70 / 100
2016 vintage. Purchased from The Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Shared with my Dad on a trip to Orange.
Pours a murky reddish brown colour, with a slick body that seems lighter than the 12.7% ABV would suggest. Carbonation is very fine, but it moves swiftly through the body, which has taken on an oily quality. Head is a proper firm beige that leaves sloppy waves of lace. Looks decent.
Nose is hot with booze, and it takes a couple of sniffs to desensitize myself to the strength. Under it though, there's plenty to enjoy. Dark chocolate and maple syrup are the obvious initial tones, but there's underlying layers of rosemary, bourbon and sage, with a deeper sweetness that suggests caramel. It's quite dense, and it's pummeled by the ever-present booze, but the complexity really has stuff to offer.
Smooth opening to the palate, with a little bit of chocolate char on the front, which develops into caramel and maple sweetness with a kick of bourbon. Interestingly, rather than getting the pure oak characters, it's mostly the explicit booziness that comes through. On the back, the booze kicks up again, giving a hot, peppery finish with an aftertaste of toasted sesame. It's too boozy, but again, it has complexities which almost make it worth it.
Overall, there's definitely plenty to enjoy in this beer. It's a sipper for sure; it wears its ABV proudly, and is unapologetic about it. But there's a respectability in that.
2015 vintage. 500ml brown bottle caged and corked. Purchased at the Willows Market in Menlo Park, CA. Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with my father-in-law and my brothers-in-law.
Pours a very hazy blonde amber colour, with a fine, frothy head that nonetheless requiresa bit of coercion to form. Lacing forms in nice long streaks though. Body is fine but heavy, with tiny bubbles of carbonation. Looks pretty good.
Nose is quite smooth, but with noticeable kerosene-like booze tones. There's pepper as well, along with a slight peely orange rind note which gives some sharpness. It does feel a little flat overall though—probably to do with the 3 years of age on it. But I'm somewhat surprised that it keeps the booze characters so prominent.
Taste is sharp on the front, still with lots of booze and a prominent initial bitterness. There's a hint more body through the middle, but it still has to contend with lots of sharp alcohol characters, which move into the back with a somewhat metallic, medicinal finish. Honestly, I'm not much of a fan.
Feel is hot and sharp throughout, and it doesn't have enough weight to support it.
Overall, I'm underwhelmed. There's plenty of booze to it, but nothing near enough balance to it. It just blasts everything with alcohol and expects you to respect it because of that. I don't feel the need to drink it and certainly not the need to respect it.
71 / 100
Bottle given to me by Chris, enjoyed by myself.
Pours a deep dark brown with a slight russet tinge. Head is mocha-coloured, nice when poured but sinks pretty quickly leaving a nice rim of lace and a few sparse bubbles on the top. Nothing overly special.
Smells nice and rich with a good robust espresso aroma to it. Slightly burnt with vegetative and berry hints. Slight peppery spice, and a hint of chocolate at the back. Fairly predictable but a good dose of complexity to it as well, and otherwise nicely balanced.
Taste is roasty, dark. Nice dark malts upfront that descends into a long mid-to-late coffee flavour, with a rich earthy roast lingering on burnt towards the back, but mellows out into a nice smooth finish that doesn't overload on bitterness. Some chocolatey hints around the edge from the malt, and a nice herbal hop touch on the back to clean it up. Again it's a coffee stout; pretty predictable for what it says but nicely balanced and pleasantly delivered.
Decent texture, quite fluid but it gets a nice robust pull on the back as it gets more bitter towards the finish. Not bad.
Yeah, it's quite a nice little winter warmer. I think the coffee is quite a simple espresso flavour and the most enjoyable parts of the palate come from the malt and hops bill, I think the coffee used could have had more complexity that would work really strangely and wonderfully with the malty depth.
58 / 100
Bottle given to me by Chris for my birthday, enjoyed by myself on a Friday or Saturday night some time.
Pours a pale golden colour, with voluminous head caused by my pour mainly. Good sinky texture on top but a bit whispy as you'd expect from the size. Lacing is a bit thin and lacking. But yeah, looks nice generally.
Smells nice, west coast hops giving piquant citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit. Touch of stonefruit on there as well. All tang and zest, but a nice sweetness from aromatic hops offsetting the citric bite. Smells pleasant.
Taste is a little maltier, could possibly be just a tad oxidised as there's quite a broad, rich malt character especially towards the back. Hops are zesty upfront, then get a little dank towards the back. Touch of black peppercorn, maybe some Sichuan pepper as well, together with grapefruit bitterness that's quite strong. Bit dank and lingering on the back so quite astringent by the finish. Needs a bit more freshness to balance it a bit more.
Quite a lot of carbonation, and a strong pull from the hops. A little prickly.
Wouldn't be my go-to; I feel like there's as much astringency on the back as on a full-size stone IPA but the latter has a lot more flavoursome citrus towards the front so it feels livelier and more drinkable. This is all the bitterness with less of the substance upfront or underneath. Seems like a weird marketing proposition from the kings of fuck-you hop bills, and the sort of session IPA you'd expect from people who don't really do sessionable.
74 / 100
Bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor, shared with Jez, Andrew and Chris for my birthday.
Pours a dark brown colour, with dark beige colour. Lacing is nice and sticky and looks good. Generally pretty impressive.
Smells Chai-ish. Cinnamon, clove, cardamom. Notes of dark roast on the back, with spice dominating it. Fairly simple in execution but huge in the effect.
Taste is huge on the spice as well. Big clove and nutmeg and ginger, with huge sweetness as well, molasses and dark roast that develops late with the spice character. Sweet and spicy and desserty. Pretty pleasant. Tastes like pfeffernusse.
Full, fairly boozey but not hot. Pretty smooth actually.
Decent drop, it's pretty much all Chai spice, but a good roasty sweetness as well. Very pleasant.
70 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a pleasingly bright and pale burnished golden colour, with a fairly frothy white head, that persists as some solid islands of foam. Lacing forms in mild streaks. Body is light, but holds nice fine carbonation. Looks pretty good.
Nose is pretty good, but it's not really selling the tangerine hard. Instead, it ramps up the dankness in a way I wasn't quite expecting, almost turning skunky. It's not unpleasant though, and although this is the initial impression, after a while it settles in to a broader, sweeter character. At this point, the tangerine/mandarin is noticeable, leaving a pleasant semi-sweet citrus aroma. All up, it's pretty good.
Taste is a little shallow. There's a smooth, neutral malt, that has a slightly unfortunate buttery quality to it, but this is mostly covered by the hops and fruit. These leave a citrus-forward fruit sweetness, backed by a slight ashy bitterness, like a discarded cigar butt. It's smoothed over by the end, with a slight toffee-orange sweetness, that's quite pleasant.
Feel is rather light, and the carbonation is so fine as to almost be non-existent.
Overall, it's a nice brew. Very drinkable, and with some mild twists that maybe don't do quite enough to make it stand out. It's pleasant though.
Enjoy After 07.04.16: Bottle given to me by Jez for my birthday. Enjoyed almost a month after the enjoy after date, on 08.03.16. That is, 3rd August, for normal people. I should also note I almost opened this in May, thinking it was well after the 7th April and therefore enjoyable by this time. Stone should really just date these sometime after the 12th of each month to avoid confusion for people in their favourite market, Australia.
Pours a pale shimmery gold colour, with an orange haze. Head is overly voluminous, with small bubbles. Sinks slowly and leaves lace in large clumps. Too much head but otherwise pretty nice.
Smells funky, bitter with some fruit notes at the back. Mango and orange mostly. Barnyard phenols and light coriander. Quite decent, maybe a bit heavy on the phenolic character but otherwise fresh and enticing.
Taste is citric upfront with some stonefruit notes, peach and apricot. Gets bitter with more lemon pith, then phenolic and funky barnyard on the back. Quite dank on the finish, where hops and bretty funk combine and sort of compete. Bit bitter, but decent palate otherwise.
Decent body. Bit drying on the back but a decent texture.
Drinks a bit bitter. Nice but a bit strong on the back.
Old review notes found recently. Look at Jez's review to learn origins, context etc. because how would I remember.
Pours a dark cola colour, beige head that dissipates quickly, but a swill brings back large bubbles and leaves some specks of lacing. Not bad.
Smells somewhat roasty, but a slight tartness to it. Touch of cocoa, and some strong vinous character. Fairly rich, with a lovely balance struck between warring elements. A peaceful aroma.
Taste is more roasty: maybe the tart notes were just my imagination. Roasty, with notes of unsweetened chocolate, some orange peel, maybe a bit of liquorice. Slightly spicy; finishes fairly dull, with not quite enough body or character to sustain much of a back palate. Pleasant, though, and lightly drinkable for a marginally darker beer.
