Pours a dark brown colour, mostly black but some shades of brown up to the edge. Head is tan coloured, foamy with some large bubbles with a density around the edge. Lovely reverse cascade. Looks pretty darn good.
Smells strong; bitter with some sharp espresso notes, peppery too with some cocoa-tinged malt as well. Slightly tannic at the back where it should be maybe sweeter, just a slight earthy and herbal aroma. Bit odd but lots to like in here as well.
Taste is similar as a base note but lots of sweet and oaky character all over it too. Dark roastiness with a touch of black pepper and espresso, plus some caramel malt sweetness, some vanilla and coconutty oak. Slight vinous character late mid again slightly tannic, with a mild textile kind of character towards the finish, like a container for beer without the beer flavour. Possibly just woody, but quite dry and not that roasty to go along with it. Pretty nice, but again slightly odd like it doesn't quite carry off its own flavours.
A bit hot; decent body but noticeable boozey sharpness even though it's padded all right throughout. Not raw and rough but hot.
Drinks nicely, but is a bit off balance in that it's quite hot and not symmetrically flavoured throughout.
83 / 100
750ml bottle given to me by my mate Aaron in a very one-sided beer trade that I'll freely admit I got much the better half of. Shared with Sam back in Sydney, to celebrate the conclusion of our 2017 Christmas brewing.
Pours a lovely, glossy ebony black, with a firm, fine crest of mocha bubbles that persist as a fuzz. Lacing is excellent, forming in intricate leopard spots. Carbonation is also fine, but surprisingly fluid and speedy through the glass when tilted. Looks good.
Nose is great. Big smooth melted, organic chocolate characters, matched with a slight fresh grassy character and the semi-tropical aroma of walking past a vanilla orchid. Under it, it's quite sweet, giving it a basso note of smoothness and richness. It's an extremely fine aroma.
Taste is also extremely good, and here, everything is cut with a firm, but not overbearing dark bitterness. It has the character of high-cacao chocolate: bittersweet, sophisticated and a little bit aggressive. Feel is slick and smooth throughout, but never too heavy, and there's a slight punch of heat towards the back that also helps clean it out.
Overall, it's a very nice brew. Is it better than the original? I'm actually not sure: I think you'd need to have them side-by-side to be sure, and I'll admit it's certainly been a while since I had the original. Whatever happens though, this is a fine beer, and more variations of Speedway are always welcome.
22oz brown bomber purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a pleasingly deep, proper blood-red colour, with a frothy, and fairly persistent head of yellowed beige, that leaves some nice rings of lace. Body is slick, but slow-moving, holding some long streams of carbonation. Looks good.
Nose is pleasant enough. There's a fragrant, evanescent kind of citric hop character to it, which is not so much sweet as powdery, leaving it feeling broad and pleasant without ever getting cloying. Malt is subdued, especially for an amber ale.
Taste is pretty decent. There's a hint more malt to it, giving a slightly savoury note to the middle and back of the palate. But there's also a lack of sweetness which leaves the structure feel like it's a sparse structure trying vainly to hold onto and support the hops. It doesn't quite succeed, meaning the hops feel like they're there in isolation towards the back—not very strong, thankfully, but without much connection to the rest of the beer.
Feel is a little light too. Again, it's not bad, but it feels as though it's a toned down version of a better beer.
Overall, it's fine, and AleSmith know what they're doing. But it's also a slightly insipid beer, that's not really aiming to be the best at anything. But it's drinkable, which is fine. I'm happy enough with it, but I think I'm far from being passionate.
2014 edition (or MMXIV, as it says on the label), purchased from Jane's Beer Store in Mountain View, CA. Brought back to Sydney and cracked open with Sam.
Pours a rather clear but deep red-maroon colour, with a very fine head of yellowed off-white that sits in a coarse ring around the glass as time passes. Lots of streaky lace. Body is thick and heavy, as it should be. Looks pretty damn good.
Nose is rich and sticky, but with a very pronounced booziness that makes it seem heady, and almost warns me off drinking it. It lends almost an acetone character to the brew. Other than that, there's a fair bit of caramel and carob giving a richness that will probably come to dominate over time.
