330ml brown bottle purchased for me by Sam for my 2018 advent calendar. Reviewed blind
Pours a pretty clear solid golden colour, with a filmy white head the sets thin and flat across the glass, but manages to leave some decent lace. Carbonation is fine and fairly languid, although the body looks rather light. Looks decent enough, but a bit middling.
Nose is only okay. It has a disappointingly flat and empty aroma to it, which provides no base to what's otherwise some seemingly fresh hop notes. The hops are there, trying hard—but without anything to back them up, they turn weirdly savoury. It has a character like Pizza Shapes. It's maybe actually a touch of oxidation to it. I'm unimpressed, anyway.
Yeah, taste backs this up, although it actually doesn't have much of an oxidation character here—so I suspect it's just a bit bland. It's extremely light bodied—but not in a crisp lager/brut IPA way, more like empty sugar water. There are suggestions of hops around the outside, but they're exceedingly weak, leaving more of a tropical essence than any real flavour. It's a little bit like flavoured soda water that someone has dissolved a teaspoon of Splenda in.
Feel is weak, but it has a surprising roundness to it as well. That doesn't really help it though.
Yeah, I'm not a fan, and to be honest, I'm finding it rather offputting all up. It's weak and flat, and the hop characters don't have anything to hold onto. A bit of a mess, to be honest, and not something I want to drink a lot of.
44 / 100
330ml can purchased for me by Sam as part of his 2018 advent calendar. Reviewed blind.
Pours a very slightly hazed pale golden, with a coarse-bubbled and very fizzy head that runs out of steam quickly, leaving no foam at all after a matter of seconds. Body is light, and lacking persistence. It looks very underwhelming, to be honest.
Nose is quite pleasant. It has a strong fruit presence, almost like a perry. But it's quite sweet as well, more like pineapple or guava. It has a metallic acidity to it as well though, which gives a slight chemical note—it almost has the smell of fresh housepaint. But it's almost entirely covered by that fruit note, and that's a saving grace.
Taste is not great, honestly. It has that fruit character struggling about in a great unwashed mess of competing characters. There's a vague lactic sourness on the front, but with a turn towards the burn of malic acid. The grain note is husky through the centre, and it finishes with a really quite genuinely unpleasant dirty yeast note that tastes like the dregs of warm Carlton Draught.
Feel is overly fizzy, but with a lactic bite in the finish.
Overall, I'm not a fan. It's very overcarbonated, the base beer is not good, and the fruit character is confusing more than anything. I do think that it has some nice aromatics to it, but it doesn't at all manage to integrate this into the finished beer.
86 / 100
440ml can purchased for me by Sam as part of his 2018 advent calendar. Reviewed blind.
Pours a very deep black, with a huge, frothy head of honeycomb golden brown. Lacing is superb, forming lovely complex rings as it goes down. Body is thick, and hold fine carbonation that that flits into the head. It almost looks like a nitro beer, but I suspect it just big-bodied. Looks great.
Nose is very good. It has a really pronounced sweet coffee character, which I'll admit forms the bulk of it. But it's well supported by a pleasant deep malt notes, and aromatic characters of cola and chopped dark chocolate. It has a huskiness to it as well, which give off characters of dried grass, rattan and fresh ground white pepper. It's very good.
Taste is also very good, with a strong coffee character over the top, but loads of smoothness and sweetness to support it. It has a very dessert-like richness, like tiramisu or affogato. It has undertones of cherries and choc-dipped raspberries. Very smooth finish. It has the silkiness of melted high-fat vanilla ice-cream, with loads of punchy coffee to keep it lively. This is an impressive beer.
Feel is excellent. Super smooth and slick. It's one of the most impressive parts of the beer.
Overall, hell yes. This is a lovely beer. It's super smooth, super complex and with a balance of characters that doesn't make it feel like a mess, or overwhelm the palate. There's some serious thought been put into this beer, and it's put together brilliantly.
41 / 100
330ml can purchased for me by Sam as part of my 2018 Advent Calendar. Reviewed blind.
Pours a slightly hazed, very, very pale yellow, almost trending towards transparent. Head is very coarse-bubbled, only really persisting as a foamy, insubstantial ring. Carbonation is minimal, but sweeps upwards in small streams. Body is very light. It's a bit underwhelming, to be honest.
Nose is actually quite pleasant. It has a slight lagery yeast character to it, which provides a sharp crispness to the beer overall. On top of this is sweet lemon and even a brut grape-like note. The lemon does take on a slight detergent edge, but the overall aroma is a little bit flat, so it never gets overwhelming.
Taste is sadly quite bland. It tastes like it should have the clean crispness of a lager, but it fails in some disappointing ways. For a start, despite the look, it's extremely overcarbonated, and the fizz really knocks out any characters that might otherwise be here. Secondly, there's an unpleasant dirty yeast character which wells up on the finish. Just when you think it might end crisp and clean you get notes of grain husk and mushroom. Otherwise it's underwhelming—the fact that the main characters are a bit unpleasant is a shame.
Feel is the main issue here. It's extremely light and yet bursting with aggressive carbonation.
Overall, look, it's not undrinkable, but it's really not that good either. It's really the kind of thing that you can accept if you're sitting in the stands at the cricket, but not if you're trying to really engage with the subtleties and complexities.
330ml can purchased for me by Sam as part of my 2018 Advent Calendar.
Pours a very pale, exceptionally clear yellow gold colour, with a very frothy white head that crackles down but still persists as a firm cap. Minimal lacing though, and the body is very light. Lots of swift carbonation. Looks refined, if a bit simple.
Nose is quite pleasant. It has an odd coconut character to it, which makes it smell a bit like it's oak-aged. But there's a pleasant green hop character as well which livens it up. It's not quite tropical—that would go very nicely with the coconut note, but instead provides a counterpoint. It's nice stuff.
Taste is quite similar. It's got a crisp, light body, which doesn't give it a strong canvas to work with, but the coconut and hop characters provide a pleasant balance. The back does have a slight vegetative quality—again, I think the hops aren't quite the fruity mix I'd choose to put in here, but it does pleasantly punctuate the finish.
Feel is very light. It helps the drinkability, but it also suggests that the beer is designed to be fairly mild. Which it is.
Overall, it's nice enough. The coconut is the main distinguishing feature. I think otherwise it would be a fairly straightforward pale ale.
330ml can given to me by Sam, and I don't know where he picked it up from. Probably actually in Papua New Guinea somewhere.
Pours what seems to be a hazy golden colour, but I realise after a while that it's just got masses of clumpy floaties in the glass. Head is a weak, bubbly ring of white that leaves a little sudsy lace. Body is light and surprisingly still. I'm underwhelmed.
Nose is underwhelming. There's a very mild, grainy malt character, backed up with a kind of honey sweetness. There's a slight grassiness as well, perhaps the character of crushed nettles. Not amazing.
Taste is not great, but it's also got a kind of blandness to it which helps. There's sweetness around the edges, but a flatness in the centre that almost neutralises it. It actually feels a little bit as though it's balanced in some way, but the balance that it creates is at the centre of everything, and that's also the most neutral and boring it could be.
Looks, it's not hideous. It's not completely out of balance, or unpleasant to drink. It's just extremely boring. That may be exactly what you're looking for in the heat.
62 / 100
Beer #2 of my 2018 Advent Calendar curated by Sam. Reviewed blind.
Pours a slightly hazy golden colour, with a very large rocky head of off-white, that crackles with large bubbles, but stays a messy foam. Lacing forms in chunks. Carbonation is swift, but it looks like it's used up much of its oomph in creating that head.
Nose is quite pleasant. Bright, crisp hops—mainly based around citrus, with a strong suggestion of earthiness underneath. I mostly get lemon and orange, with a touch of rubbed grapefruit skin. There's also a touch of chlorine underneath it as well, which adds to the brightness. Nice stuff.
Taste is crisp and sharp. It's very dry on the back, with a lack of anything to balance a rather strong astringent bitterness. It feels biting and slightly metallic in the finish. The aroma of the orange comes through in the front, but the flavour disappears quickly as the body falls out. It just feels unbalanced.
Feel is dry with a bite from the hops in the finish.
Overall, it's nice enough, but there's a lot of bite on the back without much to support it. It's aggressive at least, which is interesting when the trend is towards loads of late hops and very little bittering. But I'll admit that it does somewhat detract from the drinkability.
74 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from somewhere in Australia, but I've lost track of where. It still has the Aussie importer sticker on it though. Batch #02 according to the printing on the bottle.
Pours a deep brown-black, with a surprising amount of lightness and slickness to the body. Head is a very fine, silky beige, almost with a slightly orange tinge to it. Carbonation is fine but swift, swirling through the glass as the beer is tilted. Looks good.
Nose is pretty nice. There is a dense kind of caramel fudge note to it, but it's matched by an equality of darkness, which lends a kind of butterscotch mocha note to it. It has other odd twangs as well, with a kind of kirsch cherry aroma; hot and metallic. It's pretty pleasant.
Taste is also good. It does revolve a lot around the kind of hot metallic note though, which isn't unpleasant, but which distracts from its main focus on fudginess. I leaves the front a little hot with some biting cherry notes, before it softens a little, leading to dark dusty finish, which is nonetheless underlined by a fatty caramel note.
Feel is a little bit lighter and slicker than the flavours really want, but it does have an oily quality which helps.
Overall, it's a nice beer, but it's not quite the rich, chewy goodness that it should be, or that other Evil Twin beers of its ilk are. But that's saying it's not at the peak of the genre, when in reality it's still extremely good.
33cl brown bottle purchased from Beer Cartel. Has a freshness date on it, but it's been partially removed. Some time in 2018 anyway, which probably means earlier than the second-last month of 2018. Well, we'll see how it goes.
Pours a hazed orange-gold colour, with a gauzy cap of white that leaves tine specks of lacing. Body is fine and firm, with very nice powdery carbonation. Looks good, all up.
Nose does imply a bit of age on it. It has some slight oxidation characters, which add a papery and coppery note to the stewed orange hop character. It has a grassy character as well, which could also come from age, but honestly it adds a slight green freshness which helps.
Taste is also old. It has a darkness to the malt character which gives a kind of candied sugar or toffee note. Finish has some powdery hops character, giving a little dry citrus and bitterness on the back. Mostly, though, it's a bit dead, and that's a bit disappointing.
Feel is nice. Soft, creamy carbonation helps.
It's okay. I'd have enjoyed this more when it was fresh, obviously, because right now it's a bit flat and dead. I don't know if it's very old or just a little old. I hope it's the former.
97 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Tried on tap at Odd Culture at the Taphouse.
Pours a deep, opaque and staining crimson/purple—intensely coloured. Head is a subtle ring of mulberry inflected lace. Carbonation is very fine, but fast through the body. The weight is fairly light, but there's a slickness to the body. Looks very good, especially that colour.
Nose is excellent. Lots of wood right on the forefront. Oakiness comes through quite strongly, but there's also lots of freshly hewn timber and sawdust. Sweet fruit provides a broad sweetness underneath. But there's loads of complexity unfolding all over the top. There's obviously blueberry, but there's also notes of celery, cocoa, black raspberry, currants and aged balsamic. It's seriously wonderful.
Taste is also amazing. Soft tannins on the front, with a little vinous bite that develops into rounded, dark fruit. The back palate has wood and tartness, with juicy characters of stewed blackberries, overripe blueberries and pinot noir. It's sweet and slick through the mid palate, but livened by a judicious acidity in the finish. Feel is slick, and slightly grippy in the finish. It's so complex, but perfectly crafted.
This is almost certainly the best Australian beer I've had all year, and it's probably one of the best I've ever had. It's so amazingly complex, but with such coherence to its form. I'm incredibly impressed. No matter how high my expectations are for La Siréne, they always seem to find some way to exceed them.
77 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a deep brown-black colour, with an inky, oily edge to it. Head forms coarse bubbles to begin with, but it drops out pretty quickly, leaving it looking a bit flat and dead. Carbonation is also absent.
Nose is pretty good. Strong woody character, connected to molasses and syrup characters. I get raisins and currants, with a nice toastiness backing it up. It has a slight metallic twang as well, which seems closely related to the currant notes. Very nice.
Taste is also very good. The base is formed of sweet molasses, dates and carob, with a light toastiness on the back. It has a brighter, sharper note around the edges—again, it's slightly metallic, and this time a bit boozy. Finish has a touch of tannin—this connects it again to the oak characters.
Feel is a bit hot, and lacking carbonation—a slightly fuller feel would probably help.
It's a decent brew, but there are some obvious things that could be improved, which is always a bit of a shame. But it's a solid BBA impy stout, and that's always something of a pleasure.
750ml brown bottle purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a slightly hazed rosé colour, with a flimsy loose ring of pinkish bubbles that dissolve fairly quickly. Carbonation is coarse and swift. Body is very light, and rather thin. All up, it's a nice colour, but otherwise a bit underwhelming.
Nose is rather pleasant. It has some classic wild fermentation characters, giving a bit of shoe leather and gin botanicals. But there's true acidity as well, this time perhaps guided towards lime from the lime addition. But to be honest, it maintains a kind of herbal quality throughout, and it's less like the blackcurrant and lime of the label, and more like bitters.
Taste is clean and crisp, but quite thin and all on the front-palate. I do get some juicy berry notes, with a kind of citrus crispness, but these are subservient to the quick turnover of the mid-palate acid. This washes away the complexity, leaving the back dry and fairly empty. Mouthfeel is coarse-bubbled, with a wash of foamy carbonation which pops out of existence around the centre of the mouth.
It's not bad all up, but I feel like it's a surprisingly weak entry from JP. It's crisp and drinkable though, and the low ABV would probably make this a pleasantly sessionable brew. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the form-factor or the price point to make that a realistic option.
12oz brown bottle purchased from Lukas Liquor in Denver, CO. No freshness date, but I bought this about a year ago and forgot about it. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a golden honey colour, with good clarity. Head froths into a mesh of white, but settles out as a gauzy film. Some specks of lacing around the edge of the glass. Body is light and fluid. Looks decent.
Nose is nice, with some bright hops still noticeable despite a bit of age on it, combined with a kind of golden orange syrup character giving it sweetness. It has a touch of grass as it warms up, but that's a rather pleasant extra dimension.
Taste is a bit dead, but that's probably the age on it. Noticeable cardboard oxidation character especially on the back, but livened by some still frenetic carbonation. Otherwise, it has a faint, flat orange citrus note connected in frail strings to a light, understated malt sweetness.
I've had excellent beers that are way past when they should be drunk—usually they taste better than this, but that's not necessarily a fair comparison to make. This doesn't quite suggest at something greater, but I'd have to try it fresh to know for sure.
70 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased for me by Sam.
Pours a deep golden, almost-amber colour, with a fine, but flimsy head of off-white that peters out to very fine ring and little else. Carbonation is powdery, static and fine. Body is slick, but fine as well. Looks decent.
Nose is soft and sweet. It's not as immediately boozy as you think it might be. There's some seedy spice aroma from the aquavit, giving a semi-savoury character of caraway which connects to the caramel sweetness from the malt. It's pleasant.
Taste isn't perhaps as complex as it might be, but it's pleasantly balanced. The front starts with some sweet, caramel characters, again connected to the spice, which gives notes of toasted sesame and cinnamon. The back is a bit flat, to be honest, and it lets the palate just whimper away. It also allows the first touch of booze to raise its head, and it adds a touch of harshness in the finish.
Overall, it's pretty decent. It has a nice balance to it, and up until the end, the booze is well hidden. It probably needs more genuine complexity to warrant the ABV, but the fact that it's not overly harsh or hot means that it earns something of a reprieve. Decent enough all up.
73 / 100
22oz brown wax-sealed bottle purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney. This is a mix of a bunch of Deschutes and HotD beers, including The Abyss, Doggie Claws, The Stoic and Fred.
Pours a very deep brown, with some clarity, but also a murk of colour. Head is a firm crest of beige that leaves spotty lace. Body is surprisingly light, but the carbonation is still and static as the glass is tilted, which means that the illusion of weight is there. Looks good.
Nose is deep and rich. It's a melange of aromas, with deep chocolate notes marching side-by-side with strangely floral aromatics and heady spices. It has vanilla notes as well, and a buttery character from a lot of oak. The oak also gives it a phantom suggestion of acidity, but it's more by association. It's very nice.
Taste is pretty hot, and to be honest, it's a little bit of a mess. While the mix of characters on the nose felt a little bit like they were strange but placid bedfellows, on the palate it feels as though they've devolved into a little bit of rugged BDSM. There's spice on the front, and lots of boozy heat, but on the back instead of developing these characters, we drop into thick chocolate and oak. It makes it feel a bit unsatisfying. There's no denying the complexity, but the structure to keep it coherent isn't there.
Feel is hot on the front, but surprisingly empty on the back—it's a little bit as though the booze has evaporated the body at the end.
Yeah, look. This is good, but I'm not sure it's better than the sum of its parts, and in some senses it detracts from the individual elements. I like the idea, but I'm not sure this one manages to fully execute it.
80 / 100
750ml caged and corked bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney. I've tried this from a live cask at Cascade in Portland, but this is the first time I'd had the bottled version. This was the 2013 edition.
Pours a deep chestnut brown with red tinges at the edges. Head forms a coarse mass of beige that persists as a fine ring. Lacing is minimal, but we get some long streaks over time. Carbonation is very fine, and swift.
Nose is sharp, perhaps too sharp. It's a biting acid character, but it almost trends towards metal shards and petrol. It's a little better as it warms, as a little of the fruit comes through—but to be honest, the fruit is itself a tart aroma, and it doesn't mask some of the tighter more intense characters. Underneath this all are sweet characters of sultanas and currants.
Taste is much, much better. Here, the fruit is expressed beautifully, leaving the tartness to provide the structure but not overwhelm the palate. There are definitely raisins and dried fruits through the middle of the palate, and they works nicely with both the acid and the brighter fruit notes. Towards the back, there's a little bit of aromatic oak. Finish is very long—it's extended by the acidity, and a slight evanescent heat of booze.
Overall, I'm a fan. I do think this is much better in bottles with a bit of age on it than it was when I tried it live and raw. But even now, it's a vivacious beer, and it has a lot of punch that remains untamed. This is the sort of beer that will probably still be kicking 10 or 20 years down the track.
750ml wax sealed and capped bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam.
Pours a completely flat dark golden colour. Body has a bit of weight and sheen to it, but otherwise it looks pretty dead. It has the look of extremely oxidised old riesling. It's not an amazing look, to be honest.
Nose is pleasant enough. It does have a little lambicus note to it, giving a little sharp greenness and a hint of plastic. Atop this it has vinous acidity and a suggestion of stonefruit. There's a kind of unbridled sweetness underneath it, like fermented dates that have fallen off the tree and into the sun. It's not bad though.