Spiced brown ale, tried on tap at GABS 2016 in Melbourne.
Pours a dark-brown colour, clear with foamy off-white head. Doesn't really stick around and looks listless. Bit pale too, but not bad.
Smells like a brown ale - distinct coffee note with some subtle spice notes around the edge. Pepper, clove and maybe a hint of smoke. Decent balance.
Taste is quite earthy. Some coffee tinges to the roasted malt, gets a peppery spice towards the back, a little bit bitter as well, with clove and aniseed and fennel for good measure. Decent palate.
Little bit of heat from the spice towards the back, peppery though and doesn't linger. Decent otherwise.
Yeah, that spice just tickles the back of the throat. Feel like the spice mix could be more cohesive, it's just a general sort of batch thrown together rather than suiting any particular flavour purpose. Quite a nice beer but I'm just not sure what it's meant to be doing.
61 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a hazy golden orange colour, with a moderate head of off-white that sits as a firm ring around the glass. Minimal lacing, and minimal carbonation. Indeed, it looks a little still and dead in the glass. Hmm.
Nose is pleasant enough, but certainly a little pedestrian for a special-release beer from Stone. Mild, musty hops sit above a rather grainy, generic malt character. Sweeter notes of musk and rosewater come through, but not enough to provide any genuine interest. I'm underwhelmed.
Taste is okay. And here there is some structure to the malt that makes it feel balanced and fairly drinkable. Mild savoury characters give it some basis, while there's a pleasant hoppy note that gives it some sharper metallic notes and a touch of bite. It's not bad.
Feel is clean and light—it's actually pretty impressive that it feels so minimal given it weight in at well over 8% alcohol.
Overall, it's decent. But it's certainly a bit of a non-entity for Stone, especially in their left-field Stochasticity series. I guess though when you're going for experimental entities, you're going to hit a few dud notes. It's not bad, it's just... kinda nothing.
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Currently, this is doing the rounds in Sydney, although I missed it being in California, so I thought picking up a bottle (without the Australia Tax) might be a good option. Bottling date of 07/23/15.
Pours a genuinely very cloudy peach yellow colour, with a fine ring of white that leaves some mild streaks and patches of lace. Body is surprisingly light, and even when tilted slowly, the fine carbonation seems to rush through the body. Looks decent all up though.
Nose is fragrant, but a little dark, with a more herbaceous character coming through than I was strictly expecting. Slightly peppery notes come through, which suggest copious amounts of Ella in particular. Otherwise, it forms a rather gritty aroma all up.
Taste is more interesting. Firm bitterness runs through the centre of the beer, but gives slightly astringent characters of grapefruit peel and underripe passionfruit. The aftertaste turns herbal again, giving characters of dried thyme and lime leaf. Finish is slightly antiseptic, with a moderate pine character providing a bitter finish.
Feel is full and smooth. Works pretty well.
Overall, it's solid enough. It's hard to deny though that these Aussie hops don't stack up all that well against some of the more oily, fragrant US varieties here. This is despite the fact that when they're fresh than can be truly remarkable hops. The novelty here isn't enough to make them really shine though.
22oz bottle purchased from Southwest Parkway Market in Austin, Texas. I'm always intrigued by white stouts, and some I've had have done an excellent job of sustaining the illusion of a dark beer.
This one starts out right, with a deep golden colour and good clarity. Head is very fine, but rather minimal, only forming a thin ring around the outside of the glass that promotes a little specky lacing. Carbonation is pretty fine and quite powdery when the glass is tilted. It looks good on its own, and it certainly fits the bill for its "master of disguise" moniker.
Nose is a little obvious. Big coffee aroma gives it a very roasted, almost aromatically bitter character from the start, that pretty much railroads everything. Under it is something a little spicy and sharp, almost a touch of peppery yeast character, which pretty much destroys the illusion on its own. I took a whiff with my eyes closed before even seeing the colour and it certainly didn't smell like a stout—just a beer with a stack of coffee in it.
Taste is similar for the most part, although here there is a touch of cocoa to the mid-palate that helps suspend disbelief for a little while. Mostly though, everything is driven by the coffee from the initial slight acidity to the roast-bitter finish. What it lacks is any real sweetness and body—the sort of sweetness you get naturally in a big stout. This feels oddly thin despite the alcohol content—as though the body isn't there to support it.
Overall, it's certainly not a bad beer, but I'm afraid it fails the illusion test more than some others I've had, and it really doesn't manage to capture the stout aroma or flavours. Were this a stout, it would feel like a very poor one; as a white stout, it's a valiant attempt that doesn't quite work.
Bottle shared with people on NYE. Orange colour, bit of sediment. Some bead. Head is off-white, dense and lovely. Lace is pleasant. Looks great.
Smells floral and pleasant. Lots of fruit and nectar notes; elderflowerb raspberry and apple. More malt might be nice, but pretty decent.
Taste is very floral, very sweet that gets medicinal midway. Finish retains floral notes but gets uncomfortably bitter at the back; not bad but doesn't sit well with the front. Seems an odd mishmash.
Full, bit of booze on the back, quite dry but very smooth and filling for the most part.
Food attempt, but the sweetness transition to bitterness on the back doesn't really work coherently.
Bottle shared with folks at Cammeray Craft.
Pours an orange-golden colour, foamy white head with nice trails of bead. Lace is pretty nice. Not bad.
Smells like toast, with a touch of green from hop pellets. Touch of urine, as well. Cut grass, mushroomy as well. Very weird, but will give it the benefit of the doubt.
Taste is malty upfront, then hops take over. More umami flavour, some grass and lemon pith on the back. Fairly bitter, fairly smooth for the ABV though. Maybe a touch of booze at the very back. Fairly odd. But big rich hop notes, fairly pleasant still.
Full, fairly smooth. Bit of texture on the back from carbonation and then hops.
Decent IPA, bit of a weird character in there, but I have to hand it to Stone, they certainly know how to handle their IPAs.
69 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Ledgers Liquors in Berkeley, CA. This is another in the three-way collaborations that Stone does so well. This one with two particularly fine other breweries. Shared this bottle with Sam and Rich during a Jabberwock brewday.
Pours a pleasing deep brown—still with a little clarity in the thinner parts of the glass, but deep with colour elsewhere. Head is a bit flimsy, forming a moderate head of pale beige that leaves only a few specs of lacing as it goes. Body is quite light, which is not unexpected. Looks nice.
Nose is quite pleasantly smoked, in a dry, free kind of way. There's a hint of charred wood to it, a little like an open fire on a clear night. But there's other qualities to it—a pleasant yeast tone suggests its genesis as a saison, and even adds a little stonefruit. It's rather pleasant all up.
Taste is initially quite smoky and a little bitter—with the smoke and the roast it almost comes across as ashy. This is subdued quite quickly however by a pleasant upkick from the yeast which lends a little fruity note and even a suggestion of tartness. The back is still quite bitter, but the fruitiness turns slightly medicinal, giving it a flavour like children's Panadol. This lingers a little on the back, almost with an astringency given the lingering smoke as well. It's certainly very interesting.
Feel is light but clinging. Not bad at all.
Overall, this is interesting stuff. And I guess you'd want something interesting from these three breweries coming together, but it's not a beer that really surprised me. I guess what would have been truly unexpected would have been a Stone / Stillwater / Evil Twin Light Lager. And I'm glad we have this beer instead.
81 / 100
A "black rye kölsch". Sure, why not. 22oz bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a deep dark brown, almost black, with a rather surprisingly thick body. Head forms a very fine ring of beige, but little more. Even the initial pour only yielded a slight foaming. Minimal lace, and the carbonation is invisible in the darkness. Looks good even so.
Nose is very pleasant. Dark and spicy with a little toasty sweetness and rye bread. It doesn't go overboard on the roast though and get harsh or stout-like. There's a cleanness to it as well, and a bright, slightly fragrant farmyard note to it. Yeah, it's nice stuff.
Taste is also very good. It has a smoothness to it that cushions the lighter flavours, while allowing the spicy rye to roll around the tongue. Toastiness comes through again, but again the dark character is very well restrained: it never gets close to being roasty, or worse acrid. Indeed it feels very supple from start to finish. On the back, there's a linger of dark fruit which provides the punctuation you'd find from crispness otherwise.
Overall, really quite wonderful stuff. This is interesting and unusual, but done with such conviction and integration of flavours that it seems classic.
12oz brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a very clear golden yellow colour, with a very light and airy body. Head forms a fine brilliant white, but settles out to little more than a minimal ring. Lacing forms spot and nothing more. The colour is nice, but otherwise it looks like a fairly forgettable beer.
