78 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA.
Pours a ebony brown-black colour, with a slightly frothy cap of beige that persists as pancake bubbles. Long streaks of complex lace. Body has some heft and a gloss to it, and the carbonation is coarse, but moves languidly through the glass.
Nose is pummelled with a pretty insane coconut character—it's almost certainly the fake coconut essence you get in things like coconut candy. Under it there's a pleasant grated chocolate character which gives it some depth, but mostly this smells like someone emptied half a bottle of Malibu into my pint. That's not at all to say that I don't like it.
Taste is probably better, because it's not entirely based around the coconut. Indeed, the coconut almost feels like a secondary flavour here; subordinate to the dark chocolate and roast of the base beer. This lends a bitterness that becomes coffee-like on the back. Booze is well-hidden and it doesn't feel unbalanced.
Overall, I like it, but the coconut seems like a separate veneer over the top of what's a fine beer on it's own. I'm not sure it integrates that well, and it's not even a particularly coherent addition to the beer.
71 / 100
Pours a murky umber with nice beige head, tiny bubbles. Dissipates before too long, with a faint trail of lacing left behind. Looks alright but the head was nice when poured and I'd like it to stick around longer.
Smells fascinating and complex. Huge vanilla character with big nutty praline sweetness; peanuts and caramel toffee in spades, almost an icecream note like a Cornetto. Really fascinating. Smells like a flavoured spirit, similar to tia maria or yes amaretto. Great stuff.
Taste is way too heavy. Bit of a shame really. Lots of that nutty character but this big roasty bitterness creeps in underneath as well that turns it more astringent. Some big boozey character too just like spiritous character blending with big stouty bitterness. Yeah it feels off kilter like the nuttiness is quite nice and if the flavour turned more sweet rather than roasty - like maybe it's too attenuated so it's kind of bitter dry and heavy without much character. Bit of a shame really.
Mouthfeel is thick, heavy, a little bit warming on the back but not stupidly so; actually really well put together for the size.
Drinks well, but heavily. And the smell just makes me feel like it could have been this phenomenal flavour if the fermentation were less vigorous, like if more flavour retained from what's obviously a substantial malt bill.
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.
70 / 100
Pours a burnished amber colour; head is cream, bubbly on top with specks of white lacing left behind. Slow bead keeps the head alive. Not bad at all.
Smells big, malty and hoppy. Big chewy toffee character to it, with sharp citrus and a slight woody note verging on smoky. Touch of lychee and banana. Decent; could possibly in fact amp up the hop aroma despite its prevalence.
Taste is...insane? Wow, what the fuck just hit me? (Editor's note: I was reviewing this blind, as I often am) Big citric tangy flavour that then assaults the mouth, physically, with intensifying heat that comes across like a sweet poison. Yeah, it's a fruity cocktail with a hidden, vicious sting. My mouth has been ambushed and abused, and I love it.
Decent malt body, but it just paints the mouth with pain and fire. Still, I quite enjoy it.
This is a sneaky sniper of a beer. I feel it could maybe dial back the sweetness, because it just has this air of dishonesty when it pulls that sneak attack with the chilli. Not that I feel 'betrayed' by the beer but as a sensation the parts feel a bit inconsistent.
78 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Spec's in Houston. Shared with Sam during a brewday in Sydney.
Pours like the Sculpin—clear, light and bright, with a good, frothy head of white that settles out to a pocked film, leaving fine, intricate lace in its wake. Body is good, with fine streams of carbonation. Looks good.
Smell is surprisingly mostly hoppy, with the habanero only providing a slight capsicum note around the edges. The hops in this particular bottle are actually a little bit muted, possibly because it's slightly old, or wasn't treated well on its journey from California to Texas. But I can imagine it's grand when the Sculpin character is laced with that kick of sweet chilli.
Taste is really nice. Here, there's a cleanness to the malt, with a mild barley sugar basis, and a firm Sculpin-like bitterness, which provides some pleasant bite. But then there's more bite. All around the edges of the palate is that slightly sweet tone of habanero, giving a flavour somewhere between mango and capsicum. And then comes the burn. This isn't overwhelming, but it provides a slightly stinging warmth on the back that hangs around the more you drink. It's a nice note, and it's rather gently done.
Feel is clean and crisp on the front, with that belting, warming kick in the back.
Surprisingly drinkable for its concept, and there's a good amount to enjoy in it. Honestly, I was always going to prefer a regular Sculpin to this, but this is a pleasant, unexpected and unusual twist on the classic that makes it something substantially different from its base beer. That's worth a lot.
58 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a very faintly hazed golden yellow colour, with a fine, minimal ring of white foam by way of a head. Some minor specks of lace. Body is fairly light, but the carbonation looks pretty static when it's tilted. It looks okay.
Nose is slightly honeyed, with some broad, but very faint Belgian tones, and hoppiness that's honestly nowhere to be found. I know they're celebrating homebrew with this beer, but it genuinely does feel a lot like an uninspired batch from your uncle's garage. There's really not a lot to it.
The taste doesn't much help this, but it is better than the rather dull aroma would make you believe. There's some mild stone-fruit characters in the mid-palate here that add some buoyancy and interest to the brew as a whole. Hop character is still subdued to the point that having "hoppy" in the name is insulting, but it has a structure to it here that at least works a bit.
Feel is light, with a little rounded character that comes from having carbonation that's finer than usual.
Overall, this is okay, but it feels a little bit as though Ballast Point released this label as an excuse to pump out some substandard beer into the market. What's more, it's a little bit insulting to some of the very, very fine homebrew that's out there.
22oz brown bomber purchased from Whole Foods in Los Altos, CA.
Pours a very pleasant burnished ruby-brown colour, with good clarity. Head is a little bit thin, forming a coarse ring of pale beige bubbles that still manages to sustain some lacing. Body does have a bit of heft to it, and the carbonation is quite languid when tilted. Looks pretty good.
Nose isn't bad. There's some dull dusky malt characters, mingled with a mild metallic note that gives it a suggestion of iodine and tinfoil. Under it is a slight sweetness that gives mild sweet-spicy notes like cinnamon sugar. It's a bit light overall, but it's reasonably well-constructed.
Taste is similar, although slightly lighter, as it seems to lack body. Fine, slightly grainy entry, touched with a mineral bite that suggests some pretty ion-heavy water. Bitterness is mild in the mid-palate, tending away to a slightly thin finish that has aftertones of cinnamon again.
Feel is light and a little thin. I guess you don't want it underattenuated, but given some of the flavours, a touch more sweetness and weight might have helped it.
Overall, it's not bad. It has some nice pieces to it, and it's put together in a coherent enough way to make it reasonably drinkable. But it's not interesting enough to be truly different, which seems to be its main selling point—it's not another hop-forward PA or IPA, but it also makes you wonder if it's even worth having an alternative.
76 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA.
Pours a deep golden colour, with hints of copper to it in the depths. Head is a thing of beauty: a very fine, slick crest of white that leaves incredibly intricate lace and stays persistently even as some larger bubbles creep into it. Carbonation is fine and swift. Looks very good.
Nose is interesting, but lacks the hoppy punch of regular Sculpin, in favour of an undeniably pleasant but dominant pure grapefruit aroma. Under it is some mild sweet notes of musk and sherbet, which are interesting as well in their own right—but the aroma of Sculpin is where its magic powers lie, and without those fresh hop notes being the main event, it feels like a bit of a miss.
Taste is also good. It does have that pleasant light malt basis that's just enough to support the flavours, just like its brother. The hop notes are good here—mostly because they help accentuate the grapefruit notes—providing the pithy bitterness on the back that works with the citric, bittersweet fruit notes on the front. Aftertaste has some pleasant evanescent sweeter notes, orange sherbet and lemon boiled sweets perhaps.
Feel is great. Clean, fresh, light with a mild effervescence.
It's very refreshing, and it's undoubtedly a good beer, from great stock. It's not the exultant experience of regular Sculpin (which I will always hold very dear), but it's an intriguing enough twist on a classic.
71 / 100
Calling this an 'English porter', because the bottle calls it "a hoppy take on a classic English porter'. Could go either way really but I've chosen to go English. Bottle gifted to me by Jez; shared with Chris and Andrew.
Pours a dark cola colour, flash of brown at the edge. Head is beige, dense and marshmallowy. Nice lace is sticky and curtainy. Retains well, but sinks slowly. Looks wonderful. Really as good as a porter would get.
Smells chocolatey. Touch of raisin. Some candied fruit with orange peel and a touch of roast. Fairly pleasant.
Taste is lightly roasty and somewhat chocolatey. Sweet and somewhat caramel, with chocolate characters and then cocoa bitterness, quite roasty. Somewhat bitter as well with a hint of resinous bitterness but still feels just roasty and coffee-esque bitter. Still quite sweet and toffeed and fairly pleasant.
A little bit thick and fairly syrupy. Quite smooth. Nice.
A nice porter; fairly light bodied and flavours are well blended. Nice and drinkable.
75 / 100
22oz bomber purchased in California and brought back to Sydney, where I shared it with Rich and Sam.
Pours a rather clear orange colour, with a solid weight to the body. Head is somewhere between white and off-white, which is probably getting too specific, but full and foamy, leaving some sheeting, intricate lace as it goes down. Carbonation is very fine. Looks good.
Nose is spicy with orange pith dominant mellowed by a rounded barley sugar character. Slight peppery tones come through as well, creating a little crispness. It's not a particularly dynamic nose, but it's certainly very pleasant.
Light entry on the palate with some spicy citrus coming through, leading towards a greener, slightly more herbal bitterness through the centre. This is rounded off again by that sweet barley sugar maltiness towards the back, helping it stay balanced. It's rather clean all up, helped by a peppery bitterness which punctuates the ending. Everything is held in check nicely.
Feel is full, but with a pleasant lightness. It works well.
It's extremely balanced for a DIPA, and as a result it's a lot more drinkable. I certainly enjoyed this a great deal.
83 / 100
Purplish-tinged dark brown hue. Head is ochre, pretty dense but thinned out to a rim. Interesting, and head revives well.
Smells spiky and pungent. Vanilla, cinnamon, plums, mostly. Spice, sweet and a massive amount of coffee roast. No other word, it's intense.
Taste is less intense, but carries on the same notes. Huge vanilla sweetness with caramel drops, a touch of coffee roast, but yeah, creme brulee kind of sweetness as well. Could be off-putting but that roasty bitterness just tacks up the sweetness to make it not just palatable, but drinkable and enjoyable.
Little bit of booze pull, but stands up OK thanks to a sizeable and smooth body.
Everything about this beer made me recoil at first, but with every subsequent sip I fell more and more under its spell. Sweet, desserty, and quite amazingly balanced, with its most intense notes intricately counterbalanced. This is a far, far better beer than I initially gave it credit for.
79 / 100
220oz brown bomber purchased from Ledgers Liquors in Berkeley, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam and Rich.
Pours a decent brown-black colour, with a relatively light body that doesn't hold carbonation. Head forms a decent filmy crest of golden-crispened brown and the lacing is excellent. I'm a bit surprised at the body, but otherwise it looks pretty decent.
Nose is wonderful, and delivering on everything I expected. Lovely oaky vanilla characters, cut with a crisp, fruity coffee aroma and underpinned with rich dark chocolate and malts that give sweetness but nothing in the way of grassy graininess. It's sweet and luscious and impressive—I don't care if it's also something of a gimmick. Gimme gimme gimme.
Relatively smooth and light entry on the palate just peppered with a little coffee spiciness. Big rounded, slightly empty vanilla characters come through in the mid palate. The back palate is where the richness is: dark chocolate and red mole pricked with more of that coffee bite and everywhere fresh and vibrant from supple vanilla. It's very pleasant once you get here: a little bit lacklustre beforehand.
Feel is very good: light enough to remind you it's a porter, but with heft to remind you it's 10% ABV.
Overall, it's a lovely brew, but perhaps one that was always going to be lovely. The flavours are pronounced and are quite well balanced. It's drinkable and very tasty. Something perhaps stops me from gushing wholeheartedly about it, but there's no doubt that it's a very fine brew.
77 / 100
Pours an amber colour, head is yellowish cream, dense and foamy and pleasant. Lace clings nicely to the glass. Looks great.
Smells lovely. Loads of zesty, almost acidic, hops - citrus, passionfruit and a big sweet cake-batter malt. Caramelly, tangy, delish.
Taste is sweet, malty, cakey with caramel toffee and almond meal. Hops are citric but very resinous, giving sticky bitter notes on the back. Touch of oak sweetness, bit of booze heat that's a bit rich, but not hot. Palate is smooth.
