Tag Archives: brew

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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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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BeertripNZ: Dunedin


With a population of 25,000 students (about one-fifth of the entire city population), I knew we’d have to take a trip down to check the place out. We were travelling with a few of Tully’s cousins who were going back to uni for re-orientation week so we folded ourselves in the shuttle bus and made the five-hour trip. The ride wasn’t too bad; the scenery was lovely (coast on the left, snow-capped mountains on the right) and I had my iPhone full of podcasts to catch up on.

Nice place, Albar.

We reached Dunedin around midday, checked into our room and headed in to The Octagon for a drink. @jedsoane had recommended Albar so we went there and grabbed a Greene King IPA which was on hand-pump. Quite nice, it had hints of candy. Due to there not being an abundance of hand-pumps around Melbourne, it took a bit to get used to the low carbonation and higher temperature but the super-creamy mouthfeel was amazing. They also had Emerson’s London Porter on hand-pump so I grabbed one of those as well, which wasn’t bad. The atmosphere in altar was quite lovely – I knew every song on the playlist and the bar was set up with a rustic maritime feel.

Bad Emerson's 😦

Before continuing our travels I grabbed an Emerson’s Old 95 which is a 7% juggernaut of an English ale. I’d heard it’s normally very good but the bottle I got was screaming with alcohol and I couldn’t finish it. The ethanol overpowered everything and even Tully-the-vodka-man didn’t enjoy it. I’m not sure if it was a bad batch or the bottle had gone bad but it wasn’t up to scratch.

So blurry, but so tasty!

On we pushed and came across Castle MacAdam Wine, a boutique beer and wine store. Had a chat there and picked up a small bag of fun things for later. That night we cruised around town with the uni folk enjoying $8 jugs of Monteiths and tried the TERRIBLE Green Man Tequila Beer which was almost as bad as their Whiskey Bock.

The next morning we were walking to a supermarket for supplies and hit the most amazingly malty wort smell. We soon discovered that we were standing next to Speight’s Brewery, so stopped in for the tour. The tour wasn’t bad per se, but was a tour-of-the-history-of-how-awesome-our-brand-is as opposed to getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes their beer worth drinking. I found it hard to judge Speight’s because they balance industrial brewing with a fairly large range of beers that in all honesty, don’t actually suck. I got the feeling that Coopers is heading in a similar direction.

At the end of the tour they took us to a tasting room with about six or so taps and let us go for it, which was very possibly a foolish thing to do, as I quickly drank back the tour admission cost. Their pilsner and their chocolately Empire Ale stood out as the better beers of their range.

Spectacular Hef.

Love a branded glass, especially when filled with beer from a hand-pump.

Stout time!

On we moved, buying jeans, eating lunch and touring Cadbury’s chocolate world, which was pretty fun, but it was the Eureka Bar and Cafe that took the prize for me. They had the Moa 5-hop Winter Ale reserve on hand-pump which was very hoppy and very satisfying. Also tried Croucher Brewing Co’s Hefeweiss and the Golden Bear Brewing Co’s Stout, both of which I’ll be trying to find again in Melbourne.

More dinner, more drinks, more sleep and some shopping and we decided it was time to take off back to Christchurch. Bus ride was better this time as we were able to get more accommodating seats (our legs are always an issue) and we made it through two seasons of Peep Show on Tully’s MBP.

Once in Christchurch we quickly routed our way to The Belgian Beer Cafe for a kilo of mussels (yep, a whole kilo) and some of the best Leffe beers I’ve had. The Leffe Radieuse was a pick of the ones I tried, with enough flavour to easily match the 8.2% abv. The Belgian Beer Cafe in CHCH was warm, welcoming and full of good food and lots of Belgian beer. Prices were very steep, especially when compared to how cheap beer is everywhere else in CHCH and NZ. I’d say it’s worth going to once but unless they were to halve the prices, I’d be making Pomeroy’s or The Twisted Hop my local.

Dunedin nightscape.

Tomorrow we have a tasting organised with Pomeroys, a tasting of our own collection of beers, and possibly a trip to Dux De Lux, so it should be a full day.

I’ll keep you posted,

J

Note: Due to DIFFICULT mobile internet plans in New Zealand, I wasn’t able to post this while in NZ, and due to WordPress’ uploads form CONSISTANTLY CRASHING, some photos will have to be added at a later date.

Click through to BeertripNZ: Final Days

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BeertripNZ: Days Three & Four

Day three was a big one that left me feeling a little tender, so I’ve put off writing until now so I can do it justice.