Nose is clean and bright, but reliant on a spice addition that a really classic saison would not. It smells a little like pot-pourri, with a slight twinge towards more zesty citrus. It's not unpleasant, but it's also quite clearly not like a regular saison. Peppery and fake.
Taste is similar or slightly worse. Here there's a genuine lagery character to it: like what you get with a hint too much sugar in the mash—it's both too sweet and too light. There's a noticeable spice character that comes through, but it really doesn't feel much like the yeast is making itself felt. Back is a little harsh, despite the fact it's only 6% ABV.
Feel is heavy. It really has that over-drawn thickness that is acceptable in a big hoppy ale like Stone does so well—but in a delicate beer like this, it just doesn't work.
Nup. It's okay, but only okay. Stone are good craftsmen—they have the skill to get the fundamentals right—but there's absolutely no art to the beer, and this is a style that demands it. It's a weak, disappointing echo of a great style, and there are far better examples out there for you to find.
83 / 100
Enjoy by 05.16.14: made it with 2 weeks or so to spare. 22oz bomber purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco.
Beautifully clear pale golden colour, with a very fine, sticky and white head that subsides in streaky lacing. Body is fine and sleek, holding plenty of static fine carbonation at its swirled. Big and bold.
Yeah, the nose is big. This is the point of that date blasted on the label. This is fresh, bright and hectic: big pine and herbal characters, crushed and pressed into aromatic bliss. "Devastatingly dank", it says as well, and there's certainly a dank organic character to it, giving a funky overhopped mass. Impressive stuff—just what you expect from a super-fresh Stone beer.
Taste is also superb. Clean, bright and fresh, with a solid smooth malt underpinning that never gets in the way. The bite comes in the back, with a firm bitterness gilded and caressed by a smoothness from the malt and the slightly higher ABV. Aniseed and piquant herbal notes complete the picture on the back, coming through move strongly as the beer warms slightly. It's a really great brew.
Feel is smooth and light with a slickness to help propagate the hop characters.
It's a big beer, no doubt, and yet it manages to be so surprisingly drinkable at the same time. After a while, I can feel the 9.4% ABV, but to be honest until I'd drunk most of the bottle, I didn't really notice it. That's the sign of a really good (or at least really distracting) beer.
22oz bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. "Ale with grapefruit peel added" it says on the bottle.
Pours a beautifully clear, and fairly pale golden colour, with a fine white head that settles out to a fine bubbled film. Lacing is patchy but good. Body has some weight behind it, and allows carbonation to form in powdery waves. Looks great.
Nose is also great. Big peely citrus characters, bright and sharp: piercing in intensity. Under this is a distinct sweetness, like a clear but flat honey malt. The two characters don't integrate all that well, but they're each quite pleasant in their own right.
Taste is similar, although the sweetness takes on a slight marmalade character what with the citric bitterness from the hops and the grapefruit peel. This bitterness probably comes fairly strongly from the peel, as there's a acidic quality to the bitterness—different from the sharper, earthier tones you just get from hops. It integrates fairly well, but it's also maybe a tad too aggressive. Feel is glassy and smooth, with some weight behind it.
Overall, there's no doubt this is a good beer, and a big beer. I'm afraid it may be too much for me: it feels a little unbalanced, while still seeming very sweet and very bitter. But there's stacks that's good in it—it's just not the beer for me.
62 / 100
Pours an orange colour, bit pale and a bit cloudy. Head is white, whispy, a bit boring like Gordon Brown. Can be revived with a gentle shake though, unlike Gordon Brown.
Smells a bit sweet, bit hoppy. Odd kind of meaty aroma, slight salt and smoke character but otherwise mostly tangy, acidic and bitter, with a sweet base. Alright.
Taste is pretty standard IPA fare. Malty upfront with peanut edge, touch of caramelisation. Hops on the mid-to-back, quite bitter with citrus, pine resin, some wood and even a mediciney note. Decent, but very pedestrian and distinctly lacking the coconut promised.
Smooth feel, bit of pull on the back, but not as much as expected.
Standard IPA. Drinkable but not showing me anything new or different. I think coconut works best in sweet beers/dark beers. Hops just dominate here.
60 / 100
22oz bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a pleasant deep golden colour, with some hazing. Head is a little lacklustre, but forms a fine film of pure white across the top of the glass. Lacing forms in streaks. Body has a little gelatinous heft to it, and the carbonation swirls through it in fine intricate patterns. Looks pretty good.
Nose is decent enough, but it falters in that it neither has the coconut nor the hops in quite the quantities I thought it might. Instead, there's a smoothness to the sweetness, which is potentially attributable to whatever coconut addition there happened to be. There's a sharpness to it, but muted and a little bit washed out. It's good, but certainly not a lot more than that.
Taste is similar: perhaps a little cleaner and clearer, with a more direct, sharper hop character running through the centre of the palate to the back. But it still doesn't offer a lot beyond being a decent IPA. Finish has a clear sweet character like an overuse of crystal malt. Hmm.
Feel is clean with a smoothness to it. It's decent enough.
Overall, it's good, and I've probably been a bit unfairly harsh on it because it really didn't do anything beyond being a solid-IPA-that-happens-to-be-brewed-by-Stone. But there was promise behind the concept, and this didn't really deliver on that concept.
12oz brown bottle purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA.
Pours a cloudy brown hue, burnished to reddish hues some places at the edges. Head is frothy and pleasant: quite fine and slick and pale beige in colour. It forms pleasing rings of lace as it goes down as well. Body is fluid, but it has some heft to it. Looks pretty good overall.
Nose is also good. Pleasant brown malt characters giving it a richness and some sweetness, while the spices lend undertones of fennel and caraway, which work well with the malt. There's a faint resiny hop character, that also veers into aniseed, like the fennel. Overall, it's also pretty good.
Taste is smooth and solid, while perhaps losing a bit of it's structure and its uniqueness. Here, all the characters have been sanded down to remove all the rough edges: it's very coherent and integrated. However, the edges, the spices and the uniqueness were what made the nose interesting, so while it's solid stuff, it's also a little bit more pedestrian here on the palate.
Feel is smooth, but with a weakness on the back.
Overall, this is decent enough, but it promised more than it could deliver. There were plenty of pleasant things about it, and it integrated them all well into a genuinely solid package. But it didn't go beyond that, and I feel as though it really could have.
60 / 100
Pours a red colour, with a few bubbles around. Thin but pleasant head, off-white with some trails of lace left behind. Quite pleasant-looking.
Smells smoky. Meaty, bacony, yeah. Some speck; with peppery spice. Touch of fennel and plenty of salt. Not very beery, but if you don't at least enjoy this smell you're probably a communist.
Taste has a lot more malt to it. Very strong, sweet toffee flavour upfront that develops into smoky characters, with some wood smoke and slightly charred meat, but also a distinct boozey note. Brandied cherries and sort of empty spiritous flavour which is so sad, because so much more deliciousness was promised on the nose.
Full body, goes down OK but feels like it coats your mouth with lacquer at the end. So dry.
Not sure what's gone wrong between me and this palate, but goddamn that was one delicious smell. Would probably pair really well with a pot roast with speck, or a pulled pork roll, but on its own it just doesn't quite stand up for me.
88 / 100
22oz bomber purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with @tobeerornottobe and @LaitueGonflable in Sydney.
Pours a hazed deep ember hue, orange tinged in places, with an exceptional, fine head of pale beige. Carbonation really is like powder: riotous and dense, but extremely fine. Body is thick but still fluid enough to be glossy. Looks great.
Nose is very mildly smoked, giving a faint wooden character to the otherwise clean maltiness that pervades everything else. I get popcorn characters, a slight meatiness and a pervasive caramel sweetness, all topped with a decent dollop of booze. Nice stuff.
Ooh boy. The smoke comes through beautifully on the nose, though. Big barbeque characters from the get-go, wood-smoked and slightly bitter, all with a creamy malt undertone which adds sweetness and slickness. Hops provide a green edge to the taste, lingering for a while until the smoke caresses them and leads them away. The smokiness is so masterfully done: it's a creamy, sweet smokiness that feels wholesome and comforting and works brilliantly layered on top of the richness of the palate. Fantastic.
Feel is excellent, smooth but light, with nothing to countermand the smoke character on the palate.
Overall, this is really, really lovely stuff. Big and rich, with smoke used to brilliant effect. I do not doubt that I've rated this significantly higher than the regular Old Guardian: I think this integrates better, with the smoke providing an overarching structure and coherence. Really, truly wonderful stuff.