Full, bit of sizzle. Feels a little boozey without flavour.
Big hoppy, resinous beer. Rich, but smooth and pleasant.
Pours a dark clear red. Head is beige, bit thin but retaining OK. Lace is alright. Nice.
Quite malty; fair nutty notes, a lot of citrus and other fruit on there as well. Subtle, though, and quite malty all up. Quite pleasant.
Good malt base throughout, at times nutty, caramel with toffee and some sweet spice notes. Hops are again subtle, quite tangy but not overboard. Bit of roast. Nice flavour equilibrium, doesn't quite go all the places I want it to, though.
Smooth feel, bit of fizz on there. Pleasant enough.
Bit too tangy to be quaffed, but not quite enough complexity to excite the American hop fan in me. Still, nicely made beer and worth drinking.
87 / 100
650ml bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a rather light-bodied brown-black hue, with a very minimal head that forms as a fuzz of mild brown and then almost disappears entirely. No lace, no visible carbonation. I have to say it looks a little underwhelming.
Nose, though: amazing. Buckets of coconut, kaffir lime, turmeric up the wazoo. Some candied orange characters, along with a hint of the depth of the stout. Spicy and sweet, with a richness like wandering through a south-Asian marketplace. It's fresh and bright, and yet dank and deep at the same time, just like a big, rich Indian curry. Fan-bloody-tastic.
Taste is also excellent. Here the spices take the depth a little more seriously, with some of the more earthy tones coming through more strongly. Still lots of turmeric, pepper, kalonji mingled with lighter herbier tones of fenugreek and coriander. Better yet is that the beer rises up to support it, with a solid chocolatey tone on the back. After a while, the pepper character builds up, leaving a pronounced spiciness on the finish, but it's only a suitable effect from the flavours.
Feel is a little too light for my liking: I think it could do with a little bit more body in both the flavour and the palate. That may make this superb.
Overall, I'm very impressed. This is a supremely interesting beer that manages both to do something unique, and to provide a balanced and comprehensive beer experience. Extremely interesting and engaging stuff.
74 / 100
Purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe in Sydney.
Pours a gorgeously clear, genuinely red hue, with a fine, bubbly crackly head of creamy beige. Lacing is fine and patchy. Body has some very decent weight behind it, but maintains a fluidity. Nice stuff; I really love the colour.
Nose is clean, hoppy and spicy, with pink grapefruit pith and zesty lemon dominant, along with a hint of cinnamon and a grassy, almost herbal edge. White pepper comes through as well, adding to the spritzy, spicy, sharp characters. Great stuff: it could use a bit more malt basis, but otherwise, it's nigh-on perfect for the style.
Taste is surprisingly light, but not unpleasant. Very mild entry gives way to a pronounced but restrained bitterness laced with more peppery characters, and a grassy vegetative note. More lemon and grapefruit rule the ending, leaving it feeling a little acidic on the finish. Feel is certainly lighter than I expected, and a little disappointingly so, especially given the weight of the beer, and the appearance of gravity to it.
Overall, it let itself down somewhat. This beer looks great, and smells great, and I expected something great when I put my lips to the glass. Unfortunately, even though it was good, this meant that it didn't deliver on its promises: it should have been magnificent.
Pours a deep copper colour, almost with a reddish tinge to it, and a fine-bubbled head of off-white. Lacing is frothy and patch, but solid, forming around the glass in solid enough rings. Body has some heft to it, rather pleasantly, and the carbonation is mild but extremely fine. Looks good.
Nose is grainy and bright, with pleasant slightly toasted characters and a mild fruit character, perhaps just a hint of banana. Some subtle crushed greens get a look in as well. It's all quite mild, but it's pretty well integrated, and quite pleasant.
Taste is a little thinner, and rather metallic, with a coppery bite towards the bit to back and a slight astringency. Graininess comes through to clean up on the back, or rather it just appears once the metallic character drops out. It's pleasant enough, and it has some character to it, which is good.
Not a bad drop. Sessionable, with enough character. No, it's not the most exciting brew in the world, but it's solid.
56 / 100
Very interesting. Of course a kölsch is a pale ale, technically, but one marketed as a pale ale in America seems like something of a misnaming. Anyway, let's see how it is.
