44 / 100
375ml green bottle purchased for me by Sam for a birthday or Christmas some time.
Pours a clear, moderate golden: the colour of clear apple juice, with an initially fizzy head which dissipates to nothing as fast as champagne. Carbonation is surprisingly slow through the body.
Nose is pleasant, but quite unusual. It has some tart characters, which provide a little lactic bite, and which combine pleasantly with that slight lightstruck green bottle character. But atop this it has a pronounced flinty character of phosphorous, smelling like matchheads and fire. It's actually not unpleasant, but I'm also not convinced it's meant to be there.
Taste is disappointing. It starts out with a flat acidity, a little bit like soda water that's lost its carbonation. In the centre, there's a pleasant classic sour character, with a little plastic acidity reminding me of some of the nice characters of lambics. But on the back it veers weirdly into sweet territory. Leaving a sickly, overt wet grain character that lingers for much longer than it should.
Feel is very flat, despite the persistent carbonation. It gives it a character like uncarbonated cider.
Overall, I'm seriously disappointed. La Sirène are one of the finest breweries in Australia, and a new release from them is always a treat as far as I'm concerned. I really hope that this is an off bottle, and not indicative of something they decided to actually bottle and release like this.
50 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park, CA.
Pours a pale, lagery, greyish yellow, with decent clarity, and a very light body. Head is exorbitant—forming a massive, foamy white head, despite a careful pour, collapsing in rocky layers and leaving some clumps of lace. It looks okay, but underwhelming.
Nose is only okay. It has a kind of corn and cereal grain character to it, elevated no doubt by a faint citrus and choko hop character that lends some organic credibility to it. But mostly it'[s painfully generic, and the structure is flimsy.
Taste is the same. In fact here, for some reason the corn and cereal character is more prominent, leaving the front to mid-palate sweet and empty. But worse is the fact that there's a pronounced bitterness that comes through late, leaving a genuinely unpleasant bite on the back, which doesn't work at all.
Overall, I'm deeply unimpressed. It's a very generic IPA, at the very best. But in reality it's worse than that. It has unbalanced notes that push this into the territory of lazy and unthoughtful. Not a pick from me at all.
12oz skinny can purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA.
Pours a deep black, brown with a slick weight to the body, but more liquidity than you expect for a >10% ABV imperial porter. Carbonation is very fine, but very swift, again accentuating the lightness of the body. Lacing only forms in very thin, vertical lines. It's okay, but it's not inspiring.
Nose is quite pleasant. There's a smooth, overarching vanilla character which allows soft powdery cocoa and coffee notes to float over the top. Mostly it's based on that semi-floral sweetness of the vanilla though. It doesn't have a deep porter bass-note. I'm hoping there's some depth on the body.
Disappointingly, the body is quite light. There's not a depth of sweetness, although the malt is more prominent here, allowing a pressure of weight to push the other characters forward. Here, I get chocolate flavoured cereal, overly milky coffee, and a kind of woody, resiny character on the back, almost like chewing on cannabis.
Feel is very light. It doesn't at all support the flavours that this is desperately trying to promote.
I'm a little underwhelmed to be honest. There are so many better beer in this same basic mould. And the slickness of the presentation doesn't hide the fact that this is a middling beer for what it's trying to promote. There are way better similar beers out there.
77 / 100
500ml capped and wax-sealed bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA.
Pours a very hazy dull straw-gold colour, with a loose-bubbled cap of white that leaves chunks of lace. Minimal carbonation, which is surprising for the style, but perhaps not surprising for the barrel-aging. Body has a bit of slick weight to it, which I didn't necessarily see coming. It's decent.
Nose is very pleasant. It has a pronounced sharpness that wanders between a kind of vinous acidity, and a woody note like cedar. There's definitely chardonnay barrel to it, with a fragrant oak note combining with the tartness, almost to create a kind of skunkiness. It's very good.
Taste is a little more subdued, or a little less obviously complex at least. From the nose, I was expecting more of a pungent wild tartness to it, but here it reigns itself back into the realms of saison. It's earthy on the mid to back palate, which connects with the oak and buttery chardonnay character. There's little actual acidity, although the wine notes promote the suggestion of it even so.
Feel is light, with a brightness from the subdued carbonation. It works well.
Overall, it's a nice brew, and a sophisticated, subtle and restrained one. The barrel aging is done well, and it aids the underlying beer. Overall, I'm definitely a fan.
77 / 100
Pint can purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a hazy orange golden colour, with a whipped-meringue-like head of off-white that leaves some sheeting lace. Carbonation is minimal, but forms in thin languid streams. Body has an oiliness to it, but it's relatively light. Looks decent all up.
Nose is really traditional for an American IPA. It's fresh, and bright, and based on Cascadian citrus. I honestly miss beers like this. The malt underneath it provides some depth of sweetness, and a slight touch of savoury grain. I really like this.
Taste is similar. There's a clean balancing bitterness through the centre, which ties itself quite sharply to the savoury grainy character, leaving a woody, herbal note. But the hops layer the other characters atop this, with hints of orange flesh and dried apricots. Feel is light and smooth, with just enough of a prickle of carbonation to keep it bright.
Really, it's a bright, fragrant beer in a style that seems to have been upstaged by fruitbowl Mosaic-heavy craziness. I genuinely love that it's unapologetic about what it's doing. This isn't chasing a fad, it's just doing something classic, really well.
Wheatwine brewed for GABS 2017. Don't think there's any twist or adjunct to it, just a wheatwine. I respect that. Tried at the festival on tap.
Pours an amber colour, slight haze to it. Beige, large bubbly head with a decent retention to it. Looks alright.
Smells nice; sweet and malty with a chestnut kind of character and plenty of vanilla notes as well. Apple and passionfruit give a slight tang and a good freshness to an otherwise sweet aroma.
Big sweetness on the palate. Vanilla and caramel and a slight cake batter sweetness as well. Continues and develops some richness towards the back but no real cleaning up so the sweetness lingers. There is an attempt with some hopping but it just takes on an apple by-product kind of character. Maybe adds a slight freshness and tang but it's ultimately an unbalanced malt bomb. Not a bad one but it is one.
Full body, slight kiss of alcohol warmth. Decent texture really, what I'd expect from the style at least.
Not a bad wheatwine at all. It's inevitably a bit too sweet and it doesn't excite me in either its explosive power or its balance and restraint as it has neither of these things, but there's a fair bit to enjoy in this.
Baltic Porter brewed with Liquorice, Aniseed and Sambuca for GABS 2017. Tried at the festival on tap.
Pours a brown colour with a fair darkness to the edge. Beige foamy head, retaining alright. Looks fairly standard.
Smells dark-malty upfront, with chocolate and dark fruit notes. Aniseed comes through distinctly yet strangely weak, with some clove notes as well. Liqueury-sweet as well, which is not great.
Taste is also weakly Sambuca-esque. Chocolate and a slight nutty edge upfront on the malt, develops some earthy coriander and star anise towards the mid and then finishes sweet and liqueury with a slightly watery edge as well. Not a whole lot of beer character, tastes like a watered-down anise spirit.
Decent texture; has a slight carbonation edge which helps lift it out of potential wateriness.
Pretty unimpressive beer overall. Blandly aniseedy and could really use more porter character throughout as the malt base feels just like a vessel to pour some Sambuca flavour into.
Double New England IPA (because yes, there weren't enough NEIPAs) brewed for GABS 2017. Tried at the festival in May 2017 on tap.
Pours a gold colour, slightly cloudy but quite clear for the style, and for the name. Creamy-coloured foamy head, retaining decently. Looks alright.
Smells very fruity and tropical and pleasant. Huge mango character, touch of pineapple acidity, passionfruit and some citrus as well. Not bitter; very pleasant indeed.
Taste is a slight letdown. Big passionfruit and mango character upfront that's quite tangy but devolves late-mid into quite a dry, dusty bitterness. It's quite bright and colourful upfront but flattens out quite a bit and doesn't offer a whole lot in terms of finish.
Decent body, slight warming alcohol. Not bad mouthfeel, goes down quite nicely.
Not a bad NEIPA, but doesn't really deliver that much on the palate.
40 / 100
Yep, an 18fuckoff% barrel-aged strong ale, brewed for GABS 2017. We aimed to finish the Saturday night session with this but it was sold out (sidenote: really belies the idea that there's one keg per session. No way this beer would sell out in one session and far more likely it was still the first keg from session one that finally ran out). Tried it as a solus beer to kick off the Sunday session instead and finish the festival.
Pours a brown, stagnant colour. Head is mighty impressive for the size; beige in colour, large bubbles but retaining a nice crown. Looks pretty generic but decent for the size.
Smells boozey. Predominantly brandy in tone with some huge dark fruit notes as well from the strong ale yeast. Vanillin oak, some cherry tones and a big cinnamon spice as well. Sweet, boozey. What I expect and not hugely complex for that.
Tastes like booze. Bourbon, rum, all sorts of dark spirits with this raw solventy edge. Some vanilla character from the barrel-ageing but gets very medicinal on the back. Just hop and sharp from the late-mid on and very little nuance to it. Just no finesse.
The body is understandably thick, without being gluggy. The alcohol though is just hot and stripping and unpleasant. No other texture except sharp booze.
Yeah, unpleasantly hot, and one-note. Not a fan. Moon Dog brought a bigger beer to this festival and it was surprisingly nuanced with a lot of complexity. This feels like a whole lot of raw fermentables have been thrown in to up the alcohol and not really add complexity.
A New England IPA, at GABS 2017? No, surely not. What a novel idea. Snark aside, no twist on this. Just NEIPA #45 at the festival. Tried there on tap in May 2017.
Pours an amber colour, slightly darker than gold with only a slight haze to it. Creamy-coloured head, big bubbles retaining fairly well. Looks good; not as orange as I expect for the style but a decent-looking IPA.
Smells tangy, fruity. Grapefruit tang and a sweet orange note as well. Slight sweet spice character on the back as well which I'm not sure where it's from.
Tastes yeah, fruity. Like a big fruit salad with notes of apple, pear, and grapefruit plus some tropical mango character as well. Nice tangy character towards the back and never really turns bitter. Pretty textbook NEIPA palate, and it's pretty good.
Decent body, quite a noticeable alcohol kiss on the back though.
Nice finish to this; tangy and mildly acidic without too much bitterness. Pleasant IPA drop.
IPA infused with various pink things, to make it turn pink. Hence it's called Pink Drink. Brewed for GABS 2017, and tried at the festival on tap. Yes I'm aware the dates are wrong; I finally found the lost GABS tasting sheets hidden in my locker at work.
Pours an amber colour, fairly cloudy and sedimenty. Creamy-coloured head, webs out to leave a thin crown of bubbles. Cloudy, and amber rather than pink. But pretty good.
Smells citric, with a sweet orange overtone to it. Some cake battery malt and a touch of mango tropical aroma. Pretty decent.
Fruity for the most part with just a thin layer of grain on the front and underlining it all. Not really any distinct fruity characters, mostly just a generic apple/pear kind of character and it develops a weird chalky character on the back, like the fruit esters turn minerally slightly. Decent characters but not really distinctive or overly exciting.
Decent body; slightly thin body so a little pull as it goes back.
Decent, fairly generic IPA in the end. Don't get a great sense of what the pink things really do to this.
47 / 100
Pint can purchased from Bobby's Liquor in Santa Clara, CA.
Pours a suitable amber hue, with a very coarse gauze of off-white across the top which fizzles out leaving some thin leopard-print lacing. Body is surprisingly light for the weight, although it holds reasonably fine carbonation. I'm still a bit underwhelmed though.
Nose does kind of deliver on the slightly coppery amber malt character, but it's extremely flat and dead. It has a metallic quality, a little like the smell of heated aluminium foil, or a grill that you haven't turned on for a while. Not that great, to be honest.
The taste is similar. It's based around a savoury malt character, and a biting coppery bitterness. It's very thin, despite the elevated ABV, and comes across more like a macro amber ale than anything with depth of substance. Back is minerally, like chewing up a piece of rock. I'm unimpressed.
Yeah, this isn't good. It's not undrinkable, but the characters it has are more likely than not unpleasant. Mostly, it's just a damn disappointment.
22oz brown bomber purchased from Santa Clara Liquor in Santa Clara, CA. This is a, quote "dry-hopped Berliner weisse style ale brewed with lemongrass, vanilla and milk sugar".
Pours an excessively cloudy yellow colour, looks very much like slightly elderly lemon juice, with a thin cap of white that swiftly becomes little more than film. Carbonation is initially coarse, but before long it disappears altogether, leaving the glass looking very still and dead. Hmm, I'm skeptical.
Nose is rather pleasant. There's a crispness from the berliner weisse base, which gives it a touch of acidity, but the dry hops are the element which stand out the most to me. They add a herbal element over the top, with touches of citrus—to my mind, certainly from the hops, and not from the lemongrass. But it's pleasant.
Taste is kind of backing up my skepticism. It has a tart, aspirin character on the front, with only really a thin suggestion of true lemon sourness. It sticks around though with a lingering lactic character which does no-one any favours. It ends up with a kind of cardamom character, a little like a curry burp. I'm actually not a fan.
Feel is thin and light, with a bite from the acidity.
Overall, I'm actually unimpressed. I've liked Grimm's beers in the past, and I thought with this they were going to deliver something unexpected and unique. But it's kind of like what you'd get if you brewed a mediocre Berliner weisse, then dry hopped it and added lactose to it. That's a shame, because I was hoping for something better than the sum of its parts.
22oz brown bottle purchased from Bobby's Liquor in Santa Clara, CA.
Pours a pleasing deep brown colour—lighter than most stouts of its ilk, with mahogany tinges at the edge of the glass. Head is fairly coarse, but persistent, forming a pleasant lace across the top of the glass, and some thin lace. Looks decent.
Nose is quite pleasant, with coffee dominant, not unexpectedly. There's a slight thinness to the coffee character though, and this lets other odd characters of salt and umami come through—it ends up slightly savoury in a way I wouldn't expect for a beer of this weight. It's also a bit one-note. It's not bad, but when you've got such a big beer, I kind of hope for something more.
Similarly on the palate, although here, there's a slickness which really helps promote the little sweetness it has. Around this, it's almost arid coffee characters, with a savoury-salty quality that tastes a bit like how dry dogfood smells. Finish is surprisingly light. Despite the slick, oily quality of the palate, it doesn't stay around all that long.
It's decently drinkable, especially for how big it is. But it's not complex, and it doesn't reward the hit you take to your sobriety. So despite the quality at it's core, I think it's a bit of a shame.
75 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Bobby's Liquor (-slash porno shop) in Santa Clara, CA. Bottling date of August 30, 2017. So it's about 6 months old.
Pours a pleasantly clear, fairly deep golden colour, with a surprisingly light body for the ABV. Head forms a lovely, rocky crest of pale creamy white which leaves messy, sticky lace. Carbonation forms in pleasant soft streams. Overall, it looks pretty good.
Nose is quite pleasant. There's a punchy hop aroma that reminds me a bit of Nelson Sauvin. It has some of that sharpness, almost an acidic quality. But it's mellows by the underlying tones of orange and spearmint, which give it a broader base. There's a hint of sweetness, but it's clearly not driven by the malt, despite its hefty weight. Smells good.
Taste is also pretty solid. There's a long palate—you can always feel the malt presence, which gives weight and backbone to the body, but it never takes over the flavour. Instead, this is driven by sweet citrus on the front, turning herbal in the middle, and with a slight medicinal or metallic character on the back. That's not ideal, but it gives a bite which would be missing otherwise. The body is light throughout—it's actually really nicely made to get that kind of smoothness but without the cloying intensity of the malt.
Overall, I'm genuinely pretty impressed with this. It's a really solidly made DIPA, with care and craft put into the balance and the drinkability of the beer. It's not an astonishing IPA flavourwise, but it shows skill in its creation. The fact that this bottle is about 6 months old could well mean that fresh it's a revelation.
71 / 100
330ml can purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a slightly hazed, very pale straw colour, with a flimsy white head that quickly disappears entirely. Carbonation is ubiquitous, to the extent that I wonder whether the hazing is actually just the constant stream of bubbles. Body is very light. Honestly, I'm underwhelmed.
It's better though. The nose brings a big sweet/sour passionfruit character to the fore—big, fresh and smelling just like the fresh fruit. It has some candy overtones as well though—the acidity is sharper than I expected perhaps, bringing in green apple and fairy floss.
Taste is also good. Lots of passionfruit fragrance throughout, lingering from the front to the back. In the middle of the palate, it has a sharpness, almost a salt or mineral character. But as this slowly diminuendos, it leaves a more true passionfruit character on the back, twinged with a lightly tart acidity. I feel a little bit as though the wheat helps provide, or at least accentuate, the sour character—the lightness certainly helps let it flourish.
It's a refreshing brew, no doubt at all. It has a lovely cleanliness to it, which just allows the passionfruit to shine. And let's be honest, it's the main and pretty much only character to it. But what a pleasant character it is.
77 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Bobby's Liquor (slash porno shop) in Santa Clara, CA.
Pours a thin -bodied black-brown colour with a coarse, bubble head that fizzes out to a thin ring and a sheen of film across the top of the glass. Lacing forms in long streaks. Carbonation is surprisingly minimal—perhaps it blew its load on that first initial burst. It looks mediocre, to be honest.
Nose is great, however. There's a very pleasant concoction of freshly ground coffee beans and hazelnut chocolate. It provides a nice mixture of flavours, and lifted by a kind of vapoured pungency. It doesn't have a lot of depth of sweetness behind it, but that should only really be a problem if it's too light on the palate to carry the flvaours. Let's see.
Taste is smoother than expected, and while it does not indeed have a lot of back-body sweetness, there's something that holds it all together nonetheless. It has enough weight to it, just, and a hint of vanilla which suggests smoothness that perhaps isn't there in reality. But all of these manage to tie things together, leaving the coffee, nut and chocolate pastry characters to excite the palate. I like it.
Overall, it does enough. There's some pleasant things in here, and while it doesn't have all of the complexity of a truly phenomenal beer, it does manage to craft something very coherent and very worthwhile from what it has. I like it.
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park California.
Pours a very clear, brassy golden colour, with a frothy, persistent cap of just off-white, that leaves clumpy, sudsy lace. Carbonation is quite aggressive, forming in swift, persistent streams of coarse bubbles. Looks decent.
Nose is a little flat. It has a metallic edge to it, like freshly sawn copper pipe, and a slight grassiness. But there is orange to it to. It's slightly stewed or peely, perhaps even candied, as it ties quite a bit to the malt sweetness. It's not bad, but not amazing.
Taste is similar. It's reputable enough, with a reasonable malt body, and definite flavours from the blood orange. These provide more of a flat sheen of flavour, a sort of base, or background level orange note. Sadly, there's not a lot more over the top though—it's like an accompaniment without a tune. Finish has a touch of bitterness, but it's tied to that metallic character.
Feel is slightly frothy from all that carbonation, but with some smoothness from the slightly bigger body.
Overall, it's okay. There's nothing wrong with it specifically, except that it's surprisingly dull. I guess it's drinkable enough, and at least the 7.2% ABV is well hidden. But I'd probably rather have something else next time.
83 / 100
375ml brown Belgian-style bottle, capped rather than caged and corked. Purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA.
Pours a pinkish tinged orange, with a fine and persistent head of off-white that leaves long streamers of lace. Body is fairly light, but the carbonation is very fine. Looks good.
Nose is pungent, in a good way. This is aged in Zinfandel barrels, and has raspberries and wine residue added to it, and you can tell. It's got loads of funky fruit to it, and plenty of sharp acid. It has undertones of carambola and peach, which are really just the hidden qualities of the must and squashed raspberries. It's really very nice.
Taste is really quite sour. It's controlled well though—it has a very prominent vinous acid, turning towards citric with elements of lemon and unripe orange. In the middle of the palate, the sour grapes and raspberries come through though, with a more direct fruit character that never separates itself from the tartness. Finish has a touch of mineral quality, almost salty from the intensity of the acid. It's pretty impressive.
Feel is clean, but slicing with that extremity of acidity.
Overall, I'm genuinely impressed. And I say this as someone who's been impressed with the general quality of Calicraft's beers in the past. But this is a step beyond. And this is a step into the realms of the kind of beers that will put them on the broader map. And I honestly hope they get there.
89 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Apparently brewed in March 2017, so it's almost a year old.
Pours a silky black-brown, with a pleasant, light mocha head of beige that leaves excellent lace. It slips into a film pretty quickly, but still provides bold delineation between the body and the head. Carbonation is very fine, but swift and vivacious, suggesting that this isn't a thick and heavy beer. It looks good, all up.
Nose is lovely, and it really shows the imperial stout bare and unvarnished. It has rich, deep complexities, but these are not through the combination of a reasonable beer, the oak its spent time in, and the whisky which once graced the cask. This is just built on the malt, with layers of sweetness and tempered roast providing chocolate, dark cherry, latte and undried peppercorns. Boom. This is really quite lovely.
The taste is also exceptionally good. It is, as suspected from the carbonation, a little lighter than average, but this is used to really great advantage. It allows some of the more fragrant characters to have their presence felt without being overwhelmed by a rich, dark sweetness. I get characters of rose, strawberry and sweet tomato dipping in and out amongst the rich earthy tones of the dark malt. Finish has characters of woodsmoke, tobacco and crushed nettles.
Feel is slick, but never heavy.
Yeah, wow. I'm really impressed. This is really skillfully done—the lightness is such an asset to a beer like this, but it is used to such advantage that it absolutely promotes all the complexity of the beer. This is a really fantastic beer.