The day opened with a trip to Harrington’s Brewery. This was something I’d been looking forward to since I started planning my trip, partly because when I contacted Mark regarding a tour his reply was as positive and backed by enthusiasm as my email. This was my first thought when I met him at the brewery; Tully and I were ushered in, given a couple if beers to drink on the way, and given the most detailed tour from someone who was as excited to talk about it as I was to listen. It’s the passion I’ve found draws so many of the craft brew community together that I love, and while Harrington’s is quite a large scale operation, it was evident that it is being run by brewers that take a craft brew approach.

I have heard that Harrington’s once had a reputation for making a cheap, highly-alcoholic drunking lager that gave the brewery a bit of a bad name, but that they’ve been re-emerging as a quality craft brewer over the past little while. The beers I tasted were quite nice (I only had a few of their very large range), with their ESB being a standout. Mark was quick to load us up with a few bottles from the cellar to take with us and even a couple of their latest batch of Weiss which is still maturing.

The tour went for about 45 minutes and we went through every detail of the process to the point of sticking our heads in the tuns to get a good whiff. Mark told us they also do bottling for several local craft breweries that don’t have the facilities themselves (Three Boys Weiss was being bottled at the time) and they also will crush grain for homebrewers that swing by.

With bags full of beer we ventured out into the pouring rain bound for the highly-recommended Pomeroy’s. It is one of those great little pubs you get into a don’t ever want to leave, with amazing food (I had the Pomeroy’s Big Deluxe Burger and Tully had the Venison Hotpot, which were both staggeringly satisfying) and most importantly a selection of great beer. I had a Yeastie Boys Yakima Monster, a Tuatara Hefe and stout whose name I forget, all of which were really, really good. Ava, the bar manager, was up for a chat and she knew her stuff and was a good help identifying the quality locals. She even gave us a free bottle of the Yeastie Boys brew we hadn’t tried and kept us topped up with assorted samples. Pomeroy’s was hard to leave and I can see myself going back at least once before I fly home.

One the way home we stopped in to the Mac’s Brewpub to see what they had to offer. For the first time in months they asked for ID, which I found odd for two beardy Swedes turning up at 3 in the afternoon for a beer, at a pub that didn’t actually have any other customers inside apart from us. That said, they had all the Mac’s range on tap, including the Brewjolais seasonal I couldn’t resist trying. It was basically a maltier, more-balanced version of their Hoprocker ale. I like the Hoprocker and I’ve had it a fair few times but neither the Brewjolais nor the Hoprocker went down amazingly, both seeming a bit dull. Odd also because they were all on draught in their own pub. Oh well, I’ll still continue to drink Mac’s when I go home. They did manage to make me the best macchiato I think I’ve ever had, so props to them for that.

Our journey continued, stopping in at a local supermarket recommended as having a good craft beer range. I like with a good $120 worth. Hopefully they’ll last us a little while.

Once home we readied ourselves for a night out on the town, and started with Indian at The Two Fat Indians. Very good nosh, and passable beers, it was a very pleasant meal.

On we went to The Twisted Hop (again, I know, but they had plenty I was yet to try) to get our beer on. The standout was the Fullers Golden Pride, which was amazing. Very rich and full yet not too heavy, which might sound a bit contradictory, but it was a beer you’d sip on and not want to stop. I didn’t take a great amount of tasting notes for the Golden Pride, which was a mistake, but their website seems to sum it up pretty well.

We also picked up a bottle of Green Man Whisky Bock, on a challenge set by bar manager David. It was shit. I drank almost half a glass and moved on. (Tully finished his and the rest of mine… he claims he thought it was woeful)

On we moved to Sole Square, the hub of Chrustchurch nightlife. We went to Yellow Cross, a large bar with many taps of varying qualities of beer and very cool decor. There were even a couple of fermenters with some amazingly disturbing artwork painted onto them. Live music, good drinks, and Tully also scored a pair of Speight’s overalls.

Home. Spent most of the remaining night drinking water and headed to bed at 5. Was unreasonably hungover today.

We spent today cruising around the hills of Akaroa, a small French settlement which I confirmed did have the best fish and chips I can remember. Quality greasy food and lush sprawling scenery, I can’t think of a better hangover cure!

Having a great BeertripNZ thus far, can’t wait to see what Dunedin yields,
J 🙂

Click through to BeertripNZ: Dunedin

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