70 / 100
Pours a toffee-coloured ESB kind of hue. Head is off-white, loose threads, not much left. Lace is alright. Looks OK.
Smell is lovely, caramelly toffee and sweet. Buckwheat, a touch of port and salted caramel above all else. Bit of solvent is a slight glitch, but otherwise very pleasant indeed.
Taste gets more of that caramel than all other flavours, but lots more as well. Bit of figgy richness, buckwheat again, some slight herbal hopping and some metallic notes. Bit on the heavy/sweet side, so not for every day, but it was always going to be. Still lots to like here.
A little flat and very syrupy texture. Could use something maybe to dry it up at the back, or more hops to cleanse.
Big, sweet beer. Nice, but could use a bit more on the balance side perhaps.
69 / 100
Bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe in Sydney.
Pours a lovely burnished copper-red colour with a fine, slightly overly frothy off-white head. Lacing is patchy, but the body is deep and heavy. It looks very clear and bright, but deep and suspicious as well. Love it.
Nose is heady and boozy, with a barley-sugar character laced with plenty of straight-up and possible straight-down hops. It gives it a slightly medicinal overtone, especially with the wafts of booze coming through. But really, it feels exceptionally sweet, with hops being the afterthought rather than part of the full process.
Taste is similar. There's a chewy, deeply sweet barley-sugar character throughout, that only really gets cut on the edges by the bright hop bitterness, and at the end, where the sharpness comes to a point. It's deeply sweet, however, yet doesn't have a lot of depth or complexity. It's a very odd mixture. I feel like this should be a heady maelstrom of intriguing flavours, when in fact it feels like a barleywine By The Numbers.
I mean, overall, it's good, right? It has to be. It's Stone, it's a barleywine, it's clearly well made and executed. I just really didn't connect with it though. It didn't have anything that got me excited or made me want another bottle right now. But it's solid and worthwhile, at least. That's about as enthusiastic as I can get.
Bottle purchased from Ledgers Liquors in Berkeley, CA.
Pours a deep, dark brown colour, immaculately clear, with a big, frothy head of orange-white, pocked foam. Lacing is sticky and excellent. Decent body. Overall, it's a damn good-looking beer.
Nose is spicy and strong, with a peppery bite coming through and mingling with a hoppy note that could well be the Motueka. Underneath, there's certainly a pumpkin pie sweetness, giving a roasted, starchy pumpkin note along with smoother vanilla and cinnamon. It's a really lovely-smelling Pumpkin ale. I hope it tastes as good.
It's close, but as I feared, only brewing this to 5% ABV means it lacks much sweetness and body. But still, there are nice things about it. The pumpkin still gets a dominant part to play, leaving a pleasant vegetative note on the mid to back palate, and the spices are nicely integrated, leaving some vanilla sugar and a bite slightly like aniseed swinging around the place.
Feel is weak, in fact, depressingly so given the other characters of the beer.
Not a bad drop all up, and in fact, there are some lovely points to it. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on its promise, and while it's certainly an above average Pumpkin Beer, it doesn't really cut it put up against some of the great other beers from these collaborators.
75 / 100
Bottle purchased from Van Ness BevMo in San Francisco.
Pours a very hazy brownish amber hue, with a bubbly, but fine and slightly filmy head of off-white. Body is loose and liquid, yet with a decent heft to it. Carbonation is fine. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is piquant, with a fresh, fruity and spicy chilli note giving a capisicain bite. It's as though this takes the place of the hops, giving the leavening, vegetative freshness to counterbalance the malt, which comes forward in brown waves. Interesting.
Taste is a little sharp and phenolic, but with far less chilli flavour or heat than I expected. That's a good thing: it cements this as a stylistically different beer. It comes across as a big, bitey Belgian, with the concomitant phenols, booze and spice, but with continuing tingles of fruity chilli just giving a tingle of interest around the edges.
Feel is piquant, with some fine carbonation that accentuates some of the chilli notes.
Very, very interesting brew, and one which has been made with considerable skill to keep everything in check. Perhaps one of the more interesting of the Vertical Epics I've sampled.
83 / 100
Was this beer named, as I suspect, because it didn't turn out as dark as they'd hoped? Oh well. This was a 355ml bottle purchased from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA.
Pours, indeed, more brown than black. Dark, but with a decent clarity to it. Head forms as a solid enough film across the top and then largely dissipates, leaving just some off-white foam as a ring around the edge. Lacing is intricate and pleasant. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is sharp, citric and grassy, almost brusque in its hoppiness, but leavened with a malty, almost biscuity character, and almost a spicy cinnamon note. There are hints of pepper, stewed tomato and herbs to it as well, which give a sweet-savoury note. It's very decent, and very pleasant.
Taste is really nicely done. Lovely amalgam of hops and malt, where the hops never become too bitter or coarse, and the malt never becomes too sweet or cloying. The "brown" in the name is perfectly suitable, given that there's a depth to the malt character, lending some toasty warmth, but never a roasted astringency to express excess bitterness. Instead, there are soft stone fruit characters which come from the fruity hop notes melded with the benign and smooth malt sweetness. It's just a lovely flavour: coherent, balanced and caressing.
Overall, bloody good stuff. I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the style when I picked it upâalthough I was excited to try The Alchemist, and I do love Ninkasi and Stoneâbut this has shown what you can do with effectively an overdone style brewed with extreme skill.
70 / 100
Pours a very, very dark brown. Colour is perceptible but it may just be an optical illusion. No illusion about the head which is lovely, dense mocha foam, sunk slowly to a thin film with uneven lace. Looks great.
Smell is hoppy like a mofo, just smells like hop pellets - grass clippings, thyme and taragon on there with lots of citrus and some polished brass. It's all hops, and could use some more dark roasty aroma from the malt. Don't mind it, but it's a bit simplistic.
Taste is better; more of the darker notes. In fact the hops seem almost to be missing here. Nice roasty malt notes, with by-and-by characters of chocolate, star anise, natural licorice and pepper, and then still that big grassy hop note comes through - fresh grass clippings and a touch of pepperberry. Slightly floral but yeah, grass is the big note. It's kind of a sidenote to the majority of the palate though and the flavours don't quite mesh, but it's a bit flavour brew that manages to be enjoyable in spite of its slightly slapdash nature.
A bit sharp and dry on the back, but otherwise smooth and a bit sticky. Not bad.
Seems a little more like a garage home-brewed IBA than something I'd expect from Stone. Seems like the flavour isn't as expertly woven together as previous beers of theirs I've had.
81 / 100
Bomber purchased in California, brought back to Sydney, Australia and opened with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a heavily dark black-brown, with an exceptional head of crackling yellow brown coffee crema. Lacing is intricate, solid, honeycombed. Really solid legs to it, too, staying sticky on the edge of the glass when tilted. Body is surprisingly light, but extremely suitable for the style. Very fine carbonation. Looks genuinely exceptional.
Nose is heavily hoppy, with earthy, rusty hops giving the main event. There's no bright, citric fruitiness hereâmore of a tea tannin, earth, bracken character. It melds very pleasantly with the dark notes from the malt, in a way that makes some sense in a weird style; instead of the bright, citric, whimsical hoppiness creating an amusing contrast to the darkness, this blends together into some odd symbiosis.
Taste is smooth and clean and bright. The roast gives a nice basis, more of a dark biscuity sweetness, but the hops really lift the palate, and here they do have a touch of the crisp, bright citric quality to them, more than the tannic earthiness suggested on the nose. Finish has lingering bitterness, partially due to the hops, partially due to the roast. It's a nice finish, and sums up what the beer is about.
Really nice beer. It's a very odd thing that Stone have seemed to make sense of this style in a way that's quite orthogonal to the regular interpretation. The darker, more earthy hops match it really nicely with the roast malt, giving a beer that is different, but in all the right ways.
80 / 100
Straddling the line between amber and red, this beer pours a burnished, deep mahogany colour, bright ruby when held to the light, otherwise a slightly murky amber. Clarity is great, however, and the head forms lightly into a film of off-white. Lacing is classic. Looks pretty awesome.
Nose is sharp, crisp and delightful, with big citric hop fragrance pounding the nostrils from inches away. Robust characters of other sweeter fruits too, mostly apricot, pineapple and nectarine. It's so fresh, so bright, so powerful and so delightful. I've had far more timid noses in beers double or triple this one's strength. Awesome.
Taste is unsurprisingly much more subdued, but the hoppy characters translate very nicely into flavour, but not bitterness. This helps the palate, which is very light onâtoo much hoppiness would leave it unbalanced. Instead, we get bright tropical fruits at the start, before a subtle bit mid-palate and a dry, cleansing finish.
Insanely drinkable, quenchable and quaffable. This is an insane session beer, one of the most flavoursome and exciting beers under 5% ABV I think I've ever had. And despite the lightness on the palate, it never feels empty. Great brew.
76 / 100
I only have a single bottle of this, so I can't really test out the bold claims it makes in its name, but we'll see how it goes nonetheless.
Hazed mild golden colour, with a lot of streaming carbonation and a full, but pocked head of off-white. Body looks very light, as is to be expected. Head only leaves vapour trails of lacing. Not bad, but not that exciting.
Nose is wonderfully full and hoppy. Clean green fruit characters with plenty of zesty citrus. Really lovely sharp, fresh lemon and lime notes, very potent and very heady. The sharp nature of the fragrance cuts through whatever malt there may be there, but my guess is that this is not a very full-bodied beer anyway. Lovely fragrance though.
Taste is, yes, lacking in sweetness somewhat, and also hoppiness, but the palate manages to stay pretty much in balance. Light crisp hop characters on the front, with a mild and faint candied orange or light sugar character that feels very thin. Bitterness lingers on the back, but not because the bitterness itself is particularly pronouncedâmore that everything else drops out.
Tasty brew, and one with plenty of character. It does feel a bit weak and empty on the palate, but that's what you get for a 4.2% beer, and given the advantages of the low ABV, this hits what they were going for spot on.
69 / 100
Picked up from Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley.
Pours a rather insipid amber brown colour, with a filmy collar of fine off-white bubbling. Minimal lace, and the body looks surprisingly thin, although it supports some very fine static carbonation. It looks alright, but missing something.
Nose is smooth and sweet, with big vanilla ice-cream flavours along with a slight barrel-aged woodiness. Sweet, and with a slight mineral character like ozone or chlorineâbut in a pleasant way. Just a touch of roasted grain, but not a lot. Decent enough. I like how the different characters reveal themselves after some contemplation.
Taste is a bit flat, with a simple mixture of sweet malt and roasted grains, and just a finish of something slightly metallic. ABV is well hidden, and the beer is surprisingly smooth and supple overall, but I still feel as though it's missing something.
Tasty and drinkable enough, but I expect something more from a collaboration between such craft brewing juggernauts. This is just a decent if unimaginative scotch ale.
76 / 100
I've actually had this once beforeâit was a grey import to Australia, however, so I thought it would be better to review it fresh, close to the source, as Greg Koch intended. This one was purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Let's see how it matches up.
Pours a hazed and bright pale golden-orange colour, with a full and frothy head of meringuey foam. Lacing is sudsy, but quite pleasant. Body is relatively heavyâweirder is the fact that there's very little carbonation noticeable when tilted, or when the beer is static. I'm interested to see how the mouthfeel relates.
Nose is crisp and pleasant, with very classic citrussy hop characters dominant. Sharp and fresh for the most part with a crushed lemon leaf type of pungency. In some respects, it's a little one-dimensional, but it's rather unapologetic about what it's doing, and you have to respect that.
Taste is crisp and light, with a nicely balanced, but not dominant hop character through the centre of the palate. Moderate feel gives off some mild light malt notes that meld with the citrus to give a honey-and-lemon melange. All over, nicely balancedânot overly complex, overly aggressive or assertive.
This is a good IPA, and a good benchmark against which to measure others. I'm pleased to say that I would have said similar things about either version I've had, whether in California, or grey-imported to places it wouldn't have been seen otherwise.
Yes, this is a good beer. And so was the one I had in Australia.
77 / 100
Pours a very dark brown, mostly black, with a slight cedar-reddish tinge up to the light. Head is lovely, beautiful even. Dense mother-of-pearl bubbles around the edge with larger bubbles on top, leaves some waves of sticky lace behind. Off-kilter sense to the top, just wonderful.
Smells tasty. Roasty and darkish but some wonderful sweet and spicy hop aromatics. Dark chocolate with blackcurrants, figs and a lot of tasty floral hops. Slight cola tinge to it, giving slight anise aroma. Dark, fruity, mysterious. Wunderbar.
Taste is very very decent indeed. Dark and roasty with cocoa-rich chocolate upfront. Develops some spice notes on the mid; carraway, star anise and some minty characters as well. Slightly metallic on the back, but also some pleasant hop notes, wood and a slight espresso coffee burtness on the very back. A little off-balance at times, but the flavours are all very pleasant.
Mouthfeel is full enough, thick enough, a bit of heat adds harshness though and it's all a bit too dry for my liking at the back.
Tasty beer, with pleasant characters. A bit of a falter towards the end adds a touch too much robustness, but overall a very tasty brew from Stone.
76 / 100
Purchased in the US and brought back to Australia to share with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a dark, but tempered deep brown colour, with a frothy and voluminous head of light cocoa-coloured foam. Some sudsy speckled lacing. Body looks surprisingly light, but overall, it looks pretty decent.
Nose is fresh and sharp with big American hop characters. Forget the appearance, this is all about the IPA aroma dry-hopped West Coast goodness, giving lots of Cascade-like citrus and fruit characters. Once it warms, it does start to give off slight hints of chocolate and dark malt as well, which provide an interesting, but dichotomous counter to the hoppiness. But there's no doubting what is king: it's hops all the way.
Taste is also, surprisingly hoppy, with only light caramel chocolate characters coming in at the very end once the hops eventually grant them a fleeting audience with your tastebuds. Rather, there's big hp bitterness throughout, leaving hop oil residue and crisp biting bitterness throughout most of the length of the palate. The chocolate and darker characters only deserve a mention as the palate as a whole dies out.
Feel is rather light, but this just underlines its true nature as an IPA, not a dark ale.
A very strange and one might say extreme example of the IBA style. It's a wolf in sheep's clothing--an IPA masquerading in the guise of a dark beer. The hops almost perfectly mute everything but the colour.
73 / 100
Pours a deep red colour, slightly orange around the edges. Head is nice and dense, but webbed out here and there with an orange-tinged beige colour. Lace is quite nice and clingy, and body is clear. Nice colour; nice everything.
Smells very fruity and fresh with a good whiff of funk as well. Lots of citrus with malty undertones, slight soapy note and some distinct lucerne with dampness. Touch of acidity as well and maybe some cinnamon spice. Intriguing definitely; enticing definitely. Yeah, this is a definite beer.
Melony character on the assault, just the front. Gets very rich and malty and surprisingly dark on the mid-palate with barley sugar, burnt toast and a rich chocolatey flavour. Yeah, really oddly dark and bitter even on the mid. Slight freshness comes through though on the back, slight fruitiness from some heavy hopping. Underlying it all is a nice woodiness that goes equally well with that odd dark richness and the fresh flavour hopping. Not heavy-handed, just nice and complementary. A really quite intriguing palate, good beer.
Not bad texture, feels oddly thin at times but has a noticeable body on the mid. Thinness comes largely at the back but it just allows it to go down very easily.
Very tasty beer; slightly odd and slightly rich at times. That makes it a beer not for every day, but still a tasty one.
83 / 100
Feels funny reviewing this beer now since I know Greg Koch would hate the fact that I've tried it at all. For the record, I bought this not knowing it was grey market and drank/reviewed it before I'd heard his thoughts. Suffice to say I was disbelieving a lot of what he said during his interview, since this was a cracker when I drank it.
Pours a pale golden colour, with huge white fluffy head, reverse cascade puffing around in a jumpy and excited fashion. Sinks a little quickly, but retains a finger's depth. Lacing is quite nice, thin spidery webs. Pretty good.
Tasty aroma. Lots of hops, really nice cascade aroma and pleasantly strong malt underlying. Cake dough with some bread grain as well. Hops are enough to balance the maltiness but not too much. Yeah an IPA aroma, not a double. Just pleasantly balanced and nicely hoppy.
Taste is quite malty, lots of grain with cereal notes and honey on there, then hops come through nicely, with cascade flavours, apples and pineapple and of course some bitey citrus zest. Nicely balanced, but a touch of resiny bitterness which has a slighly dank effect on the very very back, just overrides the last trace of zesty citric hop and makes it finish on a slight low note. Otherwise a great IPA palate.
Great body, nice textures, I can't really fault that, just goes down smooth.
A tasty beer. Balance, flavour, aroma are all really great.
I'm always interested in partial rye beers (or in this case, partial triticale beers), and always a bit unenthused about partial grape beers. This mixes the two, so we'll see how it goes.
Pours a darkish golden colour, very clear and still in the glass. Head is onlt a filmy of fine white around the edges of the glass, although it was more solid in the centre when first poured. Looks reasonably heavy, but otherwise a little lacklustre.
Spicy Belgian notes on the nose, with pungent lightly phenolic yeast notes, and a hint of acidity. Bit of grain husk adds a bit of gravity to the aromas. Pleasant enough, but nothing particularly exciting.
Taste is where it starts to get a bit weird, and to be honest, where I feel a couple of years of age on it may help it a lot. Taste is quite pungent on the fore, with a slicing grape juice acidity laced with a touch of rank funky rot. Big Belgian phenols well up on the back, along with a sharp and aggressive bitterness than interleaves with the phenols to give a harsh finish. It's big and bold, where the aroma and appearance were lacklustre, but it's far too raw right now.
Yep, this is a beer which needs to be laid down for a while. I love the concept of the Vertical Epics, and would love to be around when it's time to crack them all open together, but this one certainly needs more time. I only hope it has started to blend a bit better when its time comes.
Pours a pretty dark black-brown colour, head is ochre, fairly humble with a bit of sinkage, but leaving some pretty spectacular lace behind, pretty sticky and thick. Yeah, looks pretty good.
Smell is fairly strong, but a really nice dark roasty malt all over it. Slightly meaty on there and a slight floral hint to it as well. Yeah, quite dark, with chocolate and mild coffee. Nice, and interesting.
Taste is fairly dark as well with mild espresso notes and a slight meaty flavour. Yeah, nice alcohol warmth as well on the back, but overall it's a nice just slightly toasty flavour, with licorice spice, a hint of pepper and some burnt sugar as well. Yeah, nice sweetness that is still nicely dark overall, with a hint of boozey bite on the back.
A little bit thinner than I would want on the front, but the warmth at the back gives it a kick.
Yeah, a pleasant beer, nicely mellow blend for the most part. A little odd but enjoyable.
Ah, what a nostalgic beer. I remember driving along El Camino Real myself. Unfortunately, I've never made it as far as Stone, but I've still managed to pick up this brew, and drag it back to Australia to drink with @LaitueGonflable and @ToBeerOrNotToBe.
Very black and very heavy body; opaque, and forming fantastic reverse cascading throughout. Nice foamy head of light chocolate foam that dissipates to a half-centimetre. Minimal lacing. Looks pretty good though.
Slightly sweaty on the nose, with sweet overtones, a little herbal influence and peppery bite. The funky, slightly sweaty character is dominant though. It's odd. I can't say I'm a huge fan.
Taste is quite light, but exceptionally long. Long and languid black malt notes reign, and the pepper hints linger to the very back giving a slight prickling on the finish. Bit of heat to be felt as well. Feel is slick and the languidity and length really aids it (as, probably, does the Thievery Corporation playing in the background). An interesting brew, no doubt.
It's an unusual beer, but the Stone collaborations I've had in the past have been better. This one falls a little short for me -- it doesn't have the dimensionality of the others, although it's still a very interesting and robust brew.
87 / 100
Alright, I've never before tried an imperial pilsener, and here I go with a BLACK one. No comparison possible between this and a normal imperial pilsener, but then is it possible to compare this to anything else anyway?
Pours a murky cola colour, black for the most part but transparently brown at the edge. Head is lacklustre in size but not appearance. Cream colour, small but retaining some filmy bubbles and some nice speckly lace residue. Pretty nice.
Nose is wonderfully sweet, and spicy. Beautiful. Absolutely gorgoues. I'm just going to fill this review with positively valenced adjectives because conjunctions and prepositions just don't do this smell justice. Lots of chocolate. Licorice. Spicy coffee. Soapy notes. Kahlua. Lavender, definitely. Floral, chocolatey, sweet. Bloody brilliant. Fucking love it. Can only be described with gobsmacked sentence fragments. Embalm my dead body in this shit, please.
Yeah, huge licorice all through that palte. Starts with a star anise spice, then gets sweeter but spicier in increasing dosage but maintaining their balance with each other. Fair amount of mint, with mild chocolatey notes and a slight rum hit (distilled sugar flavour) as well. Touch of vanilla towards the back and a hint of alcohol bite, but really well hidden. I can imagine people disliking this if they dislike black jellybeans but to me this beer is just beautifully handled between sweet, dark and spice. Doesn't finish with quite enough gusto but an overall brilliant palate.
Mouthfeel is the slightest bit of a letdown as it feels a bit thin, especially for the strength and the fullness of the flavour. Has a smoothness and a light nip on the back, but just a touch watery.
I'm surprised, actually, that a collaboration could produce something this good. I feel like with something so experimental it would have to be a singular madman's vision that somehow came good. But in this case three mad geniuses have produced something ultra-special. If I ever need to be euthanised I will choose to drown in a huge vat of this beer, after being chased in there by a stampede of naked Japanese nurses.
85 / 100
Pours a deep and heavy black colour, with twinges of ruby when held to the light. Head is only languidly formed, a creamy single finger of beige foam. Body looks dense, and there's some carbonation that stays static in the glass when it's swirled. Little lacing, otherwise a very good looking brew.
Nose is incredibly hoppy, a huge burst of fragrantly pungent and spicy West Coast hops. It almost smells like an IPA - big passionfruit characters, stonefruit, resin. Under it though, there are big twinges of darker things - a little oak perhaps, a bit of roasted malt, and something very classically Stone that I can't quite put my finger on. Something sweet but spicy in it as well, almost like liquorice or juniper. What a nose. It's so unusual, and so beautiful. I know it doesn't really fit into any category stylistically - and as a result, it's hard to score, but damn it's delicious.
Taste just adds another layer of bizarre attraction to it. If I were served this completely blind, I'd be shellshocked by the taste, because after the subtly tweaked heavily hopped nose, I'd be expecting a rush of hop characters. But here the dark characters come to the fore, notes of chocolate malt, roasted grains, rye bread, stilled underpinned by a strong and everpresent hop bite.
What's perhaps more extraordinary is that despite its weight, the mouthfeel stays relatively clean. It doesn't cloyingly layer on the tongue, but clears out once the message has been delivered. Still, there's certainly slickness on the palate, which is only to be expected.
What a great beer. I love Stone's three-way collaborations, they always come up with something so unusual, but something that feels as though it should always have existed this way. This is a classic example - a black pilsener, loaded with hop character and brewed to 10%. In a world where novelty is valued, you can't argue with that.
83 / 100
Pours a deep and delicious red-brown colour, with a massive head of yellow-beige foaming bubbles that leave extraordinary lacing. Extremely thick and viscous coming out of the bottle, and it even looks heavy and languid sitting in the glass. A really, really good looking beer.
Big hop fragrance on the nose, which mingles charismatically with the even bigger oak character to give a freshly pungent melange which is not unlike woodsmoke and gunpowder. Oak is huge on this thing, giving wood and resin characters, and depth like crazy. Yeah, when Stone do something, they do it to the logical extreme.
Taste has robust depth - lots of hop bitterness and a dark, almost roasty character come through, with a woody oak hint floating around the corners. The oak is certainly more prominent on the nose, but it's here as well, just mingled with, and subdued by, the other, stronger and more dominant characteristics, leaving a slight woody sweetness that reminds me of pecan pie. Mouthfeel is initially smooth, but tingled with carbonation through the back.
An excellent beer, and one which is surprisingly drinkable for its strength, depth and aggression. It has actually been some time since I sampled the plain Arrogant Bastard (if you can ever really use that description of it), so it's hard to compare it to the original, but this has such depth, such fullness of character, and such robust arrogance, that it stands by itself as a stellar and wonderful example of the American brewer's craft.
On tap at Monk's Kettle, San Francisco.
Pours a surprisingly dark copper, amber colour, with a decently thick head of white foam. Some lacing, but the head collapses to a film.
Nose is disappointingly weak, with some muted resinous hops and a slight caramel malt sweetness. Not a huge amount overall, but what it has is pleasant enough.
Taste is similar - certainly not the hop level I expect from an APA (for example Sierra Nevada Pale), but with a slight bite of bitterness on the back, and a rounded caramel malt flavour. Some light astringency. Mouthfeel is carbonated, but not overtly.
It's a pretty tame beer this one. In comparison to most "American" style pale ales made in Australia, it's certainly lacking in hop character - it's also lacking in character compared to some of the other American examples I've had. Little Creatures tastes more like an IPA in comparison, for example. But it's drinkable enough. Just not particularly exciting.
80 / 100
Wow. Pours a perfectly clear light straw yellow colour with a huge crackling head of white bubbles, that dip in the centre, but stay attached around the edges of the glass forming a thick and convoluted lacing. No visible carbonation, which is odd, but it looks intriguing from the start.
