Tag Archives: Review

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Dark Horse Taste Up

A couple of days before Christmas, a large box emblazoned with labels denoting fragility found its way into my hands. Yes, my (wonderful, thoughtful, and benevolent) girlfriend had ordered for me no less than 12 beers to whet my whistle over the Christmas break. Having picked up a polypin of Cullercoats Winter Warmer that would not last the week, I put the bottles aside to focus on the cooking and celebrating at hand.

20130123-154039.jpg

What I have to drink today are a few bottles from Dark Horse Brewing, a brewery whose beers I sampled at Michigan’s Summer Beer Fest in Ypsi, but whose premises I never had the chance to visit. Their tent/s had the greatest number of beers available (if I recall correctly, which I probably don’t, as beer festivals tend to get a bit hazy by the end), but their beers were also the most consistently interesting and enjoyable. I made a striking mental note to sample more of their brews, and today is my day.

20130123-154107.jpg

The amber ale. Cloudy!

First up is the Amber Ale. It pours with a high degree of visible carbonation, yielding a foamy, off-white head, and gives a copper/amber hue, deep with haze and sediment. The bottle was left with appears to be a half-inch of sediment as well. The head quickly began to vanish, leaving no lacing. While sweet floral notes and a little Belgian funk are detectable on the nose, nothing particularly malty jumps out. Mouthfeel is light, with minimal but sharp carbonation. The sweet Belgian nose follows with a similar flavour, and if it had been a blind tasting I would’ve assumed it was a light Belgian ale and not an amber ale. The flavours are a little muddled with caramel, citrus, banana, and a late bitterness all coming through. At first I thought the light feel and mild fruity sweetness might make it a good session beer, but honestly it just doesn’t have enough flavour to hide what quickly becomes a chore of a flavour palette. It’s like sweet Coopers Sparkling without the hops up front. Given a little more malt and a thicker mouthfeel it could be more like a Belgian, but again, it comes up as lacklustre. A quick look at its RateBeer entry shows a collective vote of 48/100. I agree. IT also states an abv of 5.5%. Could’ve fooled me.

20130123-154122.jpg

Brown (black?) ale.

Next up: the ‘Boffo’ brown ale. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of brown ales (though there have definitely been exceptions), but I’m keen to crack on and discover a Dark Horse gem. This one pours thick and dark, with a foamy brown head, and yes, some sediment in the bottle. I wonder how long these had been sitting on the shelf? Don’t Londoners drink American craft beer? But anyway, this beer’s head does fall away to exhibit some lacing, and the body is so dark that light will not penetrate it. The nose give faint caramel and chocolate malt.  In the mouth, it is a mildly carbonated but solid ale. Thick and bitter. I’d like to imagine that with time the carbonation could develop from foamy to creamy, because that probably the only element of this beer holding it back. The strong bitterness remains from start to finish, finally dissipating to leave you wanting more, and beneath it, roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut jumps forth. This is a damn tasty beer. Again, in a blind tasting I probably wouldn’t have judged it by the style it says on the label, but I’m not complaining. The Googles informs me that it’s 6.5% alc, which probably contributes to the elevation in standards after its lacklustre sibling. 15 minutes on, enjoyed it to the last drop.

20130123-154134.jpg

The Scotty Karate is a superb beer.

Now normally if I’d hit a 6.5% beer on my second of a five beer tasting I’d be worried that I’d not ordered them very well. Next up is a scotch ale, and though it doesn’t say how alcoholic it is (none of these damned American beers seem to anymore*), I’ve learned to be wary around scotch ales. This is the Scotty Karate scotch ale, and the label sports a psychedelic Viking one-man band. Again, be wary around scotch ales. The Three Floyds one was an eye-opener too. This one pours with a creamier head and more lacing than the last two, and despite the apparently typical, thick layer of sediment in the bottle, the beer remains clear, with a deep red hue. Carbonation is there, but not overwhelmingly. On the nose I get mild malty nose and a bit of bit of fuit – maybe citrus or raisin, but it’s faint. Upon tasting, mouthfeel is light, but alcohol is definitely noticeable. If feels nice and creamy, with an ideally mild carbonation that makes it easy to drink. It’s boozy, but pleasantly so. An initially sweet finish fades to reveal the alcohol and stonefuits, raisin, toffee, malt, and a slight late hop bitterness. A stellar beer. If I had to pick a fault, it would be the foaminess of the carbonation/mouthfeel. It does, however, have a hint of that stereotypical Mikkeller burnt sweetness/booziness thing going on. I’m not sure if anyone else gets that, but I can always tell a Mikkeller by that same distinctive flavour, and I love it. While I’m sitting here enjoying it, a quick perusal of RateBeer informs me of an abv of 9.75% and an overall rating of 97. I can believe the alcohol, but I’m surprised by the rating. I love the beer, but I’d have pegged it at about 92-95. Maybe once I’ve had a six-pack of it I’d be ready to give it a 100 and tell it that ‘no, you! I love you!’, but for this excellent tasting beer with unrefined carbonation, 93 is my vote.

20130123-154155.jpg

Angry potato wants to hop you in the mouth.

