Tag Archives: beer review

Lagunitas India Pale Ale

 

When I was putting together my list of breweries to visit or at least sample the wares of during my stay in America, Lagunitas was one of the first on my list. I’d had the pleasure of tasting a few of their beers back in Melbourne – the Red Ale was great, and the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was simply superb – so I was super excited to see their IPA stocked in quite a few party stores around Michigan.

I first tried it from a 330mL bottle, sitting in front of a lake with the sun overhead. I’d already had a couple of pale ales, warming up for the big hit of malt and hops IPAs always deliver. Trouble was, when I did taste it, I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t the big IPA I was expecting. This time, I grabbed a larger bottle and made sure to keep my palate fresh.

The beer pours a deep copper colour, with a cream-coloured foamy head and delicate lacing. Deep and mildly turbid, it does look impressive. The label boasts 43 different hop varieties and 65 different malts. Yep, that’s right.

I’ll admit, I’m excited to try it again.

The nose is almost sickly sweet and rich – the overwhelming, almost painful sweetness many homebrewers might recognise – but it is so goddamn smooth that it still remains inviting. It’s a little too difficult to pick anything out other than hints of pine, apricot, and citrus. And of course the malt. Heavy, smooth malt notes take the forefront and singe the sinuses.

Carbonation is low and mouthfeel is medium. It immediately feels like a different beer to the Lagunitas IPA I had two weeks ago. Rich, fruity, and malty, with a zingy back-palette. The lingering bitterness suggests more than the 45.6 IBUs listed on the bottle, but this is perfectly matched with malt.

By now the head has almost completely disappeared, and it is starting to desensitise my tastebuds. I still have over half my glass to go, and I’m losing pace. At such a low IBU value, and a not un-modest 6.2% alc, I would have assumed it would be slightly more sessionable, but no. Even the Tactical Nuclear Penguin kept me wanting more for longer.

Overall, this is a beer that tastes wonderful, demonstrates excellence in brewing and checks every box, but ultimately a pint is all I could drink. Well worth trying, especially the 330mL varieties.

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Micro-view: Dogfish Head Imperial 90 Minute IPA

Well, it’s pretty much perfect.

Smooth, fruity, aromatic, fresh hops. Sweet, balanced, caramel malt. Impeccably hidden 9% alcohol content. Ideal mouthfeel and carbonation. The box claims that it’s “probably the best IPA in America”, and I’d extend that to the world.

9% and sessionable. Well played, Dogfish Head.

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If I haven’t sold you, check out this 100/100 it’s gotten on Ratebeer.

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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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Micro-view: Rogue Northwestern Ale

An afternoon of beer! What a wonderful thought! Before I indulge in the consumption of a keg of beer some friends are organising, I thought I’d treat my palate to another bottle of Rogue.

I’d been putting this one off for a rainy day – literally, it’s been far to hot to appreciate beers with body – so today is the day.

It pours dark amber/red, with a fluffy brown head and thick lacing. The ale is far more turbid than the Orange Honey Ale I had the other day, and looks mighty more substantial.

A pleasant hint of sweet malt and caramel on the nose, and a touch of piny, fruity hops. Upon tasting, I was reminded of Cooper’s heavier beers, but the distinctive Pacman yeast that Rogue loves is there also. The taste is big resin-y hops (yep, there’s Amarillo in there) balanced with caramel and chocolate malt.

A lively carbonation keeps this big, flavoursome beer fresh and drinkable. A roasted malt bitterness lingers and urges you to take another sip.

At 6.2% alc, it makes for a great special release (not that it’s in limited supply, every Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger I’ve been to seem to stock it) and is definitely worth a try. I wouldn’t class it as sessionable, but it would go down a treat with food.

 

 

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Micro-view: Goose Island Summertime

This one is a light, refreshing, tasty Kölsch-style ale from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewing.

Very sessionable, while retaining plenty of flavour, and a nice depth. Malty with citrus notes. Mild late bitterness is all that lingers. Low carb for easy drinking and a decent 5% abv.

Winner.

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Rogue Summer Orange Honey Ale

I’m in America.
Many of you already know that, and the rest of you were going to find out when I posted all my excitedly typed notes on the brewery visits, beers, and festivals I’ve enjoyed in the month since I’ve been here. But I’ve been too busy having fun to knuckle down and produce anything up until now, when I decided it was time to start drinking and reviewing the ever-increasing collection of beers lining the walls and insides of my fridge.

So to start the Beer Tour de USA, I’ll review a brew from one of my favourite breweries, Rogue Ales.

Rogue Summer Honey Ale

As I sit down to begin cooking the evening meal (butter chicken tonight, I think), on a 35+ degree day, it strikes me that I need a refreshing beverage to tide me over. Not the shameful half block of PBR, but a quality craft beer. Enter Rogue’s Summer Orange Honey Ale.

This little beauty pours as clean as a over-filtered macro, has about as much head retention, and has a suspicious straw/off-amber colour that could leave it mistaken for any “premium” lager, but it is better than it looks.

It sports a fresh, citrusy aroma, with plenty of sweet malt and a mild hop character. Upon tasting, the main adjective that comes to mind is ‘zesty’. It bears less resemblance to the Rogue Ales I’m used to and seems like a dilute homemade citrus cordial (or dilute American lemonade). It is low enough in carbonation to just add enough bite to add to the citrus element, without making it feel like a beer.

I can see why the RateBeer community might rate it 43/100, but I don’t agree. On tap, I would happily pick this as a session beer, and it suited my requirements on this hot day perfectly. Its mild, yet attractive flavour doesn’t overpower or shock the tastebuds, but it has enough of everything to please.

The label boasts coriander and chamomile, but I don’t find either of these to be especially indistinguishable. Rather, a barely detectable spiciness underlies what hop bitterness there is (and at 10 IBUs, that’s not a lot).

I found it discount at my local party store (yep, ‘Murica calls a spade a spade and sells alcohol and snacks in one convenient location), and for a few bucks, this sessionable 5% alc brew does exactly what it aims to.

 

NB: Recently, Sudsavant posted a really great review and comparison of both the Rogue Ales’ Double Dead Guy Ale and Stone’s Double Bastard. For my two cents, I love the Dead Guy ale, but found the Arrogant Bastard to be, well, a little arrogant. The Dead Guy was a really palatable ale, while half a sixer of Bastards are still sitting in my fridge, purely because there is an abundance of more attractive beers on offer. That said, I haven’t had the Double Bastard yet, and it’s been a year or two since I tried the Double Dead Guy, so I’m thinking I might have to do a comparative review myself. I also have a good 50+ beers in my fridge to review, and notes from a large handful of Michigan breweries to post in the coming weeks, so watch this space.

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This Post, A Placeholder

Having realised my lapse in regular updates I thought I would at the very least jump on and check in with what’s going on with me and with the blog.

It’s great to see the the blog is getting plenty of hits, even after months and months of inactivity. I must admit, I didn’t know whether what I was posting was incredibly relevant – it’s easy to get very bored reading beer review after beer review. What I’ve found though is that people are still getting to the site by googling particular beers. I guess if you see something on a shelf and don’t whether to buy it, a quick search doesn’t hurt. So yeah, contrary to my own previous beliefs, people do want craft beer reviews. I’ll make sure to start posting those from now on.

I also enjoyed seeing that the Communist Drinking Game post is still the number one attraction to the blog. Over 60% of all page views are of that post, and it comes up regularly in search term reports. I guess people love the novelty. I just hope you’re all drinking responsibly. (And by responsibly, I mean craft beer.)

In a couple of weeks I’ll be hearing back about an application I submitted to study abroad in Chicago. That plan is to head over in July and try every US craft beer I can get my hands on, while still acing my microbiology and bioinformatics (shudder) classes. I daresay a lot of this will be posted here on the blog, including a trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. I seriously cannot wait. I was hoping to build a checklist of American beers and breweries to taste and visit while I’m there, so if anyone wants to hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment with your favourite US beers, bars and breweries, that’d be great. Also, if anyone can recommend a good coffee place in Chicago, that’d be good too. I am from Melbourne, after all.

I’m also thinking about posting some stuff on my home brew, as it’s getting to the stage where I’m finding it hard to fault, and I’m my own worst critic. Brewhouse efficiency is >85% and all the flavours are coming through just as planned. Carbonation is easy as, now that I’m kegging, and I’m slowly scaling up my yeast lab. Guess I’ll post a couple of my favourite recipes and you guys can let me know what you think. I might also be building a randall into my kegerator, but I’m still in the planning stages at the moment.

So yeah, I’m feeling invigorated as the ball is starting to roll faster and faster. Watch this space and I’ll do my best to get back into the rhythm of posting.

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Quickie: Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA

Having picked this little beauty up at Slow Beer a couple of months ago I’ve been eyeing it off in my beer pantry ever since. What better occasion to crack it open than my birthday?!

Pours a thick, foamy head, showing a lot of carbonation and a deep, dark, cloudy orange hue. The nose is very malty (it is Mikkeller after all) but there isn’t much more after that. Given the style and the hop focus I thought there would be a greater presence of hoppy goodness, but if anything it is very mild.

On tasting, carbonation is nowhere as high as it appeared when pouring, which lends itself quite well to the rich, thick mouthfeel Mikkeller have down-pat. Over the toffee base is a strong hop bitterness with notes of lemon and pine, though it is that well-balanced that nothing really springs out too strongly.

Holds the 6.9% abv very well and remains oh-so-sessionable. Pity I only have the one. I’ll have to try the rest of the series now.

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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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Drink the Yellow Snow

Having put together a brew of my own containing a large amount of Amarillo hops, opening this yielded an instantly recognizable aroma. Pungent, a little sweet, but all hops, Amarillo doesn’t mess around. When I made my own Amarillo Pale Ale, I had added what I thought to be a moderate amount of hops and achieved something that I loved, but seemed far too strong in the eyes of the typical beer-lover. This batch from Oregon’s Rogue Brewing Co. is exactly what I have been planning on for my next brew.

The aroma hits you with the distinct resinous Amarillo force (which I love) with pine and sweet citrus, and the flavour follows suit with just enough malt to round it out. I can see it still being a bit too hoppy to be a sessionable for some, but I love it.

Very dry, very crisp, very hoppy and very flavoursome, I could still probably envisage this IPA being a bit stronger as the alcohol content is almost unnoticeable at 6.2%. Maybe a little more malt would be good, but either way it works for me.

A nice, interesting beer that is worth a try. If this was on tap, I would drain the keg. Very highly recommended!

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