76 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased as part of a bulk order with a bunch of folks from work.
Pours a lovely silky, opaque black-brown colour, with good weight to the body. Head initially forms a coarse crest of dark brown bubbles, but it slowly coalesces into a stronger, richer cap, finally settling on a loose arrangement of large crema-coloured bubbles. Carbonation is fine and languid.
Nose is potent. Stacks of smoky, peaty whisky, over a stout base that seems strongly driven by coffee and dark roast. There's not a lot of sweetness to a beer like this, and I'm hopeful that there's body on the palate to support all of this brashness. As it warms, it takes on peppery notes, with earthy mushroom tones and a suggestion of seared steak. It's great.
Taste is more supple than you might expect, and fortunately there's a lovely silky body to support all of the intensity that's going on above it. This lends it a silky feel and a heavy, if not terribly sweet basis. Above this, there's loads of peat, turning medicinal and herbal at times, with a bitterness that comes mostly from the peat, and not the hops. There's plenty of slick, semi-dark chocolate, and an almost szechuan pepper kind of tingle from the booze. It's intense.
It's a potent brew, with stacks of character. It's incredibly big though, in every aspect, and you have to take it on its own terms—it's not going to give you an inch. It can be a bit of a slog at times, but I honestly think it's worth it.
330ml brown bottle purchased with a group of workmates as part of a bulk order. 2015 vintage.
Pours a very hazy ruddy brown colour, with a very nice crest of pale beige. Lacing forms as lovely fine sheets, with the occasional small specks. Body is slick and weighty, but with a bit of lightness to it as well—viscosity but not density, perhaps. Looks good.
Nose is pleasant, without being spectacular. Slight toasty German grain characters to it, almost hinting at smokiness. There's a soft oxidation to it, but it's still smelling pretty fresh. There's a hint towards pepper or eucalyptus as well, possibly due in part to the booziness. For a beer of this weight, I'd like more complexity, but it's okay as it is.
Taste is pretty soft and light. I really like the fact that there's so little harshness from the booze. Instead, it dips into a pleasant raspberry character (yeah, I'm surprised too), laced with plenty of milk chocolate and just a hint of mild tannins on the back. Feel is very smooth: slick and pillowy.
It's nicely executed all up—while it again doesn't have the complexity of the best examples, it's coherent and quite pleasant to drink. I'm not sure it quite warrants being as intoxicating as it is, but at the very least you don't feel the heat as it goes down.
58 / 100
330ml brown bottle. Best before date of December 2016, so still a little while to go.
Pours a very cloudy muddy orange colour, with a frothy, full and boisterous head of off-white, that leaves spidery lace. Body is really surprisingly light and fluid, and holds swift-moving carbonation. The head is marvellous, at the very least.
Nose is rather pleasant. It's not a punch of hops, but there's a pleasantly constructed bouquet with some sweet citrus notes and a slight floral undertone. Aromas of potpourri and rosewater come through, along with a slightly grassy, slightly organic note. Malt is very restrained for something as big as this.
Taste is also surprisingly restrained. There's a very pronounced lightness to the palate, that leaves little room for malt body. The balance is still pretty good, which takes some craft. However, the booze is very noticeable, sitting warmly on the back and lending a slight medicinal twang, finishing slightly harsh with resin.
Feel is weak. It's impressive they've got this in a 10% beer, but it doesn't necessarily do the beer any favours.
Overall, it's maybe technically impressive, but not necessarily that good to drink. It's surprising that it's 10% alcohol, but it's also not hard to realise this when you pull back the veil and work out where that burn is coming from.
80 / 100
330ml brown bottle, with a best before date of December 2017.
Pours a pleasant burnished mahogany colour, with a fairly frothy head of beige that leaves some pleasant lager-like lace. Body is slick but light, and holds some large-bubbled but languid carbonation. Looks pretty good.
Nose is slightly coppery, which almost gives it a hint of acidity on the front. Once this blows off, it has more of the pleasant notes you expect from a bock. Mild caramel malts, decoction toffee, fragrant but hearty toasty grains. There's something indescribable and characteristic about a bock aroma, and I've very pleased to say that this one gets it right.
Taste is also very nicely done. There's a smoothness on the front, slightly toffeed and chewy-sweet, but this develops into a lighter, more savoury back-palate, with a slight dip in body to land on a crisp finish. Carbonation is very fine—it creates a slightly velvet texture on the front that weirdly suggests extra body. All of the flavours are very nicely integrated and coherent—it makes a great deal of sense as a beer.
Overall, this is pretty cracking stuff. It's a really well-made bock that understands the subtleties and charm of the style. It manages to be both traditional and exciting. That works for me.
Pours an orangey-amber colour, very cloudy with dense creamy white head that sticks to the glass beautifully. Looks great.
Smells grainy and a little yeasty at first, then a touch of pear and peach fruitiness that doesn't really assert itself. Maybe smokey but not a lot. Touch of bread - cereal and fruity.
Taste is grainy upfront, touch of toffeed malt that develops a touch of rye spice midway which is nice. Somewhat resinous on the back and some dark fruit, but no real sign of smoke. Slight bitterness to finish; not bad.
Full body, creamy head adds to creamy texture, but finish has a little alcohol which I'm not sure should be felt.
Not bad, maybe a touch old. But still, the hops come through for bitterness, there just isn't any smoke and I'm not sure why.
85 / 100
33cl brown bottle purchased from Leura Cellars. Single-hop Imperial Stout, huh? This is a trend I can get behind.
Pours a deep, luscious black, with a very fine, very thick head of chocolate brown that leaves strong, thick, sheeting lace. Carbonation is very fine, although it surprisingly doesn't quite stay static in the body is it's tilted. As a result, the body looks a bit more fluid and light than others. Otherwise, it's a very attractive looking beer.
Nose actually does have quite the aroma of Sorachi Ace to it. This is a sweet character I always find akin to oak, so it really does work surprisingly well in this style. It does dip towards the slightly buttery as well, of course, as it is wont to do, but with some robust roasted tones and a deep sweetness from the malt, it gets away with it. It's perhaps not quite as good as a genuine barrel aging, but it's still pretty cool.
Taste is also very good. Smooth and long roasty palate gets elevated by the hop presence (which is genuinely still quite robust), giving mild lemon thyme hints to the darkness. Of course, this is a big stout, so the flavours are predominantly those of the malt. Big roasted notes, slight crisp ashy bitterness, with heaps of thick dark sweetness and a modicum of booze. But that flitting hop aromatic around the top gives it a twist, and I like it.
Feel is good. Long, slick and smooth. Ignore what I said about it looking thin: this is a fine body for a Russian Imperial Stout.
Yep, this is good stuff. Very smooth, and a very sollid RIS that just has enough of a quirk to make it seem unique. It wouldn't work if it wasn't such a solid base beer, but this one is a cracker.
69 / 100
330ml bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne.
Pours a lovely deep brown colour, that looks dark enough to be black unless held to the light, when it takes on a burnished ruby hue. Head is excellent, forming a solid crest of creamy beige that stays firm and full most of the way down. Lacing forms in big, solid sheets. Overall, it has so many of the elements very right. It looks really great.
Nose is pleasant without being superb, or particularly exciting. Solid malty basis laced with a pleasant concoction of hop aromas, giving a little dark fruit and some pithier citrus characters, including some tangerine. Oddly enough, the hops seem to become more prominent as it warms, tending a little towards the dustier, more herbal end of things. All up, it's good, even if it doesn't really push the envelope.
Taste is also pretty solid, and surprisingly dry given the ABV. Indeed, there's a lack of weight on the back that allows both the booze and the hop bitterness to come through, and these do make the palate a little harsh. Still, there's some pleasant toasted malt characters around the side to provide some direction in the beer, and a bit of that pithy mandarine flavour on the front.
Feel is light—it's both this and the lack of sweetness on the back that make it feel a bit intense later on.
Overall, there's plenty of good stuff in this beer. It's something of a shame that the elements combine in such a way that it's a bit difficult to drink more than one. I'll admit that by the end of the glass, I was feeling a bit of fatigue.
Bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Tribeca. Didn't make the cut of beers to take back to Australia, so I drank it on my last night in New York.
Pours a very viscous and thick reddish amber colour, with a fine but patchy head of white. Body is really nice and thick and heavy, and I like a bit of deeper colour in a DIPA. Minimal lacing. Fine carbonation. Looks pretty good all up.
Nose is green and prickled with noble hops, giving a crushed vegetation character, with clipped grass and leafy tannins. Grainy malt character comes through as well, with a rustic funk that's almost like a saison. Interesting take.
Taste is clear and hoppy, without being really that bitter. It certainly has a kick to it, but this is probably the combination of low-alpha European varieties, and the extra sting of alcohol. A hint of phenols as well. Finish is rather sweet, with a golden malt character coming through stickily on the end. Feel is light but slick.
Not a bad brew all up, and an interesting European American IPA, as if that makes any sense. Let's call it an American IPA with European ingredients.
That still doesn't make sense, but I'll stand by it.