Pours a very pale yellow colour, with a filmy but fine-bubbled head of white foam, that leaves some abstract lacing. Looks very lagery, which is stylistically true for a kölsch at least. But thin, but decent enough.
Nose is slightly grainy, with a sharp German hop profile. Hint of molasses or raw processed sugar, along with something slightly phenolic. It reminds me a lot of a Munich Helles. Less fruity and clean than I expect for a kölsch, but not bad.
Taste is similar. Some graininess on the back, fronted by a light sweetness and a sugary, slightly nutty aftertaste. There's something all a bit insipid about it, however, and the characters don't mesh together particularly well. Mouthfeel light, which is expected, but it doesn't add anything to the beer, which really needs a lift.
Eh, drinkable enough, but really, there's something unappealing about it. It's not so far as to be offensive, but there's so little to it, I wonder why they bother.
I'll stick to Sculpin, thanks.
87 / 100
Pours a clear pale amber colour, trails of bubbles up the glass leading to a very pleasant head, creamy-coloured with good retention and nice bubbly texture on top. Lace is pretty nice and clingy. Looks good.
Ooh yeah, get those hops India! Smells fresh and fruity, almost wet-hopped level, with huge pineapple, passionfruit and lemon pepper on the aroma, balanced beautifully by a nice caramel maltiness. Smell is zesty, fruity and pleasant, very nice indeed.
Taste is a very pleasant IPA palate. Hops are noticeable from the front, with notes of pine resin and lemon rind. Malt comes through in the mid-palate, mild with nice caramel notes, rich enough even to call them toffeed. Hops come back for the finish, slightly resinous but never a real harsh astringency, although they are potently bitter. Very nice, clean finish, with enough hop flavour to pack a whallop but not leave you gasping for golden syrup for balance. Yeah, in fact the finish is sweet, with some toffee malt notes, just great hoppiness as well. That is indeed a delicious palate, full of fruitiness and vegetative flavours, fresh, but sweet and balanced. Just a hint of an acerbic aftertaste drops it short of perfection.
Smooth, noticeable malty body, not sticky but thick enough, a little bit dry on the back, yeah, pretty great texture.
Overall beautifully drinkable. A tasty, tasty drop.
96 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Pours a surprisingly light, but very bright golden colour, with a huge and robust three fingers of frothy cream-coloured foam. Lacing makes some extremely intricate patterns down the glass. The bright colour actually wins me over as I'm looking at it, and the lacing is so gorgeous I might have to take some erotic photography of it.
Oh, the nose is just wonderful. This is why people say things like "Sculpin has a wonderful nose". Big fresh fruity aromas - green apple peel, peach, apricot jam, rubbed lemons. Such gorgeously realised hop characters that must have been a labour of love to get right. Absolutely divine.
Taste is also brilliant. Crisp with fresh hops, which fade to a single point, leaving a clean finish, but just a counterbalance to the sweet fruit characters which still linger, ripe and fresh. So amazingly crisp, drinkable and cleansing. Absolutely nothing off. Everything is so well contained it's as though the brewers went through with a tiny pair of scissors and clipped the flavour profile to the most tiny and exact specifications.
This is, as many people before me have said, an exceptional beer. It is never an extreme beer, but it is an excruciatingly meticulous production of an IPA. Wow - this is exactly, exactly what I want from my IPA; fresh, flavoursome, clean, crisp, drinkable - and I'm so pleased I've found it.
75 / 100
Pours a vibrant golden orange colour, with a small, but robust and thick head of white foam. Lacing is good. Overall, a very tasty looking beer.
Nose is lovely and fresh, with big tropical fruit hop notes, orange, green apple and pineapple are present with a light pine resin undertone, which gives it some sharpness. But mostly it's round, pleasant and approachable. Very nice.
Sharp on the palate, with big resin characters followed by some lightly astringent citrus rind. Finally, we get a rather bready finish and a hint of honey or butterscotch. Very smooth all up, with just a few slight hints of things being awry. The butterscotch in particular is a little off kilter, but overall, it's a very solid palate for the west coast style IPA.
A very nice IPA, with a lot of character. I feel the nose is its best feature, and it ends up slightly too astringent on the palate, leaving it feeling slightly unbalanced. But these are minor nits - it's a fine beer, and one I would be very happy to drink regularly.