Taste is very similar. In fact, there's a booziness that runs through it from start to finish which is difficult to ignore, and indeed almost difficult to extract much else from underneath it. Sharpness on the back suggests hops, but it may be the astringent characters of the booze. Around the edges is a slight sweetness: but it's a heavy sweetness even so—the flavour of port rather than the flavour of candy.
Feel is heavy. It suits it well enough, and will support it well as it ages, but with everything else going on it's still a bit much.
I probably drank this too young. This is raw, boozy and deeply aggressive right now. With age, it will mellow, and hopefully become tamer, more complex and more accessible. A little sweetness, perhaps a touch of oxidation, and some smoother characters all over and I could belive this is a lovely beer. Right now it just jumps out of the glass and strangles the palate.
77 / 100
22oz brown bomber purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco.
Pours a pleasant clear amber hue, with a thick and frothy head of yellowish-white. This stays around for a while, eventually maintaining itself as a very fine film with islands of larger bubbles. Lacing is minimal but fine. The body certainly has some heft to it as well, looking very nice overall.
Smell is also good: pleasant bright hoppy characters encapsulated by a robust malt structure that seems to assert its dominance. The result is a pithy melange of the two: bright and fragrant, but deep, with sweet/savoury malt as well. The combination is almost spicy as a result. Nice stuff.
Taste is also good. Here the malt provides roundness and cushioning, but the hops provide the flavour, especially on the back, where they give a pleasant resiny bite. Slight almond characters develop from the malt notes when the hops become more dominant. Finish is long and smooth, which really helps mask the alcohol, which is genuinely fairly high. Feel is great. Languid and thick, but with a crispness from the hops.
Overall, this is genuinely cracking stuff, and I guess I'd expect no less from AleSmith. It's fragrant and bright, but with depth and gravitas. A really well-crafted beer.
Pours a slightly dark brown with a distinct red tinge. Head is medium-thin, but gorgeous, dense and foamy. Settles to nice bubbles with some great lacing left behind.
Sweet, roasty and nutty on the nose. Almond, hazelnut, buttery toffee. Hint of sunflower seed and honeyed cereal grain. Would have liked a bit more grounding, or oomph to take it to the next level.
Taste is a bit more substantial. Coffee notes on there, with burnt roast character, dark cherry, blood orange and toffee. Slight spice. Still very much on the sweet side which I'm generally not a fan of, but there's depth of flavour here; it's clearly well made.
Lot of texture. Body is not all there though, so it's a bit sharp at times and ends pretty dry. Not bad.
Not quite kismet with me and this beer; in the right person's glass this could be heaven but it makes me craving more spice or something to balance out that sweetness.
78 / 100
Bottle purchased from Ledger's Liquors of Berkeley, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe in Sydney, Australia.
Pours a lovely clear, deep cabernet red, with a frothy, pancake-bubbled head off bone white. Lacing is fine and speckledy, but solid for that. Body is thick and heavy, and leaves streams of fine carbonation when tilted. Looks pretty damn good.
Nose is brusque and deep, without a lot of sweetness, but with a hint of raw booziness and a heady, slightly spicy and intoxicating character. It has some currants and raisins to it, but also a peppery, dusty age to it. It's pretty good stuff.
Taste is also very good. Here, the currants come out a little more, with a fruity, dark sweetness powering the locomotion of the palate as a whole. Notes of pepper, tannic wine and a boozy richness fill it out. Finish is quite dark, but it feels like it's the tannins rather than a true roasted malt character which makes this happen. There's so much going on in here.
Feel is smooth, but constantly peppered by that lightness and astringency.
Overall, this is really good stuff. I know I shouldn't be surprised that AleSmith gives really good stuff, but this is excellent even by their high standards. This is a Wee Heavy in the rich, thick and juicy variety: not the type created by a slight hint of peat. I feel like this is the better.
80 / 100
AleSmith never disappoints, in my experience, and although up until now I'd stuck to the bigger and more exciting styles in their range, I hold high hopes for what such a good brewery could do with the humble Pale Ale.
Pours an effervescent and lively slightly hazed golden colour with a frothy head of white bubbles. Lacing is patchy, but pleasantly anarchic. Huge amounts of streaming carbonation. Overall, it looks stylistically true, but still exciting.
Nose is fresh with sweet citric hops, giving nuances of tangerine and lemon curd. Slightly crisp green aroma to it as well, giving a sharper fresh vegetative character, melding together to form a rather pleasant floral note. Very pleasant indeed.
Taste is all this, perfectly packaged and balanced. Sharp citrus on the front, with a slightly astringent, slightly medicinal bitterness on the back, which just cuts through the incipient sweetness nicely. Hint of orange peel on the finish, along with that robust bitterness.
Exceptional drinkability, as it has all the pleasant refreshing hoppy characters of a good APA combined with a light body and relatively low ABV. As always, AleSmith have come up with a winner. Cracking beer.
69 / 100
Pours a pale golden colour with white fluffy head, sinking in this wonderful deflation effect, but clinging here and there to the glass. Lots of carbonation, quite strong and prolific. Not bad overall; love that head, too.
Smells quite tasty. An odd mustiness to it but plenty of fresh fruit as well. Citrus and passionfruit and some nice caramel notes underlying. Could use more, need to sniff quite strongly to get much aroma, but what's there is nice.
Taste is wow, interesting. Lots of fruit and tang on the front, with passionfruit and pineapple mostly, descends into mid-palate that is quite malty and caramelly, like peanut brittle with a richness to the sweet flavours. Back is bitter in an IPA way, but it has more funk characters reminiscent of a saison. Very rubery with a strong ascerbic bent, but a nice touch of passionfruit as well and a soothing kiss of boozey warmth. Yeah, strong and bitter on the back but a pleasant sensation, and quite unique even among double IPAs.
Drinks alright, quite full but too much texture on the back, over-carbonated maybe? Not too bad though.
Yeah, don't know if I could handle too much of this at once. Good for a taste, but not every day drinking.
74 / 100
Purchased in California in September, and brought to Australia for Christmas.
Pours a very light yellow colour, very much like a pale lager, but with a big, voluminous and crackling frothy head of white that leaves clumpy lacing. Lots of streaming carbonation. Body is surprisingly light, but it looks decent enough overall.
Nose is redolent with West Coast hops, giving a big citrus bite. The freshness is something I specifically associate with San Diego, possible AleSmith themselves. Hint of pineapple lurking in the depths. All up, it's all fresh, ripe and pretty tasty.
Taste is nicely balanced for the most part, with the citruc hops coming out strongly here, balanced with a sweet and slightly boozy note which lingers just a tad too long, leaving a big dollop of heat on the finish. Slightly astringent with a faint hint of crushed aspirin on the back, but very pungent overall. Characters of orange marmalade and pine needles creep in later as well.
Feel is sharp, and slightly hot on the back.
A big and pretty tasty IPA. Possibly a little late in the season for its optimal drinking time, but it's summer here for Christmas in Australia, so it seemed like the appropriate moment to drink it.
85 / 100
Pours a dark, murky colour, red-tinged up to the light. Head is ochre-hued with large bubbly texture on top, modest but retaining extremely well. Lace is very nice, sticky. Yes, a very good-looking beer indeed.
A lot of coffee on the nose. Rich, dark robust espresso flavours. Nice cocoa underlying and some touches of oak, vanilla and caramel as well. Nice bitterness that isn't overdone; certainly appealing.
Very dark flavour, lots of roastiness on that. Very syrupy mouthfeel is the first thing I notice, plus I'm sipping small amounts, yet getting a huge amount of flavour. Pleasant espresso bitterness with lots of that cocoa-rich chocolate, touches of wood and brown sugar as well. Definite heady strength to it, I mean it sort of feels heavy but doesn't taste it. There's an imperial-stout heaviness that doesn't compare to other alcoholic heaviness but this is also crazy drinkable. Bitterness is noticeable but pleasant and earthy. Sweet characters pop up here and there just for my enjoyment. The finish has a bite to it, but more like a lovebite, really.
This is a damn nice beer. Perhaps just a whisper of gritty bitterness hangs around, rendering it just slightly imperfect.
94 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Cracked open with @LaitueGonflable and @thescotdownunder to celebrate my 800th beer review on BA. Purchased at City Beer Store in San Francisco and carted back in my luggage to Sydney.