Oh my goodness. Nose is a huge melange of hoppy herbal characters. Smells like a good bunch of Nelson Sauvin, with slightly earth Belgian yeast underneath. If I had to pinpoint the exact herbs, I'd say rosemary and oregano, even though I know it's more of a Scarborough Fair mix. Actually, I think the parsley comes through somewhat as well. In any case, it's an insanely fragrant nose, if only because the herbs are in such prominence.
Wow again on the palate. You know, I really can't tell if this is really, really good or really, really bad. The herbs are again in prominence, but they really feel well integrated into the beer. No, there is not a lot of saison funk, but the herbs do add an organic quality which fits well with the base beer and the spicy notes from the saison yeast.
It tastes somewhat spicy, fresh and fragrant with herbs, with a lingering, earthy bitterness. It's absolutely fascinating, and for all that it falls way out of line for a traditional saison, it keeps a saison-like refreshing bitey palate.
You know, I'm going to go with "really, really good". This is what brewing in America is about: reinventing styles, experimenting, screwing around, but still coming up with something refreshing, tasty and drinkable, and something unique, unexpected and fascinating.
Pours pretty damned opaque black, slight red tinge when really held up to the light, very decent head - ochre in colour - sticks around at about half a cm thick, leaving some gorgeous clingy lace, really sticky webs of beige foam. Very nice stout appearance.
Nose is fairly burnt, but yeah, very sweet, almost too sweet. Lots of nuts - almonds and hazelnuts - with a fair cocoa character and a bit of milk. A bit lacking in the burnt aromas I would expect from an RIS. Has a kind of milk coffee aroma. Doesn't smell bad, but I want more roastiness from it, it actually smells a bit weak.
Taste is a lot stronger, but still very sweet indeed. Lacks the roastiness again. Has some roasty ashy hints, but there is more prominence given to some strong alcohol hits on the mid and back. Some hints of roasted espresso, cocoa, oak and some coppery metallic character on there as well. But yeah, a really strong alcohol kick to it and comes across more as a dessert wine than a beer, with the sweetness and noticeable booziness. Definitely could use more roasty bitterness, just lacks potency in flavour. I like strong flavour, not just strong beer.
Mouthfeel is very full, quite stinging though when alcohol comes through. A bit grainy, not bad but could be smoother.
A pleasant drinking beer, but I just would prefer less sweetness.
69 / 100
Pours slightly orangey but pale yellow mostly, slow bead with thin white crown of head. Lacing is decent, but thin and a bit patchy. Looks slightly cloudy as well. Not too bad - it's definitely steak, but it's not filet mignon. If that makes sense.
Nose is deliciously fresh and fruity, a lot of pineapple, banana and a tangy citrus hoppy character as well. Sweet and refreshing, smells quite like a pineapple soft drink. Not as spicy or phenolic as I would expect, maybe just a bit too sweet, but very nice.
Taste is more intense, with more phenolic bitterness throughout, quite bitter really. Tastes tangy at first, more of that tropical fruit character, helped by a nice pale malt sweetness, then becomes a lot more tart and astringent, quite a lot of citric character and elements of leather and lemon rind. Finish trails off a bit towards the back, but lingers gingerly with a slightly dank bitterness.
Mouthfeel is nicely textured, as full as it needs to be, leaves a little dry. All quite effective.
This is fairly pleasant, but a bit more bitter than I think it needs to be. Quite boozey as well which is good for the style but needs more of a spicy Belgian character to balance it. Ultimately this does feel just a bit off-balance.
74 / 100
Pours a slightly cloudy light but bright golden colour, with a minimal head of white foam. The head is certainly a disappointment given the style, but otherwise it looks quite tasty.
Some pleasant sweet phenols on the nose, a little sharpness, some spiciness, and a good hint of savoury Belgian yeast character. It doesn't wallop me in the nose, but it's very true to style and very pleasant.
Very smooth and quite phenolic on the palate, but it has a huge amount of creamy sweetness that washes in and around, seemingly filling in all the gaps in the flavour. Not dry on the back at all, which is a little out of character, but it is very pleasant. Mouthfeel is quite light, good for the style.
A very smooth, and exceptionally drinkable tripel. It seems just a tad too light on character to me, but it's pretty close to true, and the places it deviates from the style, it deviates with forethought and purpose. Very nice.
77 / 100
Dark red-brown colour with a slowly-forming beige head that sticks around pretty well once it appears. Leaves some very fine, very sticky lacing, and seems to have a slight haze in the glass. Pretty good, I like the colour, but not a cover-of-Vogue beer.
Nose is rich and malty, lots of toffee on that with a slight roasted character, hint of pine bark and some figs. A nuttiness to it as well, with a slightly acrid bent, just a hint of sourness. Mostly deep and malty throughout, pleasant, yes.
Taste is very similar to the smell, only far more intense. Impressive. I am suitably impressed. A deep, thick and rich malty character with a toffee edge, but far darker, and more bitter, than I would expect, with a large hit of red grape tannins and a hint of espresso and pine resin, quite bitter for what it is. Ultimately tastes a lot darker than I'd anticipated, with a Brazil nut bitterness and a burnt edge to it. Nice though, nice.
Mouthfeel is a moderate thickness, a bit of texture but not very obvious. Good for the flavour though, great match.
This is an interesting drop, tastes darker than it looks and is quite brooding and sullen. But, when it comes down to it, I like it and I like it a lot.
91 / 100
Purchased at Monument Wines and Spirits in Concord, CA. Carried back to Australia and cracked open with laituegonflable.
Pours thicker than just about any beer I've ever seen. Seriously, it looks more akin to treacle than beer. Initially, it looks as though it has no head whatsoever, then the long struggling bubbles finally push their way through the gelatinous mass to form a light collar of yellow brown film. Colour is a thoroughly wonderful dark mahogany red - overall, a top-notch looking beer. I'm in love.
Fair bit of resiny, citrus and west coast hops on the nose. More than anything reminds me of Arrogant Bastard. As it warms, there are some spicier notes revealed, perhaps the caraway seed and the rye coming to the fore. Delicious and tantalising, an excellent nose indeed.
The palate continues this monumental trend. A thick and chewy body has a languid time imparting sweet malts, spicy citrus/juniper bitter characters and a resiny sweet back palate that seems to clear my sinuses. It stretches on and on, morphing through sweetness, medicinal bitterness, creamy fullness and pleasant herbal notes. Every sip is a new adventure - it's as though this beer continuous to mature with every sip you take. A thoroughly mystifying, enchanting and bewitching beer.
Truly excellent. This is the way to do a beer that pushes the envelope. Give us something we don't expect, but wrap it in comfort, warmth and familiarity. Exceptionally cunning and amazingly enjoyable.
85 / 100
Pours an absolutely lovely burnished red-brown-gold colour with a thick head of yellowish white bubbles, which cascade up and then down in the glass. Very pleasant indeed. Lacing is great, and it looks as thick as a elephant sandwich. Very nice indeed.
Oh yeah, masses of hops. Extremely pungent, but they veer to the side of sweetness. Lots of pineapple, pear, musk and passionfruit, and not nearly as much pine resin or citrus. Very rich and mellow for a high hoppy beer. Very nice again.
Thick and full on the palate, initially sweet, crescendoing with hop bitterness mid palate, and then declining to a very mellow rich toffee sweetness on the back. Perhaps just a light hint of heat on the back, but it's very subtle. The lovely toffee note on the back is what makes this for me. It makes it more than a highly hopped ale - it gives it gravitas and complexity. Very nice. Mouthfeel very smooth and delicious.
A classic American craft brew. Peppered with the wonderful American hops lusciousness, but with a deep complexity underlying this. This is not simply a beer brewed to the extreme for the sake of it. There is a clarity of purpose and a wonderful structure to all of the big flavours. Once again Stone has given me an extreme, but philosophical American beer experience.
80 / 100
Pours a red-brown colour with enormous ochre head, also almost red in colour, very hazy look. Lacing is thick and delicious, but a bit slippery. Otherwise, well not otherwise, it just is excellent.
Nose is extremely sweet with a pongy tropical smell, hints of spice but a large amount of caramelised pineapple, banana and maybe currants as well. That sweet spice aroma is to die for, while the rest of it (some floral hoppiness as well) is pretty gosh damn nice as well.
Taste is very malty but with a long, slightly phenolic hop character. Has a barleywine-esque richness with spicy notes of cinnamon and cumin, raisiny hints as well, and a bit of alcohol warmth, as well as a boozy sourness, before the hops hit. Slight astringency at the back, hops are not as tropical as the nose suggested and are definitely medicinal in character.
Mouthfeel is deliciously velvety with an amazing creaminess that somehow overrides the prominent alcohol. There is a lot to like in this; sourness makes me a bit meh, but it is very well constructed with pleasant flavours and an amazing mouthfeel. Almost can't detect alcohol, but it certainly isn't harsh. Maybe just lowers drinkability, but I'd definitely want another one of these.