Taste is a little better. There is a strong flavour of dried apricots on the front, which develops into a proper acidity towards the back of the palate. The finish is drier, but the apricot character sticks around, which leaves it with a very pleasant heady, aromatic tartness—lots of the fruit characters without the sweetness. Puckering feel, and a noticeable bite of true acid.
It's not an incredible lambic (and coming from California, it could be argued it's not a lambic at all), but there's pleasant things in here. It has a sharpness, and the connection to that dried stonefruit note is nicely done.
85 / 100
330cl brown wax-capped bottle, purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Sam back in Sydney.
Pours a dark brown-black—not like a heavy hole in existence, but more like dense cola syrup. Body is actually fairly light, and it moves swiftly through the glass. Carbonation is very fine, but comes through in swirling squalls. Looks good.
Nose is deliciously smoky with tons of Islay barrel goodness. But it has a richness underneath to support it—crushed chocolate biscuits and pancake batter. As it warms, the smoke turns less peaty and more like smouldering wood-fire. I get smoked bacon and BBQ aromas which really give a savoury richness to the brew. I really like it.
Taste is also extremely good. It's very sweet at its base, but that really allows it to explore all of the smoky complexities over the top. There's a kind of chewy, chocolate character in the centre, which connects with smouldering ash characters, and a slight twinge of medicinal peat. The back has characters of cherry, caraway, with more BBQ-style smoke to finish it off.
Feel is very chewy, and almost hot—it's a little bit like the feeling of drinking liquid chocolate.
Overall—I'm a complete sucker for an Islay BA imperial stout. I love the combination of elements. Here, the sweetness and the smoke is a little at odds, but it creates a wonderfully interesting clash for supremacy.
84 / 100
750ml dark green bottle purchased as part of the Wildflower Collective 2018. This is a blend aged on NSW white peaches. Packaged 4 April 2018. Shared with Sam during a brewday.
Pours a bright, pale golden colour, with a firm ring of just-off-white bubbles that leave long, craggy streaks of lace. Carbonation is very fine, but restrained, forming languid streams when the glass is tilted. Looks good.
Nose is quite pleasant. There's a really nice stonefruit character that's noticeable right from the start, with a little plasticky tartness. It does have a slight yeast undertone, which adds an earthy character—something that I've noticed as something of a trademark in Wildflower's beers. Otherwise, there's a fair amount of vinous acidity and a cut-grass greenness that lifts everything.
Taste is probably better. Here, the peaches are quite prominent, and provide the main structure of the palate. There's acid characters around this, giving light tartness—something like young sauvignon blanc. It has a twang of plasticky lambic-like characters in the back, but it's smoothed out nicely, with characters of tart peach and cranberry continuing the acidity while dampening the sharpness.
Feel is dry and tart, with a smacking crispness on the back.
A lovely brew, and this shows Wildflower really finding their rhythm with what they're trying to do. This is a lovely, well thought-out beer, and the fruit addition is judicious and appropriate. Very nice stuff.
73 / 100
Rye Saison, purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Sam during a brewday.
Pours a very pale, clear golden colour, with some persistent carbonation, but almost no head. On pouring, it has a slight ring of coars bubbled, but these quickly dissipate once the glass is moved. Looks rather dull and flat.
Nose is pleasant. It has a nice vinous tartness that gives notes of riesling, moving to a slightly astringent character like green olives. It has some of that classic mixed ferment greenness, and a hint of plasticine. As it warms, there's notes of pepper and dried orange peel. Quite good all up.
Taste is a bit straightforward. There's a lightness to the palate, with some of that vinous bite towards the back. Again, there's a touch of astringency, which does give a slight olive note, and a peppery character that works with the carbonation to clear things up. Some sweetness in the mid palate hints at stone-fruit and pithy citrus skin. It's good, but it's perhaps not as layered as some of the very best examples.
Feel is light, and a little biting from the acid.
Perfectly drinkable, and very reasonable—it doesn't really strike the highest notes of the style, so it's not going to become a hallmark example, but it's very pleasant and nicely made.