The penultimate beer in this tasting is the Double Crooked Tree IPA. The pour greets me with the familiar sickly sweet but piney, hoppy aroma I have come to love from such beers as Lagunitas IPA, and Dogfish Head’s 60/90/120 Minute (Imperial)/IPA/s. The beer is murky with visible layers of sediment and sports a reddish, almost blood-orange-cum-watermelon hue. A quickly dissipating foamy head forms splotchy lacing on the sides of the glass. Mouthfeel is a shock; it’s surprisingly alcoholic, and with very little carbonation. Alcohol and bitterness seem to be the name of the game. Here the foamy mouthfeel that has pervaded the previous of tonight’s Dark Horse beers is actually of benefit – it breaks up the liquid in your mouth so you can really feel the potency throughout. Every sip has me wide-eyed and twitching a little, and I begin to wonder how I’m going to go finishing a whole bottle (FWP, I know). Where the Dogfish Head Imperial IPA is perfectly balanced but also supercharged, this is strong but a little wonky. There’s a slight empty metallic tang with the late bitterness that lingers and distracts, and while notes of straw and toffee do come through, the strong bitterness and element of booze overpowers all. I jump on RateBeer to look up the alcohol content, and jesus, it’s 13.6%. Wow. I would love to try this on keg as I’m sure tropical and citrus fruits would abound. The RateBeer community has rated it 99/100, an incredibly high rating, and while the more I drink the more I enjoy it, it still falls short of the other imperial/double IPAs I’ve had in the past. It’s (unfortunately) a little headache-inducing, and that’s to a hop-head like myself**. All in all I say it’s worth buy a bottle to share among friends. It’s a tasty beer that will go down great if you’ve had a few or several but there is a burn and it’s not *entirely* even enough to get 99/100. Perhaps 95. And really, this feels like an India Barley Wine! Given the Dogfish Head Imperial IPA was 9% and came off as perfectly balanced, I don’t quite see the need for the 13.5%abv of this brew. Maybe I’m still in shock and feeling bitter. Either way, I’d be keen to see what other people think.

20130123-154219.jpg

Possibly my favourite, the Sapient Trip Ale (a Belgian trippel) is a well-balanced, hoppy Belgian with just a little funk.

Feeling like my lack of research prior to tasting had led me to jump the shark again, I am now writing from day #2 of the tasting. What was labelled a double IPA and turned out to be an Imperial IPA/Barley Wine had left me with the Dark Horse Sapient Trip Ale, a Belgian style trippel with a label sporting a grim reaper wielding a mailbox, and wanting to be able to enjoy it, I took a wee break and resumed my drinking today. It pours a peachy amber, with a fluffy white head that creeps slowly down the glass to leave minimal lacing. It smells almost wheaty with banana, but the sweet funk lays subtly underneath. The nose is fresh, complex, and inviting. Mouthfeel is light, with bitey carbonation and a foaminess that dissipates to leave with feels like a fruity mineral water. It’s really very refreshing. After the initial carbonation buzz dies down, thick spatterings of lacing are adorning the glass, and this is looking like a great beer. Taste-wise, it’s balanced, with a veritable fruit bowl of esters and floral hop characters – banana, citrus peel, and tropical fruit juice. The Belgian yeast is there with some banana and bubblegum notes as well. The late hop bitterness isn’t resiny, but fresh, and perfectly balanced with the other flavours. I’m not one to fly the Belgian ale flag, but if this is the future of the style, I’m on board. It makes me wonder how far from the style it is (that I like so much), but I’m not complaining. A trip to the internet reveals an alcohol content of 9.5% (which is largely well hidden), and a rating of 86. Given that the RB community gave the Double Crooked Tree 99, I feel as though this beer has been cheated. Dark Horse made a 9.5% Belgian style ale almost sessionable, and it was the wonky, unbalanced Imperial IPA that people gave almost top marks too? Perhaps this is a symptom of the hop fad**. This is a solid, complex, well-balanced beer that ticks every box for me. I’d love to a pint from a fresh keg to see how it tastes brand new.

20130123-154206.jpg

It’s delicate, but light and refreshing.

As with all my beers in this review, they’ve been bottles that I can only assume had been sitting for some time, so the dynamics have probably changed. Maybe the Double Crooked Tree is well-balanced and smooth when straight from the brewery. Maybe the Scotty Karate truly is a 97/100 when fresh. All this tasting has shown me is that Dark Horse makes some damned flavoursome beers, and that I can’t wait to get back to Michigan to drink these straight from the… er… horse’s mouth. Scratch that. But you know what I mean. They’re fun to drink, and some are pretty damned sessionable. Dark Horse remains one of my favourite breweries and I’ll try my darnedest to get along next chance I get.

*I’d love to know if it’s a part of the restrictions on labels that American breweries *can’t* advertise how alcohol their beer is, or whether they just choose not to. Common sense would dictate that those who wish to drink responsibly be provided with information about how much alcohol is going into their system, but maybe it does drive alcoholism.

**Yes, yes, I love hops. I love growing my own hops, making my beers super hoppy, and part of the reason you haven’t seen me post about any English beer is that only a handful of English breweries actually have the inclination to use hops to a noticeable degree. What I don’t agree with is wasting hops by overhopping a beer to the point where it stops you from enjoying it, or overshadows any of the other flavours in a beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved beers that have technically been ranked at ~150 IBUs, but they were always balanced. Ain’t no need to make a shitty beer just to highlight what everyone knows – that hops can be flavoursome.

P.S. I love you guys, and I love seeing that my old posts are still getting read. It’s quite the boon to my drive to write to log in and see the hit counts still climbing. I’ll be back soon.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

20120823-120456.jpg

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: