59 / 100
330ml brown bottle purchased and consumed at Archive in Brisbane.
Pours a deep brown, mostly opaque in the body but with some middling clarity at the edges. Fine, slick and fairly persistent head of beige that leaves lacing to cascade in streaks down the glass. Body is pretty thick, about right for 7.2% ABV. Looks very good.
Sweet, slick and somewhat milky nose. Molasses comes through strongly undermined by a hint of sour cheesiness. Olive brine also makes an appearance, giving it a very unusual character all up. It's not bad per se, but it sure is unexpected.
Taste is pretty clean on the front, with a slight sweetness that burgeons into a thick, clinging sticky sweetness mid-palate, laced with some slight vegetative overtones. Pleasant roast notes on the back, although more of those milk curds characters come through as well—fortunately, they're less pronounced than on the nose.
Feel is tingling with carbonation, but feels thicker overall because of the heavy molasses sugar characters.
Overall, it's not bad, but it suffers a bit from some of its more unusual characteristics. I found it hard to drink more than half a bottle.
71 / 100
Strangely sized 300ml brown bottle purchased from Slowbeer in Melbourne. Appears to be bottle-conditioned, but I left the sediment in the bottle for the pour.
Clear champagne golden colour on the pour, with a massively frothy, possibly over-carbonated head of white that stays frothy for a very long time. Carbonation is certainly streaming and abundant, although the body has a bit of heft, meaning the carbonation is slightly more languid. Once the head has run itself out there's some patchy, sudsy lace. Looks pretty good.
Nose is rounded and slightly funky. I get some olive juice, a slight biting pepper and fresh over-ripe watermelon. There's also a slight fishy character, mingled with a sweetness like clear apple juice. There's also a yeastiness at it's core, not just providing some of those classic Belgian rounded characters, but also bringing a slight dryness and an earthy charm. It's interesting, and mostly quite pleasant.
Taste is cleaner and crisper than I expected on the front, although strangely enough, those Belgian esters and a full sweetness comes through late on the palate, bringing with it a touch of savoury cracker saltiness. There's a slight phenol bit through the centre of the palate, conjuring those peppery notes on the nose, but not quite reaching them. It has some length, which is unexpectedly compelling.
It is perhaps a tad over-carbonated, as expected from the appearance, leaving the mouthfeel a little bit fluffier and woolly than it could have been.
Overall, though, this is pretty good stuff. I'm actually not familiar with the particular flavours of the old Red Bush tea, but I'm putting down this beer's little eccentricities to this addition. Otherwise, it's a pretty solid Saison, which picks up a lot of character from the yeast. As a result, I'm pretty happy with it.
77 / 100
340ml dark green bottle purchased from Slowbeer. This is my fourth South African beer: incidentally, one of the other was called "Slow Beer". Cosmic.
Pours a oily brown-black, with a fine, bubble-pocked head of yellowish mocha. Lacing is very fine, but minimal. Body looks relatively light, considering, but it holds some lovely fine carbonation when tilted. There's something a bit cartoonish about the big bubbles pocking the and the spots of lace. But really, it looks pretty good.
Nose initially has a savoury, salty, pickled twang to it: kalamata olives and anchovies. Once swirled, the coffee comes through more strongly, along with a deep, oily roast character. There's a sharpness from the coffee, but it's kept grounded by a pretty decent roasty sweetness as well. It's not mind-blowing, but it's pretty decent.
Taste is smooth and dark, with a pleasant dark chocolate richness at the base, layered with coffee-bean roastiness and a silky but ephemeral top coat. Some faint metallic or mineral characters come through on the back, along with some marzipan and sunflower seed. There's almost a slight red-fruit character to it as well: dark cherries or bruised raspberries. It's very pleasant.
Feel is smooth but light: it's the flavours which make it stick around for as long as it does.
Overall, I'm impressed. This is smooth, rich and drinkable stuff, with lots of flavour and complexity balanced and structured together well. It has a smoothness and a benignity that makes it cozy and approachable. Easily the best South African beer I've had to date.