Pours with an amazing cascade effect -- the head forms backwards from what I expect, leaving some liquid darkness running down the inside of the glass, whit the head forms downwards into the body of the beer. Quite spectacular to watch. It's a deep, heavy and opaque black colour, and the head, once it has formed, is a pleasant mocha brown. Lacing is very decent. Looks every bit the American Imperial Stout. Just wonderful.
Very dark on the nose, with huge roasted notes, but also a very distinct and spicy capsaicin note like freshly crushed chilli. Big oaky and roasted coffee notes as well -- I expect nothing less from the best Impy Stouts. Little coconut or vanilla, as I've had from many other examples, but the spicy notes give this its own edge, and its own unique character. Very, very good indeed.
Very smooth and slick profile on the palate; it's the first thing noticeable. It then delivers big roasted notes, but subtly leavened by good vanilla characters that almost evoke melted ice cream. Quite noticeable oak on the back, and it finishes surprisingly dry; that slight spice aroma gets revived in the dying moments. It's a lovely brew.
Oh yes, oh yes... this is an exceptionally good beer. Rich, full of character, dark and seductive, boisterous and aggressive in places. So much going on and so excitingly craft. I love it to bits.
Apricot-coloured, quite cloudy with a pearl, very, very thick head, webs out quite a lot, but retains very well indeed. Not much carbonation, but the head sticks its naked arse up at that and spreads its cheeks good and wide. Lacing is very nice and thick. Looks great.
Nose is sweet and fruit, very tropical with a tangy pineapple aroma, hints of passionfruit as well, but mostly a distinct American floral hop character, very fragrant and herbacious, with a slight lemon undertone? Great nose, very appealling.
Taste is quite bitter - hops in bitterness slightly overpower fruitiness, which is still there on the front, with a lemony, passionfruit flavour. This is unfortunately strangled by pleasant - it must be said - but very strong and pungent hops, a lot of Amarillo I would suspect. Palate seems a bit unbalanced, I'm afraid, with the bitter finish becoming more of a funky hang. A bit too dirty and organic to be cleansing, kind of taints your palate with this gritty bitterness. I hate to get hung up on the hang, because for the most part it's very well constructed, but that finish just overpowers.
Mouthfeel is nicely full, very smooth and goes down like a Geisha. Couldn't drink this every day, but quite nice anyway.
81 / 100
Bought at City Beer Store in San Francisco, and carefully transported back to Sydney to drink with some beer-loving friends.
Burnished yellow-gold with a phenomenally thick and boisterous head of white foam. Lacing is sticky, funky and crazy, leaving insane patterns down the inside of the glass. Looks very tasty indeed.
Oh, such a nose - just luscious with huge quantities of the very finest American hops. Lots of tropical fruits, passionfruit, resin and sweetness. It genuinely is an absolutely classic American IPA nose. To my mind, you can't get better than this. I would believe that this is the absolute archetype of the American IPA nose.
Very nice palate, lots of resinous hops, but with a very noticeable sweet fruit character pulling its way through as well. On the back palater, there's a quite English grittiness, not just the sharp and clean American hop character. It's somewhere nicely between an IPA and a double IPA - it doesn't have the body and the heaviness of a DIPA, but it's too full and hoppy for a straight American IPA. Mouthfeel is clean and crisp, once again, just short of the full and heavy character of an Imperial.
A sharp, but extremely well balanced IPA. Oh, how I love this style, and how the Americans do it. Every time I sample a beer like this, I'm taken back to a wonderful Californian summer. No matter what else the yanks do, they do brew a few fucking awesome beers.
76 / 100
Pours a very nice reddish brown with a minimal head of beige foam. Lacing is good, carbonation is minimal, which is what you expect for the style. It's not a look that makes me drool with anticipation, but it's reasonable.
Nice sharp metallic English hops on the nose. Clean grass, sawdust and wood notes, with a fragrant lift of fresh fruits to lift it. Note a huge or pungent nose, but what's there is very pleasant.
Clean tannic palate, quite dry and just brushed with that truly traditional English hop flavour. Tea leaves, light fruit essences, resin and barley water. Mouthfeel is very light, but it's not too bad. The carbonation is very well subdued, and just great for the style.
This is a very good ESB to my mind - an English style the English would be proud of, if they'd brewed it. I think it's particularly good that the rowdy extreme-beer culture of American craft brewing takes a deep breath now and again and brews something like this.