Tag Archives: Hops

But wait…

Those Dark Horse beers were great, but then I went and had a Southern Tier 2XIPA. So good. I’ve had it before, and still it surprised me with how good it is. Crazy lacing, well-balanced, well-hidden booze, and fruity, floral hops that blast you but don’t distract.

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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: 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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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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BeertripNZ: Final Days

When last we left our friends they had conquered the mighty Belgian Beer Café beast and escaped the horde of Dunedin. Now, our trusty subjects started afresh in Christchurch, fully aware of the challenges that would await…

Given our big bottle buy-up, we had plenty of fine beer waiting for us when we got back to CHCH. Wanting to start right away, we opted for something nice, light, and possibly suited to breakfast. Invercargill Brewery’s Boysenbeery fitted the bill perfectly, despite being a fruit beer (I kid!). With a wheat base, this one brought the usual banana character you’d expect, with a touch of zesty, citrusy hops (that NZ rules at) to compliment a massive addition of boysenberry concentrate (added during fermentation). I have said again and again that fruit beers aren’t my thing, but after this brilliant drop, and Jamieson’s latest batch of Raspberry Ale, I may have to start adjusting my prejudices. The Boysenbeery is not only a great pun but a very nice way to start a beery day, or possibly finish one, if dessert is on the cards. We gave a sample to a PMD fan and got the thumbs-up, so it seems this might be a great entry beer for all you beer-lovers trying to get your non-beery friends on to the yeastie stuff.

With all the NZ beers around, I was surprised to find this specimen in a local supermarket of all places. It seems the local supermarkets DO have their finger on the beer-lover’s pulse in CHCH, namely the New World chain. This little beauty was NZ$7, which works out to about AU$2.50 or something similarly cheap in real dollars. I was shocked! Dogfish Head Brewing Co is such a highly lauded brewery that I had to grab a bottle, and I was happy that I did.

The beer itself is an Imperial IPA, clocking in at 9% abv, 9o IBU and continually hopped for 90 minutes of the boil, hence the name, 90 Minute IPA.  More than enough hops to satisfy my hop-loving palette, but backed up with enough caramel malt and warming alcohol, this really went down well. The hopping process left a far greater array of hop flavours and aromas than just the usual bittering agent it is so-often mistaken for – citrus, pine, grass, and hints of tropical fruits. Worth the hype.

Beer and meats - what more does a guy need?

A nice selection of locals.

From our own beer tasting to a guided, illustrated and very informative tasting at Pomeroy’s with Craig, the man behind BeerNZ distribution. He is tasked with getting the beer from over 20 of NZ’s craft breweries to the assorted bars, pubs, bottle shops and folks such as myself. We discussed and quaffed a couple of the big names like Epic and 8Wired, and a few from the smaller breweries I’d seen or heard about but didn’t have access to on my travels. In short they were all very nice, as was to be expected, but the 8 Wired Big Smoke did stand out for me. Worth checking out.

Kaimai Brewing Co. is another of the contract brewing companies that are quite popular in NZ (I’ll leave the contract brewing controversy for another time) but what makes these guys different is that a) Brewer Andrew Larson actually brews the beer himself at either Harrington’s or Croucher Breweries and b) All their beers are made with 30-40% rye, a very unique twist. I can’t say I was a fan of the Porter’s Rye Ale, but it was definitely interesting. As far as porters go I found it kind of weak, with only vague hints of vanilla and cocoa above the basic roasted malt flavour.

iStout. You cannot expect to get away with a name like that without SOME sort of mockery.

I could not resist buying the 8Wired iStout as soon as I saw it, for SO many reasons. Firstly, the name is just so clichéd and wonderful, and deserved a silly photo. But having fallen in love with the 8Wired range, and having heard so many good things about it, I couldn’t not give it a burl! As touted, this did become one of the stand-out beers of the trip. At a modest 10.5% abv and boasting one of my favourite varieties of hops – Willamette – I can safely say this was always going to please me, but it was the depth and quality that backed it all up and made it one of my favourite stouts. The perfect combination of coffee, raisins, and molasses flavours, a noticeable level of alcohol with a mouthfeel both syrupy and milky rendered this a dream to drink.

Another shopping trip yielded more beers for the tasting and the Spruce Beer was a nice find. Similar to the Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, this includes the noticeable addition of tea tree and a warming ginger/spicy character. The folks down at RateBeer don’t seem to like this one, but I thought it was great.

We couldn’t visit any city with a restaurant named ‘Meat Unlimited’ without trying it out, so stopped in to see what they had to offer. The slim beer list was made-up-for by the best 450 gram steak I’ve ever had, so I can see myself making a point of coming here when next I get the chance.

Having been told about The Twisted Hops’ Nokabollokov being ready just in time to try before our departure, Tully and I bookmarked it in our minds and made damn sure we went back for a tasting. Such a brilliant name was matched with quite a good Imperial Russian Stout, but I was told it had not lived up to their expectations. The cold Christchurch weather had halted the yeast and meant that the stout was neither as strong or mature as it was meant to be. That said, it was still lovely. I get a little teary when I think that I’ll never see the Nokabollokov or The Twisted Hop’s IPA in Australia, for they were both probably in my top 10 NZ beers list.

The Dux de Lux was one of the bars that everybody had raved about when I mentioned I was going to tour the south island. I had been told all my troubles would be solved and all my dreams would come true, right in the very bar. We arrived on a Friday night, at about 10:30, tried a beer, ordered some dessert, and were then told they were closing. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. The beer wasn’t bad, the bar looked pretty swish (technical term), but the place was empty, save for us. We left, having only tried a couple of Dux beers during the trip, and having found nothing to back up the raving claims about the place.

The cake was good though...

Having been evicted from our last port of call, we headed home. Having to get up at 5 the next morning to catch our flight home, one might think it was straight to bed. Apparently not. Beers and cocktails were consumed, justified by the idea that having to wake up hungover in the next few hours would make us feel worse than navigating customs while heavily intoxicated. I still debate that.

Now back in AUS with my friends, family, local pubs and beer, I do really miss NZ and hope to do a north island trip over summer. I suppose this is the travel bug you hear about.

Standout Breweries: 8Wired, Wigram, Epic, The Twisted Hop, Harrington’s

Standout Bars: The Twisted Hop, Albar, Bar Beleza (the music was rad)

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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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