90 / 100
Pours very thick, a dark, dark opaque brown, with a rising head of incredibly fine brown bubbles, about the colour of chocolate shavings. Lacing is insane: tiny intricate patterns making a miniature Jackson Pollock print on the inside of my glass. Hell yes, what an amazing looking beer.
Wonderful roasted chocolate notes on the nose, big, rich and sweet, but with lightly smoky notes of wood-fired barbeque, burnt toffee, coffee bean and an odd light ozone character. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing. Very raw and fresh, full of body and attitude, but also just plain tasty.
Smooth and slick mouthfeel is what I notice initially, thick and shiny like melting high-fat icecream. The taste is deliciously bittersweet, full of rich high-cocoa chocolate, mocha coffee and toffee. Only later do the true carbonised characters come through, with a black, high-roast character just lingering on the edges of the palate. Just so damn smooth, rich, sweet and delicious.
Hell yes, what a delicious beer. A rip-roaring RIS that is also a delicious treat. Raw, but refined. Heavy, but smooth. A perfect balancing act, showcasing the art of the Imperial Stout. Bravo!
70 / 100
Pours the colour of unhealthy urine, kind of orangey-yellow. Good healthy bead feeding a modest but good snowy head that's still there. Thin but sticky and delicious lacing. That's a quite fucked-upingly good looker. I could fuck this beer.
Tropical, pale ale-y kind of nose. Lot of American hops - probably Cascade, but not sure. Smells very refreshing, with those hops mixing with a citrusy pineapple kind of smell. It's wonderfully tangy and light.
Taste is quite bitter throughout, but especially on the back palate and finish. First flavour is again kind of tangy with quite a refreshing bent, and descends quickly (maybe a bit too quickly) into that very hoppy finish with a slight lemon squash flavour to go along with it. Mouthfeel is light and frothy, like toothpaste. But yeah, really pleasant and drinkable, main palate is a bit short but otherwise very nice.
79 / 100
650ml bottle, lovingly transported home to Australia and shared with friends.
Pours a dark, but clear, brilliant ruby-red with a surprisingly light off-white head of meringuey bubbles. Nice lacing. The colour is great; it's deep and delicious looking.
Strong, pleasant dark aromas on the nose. Characters of chocolate, cherries, timber and peat. not incredibly smoky, but there is an underlying hint of it. Even a little vanilla of American bourbon sneaking in. Quite deep and delicious.
More smoke on the palate, a pleasant outdoor woodfire character. The dark malt is more prominent too, with a charring roasted character providing the back palate bitterness. Among this, though, are lighter notes of cherry and tart fruit, that just peek out from around the edges of the dark, smoky foreground. Mouthfeel is great, quite thick and rich without being too heavy.
A very smooth but very complex beer. Enjoyable and pleasant, with lots to explore.
75 / 100
650ml bottle carefully carried back to Australia from San Francisco.
Nice bright golden colour, almost tinged with organge. Head is a pillowy, marshmallow head of white foam. Lacing is great. Slight haze in the body. Looks great.
Nose is phenomenal. A wonderful bouquet of pineapple mixed with Belgian yeast, the sweet semi-savoury character of a good Belgian pale. Not a huge amount of the sharper more peppery hops, but the tropical fruit characters are nice.
Wow, the hops are certainly there on the palate, a robust bitterness all through, a full bodied sharpness, with an underlying hint of salt. There's something very odd lingering in the back of everything though; the sweet richness of a Belgian. Mouthfeel is quite light, but still slick. Nice.
This beer certainly lived up to my expectations for the style. A very interesting hybrid, and one that I'll enjoy again for sure.
Pours a thick, dark, red-tinged colour with masses of head that is nonetheless thinly webbed and dispersing quite quickly - which is good, because that much head wouldn't be much good - and ends up a thin film of mocha foam. Little bit of lacing. Really quite nice.
Fair burnt coffee aroma, bit of charcoal, but not as pungent as other darks. The saving grace is a slight creamy aspect, giving it a nice chocolatey aroma. Nice, could be more powerful. If I had known what this was while trying it I would have been surprised at the lack of smokey character on the nose.
Curious taste. Quite a lot of terrain in this palate. Starts with a rich, cocoa-heavy chocolate character and then gets actually darker, like black coffee, only the mouthfeel is light and smooth and carries away the over-roasted flavour so you almost don't notice it. Finish almost has a raisiny character, it's slightly tart but mostly quite sweet, with- this will sound crazy - a flavour almost akin to musk (and I don't mean animal semen). It's not as powerful as some darks that I've had, but there's a lot of character on that and the flavours are quite pleasant. Again could probably use more, but it's very good for what it is.
81 / 100
Beautiful orange gold body with a rippling slick head of yellowish foam. Lots of very fine carbonation streaming. Looks absolutely delicious.
Very powerful pine, fruit, medicinal nose. Huge characters of pineapple, leather, citrus and grapefruit. Spike and sharp, feels like it's clearing the sinuses. Amazing, luscious, delicious. It doesn't get better than this.
Sharp on the palate, but not as ruinous as the name may lead you to believe. Very nice pine needle resin character mellowing to a citrussy, but lightly sweet palate. This then dries out, leaving a prolonged refreshing bitterness. Complex and long, but no ruination. It's big and tasty though. Mouthfeel is quite rich and thick - could maybe use a little more sharpness to match the hops.
Still, this is a very tasty, very fragrant IPA. Full of character and extremely drinkable.
70 / 100
I'd love to save this, and pair it with its brethren on the final tasting, but I've come in far too late, and I'll be back in the land of Oz long before the time comes. So here goes with 080808.
Pours a very light yellow-gold with good clarity, although there is a slight hint of haze to the body. Head is initially creamy thick with tiny bubbles of pure white, but this dissipates to a collar of film around the edges. Lacing is good.
Nice Belgian yeast characters on the nose, and a hint of phenolic alcohol. Light notes of herbs and wintergreen, but certainly not a big hop presence like the bottle suggests was the inspiration for the brew. More sweet and round, like the Belgian ales in this way, slightly more subdued than say La Guillotine or Duvel for example.
The hop character is more pronounced in flavour, with a decent bite of hop oil coating the mid-palate. There's a sweetness as well, quite a dry sweetness, but like the Belgians in this regard. Fair amount of heat on the back palate as well, this may fade with age. Mouthfeel is light, suitable for the style.
I know I'm drinking this before its time, and perhaps it shows, but at the moment this is a pretty run-of-the-mill Belgian Pale to me. It's drinkable enough, but I'm not sure there's enough there to even make it last another four years.
Oh well, if I'm around for 12.12.12, and happen to chance upon it, I'd still give it a go.
77 / 100
Pours a deep ruby red colour with a thin but sticky head. A little bit of lacing which looks sticky and great. Very mild carbonation. Looks robust and impressive.
The brew has a sweet, brown-sugar kind of character on the nose, but brimming with potential. It's a strong and complex nose with essence of sultanas peeping through as well.
Wow, doesn't that taste knock your balls off. It's a bit of everything; sour and gritty in parts and a little bit sweet on the finish. The taste just hangs around with a powerful depth like really dark coffee. There's so much to it and it's good, really good. The flavours I can pick are hints of burnt toffee, espresso and a slight plummy character. Very gritty finish, but gritty as in a strong coffee. Mouthfeel is astonishingly smooth and creamy for such a rich, complex ale.
Overall, very impressive and venerable. Not drinkable all the time but I definitely dig this.
81 / 100
Thanks very much to my GF for bringing this back from the States for me.
Pours with a ruby-flecked dark amber body. Shiny and clear, capped with a yellow-white head of filmy bubbles. Fantastic lacing, but minimal carbonation. Love the colour, looks like a great, strong, ale.
Amazing nose, huge hits of American hops, tropical fruits, aniseed, pineapple, passionfruit, capsicum, resin, berries. Delicious, luscious, rich. Hint of something deeper and darker as well, perhaps bourbon or strong vanilla. One hell of a rich smelling beer.
Initial vegetative hint of crushed lime leaves on the palate; that fresh, natural character, followed by quite a strong resiny hop bitterness. Peppery, astringent and robust. Quite delicious and fragrant. Pine, lime zest and lots more of the pointy end of the taste spectrum. Alcohol hidden behind the hop character. Quite delicious. Mouthfeel is quite syrupy, thick and smooth.
This is, truly, an aggressive beer. But it's a well brewed one, and it has a measure of balance to its madness. Full-flavoured, rich, robust and unforgettable.
I'm very glad I got to try it.