could find from a bottle shop with very limited selection, we’ve found that Squire and Barons come out on top. Can’t say this is very surprising as these are breweries with other beers I know quite intimately (probably due to their availability and price), but if you only have access to a very mediocre bottle shop, these two are worth a try.



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Unibroue Terrible, St Bernardus Abt 12, BrewDog Tokyo.

Having heard good things about this one, my friend Tully and I decided to invest in a AU$35 bottle of ‘Terrible’, a Canadian uber-dark ale. (I have found it for ~$22, but as we were at a bar at the time, we suffered the markup.)

Pouring devilishly thick and dark, it was looking good from the beginning. Despite a fruity nose (fruity beer has thus-far led me to be very cautious), Terrible brings a vast array of flavours to the palette: primary fruity and sour, but also full, with caramel, chocolate, molasses and well-roasted malt. Not the hoppiest beer you’ll find but this is no issue. While I don’t want to rule fruity beers out, I have to admit I’ve not been a fan. This does fruity perfectly in my mind, matching the tartness with exactly the right amount of malt.

Om nom nom.

Clocking in at 10.5%abv, it packs an obvious punch, but not overpoweringly so. I’m glad I shared the bottle, as consuming the full 750mL of this beauty would not have been the best idea. It has a quality which I adore in dark ales, which is the ability to bring serious potency while maintaining refreshingly light mouthfeel. I have heard others disapprovingly mark this as being ‘watery’ but I wholeheartedly disagree. Easy-drinking but strong.

St Bernardus let me down with this one.

Comparatively, I was also recommended the St Bernardus Abt 12. I picked it up for $19 and was told it rivalled the Terrible. With that in mind, I was left disappointed. Too tart, not in the least bit hearty nor spicy, and felt like a far more generic dark ale. Pegged by St Bernardus’ website as “The absolute top quality in the hierarchy of the St. Bernardus beers” and “The show piece of the brewery”, I’m hoping that my bottle was just a little old.


While I’m on the topic of strong, dark beers I have to quickly mention BrewDog’s Tokyo. This beer comes from the brewery that holds that title of Worlds Most Alcoholic Beer (the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at 42%abv). There is a fair bit of hype about the affair, and as soon as I saw the unmistakable font of their logo designs, I knew I had to try this. (Not the TNP, as it sells for $150 a bottle. Yes, you read correctly.)

The Tokyo is simply sensational. You have to try it. It manages to fit an 18%abv content into a dark ale, and it doesn’t actually taste that alcoholic. It does taste incredibly rich, guiltily indulgent, and perfectly balanced, but the main achievement is that you cannot pick the super-high alcohol content.

I’ve had it twice now, the first involving my consumption being applauded by the bar-staff, and the second being a more private indulgence tucked away in the country with hearty food and family. This is something you want to share. One very small glass lasts half an hour, and you feel so, so satisfied with just that. I’d ordered the Tokyo and been delivered a 330mL bottle, and by the end of it was wishing it had been half that. The Terrible however, allows you to taste the alcohol (you definitely know it’s there), but the malts, flavours, and (briefly) hops are so well-balanced that you could fool yourself into drinking it all night. One day I might.

Terrible: yes. St Bernardus: no. BrewDog Tokyo: hell yes.

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